In the last few weeks, I have wondered whether I’ve been unfairly critical of DC’s plans to reboot their titles.
Actually, that is a little disingenious – I have a pretty complex relationship with what’s going on there, but for the most part I don’t think I’ve been commenting on the books, so much as on the devolution of the mainstream comic industry to the point where not only is everything driven by hype-cycle rather than content, but that we’re also at the point where everybody in the industry, from publishers to commentators, risks losing any slim credibility that they should maybe have because the hype, and the Zero Or Ten nature of fan commentary, has become shrill and meaningless.
I’m in agreement with many of my friends that if the biggest perceived problem at DC is overly complex continuity, and an over-reliance on that continuity in the books that hampers new reader engagement, then something definitely needed to be done, and a reboot wasn’t a bad idea. What I’ve been concerned about is that what it looks like we’d be seeing wasn’t a reboot so much as a defrag, and while that might see a temporary boost in sales, it wasn’t the change in approach that both DC needed, and that they were kinda probably – if maybe a bit vaguely – promising, loudly, to the extent that any other cool comic stuff we could have all been talking about has been swept away.
Where my concerns about my own stance came from was that even where I thought I was being moderate about getting my point across, and being clear that it was a strategic rather than qualitative viewpoint, I seemed to be at odds with a few people. And it was starting to seriously hamper my shit.
And then I read a couple of other prominent comic review sites, and I started to get it a little bit. These places were tipping wildly back and forth between open-faced snark and cynicism, and outright angry fan entitlement. The continuity being messed with was seriously getting in the way of people being objectively critical. If part of the problem with a lot of DC and Marvel books is that they have become continuity porn, it seemed to be really causing problems for a lot of very loud internet people that, say, this actress was in a new film saying that she was a college student who’d never tried anal before, when there was this film she’d done in 06 that clearly contra… I’ve lost my point.
What I realised was, by taking the opposite view to the readers who were quite optimistic about the reboot, I was actually aligning myself with some people who were, to my mind, making some really unreasonable judgments about the new books that they were reading. When they complained that, say, Barbara Gordon’s revised motivations were different from how they had been pre-reboot, they seemed to be missing the point. When they complained that Alec Holland’s history was confusing in that first issue, they seemed to have been reading a completely different book from the one I had.
In the same way that fanboy jizzing about The Phantom Menace made me completely turn on that movie, seeing these books picked apart in that way made me start to second-guess my own position on the reboot. I’d always said that if the books turned out to be awesome, it didn’t matter how sketchy I thought DC’s approach had been to the hype… half-decent, accessible books coming out about such recognisable characters could only be good for comics. But at some point I’d had so many arguments about this that I’d started inwardly scowling whenever I thought about it. And because at a glance only a couple of the books I’d seen had called out to me, I’d only read those two or three examples of the reboot.
I couldn’t claim an informed opinion if I didn’t at least try to read a little outside of my comfort zone. We tend to stay positive about comics on the podcast, so I’ve ended up mostly focussing on the books I’ve really liked, and limited funds mean that I don’t buy many books that don’t immediately wow me on a flick through, but that wasn’t going to cut it this time.
So I borrowed a bunch of the DC reboot books the other night, and set to reading. I won’t review them fully, because I was pretty much doing a live commentary on Twitter. What I’ll do instead is post those tweets here in full. I can’t promise this is going to make any sense, by the way.
Unfortunately, all this exercise proved was that either the quality of work in these books isn’t on balance all that good, or I’m too far gone to know any better. Overall, I’d have to say that another couple of months and a second draft of the scripts in almost every one of these books would have made them, in some cases, awesome, and in other cases at least readable. So what I’m saying is, if you wrote or drew one of the books I didn’t enjoy, I don’t think it was you, I think it was some part of the editorial process.