Sunday, July 13, 2008

What Do You Think DC Comics Is Doing Wrong?

Whether you love DC Comics' current output and direction or not, even the most diehard DC fanboys have to admit DC has fallen on hard times lately when it comes to sales and market share.

All you need do is look at the most recent sales charts for May 2008 and you'll see Marvel with a commanding 47% market share compared to DC's 29%. This was also the month Final Crisis #1 came out and fell well short of Marvel's Secret Invasion #2 and FC #1 posted the lowest debut issue sales of any event in the past five or more years, which will only trickle down and spell lower sales for tie-ins and any series that launch out of the underperforming, in terms of talent attached and in relation to Marvel's offerings, event.

In fact, the highest market share DC has managed to attain this year was 33%. And this isn't a matter of putting out less books than Marvel as both companies put out a similar output, averaging about 90 titles each in the top 300 sales data. This is clearly a case of DC just not selling as many comic books as Marvel.

However, this isn't a discussion on how well Final Crisis is doing or comparing sales data between the companies. I merely wanted to set the stage for the discussion. What I want to ask you, the fans, is what do you think DC Comics is doing wrong?

DC clearly has a lot of talented creators, such as Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka and Gail Simone, so it's not a lack of talent, and many of their books have been simply fantastic, such as Green Lantern, Blue Beetle, Checkmate, Catwoman and Manhunter, but they still seem to be sagging in sales and general fan interest.

I thought it would be interesting to ask you, the readers, this question and see what everyone else thinks DC is doing wrong lately. Is it marketing? Brand loyalty (to Marvel in this case)? Lack of communication with fans (see My Cup O'Joe and the numerous Marvel interviews with news sites)? Feel free to chime in whatever you think and I'll collect the comments in a day or two and post the general concensus and my own personal feelings in a day or two's time.

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Anonymous said...

Most will probably blame DiDio, but I think the way they keep changing things allt he time is the biggest problem. I dont know what Supermans origin or powers are anymore. Is he a football jock? Nerd? Did he grow up with Lex? What kind of kryptonite is there? Gold, black, red, yellow, white? Is it all gone now after Superman/Batman rounded it all up? Was he Superboy as a kid? Does Superman have the soul seeing powers thing from Birthright? Birthright seemst ob e retconned already, but they arent using the Man of Steel origin either...

ANd like you said with Action Comics this week and how Kander is all of a sudden some big mystery to Superman and girl even though hes had the bottle forever.

Most of their characters are like this and the stories are all turning into pre-crisis stories and briging back all the old stuff instead of pushing forward with new stories.

And dont get me started on the legion stuff. Theres like 10 different versions of them.

The biggest thing to move me more toward Marvel has to be Countdown and Amazons Attack. I wasted so much money ont aht and just ended up dorpping a bunch of books related to it. I think Green Lantern and Manhunter, after everything youve said about it, are the only ones Im buying now.

Eric said...

One word: Marketing. Marvel and Quesada are good at getting the word out about their books and getting people excited for them. My Cup O' Joe is a great tool in that regard even if I can't stand it personally. The closest thing DC has in the DC Nation column which can only be found in DC books or the websites so its not reaching new readers. Marvel also does a fantastic(unintentional bad pun) marketing their creative talent. Those writer interviews in their books are a great idea to promote them. It gives people more information in order to buy more books they might have not tried before.

Example: I am not the biggest X-fan but I bought all of Messiah Complex simply because Marvel did a great job convincing me to buy it. Any DC book I have bought is based on other people's opinions and not DC's ability to sell me on the book. Now, you could make an argument for word of mouth but that has clearly not been working for DC recently. Their bad marketing and PR prevent that from happening on a large scale.

Quesada makes the same mistakes as Didio but people forgive me and Marvel for it simply because of better damage control and marketing.

Its the only area that I think that DC is deficient in when compared to Marvel. They are about equal when it comes to creative talent in my opinion.

Steven Timberman said...

As much as I love it, 52 wreaked havoc with damn near everything. While we all waited around for 52 to fall apart, it's now quite clear that everything BUT 52 completely self-destructed.

Not only did it tie up their four best writers so that their existing books were all delayed but any number of other projects never saw the light of day. Worse, 52 made people excited about the missing year and not the Post-OYL setup.

Countdown surely sucked, but all the problems DC is having now can easily be traced back to the first few months after Infinite Crisis.

It's astonishing how much talent DC has over Marvel. As much as Bendis' Ultimate Spider Man rocks, he's been coasting through most of his time at Marvel. Likewise, Brubaker's done a solid job with Cap and Daredevil but otherwise hasn't had a gigantic impact on Marvel's sales. That said, Millar and Bendis both understand that Big Dumb Fun sells.

And you know what? Sometimes I want a solidly constructed superhero yarn over genre bending experiments. My favorite book this year has been Gotham Underground because Dini and Morrison have been telling experimental but lacking tales for the last year.

Nogs said...

I think a big part about it has to do with the marketing, and more specifically, the budget that DC gets to spend and the bureaucracy.

DC is a sub-company of Warner Brothers, they have people to answer to other than just their own board. Marvel is it's own company and can control more aspects of the company more efficiently without having to necessarily jump through as many holes that DC might.

Basically, if you have a company you have a budget and you split that up between all the departments and some departments get priority. Well, think of DC as having to take an entire step more than Marvel. I think that can get in the way of DC being able to get talent, market their books correctly, etc.

