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Week of July 31, 2013

 

DC Comics at 100, you are looking great for your age!

 

By Jim Durdan

 

OK, before anyone gets to irate and begins to protest that DC Comics is only 75 years old, I already know that. The 100 I mention is that this is the 100th week for the New 52. 23 months ago DC launched its experiment in rebooting the whole line.

 

With the release this week of Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox I thought it would be a good time to take a look back over the last two years and see how things have shaped up, where they may be going, and where there might be some room for improvement.

 

I think most people agree that DC did this to bolster sales. While DC and Marvel constitute the big 2, DC is always the 2 in that statement.  For example in July 2011, the last month before the reboot Marvel had a market share of 39.43% as opposed to DC’s 30.55%. (http://www.newsarama.com/8145-no-dcnu-effect-in-july-2011-sales-spider-island-rules.html) Historically this is on par for the differences between the two companies over the last decade plus.

 

If you jump ahead to October 2011, a full month into the launch of the new 52, something remarkable happened.  DC had 42.47% of the market to Marvels 29.1%. That is a huge shift. Within 2 months DC collapsed Marvels share of the market by 5o%. (http://www.bleedingcool.com/2011/11/04/dc-smashes-marvel-marketshare-in-october-taking-51-of-sales/) It would seem that the relaunch was a great success at least in the short term. But now we are two years down the road, what do the numbers look like now?

 

In June of this year, which is the latest numbers we have available, DC’s share of the market is 32.03% while Marvels is 38.09% So the effect of the New 52 revamp is still there, but it is much smaller than it used to be. DC is selling more books than it did pre 52, but nowhere near the numbers October 2011. Why? There are a myriad of reasons. The most important being that a lot of people bought into the hype of the 52 launch, people who hadn’t read comics in years came back and bought the first few issues, and then they lapsed, and walked away again.  Another reason, and one that is hard to determine the qualitative effect of, is the unevenness of some of the titles. There is no doubt that the creative teams on Action, Superman, Detective and Batman brought their “A” games. The same cannot be said for other titles. I have said in the past that I will not be a force of negativity on the internet, there is way to much of that as it is, but sometimes you just have to call it like you see it. Some of the relaunched titles were just not very well thought out.

So lets take a look at a few books over the last 100 weeks and see what’s working and what needs a little help.

 

The Good

 

Is there any doubt that the relaunches of Batman and Action were two of the shining moments of the New 52.  Morrison on Action and Snyder on Batman gave us stories from the first issue that were awesome. Grant’s vision of Superman’s’ early appearances were spot on.

 

Snyder from the first issue began to weave in intricate tapestry that lead up to the first major event of the New DCU, the Court of Owls story line. No matter what version of The Bat we are talking about, pre or post 52, this is one of the best stories ever told in the Batman mythos.

The New 52 also elevated The Justice League back to their position as the preeminent superhero group in comics. The lineup is top heavy with A listers and the backup story, featuring the reintroduction of Captain Marvel, oops, Shazam to the DC Universe has been great fun.

 

Geoff Jones, the real Superman at DC Comics, has managed to keep the Green Lantern a must read every month for several years now.  Jones has also managed to do the same with the Justice League upon it’s relaunch,  and then he performed a miracle. He took a character that was the punch line for jokes and not only made him respectable but a must read.  That title is Aquaman.  The weak sister of the big guns is now someone to respect. How much respect does he get now? Ever notice how many times Sheldon on the Big Bang Theory wears a Aquaman t-shirt?

 

What do you mean you’re not reading Animal Man.?!?!?! This version approaches the all-out weirdness that was Grant Morrisons signature on his run. If Geoff Jones is the creative Superman of the DCU, Jeff Lemire is Batman.

 

Another fantastic read is Wonder Woman under Brian Azzarello. It never ceases to amaze me how many incredibly talented people have worked on WW over the years, and how she still manages to fly under the radar of so many fans. Be it the impressive George Perez’ run on the book of the current team of Azzarello and Cliff Chiang, Wonder Woman always seems to be underestimated by comic’s fandom. If you are not reading this book, then you are missing out on a stellar series and one of the most consistently good reads of the DCU.

