I WILL TELL YOU #30: Final Crisis?

Last week, as you’ll remember, I spoke of DC Comics’ upcoming line-wide relaunch. And how it was not the first time DC had been to that dance, nor had it been the first time that we all accompanied them, as much as they would have us believe otherwise.

That first dance, of course, was 1985’s Crisis on Infinite Earths, which was not only DC’s first company-wide event (which we called crossovers back then), but also their first attempt to make the DCU an easier place to get around in, and by extension, gain new readership. DC might not have officially and literally exclaimed “Big Changes! Things Will Never Be The Same!”, but we all went into Crisis with that expectation, and when it was all said and done, we all found that promises made were also promises kept.

It was talent AND a streamlined continuity that brought fans back to DC in th 80s

Of course, after inviting us all to the dance, they had to show us a good time once we got there. So with a leaner, streamlined continuity in place, DC brought in all-star talent like Frank Miller, John Byrne, and George Pérez to lead the creative way and populate the new DCU with stories that would have us dancing long into the night, even after those creators moved on and others moved the stories forward. So we danced and danced and danced.

DC tries to explain things, 15 years after CoIE. Dem's a lot of woids.

Well, we knew we’d have to leave the party soon, as the band began to play out of tune. Future writers started playing fast and loose with the simplified continuity, their editors let it happen, and it wasn’t long before more fixes were needed, and then the fixes had to be fixed. Concepts that had become unworkable and were jettisoned in CoIE not only eventually found their way back into the DCU but were embraced by recent editorial reigns. Embraced to the point where the stories suffered, readership fled, and DC is right back to the point they were when Crisis was determined as being necessary.

So here we are again. We’re in the midst of Flashpoint, an event that appears poised to be the catalyst that’s going to result in a reboot of the DCU; a reboot that’s supposed to attempt, again, to make the DCU an easier place to get around in, and by extension, gain new readership. Yeah, it’s been said.

No comment.

Unlike Crisis, though, Flashpoint didn’t launch with any promise of big changes, and no one expected that when it was finished, things would never be the same. Or, maybe DC did make such a promise, but perhaps after we all got collectively burned by the disastrous, incomprehensible, and totally useless so-called event that some call Final Crisis, we all finally decided to seriously swear off believing any such claims ever again.

Regardless, Flashpoint did not carry the same kind of buzz about sweeping changes before its release the same way CoIE did. Whatever DC said regarding the series, and any major changes that might follow it, it was all largely written off as hype. It wasn’t until DC stood on their desk, raked their fingernails across the chalkboard, and yelled, “Big changes! Things will never be the same!” in their press release a few weeks ago that anyone took notice.

Kind of sad that a real-life press release generates far more excitement than their imaginary stories currently do. But then, perhaps that’s why big changes are necessary, because no one cares about their stories anymore. They tried to tell us change was coming, but they had already cried wolf far too many times.

Which kind of begs the question: if DC’s looking to just start everything over, why not just do it? Just wrap up any ongoing stories, and then just start all titles from scratch. You don’t need a Crisis-type, in-continuity reason to restart everything.

I can hear it now: “Why JJ, I will tell you. It’s because they wanted to make money.”

Yep. If you’re initiating another Big Bang, why not go out with a bang, too? It would be pretty uncharacteristic of a big publisher to just push the reset button without a lot of fanfare leading up to it. So, we get Flashpoint. And its twenty-two spinoff children. Might as well go out with a big bang, too.

I kind of feel like a charred Yosemite Sam covered in soot, staring into the barrel of a cannon that just went off, saying “Yep, it’s loaded.” All right, DC, I believe you. Flashpoint will bring forth big changes. Nothing will ever be the same. I get it.

With the DCU relaunching in September, DC has failed to explain why we need to have Flashpoint: Canterbury Cricket #1

Although, there were other indications. Like, when Flash #13 was cancelled, and not re-solicited. Hmm. Or when Superman renounced his citizenship, and DC immediately came forth claiming that story will not be acted upon. It’s all so clear to me now; DC didn’t care about negative feedback; they knew the world was coming to an end! Or when no other titles were originally scheduled to ship the week of Flashpoint’s final issue. That was just plain weird.

The best way to keep a secret is to hype the hell out of it, I guess.

DC has set out a big challenge for itself, but they’ve also kind of set forth a more immediate one: the announcement of the relaunch brings about a kind of defeatist attitude about its current offerings. Some readers are asking why they should care about Flashpoint, or its tie-ins, or any of DC’s other titles, for that matter, if they’re all going to be gone come September. I’m sure not everyone’s going to drop the titles they buy in mid-arc, but it’s a pretty safe bet that few are going to decide to give, say, Justice League of America a go at this point.

Brian Azzarello & Cliff Chiang take on the relaunched Wonder Woman this time.

But, looking forward, I’m optimistic about the initial offerings. DC has assigned a pretty impressive array of talent on these new titles, and I have to admit that I’m more excited about DC’s comics than I have been in over a decade. I welcome liberation from the stifling and increasingly muddy continuity that has so often weighed down what could have been better stories. And I truly hope that in conjunction with this revamp, DC undertakes an aggressive marketing push to get these readers into the hands of younger readers.

One Year Later, though, my optimism remains a little more guarded. In a year’s time, will all of these titles be at #12, or will they be plagued with lateness? Will the creative teams remain intact on so many books for so long a period of time? Will all of these titles deliver, or will some not even make it to their first birthday? These are all problems that publishers face regardless, so one can only hope that the editors remain as focused on this reboot after its kickoff as they are on its launch.

