Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Follow up Qs I'd like to A DC's FAQ

(Above: Adam Hughes' cover to October's Batgirl #2, which he shared on Twitter)

A few days ago I posted a little update on some news regarding DC's big move this September, which will either be the dawn of a Golden Age for the publisher and superhero comics in general, or a Viking funeral for them, depending on how well it ends up being received, and included a link to Heidi MacDonald's The Beat blog, where she re-posted an FAQ the publisher released to retailers.

As I noted, it was a great and (I imagine) welcome first step, particularly form the viewpoint of retailers. But as a reader with a certain amount of investment in these characters and their shared universe, I didn't really get the answers I wanted to hear. That is, not only did I not learn that DC would be doing exactly what I want them to do, but I didn't learn exactly what they were doing, or how and why.

But since they did such a good job of at least asking themselves and attempting to answer so many of the questions swirling around the comics Internet for the past few weeks, I thought I should A some more Qs, in the hopes that they might answer them in a future FAQ.

So DC's FAQ indented and in italics, my follow up questions in, um, normal, non-indented font/format.

Key Messages

· “DC Comics – The New 52″ is the DC Entertainment publishing initiative that is an aggressive undertaking of launching the entire line of 52 DC Comics character series with all-new #1 first issues in September, accessible to both new and current readers.

· The lead book is Justice League, written by Geoff Johns and illustrated by Jim Lee, in-stores August 31st.

· Timely delivery of our books – top titles, week in and week out – is paramount to this new publishing initiative.
How is it possible that those last two bullet points can both be simultaneously true? Has Jim Lee been drawing this book since around the time you guys gave up on his WildCATS, or do you already have the fill-in artists lined up? Who are they, and do you think they will be able to keep a book being sold as "Geoff Johns and Jim Lee do The Justice League!" a best-seller?

*Why do it? There is a lot of speculation out there, are you “rebooting” the titles?

This is an epic and ambitious initiative that ushers in a new generation of comics for DC Comics and will set the tone for storylines and characters for years to come. With all of the titles starting at #1, our creative teams have the ability to take a more modern approach – not only with each character, but with how the characters interact with one another and the universe as a whole, and focus on the earlier part of the careers of each of our iconic characters. A time when they didn’t have as much experience defeating all their nemeses. A time when they weren’t as sure of their abilities. A time when they haven’t saved the world countless times. It’s this period that is rich with creative opportunity as we show why these characters are so amazing, so iconic and so special.
Okay, but you know that’s totally a reboot, right? You can’t de-age/de-experience-ify the characters and still keep their history in tact. You know that right?

Also, doesn’t making the god-like DC superheroes less sure of their abilities make them seem a little more like the traditional heroes-with-feet-of-clay characters of your rival publisher, Marvel?

Also also, haven't DC’s most popular franchises and characters of the last few years been the more experienced, old hand characters? You know, Green Lantern and Batman. The former has revolved around Silver Age Hal Jordan, the oldest and most experienced of the current concept of Green Lantern characters, and the franchise is at historic proportions of popularity. And Batman has been depicted as increasingly competent since the 1970s or so, and he remains your most popular character, anchoring a whole suite of books that comprises the majority of your line, and Batman-related characters and concepts are sprinkled throughout your line (The stars of your upcoming Suicide Squad book, for example, are 2/3 Batman villains).

And, over the course of the last five eyars or so, whenever you do have a younger, less-experienced hero catch on, you generally replace him with an older, more experienced character. Wally West long ago replaced Barry Allen as The Flash, but recently Barry Allen returned as the Flash. You had previously done the same with Green Arrow and Green Lantern (Conner Hawke replacing Oliver Queen only to be replaced by Queen again; Kyle Rayner replacing Hal Jordan only to be replaced by Jordan). And you even had a relatively younger, less-experienced Batman over the course of the last few years, with Dick Grayson filling in for Batman, but now you have Bruce Wayne back as Batman.

So, um, my question is…um, what are you even talking about?

*Why not call it a reboot?

It’s not a reboot. A reboot is typically a restart of the story or character that jettisons away everything that happened previously.

This is a new beginning which builds off the best of the past. For the stories launching as new #1s in September, we have carefully hand-selected the most powerful and pertinent moments in these characters’ lives and stories to remain in the mythology and lore. And then we’ve asked the best creators in the industry to modernize, update and enhance the books with new and exciting tales. The result is that we retained the good stuff, and then make it better.
But that’s what you always do, and you keep doing it with increasing frequency.

How will this really differ from the last handful of partial reboots, aside formt he numbering, media push, same day digital release and the many, many terrible costume redesigns? Or did I answer my own question?

Also, and not to be a jerk or anything here, but the vast majority of "the best creators in the industry" that you've asked to "modernize, update and enhance the books," keeping the good stuff and making it better, are the same dudes who have been working on your books for the last few months and the last few years. Are they really capable of doing better than they have been doing? If so, why haven't they been doing it?

