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After reading about what happened with the creators on Batwoman (J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman) and their walking away from DC Comics, the question ran over and over in my mind: Why are we still reading DC Comics?

This is something of a huge question to ask. This is asking a monstrous fanbase of dedicated, character-loving fans to potentially stop reading comics full of characters and stories they love. It’s preposterous, right?

Let’s lay out a few things on the table here: I’m not a dedicated, passionate DC Comics fan. My span of knowledge of DC and their characters comes from a mass of hours reading on Wikipedia over the past eight years, reading some of the “big stuff” (Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight series, What Ever Happened To The Man of Tomorrow?, Watchmen, Batman: Hush to name a few), and reading a handful of DC titles from the New 52 (Batgirl, Batwoman, Swamp Thing, Animal Man, Constantine). I’m not a master of knowledge, but I don’t feel I need to be for the sake of this article.

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I’ve been reading comics for about eight years. In the past four, I’ve started to pay attention to details outside of the pages and panels of the comics I read. I notice the creators: the authors, the editors, the artists, the inkers, etc.; I get picky about them. And going a step further, I start to research said creators and get more into the comic book medium and industry. I follow news and solicitations and gossip and “drama.” I feel as if I’m “in the thick of it,” so to speak.

And while being “in the thick of it,” I’ve witnessed some of the ridiculous stuff that seems to go on in the comic book industry (which isn’t to say it doesn’t happen in other industries, I just happen to follow this one more than others). Rob Liefeld’s rants after someone harassed him at a con, the dispute between Neil Gaiman and Todd McFarlane, how the Kirby Family is sort of getting screwed by Marvel, and, most recently and most prominently, DC’s editorial staff being absolute dicks to their creators.

Go ahead and take a moment and click through all of those links in the last bit of the previous paragraph. The last link being the best sum up of what I’m saying, but all of them being incredibly relevant. It’s mind boggling. Am I going crazy thinking that something isn’t right here? Why is DC’s editorial staff being so backwards about a universe they rebooted?

The New 52 was supposed to be a new era for DC. It was supposed to be a new beginning for every hero, villain, and story. But instead of letting stories be told with that in mind and being bold and new and interesting, DC seems to be trying to conform their creative staff to some ideal that seems to only be known by them.

Maybe we’re not in on the master plan. Maybe DC is doing something much bigger than we all realize and we are (I am) being short-sighted, but… I just can’t believe that. This isn’t a comic book. There are no grand-master plans by big corporations and in the end everything turned out great. I’d be a fool to think that.

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But the better question now is, and I’m sure you’re asking this yourself: What does it matter if the comics are still good?

Frankly, it doesn’t. It really doesn’t. If the comics being produced are well written, pencilled, inked, colored, etc. then we really don’t have a problem, do we? But I still grind my teeth. I still think to myself, “When do these creators who are doing a fantastic job draw the line and all walk away?”

I worry we may hit that moment where the creators who aren’t clued in on the grand scheme of things simply walk because of some major dispute and the bottom falls out on DC. It’d almost be like Marvel in the 90s. Then again, if we end up with another Image Comics, we might be better off.

But back to where I was going with things: If the comics being shipped are good, should the conflicts of creative differences of a business really affect the consumer? Should we take up issue with the problems of a company having (indirect) issues with female creators or of homosexual characters getting married or of higher-up decisions dictating the creation of a comic out of the blue?

I think we should.

I think that as these issues slip in and out of the industry surrounding them, they will certainly play out into the comics (How long has it been since DC did something stupid?). In fact, they have already if we go back to what’s happening with Batwoman.

batwoman1Instead of what was sure to be a very well told story–given the already released issues of the series–of a naturally progressing relationship, we will be denied to go in some other direction. An editorial decision. It could be the death of Maggie Sawyer (a damn Woman In Refrigerator story) or some eventual, out-of-left field reason for her to leave Kate, or just a prolonged relationship that drags on. We can’t know for sure, but nonetheless, marriage is apparently out of the question right now. Or it seems that Kate Kane can’t have a happy personal life.

As a fan of the series, I’m upset. And sure, this is something that happens to fans. We get upset and outraged at decisions. Don’t get me started on anything going on at Marvel. Regardless, this problem that DC’s editorial staff has (and quite possibly others we don’t entirely know about) seems arbitrary and… wrong. Hell, it could be said that her not getting married to the woman she loves is out of character.

Maybe if DC were a conservative company, or against gay characters (they’re not, but do tend to use them as emotion-fodder or sudden bad guys), or it was just entirely out of character for this to happen it wouldn’t be a problem, but that’s not it. DC hasn’t had issue with their relationship before, so why now? Why this? What could J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman have had planned for Kate Kane (outside of marriage) that would have been so bad for the character?

Perhaps we (I) shouldn’t say what dictates how a story is told, but I can’t be the only one wondering why isn’t DC letting their creative talent tell the stories they want. And if they’re worried about ludicrous storytelling, why aren’t they filtering it out before a story is agreed on?

It’s funny, but as I was in the middle of writing this piece, The Outhousers posted a story about Dan DiDio’s responses to some tweets on the subject of Batwoman and the creative staff leaving. It seems like DC just doesn’t care–at least at the senior staff level. What does this say about the company if they’re willing to take two Eisner Award winning writers and let them walk off a book? Surely these two aren’t bad writers by any means.

