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Monday, March 21, 2016

You Can’t Please DC Comics Fans- Deconstructing A Straw Man

“You can’t please DC Comics fans, they’re always complaining”

 That’s the argument some make whenever someone makes the point of criticizing the company for the series of bad decisions that have led to the decline of the brand.

Time to take apart a Straw Man.

I don’t know I was fairly happy with DC Comics from about 1986-2004.  In fact many people didn’t have problems with DC’s publishing division until the mid 2000s when Dan Didio began making a whole host of changes detrimental to the DC story model and the overall brand.

These same people then go on to say “Old time DC fans don’t like change.”

Another Straw Man argument.

DC Comics fans have absolutely no problem with change.

There wasn’t much outrage when Clark Kent went from writing at the Daily Planet to TV reporting in the 1970s.

There was no outrage when Dick Grayson went from Robin, Batman’s sidekick to being his own man Nightwing.

And initially there was no problem when Jason Todd took over as Robin to replace him.

There was no outrage when Wally West took over for Barry Allen as the Flash.

There was no outrage when Tim Drake took over for Jason Todd as Robin.

There wasn’t much outrage when Kyle Rayner took over for Hal Jordan as Green Lantern.

There wasn’t much outrage when Connor Hawke took over for Oliver Queen as Green Arrow.

And there DEFINITELY wasn’t any outrage when Jack Knight took over the role of Starman for his father Ted.

Nor was there any outrage when Michael Holt took over the role of Mr. Terrific.

And many had absolutely no issue with Ryan Choi being the next Atom.

DC Comics fans are perfectly fine with change. In fact they’re practically used to it with events like Crisis of Infinite Earths and Zero Hour. Many actually enjoy the concept of legacy heroes that came out of those events and the idea of passing down the mantel of a hero from one generation to the next in an organic fashion.

What many longtime DC fans like myself don’t like are changes that irreparably harm the structure of the DC Universe. Stories like Identity Crisis which treat longtime readers like they’re stupid and try to revise history with events that don’t fit the timeline or actions that don’t fit characters we know like the backs of our hands.

And what we can’t stand are constant reboots and “restarts” to “fix” the mistakes editorial knew they made when they let a creative team go in the wrong direction. Or when editorial forced a bad storyline on readers like Identity Crisis. Most of these events and reboots over the past decade or so have been implemented to fix the numerous mistakes in stories that should have never been published in the first place like Graduation Day and Identity Crisis. Stories that just weren’t good enough to be part of the DC lore.

 It’s those kinds of stories that made DC Comics harder to read and harder to access. It’s those kinds of stories that led to the frustration. Instead of owning up to the mistakes from a bad story and moving on, DC’s editorial blow up the entire universe and start all over.

Breaking more things in their attempt to fix what they broke before. Alienating readers and making things that much more complicated with each new #1 issue. Then telling the reader this is the new entry point into the DC Universe.

When it’s not the publisher’s right to tell the reader where to start. Any comic will probably be someone’s first. And if the reader likes what they’re reading, they’ll figure things out for themselves.

 When comics are good, people don’t care about where the entry point is. If a story is good that’s their entry point into that characters’ adventures.

Because when a story is well written, readers can jump in and just start reading. They’re interested in watching their favorite hero taking down the bad guys, not worrying about the minutiae within the continuity of a character’s history.

Good storytelling gets readers to focus on what’s going on NOW. When the storytelling is well written and compelling readers will go back into a characters’ backstory or continue to go forward in their current adventures.

The way I see it DC fans are easy to please. In fact many aren’t asking for much. They just want great stories featuring their favorite characters. Give them great stories and they’ll start buying comics.

Unfortunately, they haven’t gotten that since Dan Didio took over the DC publishing division. Under his leadership all readers have gotten is a constant focus on events, gimmicks, and trying to fix a continuity that wasn’t really broken.

The heart of DC’s brand has always been about the characters. And telling good stories around them. These days there’s so much focus has been on continuity of the DC Universe that the people in it are becoming lost. It was the people in that universe readers had the relationship with. And they want their characters back.

Not watered down imitations like those in the New 52 or whatever reconstituted universe in Knock-Off costumes. They want the characters they grew up with. The characters whose adventures they followed since they were kids. Those were the characters they had the relationship with growing up. The friends who were with them in the good times and bad. Give DC readers those characters and I guarantee you they’ll be happy with the DC Comics brand again.


  1. Great post Shawn. The only one I would disagree with you about is Hal Jordan to Kyle Rayner, as there was a bit of uproar about that (the who H.E.A.T movement). Other than that, you are right there was a natural progression for those characters, like Dick Grayson becoming Nightwing or Wally West becoming the Flash, that made sense story wise. I was wondering if you could do a post about the Graduation Day story. I've seen you talk about it in a couple of your posts, but I know next to nothing about it (I'm guessing it's pretty terrible).

    1. I remember that movement. At first I was against Kyle, but after three issues I started to like him. Kyle was a breath of fresh air to the GL franchise after Gerard Jones' Directionless GL run back in 1990. Those books were painful.

      I may write something about Graduation day, that was another fumbled football. What should have been An easy handoff of the Titans name to the Young Justice kids was done in by a Superman Robot that killed off Donna Troy.