A welcome side effect of last month’s trip to Gettysburg was the distance it put between me and internet fandom’s roiling abbatoir of reason. The long weekend spent isolated from the snarky, pharmacist overentitled din did wonders for dispelling the foul mood which had been my default state for the past year.
As a result, medical I cut back severely on my engagement with fan culture upon returning home. Idiocy springs eternal, epidemic and there are better things to play Sisyphus over than the shitty state of comics (and videogame) journalism and the peanut gallery’s habitual tendency to overreact about, well, everything. It doesn’t matter if you’re a wide-eyed booster or a reflexive contrarian — you’re still letting the scene dictate your actions.
My self-imposed quarantine isn’t entirely foolproof, however. Bits of baffling nonsense still slip though on occasion, typically tracked in on the social media bootsoles of a more invested friend or acquaintence. That’s how I happened across this example of comics commentary at its most platonically banal, “16 Comic Books We’re Probably Glad DC Didn’t Revive.” (Why sixteen? Because that the was minimum AOL required before issuing a check.)
I don’t fault the authors for the eye-rolling tone or hyper-facile nature of the piece. The post-Gawker pro-blogging model is a voracious beast which forces its servants to satiate its hunger with an unending stream of content — no matter how tangential or slight it may be. (Honestly, though, they should have subcontracted this one to the undisputed master of the form.) The issue — besides the fact that it’s more forced than funny — lies in the choice of selections.
Apart from Cancelled Comics Cavalcade — an in-house affair done to satisfy legalities following the DC Implosion of the late 1970s — and Gunfire — a spunk stain on the bed made by both the industry and the fans — the books are all non-superhero material.
AHAHAHAHAHA! DC sure published a lot of silly books that didn’t involve grimacing ‘roid-heads in tights punching each other and they sold like hotcakes by today’s standards to relatively diverse audiences…for a while, at least.
Honestly, are any of those selections goofier than Silver Age covers in general? Or whatever golden-child-of-the-moment currently getting fawned over in CA’s sidebar will seem to comic readers in 2025? (True fact: Scott Pilgrim will be to Millennials what Woodstock was for Boomers, i.e. “Why their children think they’re insufferable assholes.”)
Look at the in-house subscription ads for DC and Marvel up through the early 1970s and you’ll notice that superhero titles tend to be in the minority. The subsequent ascendency of the superhero genre — and the decline, for various reasons, of other comics genres — would go on to make “comic books” and “superheroes” effectively synonymous. While some folks might take issue with that confusion between medium and genre, it still stands as the norm outside isolated pockets of fandom and literati-types.
Not that my expectations were ever above floor-level, but I did hold some hope that DC was going to branch out a little with the reboot offerings. Could a romance title or a funny animal comic or crime/journalism procedural make a mark in today’s marketplace? I don’t know, but they’d probably entice more hypothetical “new readers” than a J.D. Krul relaunch of Captain Atom (especially considering that I’m the planet’s sole Captain Atom fan, and I wouldn’t touch that comic with a ten-foot pole made of dead cats and severed arms).
Instead readers are getting a shitload of superhero books with some token nods to the war and western genres…which will apparently tie back in some fashion to the superhero books. The pool of new readers is expected to come from fans of the movies and cartoons, a bit of wishful thinking at odds with reality.
I’m not discounting the power of brand recognition, but the vast majority of the ticket-buying public doesn’t give two shits about Iron Man or Thor or Superman. They’re buying two hours of spectacle which just so happens to feature recognizable characters. Their interest begins and ends with the movie — and that goes for any blockbuster.
Who leaves a Fast and the Furious or Jason Statham flick thinking “Hey, I would love to read a novel or comic book based on this!” The folks who do, the ones who own Gears of War novelizations or “Spike Puppet” variant Buffy comics are a very small subset known as “diehard fans.”
In DC’s case, that equates to “the folks already buying your damn comics.”