|Justice League: now with 100% less America!|
There's an old Chinese curse that goes:
"May you live in interesting times."
For comic book fans, that curse has certainly come home. For better or worse, and usually for the goddamn worse, the comics industry does not lack for drama. Things are happening. The whole ship might be impersonating the Edmund Fitzgerald. It's kinda scary, it's often frustrating, and sometimes it's exciting to be around the tumult.
DC is taking a stab at the brass ring (or maybe just a new lease lease on life) with some global scale changes to their entire publishing line. Pretty sure Geoff Johns and Jim Lee were going to announce this stuff on June 11, but the comics fan base acts like the most petulant of 9 year-olds, demanding to know what they're getting for Christmas four months beforehand, picking the lock on their parents closet to find out if the parents won't spill.
|Mark Waid: not interested in my opinion|
Anywho. DC is changing in September, and the information that I find most interesting came in a letter Bob Wayne sent out to the comics retailing community. I'm just going to go with the letter as presented, and then make comments where I feel appropriate. Sorry, Mark Waid.
To our comics retail partners,
In the time I've worked at DC Comics, I've witnessed any number of industry defining moments. But today, I bring you what is perhaps the biggest news to date.
Many of you have heard rumors that DC Comics has been working on a big publishing initiative for later this year. This is indeed an historic time for us as, come this September, we are relaunching the entire DC Universe line of comic books with all new first issues, 52 of them to be exact.
OK, that's pretty big, and this is exactly what we were hoping and fearing. Some are comparing this move to Marvels "Heroes Reborn" launch, but really, this move by DC makes that look like small potatoes. Heroes Reborn was about a half dozen books - this is everything.
I suppose if you're re-booting the whole works, it doesn't make any logical sense to keep a couple grandfathered back. As the move is constructed, they really have no choice but to flush 70+ years of history in the name of regaining market share, which sadly is what this is all about. Desperate measures for interesting times and all that.
My hope is that if DC can't continue Detective and Action marching forward, they simply let it go away. If the tradition mattered, there would be no re-boot. If the re-boot matters, calling a Batman book Detective Comics is a giant, obvious mistake. Same for calling a Superman book Action Comics. If we're saying goodbye to the past and hello to exciting and new, put the old dames to bed, I say. Call it something new and different, so that a retailer can rack it and I can find it on the shelf.
If I see a Detective Comics # 1 in September, I'm going to squawk about it, is the point.
Honestly, I think the closest comparison to what DC is doing is Jim Shooter's (alleged) plan to wipe the slate clean in 1986 and go with the New Universe. Shooter denies he ever considered the idea, but Doug Moench and several other folks working for the House of Ideas at the time say that he was completely set to stop publishing Spider-Man, Avengers, X-Men, the whole works in favor of Spitfire & the Troubleshooters. Legend has it that it was that proposed move that staged the palace coup that ultimately ousted Shooter. He tells it differently, of course. But I digress.
The point is that this is potentially the biggest shakeup in the history of comics. I don't know what age we're in now, but it seems probable to me that history will mark Flashpoint as the beginning of an as yet unnamed epoch. For reals.
In addition, the new # 1s will introduce readers to more modern, diverse DC Universe, with some character variations in appearance, origin and age. All stories will be grounded in each character's legend- but will relate to real world situations, interactions, tragedy and triumph.
Now I'm starting to worry, because most of that either doesn't make sense or sounds counter-productive. I've never understood the diversity "problem", frankly. The truth is that I don't know what goes on in the hallowed halls of DC comics. If there are creators coming to editorial with pitches and story arc ideas that include gay Korean women and the brass at DC are saying to creators "That's a great idea, but can you make it a white guy?", then there's a problem. Does anybody really believe that's the case? Anybody? I don't think even Valerie D'Orazio believes that.
|Don't ever read this|
JLA/ 99 is an atrocity, because legislated Pharisee morality is neither interesting nor transformative. It's not a story.
Tell fucking stories. That's it. Now, if DC wants to put out a call and say "Listen, whatever you think we wanted before, I'm just telling you now, there are no limitations. Any race, any sex, any creed, if it's a strong idea, I want you to pitch it." That I approve entirely. That involves no limitations. Mandating "diversity", if that's the plan, is limiting, and that will not produce good stories.
I don't know that I'm love with an editorial push toward "real world" connections, and I can promise you that Tim Callahan is not.
Costume, origin, and age changes do not make for better stories. Better stories make for better stories. Not exciting. And what exactly does it mean to have wholesale changes that are grounded in each character's legend? That's contradictory nonsense. I'm avoiding histrionics for now, though, because we still don't understand the shot yet, and I expect we will not until Flashpoint # 5 hits at the end of August. But everything in that last paragraph is a bit disconcerting.
