Wednesday, June 01, 2011

DC COMICS REINVENTS ITS UNIVERSE. So read the headline of today's venerable (!) newspaper (?!?!) USA Today. The full article can be had by clicking here. I'm sure you thought I couldn't possibly keep quiet about this. And you were right. For those not in the know, DC Comics is whining that they are #2 in the market behind Marvel so they are going to "reboot" the entire DC Universe and its characters and start all issues over with #1. Everything that you ever read in every DC commic book basically never happened. This "fresh and radical new" direction is being spearheaded by Geoff Johns (writer responsible for the whole "Blackest Night" phenom) and Jim Lee (artist who some people apparently seem to like who was responsible for that memorable Image Comics team book . . . um . . . they were so forgettable I can't remember what they were called). Sadly, this "bold new" idea for DC is a sad mishmash of old, old ideas; some of which failed miserably. And more sadly, this time around it's gonna be a worse disaster than the "DC Implosion". The article in USA Today is full of quotes by the two men and that's very useful as I take issue with every boneheaded statement they make. F'rinstance. . .
The paper states that "Johns promises a focus on the interpersonal relationships within DC's trademark superteam (The Justice League)." Johns is quoted as explaining "What's the human aspect behind all these costumes? That's what I wanted to explore. . .The approach is very much about who they are behind the masks and how they interact together and how these personalities mix. With the world's greatest superheroes, how does that team actually work? Do they all get along?" This, to Johns, apparently seems like a new idea. It, in fact, WAS a new idea when Stan Lee & Jack Kirby etc. did it 50 years ago in a little thing called "The Marvel Age of Comics". Stan's FANTASTIC FOUR and AMAZING SPIDER-MAN et. al. revolutionized comics by bringing these "real life" problems and interactions into the world of comic books. It was truly revolutionary; so much so that DC quickly did the same thing in the latter 60's and every comics company has been doing it ever since. A groundbreaking original idea from Geoff Johns in 2011. I don't think so. Since every comic book released since the mid-60's has already integrated such "interpersonal relationships" as a matter of course, I can only assume that Johns intends to make DC superhero comics into soap operas. Just what your average superhero fan wants to read.


Another stated goal is for the comics to "...reflect today's real-world themes and events". Again, you mean like Stan Lee did in 1961?!? Or perhaps like DC itself did starting in the late 60's with it's award-winning GREEN LANTERN/GREEN ARROW title written by Denny O'Neal and drawn by Neal Adams?!?! But truly, is anyone really reading comics to experience the "real world"? Superhero comics?!??! I don't think so. A vital approach in the 1960s. A silly approach in the 21st century. I and every other comic book fan read comics in order to escape the real world. Once again, if I didn't want escape, I'd read something else BESIDES superhero comics. And that's what people who DON'T read comics already do. So why would they pick up a comic book now? Answer: they wouldn't. And they're not going to. Sorry Geoff & Jim. Let's move on.
Jim Lee is "redesigning" the costumes of every superhero at DC in order to "... make characters more identifiable and accessible to comic fans new and old". Another ridiculous statement. If you want characters to be "identifiable" you would leave them in the costume's they've had, in some instances, for the last 75 years. I don't want to take issue with making the characters more "accessible" to fans by changing the costume. I frankly don't know what that means. A superhero's costume is either good or bad. Accessibility doesn't enter into it. However, if you take a look at the rather weak drawing at the top of this post, you will see that Aquaman's costume looks exactly the same, Superman's costume looks exactly the same except the little red shorts are gone (a bad design move, by the way, as it will make Supes look like he's wearing long johns now), Green Lantern looks . . . well, exactly the same as do Batman and The Flash. In fact, the only changes are for the worse: there's Wonder Woman's pathetically ugly costume which a co-worker says makes her look like J. Lo and then there's Cyborg looking like he's wearing a trash can. If this is any indication of what's to come, DC superheroes will either look practically the same or worse. I mean, if you want to see examples of Jim Lee's character designs, take a look once again at his old Image Comics characters. No one ELSE is lookin' at them. That blue & white streaked Superman a few years ago -- now THAT was a brand new and radical change (which also didn't work, you'll remember). These so-called changes seemed about are almost non-existent. If Jim Lee's not going to drastically alter their look, why crow about it to the press? As usual with Jim Lee and his fellow Image Comics artists, it's once again all "image" and no substance.


