Hello and welcome to Comic Island! My name is Arden and this is the Top 10 Worst New 52 Choices!
So after we talked about the ten things I liked most about the New 52, it felt natural to also talk about the worst. However, unlike the best of video, today I’m instead opting for talking about the broader changes across the company that I feel represent the worst this line has to offer. The reasoning is simple – when I think of where the New 52 is flawed, it’s not specific titles that bother me so much as these larger changes that underlined the entire run of the company at the time.
Now, before we begin, I do want to make something clear. Even though we’re about to discuss the flaws of the New 52, on the whole, I do think this reboot was a success. From a commercial and creative perspective, the New 52 did bring a new energy and surge in sales that simply wasn’t there from before. It led to the creation of all those great titles we talked about in the best of video and many more, and, on the whole, it led to pretty consistently strong sales in the market. Yes, over time, sales did wane, and there were flaws in this new direction for the company, much of which we’re about to address, but it should be noted many flaws were lessened over time during the New 52, while Rebirth really seems to be fixing even more of these problems. The point being that just because I’m criticizing something, doesn’t mean that I hate it.
This is simply a video about how the last five years of DC’s comics fell short. While I do still like the New 52, it was far from perfect. So let’s talk about why.
The first one is the easiest and most obvious of flaws, and it fairly applies to any reboot with a fanbase. It should be noted that on it’s own, there’s nothing inherently wrong with reboots. They bring with them many advantages – it can let new readers join in on the fun, new ideas can be tested, and modern sensibilities can update the lore and history of a franchise. But it is a double-edged sword. For every advantage a reboot brings, it also has its downsides – existing fans may lose interest or feel alienated by the changes, stories retold improperly can replace previously outstanding works, and it risks cheapening the name of the brand.
Taken on it’s own, DC’s decision to reboot most of it’s continuity and start, by and large, from scratch as part of the New 52 wasn’t automatically going to make it bad. But, inevitably, this decision did have its consequences on the quality of the comics. We’ll see the effects of the reboot throughout this video. One such effect, the one that is most obvious, is the death of legacy. Stories that informed characters and their relationships with one another were cast aside, while the bigger, broader factions of the DC Universe, which included the JSA, the Legion, and other groups that gave this world a sense of history, color, and flair, were largely left ignored.
There’s a cost to that, as you are bound to lose the support of fans if they find their favorite stories and characters have disappeared overnight. However, this is something that as a community the fan base could have accepted and gotten over it pretty easily. Like I said, reboots will do this. Legacy is paid at the cost of change, and sometimes that change is very much needed. If legacy were the only thing we lost, well, there wouldn’t be that much wrong with the New 52. Which is why this is ranked tenth. It’s a problem, but not something that couldn’t be recovered from. After all, it gave writers the opportunity to create their own legacies, and many did. Scott Snyder’s The Court of the Owls is a good example of this, representing a creation that has and will have a large effect on the Batman universe, and adding yet another cool villain to an already impressive rogues gallery. Still, many good stories and great ideas were given up on and largely ignored for the five year run of the New 52, and for fans of these stories, well, that sucks.
So one alleged advantage of the New 52 was the idea that the old stories could be retold in a modern light. Ask any DC executive or spokesperson and I’m sure they would couch many of the changes of the New 52 reflect the attempt to create an updated feel for the DC Universe. But, honestly, if that was the plan, I don’t think they did a very good job.
A recurring complaint of the New 52 is that many of the comics reflect the tone and feel not of the modern era, but of the 1990s. And while there is plenty of value in comics from that era, even now, this way too prevalent in the DC comics. It’s not surprising, after all, many of the people working over at DC were especially influenced by comics in the 90s because that’s when a lot of them were growing up and chose to become writers and artists in the first place. In all likelihood, this problem is a rather innocent one, something common to all of us. Our imagination and creativity is inspired and structured by the ideas and stories we are exposed to, especially when we are young. The editors, artists, and writers over at DC are no different from the rest of us in that regard. The problem is that while other companies were creating more challenging, actually modern comics that took risks and moved the zeitgeist of the comic world forward, much of the New 52 seemed firmly trapped in the past.