 

Speaking of good reads, not all the best books came from the initial launch. Earth 2, which was a tier 2 launch is incredible. For those who miss the good old days of the Justice Society, and the multiverse, then this is the book for you! James Robinson, the man who made Starman one of the greatest books in the history of DC Comics has put his magic touch on this title.

 

So what else is on the good side? How about all of the digital first books! Smallville Season 11, Batman Beyond, Superman Beyond, Justice League Beyond, Arrow and the best of them all, Injustice Gods Among Us. I talked a lot about digital comics last week, but discussion would be complete without mentioning these titles.

 

The Not so Good.

 

While there have been books that DC has published that I have scratched my head over, I won’t do any bashing here. What has me concerned at DC is the quick turn over in titles and, to a lesser extent, creative teams.

 

Putting out 52 titles every month is a huge task, and without a doubt some of them just aren’t going to get the following they deserve. The problem, since the relaunch, is that DC seems only too happy to pull the plug on titles if they don’t find a target audience within a matter of 3 or 4 issues. This has led to some pretty truncated story line where writers have been told to wrap up their arch in one or two issues because the title is being cancelled.  One example of that is the horrible way Blackhawk ended.  It was forced and not natural, and it was obvious that the writers had to scrap 90% of their intended story to make it all come out in the end.  I also some of the same feeling from Sword of Sorcery, 12 issues of storytelling crammed into 8.

 

Much of this reminds me of the Great DC Implosion of the 1970’s. Within a matter of 3 month DC cancelled twenty titles. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DC_Implosion) I was colleting comics at the time and it was a huge blow to DC fans. Indeed during that era the leadership at DC was so fractured that they almost cancelled Detective Comics. (http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2012/07/27/comic-book-legends-revealed-377/) The reasoning then, as now, was that sales were so low. Someone finally realized that the name DC actually stood for Detective Comics and to cancel the flagship title was a little much.  Imagine just how strange it would be if there was no Detective Comics in the DC lineup.  DC rescued the title by giving the readership what it wanted, they did not cancel it.

 

I realize the it’s all about the numbers, and DC has to make profit, but constantly shuffling titles is not going to build a readership.

 

Speaking of shuffling  titles be on the lookout for an announcement, hopefully soon, for Grant Morrisons’ final superhero work for DC. The title is Multiversity and it is a look at the DC Multiverse and the various worlds that comprise it. (http://www.dccomics.com/blog/2012/09/29/multiversity-is-coming).

 

Just in passing I do want to mention that sometimes it’s hard to do a job well if the people doing it are always changing. Just this last week another creative shift happened on Superboy.

 

Green Arrow is a title that should be one of the hottest selling for DC with the success of Arrow on the WB, but it’s not. The constant game of musical chairs of Ollie and his crew have caused the book to be near cancellation, a far cry from the heyday of Kevin Smith on the book. The problem with a merry go round of writers is that no one can get enough momentum going to create and interesting story line, it then becomes a series of self-perpetuating failures. You cannot build up a readership by cancelling a book after 4 issues and you can’t maintain a readership by not committing to one vision for a title for at least a year.

 

The future is so bright I gotta wear shades.

 

Indeed the future at DC is bright, except for some missteps that the publisher has worked to correct, it would seem that DC post 52 is in a better place than pre 52. They have a larger share of the market, there is still a great sense of excitement about the New 52, and with the announcement of the Superman/Batman movie there is no doubt that more people will be reading comics, at least for the short term.

 

We as fans have to insist on good titles and support them. Part of the reason that DC is constantly putting tittle into the grave is because they look at the numbers and don’t see a profit. So when we lose an I Vampire or a Frankenstein we only have ourselves as to blame. Talk up a good read, sell it to everyone you know. Evangelize it!

 

Be on the lookout section!

 

Be on the lookout this week for the last issue of Batman Inc. I can predict that a lot of people are going to be unhappy with it, which is always the beauty of Grant’s work.

 

As for the best read of last week, honors go to Batman-Superman 2, which was just plain weird and fun!  It’s nice to see that the big two in this universe have mutual respect for each other and get along.

 

Runner up for the week goes to The Flash. I am such a sucker for Reverse Flash stores, and this one is epic.

As usual, and questions, or comments please feel free to send them over to jdurdan@hotmail.com

 

Till next week!