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Saturday, April 02, 2005

 
Countdown Criticism -- Here's a letter from a reader named Paul which ended up in my spam folder for some reason, but luckily I spotted it and moved it to my inbox.

Dear Mr. Doane,

I have been a fairly regular visitor to CBG for about 3 years, and in that time I have started to appreciate comics from outside the mainstream. Taking a look to my bookshelf I see several books I never even knew existed, through you I have come to know such as Optic Nerve, Palestine, Blankets, and Bluesman just to name a few. And although my taste has differed from yours from time to time, (That whole Creature Tech fiasco rings a bell), I'd say our tastes are very similar. However, what I can't agree with you on is DC and there new Countdown to Infinite Crisis.

Over the years that I have been reading comics I have seen deaths and resurrections, ridiculous as it might seem that's what comics fans want. They want Jean Grey or Superman to die, they want Hal Jordan to go nuts and start killing people, they want characters to be misrepresented and mischaracterized just so another writer can come in and say, "that stuff we just did, that wasn't really Hal Jordan, it was just a parasite acting in Hal Jordan's body, Hal's really a sweet guy, a guy who killed a bunch of people, but really, a sweet guy nonetheless." Fanboys need there structure taken away from them because, for the most part, they'll start complaining or stop buying when the stories get to stale. Then they have that much more to complain about, "Blue Beetles Dead? WTF? I love Blue Beetle, I've loved him since day one, how could DC do this to us?"

Read any message board on the web, better yet just check out Fanboyarama, I swear with as many fans as blue beetle has, He should have had his own book and been outselling X-men and Spiderman by 50,000 copies! That being said, I understand where your coming from on Countdown, I read it, I liked most of it, but that's just it Alan, it wasn't really written for us. How many books do you read from either Marvel or DC (and I mean mainstream tights wearing superhero books) I'd guess maybe 2 or 3 tops. We've moved past it, I don't read Batman anymore strictly because it's all the same, how many different writers can tell you the same story of the Joker killing someone and Batman taking care of him and putting him back in Arkham.

Granted, some writers tell it better and the stories that we read as children will always seem sweeter than most, but it's all the same. That's why I say Bravo to DC for starting the cycle back over again, because no matter what, we've seen it before, maybe these writers will do a better job, maybe they won't, but it's all just the same, and Alan, we're old enough and our tastes have changed enough to accept it for what it is, an evolution in how mainstream comics are written, it's an EVENT book, written for the masses to shake things up. To get them talking about DC comics and to SELL books, like any other mainstream pop culture art form phenomenon, it's still always about the money.

Paul

Here's my response:

Paul,

I appreciate the note, but I beg to differ. COUNTDOWN and its cynical,
nihilistic predecessor Identity Crisis are are just lousy comics. As a
father of two comics readers, I will continue to demand that comics --
even big event comics -- not be lousy. That they be created with some
artistry and creativity. DC's current crop of crap has none of that. I
want my kids to be able to find books aimed at them that will get them
as excited about comics as Claremont and Byrne's X-Men or Wolfman and
Perez's New Teen Titans got me when I was a kid. It's a genuine, if
minor, tragedy that entry-level superhero comics are being so poorly
stewarded these days, and it's an outrage that more people aren't
demanding better from the corporate comics companies.

Thanks for writing.

Best,

Alan

I honestly wish I had been recording the hour-long conversation Chris Allen and I had about Countdown and the entire "Hack Watchmen" sub-genre that is best exemplified by Identity Crisis.

The gist of it is, though, that this current crop of bad comics are just awkward, artless corporate creations, a fact that ought to be apparent from the credits boxes of most of them, and readers are letting themselves down by supporting such lousy works. Want to enjoy a good story about DC's great, iconic superheroes? Then tune into the Cartoon Network's Justice League Unlimited, because right now that's about the only place that these excellent, entry-level characters are being used right instead of being raped from behind or having their brains splattered out on-panel.

Dan Didio and the rest of the people entrusted with the stewardship of these characters ought to be ashamed of themselves for the cynical cash-grabs of the past couple of years. I don't believe DC's characters -- or anyone else's -- ought to be written strictly for children, or that conflict or violence have no place in superhero comics.

I just wish that the people entrusted with these characters and their fictional destinies could be trusted to shepard and create good stories that reflect the best that comics can aspire to. Even corporate comics can be art, as dozens of creators have proven over nearly a century. But the artless hackwork and creative thuggery currently on display in these uninspired event comics are a disgrace to the industry and whatever legacy it has left.

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