Friday, September 13, 2013

DC DC DC DC DC DC DC DC DC DC DC DC DC

Say what you will about DC Comics in the 21st century—and you will say a lot about them, almost constantly—but they're certainly the most interesting, fascinating and conversation-generating comics publisher at the moment, aren't they?

Even if most of the conversation revolving around the publisher tends to be negative in one way or another, few people who talk about the comics industry seem capable of not talking about the company for very long (And if many folks in power there believe in the "There's no such thing as bad publicity" philosophy of PR, they are probably rather pleased by this fact).

I know I didn't really mean to spend pretty much this entire week writing about nothing but DC Comics, but, well, now it's Friday afternoon and I've blogged about little else, here or anywhere else. (Marvel's solicitations later tonight though, Saturday afternoon by the latest; promise).

Here's Tom Spurgeon reviewing Detective Comics #23.1, the Poison Ivy Villains Month special issue. While I've been trying to meet stunt publishing with stunt reviewing (You're publishing 52 issues of villain one-shots? Well here's 52 reviews of 'em!), Spurgeon's strategy is a smarter one. He read a bunch of 'em and chose to review the one that struck him the strongest, while using it as a launchpad to discuss the event in general.

During the course of the discussion, he nails one of the broader things that has felt wrong about the entire New 52 endeavor from the get-go:
Like a lot of DC Comics I read, it seems like the overriding creative drive in the latest suffers from wanting to have it two ways. They desire the shock of the new, because this is a different version of that universe, but they also count on having events hold weight and import because of decades of momentum behind them. It feel like a constant plumbing of unearned affection.
I think that sums up rather nicely something that's given me pause about so much of The New 52 books, something a few of you specifically mentioned last night.  The reboot disconnected the characters from their histories, which could be seen of a virtue if the publisher really ran with the idea of a real, start-over-from-scratch reboot, but, at the same time, they keep making the same comics as if there wasn't a reboot. Few of the villains featured in the one-shots seemed to really need or deserve an origin recap, since they've only been around about two years, right? And "evil winning" would certainly have seemed  like a bigger deal if it were winning for the first time in 12 fictional years or 25 real years, but not so much when it's six fictional months or two real years, you know?

(Long-ish aside: I've been fine with the comics that weren't really rebooted all that much, like most of the Batman line and most of the Green Lantern line. Certain books seem to flagrantly ignore almost all aspects of the reboot and still seem set in the old DCU, or in their own pocket universes; I'm thinking of Batman, Inc, Batwoman and Wonder Woman. I suppose All-Star Western's setting isolated it from just about all changes as well. It's when we get into the characters with radical changes to their status quos, like Superman, or the team books,  that I have the hardest time caring too much about, as those just feel like "Ultimate" books. I liked Ultimate Spider-Man and X-Men when they were initially released, but only because I didn't read or like or even know much about the older versions of those characters and was willing to be sold on them. But I already liked Superman the way he was, and didn't feel I needed a younger, unmarried blogger version with two dead parents and a dumber costume to sell me on him.)

Here's Spurgeon on a trio of recent "Dan DiDio's not so bad, really" pieces on various portions of the pay attention-to-Dan DiDio part of the Internet. Spurgeon rather wisely points out that calls of congratulations to DiDio as DC's savior or comics' savior or the direct market's savior really don't have any/much more weight than hash tags or anonymous comment thread calls for  his firing, since they tend to operate on extremely incomplete information (often by necessity as much as ignorance, as it's not like DC and similar publishers are all that forthcoming about sales info, publishing strategy memos and presenting details in the creators vs. editors war that seems to have been going on there for the last few years).

Here's a rather smart post from Gavin Jasper talking about the apparent blanket "No Marriage" rule at DC, and how wrong-headed it seems to make too many of your heroes too similar (and too many of your books too similar, something Tim O'Neil's linked-to piece from a few weeks also addressed).

Jasper brings up the third Robin, Tim Drake, and it is interesting to look back to the character's creation and realize that various editors and writers decided not to make him an orphan right off the bat (sorry; that really was unintentional), but used the ways his life and background varied from Bruce Wayne's (and Robins I and II) not only to differentiate the character from those others, but as a source of drama (Trying to be a 15-year-old crime-fighting vigilante while keeping it secret from your dad and step-mom, for example). When they finally did kill off his father in Identity Crisis, it took away one of the main things distinguishing him from his predecessors and it made him into something of a little Batman.

