Problems with the new 52

12 Jun

The new DCU has done many things right.  Unfortunately, it has also screwed up a lot of situations and looks to be perpetuating many of these mistakes.  The recent house cleaning and adding of titles seems indicative of these problems.  I have written at length about the “diversity” fiasco but here are a few other problems the new 52 seems to have.

Riding Batman’s Coattails

I like Batman as much as the next person.  Over the years, my love for the character has grown more and more due to great stories like Long Halloween, Snyder’s amazing run currently, and Nolan’s movies.  As a small child, like many of my generation, I watched Adam West save Gotham from the likes of crazy foes like Tut.  Recently, I made my kids watch (and eventually enjoy) Batman: The Brave and the Bold.  And I look forward to The Dark Knight Rises more than any movie since the embarrassment that was Episode 1, which premiered the night of my high school graduation (yes, as soon as I graduated I hightailed it to the theaters).  But the new 52 seems to live and die at the feet of Batman.  When it debuted, the Bat family made up 11 out of 52 titles.  When DC cut the first six titles and created six more, not a single Bat title was dropped and another was added.  Now, with the most recent title shift announcement, we are getting another Bat book.  This means 13 of the 52 titles are related to the Bat family’s exploits and this isn’t even counting his headlining in the Justice League.  This is a little much.

What to do with Superman?

As much as I love Batman, I love Superman even more.  He is easily one of my all-time favorite characters in comics.  Unlike most fans though, I never cared for his movies (comicsalliance just did a wonderful review of the series which highlighted a lot of issues I had with them).  But in the comics, Superman reigned supreme.  I got into DC comics with the death and return of Superman.  Before then, though I loved DC cartoons and shows, I only read Spiderman comics.  The early 90s though were a monumental shift in my comics buying.  When I was finally getting tired of the books at the time, they brought in my two favorite Superman writers ever, Jeph Loeb and Joe Kelly.  For those who don’t like this time period in Superman history, I can respect that, but I believe these two offered a wonderful reminder of why Superman mattered.  And though Lex Luthor as president never quite lived up to its potential, I still believe it was an incredibly gutsy move.

But today, the Superman family is floundering.  Jeff Lamire was doing a great job with Superboy before the relaunch, so of course they replaced him with Scott Lodbell who promptly killed the momentum.  Action Comics was coming off a great Lex Luthor run but now is meandering through Grant Morrison’s Super-T series.  Many like it but I could care less.  And the Superman title.  I was so excited to see George Perez on it.  He lasted six months and was announced to be leaving shortly after the series debuted.  He was replaced by my all-time favorite comic creator, Keith Griffen, and Dan Jurgens, the architect of the death of Superman.  I was thrilled.  After two issues, the two took to working on separate parts.  Now, right after announcing an “exciting annual” helmed by Griffen, it’s announced that the duo are off the book, to be replaced by Scott Lodbell.  I will now be buying 0 Super family books for the first time in a LONG time.

Too quick to judge

When the new 52 was announced, I recommended that titles get at least 8 issues before they were considered for the cutting block.  This way, excitement could be built regarding titles people may not pick up initially.  Look at the curious case of O.M.A.C.  The title was a revamping of an old Kirby idea that had recently been revised in the “old” DCU.  The title met with critical acclaim but its numbers weren’t great.  By issue 5 (IIRC), it was announced the title was being cancelled.  I don’t think that really was enough of a chance for a totally new character.  Similarly, some titles have shifted creators every three or four issues.  How can I develop any interest in a series that has no real flow from issue to issue because you don’t know who is working on it from month to month?

The number of books

I know that the whole idea of the new 52 wasn’t built around trouncing Marvel but the first few months they accomplished this.  A few months ago, Marvel reclaimed the lead in both money made and issues shipped.  But a careful look at the numbers reveals that Marvel isn’t way out in the lead right now and is publishing more titles overall.  If DC would publish more than 52 books, some of which are completely new concepts that will take time to build a fan base, they might be able to put up more of a fight month to month.

