Thursday, September 12, 2013

It's Not Me, It's You

I don't write many long pieces anymore, but.....

Yesterday comic reviewer and fellow Friday Night Fighter Scott Slemmons announced in his blog that he was dropping DC Comics for the foreseeable future in the wake of the Batwoman debacle, which has been the latest in seeming endless series of stupid decisions by DC management recently.

Now it's my turn to make an announcement of my own: I've decided to follow Scott's example, at least in regard to DC's mainstream "New 52" continuity.

Next week I plan to buy Justice League#23.3: Dial E because it's the last hurrah of China Mieville (writer of the now-defunct Dial H). And then....that's it.  The Nu52 and I are done.


Allow me to give you some perspective: The last time I went a month or more without buying any mainstream continuity DC comics was 1993. Before that, it was 1986.

There are a lot of reasons I'm finally doing this. I'm not going to pretend it's all about protesting DC's treatment of its creators. although that is a huge factor. Chasing away J.H. Williams and W. Hayden Blackman from Batwoman merely to maintain an asininely rigid "no marriages" company rule was bad enough, but then shortening their run even further in a fit of infantile spite was downright horrible. And that wasn't even the first time DC's pulled that retaliation move. It happened to Chris Roberson, too. The last 2 years I've read horror story after horror story about how DC management has treated creators, many of whom have since left their books. The string of eleventh-hour revisions and micromanagement and switching creators on a dime has been a constant at DC.

What makes the interference from DC brass even worse is that so many of their creative decisions have been absolutely clueless. An all organically-powered Flash Rogues Gallery, including Captain Cold in a sleeveless parka. A Phantom Stranger with an origin. Beloved characters like Wally West, Donna Troy, the Dibnys, Ted Kord, Cass Cain, Connor Hawke, and Stephanie Brown languishing indefinitely in limbo. An Amethyst first issue with a gang rape attempt. A cynical asshole Billy Batson. A Tim Drake who was never Robin. A dead Damian Wayne AND a dead Cliff Baker within the same month. A Justice League team that doesn't trust each other or act like heroes. A Wonder Woman with daddy issues who is dating the one man in the DCU more powerful than her. A Superman and Lois Lane who are "just friends" and have never dated.

Even in the face of all that, though, I reallocated my emotional focus from the mainstream heroes to the more fringe comics in the new continuity. Comics like I, Vampire, O.M.A.C., Frankenstein, Resurrection ManDemon Knights, and Dial H. So, of course, DC cancelled them all in favor of more Bat/Super/GL/Justice League comics, all with the same homogenized "grim-and-gritty, heroes can only be miserable, no fun allowed" philosophy, all aimed at the same narrow niche market of white dudebros. I'm a bit cautious about jumping on the "Fire Dan DiDio" bandwagon, because I'm positive that philosophy doesn't begin and end with him, and frankly I'm not sure how far above and below him at Warner it reaches. The grim tone of the Man Of Steel movie, which had nothing to do with DiDio, bears this out. I'm not against dark comics, but there has to be a counterbalance somewhere, and the New 52 is not providing it.

There's also the fact that years of DC and Marvel reading have left me with a severe case of event fatigue. It's why I dropped the Green Lantern books and why "Rotworld" rotted my interest in both Swamp Thing and Animal Man. Major events are now a near-guaranteed jumping off point for me. Geoff Johns in particular made me feel constantly jerked around from one major event to the next without any closure whatsoever. When the last chapter of the 11-part Trinity War event ended with "Continued in....Forever Evil#1", it felt like Johns and DC were no longer even bothering to pretend. Marvel has too many events, too, but at least they leave several of their books out of those events.

All that leads me to the biggest underlying reason I'm dropping the Nu52 for good: I'm just not feeling it anymore.

There's no longer that emotional connection to any of the remaining characters. And without that, Nu52 DC is competing on the same level playing field in my mind as Image, Dark Horse, Valiant, Dynamite, Monkeybrain, or any other publisher except Marvel. And losing.