And, finally, here's Marc Singer on how the dick move of publishing Before Watchmen didn't really cause him to immediately boycott the work of the publisher (just the creators involved), but how it was enough to begin to tilt him to drop books whenever he could find a reason and/or an excuse to do so...something the publisher has developed a really bad habit of making it very easy to do (I was never so angry with the creators involved as a group that I would ever be able to swear off all of their work forever, but I think it was and remains A-OK to call them names and harshly judge them for their willingness to work on the project exploit the characters and story—or "IP"—of Watchmen over the objections of the its co-creator. It wasn't cool and it wasn't polite and it wasn't ethical. That said, I kept reading Azzarello's Wonder Woman, until I dropped it due to it being incredibly slow, boring and repetitive, not because he wrote some Watchmen sequel comics. I hate to criticize the New 52 Wonder Woman too often or too loudly though, because, in a lot of ways, it's one of the best of the bunch, and while it's doesn't often feel like the Wonder Woman, it's at least a Wonder Woman, and a much less unlikable one than the one appearing in Justice League and some other comics).

4 comments:

Akilles said...

A few users at Comic vine also pointed out that DC hates marriage, these days. I was relieved, because it means that at least Didio`s not homophobic, above all things.

Jer said...

(I was never so angry with the creators involved as a group that I would ever be able to swear off all of their work forever, but I think it was and remains A-OK to call them names and harshly judge them for their willingness to work on the project exploit the characters and story—or "IP"—of Watchmen over the objections of the its co-creator. It wasn't cool and it wasn't polite and it wasn't ethical.

Now, see, I just can't wrap my head around this. Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons created Watchmen as employees of DC. You might as well be upset at everyone who has written Superman material since Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster were kicked off of Superman - they were also poorly treated by the company and their work has been systematically manhandled by people after them in ways that they didn't originally intend.

I reserve my ire for the folks at DC Entertainment, who were idiots in the 80s with how they treated their creators and continue to be idiots today. Seriously - they yanked Alan Moore around on licensing and tie-in money when, had they just played straight with him instead of dicking around they could have had a ton of work from Alan Moore that was both profitable and creatively interesting. They were moron beancounters then and they continue to be moron beancounters.

That said - I personally think it's acceptable to call the creators names because doing a Watchmen book is just a horrible, horrible idea. If you think it's a good idea as a creator to crank out a derivative Watchmen story, you're an idiot. You are going to be compared to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons and it won't be favorably no matter who you are. The ego you have to have to think you're going to be able to make your final result look like anything other than "Watchmen fanfic" in comparison to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons when they were at the top of their respective games while doing something derivative of them is just ... I don't know, delusional? It's a bad idea from a creative standpoint. And being critical of them from that standpoint is, I think, much more defensible than just them choosing to work on something corporate-owned where the creator was treated horribly in the first place.

Also - the Before Watchmen books are universally terrible. I checked them out of the library recently to see if perhaps they might have done something with them and they didn't. Some of them are gorgeous to look at if you just flip through the books, but the stories are all just uninspired and the artwork, while beautiful in spots, doesn't come close to the mastery of storytelling that Gibbons had when he and Moore created Watchmen. To be honest many of them came off as "Watchmen fanfic". It's a total waste of effort for these creators, most of whom have done much better work in other places. But they probably earned a lot of money and goodwill from DC by doing it despite the fan outrage, so there's that.

Caleb said...

Now, see, I just can't wrap my head around this. Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons created Watchmen as employees of DC. You might as well be upset at everyone who has written Superman material since Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster were kicked off of Superman - they were also poorly treated by the company and their work has been systematically manhandled by people after them in ways that they didn't originally intend.

Well, I think it's rather unfortunate if anyone justifies it (like JMS did) by saying something along the lines of, "Hey, they screwed Siegel and Shuster, too! Everyone gets screwed!"

I think the main differences are that a) it was the 1930s vs. 2012 and I would HOPE everyone's learned a lot in 70 years and b) Watchmen was created as a singular work, a story, not a character to be exploited in an ongoing fashion.

Caleb said...

(Personally, I think it would be awesome if everyone who collects a check for working on someone else's creation like Superman or whichever character donated a SIGNIFICANT amount of that money to a charity that takes care of older creators, though).