This also might be a little bit minor, but DC really needs to do something with their website. It's pretty much shit, and doesn't do anything to promote what they are doing within the company. Instead they got o sites like newsarama or CBR - comic book exclusive sites that only a very small niche of the already small comic fan community read. If they could actually start doing more with their website to reach the more mainstream casual fan, they might get more people interested. Marvel's site - though the design is kind of shitty - is much better at promoting their products. They don't just do comics either, they promote animation, toys, movies, pretty much everything. I think if they really put some money into their website they would be able to control the amount of buzz they leak to the press, get in-house interviews/behind the scenes stuff that could hype upcoming events to the masses that places like CBR and Newsarama can't.

As far as the published books, I think DC has a lot of trouble organizing and executing cross-over events. Sinestro Corps War I think is the exception. Basically you want these events to stand on their own, and you want to tie-ins to stand on their own, but still compliment the main event book. It's a really tricky thing to do, and I think the past few events they've tried has flopped in that respect. That can get really frustrating.

Also, I don't know if you are counting these numbers, but Marvel is much much better at releasing TPBs of their books. DC seems to just do it randomly for whatever. I think they should start taking Marvel's lead and releasing more comprehensive trades. It's a great way to get new people involved, they look great, and have an awesome shelf life.

WhoZeDuke said...

My perspective is that of a new comic fan. I only started seriously collecting in May of 07. I read almost entirely Marvel books and there isn't a DC book that I collect.

The reasons for this are similar to what people have already mentioned. DC's marketing is terrible, and their writers, while good, and not exactly noob friendly. I picked up a few issues of Batman and Detective and didn't like any of them (except Batman #666, which actually felt like a Batman story should, to me, and didn't even have Bruce). Also, not having comprehensive trades makes this an even bigger problem if someone wants to catch up so they can at least understand these stories.

Marvel, has been far better at marketing, especially when it comes to tying their comics to their films. Invincible Iron Man is the best example, but there were also tons of accessible Spider-man stuff out after Spider-Man 3 hit. Also, the New Avengers/Transformers mini was an awesome marketing move and very enjoyable.

Sam said...

To introduce myself, I am a DC buyer. I may buy a Marvel book for posterity but DC is what I'm comfortable with.

* I agree Didio is shit. The thing is how are new readers supposed to enjoy and love characters when he's on a rampage killing them. He isn't listening to fan outcries. He thinks sales are in killing and returning characters. For godsakes I want Jason Todd DEAD! Thank god someone put Spoiler and Batgirl back to their status quo. See, fans will buy comics they remember and enjoy. Geoff Johns is one of the only saving graces of DC, he's using the best of the silver age, unlike Morrison whose using the worst.

*Artwork. As loyal as I am to buying DC, I peak inside the Marvel, and I see artwork WAY better and matches the story lines. I think Quesada is wise on that issue.

*Weekly comic books. Fans want quality not quantity.

*Continuity is MESSED UP. The reason why 52 was good and why Trinity is decent is because they didnt mess up continuity, they filled in gaps, not creating them. Countdown was awful because they spoiled so many major storylines. Morrison's Final Crisis was written 2 years before publishing it. SO continuity is a major problem. It's frustrating since you'd think all those crises woulda fixed it.

*non-comic book Writers. Damn people from Lost and Heroes think just because they can write tv, they can write comic books. Idiots like Meltzer and Green suck big time because they they go into directions that comic book fans dont like. And Didio thinks that their names can bring sales. Nope. Didn't they learn from Kevin Smith?

*Justice League. It's a great brand that should sell. But thanks to Meltzer we have a line-up that matches up to Justice League Detroit.

*Character evolution. Winick irreversibly ruined Batman's cred by making him a dick. The point was for him to change during infinite crisis. Too bad we had over a year of dickish Batman. Too bad we had a bitch Wonder Woman.

*NOT enough marketing. Series like Blue Beetle and Manhunter seem to be cash in titles. Too bad they're the best and freshest series that consistently outdoes some of the DC staple titles. Green Lantern: Sinestro Corps needed to be marketed more. That should've cleaned house from Marvel.

*Mandatory tie-ins and storylines. Paul Dini is a genius. He's used to done-in-one issues. who thought id be a good idea to give him 52 issues? Also, so many tie-ins have nothing to do or add to a storyline. What. The. Hell.

*All in all, I'm still a DC fan. But I will pick up issues that are quality. And I'll pick up anything Johns and Dini does. Hope Marvel doesn't entice me to switch sides.

Anonymous said...

I started reading comics in dec. 05...DC to be exact...What i think one of the big issues is? THE MOVIES! DC has had one superman movie and 2 batman..while marvel has had 3 spiderman, 2 hulks, one iron man, daredevil, elektra...what else am i missing..the point is is that there is more marvel in the mainstream..everyone knows batman and superman so basically DC has had no flagship movies to introduce people to their characters...I really have no idea what kind of impact that has on the comic industry but im sure it must have something to do with it..It surely isnt lack of storytelling...Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman all are top notch right now

Gservo said...

good question on the dc thing, i know their continuity is messed up this year with F.C .while marvels easier to follow in S.I.
When uber hard core DC fans are having issues following things, somethings wrong there

Bill said...

Event-wise... explain the premise of Civil War or Secret Invasion in a sentence. Easy, right? Fight over registration, or shapeshifting aliens replacing heroes. Try the same thing with Infinite Crisis or 52 or Countdown or Final Crisis.

