It has been one year since the big Flashpoint event changed DC Comics. Apparently it has been a success, boosting sales, revitalising fading characters like Wonder Woman and Aquaman and getting renewed attention to the DC Comics line. But for me, it has been a huge disappointment.
After the whole 'Flashpoint' event and the "New DC" that emerged from it, I am buying fewer comics than anytime since I had enough cash to actually buy comics. But then my interest in comics had been flagging for years. Perhaps this reboot of the DC universe was really just the final straw.
First, let us make somethings clear: I understand the need for DC Comics-- indeed for all major comic book companies to make dramatic changes. The reports of the falling sales figures have been circulating for years. Gimmicks like killing off Superman or Hal Jordan were not going to work anymore. And it isn't like DC hadn't gone through reboots and revamps before. There were the various "Crisis" events and numerous "soft revamps" like the 'new look' Batman, the 'Kryptonite-No-More' storyline, the mod Wonder Woman, and so on.
The 'New DC' isn't even that radical a change: in the 50s, DC dropped almost all their superheroes for cowboys, detectives and romance. Later in the same decade, superheroes made a big resurgence. But by the 70s, only a few superhero titles remained with war stories and mystery comics taking up the slack. In contrast, the new DC, in content, is very much like the last incarnation of DC: almost all superheroes with just a smattering of non-costumed adventures.
The difference now is that there are so many things about this new DC that I find so disturbing... or perhaps a better word is "disenchanting." I can't get into these new books in the same way that I got into previous versions of DC Comics.
Admittedly, much of it is just an old curmudgeon who simply can't get over the loss of his old favourites. This isn't my Barry Allen or my Billy Batson. It definitely isn't my Justice Society or my Teen Titans, ("new" or otherwise.) So why should I care about them?
But then, Marvel Comics never rebooted their universe and I gradually got tired of Marvel long before I tired of DC Comics.
Just as much as the new characters, there are aspects of the new DC that turn me off. There is the general coarseness, the excessive use of violence and sex to shock the readers. The whole deal with Starfire turning into Skankfire, the mass killings of hundreds of innocent civilians in the first three issues of SUICIDE SQUAD, I' VAMPIRE, FRANKENSTEIN and so on. There is the general ruthlessness of the heroes with every one except maybe Superman and Batman condoning murder. Vicious characters like Damien and Jason Todd are no longer the exception. They are the norm. That makes Jason and Damien less unique and makes everyone else less admirable.
Additionally, amid all the sex and violence, there seems to be a certain 'shallowness' about the new DC. It is aimed at an audience that is impressed with guns, explosions and scantily-clad women-- and Marvel Comics. One major plotline is a DC version of the X-Men, but instead of mutants, they are hunting teen superhumans (why just teens?). We have what appears to be a DC version of SHIELD as well. Even Superman seems to be acting like a surly kid.
But this 'youthfulness' is another aspect of DC that is overused. The editorial team pats itself on the back for the "diversity" of the DC line-up and yet so many characters now look alike, transformed into teens or 20-somethings, all with perfectly handsome faces and supermodel bodies. It is an American version of bishounen or bishouju. Oliver Queen's bewhiskered face, Hal Jordan's graying temples, the elderly, wrinkled bodies of the Justice Society-- all gone, replaced with the cast of "Dawson's Creek." It isn't even just the main characters: the middle-aged, rotund Amanda Waller, the obese Etta Candy, the disabled, bearded Niles Caulder, have all been replaced by young, good-looking counterparts. Only Alfred and Commissioner Gordon have been spared. But at least we got the new, feral, animalistic Beast Boy that someone was apparently asking for.
DC has openly said it is aiming at male readers in the late-teens and early-20s so that disqualifies me. I can hardly blame them for not catering to my tastes. Nothing personal, but people like me simply weren't buying enough comics. So DC Comics had to adapt. And the rest of us have to adapt too. We can cut the number of DC titles we read. We can look to other comic publishers. Or we can just entertain ourselves in some other way.
It's strange. Now that most DC Comics have changed, I find myself enjoying their animated versions so much more. There is the "Young Justice" cartoon, which is clearly set in a pre-Flashpoint timeline. Then there is the "Brave and the Bold" with its loving tribute to all the different eras of DC Comics. Oddly, the new DC was created to free the comic books of the burden of continuity so they could be adapted more easily to over forms of media. Yet the cartoons have embraced that continuity-- with the JSA, JSA, Freedom Fighters and Captain Marvel existing on the same Earth.
More importantly, the cartoons don't seem to be written for an audience that wants to see mass slaughter. The art for the cartoons is clear and easy to follow, not the mess of spikes, explosions and shiny objects that make up so much of the new DC. But hey, now that Brave and Bold is gone and Young Justice is winding down, maybe the new crop of DC cartoons will also turn me off.
I'm not abandoning comics completely. I still buy a few titles and graphic novels. And who knows? Maybe something will catch my interest again like "Blackest Night" and "Legion of Three Worlds" did not so long ago.
But for now, comic books have become a very minor part of my life. I wish I could say this is because I am growing up. But really, it is because I am being left behind.