@@@ AICN COMICS @@@ Part One!
@@@ DC RELAUNCH ROUNDTABLE @@@
Fact: DC will be releaunching 52 series in September all with new number one issues.
Fact: DC will be going Day & Date Digital, meaning comics will be available to be downloaded the same day they are available in stores.
Fact: This is not a complete reboot. Though may refer to it as such in the discussion below, Johns and Lee have said that some details (aka stuff Johns, Morrison and some of the other successful runs) will remain, while others (aka shit that wasn’t selling) will be retooled in these new books.
Fact: Elements of the Wildstorm Universe will be integrated into the new DC Universe.
The creative teams: The following are the 52 titles of interest and the creative teams behind them.
Geoff Johns (writer), Jim Lee & Scott Williams (art)
ACTION COMICS #1
Grant Morrison (writer), Rags Morales & Rick Bryant (art)
George Perez (writer/breakdowns), Jesus Merino (art)
Scott Lobdell (wrtier), R.B. Silva & Rob Lean (art)
Michael Green & Mike Johnson (writers), Mahmud Asrar (art)
DETECTIVE COMICS #1
Tony S. Daniel (writer), Tony S. Daniel & Ryan Winn (art)
Scott Snyder (writer), Greg Capullo & Jonathan Glapion (art)
BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT #1
David Finch (writer), David Finch & Richard Friend (art)
BATMAN AND ROBIN #1
Peter J. Tomasi (writer), Patrick Gleason & Mick Gray (art)
Judd Winick (writer), Ben Oliver (art)
Gail Simone (writer), Adrian Syaf & Vincente Cifuentes (art)
J.H. Williams III & W. Haden Blackman (writers), J.H. Williams III (art)
Kyle Higgins (writer), Eddy Barrows & J.P. Mayer (art)
Judd Winick (writer), Guillem March (art)
BIRDS OF PREY #1
Duane Swierczynski (writer), Jesus Saiz (art)
RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS #1
Scott Lobdell (writer), Kenneth Rocafort (art)
GREEN LANTERN #1
Geoff Johns (writer), Doug Mahnke & Christian Alamy (art)
GREEN LANTERN CORPS #1
Peter J. Tomasi (writer), Fernando Pasarin & Scott Hanna (art)
GREEN LANTERN: NEW GUARDIANS #1
Tony Bedard (writer), Tyler Kirkham & Batt (art)
RED LANTERNS #1
Peter Milligan (writer), Ed Benes & Rob Hunter (art)
Geoff Johns (writer), Ivan Reis & Joe Prado (art)
WONDER WOMAN #1
Brian Azzarello (writer), Cliff Chiang (art)
THE FLASH #1
Francis Manapul & Brian Buccelato (writers), Francis Manapul (art)
GREEN ARROW #1
J.T. Krul (writer), Dan Jurgens & Norm Rapmund (art)
THE SAVAGE HAWKMAN #1
Tony S. Daniel (writer), Phillip Tan (art)
THE FURY OF FIRESTORM #1
Ethan Van Scivier & Gail Simone (writers), Yildiray Cinar (art)
JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL #1
Dan Jurgens (writer), Aaron Lopresti & Matt Ryan (art)
CAPTAIN ATOM #1
J.T. Krul (writer), Freddie Williams II (art)
MISTER TERRIFIC #1
Eric Wallace (writer), Roger Robinson (art)
DC UNIVERSE PRESENTS #1
Paul Jenkins (writer), Bernard Chang (art)
JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK #1
Peter Milligan (writer), Mikel Janin (art)
SWAMP THING #1
Scott Snyder (writer), Yanick Paquette (art)
ANIMAL MAN #1
Jeff Lemire (writer), Travel Foreman & Dan Green (art)
FRANKENSTEIN: AGENT OF S.H.A.D.E. #1
Jeff Lemire (writer), Alberto Ponticelli (art)
I, VAMPIRE #1
Joshua Hale Fialkov (writer), Andrea Sorrentino (art)RESURRECTION MAN #1
Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning (writers), Fernando Dagnino (art)
DEMON KNIGHTS #1
Paul Cornell (writer), Diogenes Neves & Oclair Albert (art)
Paul Cornell (writer), Miguel Sepulveda (art)
Ron Marz (writer), Sami Basri (art)
Nathan Edmondson (writer), CAFU (art)
Kyle Higgins (writer), Joe Bennet & Art Thibert (art)
SUICIDE SQUAD #1
Adam Glass (writer), Marco Rudy (art)
Dan Didio & Keith Giffen (writer), Keith Giffen & Scott Koblish (art)
Mike Costa (wrtier), Ken Lashley (art)
SGT ROCK & THE MEN OF WAR #1
Ivan Brandon (writer), Tom Derenick (art)
ALL-STAR WESTERN #1
Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti (writers), Moritat (art)
TEEN TITANS #1
Scott Lobdell (writer), Brett Booth & Norn Rapmund (art)
STATIC SHOCK #1
Scott McDaniel & John Rozum (writers), Scott McDaniel & Jonathan Glapion (art)
HAWK AND DOVE #1
Sterling Gates (writer), Rob Liefeld (art)
BLUE BEETLE #1
Tony Bedard (writer), Ig Guara & Ruy Jose (art)
LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #1
Paul Levitz (writer), Francis Portela (art)
LEGION LOST #1
Fabian Nicieza (writer), Pete Woods (art)
Now, let’s get this Roundtable rolling…
AMBUSH BUG (BUG): OK, so DC was in the news this week. 52 #1 relaunched issues. Day & Date Digital Releases. Superman court decisions. Comic shop ripple effect. Let's get the relaunch out of the way, because, honestly, that's the least interesting of the bits to me, at least. What do you think of the decision to relaunch the entire universe with 52 #1 issues coming out in the month of September?
