Frustrations with DC

One of the strangest things to hit comics fandom last week was the furor over DC EIC Dan Didio’s rumored ouster. It didn’t happen — in fact, his contract was renewed — but in response, Collected Editions has posted a list of 3 things Didio has done right for DC:

  1. Revitalized the summer event crossover.
  2. Greater continuity in publishing (ex: Countdown, Full Throttle, and The Lightning Saga all fitting together).
  3. Emphasis on a good story (including support for low-selling, but critically-appreciated books).

#1 is a matter of perspective: if you like big events, it’s a good thing. If you don’t, it’s not. Personally, I’m getting tired of them.

#2 is a bit of an odd choice for a wait-to-trader, since you don’t get the impact of, say, Bart’s death and Wally’s return hitting simultaneously if you’re reading the trades months later.  Though I suppose it’s sort of like looking at the way the various pieces of Seven Soldiers interlock.

#3 I absolutely agree with. I’ve lost a number of favorite books to low sales in the past, and while I haven’t gotten into, say, Manhunter or Blue Beetle, it’s nice to see some of these books given more of a chance.

My Frustrations

That said, I’ve found myself very frustrated with DC over the last few years, for the following reasons:

1. As mentioned above, I’m tired of mega-crossovers. I was actually prepared to skip Final Crisis until I found out it was being written by Grant Morrison. (Of course, it’s since become clear that I would have had to pick it up anyway for research material!) Edit: This is, of course, not unique to DC. Marvel is just as focused on big events. It occurs to me that my current favorite series are Fallen Angel (IDW), Dynamo 5 (Image), Fables (DC/Vertigo) and Girl Genius (Studio Foglio) — all of which are stand-alone series. Of those, only D5 even takes place in a shared universe.

2. Mishandling of the Flash after Geoff Johns left. Six creative changes in three years. Two relaunches, and possibly a third coming up. A high-profile launch with writers who hadn’t adjusted to the medium. Starting both relaunches with slow burns instead of hitting the ground running.

There was no need to relaunch the book after Infinite Crisis. DC just figured “You can’t have a Crisis without a dead Flash” (or whatever the quote was). On the relaunch, Bilson & DeMeo were learning rapidly, but not fast enough to turn around sales. Marc Guggenheim was brought in to kill Bart, and response to his story made it clear that DC didn’t need to replace him.  I’m very much enjoying Tom Peyer’s arc on the book, but just as it got going, DC announced a new creative team.  It feels like DC has no idea what to do with the character, and is flailing around in a panic, grasping at everything without actually taking hold of anything long enough to let it build.

Since Flash is the only ongoing DCU book I read regularly these days, that makes a big difference.  I can only hope that the attention the Flash is getting through Final Crisis and Rogues’ Revenge will turn things around.

3. The wholesale slaughter of “redundant” and C-list characters to make a point. That’s just throwing away long-term story potential for short-term shock value. Yes, you can bring them back, but every time you do, it makes the threat of death that much less credible for the next story. And no, this didn’t start in the last few years — I’ve seen more than a few favorites killed off within months of their series being canceled back in the 1990s — but it seems to have accelerated drastically from Infinite Crisis onward.

I can’t say how much of this is Didio’s fault, however, which is part of why I stayed out of the discussion last week.  That, and it had turned into a virtual lynch mob.  It was downright eerie watching the same thing happen, focused on the recent Flash editor, Joan Hilty, over at Comic Bloc — yes, Comic Bloc, the place that Newsarama posters think is full of rainbows and ponies enforced by a fascist dictatorship of moderators.  I’d like to refer readers to this xkcd comic strip.  Or, if you’re okay with swearing, Penny Arcade’s Greater Internet ——wad Theory (NSFW language) sums it up succinctly.


5 thoughts on “Frustrations with DC

  1. Will

    Great post. I couldn’t agree with you more. DC has recently been destroying their franchise bit by bit.

    The stories are no longer compelling. The characters are not interesting or relatable. Resurrecting the careers of 70 and 80’s C-list super heroes is not a way to revitalize your brand, and then killing them off makes it even more worthless. Weekly books clearly suffer in the art and writing departments.

    Changing the Flash to Bart Allen and going with a relatively inexperienced writing team was such a huge blunder that they ultimately had to just kill the character off and ‘start over’ again with Wally. I’m glad to have Wally back… but wow that was a huge mistake.

    Meanwhile Marvel continues to produce provocative, interesting stories and major events. And don’t get me started on the difference in the movie productions that Marvel and DC have been working on.

  2. Kelson Post author

    The thing is, even when DC realized that Bart’s series wasn’t working as launched, they didn’t have to kill him. Readers responded positively when Guggenheim took over. Sales started leveling out, and #12 actually climbed up a little — even before the Countdown/Fastest Man Dead stuff came out and #13 spiked. And even if they did want to start over with Wally — they could have done so without killing Bart.

    Examples: Depower him (temporarily). Make him a teen again. Give him a multiverse-hopping or time-traveling mission. Have him screw up and decide he needs more practice before being “the” Flash. Let Bart be the Flash of Los Angeles while Wally’s the Flash of Central/Keystone.

    Killing Bart was a choice they made to set up Salvation Run and the “Villains Defiant” thread in Countdown.

    As for weekly books: 52 was brilliant. Countdown was a mess. Trinity looks like it has potential, but I’m waiting for the trade and word of mouth this time.

  3. huffa2

    2. Mishandling of the Flash after Geoff Johns left. Six creative changes in three years. Two relaunches, and possibly a third coming up. A high-profile launch with writers who hadn’t adjusted to the medium. Starting both relaunches with slow burns instead of hitting the ground running.

    So, so true, but here’s the thing – I love love Wally but replacing him with Bart worked and made sense. The problem wasn’t with the idea that was continuing the Flash legacy, but in placing the blame on the character when it didn’t work, instead of the creative team. Mark Waid should have had the job to rebirth the Flash, not fix it up.

  4. Dave

    Well I think the main Problem with making Bart FLash is they they just said “make Bart Flash” with out research who Bart was and what made him special


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