Luckily, not all of this was bad. A lot of great comics with the dynamic and epic feel of the 90s were produced in the last 5 years as part of the New 52. It would have been perfectly fine if some of the comics to take this tone, after all, there are a lot of great comics published all the time that evoke the style of the Silver Age or the 1980s. The problem was that this applies to too many New 52 titles. Much of DC, for this reason, didn’t leave much of a mark on people. A lot of readers have seen these sorts of stories before, or didn’t grow up in the 1990s so these comics don’t leave much of an impression on them. To younger readers like me, a lot of the New 52 felt old and out of date. Though there are plenty of comics to like, I don’t interact with many fans who are as into stories of the New 52 compared to DC comics that came out before this era, or other series published at the same time from other publishers, and I think this is a big part of why.
Too much of the New 52 felt like it was trying to recapture glorious moments of its past rather than bringing the comics to a newer era. But a lot has changed in the last two decades. Image has proven many times by now that comics don’t just have to be Superman and Doomsday pounding each other into submission over and over again. Marvel has shown they can use comics to tell stories ranging from dark, thoughtful dramas to lighthearted adventures, spanning many different genres and forms of storytelling. And don’t even get me started on the cauldron of insane, groundbreaking work done over at Archie Comics these days. DC did try many things during the era of the New 52, in their defense, but these sorts of experimental pieces were rare compared to the norm. At the end of the day, while other companies were moving forward and selling new ideas to a changing world, DC seemed to prefer burying it’s head in the sand and pretending that the last five years never happened.
So we’ve talked about the reboot a bit already, and we’re certainly not done yet. But as I’ve said, the reboot wasn’t the problem on its own, no, rather, other problems emerged as a consequence of not only the reboot, but how that reboot was applied.
And the verdict on how DC handled the reboot is… poor. Awful. Terrible. One of the biggest problems is that the reboot was applied very inconsistently. While the history and lore surrounding the Green Lanterns starting at the Geoff Johns era was largely left intact, most other aspects of the DC universe were reset completely with one exception – that of Batman. Most of Batman was unchanged, in the sense of the characters and histories largely being similar but slightly different, with the exceptions of Cassandra Cain and Stephanie Brown, who were whisked away from history for no apparent reason other than somebody at DC wanted to bring Barbara Gordon back as Batgirl.
This decision was insane. Not only did it leave a lot of confusion about what stories were and were no longer cannon, especially stories that feature or involve Batman in some way given how unclear that all is, but it also reeked of a certain unfairness. Why do fans of Dick Grayson and Jason Todd get to keep seeing their characters with their history and behavior more or less unchanged while Cain and Brown fans are left out in a cold? And the answer is not sexism, or at least I hope not. It seems more like the result of poor planning – the realization that some things, like the establishment of the Lantern Corps or the Robins and their legacy was too valuable to abandon, but they wanted to do a reboot anyway, so they just kind of slapped together whatever was convenient for the stories they wanted to tell at the time.
They had no need for Batgirls and the collective history of everyone not Green Lantern and Batman so they ditched it. This move feels very short sighted. As much as I defend the idea that reboots aren’t bad on their own, I can’t defend this. It left some fans feeling incredibly embittered and frustrated to this day, and I empathize with that. There’s a reason many long-time readers walked away at this time, and part of this was the heavy handed way stories that weren’t as popular at the time got thrown away without any regard for the value readers held in them, while other stories, that are no better other than the fact that they happened to be more popular and well known, got to stick around.
This inconsistent damage to continuity, this inconsistenuity, helped no one, confused many, and frustrated more people than it should have. The only reason it is not rated higher is that at the end of the day, this was again a problem but was the sort of thing the fan base could have swallowed. After all, both Marvel and DC have done similar things in the past without incident. I don’t hate the idea of reworking continuity as it is convenient to telling the best possible story. That’s the sort of flexibility that the Doctor Who universe benefits from greatly. The issue, as with everything else on this list, is that it occurred concurrently with all these other problems. The New 52 suffers from a death by a thousand cuts situation – no one thing made it bad, only a series of decisions tied into one another that caused a rather heated divide between it and its own fan base. And inconsistenuity is a prime example of this.