Rich Johnston adds a fantastic point to all of this: Why is DC editorial changing their minds about pre-approved content? It seems like that seems to be the root of the cause.

Follow that up with DC’s response to all of this claiming superheroes can’t have happy personal lives… It’s baffling. That is their master plan.

So I ask again: Why are we still reading DC Comics?

And maybe instead of asking a question like that, let me rephrase it: What is DC doing right?

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About The Author

Mike is currently the Editor-in-Chief at DestroyTheCyborg! as well as a full time web developer for ColorJar in Chicago, IL. He's a die-hard X-Men fan whose love of Gambit will stand the test of time and is known for whispering "Ssssaaagaaaa" whenever someone mentions what comics to read in his earshot. He's currently sporting a beard.

3 Responses to Why are we still reading DC Comics?

  1. Cory Ringdahl says:

    Boy, I sure have been asking *this* question for years. Maybe Wolfgang should respond.

  2. Wolfgangg says:

    So I had a very long reply written out, and then I clicked a link and now it’s all gone, and I’m rather upset about it. I’ll try to recover.

    Since the relaunching of both the major labels over the last couple of years [and did I read that right? Marvel is doing ANOTHER relaunch? The All-New Marvel NOW? Good grief. The title for Avengers will be "Avengers #24.NOW(=Avengers #1 in All-New Marvel NOW!)"??] my interest in either company is rapidly declining. Anyone reading my pull list can attest to that. Sure there are a couple of titles and authors here and there that I will always read (Batman, Guardians of the Galaxy), but for the most part my attention is now being focused on the smaller labels (and yes, I still consider Image a smaller label). Villains month was pretty much the last straw for me with DC. What is this garbage? Seriously. A whole month of shitty one-shots? Please. Oh, but we can make the covers in 3-D! That’ll get people to buy it!! And Marvel’s need for two universe spanning crossover events at the same time? TWO? So if I don’t want to read eighteen comics that I would otherwise have no interest in I’m shit out of luck. And what happens when these events affect the future of the stories I’m reading. If I don’t read it, I’ll just be confused later on.

    So that was a little off topic as far as what Mike is saying here, but I definitely agree with him. The way the big two treat their talent is despicable. And it seems to just get worse over time. Mike already laid out a good list of reasons why. The Kirby ordeal (remember DC went through the same thing with Superman co-creator’s family), Rob Liefield (all of him, not just his rants, but his whole decimation of the comic book industry in the ’90’s), the list goes on. This latest insult to creators though is a slap in the face to the readers as well. I trust the writers and artists that I enjoy reading to come up with their story lines. DC apparently does not have the same faith in them, and that makes me feel like they don’t have faith in me as a reader. I understand telling a writer “no, this storyline won’t work,” but to do it after it’s already been approved, after the arc has already started, and with such ridiculous reasoning is completely beyond me. “Superheroes can’t be happy?” Ugh. Dan DiDio, I want my handshake and compliments back from when I met you at Wondercon three years ago, you ass. “Eisner or not”?? What kind of back handed, arrogant comment IS that? Swine.

    /endrant

  3. René Rodriguez says:

    As many of my close friends and maybe some of our followers here at DestroytheCyborg! know I am a HUGE DC fan and avid supporter. I’m going to be honest, DC Comics Sinestro Corps War written by Geoff Johns is what got me back into comics after a eight year hiatus. It was that good and I’ve always loved the work on Superman, Batman, Flash, and yes, even Aquaman (BEFORE GEOFF JOHNS. THAT’S RIGHT.)

    I loved all the big issues and arcs that DC did in the past because they were huge. Infinite Crisis killed several heroes and literally changed the shape of the world. Teen Titans (written by Geoff Johns) not only had teenaged heroes dealing with the ideal that they weren’t invincible but also that the people they looked up to were fallible. Hell, in Final Crisis they killed Batman and the world had to spin on. This was freaking huge. But then the New 52 happened and everything changed/went back to how everything was before they decided to break the world. Meaning the events of 52 which created some of the coolest arcs for lesser known heroes (such as The Spectre, Zatanna, The Question, and Steel) were literally wiped from existence. Still I was told I had to let it go, I had to accept the new change. And it was good at first. But why did I and the rest of us believe this?

    Because DC Comics said that these were the stories our favorite writers (Grant Morrison, Geoff Johns, Scott Snyder, Peter Tomasi) who had earned our respect were going to be writing the stories they had wanted to do for years. And at first it was great. At least it seemed so. But then it started to go downhill and now we are here, questioning why we’ve been buying these issues for this long.

    The answer is simple. We put our trust in these writers who have spent years gaining it. We said, “Yes. I trust you. We’ll get through this together.” And somewhere along the way they stopped caring about us and started going through the motions that the editorial staff has demanded. Do readers like fallen, broken, and beaten characters? Yes. But we love to see them pick themselves up from it. I think DC is forgetting that part.

    Since the start of the New 52, DC has been about pushing boundaries. However, the only thing they’re pushing are our buttons. But we will continue to buy the comics because they are our favorite heroes and we hope that some form of their old selves are going to come shining back, and in that thought we haven’t noticed that they’re almost entirely gone. This is not our DC. Not anymore, at least.

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