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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

It’s time for Warner Brothers to Pull the Plug on DC Comics the New 52

Three years after DC Comics’ New 52 hit comic shelves it was supposed to be revolutionary. Only it seems most comic fans are revolting against the new versions of DC’s iconic Characters. While the change from the original DC Universe to the New 52 stirred up a lot of press, contoversy and a short term-surge in sales in 2011, long term the change has caused irreparable damage to DC’s brand.

Comic fans don’t like the New 52. Retailers don’t like the New 52. It’s time for Time Warner to pull the plug on the New DC Universe and move on.

If one looks at the impact of the New 52 on DC Comics’ business it has been negative. DC Comics has lost market share to indie publishers like Boom! Dynamite, and Image over the last three years. And with the success of Marvel NOW! Marvel Comics has regained some of the market share it lost several years ago.

On the comic shelves the New 52 books are doing no better than books featuring characters from the Original DC Universe. Most DC Comics titles’ sales have plummeted back down to their 2009 levels when many books struggled to sell 25,000-30,000copies.

On the licensing merchandising Mattel’s attempt to sell new 52 has been a disaster. When Mattel put New 52 versions of action figures in its DC Universe Classics line they pegwarmed. Big Box retailers like Wal-Mart and Target refuse to stock merchandise featuring New 52 versions of DC comics Characters.

Most Comic writers and artists now AVOID taking jobs at DC Comics. DC Comics has gone from a place that inspired imagination to one that stifles creativity. Those who have worked there report dysfunction and chaos. Story changes out of nowhere, no focus or direction. No support. Editiors re-writing stories, and constant editorial interference.

Storyline wise the new 52 is actually just as confusing and hard to follow as old 2009-2011 DC Comics. In some cases even more confusing. Batman has had four Robins in five years. Even though DC insisted Batman’s continuity would remain intact. Bad guys are good guys. Good guys are bad guys.

When villains like Captain Cold and Lex Luthor on the Justice League something is wrong.

DC Comics story model now is just as long and meandering as it was before the New 52 was launched. Back in 2006 Infinite Crisis led into Final Crisis. Final Crisis Blackest Night. Blackest Night led into Brightest Day. Brightest day led into Flashpoint. Flashpoint led into the…New 52. .

Now the New 52 leads into Trinity War. Forever Evil leads into Five years later. And most of these storylines take over 100 comics to buy just to finish a leg of a story.

I thought the New 52 was supposed to make the DC Universe easier to read and easier to follow. When it still takes 100 issues for readers to understand DC Characters and the DC Universe after a plan is implemented to make comics easier to follow something is definitely wrong at the top.

DC Comics are a mess. With a brand-new universe creators should be finding new ways to make classic iconic characters fresh and exciting for the next generation of young readers. Unfortunately, DC is still plagued by the same dysfunction that has turned away readers from their comics for the last 10 years.

The definition of insanity is doing the exact same thing and expecting a different result. DC Comics editors continue to apply the exact same archaic story models, business models and approaches to publishing comics that have not worked for over a decade and are still expecting loads of casual readers and younger readers to come in and start buying.

Unfortunately, the comic book now has a median age of 40. Up from 35 three years ago.

Enough is enough. Dan Didio can’t make any more excuses. Didio has had over a decade to show he has the leadership skills to keep DC’s brand competitive on the comic racks in the 21st Century. The fact that he was given a brand New DC Universe three years ago and he still winds up making DC Comics harder to follow than the previous universe proves he is not the right man for the job.

His associates Jim Lee, Bob Harras and have proven that they don’t understand the post 2008 publishing world. Both are still trying to apply 1990’s business approaches in a 2014 world. No publisher can sustain a catalog of 52 titles in 2014. Today print catalogs are getting smaller, not bigger. Most publishers are shrinking their publishing catalogs to the few books that sell and taking the slow sellers digital if they don’t cancel them outright.

Diane Nelson is just not the right person to manage the DC brand. The fact that DC has declined over the last three years under her leadership shows she has no vision. When big box retailers like Wal-Mart and Target reject product lines based on a brand new product there’s something wrong at the top.

Goeff Johns is creatively burnt out. I don’t hold Johns too much at fault, but he’s in the same place Chris Claremont was in back in the late 1980’s. He’s got too much on his plate and has been digging to the bottom of the story barrel. He needs a vacation to recharge and get inspired, and get creative again. Following Didio’s lead as one of the lead executives has not helped him take his craft to the next level.

Time Warner has to realize that the New 52 is a FAILURE. Three years after its launch people aren’t buying DC Comics. People aren’t buying DC Comics Merchandise. People are turned off when they see anything DC related. That’s bad for a brand long term.

From comics to TV shows to movies to home video most customers echo the same complaints: most of DC’s products adapted from late 2000’s stories like Son of Batman and material adapted from New 52 stories like Justice League War are hard to follow, too violent, too graphic and not family or reader friendly.

DC Comics needs an overhaul from top to bottom. Under theleadership of Didio, Lee, Harras and Nelson DC Comics is just not in a place to compete with Marvel Comics. They’re not in a place to compete with Archie Comics. Heck, they’re not even in a place to compete with small indie publishers or even webcomics.

