Comics / Cult Favorite

DC Comics Nevermore!


By Philip Schweier
October 22, 2019 - 07:38

You know those comic book covers that show the discarded super-hero costume in the foreground, and the background shows the hero walking away in his civilian duds? That’s how I feel about DC Comics right now.

I’ve historically preferred DC more than Marvel. Since DC’s Rebirth event three years ago, I’ve read many of DC’s titles, finding the output uneven. Some titles, such as Scooby-Doo Team-Up, seemed to enjoy a creative freedom denied other high profile titles. I can only guess this may be the result of a corporate policy, in an effort to maintain the marketability of major properties such as Superman and Batman.

In my opinion, DC Comics has taken on the persona of an inept waiter, incapable of getting your order right. Imagine ordering rotelli and being served rotini instead, and the waiter telling you, “All pasta tastes the same. Why not eat what you got?” Because it’s not what I asked for, that’s why. And then the waiter blames the kitchen, even though management instructed him to push the rotini.

Dan DiDio and Jim Lee chose to re-launch every DC property with their New 52 agenda. Not an entirely bad idea; just about 25 years too late. It should have been done following the original Crisis on the Multiple Earths back in the mid-1980s. In a sense, it was. We got Man of Steel from John Byrne, Batman: Year One by Frank Miller, and George Perez’s Wonder Woman.

DiDio and Lee’s extensive overhauls went too far in my opinion. What I wanted (and I’m certain I’m not alone) was for DC to continue building on its 70+ years of history, not see it tossed aside…

…And then resurrected by the Rebirth event four years later. I understand Geoff Johns was DC’s chief creative officer at the time, and the Rebirth initiative was largely his idea. Kudos to DC and Johns for wanting to right the ship, but again, the execution was lacking. Johns likes big, epic stories (nothing wrong with that) but when fans began to complain of “event fatigue,” DC largely ignored them. It wanted content that could be re-packaged into trade paperbacks and sold through major retailers.

This sacrificed the smaller, personal stories, and the single-issue stories that casual readers could pick up and enjoy, without several months of commitment. Because that’s what comics are all about, Charlie Brown – quality storytelling.

In the early 1970s, when DC Comics was lagging behind Marvel, it poached a major Marvel talent: Jack Kirby. But that ploy lasted only a few years, as Kirby grew dissatisfied and left DC. Recently, DC Comics employed the same strategy by luring writer Brian Michael Bendis to its ranks. How successful he will be with DC’s stable of characters remains to be seen.

While I applaud DiDio and Lee for making the effort, their announcement at the San Diego Comic Con makes me skeptical. Comic Book Resources quoted DiDio as saying: "One of the things we're working on in the DCU is we're building an ultimate timeline…so we have a better idea where our stories connect.”

So much for quality storytelling.

What makes these kinds of announcements frustrating to me is it reiterates DC Comics’ disregard for telling a good story, when I know DC is entirely capable of doing precisely that. It simply chooses not to.

It could be argued that fitting Batman into events in Detective Comics, Batman and Justice League maintains a creative consistency. That may be true, but only if the events in those titles occupy an entire month or more. Otherwise, the stories unfold concurrently, or consecutively. And that’s okay, because some take place in a single night, others over a few days.

It’s also an unsustainable strategy. As DC’s stable of characters continue to remain forever young, the dates of their respective world debuts continue to shift. In 10 years, a 2019 timeline will be out-dated and irrelevant. And in the long run, it’s just not critical to telling entertaining stories.

Last Updated: August 31, 2023 - 08:12

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