By Philip Schweier
February 17, 2015 - 10:28
bold new direction.” Yeah, yeah, we’ve heard it before and we’ll hear it again.
This time it comes from DC Comi – oops – DC Entertainment, regarding the shift
in its New 52 Universe. Which is reasonable, because after more than three
years, it aint so new anymore.
What I find most thought provoking is DC co-publisher Dan DiDio’s
statement, “In this new era of storytelling, story will trump continuity…”
DC Entertainment co-publisher Dan DiDio
Okay, imagine this: Before you lies a gauntlet of comic book publishers, much
like the midway at the county fair. Each booth has some carnival-style barker
shilling his company’s various properties in an effort to woo you, the reader.
“Read our books! We have Marvelous artists,” cries one. “Check us out! Our
characters are Dynamite!” shouts another. And then somewhere amid the din all
this shameless hucksterism, one voice cries, “Look over here! We have Dramatic
Really? Continuity? THAT’S what you’re basing your sales pitch on?
Why people get worked up over month-by-month continuity is beyond me. You
believe a man can fly, but you have problems if he’s featured in too many
titles over a 30-day period. That makes no sense.
Forty years ago, I could find the Caped Crusader in Detective Comics,
Batman, Brave and the Bold, World’s Finest and Justice League of America.
I didn’t fret over continuity, worrying how he could be on monitor duty for the
JLA in one book while palling around Gotham City with Wildcat in another.
Clearly, if one story took place over a few days, and Batman was on monitor
duty for an eight-hour shift, it was conceivable that both stories could occur
during the same month.
The truth of the matter is that after more than 75 years in business, the
entity we know today as DC Comics has so many continuities, it can’t possibly
have any consistency. There’s the
Golden Age of the 1940s, the Silver Age of the 1960s, the Bronze of the 1970s,
Pre-Crisis, Post-Crisis, the turbulent 1990s, Elseworlds, pre-New 52, New 52,
and sub-categories within each.
Sure, to some people it might seem a confusing history to follow. When the New
52 was launched in 2011, the powers that be at DC declared that all those
various eras “never happened.” This denied creators the opportunity to tell
what may have been excellent stories set in any of those eras.
However, in DiDio’s recent statement, he went on to say that creators would be
empowered “to tell the best stories in the industry.” Maybe some of those
wonderful stories he’s promising will be set during the Golden Age. Or the
Silver Age (New Frontier, anyone?)
Telling good stories? Gee, DC, what a great idea. You’ve finally hit on
something that just might lead to people buying your books. Careful that other
companies don’t get wind of it. (Insert eye roll here.)
DC’s press release also stated the publisher will focus on going "back to
basics" with its legendary characters such as Superman. This led another
comic book news site to speculate that the Post-New 52 era might see the return
of a more familiar Man of Steel, complete with red trunks. I’m sure many fans
would embrace the idea, but that’s all it can be, an idea.
Sure, bring back a more classic Superman, but which one? Something reminiscent
of the Golden Age, a la Max Fleischer? Or perhaps a Wayne Boring/Curt Swan
hybrid? Or maybe you want the one that was married to Lois Lane, and drawn by
John Byrne. Sorry, kids, John Byrne doesn’t live here any more. He’s moved on
and left no forwarding address.
But any one of those eras of Superman could be considered a classic period,
with the Man of Steel at a high point of popularity. It could be argued that
those types of stories would appeal to readers most, continuity be damned.
About 15 years ago, I sent in an idea to DC Comics. With so many
variations on the same character, was there a reason they all couldn’t share
the same title? Not simultaneously, but rotate them in/out based on available
stories and reader preference. For example, Flash could feature a
three-part Wally West story, followed by a two-part Barry Allen story. And then
maybe a single issue Jay Garrick story, followed by a two-part Wally West. Or
maybe Jay Garrick isn’t so popular, in which case he could be a supporting cast
Each version could be written by a different writer, allowing for A.)
continuity within each character’s individual story arcs; and B.) greater lead
time between story arcs, permitting each writer to put their best foot forward,
instead of a marathon of one monthly issue after another. And fans could enjoy
their favorite era of the given character.
It seemed like a win/win, but of course DC Comics chose to pass. Fine, they
have that right, as do I and millions of other readers. Tell me a good story
and you’ve got my attention. But when the stories fail to hold my interest,
don’t be surprised when I start looking elsewhere.
Me and millions of other readers.
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