Thursday, 30 June 2011

Comic Book Confidential: Riot On The Streets Of Metropolis!

Nerd rage will be in full effect at San Diego Comic Con as outraged fans will protest the upcoming DC Comics reboot.

The fans are mad at the comics division of the Time-Warner conglomerate for changing their beloved character's back-stories, costumes, and other minutiae.

DC Comics won't even ignore it.

They have too much invested in this reboot in both time and treasure to worry about these angry fans, because in the grand scheme of things,
those fans don't matter.

Allow me to explain.

Comics books as a medium is dying.

Plain and simple.

The audience is shrinking, and aging, and there are no new readers coming up to replace them.

The kids, the original audience for comics, don't read them anymore because too many comics rely too much on back-story going back five to seven decades.

Without the kids taking up the comics banner, the conglomerates that own the two major comics companies, view them only as source materials for movie franchises. And lately they've been over-killing on the franchises lately, making their box office performance wildly uneven.

So all this controversy proves is that both the fans, and the comic book companies are being really, really stupid.

The current fans are being stupid by demanding that the comic book companies keep to a strict "continuity" even though it makes modern comics impenetrable to new readers. Also, while they complain about the constant stream of continuity complicating "event" comics they still buy them, because they're essential to maintaining their own mastery of said continuity.

Give a kid a copy of just about any long running superhero title, and you have to give them a college level course on the character's history, just to know what the hell is going on.

The industry can't go on like that. Without new readers the market will continue to shrivel up until it dries up completely, then they will have nothing.

Readers have the accept that their favorite medium is the modern equivalent of the folk-tale. Over the top stories of heroes, villains, and fantastical adventures. Folks tales exist in a constant state of change, yes the fundamentals stay the same, but they become embellished, and expanded over time. When folk tales become rigid and fixed in their telling, then people stop telling them, and then they die.

Which brings me to the stupidity of the company.

Everything I've read about the reboot is telling me that it's going to be a repeat of Crisis On Infinite Earths. If you haven't read my past pieces on the subject that was DC's first attempt to straighten out their convoluted continuity. It was a huge event, where major characters were killed off, whole universes were destroyed, and the writers and artists started gradually undoing all the changes pretty much in the very next issue.

From what I've seen history will repeat itself. Take for example Batman. While the reboot is supposed to mean that he's at the beginning of the career, it's going to include all the Robins he's trained over the years, as well as Batman Incorporated. Batman Inc. is a relatively new development where Bruce Wayne, back from a spell where he was both dead and time traveling, franchises out the Batman brand to vigilantes all over the world.

When I first heard about Batman Inc. and the coming reboot I thought: "Oh, this is how they're going to have Bruce Wayne hang up the cowl in dignity, by creating an army of Bat-Men to take up the cause for him." Because it sounds like a damn logical way for Batman to end his career. He's not super- powered, or immortal, so battling crook and kooks can't go on forever, but he can't just give up the fight even if he's unable to kick a villain in the throat the way he used to. He's got to pass the proverbial torch and go from front line fighter to mentor. It is either that or have him and the Joker plunge off the roof of a skyscraper to their mutual deaths in one last brouhaha to end all brouhahas.

Of course doing something that would logically fit the narrative is not something a comic book company would do if it means cancelling a franchise they can squeeze some merchandise out of. So somehow Batman's logical retirement plan becomes something he's apparently done at the very beginning of his career while also training half a dozen Robins.

Hence, I'm forced to call bullshit on this whole reboot thing.

DC is not giving their heroes the reboot they need. They're just doing stupid, piddling costume and story tweaks to get some hype to sell a few books and see what they can use for the next movie franchise.

Which is a shame, when I first heard I was thinking that this was my chance to get back into comics after giving up on them aeons ago because I didn't have the money or the access to keep up with all their continuity nonsense.

Now I guess I'll just stay home with all the other former fans.


  1. Kids don't read comic books these days because

    1. kids don't read anything,

    2. there aren't many kids; the comic book generation didn't breed,

    3. comics are too expensive.

    So this 'reboot' will be another empty-suit failure.

  2. Turns out there is not much from this generation that is breeding. Fact is due to the economy we have a BABY BUST.

    I agree with D, the comics industry like the ancient folk tales, needs to totally REBOOT. Start batman, superman and co from the beginining. I browse through even some comics at the book store stand and see too many panels with the *Action Comics Issue #121
    Yeah, I need to find a book from 15 years ago read it just I I can understand this book that came out NOW. Think about some 11 year old kid reading a book that makes references to events that happened before he was BORN.

    DC needs to reboot, but it appears they are HALFASSING it.

  3. The kids that do read comics are reading the Japanese managa style books with self contained stories. They do not have to go find some issue made before their parents were born it fully understand what is going on.

  4. D, as an avid collecter I can not disagree with what you write. However, I think the main problem is price. A book costs $3 thesedays. 10 years ago they were a$1. A kid these days on a $10 allowance can only get 3 books. Why would any kid by a comic at that rate when that same $10 at gamestop can get him a used game he can enjoy for a month? I don't think the audience has shrunk much but rather the comic industry has priced itself out of reach of much of it's young new readerships budget.