OPTIMOUS DOUCHE (OD): The brand diversification model only works to open new demographic targets, but is only successful if those brands sell. It did work for awhile, but now they have become cruxes with the parts weakening the core. I also believe that were the intertubes in place 25 years ago, there would have been a slew of forums bemoaning Crisis on Infinite Earths. Sometimes you raze the field to make it once again fertile.
HUMPHREY LEE (HUMPHREY): Kind of an austentatious way to put it, but I agree. In general, I almost think the world of comics needs a "reboot", though apparently that's not what this is exactly. Right now the model of comics is to bleed dry a meager and dwindling fanbase that is left in print and make your money putting those same properties on the big screen. Not only is that business model fucking insane and I don't get how people get paid to consciously maintain that decision-making process, but it obviously cannot endure.
KLETUSCASADAY (KC): Seems kind of weird because the reboots (if this is one) usually come at a time when comics being put out aren't as good as expected or things have become convoluted with a particular character. Like the first CRISIS was to get all the iterations of these characters organized in a linear fashion. INFINITE CRISIS was to get the big 3 back to prominence. FINAL CRISIS was ummm... I don't know but I'm left wondering what this is trying to correct.
SUPERHERO: Couple of things: CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS was groundbreaking in that it had never been done before and DC was in serious trouble as a comic publisher and needed to clean up about 40-50 years of continuity because no one had been steering the continuity ship um, ever. It was a brave and desperate move by DC to compete and become just as relevant as Marvel was at the time. How many times has the DCU been "rebooted" since CRISIS? Bajillions. Now it's just a tired, sad, manipulative tactic that will more than likely end up being just as confusing as all the other reboots have been.
BUG: If DC were really intending to clean up continuity they would start from scratch with maybe 10-12 strong titles. But they would be taking a huge gouge in profit. It's the short term gain this act may achieve but by inundating the market with books not only dilutes your audience but it dilutes the talent. There is no way all 52 titles are going to be strong.
HUMPHREY: The huge gamut of books they are going to start this off with is another reason I'm be scared of this thing. Over-stretching your talent base and giving significant titles to guys who repeatedly wipe their asses with deadlines WILL be a stumbling block.
MATT ADLER (MATT): I think we're really talking about writing talent here; I could probably come up with a list of 52 available, talented artists. The consistently good superhero writers are fewer and further between though. Who has DC got? Johns, Morrison, Simone, Giffen, Jurgens...
KLETUS: Ouch. I think there's some solid folks over at DC but the more frequently shit like this happens the less excited I get about it...
BUG: It's not that they don't have talent. Just not enough for 52 books at once.
SQUASHUA: And yet, while this is completely true, it does apply to any company in this situation. Relaunching 52 books at once with new creative teams shouldn't affect any readers who blindly follow characters, which is the core of many hardcore readers who purchase every Batman or Wolverine book put out each week, but for readers like myself, I will get the opportunity (if I take it) to pick and choose brand new storylines from the writers who I enjoy. I wasn't going to get all 52 #1 issues, but I do plan to see what is out there and who is backing it. Then-again, this seems like a good time to stop buying monthlies at all and switch over completely to trade paperbacks or digital.
HUMPHREY: I also think talent is a reason why DC got so far behind is they genuinely did not recruit enough to the point where there was/is only a handful of talent you can trust. DC's been running a show of Gail, Johns, Morrison, Dini and Tomasi pretty much for the better part of four years now. Hell, even Vertigo, the bastion of talent finding, passed on CHEW apparently which probably hurt a working relationship with Layman on other things. The best intentions in the world for you line mean nothing when you are down to probably interns writing a couple of these 52 titles.
BUG: I have to say I'm with Squash on this. This is a perfect time for me to either drop all DC's or whittle my DC pull down drastically. I haven't decided yet but last week when I saw a new JSA on the shelves I put it back because I knew the book would have nothing but the same crap until September. Or worse yet filler until the end with dwindling art & story. Remember the crap DC put out while in the Morrison FINAL CRISIS holding pattern? I fear that's what we should expect for the rest of the summer.
PROFESSOR CHALLENGER (PROF): The 52 books means, yes, I'm out with the relaunch. I will probably look at filling in with other trades and Absolutes, and those sorts of things. DC just made my choice easier. But I applaud their effort to build a younger audience (which I assume is a large part of the relaunch). However, I am also enough of a cynic to believe that another part of this flood the market mentality is to intentionally kill enthusiasm for the printed versions to transition more quickly to digital only in terms of the weekly/monthly comics and go trades only in terms of physical printing.
BUG: Yeah I'm more inclined to stop with DC or stop buying DC floppies and just give the trades or downloads a shot as a trial basis for what is inevitable. I’ve been reading and collecting for 30 years and I ran out of room for them all long ago. I see the plus of going digital.
SUPERHERO: Comics cost about three to four bucks a pop. Digital and print. That's not gonna save anything. If anything piracy will go up. Who here thinks that any of these new origins are going to compare in scope or quality to: BATMAN: YEAR ONE, SUPERMAN: MAN OF STEEL, or GEORGE PEREZ'S WONDER WOMAN? Sorry, they won't. Because back then it was about taking chances. This is about corporate maneuvering, losing some rights to Superman's origins, and egos waaaayyy out of control.
HENRY HIGGINS IS MY HOMEBOY (HHH): Got to agree with superhero here. There just isn't enough power or talent behind DC right now to get me excited about this.The big thing that bothers me though, is continuity. It raises too many questions that have already been raised. Why will characters like Wonder Woman get full reboots, but Batman and Green Lantern stay in their basic story lines? I agree that those are the much better series, but a full reboot should cover everything.
