Tuesday, July 22, 2008

What I Think DC Is Doing Wrong

I think it's quite appropriate that DC's sales figures for the month of June just rolled in prior to my writing this post. How bad were they? Well, let's just say that Final Crisis #2 didn't even finish second this month and those wondering if Trinity's launch would help pick up the sales slack are in for a rude awakening with it's first month numbers.

Suffice to say, DC's having some problems selling their books. While some have pointed out that DC's been trailing Marvel for the past 20 years, they've never been trailing by this much, for so long, before and with the amount of talent and the quality of many of their titles, there's no reason for it.

As such, I posted the question, What Do You Think DC Is Doing Wrong?, to readers last week in hopes of sparking some open discussion and to see what other people think DC's major problems are. The sheer number of responses was overwhelming and I want to thank everyone again for the time and effort they put into their comments.

Today's follow up post is a summary of my thoughts on the subject and I've tried to incorporate some choice quotes from many of the commenters' on the original post using a new pull quote system I whipped up that I'm quite proud of and hope to use more of in the future.

Hit the jump to find out what I think DC is doing wrong.



PUBLIC RELATIONS

Of all the things DC Comics is currently doing wrong, I believe public relations, or lack thereof, has to be at the top of the list.

Dan DiDio is supposed to be the face and voice of DC Comics. As it stands, he is merely, from the fans' perspective, the personification of everything that is wrong with the company, regardless of whether he is actually responsible for it or not.

This all stems from the company's lack of public relations. Look at the recent, and very public, string of PR blunders from the company for proof of this claim, specifically Chuck Dixon's departure and subsequent DiDio bashing followed up by Grant Morrison throwing the editor's under the bus in response to Final Crisis criticisms.

Quesada makes the same mistakes as Didio but people forgive him and Marvel for it simply because of better damage control and marketing.
- Eric  
In regards to Grant Morrison, I can't believe DC allowed their top creator, the man responsible for writing their biggest event in years, Final Crisis, to go online, lambast DC's editors and management and then proceed to place all the blame for any problems fans or critics had with Final Crisis, real or imagined, at the feet of DiDio and DC's editors.

Even if everything Morrison said was true, he is a professional employed by DC and being paid to write their comics. To allow him to publically berate and blame them for any problems people are having with his story without any reprecussions or public statements or any damage control whatsoever is ridiculous.

By saying nothing in these types of situations, all DC accomplished was making themselves look foolish and incompetent and allowed the entire company to be painted with the negative criticism that they don't care what people or fans think and that they don't care about the quality of the books as long as they are making money.


FANS? WHAT FANS? WE DON'T NEED NO STINKIN' FANS

The complete lack of fan interaction is another aspect of public relations that DC is currently lacking in. Again, Dan DiDio is DC's biggest public figure and, for all intents and purposes, he's a ghost - someone that we know about, but never see or hear from. Where is his, or any of DC's staff's, blog? Why doesn't he talk to or answer fan questions? Why doesn't he have regular interviews or public statements or other high profile articles featured at Newsarama or Comic Book Resources or the numerous other comic book news sites?

DC needs to get out there and market their books. I know what’s going on in almost every marvel book [...]. Marvel makes every issue feel like the whole freaking universe hangs on this next story arc.
- Skafactor  
The only time we hear from Dan DiDio is from the DC Nation column found in the back of DC's comics every other week. I don't even know when it is updated (every week? month? whenever they feel like it?) and all it does is preach to the choir - people that are already buying DC's books.

You may not buy Marvel's books, but you know about every single project they are doing because of Joe Quesada's, and other creator's, constant stream of interviews, press releases, guest appearances on TV shows, like The Colbert Report, articles in high profile newspapers and magazines, his weekly Cup O' Joe column at MySpace, his and other's blogs at Marvel.com, online videos and the dozens of other methods Marvel uses to promote and foster fan interest.


MARKETING

Continuing with the business and public relations aspect of the company, marketing is yet another thing DC is doing wrong. Where PR deals mostly with how the public perceives your company and products, such as dealing with damage control or fostering goodwill with the consumers, marketing deals with the promotion and advertising of the company's products - in this case, comics.

