Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Internet Killed The Comic Book Story

It's doom and gloom week here at Second Printing, and while I would like to turn the tide and uplift our readers (and ourselves), instead I'm going to sally forth and add my two dollars and twenty-two cents worth of grousing to the pot(man, inflation is a real bitch).

I just came over from reading this week's Lying in the Gutters where the rumour is Dan DiDio is on a Darkseid-esque bender, vying for total control of the DC Universe. Final Crisis is looking to be further delayed and potentially out of Morrison's hands (and Morrison potentially washing his hands of DC), the DC Universe that is supposed to result at the end of FC is also on hold until the Crisis finale is finalized, and James Robinson's triumphant return to DC looks to be short-lived as well following a blow-out with DiDio. No word on what Morrison and Robinson's co-conspirator Geoff Johns is going to do, but all bets are the non-UK-import amongst them is going to keep his head down and keep cashing paycheques.

Now, this is all unsubstantiated, unconfirmed by any of the parties involved (today at least) but it's enough to annoy me. Given the time and money I've invested into things like Final Crisis (not to mention the "five-year plan" that started back with Identity Crisis), knowing that the creator's vision will be disrupted and therefore compromising the entire intent of the series, doesn't sit very well. These editorial interferences, Chuck Dixon's runs on Robin and Batman and the Outsiders another example from earlier this year, is frustrating as a fan.

It's a fact of the business that the creators aren't ultimately in control of their work. They're dealing with proprietary characters, and business concerns (which fall under editorial/DiDio's domain) are the overriding principle. DiDio's prime concerns seem to be, somewhat confusingly, the DCU continuity... where it's been and where it's going. Change isn't in the air under DiDio's reign, reminiscence and restoration seems to be more flavour of the day (erm, decade). Continuity is a story killer as much as it's a story enhancer. Final Crisis started by having to relate itself, however briefly, to Countdown and Death of the New Gods. It's legendary how poorly the three series intersected with one another (in that they really didn't), and now the finale of Final Crisis is supposed to lead the way to a brand new DCU... just not the way Morrison originally designed.

Now I don't know much about Countdown or DOTNG, but I have to wonder if they were failures because of editorial interference or for lack of (or were they just ill-conceived and capitalistic from the start?). In my opinion, editorial interference, like studio interference with movies, rarely leads to a better end product. I'd rather read a Final Crisis that was solely Morrison's vision and then the DCU ignore it altogether afterward (wouldn't be the first time) than have a watered down or compromised version of the story. Either way, you're getting a continuity that doesn't ultimately make sense and years later is still being explained At least in the former instance there's some artistic integrity involved. I'm starting to think that maybe Kirkman's right... but that's me.

Out of all of this, I see two big problems with mainstream comics readers (not comics, themselves) today. The first is we're too informed. We have unprecedented access to creators and publishers, editors and distributors, to the point where we know pretty much what's going to happen before it happens. With Previews giving us a 2 to 3 month look ahead, we're always on top of things. DiDio and Quesada and nearly every other publisher gets out there and shills to us, the regular reader, vying for our money by tantalizing us with big announcements and getting us excited by hypothetical situations. When the announcements or stories don't pan out as we've been told we're doubtlessly disappointed, until we get the apology and the new shill. "Yes, we fucked that up, but wait 'til you see what happens next..." That can only go on for so long before we're all exhausted by it.

We have daily access to information and interviews, we get teasers and teases from all around, but when nearly every comic is hyped to the point where it can't really live up to all the talk that surrounds it, where does that leave the reader? Back in the day, these decisions happened behind closed doors, and most of the readers would see the stories unfold, free of the behind-the-scenes drama and the non-stop pitches. Welcome to the internet age, the information age, where it's all-access all the time. Creators and publishers want people to read their books, so they're not going to stop schilling them, but if you find your level of enjoyment doesn't live up to your initial excitement (or hell, if you're failing to get excited about anything at all), perhaps you need to step away from the internet, from the great white noise hype machine, and go back to just discovering things at random off the stands or through recommendations. Read what you enjoy, not what's been sold to you. Is it possible? I don't know.

Point number two finds another, if lesser problem with today's mainstream comic readers... we're "have your cake and eat it too" kind of people. We want our mainstream comic creators to have their voice, but we also want them to have the unified voice of their shared universe, and I don't think the two work well together. So I guess we need to ask, are we willing to sacrifice one for the other. Which would you prefer, tighter continuity or more creator-driven stories?

I'll be back next week with bright lights, and things that make me cheerful about comic books and being a comic book fan. Like a "thanksgiving" themed post-kinda thing.


Devon Sanders said...


You did it again. You've summed up perfectly what's going wrong with my comics experience of late.

Advice taken.

KENT! said...

Well, my wife was lamenting yesterday the fact that Flash, Nightwing and Robin are all tankard as well, and it would seem that the books people enjoy are all falling to the wayside (and really, R.E.B.E.L.S... do we really need a new series of that?)

I have a theory that, like the original Crisis on Infinite Earths, Final Crisis is(or at least was) supposed to "reset" the DCU, in a different way mind you, with a lot of titles being cancelled and relaunched.

It would be exciting if it weren't so exhausting, and obviously the rug is being pulled out from under it somewhat.

I think after FC, my total DCU purchases will be Secret Six and... JMS' Brave and the Bold (I likes me some Archie Heroes) and anything that has the Milestone heroes in it (in other words things featuring *not* DC characters).

If anything, perhaps Final Crisis will make for a good "jumping off" point, a nice ending to a long, tumultuous run with the DCU.