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Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!
A few years ago, DC Comics rebooted their superhero publishing line. By wiping the continuity clean, writers and artists were able to rebuild characters and concepts from the ground up and not be hindered about what came before. It also allowed for an excellent jumping on point for potential new or lapsed readers. This initiative was titled “The New 52” as DC launched 52 new series. At the time, I did an opinion piece on the launch and promised to do a one-year-later follow-up.
The follow-up never happened. However, DC is now retiring the New 52 branding and going in a new creative direction, so why not look back at the New 52?
The core idea behind the New 52 was to increase sales. And they did. Those first few months DC was booming. Like anything, sales eventually decreased and leveled out. However, the company was still making more money than they were from before the reboot. On that level, they succeeded.
However, there was a lot of turmoil behind the scenes early on in the New 52. Many creators felt stifled by their editors and higher-ups. Story changes were decreed at the last minute. Things that were approved where later unapproved. Many creators such as George Perez and Rob Liefeld left their books in frustration on how the company was being run. Things were looking grim and a number of books suffered for it.
For example, the Superman line had a lot of problems finding a footing. Grant Morrison started the New 52 by telling Superman’s early days in Action Comics (which started off well, but then got too “Grant Morrison-y” for its own good), but the main Superman title had no direction for a good year (some of which was stated to be because Morrison refused to tell other writers his plans thereby making it difficult for them to write stories since Morrison’s story was taking place in the past) before much reviled (for reasons alien to me) Scott Lobdell came on and gave the book the focus it needed.
That said, other titles were very successful. Scott Snyder’s Batman and Geoff John’s Justice League were critical and financial successes. Additionally, The Flash seemed to suffer from very little editorial meddling. It seemed as if the meddling depending on who was writing it. This problem seemed to get better with time and is virtually gone by now (at least what is made public).
While I enjoyed what DC was doing and was constantly invested in the comics I read (ie. The Flash) or what I read through news sites, I was a bit disappointed that DC didn’t push the envelope further to really change things up. I know after being in business in various forms for 75+ years and a total corporate company, they are not going to rock the boat too much, but how great it would have been to reboot these superheroes and completely reimagine them in the process. Think how the Golden Age Flash (Jay Garrick) was reimagined into the Silver Age Flash (Barry Allen). Same basic concept, but new take with it.
DC did this somewhat with the popular Earth 2 series which completely revamped and modernized the Golden Age heroes. Earth 2 is a book that I truly loved the concept and the general ideas behind it, but I just could not get into it as I would have liked. Much of that had to do with then-writer James Robinson’s story pacing issues and truly awful and confusing dialogue.
Beyond that, DC did take some risks with a few titles by having some focusing on being a western, fantasy, science fiction, and even political. Unfortunately, none of these were all that successful and were cancelled at various times during the New 52. But, hey, at least they tried to bring something new to the table.
In the end, I do think the New 52 was successful. Is it the success that DC and others may have wanted? I don’t know. People who were against the reboot for really petty reasons complained about it endlessly it seemed. Some overzealous fanboys just can’t be happy unless they complain. What I do know is that it is probably good that they are retiring the branding. It has been nearly 4 years. Time to move on.
Which is what they are doing. DC just did a mini-revamp to their publishing line. Nothing as drastic as the New 52 reboot as the New 52 continuity is continuing on. Calling itself the DCYou (a play on DCU – DC Universe), the initiative is trying to create new starting points for readers to jump on the books. Most of the titles are re-introducing their characters with new costumes and/or status quos.
Most interesting with DCYou is that creators are reporting a lot of creative freedom – much more than they have had before. This, of course, is ironic given the complete reversal that was reported at the beginning of the New 52. Continuity between books is supposedly going to be much looser than before. The idea being that DC wants their writers to write the best story ever and not worry about what is happening in another book.
I like this approach. I think it frees writers up by not having to worry about other books. Continuity between books was never a real big thing during the first 30-40 years of comic book publishing – why not go back to that?
Do I think there will be epic crossovers in the future? Of course I do. Those sell. However, I don’t think it DC’s idea is that they are going to be focusing on one crossover event leading into another crossover event. For what is it is worth, there has been a surprisingly small amount of actual major crossover storylines since the start of the New 52. Perhaps this is an extension of it.
The DCYou is also experimenting with different types of storytelling with satirical books such as Prez and all-ages books such as Bizarro. It is great to see more diversity in a publishing line (and better advertising for it the more off-beat, non-superhero titles).
So, where does all this lead me? Am I still going to be collecting The Flash and reviewing the speedster’s adventures month after month? Truth is, I don’t know. Here is the catch with the “DCYou”: a good handful of books are jumping in price from $2.99 to $3.99 without any page increase or other incentives (as far as I know) that would justify a price increase. The Flash is one of these books (likely due to the runaway success of the character’s TV show).
I know that prices go up. And I knew that DC wouldn’t be able to keep all their comics at $2.99 forever. However, for the longest time, $2.99 was my limit to spend on a monthly comic (not counting a special or a one-off). It gets too costly for something that is only 20 pages long. I know I only buy one comic a month on a regular basis, but a line in the sand needs to be drawn. $3.99 is that line. And, given its monthly sales, I don’t think Flash warrants to be a $3.99 comic.
So, I don’t know what I want to do with that. I’m leaving that door open for right now. Maybe you’ll see a review pop-up here within the next week. Maybe you won’t. Who knows? I might wait and go to a convention in a few months and pick up the new comics in reduced price bins. Or will I cave? It’s possible.
Back on point: Good-bye New 52! You did your job well, but it is not time to move on. Hello DCYou! Let’s see what you have for us! Maybe I’ll do a follow-up piece in a few months to see how things played out. Oh, who am I kidding? Even I know I won’t.