Not only does having a hook make it easier to tell your friends about, it makes it easier to market. Joe Quesada's been on the Colbert Report pitching events to a wide audience, and "Captain America fights Iron Man" and "shapeshifting alien invasion" were solid pitches to anyone who might ever buy a comic book.

Imagine Didio trying the same thing. "Well Stephen, as you know, Superboy Prime and Kal-L... not Kal-El Superman but just the letter L, from Earth-Two... among others have been trapped in a pocket universe...." 99% of the audience's eyes just glazed over.

Plus the fact that DC's been in a constant state of event for like 3 years now, they don't seem very eventful anymore.

Beyond the event stuff, Marvel's movies have been more successful and they do a better job of putting out movie goer friendly books (ultimate stuff, invincible iron man). When the Dark Knight comes out, Batman will be in the middle of a story that seems to be confusing even to people who like it.

gruedragon said...

I think it's event fatigue. Ever since Identity Crisis, DC has been in constant line-wide event mode. Yeah, you could argue that Marvel has been the same, but most of Marvel's events have been narrower in focus. If you don't read Hulk, you can safely ignore Planet Hulk. If you don't read Spider-Man, you can ignore The Other and One More Day. If you don't read the X-books, you can ignore Messiah Complex.

But DC, from Identity Crisis to the Countdown to Infinite Crisis limited series to Infinite Crisis to 52 to Countdown to Final Crisis to Final Crisis, their events affect the entire line. DC has had very few narrow events: Sinestro Corps, Resurrection of Ra's Al Ghul, and Batman RIP.

Another factor is DC Editorial. Given that Morrison turned in his Final Crisis #1 script back in 2006, it is inexcusable that the series marketed as counting down to Final Crisis ignored that script. I am very surprised heads didn't roll over that.

mq1986 said...

Let me start by saying that there are a LOT of things DC is doing wrong, and I'll get to them in a minute, but to me, what is really working for Marvel is their visibility. Besides Superman and Batman, DC doesn't really have very many characters who are well-known and understood in general. The average person is more aware of half the X-Men than they are with the Justice League or Justice Society of America.

Part of this is because of the overall image of Marvel; they simply have "cooler" characters. Batman, even more than Superman, is universally known and admired because he has a lot of edge to him, and that's what comic-buyers are really drawn to these days. No matter how powerful Green Lantern's ring is, he will lose in a coolness vote with Spiderman. That's just the nature of people's tastes nowadays.

And Marvel has some of the most fanatical fans. We are all well aware that there are plenty of Marvel people who will buy an X-Man or Spiderman comic just because it has "X-Man" and "Spiderman" in the title. And the comics don't even have to be good; it's just the brand name, just like people who buy clothes because they have Levi's or whatever on the tag. And don't get me started on how biased towards Marvel a lot of comic-buyers are. On Comics Bulletin, they have a tradition of "Marvel True Believer Tuesdays" where they are basically reviewing and promoting Marvel comics ahead of time. DC doesn't get that kind of promotion, that's for sure.

And why don't they? Because they have some major problems with the way they produce comic books. I'd agree with people who have problems with DC continuity, which has always been their greatest strength and weakness. What they really need is to streamline their continuity so that a comic book that features a character is somewhat in line with another comic book featuring that same character. For example, it would have been helpful if readers got ONE interpretation of Orion's death instead of three ("Countdown," "Death of the New Gods," "Final Crisis"). As many X-Men comics as there are, what happens to one character in one of the titles follows that character in another title. DC has always been weak on this point. I feel that there is a lack of effective communication in the inner workings of DC.

And I admit that I'm not familiar with the comic book industry's system; I don't know how writers come to write the titles they do--whether they choose to or whether they are chosen to--but if DC could apply talent like Johns, Morrison, Simone, and Dini to as many of their comics as possible, that would help them considerably. And I would agree that in general, Marvel has better artists.

And the weekly format has to go. 52 was amazing, but then it was a collaborative effort among the best writers DC has to offer. I don't really see how one writer, no matter how good he or she is, could sustain a great comic week after week. Japanese manga writers are used to it, but then again, their comics are shorter by almost half the pages and they take breaks. Maybe taking some inspiration from that system could be a way to revitalize the weekly comic format.

I definitely think the movies has made huge impacts on readership. Marvel makes, by and large, better movies. Even "Batman Begins" didn't compare to "Iron Man." And that's pitiful, considering how Iron Man was largely unknown before the film came out. How many DC film projects were in the works and then canceled?

I honestly think what would really help refresh DC is to bring in a passel of really talented writers and have an extensive meeting between writers and editorial about where the DC Universe is going to go in the next few years. Assign consistent writers to each title, streamline the stories, and develop a fanatical fanbase as Marvel has done. But then again, I'm oversimplifying. Yet I can't help feeling that the system SHOULD be that simple.

Chris Cummings said...

I love Marvel and I've always liked DC's characters. The problem for me with DC has traditionally been, and continues to be, that most of their monthly books just aren't that good.

However, on the other side, many of their movie and TV spin-offs are great. Look at the Batman cartoon from the 1990s: Fantastic. Justice League and JLU? Loved them. Teen Titans? Different, but loved that show just the same. Static, too. That says to me, there's nothing wrong with their characters; it all comes down to how they're handled.

What's DC doing wrong? It's not marketing. I'd say it's not even continuity--for example, I know very little about the Legion, but I loved their recent stint in Action Comics.