So remember how I said one thing that is great about reboots is that they give writers the opportunity to tell stories in new and exciting ways? Well it sure seems like nobody ever told DC that, because one of the most consistent problems of the New 52 was the insistence of telling the same story all over again only for it to work out to be either pretty much the same as the original story, or, occasionally, much, much worse.
The easiest example, but far from the only, might be how Eobard Thawne was reintroduced to the comics. His story was largely unchanged, only told with a little less competence and energy, while saddling it with a lot more unneeded detail. And that’s kind of the recurring problem. The Robins are also a good example of this. Their stories were largely similar but in my eyes the move towards a slightly more modern story meant that the origins also kind of lost the charm and fun they original stories brought with them.
In that sense, a lot of the New 52 became very, very boring because of this. Telling us the same old story without enough creativity or changes to justify retelling the story to begin with was a recurring habit of the last five years, and in my opinion, this trend really held the New 52 back more than the reboot ever actually helped it. Yeah, for all the talk DC had about how great it was to do a reboot, I’m not sure it was ever really used properly to their benefit. You still need to know a lot of stuff to get into the New 52, yet then you have to sit through content that you already know the ending of because you’ve seen it before. It’s a paradox reflecting the fact that a lot of the New 52 didn’t seem very well organized or properly thought out. It also undermines the point of the reboot in the first place. If new and exciting stories can’t be told, then what’s the point in doing the new origins? It’s a question and a problem the New 52 never quite addressed and something they’ll have to move past as part of Rebirth.
This is one of those things Marvel does well. Assuming most people are perfectly aware of their characters origins and history, Marvel traditionally focuses on moving the story forward rather than going back to “fix” things. DC, on the other hand, seems to be stuck going and looking backwards, which, at times, can be rather tedious.
So this one is a bit of a small point, or at least seemingly so, but in my opinion, this is indicative of greater issues within the company. Now this doesn’t actually have to do with TV shows, movies, or Netflix itself, but rather the complete lack of an online archive of DC’s past works. While I’m trying to avoid comparisons to Marvel too much on this list, this is one area where the competition really makes DC feel behind the times.
In 2007 Marvel launched Marvel Unlimited, one of the greatest things ever created by human beings right along side of the Great Pyramids, toast, and toilet paper. An archive comparable to Netflix but for Marvel comics, for about $70 a year you can get access to many of Marvel’s comics – I’m told they have about 17,000 of them by now, published over their company’s history, from their early days all the way up to comics published as recently as six months ago. It’s perpetually updated, astoundingly comprehensive, and convenient, now available on your phone and other devices. That’s right, you can pretty much have every Marvel comic ever made available on your devices, anywhere you go. I honestly don’t even mind giving them free advertising because it’s an honest to god endorsement. I love this thing.
The almost 10 year running time of this program is impressive and a clear sign of it’s commercial success. So it is really frustrating, and honestly confusing, that in all these years DC has never launched a similar program. And while this problem isn’t specific to the New 52, I think we can fairly talk about everything the publishing company does in the past five years and it still counts.
Why wouldn’t you want fans to be able to enjoy the archives of your greater works? There’s so much to gain from doing this, it feels like they are refusing free money. Yes, it would take work to arrange the legal issues and finding a good balance with releases so as to not cut out the comic book stores, but the ongoing existence of Marvel Unlimited is proof that at the very least, this is possible. It really is as simple as not putting any comics younger than six months on the archive. This system works, and it has worked for a very long time now.
I’m baffled that in the entire time of the New 52 this was never created or announced. It makes things difficult for readers and fans to get a hold of older, obscure comics, or even newer titles. For example, if you wanted to catch up on Superman in the New 52 you’d have to spend either a lot of time tracking down every single trade and tie-in or have to resort to piracy. And it should be easier, cheaper, and much more legal than that. Look, I know they are running a business and there are a lot of factors to consider here, but at the end of the day, the overwhelming evidence shows that in every entertainment industry, the digital market is here. It’s been here for a very long time in fact, but some people just can’t get with the program.
