Saturday, February 09, 2008

DC's Brand New Day: Have They Finally Learned The Lessons Of Countdown?

First of all, let me say that I had NO idea it was the big RRP DC/retailer focus group meeting this weekend. My previous DC-related posts this week were not a deliberately-planned assault on the character of the company's substantial line of mainstream superhero fare.

That said, I have not been the only person that has expressed concern with the direction of said fare over the last year or so.

One of the biggest criticisms has been in regards to Countdown and how it became the "spine" of the DCU and the rest of its titles. Further, many of DC's key relaunches and mini-series have had to be awkwardly tied to the 52-issue Countdown; so not only did you need to buy Countdown in order for everything to make sense, but there was not a storyline that was not impacted by Countdown (unless Grant Morrison said so).

But, the news from the latest DC/retailer confab has had the optimistic, "Brand New Day" feel of official comic convention announcements.

To summarize:

* DC Universe #0, positioned as a "reintroduction" to the DC universe that, while hinting at events to take place in Final Crisis, can be enjoyed as a separate entity away from F.C. and Countdown. The Grant Morrison/Geoff Johns-penned book will sell for 50 cents, be released in May, and feature a number of high-profile artists.

Quoteth Johns:

For me, #0 is putting the stake in the ground and saying, “Okay, we move forward from here.”

* Trinity, a new weekly debuting in June starring Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. Written by Kurt Busiek and pencilled by Mark Bagley, it has also been curiously positioned as a book not dependent on Countdown or Final Crisis. Says DiDio:

We don’t want to have that “locked in stone” continuity line that a lot of people seemed to react negatively to during Countdown. This is a chance to open up each concept and allow them to breathe in their own right, so that a fan of what Kurt and Mark are going to bring can really enjoy the story that’s featuring Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman.

* Finally (or at least as of this writing), there are the miniseries Rann/Thanagar: Holy War and Reign in Hell. Once again, as has seemingly become the theme of DC's presentation to the RRP, "no dependence on Countdown/F.C." As DiDio once again remarks:

Again, we’re trying to provide as many options to our fans who want to see as many things going on as possible, without feeling like they have to buy everything across the line. We’re basically taking everything that we’ve got and turning the heat up a notch or two. The other storylines and miniseries and weekly may not be connected to Final Crisis, but they will feel as important as Final Crisis.

So it would seem that DC is attempting to learn the lessons hard-won from Countdown. Of course, the proof is in the pudding; all else is talk.

If indeed DC wishes to have its "Brand New Day," there will be a few things for them to consider within the mix:

* Put an end to the writer "musical chairs" fiasco. Stability on a title is important. Even if the title is kind of half-assed, readers appreciate stability in creative line-ups.

* Learn to do a better job retaining talent. This includes giving writers more creative freedom, keeping the aforementioned stability going in lineups, and improve communication between editorial and talent.

* While giving the creators creative freedom is important, it is also key that they be edited. Storytelling should flow, dialog shouldn't ramble. No matter what the name, there are certain standards in good editing that should be followed -- this helps the creators and the company. If there is something sloppy or unclear, take the extra time to fix it.

* Continue searching out new talent. Case in point: Mark Bagley. Now, this was a good find! It brings a level of excitement to Trinity. But, there still needs to be a pool of new names in the mix. There are so many talented people out there either working or looking for work that it is inexcusable to have mediocrity.

As for myself, I am willing to give DC's Brand New Day a shot. This entails, somewhat, trying to ignore some of what is already out there, as I feel some of it is "lame duck" and just filler until the summer. Honestly, I'm sure DC has a list of the books that they would prefer people continue buying and the ones they hope you forget.

But whatever the case, we will all know starting in May.

Show us the money, DC.


  1. What's a "RRP"?
    Anyhow, yes. Agreed, wholeheartedly.

  2. All this DC universe stuff has me stumped. I just think you're super cool. I love your blog. Keep up the good work.

  3. Trinity with Busiek sounds great. I was getting less excited about DC up till this announcement.

  4. Pduggie, agreed; I wasn't really feelin' DC comics that much until I read this; I'm interested to see where they go...

  5. Wait, this is a "new direction"?

    Sounds like

    * the third weekly title in as many years

    * Final Crisis suddenly ends up spilling into a few (then a lot) more supposedly "self-contained" titles (that you actually DO have to read to make sense of the "big event", regardless of what they might claim in advance) and

    * Some tag on miniseries about Thanagar or whatever that also relate, sort of, but not quite, but they might do, to some other events going on somewhere else.

    Sounds like more of the same to me.

  6. I'm still not sure where your "musical chairs" thing is coming from. While there have been art delays, most of DC's books have had a pretty steady (if not always inspiring) creative/authorly direction. Batman and Detective, delays aside, have been in the hands of Morrison and Dini for nearly two years. Busiek just wrapped up a longterm run on Superman on his own terms, and Geoff Johns is continuing to run things on Action, Green Lantern and Justice Society. Though no one in the world reads them, Will Pfieffer, Greg Rucka and John Rogers have all had pretty long/consistent runs on Catwoman, Checkmate and Blue Beetle respectively. And while the title of the book has jumped around, Judd Winick has been writing Green Arrow for years.