BOTTLEIMP (IMP): Now, THAT seems royally screwed up to me. How is it that some continuity gets chucked while other bits remain canon? My guess is that Johns and Morrison bargained hard for the Blackest Night and Batman, Inc. stuff to stay, seeing as how they spent a couple of YEARS on it, and DC wants to keep their so-called "superstars" happy... while other writers who have been quietly doing excellent work are given the shaft.
BUG: Yep, as I said in the intro. Stuff that sells stays. Stuff that wasn’t making money is scrapped for a hipper, newer version…that seriously stinks. Basically if you're in anyway associated with Johns or Morrison you are ok. Everyone else seems to be screwed.
SQUASHUA: What about FLASHPOINT itself? I don't have enough information on what FLASHPOINT is besides an alleged line-wide reset and renumbering to issue 1 for all books. We have options as to what it might be. Modernization Option: If it is a Crisis on Infinite Earths-style reset that considers arbitrary events from "the past" to have taken place except Traci 13 was in the JLA instead of Zatanna, then they've already did that before with Crisis. Realign Option: If it is a timeline cleanup like Zero Hour / Infinite Crisis / Hypertime, where new characters are introduced and certain past events are rejiggered like Clark Kent got Lana Lang pregnant, they've done that before with Zero Hour, etc. Tangent Option: If it is a timeline where NOTHING IS WHAT IT SEEMS like Superman is black and Wonder Woman is a robot, they already did that and called it Tangent DC. Modernized Tangent Option: If, as some have hinted, it is a true restart like Modernization/COIE where arbitrary prime events from "the past" (prior comics) have taken place, keeping some familiarity, but nothing is as it seems like Aquaman now has The Tick's personality, and Supergirl only has one iteration, and Hitman's history is intact, and cool shit like Batman Inc. and Xombi are continuing, and something readers care about is done with the Milestone and Archie and T.H.U.N.D.E.R. characters, and it all makes sense and works together properly, and the book price is reduced overall, then I'm OK with that.
JOHNNY DESTRUCTO (JD): After watching the internet break in damned HALF over this, I was pretty pissed at comics fans as a whole. Listen: if this goes well, Awesomotron. IF NOT: EVERYTHING WILL GO BACK. It'll go the way of SPIDER-MAN CHAPTER ONE, which is to say, into the continuity garbage bin. Quit your friggin' bitching about EVERYTHING. It's comics, it's supposed to be fun, and guess what: You aren't the only one reading them. Most of us are all post-CRISIS readers, and we grew up on that, and we loved it. It's not going anywhere. You still have those memories and you still have those comics. You aren't going to be brain-wiped. Everything will balance in the end, so knock off your selfishness and try to enjoy the god-damn ride.
BUG: Now DC is doing some kind of damage control saying it's not a reboot but a combining of the DC proper & FLASHPOINT universes.
SQUASHUA: It's not really damage control if people are just assuming what it is from all the #1 issues and restarts and DC hasn't exactly outright stated what it is. The merging of the two timelines is pretty much the Modernized Tangent Option I mentioned earlier, and as such I'm good.
MATT: As superhero said; how many "bold new reinterpretations" has DC had since then? ZERO HOUR, INFINITE CRISIS, the ALL-STAR line, EARTH ONE... more if you count the character-specific revamps; Superman's also had MAN OF STEEL, BIRTHRIGHT, and most recently SECRET ORIGIN. At a certain point it starts to feel like "here we go again"... like DC really doesn't know *what* they're doing with their characters. One of the things that attracts people to superhero comics is the soap opera aspect... and that's diminished if there's a sense that the stories don't "count" because they're likely to be wiped away in the next reboot.
OD: It's interesting that the Superman origin rehashing keeps cropping up in these conversations. We have some pretty devout DC readers in our stable and that's the big thing most of us remember from the past five years. I'm guilty of it myself, I can't think of another Superman story in recent memory that affected me as much as BIRTHRIGHT, SECRET ORIGINS...etc. This should tell us something when the best stories lived completely outside the intricate tapestry that is continuity. It's become too big too handle and needs a shave.
MATT: Look at this quote from JMS; "So I felt confident that it was coming soon (which is one reason why I felt there wouldn’t be a problem in the long run leaving the monthly books, since most of the things done in SUPERMAN and WONDER WOMAN would be erased by the reboot anyway, so ultimately it didn’t matter whether I stayed or left...)." I think that's just terrible, and sums up the entire problem with this mentality. That said, Bob Wayne is claiming now that this isn't a reboot, so we'll have to see what's what. But overall, I think these constant continuity shake-ups are a bad idea.
OD: Well I hope Mr. Wayne is completely and utterly wrong. The only way this will work and stick is if the whole thing is a double tap of CTRL+ALT+DEL. I also don't think that every twenty-five years is a bad time for a reset, if they could skip the mini reboots in between.
KC: See I do like that DC has this cloud over it that every few years there is going to be some big shake up that they can't escape...I like that sense of foreboding doom BUT when it's done half assed (not saying this is the case here) it just seems like a bad gimmick.
HUMPHREY: That, that right there is where I really think the worry needs to be. It's not so much that everything is a #1 again, but it's that we don't exactly know what it means yet and how well is DC going to execute upon that. The idea of getting upset over mass reboots is so blasé; they happen all the time and if you've read comics for any extended amount of time you've encountered one or two of them.
BUG: I remember when the @$$Holes first started out, we were all up in arms over the lack of respect for continuity that went on when Quesada took over at first. Back then, we were called old timers for being upset about it, but now this new generation of readers has a taste of what we felt waaaaay back in 2001. It still kind of tastes shitty.
