Saturday, June 18, 2011

DC Reboot: A Second Printing Interview With Second Printing (by Second Printing)

I'm not blowing smoke when I say that Devon Sanders is one of the most astute observers of comics culture (from the printed material to the back rooms of comics shoppes) that I know. I'm sure you, if you're following this sporadically updated blog, think much the same. So, like me, you've probably been wondering what our Mr. Sanders has to say about the DC Reboot. I can't speak for you, but his opinion is the one I've been most looking forward to hearing and I just couldn't wait anymore. So, rather than wait I went to the man himself and asked him, interview style.

GRAIG: You've said in discussion in the recent past that you're not really all that enthused by the mainstream anymore. What does get you excited about comics these days?

DEVON: A lot gets me excited about comics, nowadays. Comics are just this wonderful thing where imagination is your only limit. I love it when creators take something you think you're incredibly intimate with and make it seem new. My current new favorite comic is Batman, Incorporated. Writer Grant Morrison just keeps proving that there's so much more to say and new ways to say within the superhero genre.

What I love about comics these days is just that so many of them are just so damn thoughtful. You look at something like 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente and you don't have to be a baseball fan or black in order to get this. It's a story about a man. You could do this story anywhere; print journalism, documentary film but writer/artist Wilfred Santiago just knew the best way to tell this story was comics. That's a powerful statement. i mean, that's some Ken Burns-type shit right there, man.

Comics, as a medium allows for these types of powerful statements. The Kickstarter program is a great example of creators, fans and patrons taking comics' destiny into their own hands. It's inspiring, really.

I like that folks aren't looking to superheroes or The Big Two to make their way in the world as much.

What are you reading regularly from the Big Two these days, and of those, what are you actually enjoying?

Batman, Inc. is pretty much it. Sad to see it go. Really looking forward to J.H. Williams' Batwoman series, too. My monthly title isn't done by The Big Two. It's Oni's The Sixth Gun. It's just this genre-bending title that you can give to a horror fan and they'll just get it. Any fan of Westerns will get it.

I like comics that aren't necessarily dependent on intimate knowledge of continuity. The older I get, the less sentimental I am about continuity. Don't get me wrong, I still love the fact that someone wants to reward my capacity for ancillary knowledge but man, I don't need catering to like that anymore. Surprise me.

You had a wry post on your Twitter feed about the relaunch ("Oh, man! These new DC Reboot solicits look horrid. It's like they're trying to do "Hunger Games" with their sales.") but overall have been pretty quiet about it. As a comics fan, how do you feel about DC relaunching all of their titles and tweaking their characters/continuity?

Man, you should have seen my initial response. It was all "NERD OUTRAGE!!!!!" Having seen the entire 50-plus solicits, it's honestly turned more into, "I-wish-you-the-best," type of thing. It just looks sort of desperate. Like, "This is it." Like, it's DC Comics' "Hail Mary" pass or something. "Everything you know is CHANGED!" It won't, really. There'll be even MORE Batman comics out than ever before after this but the difference is that for one month, they'll all be Number Ones. Most likely for reasons of intellectual property. Let's be honest. Superheroes are nothing but IP mines right now. Publishing comics is no longer a priority. It's about creating and preserving properties to bring to the greater public. We, the comics readers, aren't the legion we were even five years ago. We're in the tens-of-thousands now and constantly being catered to and quite frankly, to the point where DC is probably sick of us.

What I don't like is DC has stringing along its longtime print readers to believe that with each issue, each crossover, they were making an investment in and a journey with their characters, only for them to say, "Fuck. We're done. We don't care if you cared about the creators, the characters. We need to make a sound folks who care about Superman's citizenship status can hear."

DC's money is in getting kids into Batman pajamas and getting their parents to buy Superman fruit snacks. The movies they make are commercials for that, not your comics. Anyone who ever believed that movies generated comics income never worked in a comics shop.

...So from a retail perspective...

I don't feel great about it but I have to say, I admire the effort. Anything that could potentially bring in new and more importantly, long term readers to our hobby is more than welcome. The execution is just so fucking wrongheaded, though. 52 releases in one month's time in an already struggling economy? I just can't see it working, even under the best economic conditions.

I think we'll see an initial sales bump, of course, but I seriously expect half of the announced titles won't be around this time next year. I believe DC is in a "Heroes Reborn" scenario where they may have to put things back within a years time.

As far as "day and date" goes? Good. Great. Love it. Had to happen. Glad someone big finally had the balls to do it. If you run a great comics shop, you should welcome the opportunity to work harder against anything that could take money from your hands.