    Even the books you're calling "musical chairs" -- Birds of Prey and Flash both had loooong runs under Simone and Johns, and then went through some trouble pinning down a replacement team. Teen Titans (and Wonder Woman) were in the same boats, but seem to have McKeever and Simone locked in.

    There have been a lot of fiascos at DC (and Marvel) over the past few years, but I'm really not seeing this one at all.

  7. "but I'm really not seeing this one at all."

    --I could get into specifics again, but it would really be easier if you just read my post

  8. I read your original post and I commented on your post, actually.

    and I still feel like you're picking and choosing a few books that have clear reasons for their troubles, and are not symptomatic of the entire line in any meaningful way.

  9. I agree with all of your points in general but most especially this one:

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>* While giving the creators creative freedom is important, it is also key that they be edited. Storytelling should flow, dialog shouldn't ramble. No matter what the name, there are certain standards in good editing that should be followed -- this helps the creators and the company. If there is something sloppy or unclear, take the extra time to fix it.>>>>>>>>>

    YES!!!!!!! I agree with all of your points in general but this one especially. Editors should EDIT –writers need to feel push back and GOOD writers DEPEND on push back to sharpen their ideas which makes for a better story.

    There has to be a happy medium between the Bigfoot editor or the editor who is M.I.A.

    As for DD’s desire to not be “locked in stone” regarding continuity—how about just having rules where everyone on is on the same page.

    That way we don’t get situations for example: 1) Nightwing is engaged in separate and contradictory adventures in his own book and the Outsiders or 2) Half the of the DC Universe knows that Captain Marvel is a kid named Billy Batson (JLA World Without Grown Ups) but then Marvel is forced out of the JSA for dating Stargirl because NO ONE KNOWS he is chronologically the same age as Stargirl.

    If “continuity” is a scary word—shoot for storytelling “consistency.” Seems to me that’s something that an editor would do.

    Final Crisis = Last Chance


    PS: I'm trying to introduce Comics to my little girl (6 1/2 yrs old) and would appreciate if you did another posting on your thoughs on how best to introduce comics to the next generation sometime.

  10. if somebody had told me three years ago about how dc was going to start jacking everything up every couple of months, rotating creators, doing "everything will change" cross-overs, i would've thought that was going to be (while not neccessarily good) at least kind of fascinating to watch, sort of like that youtube video where the kid gets knocked about twenty yards by a train.

    Instead this shit is super-fucking boring, and sort of like hanging out with an old man who's trying to convince me that the Bible has numerical codes in it that predict the winner of American Idol. Count me in when DC just straight up publishes one comic a week called Spandex Masturbation fest and it doesn't even list it's creators. Just page after page of unreadable dialog coupled with un-inked artwork. And it's about Gnort.

  11. "And it's about Gnort."

    DARK G'nort!

  12. I don't know if a weekly book should be considered a chore to read and keep up on. A *bad* weekly book could be thought of as such, but dismissing Trinity as work before it's even out is kind of mean spirited.

    (Yes yes, its the internet and we're comics fans, mean spirited is what we do but stay with me here. ^_^;;)

    I am a sucker for Hawkman/Thanagar and Adam Strange, so, Holy War is a given for me. I do like that DC just keeps on giving its sci-fi characters chance after chance, hoping it'll stick. ^_^

    Paperghost, my initial reaction is to give them the benefit of the doubt. All I really want from DC is some stories contained to the one ongoing mag that have a beginning, middle, and resolution (if I can't have a proper end). I know those don't sell, but, is it too much to ask?

  13. Oh, and:

    Extream Earth-41 The Goddamn G'Nort!

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  15. I'm with Owesome. Whatever they do, I want them to focus on telling the best possible stories within a title, with beginnings, middles and endings.

    And as little of this "Worlds Live! Worlds Die! You Have to Buy Our Entire Line to Make Heads or Tails of It!" nonsense as possible. Or even less than that.

    They no sooner get a new writer and/or artist on a book than they force them to delay or interrupt all their storyline ideas in favor of some editorially mandated mega-crossover. The creators' voices get drowned out in an ocean of corporate authorship "event" crap.

    Self-contained stories, DC. Please!

  16. I'm hopeful about the Rann/Thanagar series. Marvel's been giving their sci-fi/space characters a great run in the Annihilation series, and I've love to see DC do the same thing.

    And hooray for done-in-ones! I just read Dini's latest Detective and enjoyed it so much more than Grant Morrison's tediously-dragging on Batman sagas.

  17. I like Bagley's work a LOT and can tolerate Busiek a bit more than I can some of DC's "big names" these days, but frankly the idea of a weekly title starring Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman does nothing to make me more interested in DC's output. I had my qualms about 52 but one of its charms was that it featured characters who DIDN'T have their own monthly (or arguably biweekly in Superman and Batman's cases) runs. There are plenty of characters who are high-to-mid b-level types who could be served much better as the focus of a book like this then yet ANOTHER Super/Bat/Wonder team-up. Unless DC actually does some kind of godhood ascension with them, I just don't see how this'll be anything but redundant.