Justice League basically became an ad for other books...
- Anonymous  
In this aspect, DC has shown it knows how to market it's comics, but the focus seems to stop after the Batman and Superman cash cows and whatever weekly or event they have going at the time.

Take a look at the recent success of Green Lantern from the Sinestro Corps War storyline. While lauded as one of DC's few true successes of the past few years, the only way you would have heard about it was from fan word of mouth or the occasional interview with Geoff Johns at Newsarama or CBR.

What should have been a perennial best seller from the company ended up with the Green Lantern title only managing to enjoy a short sales boost, which never saw the title break 100k in sales, and a quick return to its mid-range sales levels.

Even after seeing how well the fans were reacting to the title, the most DC could do was scramble together some tie-in books which were hastily solicited as soon as the news of the story's success was hitting and only served to act as a negative for the company by making it appear as if they were only just now recognizing it as a worthwhile story because of sales and the tie-ins were largely viewed as cash-in attempts, regardless of the quality of them. Add in the spoiling of Kyle Rayner / Parallax and the event's Superman Prime ending and what should have been a feather in DC's cap became a black eye for the company, despite the fans and critics loving the book and the strong sales of the title during that period.

There's no excuse for something like Sinestro Corps War "sneaking up" on DC's editorial and marketing staff and the fact the Green Lantern title is still treated like a second class citizen compared to the Batman, Superman and the weeklies at DC, in terms of marketing and promotion, just shows how out of touch they are with their own products.


AOL TIME-WARNER

As we are not privy to everything that goes on behind closed doors, it is hard to ascertain the full working relationship between DC and it's parent company(s), AOL Time-Warner, but I'm willing to bet that many of the marketing and public relation problems stem from corporate policies that DC proper has no control over.

Being owned by a major corporation that does not care or need DC's miniscule, relative to the multi-billion dollar company, revenue means they probably care more about their ability to license DC characters for clothing, video games, toys and other lucrative ventures than they do about the actual comics these characters come from. This leads to what I feel is the stagnant and "timeless" feel of major characters, like Superman and Batman, who rarely see any drastic changes wrought upon them.

If Marvel wants to kill Captain America, they sit down, discuss the story implications and then decide whether or not to kill him. If DC wants to kill Batman, they need to seek approval from their parent companies, who in turn need to check with other departments or investors, before they can even start to move forward with their major projects.

While not everything requires a trip up the chain of command, it's obvious that, at the end of the day, DC answers to Time-Warner, who answers to AOL, and this serves to stifle the creative freedom of the company.


CONTINUITY

When uber hardcore DC fans are having issues following things, [there's] something wrong.
- GServo  
While both Marvel and DC have decades of history and back story bogging down their comics and acting as barriers for new readers, it is, in general, only seen as a negative in respect to DC. There are numerous aspects to continuity and I'll proceed to go over them and how they relate to DC's current situation below.


The Origin Problem

I believe this is due in large part to the way each company handles the use and updating of their continuity. At Marvel, they employ a sliding timeline and rarely, if ever, outright retcon an origin story. Take Iron Man, for an example. His origin has remained the same throughout the years despite numerous updatings to the actual timeframe and location of the war in which it took place.

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.
- Escapist  
At DC, it's hard not to get the feeling that there must be an unwritten rule that, if the origin remains unchanged for more than a month at a time, a new Year One or retcon punch or crisis is needed.

Compounding this problem for DC is the fact they have no problem flip flopping back and forth ad nauseum on these origin changes, whether it's their inability to decide if Batman ever caught his parents' killer or whether Superman was a jock in high school or if he had his powers as a boy or if he knew Lex Luthor before becoming Superman or just who the hell survived Krytpon's destruction.

What should be the simplest and most defining aspect of a character currently requires half a dozen bookmarks at Wikipedia to understand when dealing with a character from DC.


The Silver Age

Continuity is a unique and powerful tool which writers can call on and employ in their stories, so long as they do not allow the continuity and past history to dictate the story or alienate newer readers.

