Monday, June 06, 2005

In Medias Res

I weighed in on the "One Year Later" matter over among the good folks at the inestimable "Comics Should Be Good" blog, but because the internet is abuzz with this Philly gossip, I feel this need to post about it here, too.

Starting the DCU's storyline one year later is a technique called in medias res, pioneered in Classical epic poetry. Its goal is to engage you immediately by starting in the middle of the action and arousing your curiosity about the sequence of events that lead up to it.

It's a basic literary technique, one that many individual comic book stories use. Its use on so large a scale may seem "gimmicky" to some. But let's remember why Crisis and Zero Hero failed: they were more focused on what they were leaving behind than where they were leading.

While those reboots focused on getting rid of dross, they (it seems) did not have a clear enough plan as to what would come after. As a result, the DCU spun out of control almost a-reborning. I live in Washington DC, where this sort of thing happens all the time. Legislators often pass laws designed only to remedy past problems with little thought to the new problems they will cause. This is what comes of "negative legislation" and its focus on what it doesn't want instead of what it does.

I think Didio and DC have a plan for their new world and the fact that we'll be tuning in a year into it confirms that. This will give them the chance to establish the new status quo and spend some time catching us up to it. Since we, and the writers, will have our hands full talking about how we got where we are, I think editorial will have the opportunity to make sure that any new developments in any one title fit into the overall plan for the DCU.

And I'm on board.


Robby Reed said...

Good post! But you forgot the definition of "In Medias Res," which is ... a term for stories beginning, literally, "in the middle of things."

Anonymous said...

"This will give them the chance to establish the new status quo and spend some time catching us up to it."

Or it will give them the opportunity to make wholesale changes without any thought as to how they came about, and only DiDio's vague promise that the interim information will ever be disseminated.

I agree that Crisis seriously dropped the ball by not being a true reboot. And I believe that editorial fiat at that time might have changed things. But all the use of Editorial Fiat since then, from banning the JSA to numerous Editorial Events to canonizing Geoff Johns - hasn't solved anything, I don't think that it is a guaranteed solution either.

Considering that IC and all of it's spawn depend on completely ignoring established characterization to work, I don't believe for a second that those involved have put any more thought into What Will Be than they do What Is. And 20 years from now, Marv Wolfman Jr. will be asked by DC to undo the mess left over from "not doing IC right when they had the chance".

The DCU was a bunch of books that happened to be published by the same company (more or less) that happen to work well together. Earth-2 and the rest of the multiverse was an organic result of sales and marketing as much as creative vision, spread over a decade or more. All universes built by Fiat have failed, most of them desrvedly so, and that will always be true.

No Editorial Plan survives the first encounter with the Reader.


Joe Rice said...

If I trusted more of the writers DC employed, I'd trust this idea more. As it is, the Committe To Write DC Comics hasn't written much of anything readable yet. Don't see how a year jump will change that.

Martin Wisse said...

Well, Zero Hour failed because it sucked and was ill thought out while Crisis failed because of $%^& John Byrne and DC not quite understanding that whole concept of dynastic centrepiece thing you've thought out and the reboots happening for years after without thought or reason.

J Calduch said...

We hope that they will learn from past errors in Marvel: Heroes Return Iron Man "Hi, I'm Tony Stark again, I'll explain how I returned some day...if sales are enough", or the mutant revolution of 2000? that was exactly the same than now, one yaer later, Phoenix changed powers, and some other cosmetic changes, that almost nobody bothered.

If this time they work well they have the possibility to make a major, coordinated change in the DCU in the direction they want (cooler, darker...), and if it works they will have the extra income of the future miniseries explaininig what happened in the lost year.

Confusing, but maybe promising. Risky.

Jeffrey said...

Sending the entire DCU timeline forward by a year sounded like a pretty gutsy move to me. I'm intrigued already.

The best thing about this, though, is that everyone comes in with a clean slate, both old and new readers. One of the problems I've had with some of the Countdown miniseries is accessibility - Day of Vengeance was ridiculously impenetrable.

At the very least it'll be interesting to see how well/badly DC executes this plan.

JackM said...

I have to admit that I am completely sucked in to the possibilities of this change. I've really dug the lead in series (save for the Rann-Thanagar thing you seem so passionate about -- HA), and I think that your argument that they have a story they want to tell and they are moving in that direction in a coherent manner is very intriguing.

At the very least, I am REALLY excited about buying comics again and making sure that I get my stash so I can see where they are going.

Chris said...

The thing that makes it hard for me to find the jump very interesting - aside, of course, from the recent direction of all things DCU - is that we all know going in that the "one year" will wind up compressed and retconned away into about a week and a half in a few years. It's very, very difficult to set "real time" benchmarks in a universe that is by its very nature hostile to real time.