DC’s lack of a Netflix equivalent for their comics is a clear example of their unwillingness to change and a lack of appreciation for what makes their own company great. It’s cannon and history is thus left largely unexplored by eager and interested readers of any age when it doesn’t have to be. Though not directly related to the New 52, the underlying problems clearly reflect the same mind set and decision making. Even with their line of digital first comics, which have produced some cool content over time, it’s just not the same thing. It is amazing to me that something like this doesn’t exist yet, and, to be honest, a little embarrassing for the company.
Another unsurprising and often lobbied complaint against the New 52 is the insane amount of crossovers. While compared to Marvel, DC actually did show some restraint with the company wide crossovers, the run of New 52 was over saturated by smaller crossovers between two or three titles, to a rather ridiculous extent.
Part of this was yet another natural consequence of the reboot. By throwing away previously established relationships between heroes and villains, crossovers were a great way to showcase what history, if any, existed between characters across many titles, now that these relationships were unclear. So it made sense to let us know how Superman, Superboy, and Supergirl relate to one another in this new world, or what relationship exists between Barry Allen and Hal Jordan. That’s okay, but DC really went overboard with this, especially in the early days of the New 52. It is actually insane just how many series have random detours in them to deal with some company wide, multi-title, or dual crossover. In fact, they are so prevalent I can only think of a handful of titles that didn’t at one time or another do this, most of which were niche comics like Prez or Voodoo that existed in their own little world anyways.
To be fair, there were plenty of good crossovers that only strengthened the comics rather than hinder them. Rotworld, a big, epic story featuring the Frankenstein, Animal Man, and Swamp Thing comics, serves as the best example of the sort of creative energy we could get from crossovers. And there were plenty of others, like Blue Devil and Black Lightning or Batwoman and Wonder Woman teaming up that worked out really nicely. Sadly, by and large, I feel the real reason this is a problem is not so much the quality of the crossovers so much as the overabundance of them
Oh sure, there are plenty of stinkers in the mix, particularly the big, overblown events like Trinity War or Convergence that really didn’t do anything for me, but by and large, when I think of the crossovers I don’t like, it’s more because when I read them I was exasperated. These events can be helpful in broadening your pull list and discovering new titles, but they are also exhausting. Many crossovers require you to read through other series you haven’t read yet, in full, just to understand what is going on in the one title you were trying to get through in the first place. That can spread until you find yourself tied down, trying to get through dozens of comics to fully understand and appreciate just one story. Yet if you don’t do this sort of research, these crossovers tend to come off as mere distractions that often mark a temporary dip in quality while all current plot lines are temporarily ignored. For a casual reader only interested in one or two series, this proved the death knell for many people’s interest in DC titles.
This was a common complaint from many fans and critics that DC luckily seemed to take to heart, to a degree. The crossovers are far from gone, but nobody really wanted them to vanish completely. They just needed to be toned down and done less frequently, which, by and large, the company has gotten a bit better at. Still, they need to be careful not to fall into this trap again. Accessibility is important for new readers and those with limited time and money. That was kind of the point of doing a reboot to begin with, so it was a little silly for DC to push out so many crossovers at a time they were supposed to make things easier for readers of all calibers. So the abundance of crossovers take a firm middle place on this list. They weren’t, on the whole, crippling to the New 52, but they did the company no favors. Coupled with the lopsided, poorly planned, and inconsistent nature of the crossovers relative to the supposed designs and plans of the New 52, I find the prevalence of crossovers baffling and frustrating. Though we’re about to touch on some flaws that had an even worse effect, the impact of these crossovers should not be underestimated.
It’s no secret I don’t like dark stories. Or at least that’s what everyone on the internet likes to think. That’s not actually true, for the record. A good dark story can be profound and memorable. That’s why I like things such as The Dark Knight, the reimagined Battlestar Galactica, and the Watchmen. A well crafted dark story can not only be great but often represent the best of these respective medias. My problem with dark stories is that you really need to know what you are doing to make a dark story work, or you’re going to come off as trying to act cool and bad ass when you’re anything but. You have to bring your A-game, and if you don’t, well, you just aren’t going to pull it off. To put it another way, that’s the difference between Christopher Nolan and M. Knight Shyamalan, if you catch my drift.
