Wednesday, May 11, 2011

An Open Letter to DC Comics

Dear DC Comics,

I have been reading comic books since I was 7 years old, picking up some of the John Byrne Superman issues when they came out in the mid-1980s. And to quote Bibbo, Superman was always my fav'rit. I was never much of a collector as a kid, even though I picked up the odd issue here and there when the covers interested me. Oh, sure, I was there for the death of Superman and his marriage to Lois Lane, but I tuned out a lot on the individual issues as I went to high school, college, and the work force. But even though I didn't follow the comics, I have always been a fan of the characters in the DC Universe, from Superman to The Spectre, Batman to Booster Gold. I followed them through the various animated adventures, feature films, and even the paperback books that were released over the last decade.

But please understand that I love comic books. I like the way the story-telling them employ, I like the unique marriage of words and art, I like the feel of holding them in my hand, and I like the cliff-hanger based pacing within the larger context of world-building and long-running subplots. A single splash page from Action Comics capture my imagination for over twenty years before I could find the issue that continued the story. The issues were exciting, each one feeding into the ones before it, and the title marched forward with one continuing story.

However, this brings me to my problems with the way you present your comic book titles. In the last five years, I've tried to jump onto the DC Superman titles a total of three times. I waited for major events to finish/end/disappear, and then I started picking up the Superman titles. I like the crossover between Superman and Action Comics, and I'm willing to purchase both titles to follow the story. But within mere months of me re-joining the comic-book-buying community, another major event came along that required me to buy tie-in titles, a miniseries, as well as other crossover titles just to get the full story that started (and sometimes ends) in Superman. I don't have the money or the patience to collect half a dozen titles just to get a single story.

And so, DC Comics, in order to get this comic book reader back to the monthly schedule, please lay off the major crossover storylines that take place across multiple books. At least two years. If I have a story that runs through only the Superman title, or only in Action Comics, then I am far more likely to become invested in the larger universe and follow multiple characters. The Black Ring storyline in Action was a great start, but it's been undermined by the entire Doomsday story that I have no interest in. Following Superman from book-to-book is not a burden I am willing to take up. One title, one story.

I enjoy the stories. I enjoy comic books. But I no longer buy them. I want to. I really want to find a monthly book that I can pick up, purchase, and love. So the burden is on you to give me something I want to buy. And I promise, I'll be there when you do.

Script in Hand

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The discovery by the comic book industry, in the early 1980's, of the "crossover event," has forever torpedoed the old formula of one shot stand-alone stories.

Why sell 1 book when you can stretch a single story over 24?

During the past 30 years, the pace has accelerated. Now we are no longer subjected to one or two such crossovers every few they are a near-constant phenomenon.

Comics have evolved in that way. As a direct result, I (and many, many like me) have evolved to no longer buy or read comics. My memory is too long. I remember how much better it was before the collector boom/bust of the early 90's, back when the comics companies weren't constantly pushing new gimmicky shared universe multi-book story arcs in an attempt to sell more ink.

Comic publishers should take a cue from the fate of the TV show Heroes. That's what happens when their storylines get too convoluted, or when they create intricate story arcs that cannot maintain continuity if a reader misses a single issue.

The attempt to turn comic reading into a addictive behavior, to further squeeze the readers' wallets for funds, unfortunately registers with many of us as a cheap commercial ploy. Which of course it is.

I hear they are doing cross-over stories in the Archie comics now, too.

To reference a famous comic book trope:

"'Nuff said."