Subscriptions

There are other issues that I feel need addressing but I have “said” a lot more than I originally intended already.  But I do want to point out the problem with DC’s subscription services now.  Until last year, I always bought my titles in store.  My wife finally convinced me to subscribe to my titles because of the cost savings.  I was excited about the notion.  Half a year in, every title I subscribed to was cancelled because of the reboot and I had to decide which new titles to take.  True, most carried over to a new series of the same concept but some needed to be shuffled off to others.  As of two months ago I was subscribed to ten titles.  Last month I received four letters in the mail saying that titles I was purchasing would no longer be subscription titles.  In fact, when this new 52 was launched 30+ titles were available to be mailed from DC to me.  Now, half of that is eligible.  Some good selling titles were dropped, including Aquaman and Green Lantern: New Guardians, two titles that shocked me.  Aquaman has been a consistent top ten seller and GLNG is part of the huge Green Lantern franchise.

Overall, I have been mostly satisfied with the new 52.  I am enjoying more titles than pre-reboot.  How much of this is due to the reboot though, I am not sure (probably very little).  Mostly, I am enjoying the new concepts, like Demon Knights and O.M.A.C, that have been given a chance.  But DC needs to think about how they are running this system if they want to keep the extra money from me they have gotten over the last year.

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2 Responses to “Problems with the new 52”

  1. wwayne June 13, 2012 at 5:45 am #

    When a series sells poorly, closing it is the easiest thing to do, but also the less respectful of those who love it. Marvel comics is far more respectful of its readers, as you can see from the fact that their comics aren’t subject to continuous reboots (read: distortions) and dismissals. You’re not the first blogger reproaching DC for the excessive attention given to the Batman family. On the 23rd of May I commented a post saying:
    “I agree with you that DC new deal is giving a perhaps excessive attention to the Batman world, but I love each component of the Batman family (except for Damian and Batwing), so I’m liking it. And seeing Barbara back in action… it’s priceless. And I still hope they will come Gotham Central back to life: it was my favourite series, and, when DC decided to close it, it was one of my biggest pains as a comics reader.”
    But 19 days later, when I knew another Batman spin-off (Talon) was on the way, I wrote:
    “The New 52 line is becoming more and more Batman – themed. At first I was glad about it, but now I’m afraid DC is wearing its best character out, until even the fondest Batman fans will go through a rejection crisis for him.”
    This is not the only wrong choice DC made in the last year: for example, they heavily distorted one of my favourite DC characters (Green Arrow), and this is something really difficult to accept. Anyway, even if I don’t like the concept of making a reboot and I think that DC made some errors in the last year, I have been mostly satisfied with the New 52 as well. Series like Animal Man, Aquaman and Swamp Thing are having an enormous success; other ones, like I, Vampire and Suicide Squad, are doing far better than a C-list DC comic is supposed to do.
    I tried only 2 of the 6 series I mentioned: I bought the 6th issue of Suicide Squad (and I found it was good, but overrated) and the TP of Animal Man. I agree that Lemire series definitely is one of the best New 52 series. The detail I enjoyed more was the homelike atmosphere: I can’t tell you why, but it reminded me of Daria, an MTV cartoon I was deeply in love with when I was younger. And the decision of setting this series in a small town, instead of choosing a metropolis, is another detail that pushes Animal Man near to Daria (and to indie comics as well, since this is their typical setting – I bet this is not a coincidence). I’m not going to buy Animal Man regularly (I’m already doing this with Grifter and Nightwing, and I can’t afford to do it with a third series), but I will definitely buy the second TP when it comes out.
    As you can guess, Grifter and Nightwing are the New 52 series I am enjoying more. Nightwing was no surprise: the character is so interesting that it’s almost impossible not to do something good with him. I didn’t know Grifter before the New 52 had started, but I loved it from the very first issue. Do you remember the action movies in the 90s? There was a Rambo – like leading character (usually acted by Stallone himself, or by Schwarzenegger) forced to fight against innumerous enemies: any other man would have been doomed, but our hero, with his guns, muscles, fight techniques and (last but not least) brain, was always able to find a way out. Grifter has the same storyboard, it is the exact translation of those movies in the comic book language: no matter how many enemies he has to face and how complicated their plans are, you can be sure Grifter will find a solution to all his problems. The stories are easy but well written, and the art is simply explosive. Edmonson’s run was amazing, especially from the 4th issue on, and Liefeld’s one got off on the right foot, so I’m very satisfied with this series so far. It is definitely one of the best DC comics right now, so I can’t understand why it doesn’t sell: it should be at the top of the list of every comic book lover.

    • jaymzsc June 13, 2012 at 10:47 am #

      Well, I know that marvel has done its share of reboots and the like. And it has definitely got its share of overused characters. Deadpool and Wolverine come to mind. But I agree with a lot of what you said.

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