So the New 52’s continued focus on darker, more mature stories wasn’t necessarily bad on it’s own. Comics like Batman or Animal Man felt at home with tones, imagery, and ideas of a darker nature, however, many other series suffered from this same approach. Comics like the Teen Titans or certain Superman titles felt like they were desperately seeking a lighter tone but couldn’t, and suffered for it. This seemed to be a function of the editors and executives working over at DC, who seemed desperate to seem cool and relevant and failed on both counts because of it. Let me be clear. The people who will always be the least cool are the ones who care the most about people seeing them that way.
The good news is that DC has softened their stance on this and comics are increasingly allowed to find their own identity and tone. Yet I still find looking back over the New 52 that this was one of the most disastrous problems of the last five years. This behavior made the New 52 Superman seem cold and distant, traits that were only salvaged by a great writer named Greg Pak who eventually gave the character a much better sense of direction. But that’s not the only case of dark stories gone wrong. I still can’t make heads or tails of the mess this company has made out of Teen Titans and a handful of other, similar comics. <AHEM AHEM RED HOOD> Time and time again, the monolithic nature of tone in the New 52 badly damaged its own quality and led to serious conflict with staff behind the scenes. We’ll talk more about that last part later, but for now, it’s time to move on to…
And now we get to the uncomfortable part of the video I’ve been least looking forward to. Here at Comic Island we try to avoid talking about politics, because well, you’re all entitled to your own opinion, as am I. But arrogant enough to assume my opinion is somehow better than everyone else’s. We all just want to talk about cool comic books, regardless of our own political affiliation. Right or left, you will always be welcome here so long as you play nice with others. However, all this being said, I believe DC has a very serious problem with how they treat practically everyone who isn’t a white male.
These are the major writers and creators behind the New 52. I could pretty much rest my case here. Behind the scenes more than anywhere else, DC remains and always has been a weird country club for nerds. To be fair, the prospects over at Marvel are no better. This is a serious problem in the comic book industry as a whole, and one that needs to be dealt with. I’m not singling out DC here because it’s not just them. Women, minorities, and people who are just, well, different seem to have a much harder time getting meaningful employment in the comics industry when compared to their peers.
I don’t know why this problem hasn’t had more progress in the last decade or so, but I have my suspicions. The most obvious cause is one that unfortunately, is quite self-perpetuating. Because most comics are written exclusively by one demographic, they tend to appeal most to that very same demographic. That means that many artists and writers outside of this bubble tend to not take comics seriously or ever develop a real interest in making them, and you need that passion to get into this industry. That sucks, but luckily, both DC and Marvel are showing progress in this area.
The best example of this is how DC has published the excellent Midnighter series, an overtly sexual and violent comic about, well, Midnighter, the first openly gay superhero to star in his own series like this. Written by Steve Orlando, this series is excellent and a solid step in the right direction. Then there’s a transgender character in Batgirl, quietly slipped in and not created with much fanfare, just as a natural part of the story. That’s the exact sort of inclusion all comics should embrace – broadening their horizons without forcing diversity in. So both behind the scenes and within their own universe, DC did show some progress on this issue and will likely do even better in the future.
But I give them this credit somewhat tentatively, because there is still a lot of things they have done and are doing that really bother me. The most serious, unforgivable issue is the relationship this company seems to have with women. Not only are the women working at the company few and far between, but many have left the company over the years or seem to have been driven away by the editorial and executive staff. Compounding this are numerous allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct, and perhaps most importantly, a chilling, reoccurring, and extremely troubling pattern of executives at the company covering these incidents up and protecting employees that allegedly commit these crimes. Worse still, they use tactics of fear and intimidation to silence journalists from talking about this stuff too much.
At this point, these complaints have become far too numerous and from too many diverse sources for this to be discounted as simply the result of false accusations, especially because these incidents sure seem less common at other comic book companies. Make no mistake, this is a serious problem. This is not something to take lightly. Remember this is a company all about heroism. Every dime they make is off the idea that we, as humans, can be heroes. We can protect those with less power than us. We can be compassionate. We can care. I care how a company I support and love acts, and it is really upsetting to hear about stuff like this.
It is most certainly not a problem exclusive to DC, but it is definitely a problem. And I hate to cry sexism, but well, a spade’s a spade, guys. Problems need to be called out when they are actual problems, and one way or another, at this point, there is overwhelming evidence that this company really needs to work on its human resources department.
