Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Wednesday Comics: Doomsday or Crisis at DC Comics


File:DC Comics logo.svg

Two days ago, it was reported that about one-third of the staff of DC comics was let go.  My heart is sad for all of those people whose jobs have been lost.  This was part of a corporate restructuring plan.  AT&T owns Warner Media, who owns DC Comics.  Warner has been in financial trouble for a little while and with the pandemic, it has been very difficult for the entertainment company to bring in large amounts of revenue.

I am less concerned for the corporation of DC.  They will still produce comics either digitally or in graphic novels and trade paperbacks.  But if they make a large reduction in their monthly comics (and I can't imagine Marvel won't do the same), this could be devastating to the local comic book shops.  

Either way, things are look ing grim.  So, at DC they are facing either a Doomsday or Crisis.

A Doomsday would mean that this is the deathblow of the company as we know it and all that is left is for DC to succumb to the wounds.

How did we get here to this point?

There are several factors involved.  The problem of their corporate managers is a real one.  Also, print media in all forms has seen a decline in sales.  

But I have to agree with those in the industry who have been critical of the overall editorial decisions made by both Marvel and DC.  The companies saw that their demographic was getting older.  The most significant portion of the customer base were middle-aged men who entered into the hobby as children and teens and kept up with it as adults.  However, new generations of children and teens were not replacing the grown-ups as customers.  It appears that the companies chose to try and appeal to a younger, trendy audience.  This is not a problem, per se.  But this was often done at the expense of the existing customer base.

You can see this in disastrous plans like DCYou or the (seemingly) cancelled 5G, where classic heroes were replaced.  Readers who have been loyal for decades have developed emotional ties to the characters, but this was ignored by many.  One of the problems with this strategy is that if you write stories that turn off the older customer base, they will begin to abandon the entire hobby.  This may not have been as big of a problem if the customer base they were seeking made up for the loss of sales.  But this never materialized.  Instead, the companies tried to get customers who would not buy their comics while at the same time turning away those who already were.

Let us take a look at the state of things in DC in the last few years.

-The Fall of King

Tom King created the worst comic book I have ever read, Heroes in Crisis #8.  It was the time I was most tempted to quit DC.  And while the beginning of his run on Batman was strong, he turned off so many readers that his run was cut short.  Not only did he make Batman a mushy mess, but his story ruined Dick Grayson and gave us "Ric" Grayson.  King's promotion for his new Rorschach comic led to the Twitter mob coming after artist Jae Lee.  

-Bumbling Bendis

DC snagged Brian Michael Bendis from Marvel and gave him control of the Superman universe.  If they had hired the Bendis of Ultimate Spider-Man, then this would have been a boon.  But instead they got the Bendis who could not shut up.  Most of his books are a talkie mess, with so much text in them that you may as well be reading a novel.  

One of his first decisions was to ruin the fan-favorite duo of the Super Sons by aging up Jonathan Kent into a young adult and removing him from the much-loved family dynamic that was established by Peter Tomasi.  He introduced new villains that no one really cares about.  He interconnected his stories into something called Event Leviathan, but instead of being a neatly woven and delightful tapestry, it was a heaping mess.  I read every issue and I probably still could not tell you what it was about.  His Young Justice has some nice moments, but once again drowns in his over-complicated words.  He's like someone who gets up to the microphone who starts with a good point, but then is so excited to have people listen to him that he rambles on.  His Naomi was nothing special.  And even though he didn't write the book, Wonder Twins was under his imprint.  I was very excited to have these characters enter the canonical DC comic book universe.  But this comic, which I must emphasize was geared towards YOUNGER readers, began it's first issue with an alien sky orgy.  

No, that is not a typo or an exaggeration.

In short, like Shaq with the Boston Celtics, DC overpaid for someone whose is way past the height of their career.

-Weirdness and Insanity

Grant Morrison took over for Green Lantern.  Instead of producing stories that delighted fans as he did with his classic JLA run, his stories tended to the more obscure and strange.  It is like he is trying to write Green Lantern the way Gaiman wrote Sandman.  And while there are many people who revere that series, it doesn't really fit with Hal Jordan, especially in the way the Geoff Johns and Robert Vendetti wrote him.  

Scott Snyder found some success with his DC Metal story a few years ago.  It was very imaginative, but it pushed the boundaries of craziness similar to Morrison.  But he kept pushing this so that his Justice League became difficult to follow and his current Metal story leans so heavily into the strange that it is hard to engage.

-Where is the A-List Buzz?

We already mentioned Superman, Batman, and Green Lantern.  But where are the rest of the heavy hitters?  I don't currently read Wonder Woman and Aquaman because they have done nothing to hook me.  The Flash by Josh Williamson has been decent and I plan on giving it another read once his run on the book is done.  Teen Titans is off the rails boring and Suicide Squad has some good writing, but they introduced too many new characters to care about.  The best written series right now is from B-List characters Hawkman and SHAZAM!.

Now, that isn't to say that it is all bad.  As I just mentioned, Hawkman and SHAZAM! are good.  DCeased continues to be an engaging, intense, and wildly entertaining.  The Terrifics is like quircky DC Fantastic Four.  And I've already pre-ordered every variant cover to The Three Jokers.

So again, this could be a Doomsday or a Crisis.  If it is a Doomsday, then there is no recovering from this catastrophe.

But it could be a Crisis.

This means that while things are dire, this will force them to re-discover the core of what makes this universe so special.  During a Crisis at DC, horrible things happen and there is more than enough pain to go around.  But through that adversity, the heroes remember who they are and why they fight.  They remember that they stand for truth, justice, and the American way.  They remember that part of their jobs as heroes is to act as an inspiriation of courage and honor, even in the face of doom.  

DC can take a good, long, hard look at itself and it can choose: accept their Doomsday or overcome this Crisis through this Blackest Night and into Brightest Day.

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