Wednesday, August 31, 2011

In which I ramble on and on and mention some DC books I might buy

So today is the day that DCU implodes and the New DCU aka DCnUaka New 52 takes arrives on the shelves of comic book stores to take its place.

How do I feel about this?

As you may have noticed, I haven't been updating this blog much lately. I also haven't been keeping up with comics news as much as I usually do. (I keep falling behind on my RSS reader and having to mark hundreds of posts as read without so much as glancing at them when I get overwhelmed.) I've also fallen behind on my reading of actual comic books, although I keep buying them, which is a little worrisome a I watch my to-read pile climb higher and higher on my desk toward the ceiling.

Have I completely lost interest in comics?

No, of course not. Like all of you, I'm sure, I have other things in my life besides comics. And sometimes those things tend to take over and demand more attention, and comics become less important. I think that's what's happening now. Because I still love some of the stuff I've been reading.

But what about the DCnU?

To be honest, it's been kind of a crazy stupid emotional roller-coaster ride for me, to an extent that I find almost embarrassing. I know, it's just comics, right? I don't know why I get so worked up over some of this stuff. But I read interviews and reports from comic cons and opinion pieces and really bad PR from DC and I think it's just overwhelming. The whole thing sounds like such a terrible mess, and so many of the decisions just sound like such terrible ideas.

Meanwhile, I look at blogs like this one, where artists have been submitting their own alternate takes on DC characters and what they'd do with them given the opportunity, and it's a little hard not to bang your head against the desk. There's so much creativity, so much diversity of styles and ideas, such a willingness to explore what these characters could be. I would give at least half the books on that blog a try, whereas there's only a small handful of actual books from DC that appeal to me in any way. It just makes me wish that DC wasn't so uptight about maintaining a consistent look and feel across the line. I wish they were a little bit more willing to take risks. I wish they were actually seeking out a different audience, expanding beyond the current demographic and giving young, creative, talented people free reign to play with their characters and come up with new and exciting comic books.

I don't really see the DCnU as doing that. For the most part, it's the same people doing more or less the same thing they were doing before. I'm not saying there's no creativity in the New 52. Obviously some creators (maybe most? maybe all?) are very excited about their work and I'm sure there will be some good and some bad and some just kind of average comics to come out of it. But I don't see it as being focused on the future or a younger readership or a more diverse approach to superhero comics. There's a very 1990s retro feel to a lot of the art (and the 1990s are the worst possible decade for anyone to get nostalgic about) and for all the big superficial changes it just feels like more of the same.


On the other hand, I can't help but get excited about some of the books. I listened to the amazing, amazing interview with Scott Snider on the Three Chicks podcast and, oh, my God, did he ever sell me on his books. All of them! I was already planning to buy the new Swamp Thing (1) but had decided to take a break from the whole Bat family for a variety of reasons. But when I heard Snyder talk about what he has in mind for the Batman (2) book, wow. Sold! 100% sold.

I've also been sold on the Brian Azzarello/Cliff Chiang Wonder Woman (3). I've always been a fan of Chiang's art, but when I started seeing some of the preview art from the first isues I just started drooling. Brian Azzarello calls this a "horror book," which, I don't know, is totally not what I would have expected from Wonder Woman. I still think it could go either way in terms of storytelling, but I'm curious enough to check it out.

I am also sold on Jeff Lemire's Animal Man (4) (though not so much on his Frankenstein) and very tempted by Paul Cornell's books, both Stormwatch (5) and Demon Knights (6).

And Batwoman (7) goes without saying.

There have also been some books announced beyond September that I think are very promising. Marcus To drawing a Huntress (8) mini-series? James Robinson writing a Shade (8) mini-series (with Jill Thompson doing one issue)? Nicola Scott drawing JSA (9)? Dustin Nguyen on a secret yet-to-be-announced Batman project? All of these sound very promising and I will definitely be considering them for my pull list.

So it's not all bleak. There are books I'm excited about, and in the end my DC pull list might not be as dramatically reduced as I had expected it to be. If you've been keeping track (or looking at the convenient numbers in brackets after each title) that's as much as 9 books I might end up buying each month. And there's at least a handful of others that I'll at least be tempted to browse through on the shelves.

And then there's Batgirl.