The problem is that DC doesn't have enough writers who can tell solid, serialized stories that grab you and don't let you go.

Ethereal said...

I think it's everything you mentioned, and maybe more. Their marketing sucks, there's no mention of any of their work, outside of Batman and Superman, that is being noticed by a large market. There's alot to be said about Marvel working on stuff that isn't comics. I'm sure there are numbers that show how much Marvel has dominated since they started putting out movies, but they're not just doing it with their big characters (Does Marvel even have any; more on this later..), which DC is stuck at doing. Can you think of anything that isn't Superman of Batman that would be interesting from DC? Maybe Teen Titans.. but thats got Supes and Bat ties.. what else, Green Arrow and Black Canary, Batman and Superman are still tied in there, and alot of people will think Green Arrow is a mix of Robin and Batman. Look at comic book movies that aren't Marvel; Constantine, Hellboy, they put up fair movie results just because the story wasn't bad, as opposed to Superman's terrible movies.

I also think that the editing, particularly as of the last decade has been strictly terrible. I'm not sure who's to blame, be it the writers, editors, or what not, but when I heard about Superboy-Prime and the retconning, I couldn't help but laugh at how terrible it is. Their canon just isn't believable, where as stuff like Civil War is, even the Skrulls are somewhat believable when you think of how much has been said of "aliens invade".

Although not a problem for getting people into their books, they don't have enough solid books to keep people buying. Look at what they did with Dixon, and although I think both parties are to blame, the disagreement itself is pretty important to note. I'm particularly not fond of characters having multiple books, ex: Batman and Superman share half the release list each week it seems. This also happens in Marvel, but not as drastically, although it does happen with their large events.

As I said earlier, the fact that Marvel has no real big characters is something that adds to their sales. They have quality quantity, which is something that DC lacks. I've tried to figure out who could rival Batman/Supes in Class, and guys like Spider-Man (Which has been terrible for the last decade, except maybe for his brief stint in Civil War), Captain America (Which doesn't get nearly enough attention) and FF. But there's the whole Mutant thing with X-Men that people enjoy and is highly marketed(Almost seems like Marvel could have a X-only uni, and a non-X uni and everything word be easier to understand).

I think I may be rambling on, but I think that DC needs to look at what they're doing, cut some clutter (Multiple Bat-books, and none of which are really enjoyable in the long term) but not get rid of stuff like Booster Gold, or Blue Beetle which are cult classics. I also think they need to leave writers on books a little more often. Tomasi on Nightwing has been amazing, Morrison has been great on Batman, Johns has been great pretty much everywhere he's been, and has said that he has long-term plans for the books he's writing, which DC needs to take notice of. Alot of little things can make one good big thing.

blaker said...

i have to say that i agree with the event fatigue syndrome that gruegragon brought up. when identity crisis first brought me back to comics in 05, i thought it was a really great story about a bunch of characters that i'd always loved and now wanted to know more about. i know that there are a lot of people who outright hate that whole series. even i admit that it didn't hold up very well to a second reading... but it's still the sort of event that does what dc needs: gets new readers.

it was a fairly easy to follow story that didn't rely on too much knowledge of any of the characters back story to get involved, and you knew that it was a great jumping on point because you felt like that story was going to change everything about everything in the dc universe, so it was a great time to start reading. and then to further hook you, they gave you a great one shot comic for only fifty cents that really pumped up the idea that things were changing forever... and if you didn't read all for countdown to infinite crisis minis, sacrifice, and the JLA story arc where the entire JLA disbands (crisis of consience?), you were going to be so lost when the crisis got here.

and it worked. i was so excited during that six months that i just couldn't wait to get to the shop every wednesday to pick up my books. and then infinite crisis happened... and it was kind of silly, but it still changed the DCU so that the entire universe could move forward and at the same time give us a fairly simple way to retcon away all the things that didn't make sense in the DCU over the past twenty years. we were also set to find out what happened during the year forward leap, and we had the anticipation of finding out if dc could pull off a weekly comic book with no delays and a not too signifigant drop in quality. and we got a pretty damn good story out of the deal too. sure, there were some problems with the quality of the artwork, and sure there were some bad weeks... but that was bound to be an issue with a comic that was going to come out 52 times in one year.

but then something weird began to happen. everything became an event, and everything was going to change the dcu forever in ways that we could never ever understand. and this all kind of sort of started with countdown. this was supposed to be the event to end all events. the single body of work that would fuse together an entire universe for one year. and i started off very hyped for the series, even more so than i was about 52. it had more characters that i personally cared about in it than 52, and i was amped that it was counting down to something "big".

but then amazons attack happened. and i had to by that to understand what the hell was going on in countdown. and all we learned was that granny goodness is a bad bitch...

then the countdown tie-ins happened. and those had nothing to do with anything anywhere anytime. and i don't even know what i'm supposed to have learned from that.

then there were the two worst offenders, in my opinion. salvation run and death of the new gods. salvation run sounded like an awesome premise, but it turned into seven issues of cliched "super villians never get along so let's show them fighting amongst themselves while 'why can't we be friends' by war plays in the background. and then we found out that martian manhunter is still stuck on the flaming planet while the villains escape. then jonn j'onnz dies and no on tells us how he go back here to earth (i haven't had a chance to read requiem yet, and i don't read reviews until after i've read the issue itself to avoid spoilers, so if it gets explained somewhere there or somewhere else, forgive me for sounded ignorant.) and there's a similar problem in dotng. at the end of that series almost all of the gods are dead, but then you turn around a week later and darksied and orion are beating the crap out of each other in the pages of countdown. the sloppy editing just became too much too bear.

