Tuesday, May 26, 2015

I've got some DC You for YOU, DC.

So, we are entering the brave new world of the "DC You"
According to DC's press release:
In "DC You," a new advertising campaign promoting diversity, DC Entertainment aims for its 24 new titles and 25 ongoing series to have "something for everyone."
The "DC You" initiative, which kicks off on June 3, will highlight four main themes: characters, talent, stories and fans. While celebrating iconic characters like Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman, the initiative will also feature creators like Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, Geoff Johns and Annie Wu. Likewise, new storytelling directions will be spotlighted through taglines and, like the name suggests, thank fans new and old. 
"With the New DC Universe, there’s a story for every kind of DC Comics fan. There’s a story for YOU,” explained Amit Desai, DC Entertainment's senior vice president of marketing and global franchise management. "The DC Comics slate rolling out this summer truly offers a comic book for everyone and our new advertising campaign -- DC YOU -- celebrates this bold, new direction."

Well, that certainly sounds nice.  But I've got some news for you, DC....

You had a book for me. It was called Aquaman.  In it, your overall creative architect and master of returning characters to their essentials had, nearly overnight, restored Aquaman's glory, embraced his so-called failings, and showed that he was (as the kids call it) an awesome bad-ass, and always was.  His position of respect was restored, his consort reintroduced as a fully realized, independent, and powerful partner, and a mythos was built around him using new, old, and revivified concepts that never overshadowed him and placed him firmly at its center. Furthermore, that new mythos itself became the center of universe-wide arcs, such as the war against Atlantis in Justice League.  Aquaman's ties to both the land and the sea were reaffirmed through his stories and supporting cast, and he was the poster boy for successful revamp in the New52.

A happy couple? Can't have THAT in the DCU, now, can we?

You've replaced that with an Aquaman redressed in a complicated non-iconic outfit designed to echo a movie that won't be out for another 2 years.  An Aquaman, who, just as you had built up to a score of pregnant possibilities (such as the discovery of the Seven Seas), is now thrown out of Atlantis and being hunted by his own lover.  

You and me both, Arthur.

You had a book for me. And you ruined it. Oh, and not just this one.  I could tell this same story (with different details) for other books that you had for me, and ones that had me hooked on DC: Batwoman, the Flash. even Green Lantern.  And you've ruined them all (and more, including Batman/Detective).

You don't have any problem making books for me (or others). Your problem is that you can't stop ruining them.  And why? Because you are addicted to "bold, new directions".

I am reminded of "Terminal Man" (either the movie or the novel).  Doctors try to cure a man who's a victim of seizures of violence behavior by implanting a device that stimulates pleasure centers in his brain to forestall the seizures.  Eventually, his brain figures out that it can cause itself pleasure by triggering the seizures, which start to come more and more frequently until it finally switches to a state of constant mindless seizures of violent upheaval compound by a positive feedback loop.

"Do you smell...almonds?"

That would be you, DC  You are addicted to 'bold, new directions" and you are causing them more and more frequently because of the pleasure they give you (such as press attention). This isn't a complaint about the direction you decided to go in (except for Aquaman).  Let's stipulate that EVERYTHING you are about to do is WONDERFUL; you still have a problem, because you can't go for six months to a year without a bold new direction, and new creative team, or a new status quo for your characters.   You find rebooting so liberating that you are now close to entering a state of continually reboot. That leaves readers with very little reason to read anything more than a month or two, because we know it's only going to be wiped out by the next creative team a few months later.  

We don't need a bold new direction from you, DC.  We need you to stop changing direction every few months.



Bryan L said...


It's honestly gotten incredibly bizarre. This is exactly the opposite direction of the Nu52, where everything was jammed together and homogenized. And that was supposed to be the future of comics.

Back when I was in business school, we conducted a computer simulation where teams set up businesses and ran them against each other. The computer would generate sales figures and the economic variables. And you'd run the business, and one would win the competition. Afterward, the professor told us the only way you could fail the assignment was to panic and abruptly change your business plan in the middle of the simulation.

Every time DC announces a new direction, I think of that simulation. I feel like they're reeling from one plan to another in a state of panic, and they never give any of them enough time to actually work.

Joshua Roots said...

Nailed it.

Aquaman breathed new life into my love for DC. AQUAMAN. The lore, the mythos, the love that was as much his equal, if not more so. It, along with Batwoman, were the titles that I was excited to pick up every month. Now we have this version and I am left wanting.

Reboots are fine. Reboots for the sake of "bold new directions" every few years are short-sighted.

You can't please everyone, DC. That's a fact of life. Just make your stories excellent and fan will come running.

