Thursday, August 25, 2011

DCnU Pregame Report!

In less than a week, the Flashpoint finale will ship, along with a poly-bagged debut issue of the Geoff Johns/Jim Lee new JLA.  Less than a week until "everything as we know it changes forever {BOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMM!}  Except of course we know that's a lie.  Or is it?

Schrodinger's Cat is pissed.
One of the fascinating aspects of the DCnU for me is the idea that Schrodinger's Cat is palpably in that box, perhaps stone dead, perhaps idly preening or more likely pissed about something it has no right to be.  In a month or six we'll know the results, basically.  And however things turn out, we will all (myself included) expound at length about how the outcome was obvious from the beginning.

But it isn't obvious.  At least, it isn't obvious to me.  Perhaps I've duped myself into some form of precious optimism as a coping mechanism?  That doesn't sound like me, but even Ryan The Robot must admit to some form of sentimental attachment.  There's a lot riding on this gambit, perhaps the future of the direct market.  It's possible that my precognitive powers are dulled by the fact that I don't just want this to succeed, we all probably need this to succeed.

There is cause for grave concern.  Ambushing an already over-jaded and over-taxed vestige of a consumer base with 52 new # 1 issues is, quite frankly, madness.  For a concept supposedly dedicated to the "new" and the "fresh", there is not one truly new commodity being offered.  Not one.  Batwing is the closest, but even Batwing is just an elevation of a fairly recent invention.  Analyze even casually, and you'd have to conclude that 99.7% of the "new" DCU is simply old cars with fresh paint and a new cup holder.  

The new universe has the slight aroma of slapdashery about it.  Obviously somebody put some thought into this thing, they put their titles into seven different brackets, right?  Nah, I'm not convinced.  I read Lois Lane & The Resistance.  Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning are good writers, it wasn't terrible, but you can't con a con.  That was a magician playing sleight of hand and distracting eyes to buy a few seconds of time to pull other shit together.

I read Booster Gold # 47.  Second page, a bound Booster Gold monologues this:

A greater threat "that" Doomsy, huh?  Listen, I'm not suggesting that a typo in a comic book is a rare and mystical creature.  What I'm saying is, nothing about this reboolaunch displays confident body language or the sense that the conductor has both hands on the wheel.  One gets the sense that everybody at the top of DC is sweating right now, praying to the Superhero Gods that somebody pulls something out of their ass.  Fuck, even Grant Morrison is casually acknowledging the beast is probably dead.  Grant "don't bore me with your substandard downbeat chakra" Goddamn Morrison.  We've got to be fucked.

And yet.

And yet, it isn't over, goddammit, and isn't this how the game works?  Always darkest before the dawn, and then Batman finds a way.  Somehow, some way, against all reason and pain Batman finds a way.  And here is DC offering a perhaps final window at a self-fulfilling prophecy.  52 new flags screaming "come with me, if you want to live!"

Dan Didio - not an idiot.  There. I said it.
There is cause for great hope.  Geoff Johns, Jim Lee, and dare I say Dan Didio are all sharp and capable people who care a great deal about the present and future of comics.  It's a business, yes, but for these men it's more than that.  These are not idiots. We're in good hands.

This would have been the perfect time for a group of bastards to ditch "hold the line at $2.99", and I'll give DC massive credit for this - they have not.  All sound evidence points to the fact that DC has and will continue to lose money selling these comics at $2.99.  There is a good case in the sales data for the idea that $2.99 decelerates attrition, but it has not added readership in any significant way, and it has not helped DC tip market share.  When you see that $2.99 on a DC comic, I want you to recognize it for what it is - a foolish pledge from a lovestruck paramour declaring his eternal affection for you.  Because in the monthly ledgers, it's a negative opportunity cost.  There's no other reason for it to exist.  Let me assure you, Marvel does not love you like that.

And how do we define success for the DCnU?  I think the prime goal is to access lapsed and new readers.  Initial orders on the new JLA book are being reported prematurely at more than 200,000 copies, which is wonderful, but most pundits are correctly concluding that the real proof will be in the 3rd or 4th issue's pudding.  If the idea is to reach outside of our current parameters, the real success of the DCnU will be a JLA that hits 250,000 copies with issue # 4.  Does that seem likely to you?  Or even possible?  We've got about 2,000 retail stores to work with, (4 less now that Atomic closed up shop) and to sell a quarter million books, each location needs to move 125 copies.  It's hard to imagine.

Then again, it was hard to imagine a popular X-Men book in 1975, before a punk kid named Claremont took what nobody wanted and perfected soap operatics while nobody was looking.  It was hard to imagine a popular Daredevil book in 1981 until they handed it to Frank Miller, the punk artist on the book  Comic books have a history of taking desperation and spinning it into gold by handing the reins of the forgotten to young mad men ready to show the world that The Man had it wrong.
Edmondson's Grifter - I'm in.

Trouble is, it's hard to find that pool of young mad men (or women, for that matter) in DCs stables right now.  It surely isn't Ron Marz or Scott Lobdell, is it?  Maybe it's Nathan Edmondson or Joshua Fialkov.  Are these the mad men we're looking for?  Or was it never the youth, but the simple surrender to the creative rather than the conservative that makes the magic?

I'd like to think that Geoff Johns and company know the value of trusting their muses and turning these animals loose.  Azarello is talking about making Wonder Woman into a horror book.  Sounds like a comic with a brass uterus to me.  A whole fleet of inspired, brazen, unfettered creative content really could change everything, and that's a fact.

I think I heard Schrodinger's cat shift in that box.  But maybe I just hoped it.

- Ryan


DJ said...

My fingers are crossed that inside that box the cat had kittens and everyone who can gets their hands on one wants one, and that they share that new kitten with all their friends, here's hoping. I'm buying the new justice league for no other reason than Jim Lee draws pretty pictures, as long as he's supplying the artwork in a timely matter I'm in. Same goes for Kenneth Rocafort on Red Hood.

Chronic Insomnia said...

Yes, everybody! Do share your Schrodinger's kittens. I can't promise yet that they'll make great pets, but we're kinda screwed if we can't find them homes...