Caving In

June 23rd, 2011 by Dave

Hey folks,

 

So, three things here: an explanation, a mea culpa, and a DaveRant (can we get that trademarked?).

 

So, like Kyle said, we’re backlogged because we’re putting the finishing touches on the new NPC Comics secret lair. And frankly, the bureaucracy of getting things up and running is really honking us all off. I mean, we’ve got the rottweilers, we’ve got the particle beam guns, and we’re still waiting for FDA approval to finish our ‘enhanced security corps’? Damn government paperwork. I thought this was America, not Stalinist Russia.

 

Second, yes, I did cave in and went to see Green Lantern with everyone else. So, I did prove the old adage about nerd rage being impotent. In my defense though, I went to go see it out of a sense of vindication and schadenfreude after reading the initial reviews. And really, I don’t have anything more to add other than what Kyle’s written and what reviewers have already said. Other than that Green Lantern dropped 21% between Friday and Saturday opening weekend, forcing Warner Brothers to grin and bear it while saying they were happy that it’s the 4th highest weekend opening for a DC film. But when one of the top 3 happens to be ‘Batman Forever’…

 

And now we come to the part you’re all here for, the DaveRant (seriously, why aren’t we trademarking this?). We were going to save this for the show recording this weekend, but this just needs to be said.

 

So, on Wednesday, July 22, Superman #712 hit the stands. Or, should we say, Superman #712b hit the stands. As Comics Alliance reports, DC pulled a last minute switch, so #712 is now a ‘lost classic’ about Krypto looking for Superboy in the aftermath of ‘Final Crisis’. Instead of the submitted, approved, written, drawn, inked, colored and fully completed  story about Superman teaming with a Muslim superhero to fight intolerance.

 

Just…wow.

 

Chris Sims did a masterful job at deconstructing the deal in his article. And I agree with his assessment that this switch was done in response to the criticism DC faced from the extreme Right Wing (and certain comics fans, such as yours truly, who are far less pants-crapping insane than the extreme Right Wing), when Superman renounced his American citizenship. More than that, though, I think this is a sign of DC starting to enter panic mode.

 

This has been a rough year for DC. They’ve faced criticism for Batman and Superman from conservative outlets. The first month of Flashpoint has seen them loose market share. Apathy from comics fans abounds regarding the reboot in August. And their big ‘crown jewel’ this year, the Green Lantern movie, had to endure a lot of criticism from comics fans based on the trailers and the convention clip showings.

 

Like Chris Sims wrote, everything about Chris Roberson’s 712 was good up until the crap-storm over Action Comics 900 hit. Everything that was acceptable and worked within the ‘Grounded’ storyline from November through April was suddenly unacceptable in May. The switch was so sudden, DC didn’t even correct the synopsis of the issue on their own website by the day 712 was released. To me, this doesn’t seem like a planned decision; this was a gut ‘oh crap!’ reaction in an attempt to do damage control. Whether the decision came from WB or from the editorial council at DC remains to be seen.

 

Ultimately, I think this is going to further damage DC’s reputation among comics fans. A sudden switch like this to appease a lunatic right-wing fringe that doesn’t buy comics in the first place only further alienates a core audience that’s pretty much tired of DC’s antics. This has all the earmarks of a decision made by businessmen rather than creators. Loss of market share and fan apathy? Must be because those loud mouths that don’t buy our comics anyways are right; kill the feel-good Muslim story.

 

Beyond the fan alienation, this is going to hurt DC’s relationship with comics professionals as well. There will probably be some undeserved fan backlash at Kurt Busiek, since he wrote the Krypto story that is now 712. I say undeserved because a) Kurt is a generous, cool person, based on the times I’ve talked with him, and b) he probably wrote that story for a filler either during or right after ‘Final Crisis’ and DC sat on it; it’s not like Geoff Johns called up Kurt right after the decision was made to can 712 and asked him to fully script a comic within a week, so that there’s another week for art before going to press.

 

Also, DC has royally pissed off George Perez, a certified comics legend. Perez is scheduled to write Superman post-reboot and had drawn a variant cover to the original 712. The variant cover apparently was done in honor of a friend of George’s, and DC didn’t tell him that the issue (and thus the variant cover) was going to be scrapped. He found out once 712 hit the shelves. This is not making for a harmonious environment at DC when you treat the co-creator of Teen Titans and the writer you’re placing in charge of your corporate flagship like he’s some expendable fanboy artist. Make no mistake, George is a true professional, and he’ll devote 100% to Superman, personal feelings aside; but I wouldn’t be surprised if he makes his run as writer for Superman shorter than DC wants.

 

Then there’s this: the comics world is still dealing with the sudden death of Dwayne McDuffie earlier this year. This is a man who did more to bring true equality and diversity to comics than anyone else. At the WonderCon tribute panel a month or so after his death, people were not just morning the loss of Dwayne, but the loss of what he represents. Bruce Timm was asked what would happen to all the Milestone characters Dwayne had created and now being integrated into the DC Universe; he responded ‘I think the better question is what’s going to happen to diversity in the comics industry, since there are so few non-white professionals in the mainstream companies’. And now DC, a company Dwayne helped to diversify, helped remove the stigma of Sinbad’s Black Lighting joke bit from Saturday Night Live, helped change Vibe from a bad Rico Suave clone with powers into a three dimensional hero, and gave DC such an incredible and relatable hero in Static; now DC wants to bury a story about a Muslim hero facing prejudice in the name of quieting vocal criticism from people that don’t buy their product anyways.

 

The irony is so thick, not even Kryptonian heat vision can cut through it.

 

Ultimately, DC is sending a message with their handling of 712. And that message is ‘The CCA and the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency have not died’. We all thought that once Marvel and DC dropped the CCA and went to self-distribution, such censorship in the name of grandstanding ‘think of the children’ politics was gone forever. Of course, in comics, no villain ever dies, especially when there’s no body left behind. Like some master villain revealed to be alive in a splash page at the end of an issue, comics censorship is alive and well in the 21st Century.

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