For the record, not everything DC does is automatically offensive or against women. My… peers on the left can and have been over reactionary when it comes to stuff like this. I don’t consider art by Frank Cho or this controversial Batgirl cover to be sexist – this is an example of the SJW crowd drumming up nonsense for click bait articles and rants that further their own political agenda. In fact, I rather like this cover. It’s disturbing and creepy, and all at once highlights the nature of the relationship between Batgirl and the Joker. Look guys, rape sucks. It’s awful. I don’t see why there’s anything wrong with discussing that. And anyone who thinks that this cover is DC saying, “try this, kids at home!” is seriously misunderstanding the purpose of this cover.
Wonder Woman is a good example of this, too. She wears those skimpy outfits, but to be honest, it’s always made a lot of sense to me. She’s so durable, she really doesn’t need clothing or armor at all. Her outfit is largely symbolic, taking on the flag of what the Amazonian’s interpret as the pinnacle of man’s world, in a way of expressing that she fights for them, not Themyscira. It’s a beautiful little detail that really gets into Wonder Woman’s character. Similarly, Power Girl’s outfits have always been acceptable to me, because it is in line with her character. She’s confident enough and so comfortable with herself that is makes sense she would be willing to use her sexuality in this way. Hey, if it distracts an opponent, even for a moment, then it’s worth it. But if Supergirl ever dressed that way, well, even though these characters are very similar considering their origins, I actually don’t think this fits Kara’s personality as well as it does Power Girl’s.
It’s all in the nuance, really, and that can be tough to talk about on the internet where such things are not allowed. I guarantee you people will twist and turn my words to fill whatever agenda they have in the comments section below, but this is just how I feel on this matter. There’s no need for such defensive behavior. We’re just talking here. I don’t mean to downplay the progress either – making the West family black, Midnighter, Batgirl, Gotham Academy, and Prez are all good examples and solid signs that DC can and will change with the times. But for every positive decision they made, too many others felt like a step in the wrong direction. It doesn’t help matters that many of the characters in DC who represented other aspects of the community – the disabled and such – were quietly changed to be more “normal.” And that brings us nicely to…
The New 52 has it’s faults but none is quite as depressing as this one. Was their any greater loss than the eccentricity of the DC Universe?
I don’t think so. Part of what made DC great was how silly it could be. Silly gets a bad rep these days, but you know, some of the best comics are all about having fun. Telling jokes, enjoying some good action, and being creative above all else. However, with the New 52, DC, in their… infinite wisdom, continued a trend they had been doing for several years now, and that’s the normalization of their characters and universe. What I mean when I say this is turning this character… into this <Solstice>. Turning this outfit… into this <ARMOR EXAMPLE>. And turning Superman from this… into this.
Yep, it’s time to talk about underpants. It will be a cold day in hell before I ever agree to the fact that Superman can somehow be taken more or less seriously with underpants. It’s just underwear, everyone. Let’s all calm down. Superman is no cooler or any different with or without these things. So why am I talking about this at all? Well, for one thing, I don’t understand why writers, editors, artists, directors, producers, costume designers, and executives feel they are somehow making a more mature Superman by taking away his underwear and are so annoyingly proud of themselves for doing so. They are literally doing nothing but taking a small detail away.
And that’s the problem with the New 52 in general. Superman loses his underpants to be replaced with… nothing. Just more blue. And while that’s okay, it’s symbolic for what DC did with the New 52 over and over again. They stripped away so many things and little details that made the DC universe unique and different. These are small parts of a larger story, yes, but little things like this add a lot. Details are important and matter. A good example of this is how costumes were redesigned to look more practical, which sometimes worked well, but other times made sleek and simple designs that once worked nicely for decades be replaced by cobbled together messes or something designed to look flashy but without the same significance and originality.
