Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Comic Book Confidential: Time For Positivity


I'll admit it.

I've been doing a lot of bitching about how half-assed, botched, and boondoggled the whole DC Reboot is going to be. It's not going to correct any of the continuity problems that are keeping new readers from getting into it, and, judging by the underwhelming performance and convoluted storyline of
Green Lantern, it's bleeding into their once super-lucrative superhero movie business.

So today, I'm going to be positive. I'm going to offer suggestions and ideas on how a reboot can be done right. Feel free to offer your own ideas or opinions in the comments, just remember, I'm always right. ;-)

Here they are in no particular order....

1. REBOOT FOR REAL THIS TIME: That's right, do it all from the beginning. Don't try to pick and choose bits of past continuity to appease the fan-boys or the merchandising department with visions of action figures in their heads, you must start from scratch. That means having Clark Kent arrive in Metropolis and think that donning blue tights and a cape might be the right thing to do. Having Batman working as a lone avenger, soon to adopt a young orphan, as a protege. Barry Allen is a young CSI lab tech who is just about to have an encounter with a bolt of lightning and a shelf full of chemicals. Hal Jordan's about to get some new bling, and a young woman named Diana leaves her isolated island home to find a whole new world, and decides to become its defender.

It's not rocket science.

It will entail some sacrifices. You're going to have to hold off on merchandising some characters before they're introduced in the comics, but trust me, it's for the greater good. Stories that make sense to readers who don't already have an encyclopedic knowledge of comics history have a better chance of breaking through to mainstream audiences.

2. CREATE A COHERENT BACK HISTORY & STICK WITH IT: The DC universe was all about legacy. There is a way to integrate some of the "Golden Age" characters and stories into this new rebooted universe. Simply lay out that in the 1940s there was a super team, The Justice Society, that protected the country from spies and saboteurs, but they had fallen out of favor in the 1950s, and either retired, or went underground. Barry Allen Flash can be a Society history buff who seeks out a retired Jay Garrick to help him understand his powers & their story provides inspiration for the formation of the Justice League. Etc...etc...

Don't make the mistake they did during the Silver Age rebirth of the super-heroes, by at first denying the existence of the Golden Age characters, then creating Earth 2 in a vain attempt to make it work. Just leave Superman and Batman out of the Justice Society this time, and make their version of Wonder Woman Diana's mother. It's not hard, just don't screw it all up, like you did in the 1990s when the whole continuity thing got so convoluted no one knew which way was up. Create a history for them with a beginning, a middle, and an end, then stick with it.

3. STRAIGHTEN OUT THE GEOGRAPHY: One of the things I liked about DC was that it was using made up cities like Metropolis, Gotham, Keystone, etc... It said that this was their own world and not beholden to any pop cultural/political fads going on in the real world.

It's also been one of DC's major problems. The locations of the cities seemed to change with every writer. Sometimes Gotham
is New York City, other times it's near New York City, but is actually in New Jersey. Metropolis is sometimes in the Midwest, sometimes on the Atlantic, sometimes other places. Acknowledge that every city can't be an analog to New York City, give them set locations, then stick with them.

4. CONSIDER ALTERNATE FORMATS: Digital formats are considered the "in thing" but it shouldn't be the only format considered. The "floppies" aren't popular with mainstream retailers because they are hard to stock, damage easy, and have a thinner profit margin than regular magazines. Consumers just don't think $3+ is really worth the half hour or so distraction a single issue can deliver, especially when you include the hassle of finding a specialty comics shop in your area that carries the titles you want.

Erik Larsen, Image Comics partner & creator of
Savage Dragon, offered an idea for a new format, one closer to Japanese manga. He suggested taking all the multiple titles related to a character like Batman, for example, breaking up the 20-25 page issues into 5 page chapters, then putting all the chapters from the different titles together into one large format 60+ page weekly Batman magazine that sells for around $6. The stories, once completed, could then be collected into trade paperback graphic novels.

Another alternative is to put 3 complete issues worth of thematically related comics stories into one 60-70 page monthly magazine that, like Larsen's plan, can sold in convenience stores the way comics used to be sold at a price that seems equal to the entertainment value.

5. REMEMBER, COMICS ARE SUPPOSED TO BE FUN: Yes, it's great that Alan Moore showed how comics can become great works of psycho-sexual-sociological dissection or explorations of political disaffection because of the policies of the Nixon administration. However, we have to remember that if comics are to survive as a medium, they need to be read by kids. Kids want action, adventure, and colorful characters. They don't have to know about how Gorilla Grodd once touched Barry Allen in a bad place, and that's why he's impotent on his wedding night with Iris, and they don't want to know.

I'm not saying that comics should be sanitized to the point of being Dora The Explorer. You can be dark, kids like darkness and moral ambiguity when it's in nice, safe, ink and paint form, but if that's all you give them, they're going to get bored. They want good guys punching bad guys in the face, danger, monsters, magic, mad science, exotic locales, some light PG titillation, and in the end; the unequivocal victory of good over evil. It's a hunger that goes back to the dawn of civilization, and it's roots lie in our earliest mythologies. Comics creators need to remember that this need is primal, not neurotic, tap into that primal nature, and you might get kids reading them again.

This is not just the grumblings of a disaffected ex-fan-boy. Even if you look at it from the cold calculating view of business, it makes sense. New readers breed new fans, new fans buy comics, and merchandise, and watch movies and TV shows based on their characters. Play your cards right, and you might get these characters making money for another 60-70 years.

Any more suggestions, leave them in the comments.

1 comment:

  1. Blast Hardcheese13/7/11 1:43 pm

    In a similar vein, check out the website for the 'indie' comic Atomic Robo. It's a very good comic, but what I like most is their mission statement:

    - No Angst
    - No 'Cheesecake'
    - No Reboots (can I get an Amen?)
    - No Filler
    - No Delays

    Website: http://www.atomic-robo.com/