A Love Letter to DC Editorial… kind of

I don’t say this often enough: I legitimately love DC.  Marvel, too, but that’s not what this article is about – this article is about DC.  Specifically, the much-maligned upcoming ‘reboot’.

Anyway, I love DC.  I know it doesn’t seem like it, particularly when I’m reviewing, say, Flashpoint.  I can’t count the number of times fans have called me a ‘hater’ or a ‘troll’ or a ‘hipster’ or just kind of shouted angrily at me because of how I feel about their favorite book, but a lot of people, from random Internet fanboys to Kevin Smith, really genuinely misunderstand most critics.  For the best of us, this isn’t a terribly high-paying job; for the bulk of us, particularly on the Internet, this is a job that very literally pays nothing at all.  We don’t do it for attention and we don’t do it because to want to make fun of the hard work of the professionals putting their blood, sweat and tears out for us to consume.  We do it because we love the medium.  We love the characters.  We love the genre.  We do it because we want things to get better, we want more people to read, we want people to share our passion.

So, like a lot of you, I love DC Comics.  And like a lot of you, I met the recent announcement that the entire line would essentially be rebooting after Flashpoint with no small measure of surprise.  I don’t often frequent forums, so jumping on to one only to see a 20 page long thread started that day about a line-wide reboot was… interesting.  Not to mention confusing, and more than a little dismaying.

Part of the problem, I think, is the manner of the send-off.  Flashpoint is… well, so far, Flashpoint is pretty bad.  If you’re going to reboot the DC Universe, you need something grand, you need a send-off for all the characters we’ve come to love over the last few years.  We don’t have that.

Green Lantern #1

Instead, we have Wonder Woman murdering millions.  Bruce Wayne doesn’t even exist.  We don’t get the chance for an emotional send-off of any sort.  Instead, we get a boilerplate Barry Allen adventure with no real stakes, with no meaning.  Just a high body count and a typical dystopian alternate timeline.

I’ve heard a lot of talk about ‘fanboy entitlement’, and that’s true: we do feel entitled.  After all, many of us DID pay a lot of money for, to give one example, JMS’s Wonder Woman story, one he and Dan and others apparently knew would be ‘filler’.  It was marketed as THE defining Wonder Woman book of recent years, the last time we would have to sit through yet another interminable “Wonder Woman searches for her identity” story; only a few short months later, the character is rebooted.  We feel cheated, though I do suspect that this is a feeling that will pass – after all, dozens of your favorite comics aren’t in ‘continuity’ anymore, I’d bet.  But you still love them.  A good story is a good story, and once the newness wears off, once the WORLD SHAKING CONSEQUENCES are gone, nothing but quality matters.  Does it matter that Linda Lee Danvers has disappeared from the face of the DCU?  Nope – because Peter David’s Supergirl: Many Happy Returns is still a fantastic, heart-breaking story.

Part of the problem has to do with the roll-out.  Is this a reboot?  A new Earth?  Is everything going, or are writers picking and choosing what stays?  What does this mean for currently-running stories?  None of these questions were answered, really, by Friday night.  We were left with conflicting information and puzzling statements, and it just seems like the absolute last thing DC’s marketing department would want to do with a move this big is let us come to our own conclusions.

Rather than guide us through the new DC Universe with a selection of fascinating new creative teams and titles, DC announced 14 of the 52 books last week, leaving the rest to slowly bleed out on gossip sites over the weekend.  This means DC isn’t controlling the message; rather, gossip sites and blogs are announcing creative teams based on educated guesswork and, on occasion, flat-out wish-lists, and letting fans comment accordingly.  Teams are announced.  Fans get excited or pissed off.  This is contradicted, and feelings shift.  After so many shifts, no one gets excited, but everyone gets pissed.

What’s more, DC picked a pretty terrible selection of books to announce.  Rather than inundating us with superstar creators on fascinating titles, they give us some fairly predictable choices – Geoff Johns on Green Lantern! – and books written by artists Francis Manapul, Ethan Van Sciver and Tony Daniel.  I have nothing against these artists, some of whom I like a lot, writing books (though I would much prefer DC give new writers a shot – hint hint).  I’m even eager to read some of those books, like Van Sciver & Simone’s take on Firestorm.

But they aren’t EXCITING choices.  I don’t feel a thrill of excitement at what the new Tony Daniels book will look like – and selling this idea, DC very much needs us to be feeling that thrill with every single new reveal.  You want to reveal Birds of Prey, don’t give us Birds of Prey #1 written by Ed Benes; give us Birds of Prey written by Brian Bendis or Ed Brubaker (not necessarily them, of course – though I hold that either creator and David Aja would do a fantastic Birds together – but something high profile, someone who will shock you just by announcing it).

Wonder Woman #1, Chiang

They managed that once or twice, I must say.  As I was reading through the list of titles, I had to stop and read the Wonder Woman entry three times – Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang?  This was an audacious, fascinating team on a high-profile book.  DC needed a dozen more entries like this one in that first batch.  Not just books you were excited about – books you never even knew you could be excited about.  And of course, Geoff Johns and Jim Lee on Justice League seems almost destined to be an amazingly popular book (that I won’t care for at all).

I’m looking forward to what comes next.  I have no idea what this ‘reboot’ means.  I have no idea how long it will last, or if it will succeed in its stated objective.  But I know that I’m seriously excited for the mainstream DCU, for the first time in a long while.

– Cal Cleary

Post-script: And that excitement is being more and more justified as new books are announced and DC gets the shocked reaction they need.  Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette on a Swamp Thing horror book!  Jeff Lemire on Frankenstein, Agent of SHADE!  Peter Milligan on a mystic-themed Justice League book!  These are weird, eye-catching announcements.  Unlike, say, John’s Green Lantern or Snyder’s Batman (which are almost guaranteed to be good, but probably won’t be much different than the current runs) these are books that make this relaunch thrilling and unpredictable.  DC may have dropped the ball on the initial reveal, but it seems like they’ve picked it back up again.  The reboot is a dangerous, curious strategy, but I for one hope it succeeds.

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3 thoughts on “A Love Letter to DC Editorial… kind of

  1. I do know what you mean – it feels almost like Preview Season in VS, where every day brought some kind of new surprise, something to get excited for. Today’s announcement was what really kicked things in to high gear for me, because these were the books that would never have existed before the reboot.

    I’ve heard Perez is writing and drawing Superman, but hopefully Morrison will be on something interesting – so far, all he’s had is Batman: Leviathan, which isn’t starting until 2012. Seeing him on a Superman or, especially, Wonder Woman related book would be awesome.

    Looking forward to seeing your thoughts on the reboot!

    • Today WAS kind of the perfect storm of characters, creators and genres to get me excited – I almost wish I’d posted this last night, as I’d wanted to, instead of waiting for today, just so people didn’t think I was only saying I liked the reboot now that characters I was interested in got noticed.

      Today’s were also the biggest surprises. Because, as you say, Resurrection Man? HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?

    • It’s weird, but today’s announcement is definitely what convinced me that I need to finally start a pull list at my LCS again. Lately I’ve just been pulling everything off the racks and missing what I miss, but I’m too interested for that, now.

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