Where My Oreos At

6 Sep
Oreo cookies

Image via Wikipedia

I really do hope DC’s relaunch is a big success. Any success in comics helps the industry. But even with the initial sellouts happening, I’m still concerned.

What do we remember about DC in 1987, after Crisis on Infinite Earths? John Byrne’s Superman titles, George Perez’s work on Wonder Woman, Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One, Giffen & DeMatteis’s Justice League. All top sellers with strong creative voices, great storytelling, and solid characterization.

People don’t remember the Invasion crossovers, or Millennium – and why should they? Those stories were about plot over character, and even though they sold okay at the time, who wants to read them now? Especially when people remember Guy Gardner being knocked out with one punch, or Martian Manhunter’s love of Oreo cookies.

DC’s finally gotten the message about the diminishing returns of event comics (even if readers are inexplicably reading Blackest Night Aftermath) – but are the New 52 titles going to be creator-driven (which leads to perennial sellers and long-term profits) or committee-driven (which leads to short-term event comics and the Green Lantern movie’s weak performance)?

DC has historically had very weak editorial support for top creators’ work: look at how the All-Star line fell apart (Man, a second year of Grant Morrison’s All-Star Superman would have been sweet), how Superman/Batman turned into another pointless “Classified”-style book after Jeph Loeb left, how great and continuity-light series like The Brave and the Bold weren’t celebrated. Where are the great backlist titles (beyond the obvious Watchmen and Dark Knight), like Mark Waid’s Flash (which remains criminally incomplete in book form)?

Do DC’s editors think they’re smarter than the writers and artists? Do they think they know more about making the books worth reading more than once? Is it really a good idea to drive away creators like Brian Wood and Matt Wagner instead of embrace whatever the hell they want to do?

Looking at the New 52 in Previews solicitations, it looks like DC’s sticking with creators that (for the most part) don’t create any excitement on their titles. Many of ’em are good, but their names aren’t what’s selling the books. The orders are promising on the new #1s, but they’re not going to be nearly as good by the time we get to #4. DC has characters and properties that are really old and really well-known, and there should be a constant generation of excitement to draw in new readers. So why hire the same people that were barely selling any copies last month (or rather, two months ago, given the massive changes in creative teams on the pre-launch books) – especially if they’re going to keep being shackled by Editorial?

I hate to say it, but if DC’s titles aren’t creating excitement, reshuffling the current creators onto other books won’t help. DC already missed the boat on creating even more excitement ahead of time (see this post). I hope that this month’s launch inspires (and allows) the creators to go further, to be different and better, or it will have been a huge waste of effort and money. It’s up to DC’s Editorial team to give the creators the freedom to create comics that today’s potential audience will get excited about and want to come back for more.

We need characters that readers will love, not events that readers will put up with. We need every single character to love their Oreo cookies or have their “One Punch!” moments. We need creative freedom like Marvel gave its writers and artists in 2000-2001 (which, let’s face it, has led to a decade of mostly good-to-great superhero books from Marvel: possibly its best creative decade since the ’60s). If the editors and management shackle creators with more plots that get in the way of interesting characterization, or more bureaucratic limitations (Can Superman have a political viewpoint? Can he team up with Muslim superheroes?), the characters and stories will be as tepid and uninspired and, well, chickenshit as the Green Lantern movie.

Can we read some creator-driven stories instead of comics by committee? Here’s hoping!

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7 Responses to “Where My Oreos At”

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