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NUM-INOUS COMICS PT. 2

This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Thursday, June 9, 2011

RE: THE REBOOT

Despite DC Comics' attempt to get fans to regard the post-FLASHPOINT makeover as a "relaunch," which carries the connotation of advancement, the name "reboot" seems to have stuck. Certainly there has been no shortage of comics-fans who regard the coming event with trepidation. The so-called "soft reboot" of 1994, ZERO HOUR, is often invoked with particular attention to how little effect that event had on DC Comics continuity and/or creative directions.

One element, though, seems to have changed, since September 2009.

The above link is certainly not the first nor foremost to speculate on what it means for "DC Comics" to be restructured as "DC Entertainment," but the GEEKS OF DOOM writer puts it succinctly enough:

The announcement describes the newly formed DC Entertainment Inc as “a new company founded to fully realize the power and value of the DC Comics brand.” The rest of the press release tends to go on in a lot of corporate double speak, but what it means is that Warner Brothers and DC have seen what Marvel has done with its studio and realized that they desperately need to catch up.


It's no less obvious that FLASHPOINT is making a sustained (some would say desperate) appeal to a new readership by renumbering their books, dispensing with much of the hardcore-fan's beloved continuity, and an emphasis on digital media.

And here we come to one of the crucial differences between ZERO HOUR and FLASHPOINT: Paul Levitz stepped down from his offices as DC's Publisher and President, ceding that authority to Diane Nelson, best known for her merchandising of the HARRY POTTER property. This remains the most outwardly visible sign of the restructuring. To be sure, it's been asserted that the basic idea of FLASHPOINT was circulating at DC even before Levitz stepped down, as Bleeding Cool reported here.

The "reboots" of DC Comics that followed 1985's CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS, then, have all taken place on Paul Levitz's watch. With Levitz no longer in authority, a "hard reboot" is at least conceivable, and perhaps even probable. DC Comics is now being run by an administator who, at very least, wants to improve the saleability and merchandiseablity of DC Comics on her watch.

Now, does that mean that the "relaunch comics" will be good comics? Not at all.

However, human creativity doesn't exist in a vacuum. Sometimes it flourishes when the creative talent is entirely left alone to do as it will, as with the cartoonists of Warner Brothers' "Termite Terrace."

However, sometimes creativity can be spurred on by the knowledge of a managerial shakeup. Such a shakeup always means that some if not all of the old regime's favorites will be on the way out, prompting new proposals by both experienced hands and the young-and-hungry. As example, some might justifiably cite the success of EC Comics to hinge on the replacement of MC Gaines by his son William.

My old opponent Tom Spurgeon was considerably less than enamored of this development, concluding in this essay that:

I've thought in recent years that publishing entities companies like Marvel and DC should be concentrating on core readerships rather than mass ones, that growing their existing audience by 200 percent was a lot more reasonable a goal than somehow matching the heat and flash and cultural buzz that comes with something like that last Batman movie.


I'm not sure I follow why the relaunch can't grow the core audience, since Spurgeon seems patently skeptical of its ability to reach a mass one. Given that Spurgeon also says that he doesn't think DC has the "horses," I take it that he's skeptical about the actual ability of DC creators to pull it off.

And yet, a little over a year ago, Spurgeon also said, as I quoted in this essay:

Some characters also embody abstract principles that are frequently betrayed by the soap opera elements of twist, turn, shock and surprise. When characters that extol the virtues of great responsibility act in an irresponsible fashion and are rewarded in some way, that can confuse the effectiveness of an idea you're foisting on people as a core strength of said character. If you really think your characters have cultural power, or even iconic status, switching up what makes them that way for some sort of temporary oomph in this year's mega-crossover just weakens your ability to communicate those primary ideas over the long term.


It seems to me that, lack of confidence in DC's creators aside, Spurgeon ought to be singing praises for any development that gets the company away from randomly "switching up" the appeal of iconic characters just to goose sales. If I'm correct in believing that Diane Nelson's regime will pursue this marketing strategy more rigorously than Levitz pursued ZERO HOUR, then FLASHPOINT could indeed be the flashpoint for a DC less governed by "the soap opera elements of twist, turn, shock and surprise," and more governed by what Spurgeon called the "core strength" of its characters.

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