and lastly, people at dc come on the inernet and let all of us know that these editorial errors could have been avoided, but weren't. which gives the implication that dc only really cares about selling books, not telling great stories. which is ironic because this logic seems to be driving away more readers than attracting them.

and while all this is going on the powers at dc continue to play the violin while the titanic is sinking... and telling us that this is the best the companies ever been. and i understand that a lot of that is spin, but still... changes need to be made.

marvel just seems to be doing a better job of late of creating a cohesive universe (virtually everone in the MU has been effected by the registration act and the secret invasion, but only the books that want to focus on that particular story line have to do so.) meanwhile, dc is seems to be tryng to make all their books conform to their current major event, and you can tell in most cases due to the lack of heart in the stories.

lastly, dcu keeps changing their mind about events. at first, final crisis was supposed to be an almost entirely segregated event. legion of 3 worls, and i think rouges revenge were originally supposed to be the only tie ins, but now there are 5 some odd tie ins. changes like this continue to send out the message that dc only cares about the money, and could give a damn about telling me a great story that really will change the shape of the dcu. now i just feel like this will change the status quo untill the next __________ quandry (since DD has told us that there will never be another crisis while he's at the helm, i opted for a stand in word for crisis). so i just don't care to pick up minis for the most part, because i know they'll have no lasting effect on the character... and that's all i really want from my comics: a good story that will somehow change the character in some way by the time the arc is over... but i don't get that very often anymore... and it makes me a little sad.

wow... that was really long and very bitter sounding

Neil said...

I think DC's biggest problem is that they are not Marvel. I've been a DC fan as long as I've been a comics fan and though at times I've picked up Marvel titles, I've never stuck with them as I have DC's titles.

Scipio at the Absorbascon has several posts about the differences between Marvel and DC and I agree with each one of them. Any day of the week, Make Mine DC.

Yet, I've had to constantly deal with my company coming in behind Marvel in sales for almost the entire time I've collected comics, going on 17 years now.

DC has never been as aggressive as Marvel in promoting their projects. In addition, DC fans never seemed as rabid as Marvel fans.

As I look at other comments, I notice some I agree with (and some I don't, c'est la vie), but most of them are critiques that can and have been lobbed at Marvel and one time or another, yet they still beat DC on a regular basis.

The problems people have with Didio are similar to what I heard about Jemas earlier this decade. And yet, Marvel survived and thrived. Hell, Marvel even faced bankruptcy and rebounded.

Characters too confusing for entry level readers? I've heard the same thing about the X-Men and Spider-Man.

I can't say why, but it seems in every case, Marvel always comes out ahead.

Chris said...

I got into comics about 2 years ago because I enjoyed the Marvel cartoons in the nineties and got into X-men through the Essentials line. I now buy about 15 Marvel books. I was a Batman fan back then, but now I just read Frank Miller Batman because it is the only thing at DC that seems accessible to me. I just do not know where to begin to get into the DC Universe. I thought maybe Final Crisis, but I read a synopsis and had no idea what was going on. Marvel wins because of pure accessibility. If you wanted to get into Secret Invasion you could easily find out the circumstances behind it because Marvel promoted it so well. A new reader would just have a recollection of the characters from the movies and they could go from there. DC did not do that with FC and therefore lost some new readership that it would have gained from proper promotion. It seems to me that you would have to devote yourself to total universe continuity just to read the big sales draw of the company. I like Batman. I buy ASB&RTBW and have bought DKR, Year One, and All Star Superman trades because these were the titles that were the most accessible to me as a new reader. DC's sales problem is that they do not gain the new comics reader/ the reader that reads all Marvel because of bad promotion, not lack talent. My situation is probably one of the reasons why DC's sales do not come close to Marvels.

Anonymous said...

What is DC doing wrong?

Well, for starters, they seem to be too heavily into the past. See comics like Batman R.I.P as proof for that. They just seem to obsessed with the past to progress it’s current story lines into the future. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with paying tribute to the past, or playing on past story lines, they just seem to rely too heavily on what once worked and in doing so, ruins a lot of what could be good nowadays.
About a little over a year ago I was a real big time DC hater, always bashing them if the situation permitted. However, over the last year or so, I have tried their books more and more. As a newer person to DC, other than Batman of course, I can honestly say that after a year of trying to get into some of the bigger, or “better” books, I am sticking to Indy and Marvel comics.
Another, more minor problem, is the artwork throughout most of DC. Rarely do many people stand out in the crowd of their artists. Most of the artists all keep a very consistent look with the others. While there is nothing wrong with consistency, when looking over to how much diversity is in Marvel’s art, it’s hard not to feel rather disappointed with what DC is doing. While a few artists here or there may stand out nicely, such as that guy who did Blue Beetle for a while, Alber-whats his name, I liked his art a lot.
The third, and for me, biggest problem with DC is that…when their not trying to recapture what made them so beloved, when they do try and go into deeper territory, it’s often over the top and just plain stupid. As I put it on in a post long ago “It’s like their beating us over the head with a bat that forces us into this over sexed and gored world of superheroes”. Now, I don’t mind sex and violence in my comics, any self respecting adult wouldn’t, but DC just overdoes it to a distasteful and frustrating level at times.
It is hard not to get annoyed at how much they overdo it with the fanservice nowadays. Marvel is guilty of this as well, but nowhere near as much as DC. Seems hard nowadays not to find a half naked woman barely covered up in a DC comic. It’s odd, to say that least. Again, let me state that I find nothing wrong with sex in comics, but DC just really overdoes it.
All these 3 factors have really bogged down and ruined DC for me as someone trying to at least get into some books. Honestly, aside from All-Star Batman and Robin, I can’t really enjoy any of their books. I tried Manhunter, didn’t care much for it, and have yet to get into Blue Beetle. So maybe I’m just not looking hard enough. But isn’t that a problem in it’s own? Why should I have to look hard in DC for something good. Why is it that I can pick up a myriad of Marvel comics and have a good chance of enjoying most of them, but with DC, I may barely like one or two?
I have a few other reasons, but I’d rather not drag on too much about them. One of course is the mutli-verses, which are just hideous to me. I can’t stand them. I absolutely hate the multi-verses. Marvel, though odd about their alternate universes, is nowhere near as god awful as DC is with theirs.
In the end, aside from a few diamonds in this rough coal mine, DC is a dark blot on
comics to me and after a year of trying to like them. I officially feel justified in my bashing of them.


