(NOTE: Below are excerpts from a conversation I was having today with some fellow creators about DC’s recent troubles.)
I think they definitely need someone around who can see these landmines a little more clearly. And sadly, voices of opposition bucking violence against women seem to be too rare in the roster.
The DC PR department needs to be handling a lot of this media stuff rather than Jim and Dan, who I don’t think mean to sound as dismissive and condescending as they come off in the responses to this kind of stuff. It just seems like they’re used to people agreeing with them, and they aren’t trained in public relations.
That said, I’m far more concerned with the issues DC has with talent management and quality control. There are standout titles that keep me reading, but good grief, this feels like a weak, overly-repetitive time for the DC Universe, despite the constant message of being a fresh start. The villains covers looked great and sold well at my shop, but almost to a customer, everyone complained at the irrelevancy and poor quality of the actual issues (with some strong, high-quality exceptions, like Two-Face, Relic, and Zod.) If you look at the base quality level of Marvel titles and publicity versus DC’s, it’s astonishing to see how far the company whose initials I was born with, and whose near-mythic characters helped me through what might have been life-shattering tragedies, has fallen. I don’t even mind changes to continuity, if they ADD something, or make something BETTER. I’d argue Two-Face’s origin in The Dark Knight was an improvement, drawing from previous ones. Obviously, the Animated Series revisions of Mister Freeze and Clayface were phenomenal. Change can be good. Needless, poorly-thought-out change that makes the stories less powerful isn’t.
I take no pleasure in pointing out mistakes by DC, and am the FIRST to celebrate their successes (Batman: Black & White’s lineup might well have been chosen by me, personally), but they need to step up their game if they want to be half as good as the DCU in fans’ hearts. There have been so many easily avoided own-goals in the last few years, it’s pointless to even bother keeping track.
I think the only problem with the Harley contest is that while those of us in the know (knowing the creators’ sensibilities, the character’s inherently slapstick nature) the script read as funny. But to those with just a little bit less info, IT HONESTLY LOOKED LIKE WHAT DC DOES TO THEIR FEMALE CHARACTERS EVERY MONTH. The lack of context was their fault, not the readers who were understandably outraged during an international month raising awareness and offering resources to combat suicide. I got it right away. But that’s because I love Jimmy and Amanda’s comics, and it read as a COMMENTARY on what DC does to their female characters. But if I didn’t know their work, what was I supposed to think?
…They keep doubling down on a smaller and smaller market of middle-aged, middle class, white dudes. Raise the price. Crossover all the titles. Variant covers for the ones with more money. Each of these actions is a stop gap to keep money coming in, not a long-term plan to raise readership, which would be better in the long run. Every reboot, restart, and price hike, is a jumping off point for a small percentage of readers, so we’re left with fewer and more extreme die-hards who just have to put another issue in their longboxes, rather than engaged, younger fans of the modern age. Again, I think Marvel is NAILING this with titles like Wolverine & the X-Men and Young Avengers, while DC keeps putting the Silver Age white dudes back in the books and making them deal with rape and dismemberment.
(Additional thought: I think Dan Didio gets blamed for WAAAAAAY more than he actually does wrong. Seems to me like he earned his reputation with how he handled the concerns of feminist fans during the Stephanie Brown/Girl Wonder debacle years ago. But man, people think he’s to blame for every single dumb thing DC does, and whenever I hear who actually was behind a blunder, I’m amazed. Especially when Didio was on the right side of a fight. He’s the co-publisher of a division of a multinational corporation, not a god-level dictator. Anyway, I typically choose to talk at the company, not the individuals. And some folks may disagree, but I have to say what I think, regardless of if I’m being “professional” enough to get work at the Big Two. Life is too fucking short, guys.)