I don't think I'm going to be feeling much loss pulling the plug now because I've been withdrawing gradually. Over the last 2 years I've had the Incredible Shrinking DC Nu52 Pull List. Before Flashpoint I had been buying roughly 25-28 DC titles per month. I bought 38 first issues in Month 1 of the reboot. Which dropped down to 22, then 17, then 12, then 8, and finally 5. DC putting all their storylines on hold for Villains Month helped speed things up. After all, if I could do without these heroes for 1 month, maybe I could do without them indefinitely.

I'm not saying there are no good comics in the Nu52 DC, or that I won't miss the titles I am dropping. The hardest to drop were Scott Snyder's Superman Unbound and Jeff Lemire's Green Arrow. Snyder's Superman, unlike the version in Justice League and the eponymous title, actually comes off as a nice, heroic man who thinks things through. Too bad he's stuck with the shit sandwich that is DC editorial's status quo, especially regarding Clark and Lois. And I'm not a huge fan of Jim Lee, whose characters have fewer facial expressions than Bruce Jenner. Green Arrow is beautifully rendered by former I, Vampire artist Andrea Sorrentino, who could become the next J.H. Williams. Still, I loved Nicola Scott's and Ivan Reis' art that much, too, and I dropped their books. And for every Sorrentino or Reis or Nicola I have to do without, there's a Chris Samnee, Mike Allred, or Jamie McKelvie to replace them.

I'm going to be a bit more generous than the aforementioned Mr. Slemmons is, though, in that my DC embargo will not extend to DC's "Digital First" titles. I can't drop Smallville: Season 11, because Bryan Q. Miller is doing virtually everything right with Superman and Lois' relationship that the Nu52 is doing wrong, and his "Olympus" arc was a Superman/Wonder Woman team-up done absolutely right. The Adventures Of Superman anthology is also a great departure from the Nu52 Superman (although it needs some actual women in the rotating creator lineup), and Jeff Parker's Batman '66 has all of the crazy camp fun of the TV show but none of the budgetary constraints.

Nor will I drop any Vertigo titles. FBP: Federal Bureau Of Physics is a promising new series about the laws of physics breaking down and the special team working to maintain them. Snyder and Sean Murphy's The Wake has been picking up steam the last issue. I'm looking forward to catching up on Lemire's Trillium series.

And then there's Astro City by Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson. I've read the various volumes sporadically over the years and always been entertained. But with the latest volume, Busiek has got it down cold. Reading issues 3 and 4 yesterday may have been the single thing that ultimately cemented my decision. There was a sense of fun and wonder and awe and didacticism in those comics that's been missing, with very few exceptions, from the Nu52's so-called "hero" comics. This is a comic I'd be thrilled to introduce to my son as he gets older.

I can't guarantee how long this will last. Maybe until there's a new regime and a different editorial philosophy, I don't know. All I can say for now is that after Wednesday, the Nu52 can consider me gone.


At 5:41 AM , Blogger SallyP said...

I can only applaud your decision, and admire your fortitude. You are also a stronger comics fan than I.

It does seem as though DC has been drinking Stupid juice lately doesn't it? I don't know if it is the bigwigs at Time Warner or what, but the decisions that they are making are INSANE!

You have an ever-shrinking demographic, and they are doing everything in their power to avoid appealing to a larger audience. They lay down absurd editorial fiats, micro-manage their creators to a fare-thee-well, and as you say, do nothing but looooooong extended "events" that never ever ever end.

Since a whole lot of the people who blog, or twitter or whatever and discuss these things on-line seem to be pretty much universally disgusted with the whole state of affairs, I can only assume that there is some sort of vast pool of humanity that seems to mindlessly slurp up all of DC's decisions.

Not that Marvel is exempt from idiotic behavior either, but still!



At 9:20 AM , Blogger Scott said...

I may not be dropping as many DC books as I'd expected to. I could never drop Astro City or American Vampire, and the more I think about Li'l Gotham, the more I realize that it's set in a pre-Reboot universe. And I don't know if I can drop Batman '66. But yeah, the mainstream superhero books? I'm giving them the heave-ho...

At 6:40 AM , Blogger SallyP said...

Li'l Gotham is one of the best books that DC is publishing right now. In a more perfect world, it would be their best-seller.


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