What about One Decade Later? Will future editorial reigns show the same focus, or will this focus fade, as it eventually did after the original Crisis? Will someone decide that a Superman who’s as powerful as God but with a weakness towards twenty different kinds of Kryptonite that anyone can find at Wal*Mart is a good idea? How about a Green Lantern from Earth-43 fighting a Sinestro from Earth-26? And what’s going to happen with the numbering once Action Comics would have reached its 1000th issue sometime in 2019?

This is the future generation you’re going after, DC. It’s not us you’re asking to the dance again; it’s our daughters. You’re taking a big risk that just might alienate your current fanbase, so you’d better be right about this. Because if you’re not, you just might lose that generation, too, and this reboot could end up being a real Final Crisis.

JJ

About Jim Johnson

Jim Johnson (@quigonjimm) will tell you! He got a chance to write for the big boys at CBR, so we don’t see him around the site as much as we used to. Check out his stuff anyway!

Comments

  1. Well written, sir! Frankly, there is a potential to the DC relaunch (“not a reboot”), but I just don’t know if I have enough energy left to care! Like others, I plan to ‘test the waters’, but I am definitely not ‘jumping into the deep end of the pool’!

  2. I love a shared universe and a good dose of continuity, so am I sad to see the DCU I’ve known (and mostly loved) for the last twenty years go extinct?

    Sure, but I’m also excited as hell to be there on the ground floor of the “new” one. I plan to try all but about 8 of the new titles, and if the creative teams they have in place pan out I’ll probably end up reading about 50-75% more DCU on a monthly basis than I am now.

  3. But the problems are the relaunches are coming faster and faster, and it isn’t fixing the real problems that need addressing within the industry…it’s just getting a new bunch of #1s to get that momentary bump.

    It’s still too early to know what’s really going on, but most of this is a reaction to the ongoing Siegel/Shuster case, and DC’s making sure to establish its own Superman, so they can continue on no matter how the case goes.

    • Doug Zawisza says:

      I’m pretty sure the case already went. DC is set to share the rights at some point in the near future. I’ll leave it to the legal eagles in the crowd to dish the details.

      I see this as a Silver Age of the new technology. DC is going to make a charge at those who have embraced the new technology with this new launch of the characters, but appears to be leaving them just similar enough to the characters we all know and love so we’ll check in. It’s not a Jay Garrick dumped for Barry Allen Flash, but it is a refreshing of the brand.

      JJ, you make a number of great points and raise a bunch of questions that I haven’t asked, but some that I have. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’re going to get any answers any too quickly. At least not any answers that are not, “Wait and see.”

      I’m intrigued by some titles, but with this relaunch I find myself more interested by creators than by characters, which has never been the real reason that I read these things. Sure, creators inform some of my decisions, but they are never the driver to my purchases.

      It will certainly be interesting to review these columns and comments a mere ninety days from now, won’t it?

  4. robert schertz says:

    well said but does anyone remember “Zero Hour”this too was to change everything was it not?

  5. Jordan LaFramboise says:

    Could this relaunch be a part of a bigger story that we still don’t know about? The choice to launch 52 new titles seems odd given that there are supposed to be 52 different Earths (it is 52 right?)…Might this be just a temporary re-number showing our heroes in another Earth entirely? I also wonder if DC is using this opportunity to get the characters in print and the DC Characters currently and soon to be in the movies to match up visually and even story wise in some way..

  6. Thanks, guys. The overall impression I get is that this is an honest attempt by DC to try and draw long term sales; it will undoubtedly bring in short term gains but it seems that their intent is to implement a true, far-reaching fix, even if it does come with the gimmicky trappings.

    Maybe that’s just the eternal optimist in me, but this seems like a pretty drastic step just to pull in some quick cash. History will judge how well this works out, and heaven help DC if this IS just a marketing gimmick, because there’s really no way to top things if they’re stupid enough to try such a thing again.

    • What has me a little “eh…what?” is that DC is truly pulling out all the stops in terms of getting out the message here. The executive brass at DC, along with main editorial heads, are traveling the country and spending some major cabbage in support of the plan. This past week, they started by meeting with Diamond Comics Distributors (our monopoly distribution company for DC), and we waited and tensed for the other shoe to drop when they announced what must be some major news behind this expensive country-wide tour of theirs.

      Nope, no other announcement. They are just that excited about the relaunch. The main thrust of the meeting was how much thought Jim Lee put into the color and thickness of Green Lantern’s shoulder pads, and I swear I am not exaggerating.

      Nothing about digital, nothing about the impending collapse of the direct comics market after a May in which NO BOOK exceeded 100,000 copies distributed (which is the first time in history for that unfortunate milestone), nothing but a “Boy, you guys are gonna love what we do with Superman” 100% editorial material presentation.

      I’d say I’m speechless, except I have a lot to say about it. I liken it to being on the Titanic, with the ship clearly sinking, and the Captain is letting us all know that the band is going to play some really fantastic music in the next set, so settle down and enjoy.

      When comics retailers get together and chat honestly, there isn’t a person in the room who predicts that they’ll be selling more comics a year from now than they are today, and that overall continuing decline in circulation is the devil we are all hoping to overcome. Certainly, good comics are a piece of that puzzle, but that isn’t the only thing that’s broken. It shocks me that DC seems so blithely optimistic about a primarily editorial response to the languishing market.

      If the comics are fantastic, we might see a nice uptick for September, followed by the inevitable cooling off as the books get a few issues along. The first 20% will be in danger of cancellation by the six month mark, the next 20-30% in danger as we get a year or so into it. And, after that, we’ll have a market that is publishing less books in May of 2012 than they did in May of 2011.

      I’d love to be wrong, but I’m not.

  7. The industry can survive, and possibly thrive, if publishers focus on making product consumers want. But the part no one wants to talk about is that the current business model for selling comics will not be part of that success. Digital delivery changes everything.

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