It’s time for Time Warner’s executives to not only pull the plug on the DC’s New 52 Universe but remove the editorial team that has run DC Comics into the ground and replace them with a new group of leaders. People like Jim Shooter, Bruce Timm, Paul Dini and Mark Waid. People who care about DC’s characters. People who have passion for the craft of art and storytelling. People who can give support and guidance to all the new young creative talent out there with their wisdom and years of experience. People with an understanding of the business of comics, new media and possibly the post 2008 publishing world.

If Time Warner doesn’t do something fix the dysfunctional DC Universe once and for all the brand won’t be able to compete in the 21st Century. It’s hard to make movies featuring DC Comic superheroes and sell DC Comics merchandise when there’s no quality comic books with stories good enough to adapt it from.


  1. I wrote there in my blog that DC pretty much gave up on itself and whatever changes it did to some of its characters has led to unusual consequences. For instance, Bart Allen used to be the grandson of both Iris West and Barry Allen and when Barry Allen was seen with a new woman in his life but Bart was still around, this kind of lead to Bart to act out of character in a way.

    Since there was no immediate solution to that problem, I feel like that the Flash writers would be better off learning from what happened to Supergirl in the post-crisis stories. She used to be the cousin of Superman and when editors dictated that Superman should be the only Kryptonian, that gave writers a chance to reinvent her from scratch by giving her a different direction and origin story.

    Now Wally West's been made into a black kid and I don't even care about that one.

  2. Also if DC wanted the New 52 to be taken seriously, they should have gone for the webcomics route instead. Actually they did that before with Zuda Comics but that one didn't last long.

  3. Have to agree with you on DC giving up on itself Ad. The New 52 is so poorly executed and poorly designed it just shows that no one truly cares about the characters or their history. I really believe Warner just needs to pull the plug on the New 52 and fire everyone and start over with Classic

    Sometimes I think Didio does stuff just to annoy the audience. Wally West being black sounds like a slap in the face to readers and longtime Flash fans. He knew people wanted to know what happened to Wally and instead of presenting them with what they want he jerks them around.

  4. I'm really saddened by the decline of DC. I don't think it's entirely the fault of the New 52 direction, but it is a move that made me drop nearly every DC book over the course of a year.

    I've been a DC fan since I was around 8 years old back in the mid-1970's. I've been passionate about a few characters (primarily Hawkman & Green Lantern/Hal Jordan) - my home office is covered in memorabilia from those two characters. I spent literally thousands of dollars on merchandise (statues, toys, posters, etc.). All that is to say, I was invested in the characters to the point of being a cash cow for DC.

    I was skeptical of the New 52 launch, but I tried a bunch of the titles and didn't see much that I liked. For the first time in my life, I dropped a Hawkman title prior to its cancellation. I dropped Justice League. I dropped every book except for the GL titles and feel constantly on the verge of dropping those as well.

    I would have much preferred a clean reboot (despite being a big GL fan). The half reboot just failed to work and many of the characters now have little resemblance to their pre-new 52 selves, to the point that I've lost my love for them. The continuity is worse than it's ever been (it drives me nuts that Hal Jordan's fall to Parallax, his Rebirth, Blackest Night and Brightest Day all are supposed to be in continuity in some way - talk about an eventful 5 years!).

    I still by comics every week at my local comic store (and read some digitally as well) - but they're Marvel, Image, Dynamite and Boom.

  5. Rom, I'm a big comic fan myself with a bedroom filled with Marvel, DC and comic toys and memorobillia. I love these characters and hate to see them ruined like they have over the last three years.

    I'd have preferred a clean reboot myself. The DC Universe is too intricate and complex to try to cram all that history into five years.

    The big problem with the NEW52 reboot is that it's poorly executed. Rushed, sloppy and poorly planned. Wolfman and Perez and DC's editors took years to plan the Post Crisis DCU and while it wasn't perfect it worked very well.

    Any plan to rebuild the DCU would require a Three-to five year plan at least. One year to establish the DC's main heroes like Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman and the Big 7 build into the formation of Justice League. The second year to build into the history of the Justice Society and the legacy heroes, and a third year to build into the sidekicks and the formation of the Teen Titans. And the titles would have to be launched over the course of 3-5 years so the Universe can be built and the characters developed, not just thrown about.

  6. Up until the end of August 2011, I bought more DC titles than any other publisher. Some weeks I bought as many as 10 titles. When New 52 was launched I quit cold turkey and said no more. From destroying Oracle to cancelling a good portion of the titles I followed, to the insanely stupid idea of ending the historic runs of the original Action and Detective Comics (and rubbing salt in the wounds by saddling the new No. 1s with the ugliest cover art in comic book history), I cut DC off completely. Three years later, I have never been back with the exception of Batman '66 which I consider a unique situation, and the occasional Mad Magazine but I don't consider it a DC title (EC forever!). It also spun-off into other media with me. I had no interest in seeing Dark Knight Rises or Man of Steel because of New 52, and while I think the Flash is an OK show, my enthusiasm for it is low and I have zero interest in Gotham or Arrow.

    Even if DC tomorrow announced it was ending the New 52, resetting everything to status quo and reinstating the numbering of Action and Detective to boot, I still might not go back. As a consumer - a person with money to spend and at one time (though not anymore) able to buy 10 comics a week - I was offended by New 52 and the rationale behind it. I don't see any way DC can ever walk back from this, at least from this consumer's perspective. I mourn when I hear about magazines shutting down and publishers going under; I actually think I would be ambivalent were that to happen (however unlikely) to DC.