The worst example of this was the way DC treated Barbara Gordon, Niles Caulder, and Amanda Waller. The first two were stripped of their handicap, something I find not only a bit inconsiderate for people in situations like this but also making them less interesting in the process. What was so cool about Oracle is that in spite of what happened to her, Barbara never gave up. She found a way to be useful, and wound up being one of Batman’s best, most reliable allies. Throwing that all away seemed like such a waste, especially with two perfectly good Batgirls already out there that the New 52 chose to ignore completely. And as for Amanda Waller… <SIGH> they took a character who looked and acted differently than anyone else in the DC world and made her look just like everyone else while also scaling her character back so heavily she became much more bland and boring. They transformed an unforgettable character into a generic archetype, and I don’t think you can do much worse to a character, regardless of their weight class. Worse, given the way obese people are often ignored by the media at large, this decision is particularly exhausting to even think about.
But this isn’t a civil rights issue, so we’re talking about it here. Because it’s not like DC hates crippled and fat people. Well, okay, I hope DC doesn’t hate crippled or fat people. The evidence is pretty clear this isn’t actually the case, they just insist on making their world boring. I’m sure that’s not the intent, but when I look at what they did to Lobo, the Teen Titans, or Hawkwoman, I see a company that kept trying to reinvent the wheel and perpetually turning perfectly good wheels into blockly, misshapen, unplanned messes. It’s a recurring theme in this video that DC doesn’t seem to appreciate it’s own past or understand why it’s own comics and characters are good. If they want to appeal to more than a small segment of their fan base, they need to get back to these roots. They have to embrace the silly and the crazy, because that’s what they are. That’s what superheroes have always been, and, nine times out of ten, that’s all they really should be. Not everything and every story has to be The Dark Knight. Life doesn’t have to be taken that seriously all the time, nor should it.
The fact that this misstep is so out of line with something so fundamental to what makes comics great in the first place is why this problem ranks so high. It’s amazing to me that DC doesn’t understand this. It’s shocking really. This company needs to come to terms with it’s own silliness, and not shy away from it, but start embracing it. No, not every comic has to be a self-referential joke, but they are allowed to have fun. Being creative and different is kind of what good writers, artists, and editors are supposed to do. The Great Normalization of the New 52 hampered this, over and over, to the extent that it is one of the greatest downsides to the last five years of this publishing company.
And yet, something worse underlies this all. Let’s get into that – the biggest, central problem that ties into everything we just talked about.
If there is one job in the comics industry I envy the least it is that of the editor’s. It must suck being an editor. In spite of being a vital part to any good comic, editors very rarely get credit for making comics great, and often get a ton of blame when a comic goes wrong. In reality, pretty much every good comic benefited from a good editor at one time or another, while every bad comic probably has just as much to do with it’s writers and artists as it does the editors. Yet it is the editorial and executive staff that makes the decisions, steers the company, and at the end of the day, is most responsible for the content created, for better or worse. So understand that I’m putting them in this position somewhat reluctantly. I know this is complicated. This is a business. Tough decisions need to be made for the bottom line.
By and large, the editors did some great things with the New 52 – creating bold and exciting titles, and eventually letting writers tell their own stories without real interference, but only after a few years of unprecedented, insane editorial influence. Many decisions, especially in the early days, hindered, rather than helped the company, and everything we have talked about in this video – every major problem with the New 52 – seems to trace right back to the editorial and executive staff at DC. From the allegations of sexual misconduct, to the way that the New 52 seemed to lack even a fundamental understanding of what makes their comics so great to begin with, to the way editors treat journalists like human garbage, the editors made so many bad decisions along the way it hurts a little.
For example, the New 52 made a lot of cool variant covers that a lot of fans really liked, myself included. And that’s great and all, right up until the moment when some holographic 3D covers started melting in the sun. I know it’s just a comic and all, but that’s the sort of thing that really matters for the type of people who care the most about variant covers, that being collectors. Little things like this are damaging to your relationship with the fan base, especially the die-hard collectors who like their comics in pristine condition. And though it is a minor problem, that’s the New 52’s biggest problem – that death by a thousand cuts scenario I alluded to earlier. No single decision in the New 52 actually killed it, but hundreds of smaller, related decisions almost crippled the damn thing, so, in the end, the people making those decisions seem to be the biggest problem themselves.
