Why Target One?

Originally written for PopMatters.com, but I’ll throw the unedited, direct version up here anyway.

The DC announcements, for now, are over, and we the readers understand the plan set for September when DC relaunches its publishing line and sets forth 52 new comic book series.

But I still want to talk about it. It’s big and, while already over discussed to death, this event will dictate much discussion by fans and critics alike for sometime to come. Most likely, years from now, the historians (you know, the comic book ones) will look back at this summer and the next 6 months to ponder what it meant in the grand scheme. Was this the moment to predict the end, or was this beginning of a new golden age? Or, was it just like any other renumbering we, the readers, see so often in the modern super-hero market?

True, there are these questions, but I’ll save those for the future writers and pundits. For now, another questions taps about my mind.

What’s the creative direction and tone?

With the brunt of the announcement, before all of the specific details, I immediately put forth an opinion on Twitter  that a relaunch is all good and fun, but for it to really make a mark, talent behind the books is necessary. I still stand by such an opinion.

Why? Comics sell and generate favor by their talent.

That should seem like common sense, right? That a good comic book sells well as a bad one sells poorly, and the focus of most readers is the artists and writers producing the work? Well, things rarely make sense in comics, and such belief has not always been the case. Instead, for most of its existence, the super-hero market has been dominated by fanfare and expectations of “what happens next,”which, in result, have created an environment ignorant of creative talents and the actual, real people involved.

But that’s kind of changing, now. Publishers are printing the creative talents’ names on the covers of super-hero periodicals, and the font size seems to be increasing each month. Readers now list their favorite artists and writers and name off their most notable works. The unofficial movement, positivity, and sometimes unneeded care of “Team Comics” chants and hollers for creator rights as well as exposure.

Comic readers are leaving the character/plot-driven mindset behind. They’ve entered the age of the creator being real. The internet has given their reading a new intent as Twitter and podcasts present live coverage of the behind-the-panel process. We watch writers, like Marvel Comics’ self-dubbed “Architects,” as if they are the stories and characters.

Understanding this, it would seem important that a new line of books be headed up by strong talent. And by strong talent, I mean writers and artists who both “wow” through quality but also possess a dedicated audience while holding a presence in the industry.

In an ocean of 52 comic book series, it’s very doubtful that even half are something worthwhile. But 15, maybe 20? That should be doable, and I feel DC may actually have a line up to do that.

Here’s a list for the sake of a list:

Justice League Geoff Johns & Jim Lee
Wonder Woman Brian Azzarello & Cliff Chiang
Aquaman Geoff Johns & Ivan Reis
The Flash Francis Manapul & Brian Buccallato
Green Lantern
Geoff Johns & Doug Mahnke
Batman Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo
Batman: The Dark Knight David Finch & Jay Fabok
Batwoman J.H. Williams III, Haden Blackman & Amy Reeder
Batgirl Gail Simone, Ardian Syaf & Vicente Cifuentes
Catwoman Judd Winick & Guillem March
Batwing Judd Winick & Ben Oliver
Swamp Thing Scott Snyder, Yanick Paquette & Francesco Francavilla
Animal Man Jeff Lemire, Travel Foreman & Dan Green
Frankenstein, Agent of SHADE Jeff Lemire & Alberto Ponticelli
Hawk & Dove Sterling Gates & Rob Liefeld
All-Star Western Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray & Moritat
Grifter Nathan Edmundson, Cafu, & Bit
Action Comics  Grant Morrison & Rags Morales

Personally, not all of these announced titles float my boat, but I think this is a case where everyone could potentially receive a piece of the pleasure pie.

Example: the snobs and critics get their J.H. Williams’ book while the fans can happily read Batman by David Finch.

Both groups, both audiences of comics, have the selected few they follow in this now creator driven market, and I think DC has made it clear to have a nice, rounded group of creators to hopefully speak to and draw attention from all sorts of comic book readers.

Sell comics to all we can. Let’s not target one audience. That’s the plan.

And speaking of speaking to the multiple audiences, DC is in this move to hopefully restore sales and inspire new life-long comic book readers. Well, what better market to target with all of this mainstream press than the lapsed reader of 1996.

If you know comics, you know the 1990s were a big time. Spawn #1 sold a million some copies, and Todd Macfarlane probably bought a space shuttle with that money. Point is: comics were spread wide across the populace in the 90s, and it was a time for the industry to make a lot of money.

It seems like DC has the major players to possibly drum up that excitement again. They have just the right arrows to target those readers who left comics with the collapse of the later 1990s.

Jim Lee, Rob Liefeld, Scott Lobdell, and Bob Harras.

Two of the biggest artists of the 90s (plus, they are kind of iconic for the time), the guy who wrote X-men in the 90s (X-men was BOOMING in the 90s), and once Editor-in-Chief of Marvel Comics (in what decade? The 1990s when the X-men were BOOMING).

Three guys, arguably four, who were single-handedly responsible for the 1990s super-hero aesthetic. Now they are all in one place generating a comic book event whose scale could probably only be contained by an era such as the 1990s.

Coincidence? I think not.

As Bob Harras found his way to DC last year and Jim Lee became the new co-Publisher, they probably set out to make  a portion of their line 1990s inspired. It’s what these guys know and do.

That look and that vibe sold comics, and it was a time when the industry possessed a rapid energy. Now they are channeling and pumping that energy into this new, drastic course change in hopes to once again capture that 1990s Boom.

The issue is, it’s 2011 and I’m not sure I’m in the mood for another round of Jim Lee knock-offs or 17 Batman titles. I always find it better to progress rather than re-capture the past, but hey, DC is after the varied audience and this may bring back some of the 1990s faithful.

Plus, Morrison is writing Superman in Action Comics, so DC is certainly after something forward thinking.

Finally, for the best discussion yet on the DC Relaunch, all should listen to Episode 44 of the Wait, What podcast. Hosts Jeff Lester and Graeme McMillian bring in comics retailer Brian Hibbs, and they bring up very, very good points about what this could mean.

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