An Open Letter to DC Comics

An open letter to DC Comics

Dear DC,

Today marks the release date of the final issue of Dial H, last week was the final issue of Grant Morrison’s Batman saga: that means that from tomorrow onwards I will only be purchasing a single series from you (Brian Azzarello’s Wonder Woman).

A year and a half ago, in January I wrote a post after the first six months of your New 52 initiative (by the way, as an aside, can we stop calling it that now? It’s been two years). I outlined some numbers about titles I had been buying. From that article:

“Of the 52 new number ones released, I picked up 13. I read around 40 through friends, but I only bought 13. Of those thirteen, I went on to buy the second issues of 10 of the series. Only 8 made it to the third issue for me, and only 7 got the first five issues bought by me. Re-reading the opening storylines of these comics, I’ve dropped another two.”

Now, a year and a half later: One.

I’m not a picky reader, or at least I don’t think I am. What do I look for in a comic book? Good writing, and good art. Sometimes, if the writing is THAT good, I can stomach a bit of mediocre art too. My way of reading comics is to follow the writers I admire: Grant Morrison, Warren Ellis, China Mieville, Matt Fraction, Jonathan Hickman are just some of those writers. I’m a big fan of Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire’s independent work.

I want to give you a test. From a preview of your latest dull, insipid crossover, here are three lines of dialogue. See if you can attribute them to a character:

Whoever you are, I assure you, I have heard it all before.
There is no way it was Superman’s fault
But what if Wonder Woman is right, Trevor?

It’s kind of impossible without the pictures, and that’s my problem. I don’t think it’s your writers, because I’ve read Snyder’s Severed and his Black Mirror arc on Batman was stunning, I’ve read Lemire’s Underwater Welder, it’s your editors. The same editors who appear to have removed Ales Kot off his fantastic Suicide Squad run, the same editors who fired and then rehired Gail Simone, who caused Rob Liefeld to go on his rather incredible rant (another aside, that was probably a good move, he’s awful).

Your problem is that two years in, we still don’t understand the universe our heroes occupy. I struggle to understand how and perhaps more importantly why, all of Batman’s history has to be shoved into a five year timespan (we’ll ignore the ten year old son for now, shall we?). We still don’t know what is continuity, what isn’t – and it makes it especially difficult when some comics give us several different origins (Tim Drake was never Robin? Or was he?). Really though, I can forgive that, I’m not always bothered about continuity.

The biggest problem is – your comics are boring. Your characters are boring. Your stories are boring. I want to read Superman and enjoy it, I want to read The Flash and enjoy it, I want to love Justice League: but right now, it’s an impossible task. I pick them up in the shop and I flick through the first few pages, I read the previews – I want them to be good.

Take a look at Marvel, for just a second. Every month I pick up five titles. That may not sound like a lot, but when two of those are Avengers and New Avengers, the flagship titles for the publisher, it says to me that they’re doing something right. Those are exciting, interesting and innovative comics.

You had some innovative comics going on once. You published Sandman, Watchmen, Doom Patrol, All Star Superman, Red Son, Crisis on Infinite Earths, you let new creators like Scott Snyder write amazing Batman stories like Black Mirror – but something has gotten lost in the big reboot and two years later, it’s still not there.

You can be as boring as you want, if that’s what you want to be. But it’s going to lose you more readers. It’s already lost me.

Yours sincerely,
Daniel

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “An Open Letter to DC Comics

  1. I agree that DC is a complete and utter mess at the minute. Wonder Woman has surprised me by being really enjoyable and I think some titles on the 52 started off well (Swamp Thing, Animal Man) but lost their way before they’d even concluded their first story.

    I think Scott Snyder has been doing a fine job on Batman. I don’t think Court of Owls is a classic and the same for Zero Year (which in the three issues so far if you include the annual has gone rubbish, excellent, rubbish), but Death of the Family was, I think, really good.

    But yeah, overall they are in a right old state. I think the whole 52 thing was ill conceived. They just announced it and did it without thinking about the consequences of making all the history they were keeping canon fitting in a five year time scale. There’s no cohesion, different writers handling the same characters have different ideas what is and isn’t still continuity so contradict each other. The editorial staff seem to be interfering way too much and not trusting the talent and people they hired for their writing ability to tell a story. There’s too much last minute editing and they seem to think gimmicks (villains month with 3D covers) rather than quality will drive up sales.

    When you look at how well on the whole Marvel keep it together and develop stories across multiple titles (and often in a way that means if you’re reading one picking up the other will enhance it but isn’t essential) it just further highlights the incompetence at DC. My problem with Marvel is that I want to buy more than I can afford. With DC I buy Batman, partly because I think Scott Snyder is alright, but partly just because it’s Batman. I don’t pick up anything else they like.

    And like you mention, some of their writers are doing great things with smaller publishers that let them tell the stories they want. It’s not that the writers are bad or the characters are inherently boring (although I was always a Marvel boy), it’s that the people in charge don’t have a clue what they’re doing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s