Tuesday, October 19, 2010

DC comics: musings from an ex-patriot

I was recently explaining to the owner of my local comic book shop that I would not be purchasing as many Marvel titles as I normally did, but I wanted to ensure that all the independent titles I was following would be in my file. During this he remarked, "now you have more money to spend on DC!"

He said this because he's primarily a DC comics fan. It did cause me to reflect that I had only one DC comic on my pull list: Kurt Busiek's Astro City (technically published by Wildstorm via DC).

I've looked long and hard at DC's current lineup of product to find something I'd enjoy. There are a few titles that I think I would like, but I'm so far behind that it would make more sense to buy the trade paperbacks.

Then again, sometimes the DC trades department is lacking. It recently occurred to me that it might be nice to pick up Jack Cole's Plastic Man, considering how imaginative his artwork was and how I've enjoyed every Plastic Man by Cole I've read in the past. But the only format where DC reprints Cole's Plastic Man is their Archives, which run $75 each! And the first volume is out of print! Forget that noise!

Then I'm looking over DC's solicitations for January to see what I might want to buy when I see there's going to be a Shazam! one-shot. Shazam! was a childhood favourite of mine, second only to Superman, but as a kid it was very difficult to find comics the character appeared in. So, I examine the solicitation:

SHAZAM! #1

Blaze, the current ruler of Hell, has an offer for Mary and Billy Batson that may be too good to pass up! Left powerless, will the two former heroes have the strength to deny the devil? Can Freddy Freeman save them? And how does the Titan Osiris fit into it all? Find out here, in this one-shot special written by Eric Wallace (TITANS) with art by Cliff Richards (THE ROAD HOME: BATMAN & ROBIN #1)!

Oh for--!

COME ON!

No one wants to buy this comic book. Anyone who does possesses a collector's mindset which "forces" them to support anything bearing the Shazam! logo. I realize I can only speak for myself, but to me Shazam! is a perfect kids comic about wish fulfillment, talking tigers and other things we grown-ups are supposed to have grown out of. Someone at DC knows this because their recent books Shazam!: the Monster Society of Evil and Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam! were more faithful to the original spirit of Shazam! than anything since the 1970s. But for the most part, DC doesn't want a kid-friendly book, so we've had repeated tales of the Marvel Family being corrupted by power, being unworthy of their power, dumped on by he's-morally-dubious-and-therefore-more-interesting Black Adam, sent to Hell, et al. All for the older, more mature reader who needs at least one dismemberment per issue to justify spending more money in a year on a highjacked children's product than he does on groceries. I'm asking aloud here, can't we just let Baston be Baston?

It's about this: Tea Party Dinosaur Claims He's Only 6,000 Years Old!

...Not so much this: Gary Oldman IS Shazam!

More of this, please: Sadly, he lost the AFV grand prize to Superbaby in the microwave.

...Less of this, thank you: The only Black Mary Marvel image safe for work.

*sigh*

If I were a conspiracy theorist, I might wonder if DC's handling of the Shazam! property since the 70s was deliberately blundered because a directive from on high demanded that the characters be mistreated as punishment for being more popular than any of DC's heroes in the 40s, back when they were owned by Fawcett.

With all the recent shake-ups at DC, there is some hope that change is coming. Bob Harras has been made DC's new editor-in-chief, having been Marvel's for most of '95-00. I bought about as many Marvel books per month with Harras as e-i-c as I did DC books since Dan DiDio became publisher in 2003, so at the very least the statistics say I won't be buying fewer DC books. ...Right?

Then again, as part of their restructuring DC have seen massive lay-offs, including most of Vertigo editorial, sacrificing several editors who produced books I read. They're also eliminating Wildstorm, leaving the one-and-only Astro City's future in jeopardy; well, that is to say, leaving its future with DC in jeopardy; perhaps a year from now I'll be reading Dynamite's Kurt Busiek's Astro City?

I am completely willing to delve back into DC, be it the DC Universe or stand-alone Vertigo titles. All I'm waiting for is for DC to produce something so compelling that I can't wait for it. Well, things are changing at the company; we'll see what develops.

1 comment:

mjjhoskin said...

You could see a tiny bit of her butt-cheek on that last cover. She needs a longer skirt.