Saturday, January 14, 2012

DC lurches and flails around a bit with cancellations and new books

I waited a few days before posting because...  eh, who cares?

Anyhoo...  to nobody's surprise, DC's New 52 is going to remain DC's 52 as they cancel 6 titles and bring in 6 new titles.  Its actually not a terrible plan from a business perspective, I'd guess.  It sounds like they had the next 6 titles ready to go, and they're employing the Jack Welch-approved cull the bottom 10% rule to their own titles.

They're losing:

  • Static Shock
  • Mr. Terrific
  • Men of War
  • Black Hawks
  • Hawk and Dove
  • OMAC

I'm not overly surprised by the loss of any of these titles.  Aside from OMAC, the other 4 of these I read were a mess from issue 1, and as much as I wanted to support Sterling Gates after his work on Supergirl, I hadn't grown to like this iteration of Hawk and Dove, and Liefeld's art is not my cup of tea.

Its unfortunate to see Static fail once again, when the potential for the character to be DC's Spider-Man seems so high.  And as much as I have liked Mr. Terrific in theory, Wallace's take in issue 1 felt so generic and disposable, I abandoned the series immediately rather than deal with hoping that it might improve.

Blackhawks was trying to be like the current GI Joe, which is already a successful franchise elsewhere, so I couldn't figure out why they bothered to try to simply echo an established and beloved property you can already buy, and Men of War seemed simply ill-conceived.  Its a war book or its not.

OMAC I've kind of enjoyed, but I don't really care that its vanishing.  Its like when that show you catch occasionally disappears and its only months later that you realize its gone.  I can certainly live without it.

As replacements, we're getting:

Batman, Incorporated - a no-brainer and something we were told was returning in 2012.  I expect this will really be a limited run and that DC will shut down the Incorporated premise once Morrison moves on to Superman full-time and possibly returns to Vertigo.  I don't think anyone else in Harras's bullpen can handle the scope or concepts that Morrison was trying to create.  More on that later.

Earth-2 - Man, I want to care about this, but James Robinson's return to DC has been less than stellar, and I see no point in waving my hands and saying Starman was so great we owe him another run.  His relaunch of JSA was inspired 10 years ago, but didn't solidify until Johns came onboard.  And, I hate to say it, I picked up a Starman Omnibus and was surprised at how... awkward the whole thing feels when you're not 19 years old.    Add in his bizarrely meandering and seemingly plotless work on the Superman titles during New Krypton, and as much as I want good Earth-2 stories, I don't think this is how we get them.  But he seems to be friends with Didio, so...

World's Finest - I'm a child of the 1980's, when we said "fine" instead of "hot" about the ladies, so when I hear about a comic featuring Huntress and Power Girl called "World's Finest", I both snicker and groan and wonder if this has come up in meetings.  My biggest concern on this book is that the writer is Paul Levitz, who is a great plotter, but who is so... sincere.  I've always enjoyed Power Girl in a "what now?" comedic context from her days in the JLE and the recent Palmiotti, Grey and Connor run.  Levitz's humor doesn't really run that direction.  But I see George Perez is on pencils and Maguire is on ink, so I'll be looking at issue 1 just to see what the old guard is up to.

Dial H - I've never really cared too much about the Dial H concept.  I think its very kid-friendly (see Ben 10, as NoahGK reminded me recently), but DC hasn't been able to make it sing since, what... the 70's?  And they've tried.  I suspect that, like Metal Men, this is a concept that Dan Didio liked as a young person and his nostalgia tells him it should be selling, but he's making sure there's a grown-up Didio X-Treme spin on the concept.  I'm just not interested.

GI Combat - Well, its at least back to the original concepts. We're getting a feature of The War That Time Forgot and back-ups like Haunted Tank.  But DC doesn't seem to have the cajones to just do straight up war books like Sgt. Rock, Enemy Ace or Gravedigger.  A writer on these is JT Krul, who...  DC keeps hiring.  I'll pick up issue 1, but am not expecting anything except for being out $4 and a bit of disappointment.

The Ravagers - I have no idea, but nothing about this sounds appealing.  I can pull Jamie's Runaways collections off the shelf if I want to read this story.

The 90's-ness of the current DC is a very, very weird thing to watch.  I was not much of a superhero reader during the 90's.  I never read Image, or Malibu, glanced at a smattering of Valiant (enough that I knew it wasn't for me), I laughed my way through stuff like Lady Death,  and wept every time DC or Marvel re-jiggered a character for an X-Treme take on the concept.  Rather than get excited by Rob Liefeld, I quit reading X-Books because of the effect he had on the X-Universe (among other factors).