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.
- Anonymous  
In this regard, DC appears to be chained down by their continuity and apparent refusal to let go of the Silver Age continuity that they have retconned out of existence several times already. Editors outright refuse to do their job and have allowed DC's writers to run wild with the company's continuity. Simply put, there's a reason polka dot kryptonite, and the myriad of other kryptonite flavours, bat-shark repellent and so on were retconned out of the DCU with Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Constantly adding and removing these Silver Age elements with each new creative change on a title has only served to confuse readers, muddy the DC brand and add the negative perception that DC's comics are damn near inpenetrable for new readers.


Multiple Personality Disorder

Continuity can also be used to refer to the way a character is portrayed in different comics across the line.

At Marvel, everyone is familiar with Wolverine's mandatory double digit number of monthly appearances. The Wolverine you see in Uncanny X-Men, Wolverine, New Avengers, Secret Invasion, etc is the same Wolverine you know and love (or hate), regardless of what book he appears in.

In contrast, over at DC, we have drug using, ninja man-bat fighting insane Batman in Grant Morrison's Batman, Paul Dini's Batman in Detective Comics, the Goddamn Batman in All-Star Batman, father figure Batman in Robin, preptime / world saving Batman in JLA and a dozen other versions of the character depending on how many guest appearances, one-shots or minis we have that month.

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.
- Chris  
Even Robin has several different versions appearing on a monthly basis, whether it's the competent future Batman successor Robin in the self-titled Robin or the emo / whiny Robin in Teen Titans or sidekick / inexperienced Robin in Detective Comics and so on.

It's almost impossible to find a consistent portrayal of any DC characters across their line of books, giving off the illusion that the editors and writers at DC have no clue what they are doing and making it difficult for fans to warm up to a particular character.


What's That Story About?

Quick question - what was Civil War about? What about World War Hulk? The Illuminati? Secret Invasion? One More Day? Messiah Complex? I bet you managed to summarize each event in a sentence or two.

"Imagine Didio trying the same thing [to explain DC's Infinite Crisis in one or two sentences]. "[...] 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 [listeners'] eyes just glazed over.
- Bill  
Now, repeat the same thing for DC's events. What was Identity Crisis about? This one works out fairly similar to Marvel's events. What about Infinite Crisis? 52? Countdown? Final Crisis? Batman & Son? Resurrection of Ra's? Batman RIP? Sinestro Corps War?

Bill, hit the nail on the head when he said, "Imagine Didio trying the same thing [to explain DC's Infinite Crisis in one or two sentences]. "[...] 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 [listeners'] eyes just glazed over.".

Yes, these stories can be and, in most cases, are great, but these overly complex, continuity dependent stories make it impossible to introduce new people to DC's books. Like Bill said, non-DC faithful's eyes are just going to glaze over after the first sentence or two or the merest mention of the Multiverse or cosmic football tosses or retcon punches.

DC could just as easily tell the same quality stories with a greatly reduced dependency on past continuity. Maybe they have stock in Wikipedia or something because I'm sure the number of hits that site would lose from comic fans all over the world would be astonomical if DC did something like this.


Event Fatigue

Yes, Marvel has more events per year than DC and is just as guilty of the dreaded "event fatigue" as DC, but there's one key difference between the two companies - DC's events never end.

At Marvel, I can read Planet Hulk, Messiah Complex or Annihilation and have a complete, self-contained story. Even Civil War is easily read and understood without the billion tie-ins it had. Also, while Civil War redefined the landscape of the Marvel Universe, I don't need to read it to understand what's going on in Secret Invasion or any other event that came after it.

I thought maybe Final Crisis [would be a good jumping on point to get into DC], but I read a synopsis and had no idea what was going on. Marvel wins because of pure accessibility.
- Chris  
With DC, we had Identity Crisis, which darkened the universe up nice and good like and was a solid, if flawed, read that was very Marvel-like in its presentation and ease of reading for new readers. After that, we had 6+ months and a Civil War-like number of build up issues with Countdown to Infinite Crisis followed by the much hyped, "universe altering" Infinite Crisis which then had a year long weekly comic, 52, and linewide One Year Later "event" that lead into another year long weekly, Countdown, that counted down to, well, nothing and that was then followed up by another "universe changing" event with Final Crisis.