They have been unprofessional and shown disdain for the people that support their company the most way too often for it to be ignored or chalked up to a few bad apples within the company. The problem is systemic, not individualistic. The examples are everywhere, and one that really comes to mind is the story of Batwoman. I haven’t talked about this series much because what happened to it really frustrates me. This was a great comic, right up until the end, when Batwoman was supposed to marry her love interest, bringing the series to a close and giving the main characters a nice, simple happy ending. It would have been closure to one of the best things to come out of the New 52, but DC didn’t like the idea of doing this and instead forced the creative team out and published their own ending separate from the original creative vision.
In spite of what some websites would have you believe, it’s pretty clear that this wasn’t done out of some spiteful problem with gay marriage, hence why we haven’t talked about this yet, they just didn’t like the idea of characters getting married and settling down. A lot of very stupid people with an astonishing amount of power at both Marvel and DC think that superheroes can’t be heroes if they are happy and married. So what was supposed to be a nice, happy ending was dashed just to stick with the status quo. Because it’s okay to be gay, but apparently, marriage is too foreign a concept for readers to relate too. It’s dumb. There’s no way around it. There are plenty of married characters in many stories people love. You, shockingly, don’t have to be married to relate to a married person, nor does every hero have to be miserable and depressed. Even Batman doesn’t have to be that way, nor should he be.
These sorts of behaviors are examples of editing of the worst kind – not done to help tell the story and make it the best that it can be, but one that satisfies what the company wants and thinks that you, the reader want. Because somebody over at DC thinks you are stupid. That you can’t relate to somebody different than you. I don’t think people are that dense. Hell, I know they aren’t. There are all sorts of successful examples of comics, movies, and TV shows that are sophisticated and smart yet appeal to a wide audience. However, time and time again, this was the approach DC took. This is what these people think of you.
We couldn’t possibly enjoy a grungy, fun character that looks like he was airlifted out of the 80s like Lobo, so instead we get this hot mess – a hipster parody of the real deal. A shallow, shitty representation of what was once one of DC’s best. And who cares if they rushed out Convergence in a desperate attempt to compete with Marvel’s Secret Wars last year – it’s not like we’d be smart enough to notice, right? And obviously they should turn Starfire into a flitting bimbo because hey, we’re all virgins who just want to look at tits, right fellas?
This is what DC has shown it thinks of it’s audience. Unfortunately for them, and as they learned over time, we’re better than that. We’re not that dumb. And luckily, they did seem to get the message. Kind of. Many of these problems are being worked on, as we speak. The hope is that this trend continues. Credit where credit is due, and I’m sure most of the people over at DC are wonderful, incredible folks who have done amazing work over the last five years. And yes, in spite of all this criticism, I’m sure most of the decisions were well intended and obviously not done maliciously or out of spite.
The only thing truly inexcusable was the whole… Bill Cosby behavior these guys think they can get away with. I’m willing to discount most of these shortcomings as growing pains – the effects of the old guard resisting change and struggling to keep up with the modern world. But you can’t excuse this crap. Please remember what I said about heroes. Because this shit? It isn’t heroic. And I’m not letting the matter go, not until the company shows it can change their behavior. Some things are not so easily forgiven, and protecting assholes that allegedly have done stuff like grab a woman’s breasts in corporate meetings, sticking their tongues in people’s throats, and aggressively punishing anyone who raises a complaint about it is unforgivable. Even here, there is progress, but the simple matter of the fact is that the editors and leaders of DC must set the example for their employees. You’ll be disheartened to know it is well established within the comics industry, that, even to this day, many well known, alleged harassers are still employed at the company – people that women are all too aware they can’t let their guard down around them and should not, ever, be left alone with them. This remains an ongoing, disgusting problem. With luck, they will find their way. They will do better. And if they don’t, well, that’s kind of what the courts are for.
It also damages not only the company’s reputation but also its relationship with its own talent. In fact, the repeated burning of bridges with led to a lot of great people leaving the company during the run of the New 52 means that a lot of potential went to waste. Even without all the harassment stuff, there are plenty of other examples of the editors and executives apparently having no idea what they are doing and losing good people because of it. Gail Simone, one of their best writers on hand in the early days of the New 52, was treated pretty poorly as best I can tell. However things went down with her, dropping a writer for one issue only to bring them back the next with no explanation is a sign of truly embarrassing mismanagement. And honestly, I can think of no better way to describe the worst aspects of the New 52 than those three words, right there. I end my video and argument on this.