03 June 2011

DC Comics September 2011 Relaunch

From DC Comics's website:
If you know us, you know we both hate secrets. In fact, you might’ve seen one (or both) of us have a grin or two on a convention panel recently. Why? Because it’s hard to keep a secret as big as the news we shared yesterday.
DC Comics will be making history this September. We’ll be renumbering the entire DC Universe line of comic books with 52 first issues. We’re publishing innovative storylines featuring our most iconic characters helmed by some of the most creative minds within the industry.
Not only will this initiative be compelling for existing readers, it’ll give new readers a precise entry point into our titles. And on top of that, all of these titles will be released digital day-and-date across the board.
Yesterday was just the beginning. After all, we don’t want to spoil the many surprises we have up our sleeves. It’s so important to us to make sure you maintain those feelings of excitement and unexpectedness when you pick up a new issue of our books.
We’re energized and looking forward to have you come on this journey with us as we make history this September.
–Jim Lee & Dan DiDio, DC Comics Co-Publishers
Reaching out to younger viewers is clearly the driving force behind this move, hence the move to disregard the previous numbering system for each title, new character designs and it's even rumored that major character developments will be entirely negated--including a report that Barbara Gordon will return as Batgirl after 22 years since being crippled by The Joker in Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland, and Superman may apparently no longer be married to Lois Lane, instead romantically involved with Wonder Woman.

Great news, Babs; come September, this never happened!
I've written elsewhere in this blog about how important I feel it was that comic books were available through mass retailers like gas stations, pharmacies and grocers in communities like mine that did not have a comics specialty shop, so I won't dwell on that issue.  But I would like to comment on the nature of what DC Comics is attempting, and offer my own unsolicited advice on what DC should consider as they go forward.

I was a regular reader of all the Batman, Superman and Green Lantern books in the 90s, and when Zero Hour came out, I read all the pertinent #0s and the mini-series and then I bailed on Superman entirely and dropped my Bat-reading to Legends of the Dark Knight and whatever incarnation of The Batman Adventures was active at the time (I believe it was Batman & Robin Adventures). I only kept up with those because they were self-contained series, and it wasn't too long until I stopped keeping up with those, too. I don't see this forthcoming relaunch as a particularly attractive jumping-on point, but maybe others will.

Remember when Hal Jordan killed everyone
and reset the entire DC timeline?  Yeah, I thought not.
Ultimately, the fate of the industry lies in its willingness to be innovative. There are lots of talented writers and artists out there, but it seems that few have been given the chance to really do anything interesting with the characters they don't personally own. Gail Simone's work has cultivated a devoted following (noted elsewhere in this very thread, for instance), but the standard has really been to just rotate talent from one book to the next, and then to disregard the most immediate predecessor's run through a bold new declaration that will, of course, itself be subsequently disavowed or undone by the next creative team.

Say what you will about Archie being a square, but readers of those comics know what they're going to get from month to month. It may not be particularly dramatic material, but Archie has never aspired to be a heavy hitter. It's a modest, lighthearted series that has stayed focused for decades and even cultivated some longterm spin-offs. There's something to be said for that kind of consistency.

Also, I think it's high time that DC and Marvel both began to consider adopting a publication scheme focused on mini-series rather than ongoing titles. We've seen cable TV shows move toward 13 episode seasons that allow more flexibility with production and more concise storytelling throughout each season that tends to keep viewers engaged. Dark Horse was built on mini-series. And if DC is in fact committed to distancing themselves from their previous numbering system, then I have to ask what the point of committing themselves to the ongoing format even is. I say let each story arc be its own mini-series, allowing readers to more clearly identify what they're buying.

I don't want to guess if I pick up a random issue of Green Lantern next month whether I should have read three different other GL spin-off issues first, and I shouldn't need a checklist to tell me where a given issue fits into things. If, instead, that 22-issue, multi-title crossover story was metered out in a 22-issue limited series numbered #1-22, and united by a series-wide, unique title, I might be more tempted to make a commitment. It's hard to have a sense of fidelity to a story, when it requires me to buy multiple series; and it's hard to feel loyalty to a series, when a story requires me to be a polygamist.