Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Numbered Things I Love and/or Hate: DC Comics (Over the Last Decade)

When we last left off, I was expressing my opinion on the current mainstream comics landscape with regards to Marvel Comics.Well, it is only fair to give the Distinguished Competition the same treatment.

So, DC Comics. They...have not been having as good a time as Marvel has. Despite releasing two of the most lauded and respected films of the last decade (and an apparently middling follow-up; I still haven't seen The Dark Knight Rises) and an excellent run on video games that the new Injustice: Gods Among Us is shaping up to continue, everything else has gone kinda...bleh. Their one time dominance of animation has dwindled down due to killing off those few shows that were growing into themselves and becoming much more developed (good night, Young Justice and Brave and the Bold) while replacing them with half-hearted clones of previous successes (seriously, Teen Titans? Seriously? And I'm not even bothering with Beware the Batman). The live-action department hasn't been doing much better, with Arrow pretty much the only non-Batman property to remotely stand for any length of time. And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the elephant in the room: the New 52. A editorial and marketing crapstorm of epic proportions. With every hit, another two titles got knocked out before their first storyline got finished. But with Man of Steel on the horizon (although still involving Nolan) and the comics universe now reaching a weird state of equilibrium, can DC get back to being top dog once again?

To be honest, I've always leaned more towards Marvel than DC. That's not to say that there were no DC titles I liked, just that I found myself drawn more to the other guys growing up. And when the few DC titles I did follow slowly faded from publication, I found myself drawn less and less to them. Of course, this means that my frustration with them has lasted a lot longer and hit a bit harder than Marvel did.

I'll try not to repeat myself in this post, but I will say that a lot of the negatives in the Marvel piece applies just as much to these guys. Hell, just swap out Bendis for Geoff Johns (or to a lesser extent, Grant Morrison) and Civil War for Mad Libs Crisis.

Enough. I'm getting bored. To the good stuff:

Cover photo
Image courtesy of DC Comics Google+ page

Three Things I Love About DC Comics (Over the Last Decade)


Point 1: Embracing The Fun

There was a point where DC was actually putting out comic books, instead of heavy handed allegories or overblown "events". They weren't promoted all that well and the top brass was never satisfied by their sales, but they WERE selling and developed dedicated fan bases. Titles like Blue Beetle and Batgirl (2009 series) were much more lighthearted and celebratory of their medium. A lot of Superman stories during this period highlighted the more uplifting and positive aspects of the character, such a"What's So Funny About Truth, Justice, & the American Way?" that juxtaposed them against the more violent and cynical antiheroes that became popular during this time. Unfortunately, while these stories are popular, they apparently weren't popular enough.

Point 2: An Attempt To Expand The Audience

I have to give DC some credit in this department: they did try more to bring in more readers. While CMX (the manga imprint) was technically Wildstorm, it was fairly supported by the parent company, and Megatokyo is still going strong even after the line’s cancellation. Tenjho Tenge was pretty bad yes, but I did enjoy Densha Otoko. And they did attempt a lot more all-ages material than Marvel did, with Tiny Titans and the series based on the animated Young Justice.

Point 3: The Last Wave Of Vertigo

Damn, it is hard coming up with good points. But one I can definitely say without a doubt is the wave of Vertigo titles. Vertigo has always been a mainstay of quality and challenging storytelling for DC, but the last batch of releases over the past 10 years showed that the company really hit its stride. A short list of the books debuting during this period:
  • Y, The Last Man
  • DMZ
  • Scalped
  • Saucer Country
  • The Unwritten
  • Fables
  • American Vampire (the book that got Scott Snyder the Batman writing post)
  • WE3
  • The Losers (well, I liked it. And I’m going to review the movie soon)
  • Not to mention the titles that started before this point, but continued and hit their best parts during this period (100 Bullets).
Yeah, Vertigo was really bringing some heat as of late, with work comparable to some of their now legendary releases like Transmetropolitan and Hellblazer. Of course, this leads into the first of the many problems I had with DC…

Three Things I Hate About DC (That Are NOT The Reboot)

Point 1: Imprint Assimilation

First it was Wildstorm. Originally an Image imprint, it was sold to DC. That by itself wasn't all that bad, and led to some good stuff, like Captain Atom: Armageddon. But then they tried to phase it into the main line, first through the aforementioned Captain Atom special, then through Infinite/Final Crisis, and now as part of the New 52. Thing is, Wildstorm was always an odd duck for DC. Hell, at its creation, most of its shared universe titles were arguably alternate takes (not really fair to say rip-off) of the DCU. But they made it work, more or less, and positioned themselves into an interesting position. But with DC buying them and (most egregiously) trying to integrate them with the DCU, it results in a lot of redundant and weakened characters.
And then came Vertigo’s turn. The great thing about Vertigo was it’s nebulous connection with the main line. They could tell truly mature stories and delve into the deep dark corners of the  DCU. Hellblazer was iconic because, compared to the mainstream comics, it was portraying a world little seen by most. John Constantine shouldn’t be mainstream. He was designed as an outsider, perpetually skirting the edges of mainstream reality in order to encounter and experience the things the kiddie books weren’t meant to touch. It (and by extension, Vertigo as a whole) worked because they were clearly delineated as adult books. But now that DC has embraced the post-modern viewpoint that every comic has to have some sort of darker and edgier tone to sate the overgrown fandoms that, ironically enough, indulged themselves on books like Vertigo’s in a vain attempt to prove themselves mature and failing to understand what that actually entails.
Both imprints were built around clashing with the status quo that DC represented. But now that THEY are becoming the status quo, they become redundant and lose their edge. And that is a shame.

Point 2: The Utter Shafting of Batgirl (All of Them)

You know, I started on this entry, but it ended up being three times as long as the rest of this post COMBINED. This one is a real spur in my boot, as I am a longtime fan of all three main Batgirl characters, and the treatment DC has put them through is utterly ridiculous. And yes, I am aware of Dan Didio’s personal dislike of some of the characters involved, which just makes it worse. I’m saving the bulk of this for a possible later post. Needless to say, this has been the second biggest turnoff for me. The biggest? Just guess.

Point 3: Fuck It, The New 52 Reboot

Goddamnit, DC. Just...Goddamnit. I know, I know, people have done this to death. But it just didn't make any damn sense. It's one thing to do a full reboot, or even a soft reboot (similar to what Marvel attempted with Marvel NOW!) and shifting the timeline forward a bit. I even tried to look past the strangely gender-focused house-cleansing (it is interesting that the three characters practically forbidden from showing up in any DC-related media are female). But the slipshod manner in which is was implemented just gets to me. And considering that so many good books had to be derailed or ended to make room for this utter boondoggle (including the previous two issues above) it just infuriates me more and more.
Even if I had agreed that the then-current DCU even warranted the change (I don't and it didn't), they could have at least committed to one direction or another. Instead they tried to have their cake and eat it too, and ended up messing up both. Either you do reboot everything or don't. Or you develop the work you already put in or don't. You don't try to shoehorn in the few parts of the universe you "like" (meaning "sells consistently") into a wholesale redo of everything else. Just. GAAAAAHHHHH!!!!

In Conclusion

It is as my friend said to me the other day: the problems that DC, and by extension Marvel, are having has nothing to do with writing talent or bad books. Their problems are editorial mandates, as as long as they have the same people in those position making these same decisions, this is what we are going to get. There are just too many cooks spoiling the broth, and taking their own personal tastes over the demands of the audience.
Enhanced by Zemanta

0 brain pickings:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...