Aaron R. Davis
Or hell, let’s talk about why I haven’t been talking about it at all, to anyone. The answer is three simple words: I don’t care.
For those of you who haven’t heard or don’t keep up on this sort of stuff but haven’t stopped reading this column already, DC Comics has decided it’s time to reboot their entire universe, starting over at ground zero. Or, really, ground zero with the usual slavish devotion to years and years of continuity thrown in. Yes, the characters are supposed to be starting over again, but they still can’t let go of all those Batgirls and Robins and almost every other character. But regardless, as of the end of this month, DC is launching or relaunching a wallet-busting 52 comic books at issue number one, providing long-time fans with the perfect jumping-off point.
I don’t know what’s been in the water at DC Comics since the mid-eighties, but this is really just the latest in a long line of reboots and do-overs and “events” that are supposed to streamline the apparently-confusing DC Universe for those readers so continuity-obsessed that nothing will ever be linear enough to enjoy. These things used to crop up every five years or so. Now new ones seem to happen before the old ones are even finished.
This is just the most drastic. Continuity is being undone. Marriages are done away with. Superman wears jeans for some reason. Rob Liefeld is employed again for reasons that defy human understanding of talent and marketability. And all over the place, women fans and women creators are being shoved out into the cold. Remember how in the past 15 years there was a lot of industry talk about how to make comics that would appeal to female readers? At DC, Editor-in-Chief Dan Didio would rather tell them to get the fuck out.
If you look at all of the covers and series info online, it looks like DC has consciously made the decision that all of their comics must appeal to 13 year-old boys, but specifically 13 year-old boys from 1992. This isn’t so much a bold new direction as an old, tired digression. DC remembers when Image Comics caused a collectible explosion and finally, 20 years to late, they want in on the action again. There’s a lot of talk about editorial decisions and making the characters more relatable and all of these ultimate solutions (except for better writers, no one seems to be making the case for that as an essential component — most of the writers behind this are guys in their forties, so it’s not like they’re hiring young guns to write for kids here), but really it’s just an extreme mercenary decision; an attempt to reinflate the long-depressed collector’s market for comic books. During a recession. Genius.
I stopped buying DC Comics years ago, during the Infinite Crisis garbage, when they went too far with the characters for me to ever enjoy them again. Whatever anyone involved says, it was obvious that someone made an editorial decision to systematically undo anything light and fun, specifically aimed at the Justice League that Keith Giffen and JM DeMatteis had written in the 1980s. Sue Dibney killed? Jean Loring a murderer? “Who cares?” DC said. “These characters don’t matter to anyone.” I actually heard that from someone at DC. But to people like me — and I had been a gigantic fan of the Giffen-era Justice League, which managed to be funny and endearing in a way comic books have been getting wrong for two decades — they mattered. They mattered a lot, and to see them turned into fodder for another ill-advised attempt at gritty storytelling was a slap in the face.
There was a lot of revisionism going on then at DC. Oh, see, those silly stories when a buffoonish villain would find out a hero’s secret identity? We had to brainwash him to get him to forget. See, kids, what you’ve really been reading for all these years was much darker than you ever suspected. Take that, idiots. Max Lord, the inept businessman behind the Justice League, was really trying to keep superheroes down. Oh, you thought those stories were fun? That’s because you’re stupid. Let’s shoot Blue Beetle in the head so that you learn that comic books are serious business.
Yes, the characters in tights and spandex jumping off of buildings and fighting robots are to be taken very seriously, indeed. Couldn’t you tell by all of the boxing glove arrows and bat-shaped boomerangs and green magic wishing rings?
Giving up DC Comics was one of the easiest decisions of my life. It wasn’t even really a decision. Those guys held the door open for me and said if you like fun and character, then get out of here now. Okay. And thanks for the new disposable income.
And the lack of fun at DC is basically what’s keeping me out of there now. Maybe I’m not like most fans, but when I look at the issues and don’t see the Justice Society, I get disappointed. Flash, Wildcat, Dr. Midnite, Hourman … where are they? Where is Plastic Man? Where is Captain Marvel?
I love these characters, and they seem to be missing entirely. And they aren’t lost in the shuffle, either. There was a conscious decision behind it. Plastic Man represents comedy and silliness; Captain Marvel represents wholesomeness and nostalgia. Those are four elements the editors at DC Comics apparently feel don’t work in comics anymore. They want their comics to be cool.
That’s what this is. The rise of the Cool Age of comic books. Actually, not even that. They’ve been trying to make it happen for the last five years or so. This is the official inauguration of it. It’s officially the Cool Age. When comic books will strive for nothing more than to be cool.
Congratulations on aiming low.
See you around, DC.
But probably not.
Aaron R. Davis lives in a cave at the bottom of the ocean with his eyes shut tight and his fingers in his ears. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org