Every one of those events, save Identity Crisis, is impossible to describe in one or two sentences, relies heavily on what came before and was hyped up with numerous tie-ins and lead-in issues with the promise it would "change everything we know". This has been going on for the last five or more years without any end in sight.

If you quit reading Marvel after House of M, you can come in and read Secret Invasion or Annihilation or anything in between with ease. You can't do that with any DC property save maybe Sinestro Corps War, which still relies heavily on everything Johns has done since Rebirth. And the few others that fit that criteria, like Amazons Attack, were downright horrible and not even worth reading, let alone paying for.


WEAK-LY COMICS

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.
- Steven Timberman  
When DC announced that they were launching a weekly comic, everyone scoffed and waited for delays. 52 turned out to be a huge success story for DC, but many fans forget how slow and forgettable the first 20 or more issues were. Furthermore, it tied up all of DC's best writers and dozens of artists and editors in the process. As Steven Timberman put it, "52 wreaked havoc with damn near everything [DC put out]. While we all waited around for 52 to fall apart, it's now quite clear that everything BUT 52 completely self-destructed.".

The fact they dove head first into Countdown without any planning or foresight, while still trying to tie every single book and event in their universe into the weekly comic, should have been an early warning sign for DC, but they still pushed forward with the series, most likely due to the desire to keep the large number of 52 readers hooked on another 52 week long series.

In the end, DC's desire to push the weekly format has only wrought headaches and disenfranchised fans, especially in regards to Final Crisis and the weekly format, as the fan outcry over Countdown having nothing to do with Final Crisis and as Trinity's disappointing debut numbers are evidence to.


LACK OF NEW BLOOD

Imagine a professional sports team without a farm club or scouting division. Doesn't compute, does it? Sadly, that's what the current day DC is like in terms of fostering new, up and coming talent.

Remember last week's Top 10 Tuesdays post about Must Read Creators to Watch Out For? I know you do. Remember how it was dominated by Marvel creators, both new and old? I didn't realize it at the time, but when it came time to write up my thoughts on what DC is doing wrong, it became painfully obvious that that post wasn't just some bias or fluke on my part. DC just plain doesn't have any new talent coming into the company.

With a creative breeding ground as rich in talent and new ideas as DC's Vertigo line is, it's hard to fathom how this scenario has come about. Why is DC letting Marvel walk all over them and outright steal their talent from their Vertigo line? I know DC doesn't own those properties, but they must have some form of working relationship with these creators. Yet, they do nothing and just let the talent go and sign exclusive contracts with Marvel, such as the recent signing of Jason Aaron, who started out writing his creator owned, Scalped, series at Vertigo.

Bring in new up coming writers, give them a book in the Wildstorm Universe, and let them run wild with it.
- Hikerman  
As Hikerman pointed out, DC should use the Wildstorm universe as a breeding ground for new talent, much like how Marvel used the Ultimate Universe as a blank canvas for the relatively unproven Mark Millar and Brian Bendis, who at the time had only done a few scattered, critically acclaimed books, such as Authority or Jinx.

Open up the Wildstorm universe and let some new creators go wild. Court critically acclaimed indy creators and give them a chance to prove themselves on something more mainstream. I can't speak for any of these indy creators and whether or not they are trying to do more mainstream work, so take these suggestions with a grain of salt, but imagine a Bryan Lee O'Malley (Scott Pilgrim) or Brian Clevinger (Atomic Robo) or Jamie McKelvie (Phonogram, Suburban Glamour) taking over some of the Wildstorm books. For god's sake, at least make use of the Vertigo creators you've already helped cultivate in a similar manner! These new creators' work would read like no other super-hero comic on the market and, once proven, they could migrate to the DCU proper.


IT'S A VISUAL MEDIUM

When looking over how much diversity is in Marvel’s art, it’s hard not to feel rather disappointed with what DC is doing.
- Andrenn  
While art is the last think I typically look for in a comic (quality writing and a good story comes first for me), a lot of commenters pointed out the sad truth that DC has few AAA artists left in their stables and, of those few they have, they all share a similar 90's Image influenced style, as seen with Van Sciver, Reis or Benes.

DC does have some great artists working at the company, but the sheer number of new and diverse high quality artists at Marvel, regardless of whether they can produce on a monthly basis or not, is staggering and something DC needs to address quickly.