John said...

I maintain my "DC Challenge" hypothesis. Maybe it'll all end if we solve it before they do...

What I really don't like about this new direction is that it seems so...exaggerated. Like, OK, you want superheroes? You'll get a Frank Miller-inspired Superman. You like humor? Oh, prepare to laugh your Underoos off with Bat-Mite, who...I guess is funny, kind of. Scrappy Doo and Godzuki were funny, too, right? It's like the Brewster's Millions equivalent of diversification, and almost guaranteed to fail across the board, while not actually doing anything new! Especially with the inconsistency. From what I can tell, poking around, Tim Drake is both Batman Beyond and Robin, which is also a social movement, like Harley Quinn. Maybe.

Don't get me wrong. Some of the ideas don't look bad. But some look like they're designed to fail, so that Didio or someone can point and say, look, we tried to be open-minded and modern, but it turns out that nobody wants to read a Superman comic where everything is backwards and Superman's a moron (or a Bizarro book, ha!), so let's go back to what we were just doing.

Also, side note: "Characters, talent, stories and fans"? What was DC focusing on before, if this is a new direction!?

I'm telling you, just hand the DCU over to Berlanti's team. He made me care about Green Arrow, un-boring-ified the Flash, and crafted a Supergirl whose story isn't a condescending parable about the value (or lack thereof) of women. I'm not as excited about Legends of Tomorrow, but three out of four is way better than anybody else has done with the DCU in, like, forever.

But you're right. There's something at DC (presumably Didio) who doesn't want to read about heroic people or healthy relationships.

Oh, well.

Anonymous said...

Oh Aquaman. Your voice may say "pissed", but your costume says "aroused".

Goddamn Scipio, when you're right you're right. I'll make one small caveat that I think you touched on: I think, overall, the DC Universe was healthier before the nu52. We had legacy heroes, we had the "real" JSA, and we didn't have Apokolips always looming almost literally overhead. I like the idea of DC kicking the habit of frequent reboots, but if you're going to kick the habit, start somewhere good so that you aren't laying the groundwork for a relapse.

So if I were in charge, I'd refixulate the DC Universe about right before Professor Zoom retroactively killed Barry's mom, plus a few other changes (nu52 Aquaman supersedes the old version, just about everyone who was dead is back).

SallyP said...

Oh God yes. A million times yes. I am so tired of bold new directions and endless reboots. Just tell good stories with these wonderful characters that you are doing you level best to destroy, and the Universe will take care of itself

Joe said...

The new editor of Aquaman repsonds to your spot-on piece:


PS- You really need to get on the tweets :)

Mark said...

I kind of think everyone is...overreacting? The whole talk of rebooting seems off the mark. I don't read DCYou as a reboot. It's a marketing mea culpa - hey we got the stick out of our ass so please give our books a try. I don't think there is any real resetting going on. 95% of the stuff i've seen would likely to have happened anyway. Remember that Convergence is just a stop gap event to allow the publisher to relocate coasts. Robo-Bat would have been the next chapter in Snyders Batman run regardless of Convergence. Frankly, i think Snyders Batman run would have been nearly the same even if the new 52 hadn't happened. Robo-Bat was inevitable.

And i can't really fault DC for marketing. For weeks now, they've been publishing 8 page stories as previews for their new books. They are new stories by the new creative teams and not excerpts. They're in the books and on-line for free. And i don't think i've read 1 story on a website looking at those stories, reviewing them or speculating on what they foretell for the books post-convergence. But they put out a press release and some ads w/ a slogan and suddenly i've read something on every comics website dissecting the press release - not the books, the press release. So clearly all that marketing/labeling stuff matters more than the content.

As for Aquaman, how is this different than the last 30 years of comics? A new writer comes in and spins what's there slightly on its axis to tell the stories they are going to tell. When it doesn't work, it's "wrong" and when it works, it's "right. " When people talk about what they loved about Wally West they don't talk about Mike Barron and Wally's money issues. They talk about Waid and the Speed Force and legacy.

And at some point, we have to let go the Field of Dreams thing. New 52 happened and lots of readers picked up Aquaman and tried it out and those readers didn't stick around. Sales went down even when Geoff was on the book. Making a good book isn't enough and once readers have tried a book its hard to get them to open their minds up again and resample without some outward sign of change.

Batman excepted, the hard truth is that most of these characters don't have a hard core enough fanbase to stay connected to a monthly book for the long haul. And the worst thing for getting the Aquaman you like is for DC to agree with you that Aquaman is a major character because when his book isn't delivering major character sales, they will feel compelled to make changes.

Anonymous said...