Anonymous said...

I love DC's characters. But part of there problem to me is DC relays on wayt too many Silver age story ideas. I didnt read comics during the Silver age.For example, I really like Batman and I am a big Grant Morrison fan. But I dont know what the hell is going on and all the Silver Age refernces are lost on me, because I NEVER read them. So I dropped Batman. Super man is very similar. Like the character, Have enjoyed Johns past work, but Im lost on the Silver Age story ties-so I dropped Action Comics.
Lastly, there big event has been going on for two to three years Crisis this Crisis that. Creating more universes- which I dont care about because I didnt read the first Crisis. It has become apparent that Marvel hits Homeruns with there Summer events since the Mutant Massacre and DCs summer events are hit and miss. Its my believe that DC with it rich charcaters should stay out of Company wide events and focuse on there charatcers!

Rawnzilla said...

It all boils down the this;

recap pages. DC does not have any at the start of their issues.

Chris said...

1. They're obsessed with continuity. We've had three, and counting, major company wide arcs designed to streamline the continuity of their entire universe so its more easily understood by readers. And it between these major crossovers we get a whole slew of individual retcons and mini continuity based crossovers (Zero Hour).

Geoff Johns is a great writer, but it seems like some days all he does is patch over holes in the DCU's convoluted continuity just to shut some fans up.

I'm a huge DC buff and even I'm not sure which version of continuity some characters are currently operating under. DC needs to focus less on navel gazing and making sure every aspect of their universe runs harmoniously with all its disparate parts and allow individual characters to develop within their titles.

2. Organizational Ineptitude. DC's left hand can't seem to figure out what its right hand is doing. Countdown was a dog's breakfast. If Morrison is writing their final 'Crisis' style event shouldn't all the books surrounding this event take their cues from him? From what I can tell, Orion died three different ways (Death of the New Gods, Countdown, Final Crisis). This is absolutely unacceptable. It feels like the organizational nature of DC is shot to hell. There are individual fiefdoms at play and people are either afraid or unwilling to let other creators know exactly what is going on in their books.

3. Art. I hate to admit that Marvel has better art.

4. Writing. DC holds their own in this front. But Johns can only write so many books. Why they hell isn't DC aggressively going after Marvels better writers? With WB behind them I'd think they have the money.

5. Cross promotion. Marvel comic movies this summer? 2. DC Comics movies. 1. Not only that, but Marvel is actively developing new film franchises and tieing them into exsisting ones. What's the last DC movie you heard of that was in development?

Zeromus said...

I could probably write a book about this, but simply put, I think DC's lack of a cohesive universe is really what puts it at a great disadvantage as compared to Marvel. Marvel is *tons* more accessible, but it obviously doesn't have much to do with their books being easier to read or anything. Rather, most of their main products are dealing obviously with the post-Civil War world and the Initiative, and readers can pick up a book like Ms. Marvel and say, "oh, okay, I know this world, I know what the Initiative is, I know that Secret Invasion is going on, we're good to go!"

DC, on the other hand, seems to bank on the fact that they have remarkable characters and locales, which leads to them pushing out books in an attempt to showcase them that the average comic book fan is not going to know what to do with. Why is now the time for Huntress: Year One? Who the hell is Ambush Bug? Why did we need Salvation Run or Amazons Attack? Or another Rann-Thanagar war? What is the deal with Reign in Hell? Why is none of this related to Final Crisis? I'm not even saying anything about the quality of these books here; it's confusing no matter how you slice it.

I love DC Comics, and I always will. But I'm not surprised that Marvel is doing so much better, because, well, they *are* better right now. DC is a mess, and I wish they would stop pumping so many mini-series (God, all that Countdown nonsense still gives me a headache) in favor of actually doing something significant with the most amazing characters and universe in the business.

HipHopHead said...

DC has/is making the mistake of trying to take 80 years of comic history and have it ALL be relevant. Having a comic universe in which all the elements relate. This is impossible for DC, unless you have the few writers who are capable write every book they publish.