CONCLUSION

These are just a few of the major problems DC, as a company, are facing and none of them are related to the quality of the writing or comics DC is putting out on a monthly basis. To be honest, the readers covered more topics and in greater detail than I did and I can't stress how much I recommend taking a gander at the comments in the previous post.

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24 comments:

Eric said...

Great article. All good points, especially the one about new talent.

About continuity, I think DC really needs to find a way to make it work since it is the one defining characteristic that separates them from Marvel's current output.

Chris said...

For some reason, feel honored that you quoted me on how I cannot start reading DC Comics. This is a great article that may get noticed by some high brass on Rama or CBR. Its great because this is not your opinion, it is the opinion of the masses. To my recollection, ther were no people that said DC is not doing anything wrong. No one defended Didio, or the editors, or Morrison for DC's faults. I just think it is interesting how people know exactly what is wrong with a company

Andrenn said...

Thanks for quoting me Kirk.

I enjoyed this article very much, probably your best article since "Best of 2007", which is something I still enjoy reading every once in a while.

I recently picked up the Batman and Son HC, and loved it. Morrison may be loosing his footing on RIP, but at least he had a fairly strong start.

Hikerman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hikerman said...

Great article (and thanks for the quote!) I think you really nailed it on the head. I would like to see more of these kinds of features in the future, but a awesome, and true read. Who knows? Maybe DC will surprise us at San-Diego?!

Bill said...

My quote was the best, it's bracketastic!

Great article though. Makes me want to go read some Will Pfeifer Catwoman and get pissed off about its cancellation all over again.

Anonymous said...

I Feel like DC has been just massively experimenting over the last 5 years and finding out what works for them or not...I think we should wait 2-3 years and then come back and see where the Big Two stand

allaboutduncan said...

I've been thinking a lot of these thought for some time. When I started superheroes-r-us.com a few months ago it was easy to get in contact with Marvel for Press Releases (of which they send out multiples a day).

Also, Marvel gets online/web. They've got a great site with blogs and wiki. They've got staffers that use Twitter and interact with fans.

I feel like I have a relationship with Marvel.

Negadarkwing said...

It also doesn't help DC that the silver age for them was a very silly place. When people think about DC's silver age stories, they think about stuff like Rainbow outfit Batman, and Jimmy Olsen getting superpowers. When they think about Marvel's silver age stories they think about stuff like the early Spider-Man issues, or Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's Fantastic Four run. I have never heard anyone say that they felt any of the great silver age stories were from DC. Sure there is stuff you can lift from it and make cool, like Wonder Woman having an bunch of Gorrilla warriors, but trying to fit in all the weird stuff Batman did, or do too much with earth 47-b witch is mostly the same as earth 47-1 except Flash is married to Black Canary instead of Zatara... And then you build the big new crossovers around things like that, it gets confusing, and is definitly a turn off. What's more DC seems to have a certain degree of hate for some of the charecters I liked in the ninties. Jade, Cassandra Cain, and Spoiler mainly. But now Conner Kent, Bart Alen are both gone after changes I wasn't enitirly happy with to begin with. And event fatege doesn't help. Is it a good idea to shake things up when there hasn't been any settling yet? And the communication with the creators helps. Even if I hate what Bendis does with charecters, at least I get some idea of why he did it from the interviews. I may not like it, or agree with the reasoning, but at least it gives me an idea of why. And of course the fact that Marvel is doing a good job promoting their lesser known charecters than DC. I don't just mean in the comics either. For the general public, awarness of DC charecter begins with Batman and Superman and ends with Wonder Woman. Marvel was able to bring Iron Man into the limelight with his movie. Now everyone knows about Iron Man. Well that's my two cents for now.

Wicked Juan said...

Great article, Kirk. I think you bring up a lot of valid points. I'm especially cognizant of the AOL Time-Warner influence, having formerly worked for an AOL Time-Warner-owned company that worked with a DC comics property in a non-comic book medium.