*Does The New 52 undo events or continuity that I’ve been reading?

Some yes, some no. But many of the great stories remain. For example – Batgirl. The Killing Joke still happened and she was Oracle. Now she will go through physical rehabilitation and become a more seasoned and nuanced character because she had these incredible and diverse experiences.
You know that none of your existing readers—like, none—like events being undone at all, right?

It's basically the worst of both worlds, isn't it? You keep some continuity in place, so you still have some level of barrier between new readers and the characters and stories, but you jettison much of it, to the irritation of old readers.

And since you bring up Barbara Gordon, is she a grown up in her early thirties* going back to being Batgirl then? Isn’t that kind of weird? Why not Batwoman or Batlady or Batperson or The Bat? Why Bat-anything, instead of coming up with her own branding? Isn’t Barbara Gordon supposed to be kind of smart? Wouldn’t she be smart enough to realize, like everyone who's ever read any comics featuring her as Oracle, know that she does much, much, much, much more good as Oracle than as Batgirl? I'm sure tons of people could wear a tight Batman costume and crouch behind graves, preparing to throw Batarangs at guys with guns—I can think of two young ladies right off the top of my head, at least one of whom could destroy Barbara Gordon with a single blow—but being the Superman of information, communication and computers, while simultaneously being a Batman-like leader/tactician?

Oh shit, you think I'm thinking about this too much now, aren't you? You think I sound overly fannish, don't you? You're dismissing my questions completely now, aren't you?

* So will all titles be entry points or will you need to know back-story for some?

Each title will read as a #1 issue that will make jumping into the story extremely accessible for all types of readers. The stories are designed in a way that new fans will be able to pick up a book and immediately be drawn into the story, while at the same time existing fans will be engrossed by the new and epic moments that take place.
Er, weren’t you already trying to do that?

If not, why not?

* Why are you changing the costumes?

DC Entertainment is led by some of the biggest fans of comics out there. We know that if Geoff and Jim are excited about the stories and artwork, we’re on to something big. While there may be some naysayers, when we thought about starting the entire DC Comics universe line of comics with #1/first issues we looked at the benefits for the long haul, not just a year or two. Our goal is to create a watershed moment for DC Entertainment – and the industry as a whole – where fans will remember this as a time of innovation while maintaining DC Entertainment’s commitment to creating entertaining and masterfully created stories.
You realize the answer you just gave to a question you asked yourself has absolutely nothing to do with it, right?

And if changing the costumes is part of making the relaunch something that will be good for the long haul, instead of just a year or two, why did you change costumes like Superman's or Wonder Woman's, that have lasted some seventy years?

And if you did decided you had to change the costumes, why are all of the costumes so goddam ugly? Doesn’t having Jim Lee and a few collaborators redraw all of those classic, iconic costumes, some of which were designed by the greatest superhero comic book artists of all time, work against your stated goal?

Also, have you seen the cover of Teen Titans #1 yet?

If not, it looks like this:

*Do you not care about your company’s history? If you do this right, what do you want your legacy to be 75 years from now?

The legacy of DC Entertainment, and DC Comics before it, is based on the creativity of our editors and our creative talent, and our commitment to the best storytelling possible. DC has always been about character development and growth.
Take Batman for example. In the early days he was a vigilante who brandished a gun. Then he morphed into a whimsical character and then in the 1960’s he became more of the gritty, grim avenger of the night. We can all agree that we are glad Batman evolved.

Our goal is to create a watershed moment for DC Entertainment – and the industry as a whole – where fans will remember this as a time of innovation while maintaining DC Entertainment’s commitment to creating entertaining and masterfully created stories.
Oh really? All of us can be glad that Batman evolved inot a gritty, grim avenger of the night? Huh.

Say, have you seen Batman: The Brave and the Bold yet? It's awesome. I think you guys also publish a comic based on it. It's awesome too.

In my favorite issue, Batman wears a top hat and sits atop a Jabberwocky wearing a beanie:Oh, and this isn't specific to The New 52 and Me, but this is the first time I've heard someone refer to DC Entertainment as a replacement for DC Comics...when I refer to the publisher in things like this, should I refer to it as DC Entertainment instead of DC Comics now...?

*Specifically why end Action and Detective before they reach their 1,000th issues? Action Comics is the longest running American comic book, followed closely by Detective Comics, the company’s namesake. Isn’t renumbering these series actually a retreat from the love of “comics as comics”?

Our Co-Publishers and editors thought long and hard about this. It was an extremely important decision that was not taken lightly. But executing this unprecedented event meant taking creative risks on every level and pushing forward with big, new ideas. A partial renumbering would not have had the impact we needed to showcase the amazing changes and direction we have planned for the new DC Comics universe of characters. Counting issue numbers is focusing on the past, not the future.
Okay, but do you really, really think what you guys come up with is gonna be better than what all those scores of creators did over the course of those last 75 years? I admire the, um, balls of this move, but, come on now, you’re just being silly, aren’t you?