HUMPHREY: If this a "fresh start" with new creative teams and new titles and a dedicated effort to let the books be the books (while bothering to be on time) or is stuff getting wiped out of existence or what? The real "losers" in this are the long-lived books, which should be able to revel in their history. Seeing a new #1 on ACTION COMICS instead of watching the march to issue 1000 will be depressing, even though we all know some of these numbers will tick back over to their real ones like Marvel's did when they saw a buck in selling an extra-sized 600th issue of ASM. I'd have left ACTION, DETECTIVE, BATMAN, and ADVENTURE COMICS alone though, numbering-wise.
BUG: Agreed, ACTION and DETECTIVE should not have been touched. I bet my entire comic book collection that the 1000th issue will be celebrated. Ridiculous not to and for DC to not see that or say that it won’t happen means they aren’t paying attention to mistakes other companies made already.
OD: I agree to an extent. Every reboot post-CRISIS though was half-hearted. ZERO HOUR...not really a reboot. FINAL CRISIS, I can't even say the word reboot after that phrase without chuckling. Even INFINITE CRISIS was still a continuation. Will this new reboot compare to the mid-80s glory days? I don't know.
JD: FINAL CRISIS was supposed to be a reboot? It was barely even a COMIC, let alone a reboot of comics!
HUMPHREY: The Morrison announcement is where some real dirt comes in on this I think. I love ASS as much as the next man - obviously Morrison writes a fantastic Supes - but if you're going to do this thing, you're going to have to do this right. And by "doing it right" I mean shit better be on fucking time. People like Morrison not bothering to get their stuff in on time is why DC can't get as much revenue as they should in the first place. And how fucked up is it that you're trying to tell a (hopefully) newer audience that sometimes the product just comes out when it comes out? That David Finch BATMAN book got how much hype and we've seen, what, two issues in seven months now? If you're going to do this, that shit can't fly.
SUPERHERO: Which brings me back to my point about reboots not working. They all end up going down the drain at some point and then you reboot again. And again. And again. And why does Morrison need to have a re-vamp of Superman to write Superman? Just let him write the Superman books! Why re-set everything? If he's such a great writer let him work with what he's got and make Lemonade out of it! I guess this just means that everyone at DC just wanted the JMS deal. "Waaa! I can't deal with Superman being in a married relationship! I have to change everything!"
MATT: This is kind of a side issue, but does anyone else get the feeling that dissolving Superman's marriage won't be as big a deal as OMD was? Maybe it's because I'm more of a Spider-Man fan, but I just have the feeling that the marriage between Lois and Clark doesn't matter as much. I think one of the reasons OMD felt so wrong is because a magical continuity change felt like such a DC thing to do.
PROF: Matt is right. This is actually going to be easier to take, by the fans, than the undoing of Spider-Man's marriage. And part of that reason is that DC has established time and time again that they are willing to rewrite continuity (see the various origin tales of SUPERMAN that Matt mentioned and more!). By making it line-wide, DC creates a clean slate for the writers who now can create the history that they want and need to move forward now. It's essentially the same thing the Dini and Timm folks did for the BATMAN, SUPERMAN, and JUSTICE LEAGUE animated series. But now it's for the comics and instead of Dini and Timm (who I trust) with Johns, Didio, and WB/DC Corporate (who I don't really trust).
KC: I don't feel like it will be a big deal to the comic book community but the outside world will think it's a big deal. Guaranteed it will be on CNN or some shit. To me Peter's marriage is a bigger deal because he's the loser/nerd/ normal guy who got the model/ actress wife, giving all of us dorks hope. Clark's marriage is not that much of a surprise, oh the most powerful being on earth (who happens to also be super attractive) CAN find a woman that will marry him....no shit he can.
SUPERHERO: Just do what the old school writers used to do. Work with what you've got. Make it better. Develop a classic run and then move on. It seems like all the big-headed creators these days just want to make the characters their own. They are not. Deal with it.
BUG: Yeah egos are out of control these days. Everyone wants to make their mark and write a game-changer. Just write good stories. And for all of Johns respect for the character and continuity, it's a pretty huge contradiction to reboot the entire universe in your image.
KC: Well he IS the chief creative czar or whatever it's called...
OD: Let' s say the seeds for FLASHPOINT and REBOOTPOINT way back when Morrison was hurling Omega symbols at us during FINAL CRISIS. That's a long @$$ time to decimate everything. Over-engineered if that's the case? Perhaps. Depends on your style. I've personally enjoyed the ride, it had a few lows, but also some fantastic highs. But we need this break. Now, do we need 52 breaks. Seems a wee but excessive.
IMP: The funny thing is that I used to love what Johns did with the DCU. Just think back to the great work he did with the JUSTICE SOCIETY in terms of giving the team a reason to exist again in the 21st century, and the amazing job Johns did of finally fixing Hawkman's long, convoluted continuity into a single, logical timeline. He used to be Mr. Fix-It for DC history, but now it looks like there's not much left that actually needs fixing... hence his new title of Mr. Piss-All-Over-It-To-Make-It-Mine.
PROF: I am going to give Geoff a bit of a pass on this. I think he is now caught up in the corporate system and it's pretty damn difficult (if not impossible) to say "No" to the amount of money he has got to be getting in salary, royalties, ownership, licensing, and control in terms of other media like films and TV. It looks to me as if he is doing his damn well best to make the comics as good as possible when Corporate really couldn't give a damn about the quality.
BUG: Agreed. Johns loves comics. I just think that DC top brass is sick of playing second fiddle and need a shake up. How they are going about it? Verdicts still out.
MATT: I have no problem with writers wanting to make their mark; but it doesn't have to be done by tossing out everything that's come before. As Bug observed, it's ironic that this is coming at the hands of Johns, given that he showed with his FLASH run that you CAN make your mark while building on what came before. Even if this is only a partial reboot a la ZERO HOUR, that sort of thing once again reinforces that events are too easily dismissed and that the stories really don't matter.
