Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Dumping DC



The title of this post isn't technically correct. I don't plan to boycott DC anymore than I've boycotted Marvel. But the Marvel Universe as a whole hasn't held my interest for a few years now and DC (as a collective line of comics) is about to follow it off my radar.

DC and Marvel get their bread and butter from enormous, line-wide events. They survive by telling their dedicated fans over and over again that "this is the story that you need to read; this changes everything; this is important." And for fans of those universes, they're not lying. I want to make it really clear that I'm not down on anyone who's a fan of those universes and still buys those events. I'm kind of down on you if you're doing it without getting any enjoyment out of it, but if you like big DC and Marvel events, that's excellent. Not that you need my permission to enjoy what you enjoy.

For me, I stopped enjoying them in 2008 (Final Crisis and Secret Invasion were the last scoops of dirt on the grave) and stopped buying them. The rest of this post is going to reflect that, so if you're a fan of that kind of storytelling and think you might be offended by my picking at it, please don't read any further. It's not my goal to make you angry; I just want to record some thoughts as I'm having them.

I grew up with Marvel and DC characters, but never had the money to read as much about them as I wanted. I'd get to a part in the comic where Spider-Man references some fight he had with Electro three issues back and there'd be that infuriating little editor's note: "See issue # whatever." As a kid, I dreamed of a time when I'd actually be able to go "see issue # whatever;" when I'd be able to afford as many comics as I wanted and finally get The Complete Story. For many years as an adult, I enthusiastically bought series after series and event after event - whether or not I was enjoying them on a story level - because I was finally getting The Complete Story. I was following every major thing that was happening in these two universes.

That's the lie though, right? There's no Complete Story. There may be Universe-Changing Events, but the very nature of corporate-owned comics means that they're making this up as they go along. There's no master plan. When I was a kid, I imagined that Marvel and DC had a guy whose sole job it was to make sure that continuity was adhered to and that everything fit together with everything else.

Once I realized that no one's on top of that stuff, the more Marvel and DC tried to maintain that deception, the more frustrated I got. It's like I'd discovered the man behind the curtain, but instead of coming clean about it, he kept pulling the curtain closed and insisting that the Wizard is real.

After 2008, I threw up my hands and quit. No Dark Reign for me; no Blackest Night. I didn't quit reading everything by Marvel and DC though; just the big events.  I still had a few titles that were mostly managing to stay out of all that. For Marvel, that was X-Men Legacy, but not much else. Alpha Flight when they rebooted that. Agents of Atlas of course. There'd be a tie-in or reference to whatever event was currently going on, but I didn't let those hook me. I just stuck with what I liked. I was done following the Marvel Universe.

It was the same with DC for three years until they came up with the New 52. Honestly though, it may have been even worse for DC. I can't tell you which - if any - DC comics I was buying from 2009 to 2011. What I loved about the New 52 wasn't that everything was fresh and sparkling again. (Actually, everything wasn't fresh and sparkling again, because they wanted to eat their cake and still have it by declaring a fresh start while also haphazardly incorporating popular stories from the past into the new continuity.) What I loved about the New 52 was the absence of crossovers and line-wide events. Since everyone was focused entirely on setting up their series, I could pick up any DC book and not have to follow it to another one. The whole DCU was an open playground and I could try out anything I wanted. So I tried a lot and got interested in way more DC series than I had been in years. For the past year, DC's been getting a lot more of my money than Marvel, but they're gearing up to kill that now.

We've already seen it starting in the Batman-related books with the "Night of the Owls" storyline. And there was an odd issue of Frankenstein, Agent of SHADE that tied-into a major crossover between Animal Man and Swamp Thing. Earth 2 #1 led directly into World's Finest #1, Frankenstein's joining Justice League Dark, and now there's word that another line-wide crossover is being planned for late next year. The DCU is becoming more interconnected.

It's no coincidence that this is starting to happen just as sales on DC comics are leveling out to where they were before the New 52. With the new car smell fading away, DC has to do something to generate excitement, so they're going back to familiar methods.

Unfortunately for me, the more DC ties its comics together, the less interested I am. To the extent that they still have books I'm interested in that don't require me to buy books I'm not, I'll keep buying their product. It's just that I'm no longer part of their faithful target audience. And I don't say that with any anger or even sadness, but with relief. That's that many worthwhile creator-owned series I can support instead.
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