Mark - about Aquaman specifically, I think the issue is that there hasn't been a widely-appreciated version of Aquaman in the comics for a very long time, so the Johns version stands out. Turning Aquaman back into yet another angry Sub-Mariner clone with long hair ... it would be like returning Wally West to the Mike Barron days.

Personally I'd like to see Aquaman more like in the "Brave and Bold" cartoon, and keep him far away from aliens and Themiscyrans as so his strength looks properly impressive. Failing that, I like Johns style.

Joshua Roots said...

You know, one could claim that the New52 Aquaman was already a bold new direction.

John said...

It's nice that you can always count on creators to take immediate personal offense at any criticism of their work and insist that this vindicates them. A hearty "DC You" to him, as well.

Joshua, I think part of the problem is that good, long-term storytelling isn't considered bold or new by anyone at the publishers. They all seem to look down on it as mere custodial work that you do until Nothing Will Ever Be the Same Again...again.

They'll trumpet to the world that Superman has lost his powers and needs to Take Things Seriously (again, but this time on a motorcycle), but unless you can tweet the plot with exclamation points, it's a "sleeper hit" when it succeeds and a "failed experiment" when it fails...or it's just changed to a "bold, new direction," because the new writer has an entirely different vision of the character and thought it would be too hard to take his job seriously.

And then it compounds, when the next creator declares what the current team did is unusable, and so takes (insert any character) "back to his (or her) roots," invariably changing the roots entirely to fit their preconceived notion.

That's what I like about the DC Challenge analogy. It was a series where every issue contained some unifying motifs, but every issue had a different creative team whose job it was to carry the story forward (without any specified end goal, which was the job of the final issue's creative team to come up with at the end) while setting up an "epic" cliffhanger for the next issue (and creative team) to resolve.

The difference is that the DC Challenge was an isolated incident and a kind of Viking funeral for a dying universe (it ran nearly parallel to Crisis on Infinite Earths), whereas DC seems to have decided that this is exactly how to build a universe with a solid foundation for years of future storytelling, and routine stories about heroic characters aren't worth publishing because it's been done.

But there's something for everyone, as long as everyone likes shock-driven storytelling and condescension...

Joshua Roots said...

"And then it compounds, when the next creator declares what the current team did is unusable..."

John, that is absolutely on the mark. In fact, Brian Cunningham tweeted, "Well, the editing WAS a bit shaky on the book when I took over... :)". It's easy to blame the previous team in order to justify a "bold, new direction."

That said, change is good. Change is refreshing. Characters and plot lines grow stale if left to simmer too long. But change for change's sake, especially after revolutionizing a character by creating his own iconic mythos, is short-sighted.

Lastly, if you have to tell your audience that your hero is a badass, you're hero is no longer a badass. Compare the opening scene of New52 Aquaman #1 to Post-Convergence (aka Re-Crisis) Aquaman #1 and the differences are striking.

Steve Mitchell said...

"Let's stipulate that EVERYTHING you are about to do is WONDERFUL."

But you can't stipulate that. Because DC has published 40 previews in this month's Convergence titles that conclusively establish that what they are about to do is far, far from wonderful. As bad as (most of) New 52 was, DC You looks to be even worse.

I'm planning to buy Martian Manhunter and Suicide Squad and. . .that's it!

Scipio said...

I am, in fact, struck by the comic book irony (or just plain hypocrisy) that writers and editors say, "Don't judge the story until you have read it".

That's what you gave us previews FOR; so that we could judge whether we want to but it. Apparently, it's only okay to judge them positively ("I want to buy that!"), not negatively ("That looks terrible."). Don't blame us if your preview has the opposite effect that you intend.

The burden of proof doesn't lie with the readers. I'm not going to buy your book just to 'prove' that it's bad.

Bryan L said...

I'm slightly encouraged by the willingness to try new tones and unusual directions, though I agree it shouldn't have come at the cost of the Nu52 titles that did actually work.

But the whole Nu52 thing made me feel like the DC universe had become small, and shriveled, and bitter. Kind of like they'd stuffed the whole universe into a refrigerator, instead of just one character.

Maybe if they let a little fresh air back in, we can get a little wonder and whimsy and magic back. I just don't find myself enjoying much of DC any more, and I really don't like that.

Steve Mitchell said...

With the events of Convergence #8, DC could have launched books with ANY character from Dr. Occult in 1936 going forward--not only from DC, but also from Charlton, Fawcett, Quality, and Wildstorm. Just a huge array of wonderful concepts to choose from.

Instead, I am being shown such travesties as:

Superman fighting ninjas (hey, too bad his new Flare power didn't let him grow claws as well).