OD: We're not really naive enough to believe that Johns, Didio and Lee are the sole agents of change right? They have suits to appease at the corporate level and those suits work for the share holders. The current track is dwindling sales, new momentum is a must.
KC: I know corporate has to have their hand in it somewhere, it IS a business but I seriously doubt they're getting the final word on which direction DC is moving...
HUMPHREY: Yeah, no way suits aren't in on this. DC probably doesn't have the leeway that Marvel does when it comes to answering to their overlords because they haven't made the hundreds of millions in movie grosses that Marvel has. Personally, I think both publishers have got it wrong and need to become loss-leaders for the greater picture - comics need to get in as many hands as they can and even a $2.99 price point isn't low enough. Let the movie grosses cover the losses while trying to get average sales numbers up across the board up 25% or so with cheaper books. Maybe digital will be what makes that happen, but this transition period is basically being paid for by us loyal readers who are starting to feel less loyal.
MATT: The question is, are they addressing why sales are dwindling? I think they are in part with the digital initiative, but I honestly don't think another continuity shift is going to bring in new or lapsed readers.
PROF: Reboots can and do work. If everyone is on board with it and those in editorial positions do their jobs right.
IMP: I think that's an excellent point you've made there. It seems as if the only way some of these big-name creators will work on these titles is if they're allowed to totally rewrite the characters and their worlds in order for the writers to fell that they're putting their own stamp on them, for better or worse. But in my opinion, the blame for this trend can be indirectly traced back to the advent of creator-owned comics. I mean, why waste creative energy on simply telling a good story if the characters you're writing don't exclusively belong to you, and some other writer could come along in a few months and totally undo what you accomplished? The mindset seems to be: if I have to write a comic that I have no lasting control over, I'm going to make damn sure that I fuck shit up so thoroughly as to make it clear to all you that this is Morrison's/Johns'/Bendis' Batman/Green Lantern/Superman, and not just some work-for-hire peon putting words in their mouths.
OD: Where does one rubbing their scent glands on a title end and mediocrity begin? And if this ends up being a gimmick and we end where we began, I will gladly lock arms with you my brothers and cry shenanigans. Call me Optimistic Douche this week at least.
IMP: My point is that there's a difference between making one's mark on a series by writing good, compelling stories and marking a series as would a dog-- by pissing all over it. In my opinion, when a writer decides that the only way he or she can write for a character that has been around as long as Superman or Batman is by shooting for writing the be-all, end-all, world-shattering, history revising "event" of the century, it generally doesn't have the same lasting power as simple, effective storytelling. It just creates a downward spiral of each subsequent writer trying to top the previous "event," and to paraphrase THE INCREDIBLES, when every comic is "special," no one will be.
PROF: There is a difference between writing characters you own and control the destiny of and writing characters owned by someone else, even if that "someone" is a legal fiction known as a "corporation." Corporate-owned means they need to maintain a certain degree of integrity for licensing purposes, and in the past this was the function of the editors and the editor-in-chief to step in and wrangle their writers to maintain that integrity. DC has, for all intents and purposes, created a system without "editors" in the classic sense. There is no sense of "editing" only of "control" or "no control." They either seem to let a writer have free reign and bend over for him or her, or they direct and dictate characters and storyline outcomes not because of a sense of character integrity, but a sense of knowing when the next big short-term money-making opportunity will arrive. As a reader, this is frustrating and drives the disconnect between modern DC and longtime fans like myself.
ROCK-ME AMODEO (ROCK-ME): Concur. The problem, as always, is that in the real estate of storytelling, writers are paid only to “stage” these characters to sell them. They can’t put a big hole in the wall of their back-story without getting permissions. Unfortunately, we are more post-modern than ever, and simple redecorations won’t entice anyone. We’ve seen it all before. The only way out seems to be raze and rebuild. The thing is, this can actually work IF they have a much larger plan in place, at least for the next few years, plans that the current continuity didn’t allow. If all they’re doing is a reset to allow characters to meander forward unencumbered… well generally, unencumbered meandering is called “being lost.” It’s not enough to raze the building. You have to know exactly what you’re going to build in its place.
PROF: Byrne's reboot of MAN OF STEEL is a good comparison. At the time, with comics in general having less sophisticated writing than what Marvel & DC have in 2011, MOS was new and refreshing. However, besides the fact that Byrne's writing and ideas were short-sighted and often change-for-change sake, the problems really are that it was essentially a singular vision for the character and within a relatively short time after he left, they started floundering around without real direction for the character. Rather than just telling stories about Superman, they used a never-ending series of events and stunts to substitute. If the DC line wide reboot is just another stunt that substitutes for good writing, any return on the event will be short-term only. But, if clearing the cobwebs comes with it a new fresh look to the future and an editorial commitment to character development over inter-connected continuity, then DC could potentially capture the market.
BUG: You’re right. They’re taking a gamble and there’s a long shot that it may pay off for them. But they’re shooting themselves in the foot by being greedy with the 52 titles all at once.
PROF: Glutting the market with 52 brand new titles in 1 month will kill any chance that this could succeed line wide. In the short-term, there will be sales bumps. Then they will stabilize at the usual low numbers. In the long run, I expect them to continue to drop to levels that do not justify the weekly/monthly pamphlets anymore to Corporate, but I actually expect the digital sales to steadily increase. Especially if they learn quickly that 99 cents is the magic number for volume sales (or possibly even a monthly line-wide digital subscription a la Netflix streaming).
VROOM SOCKO (VROOM): Just out of curiosity, am I the only one here that doesn't buy ANY content digitally? I don't just mean comics, but books, music, movies... I just don't see the benefit. Especially with the current plans to offer the DC books cover price. With my reserve box at the comic shop, I get a discount, so I pay less than cover price. I can see how this might benefit people who don't have a local comic shop anymore, but why should I buy digitally if it's going to cost me more money?