This epic event will kick off on Wednesday, August 31st with the debut of a brand new JUSTICE LEAGUE #1, which pairs Geoff Johns and Jim Lee, together for the first time. (Yes, this is the same week as FLASHPOINT # 5)
Couple of things. First off, somebody get Geoff Johns a Red Bull or something. By my count, he's doing scripts for a Green Lantern team book, and the Aquaman series, and Justice League (no more America, thank you very much) after Flashpoint, and he's acting as Chief Creative Officer? Somethings got to give somewhere. To be fair, I still enjoy his work on Green Lantern, I don't notice notice any significant decline in his work. Yet. I worry for that kid, though. That's not burning the candle at both ends, that is throwing it into the mouth of the volcano.
Also, a little troubling that we're already backing off the "Flashpoint # 5 is the only DC title shipping the last week of August" stance. Are we making this stuff up as we go along, guys? Scary. We'd like to at least pretend that the conductor knows where this train is going.
We think our current fans will be excited by this evolution, and that it will make jumping into the story extremely accessible to first-time readers - giving them a chance to discover DC's characters and stories.
We are positioning ourselves to tell the most innovative stories with our characters to allow fans to see them from a new angle. We have taken great care in maintaining continuity where most important, but fans will see a new approach to our storytelling.
Some of the characters will have new origins, while others will undergo minor changes. Our characters are always being updated; however, this is the first time all of our characters will be presented in a new way all at once.
This is another one of those confusing things that I've promised myself not to get upset about until I see the product. I just don't understand how it's possible to "maintain continuity where most important." Who decides what's important, and it sounds like they're only going to muck with certain characters, which doesn't make sense to me unless the DC Universe post Flashpoint is an amalgamation of different worlds? Like I said, I don't know, so I'm not going to get worked about yet, but it sounds like nonsense doublespeak.
As for the first time readers and the jumping on, and all that rhetoric that I'm just completely weary of, whatever. I'll believe it when I see it. In terms of taking market share from Marvel with the existing fan base, I think this is a ballsy and interesting ploy. In terms of growing the pie, I haven't seen a viable plan for that yet.
Dan DiDio, Bob Harras, and Eddie Berganza have been working diligently to pull together some of the best creative teams in the industry. Over 50 new costumes will debut in September, many updated and designed by Jim Lee, ensuring that the updated images appeal to the current generation of readers.
I'm more interested in the best creative teams in the industry bit. We'll have to wait and see on that, as all of the teams in question are under a strict gag order not to talk about any of it. And yet, here we are 11 days before the big announcement was supposed to pop talking about everything any way, so I'm not sure why we bother at this point.
The publication of JUSTICE LEAGUE #1 will also launch digital day-and-date for all ongoing superhero comic book titles - an industry first.
WOW. Talk about burying your lead! Of all the announcements that have been or will be made about characters, costumes, and continuity, this one slams them all. Day and date digital for all ongoings. We're FINALLY going to find out if the revolution is real, folks.
There's a lot more we need to know on the issue. What's the price point? What's the application? Where will it be available? What involvement with the physical retailers, if any? How does this connect with Diamond's digital plan, if it does at all?
We just don't know.
On Wednesday, June 1st, this initiative is expected to be announced in a nationwide feature article, and we're hopeful the news will be picked up my media outlets around the world. Throughout the month we'll reveal more details of our plans with articles in both the mainstream and comics press and on June 13th the Diamond catalog solicitations for all of the September titles will be released, followed by the June 29th street date of the print version of Previews.
Well, today is June 1, and I don't know what nationwide feature article Wayne is referring to. Everything I'm seeing is pulled straight off the DC Source blog.
DC Comics will support this initiative with an innovative mix of publicity, promotional efforts and retailer incentives designed to maximize your opportunity to increase your DC sales. We will discuss additional details of these incentives when we get closer to solicitation later in June.
We'lll be updating you more through email as September nears. But today, I hope your (sic) share our enthusiasm for this historic news!
Do I share Bob Wayne's enthusiasm? No. I'm cautiously optimistic. My prediction is that DC will take market share from Marvel in September, even if they only publish the 52 main books. Something tells me that there will be more than that available.
But for this to be meaningful in the long term, I don't want to hear about costume changes or diversity. I want to hear about the stories that we'll remember 70 years from now. You want to kill Action Comics? Fine. What's coming out in September that our grandchildren will look back on as the stories that started it all? I guess that's going to the Canterbury Cricket, right?