I’m a little late to the party with this, but I’m opting to forge ahead anyway …
OK, we all know that people on the Internet like to complain. A lot. And we all know that the chasm between what comics bloggers profess to love/hate and what actually gets bought and read is wide enough to comfortably fit the Grand Canyon with room to spare.
That being said, I find myself rather surprised at the amount of invective and cynicism people have hurled towards DC’s big publishing announcements this week, especially their upcoming line of Year One graphic novels (not to mention their big Superman and Batman plans). Enough so to make me wonder if — contrary to my initial beliefs — that so-called “event fatigue” actually exists, or whether there’s a general and growing distrust with the powers-that-be at Time Warner that extends to all superhero comics in general.
But first, let’s do a quick run-down of reactions, shall we?
Chris Butcher: “It seems like a half-measure at capturing a new audience (at best) with product that’s indistinguishable from their regular releases, or recent initiatives. Possibly worse.” (Be sure to read his thoughts on the War of the Supermen cover art, too.)
Brian Hibbs: “The bottom line is that customers are much less likely to plunk down for a Big Ticket item than they are for a periodical, which is one of the reasons that the OGN doesn’t, to my mind, make a ton of sense.
Johanna Draper Carlson: “When it comes to this particular Earth One effort, I’m glad to see DC considering trying something new. … However, in this case, I think it may be (as so many of their past outreach attempts have been) too little, too late.”
Charles Yoakum: “Doing Batman’s origin AGAIN or Superman’s origin AGAIN is precisely the wrong tact to take.”
Matt Maxwell: “Are these being aimed at adult readers of comics or are they being aimed at kids? I’m gonna take a wild guess and say teenagers plus, though these things will never be racked in the YA section (and therefore will be overlooked by a lot of teens.) Unless they’re manga sized, they won’t be able to draft on the popularity of the manga sections. So it’ll be back into the purgatory of the Graphic Novel section of the bookstore of your choice.” (to be fair, Matt comes out mostly in favor of the project.)
There’s more, I’m sure.
Now while a good deal of this seems like the typical sort of prognosticating that fans, retailers and pundits (myself included) like to do, I find the tone of the discussion interesting because a) We haven’t got a lot of details about the books yet, such as price point, packaging, etc., so the negativity seems a bit premature; and b) it seems to spring from an all-too familiar awareness of DC’s multiple failed projects of the past that line the comics graveyard — Minx, Paradox, Piranha, Helix, I could go on. If folks seem to be betting against this new Earth One line, it may be because DC hasn’t had a very strong track record where reaching out to casual/new readers is concerned.
And I’m sure it’s just coincidence, but I find it interesting these announcements are all coming out at the same time that a number of bloggers are expressing their complete and utter dissatisfaction with not just DC, but superhero comics in general. David Brothers has declared 2009 as “the year that I stopped caring about superheroes.” Cheryl Lynn announced that she’s done with superhero comics as well. And Tim Callahan and Chad Nevett’s frustration with the genre is so deep that they needed two posts to fully express it.
As Tom Spurgeon notes, people get tired of a particular genre or medium and call it quits for awhile all the time, but there seems to be something going on here, a general consensus of dissatisfaction that’s difficult to put a finger on, but palpable all the same. Did some confluence of events — the poor economy, $3.99 price hike, one big, “must-read” event after another, plus a desire to maintain fan interest by increasingly upping the sex and violence quotient — somehow create a situation where superhero fans are so jaded and disinterested they can’t even work up enthusiasm for a new line that attempts to reach out to new readers?
I guess we’ll find out next year.