MATT: I'll purchase software digitally, and my fiancée and I are quite enjoying our Netflix streaming... but for reading material, I'd still rather have a hard copy. However, I recognize increasingly that there's a generation that enjoys reading on their devices, so I think DC is headed in the right direction there. I might buy a digital comics subscription once the companies get their libraries more complete, but buying individual comics digitally is not something I can see myself doing.
JD: I constantly buy digital content. Even my porn is digital! Seriously, a perfect example of my preference is this week's GREEN LANTERN: EMERALD KNIGHTS release. The store I work at got in two DVD's and a BLU-RAY version. The Blu-Ray version is only 4 dollars more but has the Blu-Ray disc itself, ALSO the DVD disc AND a digital version. THIS is the way to work it. I don't even HAVE a Blu-Ray player, but now I have 2 versions I can use and when I buy a BR player, I'm set! Love it.
OD: I have absorbed the digital age for everything except comics. Even on the iPad the experience is still not close to the same quality as the actual books. And that is an asstarded price point to offer the digital the same as the hard copy.
SUPERHERO: I'm not sure you're going to be grabbing all those new customers with a $2.99 price point. They think they're doing us a favor by offering us digital comics for three bucks? Why? Because they are doing the same exact thing the gas companies did. Inch the price up bit by bit until the consumer can't take it anymore and then drop it back suddenly and a lower but still higher price becomes the norm. So everyone's excited about a $2.99 price point? Nu-uh. Instead it's made a LOT of people realize that $2.99 was too expensive in the first place. Unlike gas, I don't need comics to get me from one place to another.
JD: Absolutely these digital comics should be cheaper! Absolutely. I think the issue is they don't want to flat-out murder the floppies. What they should be doing is, if you buy an actual issue, you get the digital download for FREE. This is exactly what they do when you buy vinyl records at music shops. If you buy the new Death Cab for Cutie LP, you get a free digital download to enjoy on your iPod. Brilliant. I think the same can be applied here.
PROF: Sorry, but I actually DO think they want to outright murder the "floppy". I think this policy right now is strictly to establish an alibi so they can put a sad corporate face on it when they finally stop nearly all serialized floppies and go straight to digital subscriptions and an option to buy a trade collection later for the hardcore luddites who prefer tactile sensation reading.
HUMPHREY: "Murder" is probably too strong a word, but I think it might honestly be becoming a liability in their minds. Diamond is fucking terrible at what they do and their hold on floppy distribution hurts relationships with retailers. They have no traction with them at large booksellers and print runs on TPBs and OGNs have to be extremely cost effective given the amount of bulk they buy their paper in to do them. I'm curious to see where everything goes in this regard because, like I said earlier, they still rely on retailers for the bulk of their sales now and the only way to make a digital push is to pretty much admit you don't care if retailers fail.
MATT: Of course they don't WANT to murder the floppy; it's a revenue stream. But I do believe they have concluded (perhaps rightfully) that there is no meaningful way to expand the audience for the floppy, and indeed no matter what they do it will continue to decline. So they're putting their priorities elsewhere, and trying to milk whatever they can from the floppy market while they still can.
SUPERHERO: What would have been a ballsy move was for DC to say, "Hey, for $2.99 you can have the physical comic and read that issue on your computer at anytime off of "the cloud" or whatever nonsense they are calling it. But that cloud tech isn't ready yet. THAT may have been worth $2.99. Does anyone think that a parent is going to think it's any better to spend $2.99 on a digital download than it is to buy a pamphlet? I don't think so. It's still a flimsy amount of story for a high price point that doesn't live up to its value. And let's not forget that DC said that digital would be the same price as print on initial release. What happens after that? It will go down I'm sure. And once people realize that they will be more than happy to wait for the price to drop.
BUG: Wasn’t the big excuse we always heard from DC and Marvel about price hikes was the price of paper and printing? So by going digital, shouldn’t this take care of those “massive” charges and make the comics cheaper? If we were to believe the smoke they’ve been blowing up our asses for years for every 20 cent to one dollar increase, there SHOULD be a drastic price shift coming? Right? That’s would be the respectable thing to do. Right?
SUPERHERO: Let's face it, comics started their march towards oblivion when everyone got the urge to get "respectability". To be see as equals with movies and TV and whatever. You got the mad rush for modern coloring techniques (which were supposed to make comics cheaper) AND the desire for Hollywood or high end talent. That stuff costs. So instead of comics being fun and entertaining "junk culture" that you either disposed of when you were done reading it or rolled up into your pocket, we have a field where everyone thought that everything had to be WATCHMEN and THE DARK KNIGHT. Instead of knowing that there can be high class comics, but that not all of them had to be high art.
SQUASHUA: A friend of mine who reads comics just bought an iPad 2, and he's ditching all his material possessions and replacing them with digital media. Granted, he downloads comics illegally (when possible) and refuses to purchase them in the store now, not even trades.
OD: Well there's at least a fraction of the penny in unraveling the great mystery of where does our comic dollar go.
PROF: I don't want the digital. I don't buy the digital other than the occasional mp3. I still like owning DVDs, CDs, comics, etc. But I'm not the future of the market. The "kids" are the future of the market and they are quickly dumping DVDs, CDs, comics, books, mags, etc. in favor of all digital media in one pad, pod, or laptop. Just the realities of business and media, man.
VROOM: Do we know that, or are we just being told that?
HUMPHREY: I don't remember the exact numbers, but Amazon does indeed sell more digital copies than physical. I think the number skewed in favor of digital buy a couple hundred thousand last year.
SUPERHERO: I would switch to digital if the prices were lower and the screen was big enough.