The new comics also will now be available via apps or online at a special DC site where you can read the comic books. If the comics are available online for free, why would anyone buy the actual comics? And here I thought this was about increasing sales? But if however the comics are available online for a FEE, why would anyone shell out money for a comic book they won't actually own? Music you buy on itunes you can burn to a cd and have a permanent copy of; comic books you buy online you look at and . . .uh, that's it. There goes your money. Do we really think that's gonna happen? Jim Lee shockingly says, "We're allowing people who have never bought a comic book in their lives to download them on portable media devices and take a look. Having the ability to give people access to these comics with one button click means we're going to get a lot of new readers." Really? Is Jim Lee so egotistical or blinkered as to think someone who never read a comic book in his life will care whether it's printed on paper or available to download merely because he's "redesigned" some of their costumes and they're starting over at #1? Either way, non-comics fans are not gonna bother. Why would they? They don't read 'em now. I have no interest in basketball so I'm not going to watch it on TV, on my ipod, on my laptop or projected on the big red ass of a baboon! No matter how you package it, it's spinach and I say the hell with it. That's exactly what non-comics fans are going to feel: how exactly does this mean jack diddly to me since I don't read comics in the first place? This begs the question: who are all these changes meant to attract?


Either you read comic books or you don't. No amount of costume tweaking and issue renumbering matters to the Joe on the street who has no interest in comics. The only people DC has to worry about making money from are the comics fans. Non-comics fans aren't going to buy 'em no matter WHAT DC does. So what is the feeling of comics fans? Well, pretty much as I would predict: apprehension or hostility. One fan online commented that he viewed it as "a kick in the crotch" to readers who have stuck with DC reading for many years. This is true. The main reason I myself stopped reading comics in 1996 was that I had become fed up with the constant "reboots" of the characters (main offender: DC). This is another instance of the rehash nature of this so-called "brand new and fresh" DC reinvention touted by Geoff Johns & Jim Lee. It's nothing new and we comics fans have been sick of the reboots for years now. Ever since CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS in 1985, DC creators have felt they had license to constantly reboot characters and delete every story that happened before their own new "#1 issue" came out. And then, after about a year, when that "reboot" failed, another creative team would reboot the reboot. And so on. I mean, how many different versions of Hawkman have there been. And how many freakin' JUSTICE LEAGUE #1's, for that matter. Well, here comes yet another one, folks. The problem is that nobody is going to bother reading these books and emotionally investing anything in the characters because we know full well that, in about a year or two, everything we read is going to be "deleted" as "never happened" and we're going to start all over again for the umpteenth time. And again and again after that. Why do you think comic book readership has declined from the high of about 7 million copies an issue in the early 90's to the 10,000 or so print runs of today? Because we got sick and tired of having our "iconic" characters jerked around every year or so. Geoff Johns seems to think this is a new idea long overdue. Sadly, DC has been doing it for the last 25 years ad nauseum. The LAST thing we need is another reboot; this time company wide. So rather than a bunch of little mistake, we're getting ONE BIG ONE! Johns and Lee also are planning to demonstrate DC's brand new "diversity" by bringing back war comics and western comics titles. Yeah, we all know how well THEY sell. For this so-called "brand new and fresh" idea, Johns and Lee had to go all the way back to the 1940's to steal THAT concept.


It shouldn't come as a surprise that Geoff Johns seems to think all this stuff he's mentioned is "new and original". After all, didn't he think BLACKEST NIGHT was an original concept when fandom at large saw that it was obviously a copy of Marvel's popular MARVEL ZOMBIES series. Johns and Lee laughably keep tossing around the words "icon" and "iconic" about the DC characters. They don't seem to realize the irony of the situation. The characters WERE icons; that is, until Geoff Johns and Jim Lee get through smashing them and reconstructing them into a lesser, pale imitation of the characters which have lasted 75 years. They will no longer be icons no matter how you delude yourself, guys. Jim Lee's telling statement in the article says it all regarding what they're trying to do: "You're trying to have your cake and eat it, too. You're trying to keep the iconic elements there, but at the same time freshen up the look so that people are intrigued by what they're seeing and hopefully come and sample the wares." The fact which Lee seems to be missing here is that the meaning of the phrase "trying to have your cake and eat it too" illustrates that its impossible to do that. You can't "have your cake and eat it too". You can't wipe out the entire history of a character which made that character an icon in the first place and expect to still have the icon. The icon is gone. You've erased it. It is the ultimate evidence of a lack of creativity or talent when a creator "reboots" something. Alan Moore needed no such "reboot" to do all he did with SWAMP THING. All his classic work was done in the context and full history of the comic book character and he felt no need to retroactively erase everything that had gone before. If you have to do that in order to bring a so-called fresh approach to a title, perhaps you're not good enough to be writing that book in the first place. Alan Moore's classic final "pre-Crisis" story "Whatever Happened to the Man of Steel" two-parter actually took issue with the "reboot" trend on the brink of John Byrne's needless "reboot" of Superman in 1986. The fact remains that those two Alan Moore Superman issues are 100 times better than John Byrne's entire run of the "rebooted" Superman issues. And where is John Byrne's version of Superman now? On the dust heap with every other such reboot. How's it feel, John? When it's YOUR version that's been erased, I'll bet it doesn't seem like such a good thing to do anymore.