I can't decide what to do about Batgirl. I'm still devastated that Bryan Q. Miller's take on the Stephanie Brown version of the character is gone. That book had such a unique voice. It's really sad. And then, even worse than that, is the whole undoing of Babs as Oracle thing, which has already been talked about ad nauseam and which I won't get into again.

The Batgirl situation (combined with a few other concerns) were enough to at one point make me want to stop buying DC comics entirely. Now that I've learned more about the books that are coming out, Ive softened up a bit, but part of me still really wants to take a stand and refuse to buy Batgirl. I don't want to support that change with my money, and as much as I'm dying to know what Gail Simone's take on the whole thing will be, I feel like buying this book would be a compromise that I'm not willing to make.

Sometimes I pick the stupidest things to have convictions about. Some people are calling for a Marvel boycott because of the way they treated Jack Kirby and his family. Surely that's a more noble cause than what DC is doing to a fictional character. But I'm not really in this to be noble, I guess. I'm also not calling my refusal to buy Batgirl a "boycott." I just don't want to be part of it. Even though I think that Gail Simone will probably write a very, very good book and I wish I could support her.

Will I crack and buy it anyway? Will I read it in trade paperback? Digital comics? I don't know. I reserve the right to change my mind about it. But for now, this is where I stand.

And now, excuse me, I have to go back to reading Game of Thrones.


Puckett September 1, 2011 at 2:22 PM  

I won't be buying Batgirl. I don't care who's on it. I don't care how amazing it may be. I. Will. Not. Buy. It.

And as for Marvel, it's not that I don't have sympathy for Kirby, but it was work for hire. These aren't characters he developed and took to Marvel. They were characters developed while Marvel was paying him. Marvel owns the work and associated IP rights.

Think of it this way - if a company pays someone to invent something and makes sure they have a roof over their head and don't experience the full impact of failure, it is reasonable that the company in question own whatever gets developed because they accepted the financial risk.

If, on the other hand, someone does this stuff in their garage and accepts the financial risk of potentially not having a house if it doesn't pay off, clearly they own the IP.

At a simple level, it boils down to who paid for it and who accepted the financial impacts of failure.

I would likely be more sympathetic if Kirby was still alive, but he's been dead for nearly 20 years. He created the work - if anyone besides Marvel had any claim, he did, but he's been dead for nearly 20 years. The suit was brought by his kids, who rightfully recognize that there is a LOT of money at stake, but they didn't create these characters, nor did they do the work, nor were they paid for the work on the characters, nor did they accept any of the financial risk involved with creating them.

In short, it looks an AWFUL lot like a cash grab.

Yan Basque September 1, 2011 at 3:03 PM  

Are you saying that Marvel did not treat Kirby unfairly? Because that seems to be the important question to me, not whether his children are greedy.

Puckett September 3, 2011 at 11:11 AM  

I don't know whether Marvel did or didn't treat him fairly. He did the work and apparently their checks cleared. If their checks had bounced or they hadn't paid him, I think there's a bigger claim to be made. However, it's also HIS claim to make and, again, he's been dead for nearly 20 years. In short, Kirby didn't bring this particular suit, so the issue clearly isn't whether he was treated fairly but whether the plaintiffs' claim has merit. So far, the courts have held - and, whether it's ethically or morally right or wrong, their decision has been correct based on U.S. law - that Kirby's creations were work for hire.

Yan Basque September 3, 2011 at 11:31 AM  

I'm not sure I want to get into this debate, but I'm just going to state that I very strongly disagree. I think if you know anything at all about the history of American comic books, one of the saddest stories is how Kirby was treated by the industry. And it's a very well documented injustice. To reduce it to whether or not their checks cleared is crass.

You totally make it sound like Kirby was satisfied with what he got from them and was just sitting back enjoying life until he died and then his greedy kids turned it around to try to get a piece of the pie. That's not at all what happened.

It's not like I'm calling for a boycott. I'm still buying Marvel comics. But it doesn't mean that I fully agree with everything they did or do. And in this case I find it very hard to side with the big corporation that has made millions of dollars over the artist they screwed over. You know, just because they signed a contract doesn't mean that he wasn't screwed.

Anyway, I said I didn't want to get into this debate. Sorry. I just disagree.

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