PROF: Young people are ignoring the physical and going for the digital. In fact, they have gotten so spoiled to these little gizmos being able to store everything they could ever want that they actually actively dislike having to manhandle their media. The new generation is going paper-less. And we buggy-whip lovers need to accept that we are part of a dwindling niche market. Go walk through your local Borders today and remember what it was like just 5 years ago and try to convince me that book sales aren't markedly declined. Or dig out a phone book from the early 90s and compare the number of comic book or video shops in a metro area to the number today.
BUG: BWAH! Who reads a phone book anymore?!?!!?
PROF: Exactly. Population is increasing. But sales of physical product are decreasing. We're getting old. You can either sit on the front porch and yell at all the whippersnappers and scowl your way on into your grave or you can just accept the reality.
SUPERHERO: You know what? I am so TIRED of that angry old man argument. Prof, you pull that thing out every time we all get pissed about some boneheaded (or perceived boneheaded) move by one of the big two. It's such a tired argument and has no validation especially when it comes to comics. You know why? Because we are the generation that are supporting comic books. We are the ones that built it up and we're the ones that are going to walk away from it eventually. Kids are not reading comics. They are not going to buy new comics at the prices at which they are being offered and their parents will not buy them for them.
MATT: I don't think that's quite true. I still see kids interested in comics, particularly after they see the movies and want to learn more about the characters. I have the kid of a friend who calls me up all the time to pepper me with questions about comics history, and who could beat who. But most of the comics he's read have been in TPBs that his parents get for him at bookstores, not singles from comic shops. And this generation DOES like reading on their devices, as much as that may baffle us. That said, I agree about not throwing the baby out with the bathwater-- you can make comics welcoming to new readers without alienating the old.
PROF: That right there IS the angry old man argument. Just because we ARE the primary buying market does not mean we are the PREFERRED market from a corporate perspective. They are gambling that the angry old men out there will be driven by their obsessive collector's ocd to stick with the relaunch in larger numbers than those that actually follow through on their jumping off threat. Fanboys, especially the angry old man types, are notorious for bellowing and spewing but still crapping out all their cash to make sure they don't have a gap in their collections. But again, that is the audience that is rapidly dwindling away.
SUPERHERO: Let's face it Marvel and DC were built on the crack dealer business model. Keep them coming through serialization and soap opera plot lines. If that's gone or gets re-set every couple of year you're degrading any loyal fan base you may have. And if I give up on comics you can bet that I'm not going to pass them off to my kids. Or at least foster a spirit of collecting them. So you've screwed me and made me less likely to pass it on down to the next generation. Digital or Print. If you want to create a new universe then do what Marvel did...create a separate universe but keep it separate. Unfortunately Marvel didn't stick with that policy very well...
MATT: As you note, the dwindling sales numbers show that's changing. There's only so many reboots and radical character shake-ups that can happen before those fanboys lose their sense of connection with the characters and sell their collections on Ebay. If DC and Marvel are successful at capturing a new audience, then sure, they don't have to worry about that. But they've been trying for years, and the numbers aren't showing it's working. I have not yet seen someone in charge that has a clue about what it is that attracts kids to comics.
PROF: WB wants to grab that youth and young adult audience and the way to do that is making yourself hip, new, and relevant. Shareholders demand it and that's what they appear to be attempting. Sorry if it offends you, but the truth hurts sometimes. And there's a reason why clichés are clichés. Because as generalizations go...they're pretty accurate.
SUPERHERO: This doesn't offend me because I think in some ways we are making the same argument. That the comics don't matter anymore. They are ancillary product. Readership is dwindling. Maybe digital comics will stop that but I don't think so. Could be wrong though. But like I said in the talkbacks. If they wanted to be hip and edgy they should have given the DCU to Paul Pope. Now THAT I would pay to see.
SUPERHERO: More than Jim Lee.
PROF: I guess I need to hold up the "Sarcasm Sign" again. Because if you think that I really think these changes actually are "hip & relevant" then you aren't hearing me. They are an attempt at being hip and relevant driven by a need to justify their continued existence. But when the 47 year old Lee is designing the costumes, fanboy obsessive Johns is driving continuity, and aged carnival barker Didio is driving the editorial vision you actually have a perfect recipe for spectacular failure (or surprising success). They are gambling that the number of jump-offs will be offset by new readers who will stick around whether in print or digital.
OD: Why did we grow up loving comics? My reason is simple, the flights of fancy and imagination achieved in a comic simply could not be emulated in any other medium a generation ago. I don't blame kids for shunning comics, when the same imagination can now be spoon fed to them in another medium.
MATT: It's the old saying about how comics have an unlimited budget for special effects. I don't think comics necessarily need to be substantially different from the movies in terms of content; kids like what kids like, and the best thing about them is that their appetites for what they like are virtually unlimited. A movie takes a lot of time and money to put into production, a comic much less so. So feed their appetites. Give them every month in the comics what they can only get once a year in the theater. That will keep them hooked. Kids want a fast pace, high drama, conflict, and amazing visuals.
OD: Kids still do want to read, Harry Potter has proven it. What needs to happen though, is the creators need to offer up an experience that simply can't be brought on to the small screen. Whether it's fantastic effects that would send James Cameron into an apoplectic fit trying to put on film or by truly imbibing the goodness of serialization that can not be told in under 90 minutes with previews. Differentiation of the comic medium will resurrect it, not digitization.
VROOM: Or I can take the third option, champion the better system. The system that, in the long run, helps the publishing industry better than digital. The system that lets you share what you love with others. Once your comic is downloaded, it's stuck on your hard drive. If this had been the only way to read when I was growing up, I'd never have started. That's because I started reading comics when a friend of mine loaned me his TINTIN books. I started reading novels because my grade school had a giveaway program. I started following specific authors because they were available in my local library. Even today, this is the sort of sharing is what builds readers.