Do you promise, like, swear on a hardcover copy of Joe Kubert's The Bible, that you won’t revert to the original numbering? Because I’m willing to bet you one hundred billion dollars that you will, even though I don’t have one hundred billion dollars, and would end up in debtor’s prison for losing the bet.

And isn't renumbering all of your books to #1 also just counting numbers, and thus focusing on the past?

* How is DC Entertainment going to market their September books for new readers?

DC Entertainment is going to position September as the best jumping on point to read monthly comics in a generation. With comics at the forefront of pop culture right now, we believe there are tens of thousands of consumers waiting for this moment.
You really think continuity, high issue numbers, overly familiar superhero costumes and the inability to buy 20 digital pages of comics for a couple of bucks online are the things that are keeping tens of thousands of people from reading DC super-comics serially? Really? Really?!


No, really?



I have no further questions at this time.

*I'm only adding a footnote here because I know someone will mention it in the comments. Assuming they haven't done away with her being a librarian, she would need a master's degree. So she would need about two years of education after graduating from college, which she would have done about the time she was 21 or 22. She was a librarian when she started her career as Batgirl, right? Before she stopped being Batgirl, before she was shot, before she spent years as Oracle? I suppose she could have graduated high school and college and earner her master's super-early, on account of being brilliant, but I don't know...that compresses a hell of a lot of events, doesn't it? Was she Oracle for twenty minutes? This is what is so weird about publisher's trying to keep their characters all in their late twenties. It's pretty damn impossible to imagine everyone with a secret identity in the DCU is so damn smart that they graduated college and went to work in advanced, professional fields at near-Doogie Howser speeds. And then you have things like Animal Man's teenage son or Oliver Queen's 20-ish son complicating things further. The reboot might do away with some of these complicating factors keeping Superman's generation of superheroes in their thirties and/or forties, but from what we've seen so far, we know Dick Grayson and Jason Todd both grew from teenagers into young men in the rebooted DCU.


Unknown said...

I have to start out by saying I'm 49 1/2 years of age and I've had the opportunity to work in a comics store for near 15 years.

Having said that, I really don't think DC's move to all number 1's is a big deal. The BIG DEAL is the digital same-day offering. I think most retailers don't have anything to worry about from the legacy comic fans and the middle class fan. Because of the fans OCD collection tendencies and the economic realities of having enough money to afford reading digital comics, stores will see little change in their customer base. They will lose the customers they would have lost due to age or dissatisfaction anyway.

Even though it's more the "norm" now, someone my age is not supposed to be reading comics. I have been reading for close to 35 years. A fan may not like it, but for these characters to stay relevant to new readers, they have to be updated every 5 to 10 years. I understand the anger and frustration fans have, but really, what's DC to do? What they were doing before wasn't working (in terms of consistent market share). And fans don't want the characters to change, but it's the very nature of those characters that don't resonate with - let's be honest - Marvel readers.

I always thought that both DC and Marvel should have one on-going book that had the time sequence like the old Valiant titles for the older fans so that we could see what happens when characters age. I'm sure it wouldn't be pretty.

Eyz said...

Alright...this sure was worth a read :P

This DCnU is making less and less sense and sounding more and more sillier...
I mean they contradict themselves in half of those questions!
And it doesn't answer a thing but further complicate things.

And not just storywise but their move, as one of the two top comic book publishers in North America.
Do they want a fresh new start of keep working over 70+ years of cult characters. Build upon that or erase that? Continue their current on-goings though new looks/fresh new start or reboot everything?

Also, still annoyed at that Action Comics renumbering...oh wait..they're surely gonna revert it in time for that 1000# issue..

googum said...

I don't know: I've made a bit of fun, and will probably grab a book or two (I want the Demon one) but DC lost me around the end of Identity Crisis.

But Barbara becoming Batgirl again and rolling back the odometer has precedent: no one mentions her (admittedly pre-Crisis) stint in Congress anymore, either.

Chris said...

I think that time has proven that the bulk of DC's reboots and relaunches have either utterly failed or simply stumbled and bumbled along until someone had the good sense to put it (and us) out of its misery.

I think the one relaunch that seemed to stick was the Silver Age and that its success was based on a number of variables that simply can’t be reproduced at will.

This particular rearrangement of deck chairs that’s going on right now is gutsy and bold, but I don’t have a lot of faith in its success.

snell said...

One reason the Silver Age "stuck" was, except for the Trinity, they went with all new characters and a whole new world.

Had this crew been in charge then, we would instead have gotten a "de-aged" Alan Scott & Jay Garrick etc, earlie in their careers, as DC proclaimed "history" in trying to make Golden Age heroes "relevant" to the baby boomers...

Unknown said...

I'll be buying some books, but this whole thing has the stink of New Coke on it, without having the stability to allow them to go back to the old formula safely after a period of time.