Truth be told, Time Warner was a great company to work for and a lot of people were trying to do the right thing by the properties, but when you get down to the nitty gritty, Time Warner is an intellectual property company. Their job is to create, cultivate and cash in on properties. When you factor in their ownership of DC, which is rife with tremendous intellectual properties, their focus is largely geared on how to market those properties outside the comic book audience. Since the comic book audience and its revenues are a small blip on the radar for Time Warner's profits, it makes sense for them to gear their efforts toward other media outlets than comics. I can't help but wonder if this practice is having a trickle down effect on the folks at DC.

In a lot of ways it's difficult to express creativity in this type of culture because you are up against corporate big wigs that don't want to do anything that might upset the bottom line. DC is a big playground because there is a lot of relative freedom for creativity but it does come with boundaries. Big corporate boundaries. AOL Time-Warner owns everything, so they get last call on everything.

One of the problems with corporate stewardship is the property is owned by a faceless corportation and there's no real point person for a particular property with regard to its scope, intent or execution. I think a lot of continuity issues arise from these issues and if portrayals are thematically similar to the properties they represent, that's generally perceived as OK. There's really no one person or group of people ensuring the properties have proper stewardship (which should be the job of editors), as with many independently owned properties. So many decisions at a big company are made by committee, many of whom are more afraid of taking chances with their licenses.

Recently editorial has really let the writers just get crazy with some of the properties (Baman is a perfect example). If someone came into a local store today having just seen The Dark Knight but having had never read a Batman comic, which book would you point them toward? I think DC is in such a bad place creatively right now, they're more likely to let their creators go wild rather than reign them in, which I think is predicated on the fear of losing those few gifted and creative voices they still have.

I can't help but think the corporate stewardship of AOL Time-Warner is directly impacting the quality of DC's work in a large way because I've seen it first hand. Since comics don't account for a big part of the revenue of the larger corporate entity, the work there is probably perceived as less important in light of some of the other cash cows, like movies. And when you start phoning it in because no one above you cares what you do, the quality of the work suffers across the board.

Ampersand said...

I'm a long-time Marvel reader, and i've read a handful of DC comics but don't really keep up with the continuity and i'm not familiar with all the characters. Yesterday i read Identity Crisis and i found it an alright read, since i didn't know when something was a retcon or not. To be honest, the only thing that really put me off was that everyone was calling each other by their "civilian" names. I found myself stopping a couple of times, trying to remember who Ray or Carter were.

Lee Nygma said...

As a big DC fan I have to say...you're spot on. Especially with your comments about Wildstorm and the lack of new creators coming into the company.

The last great, original DC thing I read was Doctor 13...a back up to a poor forced reimagining of The Spectre that despite being written by Brian Azzarello and art by Cliff Chiang went largely unnoticed and was barely followed up on besides Traci 13s appearances in another quality, yet under appreciated book, Blue Beetle.

Though while Batman is bogged down in Silver Age references and even Supes doesn't know his own origin, it's nice to see Gail Simone on Wonder Woman and se has hope for the future.

Countdown left such a bad taste in my mouth that I can't wait until we're on the other side of this "Final Crisis".

Kirk Warren said...

@eric - I'm not sure if continuity really separates DC and Marvel. Both hvae decades of history to draw on (DC a little moreso than Marvel though). DC just seems so much more dependent on it compared to Marvel.


@chris - I feel honoured that people actually read and comment on the nonsense that I manage to committ to print every other day of the week. Featuring some of the quotes was the least I could do as a thank you for everyone. =D

Not sure if this will be seeing any mainstream coverage at CBR or Newsarama, but a few people have already linked to it on their blogs and lots of readers have commented on it and the original post, so I'm happy to see it's inspiring a few people.


@andrenn - No problem, Andrenn. I just wish I could have found room to quote more people, as I had a rather lengthy list of choice comments from various answers readers posted.

I'm quite proud of this series of posts, too, and I think you'll enjoy the collaboration post I'm putting together with the help of several other prominent comic book bloggers that's similar in style to this one. Look for that later this week (may save it for next week's anniversary, still undecided on the actual date I'll post it).


@hikerman - Thanks for the kind words, glad you enjoyed it. As I mentioned in my reply to Andrenn, I think you'll enjoy the upcoming post I have planned, so stay tuned for that!