IMP: For me, the issue is simply one of comfort. I'd much rather have a physical comic book in my hands (or any other book, for that matter) than read a digital copy. Kindles and iPads may be great in terms of being able to store and read a huge amount of material in a tiny, manageable package, but reading off of a screen can never equal the tactile pleasure of holding the printed material in one's own hand. Hell, I grew up reading coverless, yellowing second-had comics, and even today there's an indescribable fuzzy feeling I get from the combined look, smell, and feel of old comics. Digital downloads may be modern, hip and convenient, but in my opinion they end up draining childlike spirit out of the comic book medium.
SUPERHERO: Let's not forget that you are going to have to store those digital comics somewhere. Sure a hard drive is easier than a comic long box but data degrades over time. Even on a hard drive. That issue of AMAZING FANTASY # 15 will stay in a polybag for a long time but that same digital copy will have to be switched from drive to drive from burnable DVD to burnable DVD over time so it won't corrupt.
SQUASHUA: I've said it before and I'll say it again: Holding the Line at $2.99 is bullshit. You want to get people reading your books again, reduce the price down to at least $2 a book, or justify why I should pay $3-4 for a 21-24 page pamphlet when I can purchase a paperback novel for almost as much. This is again my call to arms to comic book journalists to discover the secrets: break down why each book costs $3-4 - who gets what percentage of that money? Does it go to production, materials, writer, artist, publisher, transportation, retailer? We know based on the "profits" of gas companies that gasoline has been artificially inflated, and it's supposedly being looked into; who is looking into the inflated costs of our books? Why are we paying so much for a story that is dragged out across five-six issues, when in the silver age we'd have paid half as much and received two complete stories in a single book?
KC: Totally agree about pricing. MOST of the FLASHPOINT tie-ins had about 20 pages of actual comic and the rest was the prequel comic for SUPER 8. I know people need to get paid but for fuck's sake 20 pages?!?! I think to garner for interest they need to try to make sure EVERY book is worth the cover price and that there's enough content to make me feel I’m getting my money's worth...otherwise more and more folks are going to start moving to trades.
>BUG: Here's the thing. Despite my hems and haws I have to admire DC's balls to do this whole thing. Starting everything over (if that's what's happening), digital releases same day as physical. This was going to happen anyway. Being number 2 allows them to take this risk of blowing it big time or having this be the beginning if the New DC age. We won't know for certain for a while, but it's ballsy.
PROF: I admire the balls for DC to do this too. Back when the original CRISIS was published, the original plan was to relaunch the entire DC line at THAT time and CRISIS was supposed to be a less dramatic mini-series called HISTORY OF THE DC UNIVERSE and lay out for everyone the new status quo. They chickened out on that and the project was converted to CRISIS and the HISTORY book was relegated to the 2-part prestige book illustrated by Perez that laid out the broad points of the newly combined singular DC Earth. That was a dramatic new beginning for DC and re-energized DC with the fanbase so that they could overtake Marvel for awhile in terms of fans and sales. I remember the thrill of the "new" and the "unknown". But, because DC was not willing to reset everything all at once, we had an editorial clustertruck that got messier and messier. They barely got a month in with the new "history" before they rewrote that with MAN OF STEEL. In the new world, we got a brand new Wonder Woman, yet they said the stories of the JLA and JSA had happened, but with Black Canary instead. Then it was Fury. Then it was Miss America. Then it was Hippolyta as Wonder Woman. Then we had someone trying to explain how Hawkman fit into the JLA stories when he just now arrived after HAWKWORLD. And we all know what happened with that. In other words, editorial was out of control and nobody was communicating and nobody created a "Bible" for the new DC and what took 50 years to require a "re-boot" or "house-cleaning" started needing a "house-cleaning" every 3-5 years to try and "fix" what some stupid writer decided to do and no editor stepped up to say "no". This is ballsy because it is the only way to really do a "re-boot". You either do it line wide all at the same time and with a plan and a "Bible" (which I am optimistically assuming exists) or you wind up with the same problems as before. Just shinier and with higher neck collars and shoulder pads.
VROOM: The reboot has killed what interest I had left in the DC Universe. I pretty much stopped reading when someone (I can't be bothered to recall the name of the writer, but he must have zero imagination,) had Roy Harper go back on heroin, while also literally turning him into the Man With the Golden Arm. JMS on Wonder Woman was the next nail in the coffin, and this new DCU is the reading of the will. Only there's no beneficiary. Here's the problem with rebooting comics: it doesn't work. Both the creators and the fans are too aware of the wealth of preexisting stories to do anything new. Instead they just end up strip mining the past. The closest it's ever come to working is on ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN, and even there the typical fanboy reaction to the first year or so wasn't merely, "Bendis is writing the character the best he's been since Roger Stern was writing," but instead the focus was "When is Venom going to show up?"
IMP: It's funny, because so far the news about DC's reboot makes it sound very much like Marvel's Ultimate line, what with the whole "younger and edgier" thing. But at least when Marvel did it, they had the good sense to keep going with the original, continuity-laden universe. It seems like DC is throwing the baby out with the bathwater by chucking decades of story and character development out the window.
JINXO: My concern is if this reboot is even coming from the right place. Feels to me more like folks steering the ship started with the idea of having the comics go digital. Interesting, progressive idea to help keep comics going. But, to me, corporate concerns like those are bad reasons for massive creative changes.
JD: Your concern is valid, Jinxo. It DOESN'T feel all that necessary to reboot everything. I don't feel particularly confused by DC continuity at this point, especially after all the stuff that Geoff Johns has already done.
Well, that’s enough for today. If you made it through the whole thing without stopping for a sandwic