Despite his status as a bit of a footnote/ punchline among comics fans, the current powers-that-be at DC has hired Liefeld to work on 3 books, even as they cancel the one book which was supposed to be his return to glory.  The same Liefeld who spent the 00's becoming famous for his inability to turn in work and having lots of false-starts to projects that evaporated after an issue or two.

This was the Dr. Fate concept through the lens of the 1990's.  Yes it was.  I know because I bought it.  Once.

Last night I saw some comments online from Mr. Roberson (on Twitter), and they were very much inline with this blogpost that had been percolating in my wee brain since Thursday.  He mentioned the creative juices that were flowing at DC in particular in the early 00's, and I'm in complete agreement.

What's clear is that aside from work managed by Morrison, and to a lesser-degree, Geoff Johns, the creative thrust of the DCU is in the hands of the same people who's vision drove Marvel into bankruptcy before the ugly start of Joey Q at the helm of Marvel with walking-toxic-PR, Bill Jemas.   That Harras is pulling together the same sort of crew to tell the same sort of junk stories that filled Marvel in the 90's seems very clear, and that Harras (and Lee and Didio) would rather pretend that the 90's ended well.  And, most certainly, it pays to be a friend of editorial far, far more than it matters what sort of comics you're going to create.

I get that nobody at DC seems to get how Waid and Ross's Kingdom Come more or less pulled DC back from this path, and that what their readers want, at the end of the day, is a cleaned up version of their primary characters.  Didio was simply unable to deliver that version of the DCU without the relaunch of September.  He pulled the "One Year Later" trick out of his bag again, making it "Five Years Later", and demonstrated that nobody at DC had learned anything from past mistakes.

We're about to be 6 months into a new DCU, and (as I like to say) a whole lot is occurring, but nothing is happening.  We're still churning away on Johns' Justice League essentially taking 5 months to cover 15 minutes of real time.  And until that series synchs up with the rest of the DCU, I have no idea how this universe is supposed to be working.  Narratively, its a mess.

What its confirming for me is that the sorts of stories I came to DC for are a thing of the past.  I can count on a handful of their titles, but that DC's current model is to turn out 80% low-rent stuff that feels like a particularly embarrassing movie off of the SyFy network.  Any sense of any of these comics as any writers' best attempts at creating a meaningful story, even within the context of a meaningful superhero tale, has evaporated in favor of half-understood cliches lifted from other genres and giving artists a chance to doodle people in impractical-looking armor.

I do care about the poor quality of the material, but I'm also stunned at what my fellow comic fans seem ready to defend, and that in their excitement about the genre and medium and novelty of the New 52, the fact that they're being served lowest common denominator, ill-conceived junk food is just a side-effect that they're willing to overlook.  I want my fellow fans to not reinforce what the non-comics world thinks of when they glance at superhero comics, not revel in it.

There seemed to be a window there during the hey-day of Vertigo and the transfer of those creators to main-line books, where fans were ready for something that had the same joy in reading a novel or seeing an excellent movie.  A body of creators were hired to (not all at once, but here and there) mine the essence of the concepts of DC's characters and demonstrate why they fit into the modern context as a form of entertainment that could be of value to a larger audience.  That window is closing, and we're inviting it to happen.

DC and Marvel are IP farms.  Its their job to make money off of the properties they own.  I don't see reviving an old concept as "fanboy service".  What I see is fanboys refusing to ask that DC and Marvel reach out to them as the older, experienced readers they say they want.


Simon MacDonald said...

The talent level at DC has really started to slip and with them putting out 52 books it is really evident. Putting Rob Liefeld on 3 books puts a glaring spotlight on this issue. Out of all the writers here's who I'd actually be interested in (based on Feb solictis)

Grant Morrison
Scotty Synder
JH Williams
Jeff Lemire
Paul Cornell

falling below my line are:

Gail Simone
James Robinson

but I might purchase a book from them if it was the right book. So unless those top 5 guys start writing a lot more books.

The League said...

I don't see DC cultivating writers anymore. I just see them churning through the same few, and using and abusing a few other talented folks when they feel like it (Eric Trautmann, Sterling Gates, etc...). And you can't look to Vertigo as the area for growth anymore.

I think IDW and others are doing a decent job of giving folks a shot.

Simon MacDonald said...

I think I've railed on this before but I really feel that it is time for creators to move off of the big 2 and start publishing their own work directly to the buyers. All of the tools are certainly there. For me I suspect that Image will be the publisher of the year for 2012.

The League said...

Absolutely. Image, IDW, Dark Horse, Dynamite and others are set to take on projects from creators looking for places to work.

I suspect that will set a spark under the butts of the Big 2 eventually, but it certainly looks like 2012 could be the year of rats leaving the sinking ship.

I realized last night this week is the first week in years where I am not picking up a single DC title.