Monday, August 16, 2004

DC Then & DC Now

Someone wrote me an e-mail earlier today, wanting to know why I don't seem to like any DC Comics. I actually used to love DC's superhero comics, really I did. When I seriously got into comics in the early 1990s, it was mainly DC Comics that appealed to me.

The Batman books had solid talent, doing solid detective/superhero stories about a driven man and the costs that what he did took out of him especially as regarded by the ones who cared for him.

Remember when Alfred's talk about him overdoing things, were things we as fans understood where he was coming from. Yet agreed with Bruce that what he was doing was too important to wait on? When was the last time that feeling was registered by fans, given the push towards making Batman a complete lunatic?

It isn't just the Batbooks though, Superman too was a real winner of a group of books. As we saw creators not afraid of relationships, push the Clark & Lois relationship to depths they had never come close to. Who challenged the characters both personally and professionally, yet in the end the honor of the character shined through.

These days the stories seem to be striving to push Clark's to his mental limits every other issue, leaving him scarred afterwards. The shift in focus of the stories from someone we should want to try to emulate his values, to someone we should feel sorry for just seems an odd choice. Especially the direction of making us the readers question whether he is relevant or right in what he does.

Flash was a series that dealt with a lot of history under Waid, but was filled with such energy and gumption that many superhero books of its type lacked. It made you care about the history and legacy, even though I had never read a Barry Allen comic, because it dealt with the legacy in terms that anyone could understand by narrowing it down to the pure emotions of a "prodigal son" trying to make his "dad" proud.

These days the Flash as a character himself lacks any energy. The drive of the book seems to be the villains, and the darkening of them and his world to make them seem more relevant has turned me off. I could barely believe how much I used to like the series, until I dug out some past issues like the Return of Barry Allen storyarc. My opinion on the series had shifted so that seeing the difference was startling.

Green Lantern was in some ways a mirror opposite of The Flash title. Under writer Ron Marz and the new lead character Kyle Rayner, the book moved away from a lot of its past trappings. It tried to take new roads, with a character who really seemed like someone that was 20something in the 1990s. And brought a fresh look at the DC Universe and its characters that I hadn't seen in quite some time.

These days subsequent writers have reestablished the ties to the past, one going so far as write stories quite similar to those of the previous title holder's storytype with only Kyle's name and costume glued in place. Except those things didn't work, and despite bring back Ron Marz to write one final arc which saw sales start to rise.

The series has been canceled, and is due to be relaunched under writer Geoff Johns with a shift back towards the elements and even the original lead character the book had 10 years ago before the change.

Then there are things like IDENTITY CRISIS where shock storytelling and "death is cooler, the bloodier it is" type approach fails to interest me. Which I'm schocked to find is a common trait in all of the DCU titles right now. Where the only regular series that has held any interest for me, has been the amusing TEEN TITANS GO! series based on the hit tv show.

Perhaps this is just a trend and in a few years things may have swung back the other way. Or perhaps I've just come to realize that superhero comics, just aren't for a reader like myself who hasn't been reading them all my life and thus doesn't know or care about a lot of the history behind the characters.

I'm not really that bothered about it either, it is weird to realize just how different what I see now is from what I used to read. Yet then again this was 10 or more years ago, and I'm sort of glad to see that I am reading and interested in different things instead.

There are a lot of options available to me from other publishers. Even DC themselves offers options with things like their manga line, Vertigo miniseries and special projects like Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immonen's excellent Superman: Secret Identity miniseries.

So if DC has decided to leave their main DCU books to a certain segment of fans then that is okay. It seems weird based on where I came from to no longer be interested in their current editions. Yet as they say "To each their own." and I'll just keep right on enjoying what I currently do.

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