Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The nu21?!?

DC's August solicits are out. And six titles are having their final issues: Birds of Prey, Batwing, Phantom Stranger, Pandora, All-Star Western, and Superboy.

When you do the math, the latest cancellations mean that, of the original 52 nu52 titles, only 21 are left. Which means 60% of the launch titles from the glorious reboot are long gone.

Two notes in fairness. First, if you count the re-re-launched and re-numbered Suicide Squad and Teen Titans as still continuing from the original series', that number would go up to 23 out of 52. Then again, if you're going to do that, DC might as well just re-title it the All-New New 52.

Second, that attrition rate, as dispiriting as it may seem, is far, far less than the wipeouts from the later waves of titles.

Is that 40% survival after 3 years really so bad? By comparison, the randomly chosen March 2011 had 18 DC series that were over 3 years old, out of 41 continuing titles (not counting limited series or one-shots...but also not counting recently re-launched and renumbered outing for Birds Of Prey, the Legion, or Red Robin, or...). That's 43%...and that situation was considered so dire that DC decided that had to reboot everything and start fresh.

The remaining nu21 are also shockingly undiverse. Of those 21 books remaining from the first wave, 15 are Batman, Superman or Green Lantern Family books. If you count the remaining original Justice League books, that accounts for 17. If you decide to count Flash, Green Arrow, Aquaman and Wonder Woman as JL family titles, that 20 of 21 original titles accounted for. Which leaves Swamp Thing as the sole "oddball" survivor.

And if you look at the extent to which DC has filled the holes with more Batman and Superman and Justice League titles, well, you'd be hard pressed to realize that DC Comics has one of the largest and most interesting repositories of intellectual properties available to them in the world. They just don't seem to want to publish any of them.

How should we judge the success of the nu52 3 years on? The much-ballyhooed addition of the Wildstorm characters in the DC Universe? Complete and utter failure. Vertigo absorption? Well, Swamp Thing is still going, and he's crossing over with Aquaman, so hey, thumbs up...and Constantine is still around. Pandora, the character who actually merged the three universes? Not interesting enough to keep a book for long, mainly because DC resolutely refused to even discuss the in-story reason for her doing so. Jim Lee, whose art was supposed to sell flagship titles at record rates, has regressed to the point where he seems unable to even put out work on a quarterly basis.

What about the "new" universe, with the younger, more interesting heroes? DC seems intent on constantly shifting focus away--0 issues, and Zero Years, and Villains Month, and Forever Evil, and jumping ahead 5 years to a crappy future (after showing us that in 35 years their universe will be a dystopian hellhole even Darkseid would walk across the street to avoid...yay, younger heroes?!?). If the nu52 is supposed to be so interesting, why does DC keep trying to distract us from it?

There are good books that DC puts out now. But the number of their books that I buy continues to shrink--the unnecessary reboot, the disdain for history and legacy characters, the emphasis on maiming characters, the assertion that villains and anti-heroes are more interesting than good guys, the creative churn and bizarre editorial decisions have left me cold. By that standard, at least, the nu52 has been a failure.

Honestly, these guys are so clueless that they can't even seem to be able to figure out what to do with a character named Superboy

Warner seems unconcerned, apparently willing to operate DC Comics as a loss-leader/merchandise generator/IP trademark protection outfit. And by those standards, why should they care about what actually happens in the books, as that has negligible effects on selling toys and selling TV shows (mostly to the network they co-own, so low bar there...). Alienating talent? Irrelevant to their goals. Pooping on heroes by making them villains? Irrelevant. Low sales? Hey, you've done enough to protect the trademark for another few years--cancel it and churn out another doomed title. People upset at the Man Of Steel movie? People still bought tickets and merchandise--so lifetime sinecure for Zack Snyder!

The best case scenario at this point might be to reveal that the nu52 is really taking place inside a snow globe that the Psycho Pirate is staring at inside an asylum...


Siskoid said...

I think you have it just right as to the WB's approach to DC and why no one up the corporate ladder sees anything wrong with the comics.

Bill said...

What makes me sad is that even with the titles they publish DC has lost track. Comics don't have to be dark and moody. DC used to be quirky and fun. The Metal Men features that were running in the back of the (now cancelled) Doom Patrol were pretty good. Actually, the most recent iteration of the Doom Patrol was really good. And Metamorpho looked like it was going places too.

Anonymous said...

Excellent analysis and I agree that WB doesn't care for comics as anything other than tertiary tie-ins to movies, cartoons, toys, etc. Very, very sad when you consider the heritage of the company and the characters.

SallyP said...

Man, I am depressed. There are a few good books left, but they seem to be the exception.

I'm just so...so TIRED of the whole new 52 experiment!

Anonymous said...

I've been reading your site for quite a while. It has been pretty clear that you aren't happy with the Nu52... and I don't blame you.

I'm much more of a Marvel guy myself and quite honestly haven't kept up with any titles. What are your thoughts on Marvel and what they have been doing compared to DC's approach?

snell said...

Action--I grew up a Marvel Zombie, and even though DC won me over with Crisis and the amazing burst of creativity and innovation that followed, like you I'm still a Marvel guy at heart.

But even with that admission and the risk of perceived bias, Marvel is honestly much better run than DC today. Not that Marvel doesn't have some issues (sprawling eventitis, the constant re-launching is annoying, etc). But overall, Marvel books show much less editorial interference, much more willingness to allow creators to pursue their visions. Books like Ms. Marvel and She-Hulk and Daredevil are allowed to be themselves tower above 95% of DC's output.

Devastator Jr. said...

Anything quirky or weird gets axed pretty quick over at DC - Katana, Animal Man, The Movement, all gone. :(

notintheface said...

That was what drove me off in stages. They made the iconic characters unlikeable or unrecognizable, which drove me to the quirky, weird comics. Then they cancelled all the quirky, weird comics.