16 September 2009

Daily Breakdowns 020 - DiDiology

OK, so I'm like, here now, as opposed to over here. It seemed like a good idea, getting to hang out with old friends and meeting new ones, working on projects together and maybe pushing myself into new directions. So why not drag this old column over here, and start off with one of the least consequential ones, right?

Monday, Newsarama published a 20 question interview with DC Comics Executive Editor Dan DiDio. I was kind of interested to read it, to maybe see his comments on the recent DC Entertainment/Diane Nelson/Paul Levitz news. Well, aside from the revelation that Levitz will return to writing his favorites, the Legion of Super-Heroes, taking over from Geoff Johns on Adventure Comics, there's not much there about Levitz. Understandable, I suppose.

The interview seemed to be largely generated by fan emails, with writer Vaneta Rogers selecting the questions and adding her own follow-ups. For someone like me, who hasn't paid a lot of *attention to monthly DC comics beyond, say, what Grant Morrison writes, and Wednesday Comics, it was like a crash course in stuff I didn't know about, didn't care all that much about, and could probably have figured out myself. Like a class in the physics of water balloons or something. How full can you get them before they pop? Does temperature play a role? What's that weird powder on the outside for?

DiDio's tenure began some time around when I lost a lot of interest in DC Comics, How much of it are his decisions and how much is me just not caring for talent like Geoff Johns, Brad Meltzer and so on is hard to say. What I saw in the interview was a guy who seems to recognize talent and good storytelling but has to deal with what he's got and what fans seem to want. I like that he knows that Grant Morrison should be the only one writing Multiverse stories, and Kurt Busiek should follow up Trinity himself, Mark Chiarello continue editing Wednesday Comics, etc. But of course, he has to deal with this mentality:

NRAMA: "Sometimes fans get a little frustrated on how long it takes to get some projects rolling."

Do you want it right, or right now? I can understand frustration when there are delays between issues of something, but what's the big deal about waiting for a sequel or spin-off? Is there nothing else to do? If something's actually memorable and worthwhile, I can usually get right back into it. And I have no problem waiting, if it ends up being worth the wait.

In other parts of the interview, DiDio is no different from Joe Quesada or Tom Brevoort in admitting that while they would like to try more different things, the fact is that they have to make the most of what sells. I understand that, and hey, maybe I'm just not the event series, continuity-crazed guy I was many years ago, and if there are apparently enough of those guys left to buy these comics month after month, DC absolutely should serve them. But I guess there is a lesson here for any creator:

DiDio: "The answer is that we are giving R.E.B.E.L.S. every chance to succeed. The wonderful things about R.E.B.E.L.S. that other books like Jonah Hex do not have, is R.E.B.E.L.S. has the opportunity to cross over into things like Blackest Night. And that's one of the reasons we wanted R.E.B.E.L.S. to be part of Blackest Night. We do believe in the book and I think that people should be reading it. So if this gives us a chance to show people the book, then great, because I don't think they're going to be disappointed."

The lesson is that if you really want to do a Jonah Hex or Greek Street or anything else that doesn't tie into regular DCU continuity, you have very little support. Batman, zombie or regular version, is not going to help save your book. Do it because it's a story you want to tell, and realize your days are numbered, because even if you manage to pry some dollars away from a superhero book, eventually there will be some new superhero event book and that reader will be powerless to resist. Your book has to be so good it defeats nostalgia and videogames and cartoons and lunch boxes and action figures. Every self-contained book is a lone warrior against an army, or an Oliver in a family of Bradys, to use a very old reference. They may act like family, but they will always band together (or Bunch up) against you.

Know your enemy, the fanboy:

Titansmaster: "This is great news!! I dropped the book a long time ago, when Jeff (sic) quit the book. At that point I figured that the book had been his baby, his vision and with him leaving it would be little more than multi part stories that felt like filler material. Huh, imagine that??

But if the book is again gonna have a point to it, I am all on board."

This is from a Newsarama reader excited about the change in director for Superman/Batman, which is going to now tell stories of the titular characters in old, but not that old, stories like "Emperor Joker" and "Our Worlds At War." You know, stories people didn't like much at the time? Stuff Amazon can't move or is out-of-print? Remember, self-contained stories are filler. But if it ties into old crap, there's a point to it.

Finally, just for fun, an out-of-context DiDio quote, or two:

"We were sitting over margaritas the other night discussing this very thing. And we came up with half of a book right off the top of our heads."

If only this were true, I think DC Comics would be a lot more fun, or half-fun and then repetitive and obnoxious, like a real drunk. Of course, when you drink too many margaritas, you may slip and make a Neanderthal slur, but DiDio seems to know the risks:

"Where I felt Elseworlds went off track was when it started to become just Batman in the 1800s, Batman in the 1900s, Batman as a British knight, Batman as... well, I can't say caveman anymore."

Is this dictum straight from Diane Nelson? In the old DC, you could say caveman. Lose the caveman, lose the fire. I think that's the lesson here.

Christopher Allen
September 15th, 2009

*It may be a Freudian slip or just fatigue, but I noticed while writing this that I wrote "paid a lot of tension"


Blogger Chad said...

I'm pretty sure the "caveman" thing is a reference to the end of Final Crisis, when (SUPER SPOILERS!) Batman (the Bruce Wayne version) has been sent back in time to caveman days by Darkseid's eyebeams, despite his skeleton being back in 2009. Or something like that.

Remember, self-contained stories are filler. But if it ties into old crap, there's a point to it.

Can you really blame the guy, though? Just about the entire superhero output of the big two is designed to produce that kind of thinking in their readers about what's worthwhile and what isn't. Without it, a large percentage of the monthly superhero books currently coming out would be canceled, because as self-contained stories not tied to "canon," they'd have to compete for readers' eyeballs with stuff like Dark Knight, Watchmen, Elektra: Assassin, Superman: Secret Identity and New Frontier, and most of today's monthlies can't compete on that level.

In my more hopeful moments, I'd allow that this would also mean more recovering superhero junkies would try things like Asterios Polyp, but I don't know if your stereotypical Newsarama reader will be making that leap.

In the guy's defense, I also dropped Superman/Batman after Jeph Loeb, not because the stories stopped being in continuity but for the reasons he gives — I was buying it for Jeph Loeb's so bad it was good batshit craziness, and I didn't need more Superman and Batman team-up stories in my life once he was gone. The new approach isn't going to pull me back in, but maybe that guy's excited about the new creative team? It can't just be the tie-ins to Emperor Joker can it? Please tell me it's not that.

September 16, 2009 7:48 PM  
Blogger ChristopherAllen said...

Hey Chad,

I'm sure you're right about the caveman thing. I was just having fun. And yeah, I am blaming the guy for that continuity porn point of view, not for his taste. If he had said he was really excited about the new creative team, or that Emperor Joker was one of his favorite stories and he couldn't wait to see the characters return to that time, that would be perfectly fine. I don't care what someone likes, it was just that idea that a superhero comic had no point to it unless it tied into continuity that gets me.

September 17, 2009 3:51 AM  

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