The Multiverse was created to allow a writer to explore a character in relevant timeline. DC took every timeline and tried to make it one. DC has a rich history of characters, but this has not equated to some great stories as of late. So they "kill" of a prominent member, which has not been prominent in over 40 years (maybe more). Who cares?

Marvel took an icon in Spider-Man and decided to go in a new direction, despite his current events. They decided to write good Spider-Man stories (what a concept!). This has been done with Captain America, Daredevil, Iron Fist etc. This may all tie-in to other merchandising (movies, tv programs) but to a large extent it has worked.

Anonymous said...

It's all about the story. Particularly, you need one - and a compelling story would be even better. Seems simple enough but take a look at the last year and you will realize DC has completely forgotten this little nugget.

Countdown - the first thirty some issues served absolutely no point other than to draw attention to other events - the death of Bart Allen, Amazon's Attack, etc. And then when they realized that wasn't enough to justify spending twelve bucks a month - the few things that happened were immediately retconned - the destruction of Brother Eye or Earth 51, for example. (As an aside - I think Countdown will also eventually kill the DC weekly. The leeway that Trinity is being given has been dramatically lessened by the unsatisfying read that was Countdown. I, and perhaps others, find it impossible to judge Trinity on its own merits (completely unfair) because of the feeling that I was taken advantage of with Countdown). Whereas I thought Countdown would eventually be saved (it wasn't)and remembered that 52 started slow, I have dropped Trinity after issue 4.)

Justice League basically became an ad for other books for four or five issues (Salvation Run and the Tangent Crossover) - with thin stories just designed to let you know of an event in another book. It's a shame because I think McDuffie actually is doing alright when left alone and able to tell a story.

And if your going to have an "event" - maybe there should be a point. What was the point behind Amazons Attack? This book was almost as bad as Countdown. The only thing that was cool in this book was (SPOILER) the Granny Goodness reveal as Athena- but that ended up going aboslutely no where. Indeed, Final Crisis has gone in a completely other direction with Granny - so there looks like there was absolutely no point behind this. Salvation Run was also awful.

Anonymous said...

I greatly enjoy reading a great deal of the DC comic titles and consider myself a loyal fan but alot of the decisions the company makes still boggle my mind. The result is a continuity nightmare that seems to get more confusing with each "Crisis". Here is my list of things DC comics could do the "fix" the damage:

1. No more weekly series. 52 served its purpose and was great but a weekly series should be warrented. Countdown was pointless but maybe Trinity will be better. I will still read each issue.

2. Make death matter. They just killed off the Martian Manhunter and the Final Crisis Requiem book was exceptional but I just know they are fixing to bring him back and totally negate everything they made you feel in the first place. And also if you do bring back a character that you probably never should've killed in the first place make it matter!

3. Simplify everything and build from there. I loved the concept of One Year Later but hated the directions most of the DC books took. Further more 3 months later none of it seemed to matter anyway.

4. Take a cue from good books like JSA, Birds of Prey,Green Lantern, Green Lantern Corps, Batman and the Outsiders, Manhunter, ect...These books have great visuals and great writting. More of this DC!

5. Fix the Legion of Superheroes! This book could be money for the company! Its like sci-fi superheroes meets Melrose Place or Beverly Hills 90210. Young, sexy powerful characters running loose across the universe in the future with historical DC overtones. What is the deal DC!?!

Yeah that's pretty much what I think.

Escapist said...

The crucial difference between Marvel and DC has always been the following, while the Marvel Universe has been introducing dynamic and likable "man on the street," type heroes and letting them "progress" and react dynamically to the scenarios presented. There are a few exceptions to this rule: Reed Richards is one, so is Iron-Man and maybe Hank Pym. As a result Marvel will typically have the conflicted heroes (heroes by the way who don't have the power to destroy cities with a sneeze.)

DC on the other hand is about the Legacy. Of course, it's really hard to care about the legacy when the history changes every other issue.

Any attempts to break this trend are largely hit or miss. DC's "Simon Dark" Hit. Marvel's "Sentry" miss.

Anonymous said...

Grant Morrison shouldn't be writing batman. That's a big mistake DC is making:

Hikerman said...

I think that DC is taking some steps in the right direction. Sinesto Corps War is a good example. The number of tie-ins was cut, and thus you still got the full scope of the events even if you didn't read the tie-in or even either one of the main books for that matter. But this thing that they are doing with Batman RIP for example should not be what they are doing. Just let Morrison tell his own story.

I agree with the idea that the hosts of the comics podcast Johnny Gigawatt and the Tigermen from Mars have stated several times. Let DC use the Wildstorm universe as a breeding ground for new talent (another thing DC desperately needs). Bring in new up coming writers, give them a book in the Wildstorm Universe, and let them run wild with it. If what they are doing is good stuff, then bring the writer and or artist into the main DCU.

That is my thoughts. If it was up to me though, I would clone Geoff Johns and just let him write the entire DCU, imo.

mq1986 said...

@hikerman: Yeah, we would all love it if Johns could write everything for DC, but sadly the laws of physics indicate that this would probably be impossible.

Brother129 said...

I'll distill my opinion on this topic is three points:

1. While DC actually has more years of history on their side, Marvel has more significant history with creating lasting character whom teenage boys could ALWAYS relate to. I think this has endured...particularly with fans who are well into their adult years.

2. While both DC and Marvel have continuity problems, creating multiverse make this issue ten times more murky. At least one can attempt to make since of Marvel history because the retconning has generally been executed better.