@bill - Ahaha, ya, I really liked it, but felt it needed context. I'm new to the pull quoting like magazines, etc do, so couldn't figure the best way to keep it in context for people only reading that one quote compared to the actual comment you posted last week.


@anonymous - That's a good assessment. I think they started the experiment around Identity Crisis, which was quite different from most projects DC had done up until then, but they seem to have chickened out on continuing down that road with their product and have been stopping and starting over and over with their ideas, almost like they don't know if they want to take the plunge or not.

Hopefully they can right the ship and get their ducks in a row and all that jazz.


@allaboutduncan - That's exactly what's wrong with DC, in my eyes. Cold, impersonal and business first attitude that seems to only care about sales, which is all due to poor PR.

I've never spoken to Joe Q before, but feel like we're best buds that could sit down and shoot the shit about comics or baseball or random topics simply because he's been so good at putting himself and the Marvel brand out there.


@negadarkwing - Great point on the Silver Age. Whenever I mention Silver Age, it's in relation to DC's pre-Crisis nonsense (it had some great stories, but a lot of silly stuff that dominated the line). For whatever reason, I just don't consider Marvel's early books Sivler Age, even if they are from that time period because of how cohesive and rock solid most everything Lee and Ditko and Romita and the boys did.


@wicked juan - Great post and really sums up what I was trying to say wiht my AOL Time Warner section.


@ampersand - Hmm, interesting take on the name uses in Identity Crisis. It hink a lot of us take for granted that everyone knows who everyone is under the costume when writing these things, even the most obscure characters, and that's probably a fallacy on the creators part.

I'm not sure if this is a DC centric problem or not though. I've never really paid attention to Marvel's (or DC's) books to look for how many name drops there are, but it's a valid critcism on comics in general I think.

IC did have a lot of obsucre or D-list characters at the forefront of the story, so I can definitely see where the names would be confusing. I have a similar problem with Green Lantern Corps and the dozen or more random Green Lanterns it features. I usually have to go back and look up which one is which when I do reviews due to confusing partners or obscure new characters that I don't find I have to do with large casts in X-Men or Avengers. Could be just more familiar with the Marvel properties though, not sure.


@lee nygma - Hikerman was the one that gave me the idea about the Wildstorm universe being a proving grounds, so credit to him for that one. I knew they needed new blood, but that was a great suggestion on his part.

Never read Dr 13, but agree on Blue Beetle. Blue Beetle was a Marvel book mascarading as a DC book. It was using all the past Blue Beetle history and lore, but not letting it dictate the story or bog down readers with the need to check Wikipedia every othe rpage.

Manhunter is another similar title with a distinct Marvel feelt o it when talking about use of continuity.

The difference is Marvel would promote these books while DC lets them wallow in obscurity and eventual cancellation.

Dave said...

I think there was a time when I sat down with my wallet and had to make a choice between Marvel and DC. I chose DC because of Batman, the JLA and Teen Titans. I do read Ultimate Spider-Man, but some of their titles are just as unapproachable as DC. The difference for me is that over the last few years, DC has sucked all of the fun out of their characters and books. Ralph Dibney was a fun character. All-Star Batman and Robin, The Boy Wonder should have be more fun than adult oriented. Ultimate Spider-Man is fun to read. It is challenging and serious - but the core is fun. Green Lantern is fun to read. I'm pretty much going to stick with those two titles, and maybe Brave and the Bold, until something changes.

ComicsAllTooReal's Chris said...

This was a great article, Kirk. There are many things going wrong at DC and you pointed them out quite well. I really hope they read this, it could give them a healthy slap in the face.

I've been a DC die hard fan for my entire life and now I just can't find much joy in their books. To my surprise, I'm loving Secret Invasion way more than any event DC might come up with and I'm looking forward, with a sense of dread, to the upcoming Final Crisis tie-in events wondering if I should really check them out.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
ComicsAllTooReal's Chris said...

Is this Dan Didio?

Anonymous said...