  5. Dirty Dingus McGee--

    I have discussed price before when it comes to comics in other issues. I summed up the big problems with the industry, is that comics are too hard to get (available only in specialty stores & expensive), too hard to stock (mainstream stores hate carrying them because they're too much hassle, too little profit) and too hard to get into (impenetrable continuity).

  6. When it comes to comics it is not that the characters are unpopular. We had two really good BATMAN films and one awesome video game that is getting a sequel.

    One of the few wise things DC did if put their comics in digital format. So some kid with a iPad can download it and read it.

    For this reboot to work it has to be a TOTAL restart. I though that was going to happen. As in interviews one of the writers was going on how Superman will not be the worlds FIRST superhero in this new continuity.

    One issue I see with comics is that the books cost too much and you get way too many ads in them. I thumbed through a Xmen comic awhile back in a Borders and I swear I read what had to be 10 pages of story and the rest was ADS for various crap.

  7. Corey Ashcraft1/7/11 2:56 pm

    Furious D, I don't think anyone is disagreeing with you. Your logic is pretty unarguable. I mean in 10 years, there probably won't be a comics industry as we know it today. The demographics are wrong, the price is too high and there is too much competition for other mediums or the same characters in those mediums. The books themselves are slowly dying- that is sad fact.


    PS. who is Dingus Mcgee?

  8. It's the blog's comment policy that anyone who comments as Anonymous, get's called "Dirty Dingus McGee," even if they sign their name at the bottom of the comment, because sometimes I don't catch it in my glib skim-over of the opinions of others. ;-)

    For some reason Blogger insists that I do that.

  9. Digital Format might be the only thing that saves comics as a medium. I even rad an interview with Geoff Johns and the interview mentioned His kid will not read a comic but will read anything on his IPAD.

    Like newspaper, the medium is getting replaced by the digital age.

    I agree about the cost, When I buy comics I wait for the graphic novel collected formats to be issued so I can read 10 issues at once instead of buying one issue at a time and get about 6 pages of story and the rest are ads in a 20 page book.

    AGE is one of the reason why this superhero summer was a bust in the theatres. Most of these characters are only known to anyone 25 and up. the teens are not flocking to see films of characters they never heard of or know anything about.

  10. If comic medium dies, Superman, batman and co will become like Mickey Mouse, a licensed character used by a big corp to sell products, not to be a character in exciting stories.

  11. Well, this isn't the real Dirty Dingus McGee and I don't have any damn 'google' identity, a website or anything like that so if I must bear the scarlet letter of shame so be it.

    That said, my son is of the age where he could read comics and I let him read some of my more raggedy-assed old ones (my kid is more important than the $6.95 I might get from a damaged Superman or whatever).

    The new comics are simply not appropriate for my kids. Captain America discovers that America is responsible for 9-11? America left mines lying around in some third world hell-hole to make children crippled amputees?

    Nothing about radical Islam or the fact that most of these terrorists are pure and simple religious fanatics. Nothing about us taking in millions of poor, suffering refugees from all over the world.

    Captain America isn't even the worst of the offenders. What bright comic reading seven year old needs to see openly gay characters kissing? I am not saying all comics should cater to children obviously that is ridiculous but can't the four-color heroes of our childhood even entertain our children without us having to explain that no, their older brother in the Marines isn't a child-killing, raping maniac or what a 'gay pride' event is.

    Comics for kids should be simple, bright, and clear. Maybe we could have two tiers? One for kids with kid friendly and dare I ask for it, patriotic or moral themes. And one for adults where anything goes.

    That would satisfy both camps and since most stuff is readable online anyway parents and readers could pick and choose without even leaving their house. No more weird smelly comics shops.

    A reboot could focus on the children's level of comics at first and add complexity later. As the story lines develop, more mature themes could move to the adult imprimatur and the children's stories could exist in the 'timeless' world of children's stories where they get wrapped up in one issue and next week they are ready for some more action.

    Don H.
    Forks, WA
    AKA (unwillingly) Dirty Dingus McGee

  12. Don H, comics becoming more mature us an effect of their primary customer getting and no new fans entering the fold. This also leads to the bigger problem in impenetrability for new younger fans.

    Not only do you have comics that are tied into a continuity that goes back decades but they are filled with content that is just not appropriate from someone 6-13.

    If you look at the comic racks at the book or comic store you do not see any comics even being made for kids. Disney could with their successful shows and ownership of MARVEL could easily mend this by making comics based on their hit children shows such as Hannah Montana, Wizards of Waverly Place etc. or just make more age appropriate books with easily accessible stories based on the marvel line.

  13. The comics industry loves this stuff. Kill off Superman to great nashing of teeth and protest? GREAT!

    Then bring him back - fix it all like it never happened.

    Comics will return soon and cost about a buck. But you'll be reading them on your IPAD.