3. I think DiDio and Quesada are both equally passionate, but I agree Joe is 100 times better at marketing "must read" storylines, promoting creative talent, and thriving off controversy. Love it or hate it, it takes a serious pair to unmask Spidey and unmarry him. How many Superman fans would agree that a married Superman actually lessens the romantic/dramatic tension?

Pj Perez said...

Hey Kirk -- if you're interested in reading my opinion (and you may have already), you inspired a rant on the topic here:

No sense leaving all that in a comment! :)

Gaf said...

The biggest problem DC has is that its owned by Warner Brothers. They have absolutely no idea what to do with this property— EXCEPT in the animated adventures- for some reason, these are always good.

They have no idea how to leverage their brands or their fan base online. Clearly, comics fans are online. They have tremendous opportunity to gain insight, feedback, even solicit ideas on their characters and stories, and yet they have no web presence. Their site is an abonimation- its just a calendar of products with a message board.

They have a huge opportunity to use blogs, social networking to help build brand advocates and use them to increase the fan base. But they're so concerned with rights management and old school bottom line sales, that they can't take advantage of the latest in tech to reach and motivate their reader base.

If I were them, I would blow up their site, and create a new one with web exclusive content, open forums with conversations between creator and fans, toolkits to drive fans to create their own blogs/sites, like this one, etc, etc.

I mean, for chrissakes, do something simple, like an SMS alert when your favorite titles next issue comes out!

I'd say Marvel does a 3 out of 5 job on this. Their site is better, their content is better, and they almost give the fans some power to help them grow. But not enough.

Partner with the readers and they will reward you, because they will feel like they are a part of the brand as well. They own it and have a stake in it. They do some of this, they could turn it all around.

Skafactor said...

i apologize this is a long rant during a break at work.

Marvel really pushes a book when they relaunch or have a major story arc coming up. Moon Knight's relaunch was amazing, so was Iron Fist. Planet Hulk was built up and even while it was going on the news about War World Hulk was heavily pushed online, making me go back and buy all the planet hulk issues.

Marvel events are not confusing. Civil War simple story, amazing art (marvel owns dc when it comes to that, who does dc have beside the green lantern artists, and Scott kollins).

I really promote comics. I have about 7-8 friends who refuse to buy but borrow my trades every week. They loved Civil War; thought house of m was kind of interesting. Love the ultimate line. (Thought all star batman was stupid but AS Superman one of the best books I own.) Identity Crisis went over very well, self contained easy concepts. Infinite Crisis they hated. 52 was a mixed bag, a few liked it but most said they it wasn't accessible. Geoff Johns books go over well. But in the end it’s Marvel who wins because it’s less confusing.

I can pick up any marvel book and sort of pick up where it’s going. The Story arc is what’s being pushed, not history or some continuity agenda.

Dc comics I get are All star superman, Green lantern, JSA (again story arcs really matter), and event books, because I hope that it will be more or less self contained.

DC story arcs don't matter or they aren't creative compared to Marvel.
(Save for sinestro corps war)

Daredevil: outed, kingpin, jailed

Captain America: winter soldier, dead, is he coming back?

Avengers: disassembled, new and very different, civil war, skrulls

and for the most part it all ties in well.

52 felt it had a point, I enjoyed it, and I was stoked about 1 year later. I read superman and it was okay. Teen titans read well. Everything else didn't matter.

DC set me off with the too many stupid mini series and countdown crap.

Marvel: Things keep changing in significant ways. I want to know what happens next.

DC comics all feel the same. Nightwing, robin, whatever batbook save for Morrison (I’m waiting till it’s all done to decide if its genius or stupid).

Marvel feels streamlined.

DC TPBs come out way faster. I had to wait freaking forever to get sinestro corps and I had to get it in HC. It ended in November I got the last volume this month from Amazon. Civil war was out in tpbs lightning fast.

What DC does right...

Year ones.... usually high quality and accessible.
Superman/batman (not that its good but it makes sense)
High Art: New Frontier
Absolute editions.

DC needs to get out there and market their books. I know what’s going on in almost every marvel book, why because some marvel editor, writer, inker is getting interviewed. Marvel makes every issue feel like the whole freaking universe hang on this next story arcs. Even for the books that suck UFF, UXM they still make an effort to drive up sales.

Relaunches like Legion should be lauded every month.

DC writers (save for a few) don't know how to accessible and exciting stories for newbies.

I knew nothing about Hercules before WW hulk now I love him. Moon knight was that batman knockoff but finch's promo art made me go get it and a unique voice made me stay.

X-force looked absolutely stupid then promo pictures of a bad ass archangel made me run and buy up all the issues.

DC I want them to succeed. I want to be like a kid again when knighfall happened. When Green lantern went nuts. I want to look at JLA with awe like I did when Morrison and waid wrote it, when every story arc felt weighty.

but then I look at super boy-prime, salvation run, The Resurrection of Ra's al Ghul," writer change ups with the outsiders and I say screw em, get your freaking act together and then I’ll buy your books.

Bill said...

Heh, I'm wondering if asking what DC is doing right would generate this kind of feedback?

Kirk Warren said...

@bill - That's an interesting point. I'll be sure to bring that up when I post the follow up to this later this week.

I hadn't even considered the lopsidedness of my question when I posted this, but DC is doing somethings right and the negative tone of the question underscores the fact I meant this as a means of trying to figure out why DC's sales are sagging when they are producing so many high quality books.

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