Personally, I'm going to use this as an opportunity that should anyone new walks into the store having read any of this digitally to introduce them to comics in its truest form. Comics are meant to be this tactile thing. At the end of the day, we don't know yet if anyone can't wait to go home and sit with a stack of nothing to put on your bookshelf.

Without getting into specifics about each title or grouping of titles, are there any things, generally, that stand out as a terrific and/or terrible ideas about all this?

We've been conditioned to certain things from DC:

Hellblazer is a Vertigo character and a dick. And now, this chain-smoking piece of shit's Justice League? Come on! I can't buy that. Literally, I cannot buy that. It just flies in the face of everything I know.

Grant Morrison's Action Comics title is the one true gem amongst the others. I expect some magic here.

It seems that 90% of the established characters have had a costume overhaul for the reboot. In general, did they go too far? Not far enough? Or did they just approach the visual redesign from the wrong angle?

A lot of it looks like, "Hey' let's see if this works." I like that DC's trying new things but does anyone truly expect Mr. Terrific to pull in Batman numbers? Nope. What we're seeing from DC is an admission that only certain thing work well over there. The core Batman and Green Lantern titles went virtually untouched simply because they sold well previously. They weren't broken, sales-wise, so why fix them. And Justice League featuring these bestselling characters got their top-tier writer and artist. That's what should be happening there but hadn't for too long actually.

As far as design goes, this is superhero comics. It all should look a bit gaudy and interesting. DC seems to get that. In spades. With the collars. Everyone gets a Jim Lee pearl necklace!

I'm assuming you've seen the list of the titles debuting. Anything missing that surprises you DC didn't include in the reboot? In general what do you think about the range of titles offered?

I was surprised but not shocked at the lack of a Justice Society title. DC seems to be headed towards a youth movement at the moment. I was truly surprised that DC seems to be moving towards a "unified" Earth where the Milestone, Vertigo and Wildstorm characters can interact easily.

What about creative teams overall? There's a lot of recognizable names from the early-mid 90's Marvel, and early-era Image. Do you think DC is playing it too safe/generic and/or too set in the past?

And the creative teams, overall, are underwhelming. It seems like DC's banking on nostalgia and ignorance. If I discovered Rob Liefeld on Hawk and Dove as a sixteen year old, what makes you think that in my thirties I'd be nostalgic for his lack of artistic progression?

And while, I applaud a new Blue Beetle title, it's being written by someone who's work I tend to avoid because his name has sort of become synonymous with DC being ready to cancel a title. They've conditioned us to know this and are banking on new readers' not knowing or caring who the creators are.

There are some books I'm curious about because I like the writer or creative team, and others I'm cocking an eye at because I like the character. Are you more or less likely to read a DC book that contains a favourite character of yours (say The Savage Hawkman) now that they're being rebooted and how much does the creative team impact your decision?

Not even interested in the new Savage Hawkman series. It just doesn't look like Hawkman to me. DC's sort of had a hard time figuring out what they would like for him to be, of late. Having him go "savage" just doesn't feel right for some reason. Feels too "Marvel." Plus, Tony Daniel as writer just isn't doing it for me. I tried reading his Batman and it just didn't do it for me.

Besides the usual top-tier mainstays like the Batman, Superman, Green Lantern and Justice League books, do you think any of these titles -- from such a superficial perspective as a a quick blurb, creative roster and cover image (quite literally judging a book by its cover) -- has breakout potential?

Of all the titles out there, I am sort of looking forward to a Stormwatch featuring The Martian Manhunter and The Authority's Hawksmoor, Apollo and The Midnighter. It seems to be taking the most advantage of this new shared universe. The part of me that still loves universal crossovers will kind of enjoy this.

As a rough estimate, how many of these titles do you think will last past the first year?

I, truthfully, don't expect this to be around for that long. I think superhero comics are moving into "houses," where if you're not in a Superman "house" or The Justice League "house," there's really less and less of a place for you. That said, as long as the rocket crashes down in Kansas and the little boy's parents are gunned down in Gotham, comics, as we know them, don't really change all that much.

Thanks Devon.
Coming Soon, Second Printing tackles (with earnestness and acerbity alike) the 52 new releases coming in September.


Anthony Strand said...

I enjoyed this thoroughly. Not much to add, but I wanted to let you guys know.

Devon Sanders said...

Appreciate it, Anthony.

Jeff said...

I cannot think of a better commemoration for Roberto Clemente than Santiago's graphic novel. It's beautifully drawn and written. The final two-page spread is heart-breaking and incredibly well-done.