Wednesday used to be a day of celebration not that long ago. Yet ever since DC announced its big re-launch/reboot coming up in September, Wednesdays have become a somber countdown to the end of an era and the moment when I stop collecting the few DC books I currently buy. The common cry from the pro re-launch camp is that sales are poor and DC has to do something, but this is the wrong something in my opinion. The right steps are keeping the $2.99 price tag and branching into digital comics. Having just listened to the wonderful 1st podcast from ladies over at Girls Gone Geek (you should check’em out), there are several reasons I believe that comics sales in general are lagging greatly behind the 90s record sales;
- It’s not too much continuity it’s the fact that the big two don’t adhere enough to continuity. At Marvel it’s putting Wolverine in every book every month. I mean Nightcrawler is dead! How does a man with metal bones get through that much airport security? Logan may have been the most popular comic book character in the 90s, but after Wizard and Hugh Jackman ruined that, he has simply become the most overused uninspired character around. I mean what’s so cool about a short, hairy, Canadian cutting people up for no reason other than he can. When his origin was a mystery there was a sense of purpose (although vague) he was a man without a past and needed answers, he was part berserker and had no idea why! Now we know he’s just a 100+ year-old natural born psycho with abandonment issues. That’s just one example; Marvel also has issues with Iron-Man and Spider-Man story wise.
DC on the other hand treats Batman much the same way Marvel does Wolverine. He’s in nearly every book, every storyline and has a pretty decent schedule in the five+ books in his own line. They finally allowed Grant Morrison to evolve the character after 70 years and what do they do pull the rug off from underneath the man and reboot the whole line, effectively nullifying all the work Morrison has done over the last 6 years. The redesigns that DC has put forth so far all look like 90s flashbacks, they are all horrible (they gave Robin feathers!) The problem with DC having the oldest characters on the market was never the costumes. Superman’s outfit is iconic and classic changing it to this over lined garbage is just one of a long line of failed costumed reboots for the Big Blue Boy Scout. The main problem with DC characters is that they haven’t been allowed to age. One of my favorite comics of all time is DC’s Kingdom Come. Why? Because it made the most logical sense of any comic book ever created. It perfectly illustrated the problem with the hyper-violent, big-gun Rob Liefeld comics of the 90s! It would have been excellent if DC moved everything in that direction, which for a while it looked like they were doing. This re-launch changes that and even goes a step further by bringing Mr. Liefeld back onto the book that launched his horrible career. Now the man who can’t draw feet is back! Great!
If Marvel or DC really wanted to do something different they would have taken queues from Grant Morrison and Mark Millar and taken their main titles more in the direction of The Authority and The Ultimate’s. They would allow Grant to evolve Batman the way he tried to evolve the X-Men. Allow characters to grow and change. The audience is growing and changing, you can’t have these characters becoming stagnant and doing the same shit over and over for another 30 years. It’s not going to happen. Just as Soap Operas are disappearing form TV that way of telling a story is over. People have been born and raised on reality television. They want to see personal growth in characters. Not saying that Batman has to be 85 years old but Superman should be. And if written the right way the characters never have to go away. Bruce simply does what any wealthy business man would have done in real life and franchises. Robin becomes Batman in training position and the name and legend live on. Superman is an alien so he can go on forever, only Clark Kent has to die. Kent can’t exist in the modern world of technology he would be found out in minutes. Green Lantern is a space cop so anyone can do that job, and the Flash, well there’s how many of those guys anyway? Wonder-Woman is made out of clay so who cares if she’s in pants or a skirt! As for the rest well just use common sense and you can work out each of them without all this silly, poorly thought out reboot nonsense.
2. Comic-book shops, (as much as I love them) are the biggest part of the problem. When comics where experiencing their biggest payday, you could find them anywhere. From Wal-Mart, to the grocery store, to newsstands, and spinner racks in 7-11’s coast to coast. While my grandmother shopped I got to pick out a book that meant a comic every time I went anywhere! A lot more than I get going to a shop once a week. For people who grow up in rural areas like I did don’t even have the option to go to a shop! The nearest comic book store to me when I was growing up was over 30 minutes away in the next town over. When my small town finally got a shop it closed down after a year. Mainly because the only customers where me and my friends. Most kids and parents won’t mind picking up a comic book at the store but going into a comic shop would be admitting you are a nerd or a geek and no matter how much we think we have reclaimed those words to the general public they are still anathema and there’s nothing you can do about it. Most young kids want to be cool and going into a comic shop (no matter how slick) is not cool.
You want kids to get into comics, put them next to the toy isle at Wal-Mart again! I have single issues of books I would never in my life collect, but they were there and available. Speaking of available, exclusive distribution deals have also destroyed the market. By the time I reached high school a favorite way of mine to get comics was through the mail. I had my subscriptions to X-Men and The Invisibles, but I also selected which books I wanted month by month through services that were squashed out when Diamond made their big exclusivity deal with Marvel and DC. For someone who lived too far away to make it to comic book shops it was the only way I could get special books, one-shots, graphic novels, and unique covers. Now I can only get a special cover if I have a pull list at my local shop that equaled $100 a week! I can’t afford that! I want a variant cover every now and then! Once upon a time I could order a variant pay a few bucks extra and bam at my door! The only way one can do this now is to order directly from a major comic book shop like Midtown Comics in Manhattan and that means I won’t get my book until after it comes out they, get it, and then mail it to me! Not cool man.
3. Digital Comics are only part of the way! Just as not everyone is going to be able to get to the comic shop, not everyone is going to be able to get an IPad or a subscription to digital comics. Not to mention those like myself who prefer to hold the comics in our hand. There are plenty of people who live out in the sticks who share a computer with a family of five and simply can’t invest in digital comics. They don’t have a laptop, or an IPad, or Kindle! While Digi-comics are the wave of the future and a good way to reach the upwardly mobile lapsed nerd that lives in New York or SF, and reads his IPad on the train or at Starbucks for all to see, it isn’t going to spread to those who have never read a book held an IPad for that matter! I must admit I’m biased on this I don’t have one either, and I don’t want one. I like having books in my hand (because I’m old), I shake my head at the day when I will be reduced to only buying 30 and 40 dollar graphic novel. I love my graphs, but I can’t put in my pocket, and I can’t fetish-ize it by ritualistically sealing it in Mylar. I love my long boxes and will miss the day when they go the way of the dodo! I support people getting comics no matter what the format though and I want people to read them from now until the end of time.
If comics went back to a cheaper paper although less durable it may make it
possible to continue printing them at an affordable rate. I believe that when you pay for a comic book movie you should get a free comic with the ticket! And another when you buy the DVD! Comic book movies should be used to draw people into comics not turns them off. As much as I will continue to shell out $13.50 for them, I’m kind of getting sick of how much they are changed or altered from the source material. I hated the last X-Men for that very reason. Had I no clue about the books it would have been a fine film. But what now of the kid introduced to the characters on the big screen. He comes into the comic shop looking for the X-Men he saw in the movie and they aren’t there. Perhaps in the film adaption comic, but not in the monthly X-Men!
These are just a few of the ideas I have for saving comic books, but it will also take better writing, better art, and valuing the customers that they do have not just trying to sucker in random people who are not familiar with the world that has already been created. I am staunchly opposed to this DC re-launch and hope and pray that it goes the way of Zima and Crystal Pepsi like the Girls gone Geek suggest. They have already announced that Grant will be allowed to finish his story next year, so hopes are that this too shall pass and these horrid redesigns and Rob Liefeld will fade away again.