And that's the point, I think. Geoff Johns and Jim Lee -- you are no Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Not even close. You're not Steve Ditko or Denny O'Neil or Neal Adams or Berni Wrightson or Steve Englehart or Dick Dillin or Paul Levitz. And you're sure as hell no Julius Schwartz. The utter gall of someone who thinks they can throw out all the classic work of much more talented creators because their own new take on things has to supercede all others is distasteful, disrespectful and outlandishly stupid. Why do you have to eliminate everything done by all these past creators before you can do your own version? Afraid your work won't stand up to theirs? I can't think of any other reason. If not, then all these changes your making could occur without any such company-wide reboot. It could all be done in an ACTION COMICS issue that's past the number 900 without making it ACTION COMICS #1. Again. The same online fan I mentioned earlier also wrote that this entire DC reboot kinda makes the entire back catalogue of 75 years of comic books "useless". That's not true. The reboot itself is useless. All those old comics will always be there for us to reread any time we want. When this new DC reboot goes down the drain. . .and it will. . .there won't be anyone in years to come going back to read them. And there certainly won't be any hardcover reprint collections of Geoff Johns and Jim Lee's abortive attempt to separate the the reader from his buck. We will always want to revisit Gardner Fox's JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA or look at Dick Sprang's BATMAN art. These and hundreds of other writers and artists managed to make classic comic books which have obviously stood the test of time -- and they did it without having to "reboot" the work of previous creators. Carmine Infantino's "New Look" Batman didn't need to start over with a #1 but continued in the next issue of the regular comic. When Barry Allen first got dosed with chemicals and became the new Silver Age Flash, his solo title continued with the old Golden Age Flash's issue numbering. And when Julie Schwartz created the Silver Age of Comics itself by revamping Golden Age character like the Flash, Green Lantern, etc. he did just that. They were completely new characters with new identities, new costumes, in some cases different powers and they were in every way new. Geoff Johns, Jim Lee and DC Comics' management don't have the balls to do that. I mean, how would that affect the merchandising??!?! And if you're not going to do an actual company-wide revamp of every comic character you publish, why pretend it's anything other than what it is. A cheap marketing ploy to drum up some press. See you on the unemployment line, Geoff and Jim. The clock just started ticking...


For more insights visit this excellent article from wellyousaythat by clicking here.


Weaverman said...

Tradition and history, things that have stood the test of time are disposable commodities. They're going to loose a lot of their fan base.

Analog Boy said...

Well, I must admit I am a bit curious, and I will read some of the titles when they are released.

However, this move is just another way to make something old new again...and its getting a little tired. I blame DC and Marvel for being lazy w/ their content and lack of having a true editorial point of view with their titles. I mean, in the 70s and 80s the content was fresh, story lines were compelling, AND the E-I-C made sure that titles were ON time and made sense within their respective universes.

The reason for all this rebooting is that both houses hired hot-shot writers that didn't give a 'ish' about established history and characters.... Look at what Brian Michael Bendis did to the AVENGERS. He totally ruined one of my favorite comics all in the name of making things 'fresh.' Well, here's something to chew on Mr. Bendis, John Byrne, George Perez, Marv Wolfman and Chris Claremont didn't need to destroy a comic's continuity to make it 'fresh.' They just wrote great stories and delivered fantastic art--on time--plain and simple.

I give DC Comics a year before they realize they made a mistake and go back to their old ways. They are going to lose a lot of older readers in this gamble, that's for sure.

Cerpts said...

Amen, older brother!