Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Falling In Love All Over Again?

Marvel and DC have a problem.  This problem is the rebooting of entire lines.  A mulligan of titles, if you will.  Both comics have done it in the past, though if you read the news about DC (covered in the mainstream press) it sounded as if this was the first time any comic book company had done any such thing.  Granted, DC did it on a huge scale, as indicated by the cover on the left, but starting established titles over at number one is no rarer than changing the numbering system back to the old one later on.

When I first started reading comics, I liked the idea that I was reading #154 of a given issue.  It gave me a sense that there was some history behind the title.  There was a secret past that I could explore at some point.  It signified stability, as well.

Action Comics started in 1938.  1938!  How many other things have been around that long?  It was a comics institution.  Starting it over at issue one is desperate.  It reeks of a gimmick to lure in new readers.  Perhaps in our world, which has been molded by MTV and action movie edits, some people were afraid to read a title that had a history.  Perhaps it was too much to absorb.  I find that unlikely, though.  Going from my own personal tastes, and from what I saw when I managed a comic book store, if you give readers a good story, they will come to the title no matter what issue number it is on.

The moves Marvel and DC have done over the past few years indicate two companies afraid of going under and/or becoming obsolete.  They've sold the movie rights to characters, so now studios can make their own stories with them as they see fit.  The things the companies have done (massive storylines, reboots, etc.) are done with the hopes of attracting a new crowd while at the same time keeping the old.  What Marvel and DC should have learned from the times these things have been done in the past is that they don't work.  There may be brief spikes in sales and some media buzz, but it doesn't last.  Compelling stories last.  Respect to the medium gathers an audience.  Pandering to a non-existent crowd does nothing more than make one look like a huckster.  If Marvel and DC wanted to be "contemporary" they would drop numbering all together and probably go straight to trade paperbacks, but I highly doubt either company would last long if that's what they did.  Why?  Because the money these companies make comes from the core comics fan, and those fans want the same things I do.  Good stories and respect.

If Marvel and DC started treating their titles like art and less like commodities, the fan base would grow.  It would grow slowly, but it would grow.  It did so in the 1980s when magazines like Rolling Stone covered Frank Miller and Alan Moore's work.  These men were creating art, and the companies (DC in this case) let them.  The industry got respect.  New readers flocked to it.  The industry grew.  It's a very simple formula, but it is one steeped in long term thinking.  If the past few years have taught us anything, though, it is that the Marvel and DC are suffering from attention deficit disorder just as much as they believe their fans to be suffering from it.

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