Gotham City with Batman missing. . .again.

Commissioner Gordon as Robo-Cop.

The Midnighter not in the Authority, and not with Apollo.

Hal Jodan as "The Fugitive" in space.

New, buff versions of Deathstroke and Lobo.

Section 8, from the dregs of the Bloodlines concept--itself one of DC's worst ever.

Dr. Fate, drawn in a cartoony style that would have been better suited for the return of Sugar and Spice or Fox and Crow.

The Omega Men, as boring now as they were when they debuted 30 years ago.

We Are Robin--because, why not take a terrible concept (Damien) and stretch it even further?

Bat-Mie and Bizarro and Prez--because they are so much more compelling than, say, Hawkman or any version of the Freedom Fighters or the Blue Beetle or Kingdom Come?

And at this point, I may as well stop foaming at the mouth and just fall down and bite the carpet.

John said...

Bryan, that feeling might have been because of all the stupid collars. Between that and the parade of "meanwhile, in the conference room..." scenes over the years, I can't help but feel that a lot of people at DC would have been happier with a nine-to-five desk job.

And that's where I worry, like Steve, that this seems so...half-hearted. "Something for everyone" is starting to look like "we have gritty superheroes, gritty anti-heroes, gritty superheroes in space, gritty magic superheroes, and superhero parodies!"

I hesitate to armchair-edit, but where's teen soap operas that work so well in every other medium? Where's the space opera? Where's the police procedural? Where are the tones that aren't gritty and goofy? And where are the characters who aren't...obligatory? By my quick count based on a possibly-outdated article on the post-Convergence titles, only about a dozen of them aren't directly tied to the Trinity or obligatory Justice Leaguers; close to half of the line stars someone in the Batman Family! With the possible exceptions of Prez and the Omega Men, all of them seem...well, depressing. Constantine, Deathstroke, Lobo, Suicide Squad, and the like. (Although, at least there's no Captain Atom/Elongated Man team-up book...unless that's what Doomed is.) But my point is that there's no diversity except in which Batman character is in the book.

Seventy years of publishing, thousands of characters in every conceivable genre and tone, and this is what they run with as bold, new, and something for everyone. It's almost like they're trying to paint themselves in a corner and only ever publish books about Gotham City ever again.

(Not that there aren't some really good concepts. Mockery of event-publishing aside, Robobat could have potential as a new status quo. Depowered Superman has some narrative potential in the right hands. We Are Robin sounds like a great premise, if the Robin name gets otherwise retired.)

Oh, well. I've said it before: At least there's television. DC on TV is firing on all cylinders, clunky Constantine and my Legends of Tomorrow concerns aside.

Anonymous said...

Fugitive Hal Jordan might actually work, because it doesn't inherently go against the core of the character, and so it all depends on the handling. Hal is known to throw himself in way over his head, succeed on determination alone, and all in the name of doing what he thinks is right; Hal's still doing all that, but in a very different way. If handled well this could be an interesting twist, like Dick Grayson at Spyral or Selina Kyle as a crime boss. I'll give that one a shot.

Scipio said...

"at least there's no Captain Atom/Elongated Man team-up book...unless that's what Doomed is.) "

For such a book, I can imagine no better title.

Anonymous said...

"For such a book, I can imagine no better title."

A title that suggests medicine you stick up a cat's butt ("doo med")? I can see that.

John said...

Having now looked it up, Doomed is apparently about a college kid infected with Doomsday (or something), so he periodically becomes a Doomsday (totally not "Hulking out"...). So, sort of the third point to the Absorbascon anti-Trinity and yet another title that's sold on a major hero's coattails. Or cape.

Incidentally, reviewers have apparently done great SEO work. Searching for "DC You" Doomed turns up actual information, rather than random nay-sayers in comment threads.

Dan P said...

Hardcore reality... If you have a marketing strategy of "bold, new directions" it means your books are crap (or at least selling crap). It stinks of desperation.

This is why I quit DC this past year. It makes endless changes because it can't sell its characters.

Read Alex Ross's "Justice." That series proves there's nothing wrong with DC's "classic" versions. All they need are FAITH in their characters and GOOD WRITING.

This marketing ploy suggests they have neither.

Anonymous said...

Remember what the best Aquaman writer said in his blog: "Don't like it? Don't read it. Don't read it? Then why attacking it?"

Sr. Favo Posso deixar vazio sim said...

Yeah, the Aquaman book was going in a great direction, world-building like a pro. Hmm, delicious world-building...

Now we're getting some lameness about being chased by Evil Mera and that horrible Aqua-Hobo movie costume.