Thursday, July 23, 2015

Throwback Thursday - One Year of DC's New 52 (2 Years Later)

This was originally posted on my Tumblr back on August 31, 2012. Funny how I haven't read any comics in at least a year now. 

One Year of DC’s New 52 - Growing Up

While this isn’t really a response to Ryan over at The Signal Watch, it is inspired by his recent post about DC’s relaunch and growing up and, well, life, I guess. I don’t necessarily agree with everything he says, though I don’t completely disagree either. Just minor details. Anyway it’s a very good post so be sure to check it out here.
New 52
So, it’s been one year since DC’s relaunch and I’ve been a big defender of it from the onset. The idea of a fresh start to the universe was just appealing and frankly, necessary. Whether it needed to be a full reboot or not, something had to be done. Characters like Wonder Woman and Superman were just not working anymore. Batman was, which is why nothing was really changed there. I had tired of Green Lantern, but it still had an audience as well. Either way, I welcomed a reboot. Once the books were out and I tried most of  them, what stood out to me was the idea that they were publishing a variety of books with different creators and tones to appeal to a wider audience. They weren’t setting out to appeal to everyone with every title. Who can afford 52 books a month, after all? Take the Batman family for example. Early on, I realized I wasn’t going to be reading all of them. I did not care for Dark Knight or Detective Comics. Not my thing, though a lot of people did like those. But the Batman title, with Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo continues to be one of my favorite books, a year later. And as long as that team (particularly Snyder) is involved, it will likely be the only superhero book I’ll continue to read a year from now. 
In addition to the varied tone, the representation of genre in the new books has kept me interested in DC at a time when I’ve been moving further and further away from an interest in reading about men in tights. Books like Swamp Thing, Animal Man and Frankenstein, while they take place in the same universe as Justice League are far from being the same kind of book as Justice League. Even Wonder Woman has basically been a Vertigo book under Azzarello, which suits me fine. Granted, I follow creators such as Lemire and Snyder closely and would probably read their grocery lists, so I’m not sure I would be reading these books if someone else were writing them. Matt Kindt took over Frankenstein at the perfect time, as I had just gotten into his style as well. And, by the way, creator turn around and cancellations were to be expected since many of the books were basically an experiment, and during a time when publishing a book that doesn’t sell is not really an option, so I can’t fault them for that. Whether or not creators left under bad circumstances, I don’t necessarily worry too much about, and I don’t say that as some blind defense of DC. But my concern is really just the books themselves.
If there is one glaring problem with the New 52 it’s the continuity issue. If you ask me, the mistake isn’t that the continuity doesn’t make sense, it’s that the concept of continuity between a wide range of books should be completely abandoned. I read Batman and Wonder Woman. I do not read Justice League, nor do I care how those characters are represented in that book. For me, it works out, so far. There is no “Batman” as a character. There is only the Batman as interpreted by whoever is currently writing him. Grant Morrison himself played with this idea in his run by trying to incorporate every version of the character into canon. It was bold and fun, but ultimately, it doesn’t really work outside of his run. I don’t mind if one creator tells a story that directly contradicts what another did before. The truth is that that has always been the case in comics. The idea of continuity was only forced onto the medium in an attempt to market to us as we got older and make us buy more books. It doesn’t have to be that way.

batman #5 Snyder Capullo

I do worry that eventually, possibly soon, DC will try to start shoehorning events from one book into another. They’ll want to try to get me to buy more books again, and in desperation will resort to this old tactic. So far, though, the two crossovers I’ve dealt with, The Court of Owls and The Rot, have happened organically within the series themselves. What’s more, with The Court of Owls, I did not, nor did I feel like I had to, read any of the other Batman books. And this is key, because this is what has reduced my Marvel reading to almost nothing. I am no longer interested in giant, company wide events that “change everything,” which I know is ironic since I’m defending a relaunch that came from just that. Basically, I just want to read my book, month to month, and not worry about a “big picture.” If I’m not already interested in Justice League, interrupting my Batman story because The Justice League is in a heated battle against the Teen Titans, is not going to go far in making me buy either of those two books. In fact, that just happened over at Marvel and I dropped Wolverine and The X-Men as a result.

DC New 52 Animal Man

I’m also completely ok with characters being changed. I always say it’s in the execution. So the idea of changing Superman, for example, is not problematic to me. The problem is that the reality of the relaunch was that the new version of Superman, even Morrison’s, just wasn’t interesting to me. In the case of Morrison, I just feel he already told the only Superman story that ever needed telling in All Star Superman. But again, not every book is for me. And that’s fine. I’ll read the ones that are until they aren’t.
You know what else wasn’t for me, after all? Before Watchmen. I defended the idea of it and still do. But after trying a few of the first issues, what I found was that it just wasn’t necessary. In his post, Ryan talks about how superhero comics are no longer exploring anything meaningful. I can totally see that, though I don’t see anything wrong with that necessarily (a good story can just be a good story). However, I think that observation nails absolutely what I didn’t like about the Before Watchmen books I read. It turns out that anything Alan Moore didn’t already explore in the original, has been explored, deconstructed and reconstructed in the countless stories inspired by Watchmen. Books like The Authroity, which Ryan mentions, have filled any gaps. I’m not saying it wouldn’t have been possible to make the Before Watchmen books relevant or at least not seem redundant, but again, it’s all in the execution and I don’t think they executed. I could be wrong since I only read the first issue of a few of them, though. I might check them out when they get collected.
Overall, the fact is, we’re all growing up (FINALLY!). I’m 39 now with a daughter and another child on the way. That’s not to say we should give up comics, or even superhero comics. But we’re not going to be into the same things anymore. What’s more, for years now, we’ve been the target audience for Marvel and DC and it’s no secret that that has been a huge mistake on their part. They have not cultivated new readers along the way. Now they are taking action because they are waking up to the fact that we are slowly moving away from their product anyway. At least I am. I read a lot more independent books than I ever have, and virtually none of those are superhero books. So no, they aren’t publishing books for us. For that, I am glad, actually. I’d rather they continue than die with me. I’d rather whole new generations grow up on virtually unrecognizable versions of the same characters I love than to see the characters completely go away. I want to hear my kids, in 35 years, complaining about how DC broke up Superman and Wonder Woman.
DC Comics

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