I know this post was from months ago, but I stumbled upon it now and was thrilled to see so many people sharing me and my friends' opinions of DC. A lifelong fan, I have no @#$! idea what happened in Final Crisis. I believe DC reached their nadir with Countdown, which is the only significant comic ever that I felt stole my money. Final Crisis was at least creative and had good art, but still a failure, for all the continuity reasons you state above. DC had a fairly tight continuity from 1986 to about 2000ish, when it started spiraling out of control with retcons. Bringing Jason Todd and Barry Allen back is the last straw. Reading DC in a year or two will be indistinguishable from 1960, when their comics were childish and absurd. Green Lantern is the only coherent thing going on right now. Ugh! Just thinking of Countdown again makes me so mad.

Red said...

Wow. Welcome to the Twilight Zone. I don't know whether everyone who commented on your article is a Marvel Zombie or if they just can't recognize good writing coherent plot lines.

As you may be able to tell, I disagree with your opinion of DC quite strongly. I have been reading and collecting comic books since the late '70s. I read both Marvel and DC titles at the time, and I always found that with the exception of Fantastic Four, the X-Men and the occasional Avengers and Spiderman issue, everything else wasn't worth a damn. DC on the other hand re-invigorated the medium, mainly through the works of O'Neill, Shooter, Levitz et all. The first true Event, Crisis on Infinite Earths, while not completely successful, was DC's and set the bar for all other later events by either company.
By the late '80s and early '90s though, I mostly left DC to follow Marvel titles, mainly X-titles. But I was soon disenchanted by the apparent low regard the company, or its writers and artists, had for their characters and returned to DC and its ever evolving iconic heroes. Yes, they've made mistakes. But the storytelling in DC's books has nearly always been constant and of high quality, while nowadays I find impossible to read most Marvel books, with the exception of the current War of Kings and the earliest New Avengers story arches.
Quite honestly, while DC is continuously trying to improve and reinvent its characters whilst remaining true to their origins, roots and heritage, Marvel seems intent on literally raping the same characters which some forty years ago contributed to shock the medium out of a period of creative apathy.
Think hard about it, can you honestly say the current overpowering number of titles spewing out of Marvel's offices are any sort of readable literature? I don't believe so.

Kirk Warren said...

@Red - It has nothing to do with being a Marvel Zombie or hating DC. The post is not about quality of product. It's original intent was to address why DC was getting reamed in the sales department and why so many things were going wrong outside of the actual quality of the comics.

While this post is about a year old, many of the problems still persist that are causing Marvel to bang out 50+% of the market share while DC wallows at sub-30% share, despite only about 10-15 books more put out by Marvel per month. They rarely even crack the top 10 sales for monthly books and their trade department, if you ignore Watchmen sales for the past year leading up to the movie, hasn't been nearly as stellar as it used to be (I think it's about a 5% gap this month in trade sales between them when DC used to dominate trade sales).

Under that premise for the things DC is doing wrong, do you still feel that DC is "perfect"? Matt's currently doing a Marvel version of this post, which is what may have led you to this page, but this is not about if Marvel is better than DC or some other internet forum drama.

Try to take a look at the points I make again for me and tell me just what you disagree with exactly. Note that DC did not have The Source blog nor was DiDio doing his 20 Q&A posts at Newsarama up until about a month ago, so those options were nonexistent for PR-related stuff a year ago.

Do you think DC has been good with PR in context of when I wrote this post with all the Dixon and Final Crisis / MOrrison outright blaming editors for FC's problems? Do you think it was ok for them not to have a blog or do itneractive fan stuff like Cup O'Joe at the time? Do you think books like Secret Six, Catwoman, Green Lantern (note the timing of the post, as they didn't really care about it until after they found out it was a hit with SCW), etc were properly marketed and promoted? Do you think it's smart to let Marvel sign Vertigo talent, like Jason Aaron, etc, and basically steal them from DC, who rely on Johns and Morrison as their only real big name writers (at the time anyways)?

There was/still are a lot of problems completely unrelated to the actual quality of the comics coming out of DC that I tried to address with the post. I'm sorry if you feel it was some kind of slight against the quality of the books or some pro-Marvel piece, but it was never intended as such.

Korinthian said...

Good post. Another thing that has turned me completely off from the DC universe is the constant duplicates of every hero. How many Flashes are there? And how many Super-people? Green Lanterns?

Ugh. As if people were not confused enough from the things you mentioned.

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