The Reckoning: Why DC Comics Had to End Multiple Titles

Another sign that DC’s faring no better than Marvel, who cancelled at least a few of their series recently. Games Radar/Newsarama announced:

 

Following the cancellations of Batgirl, Batman and The Outsiders, and Justice League Odyssey in October, more DC titles are scheduled to get the ax in November. DC’s just-released November solicitations reveal that Teen Titans, Young Justice, Suicide Squad, Hawkman, and John Constantine: Hellblazer are all ending in November – with a cryptic message about Aquaman that makes the title’s fate questionable. The Batman’s Grave and Metal Men limited series will also reach their planned end in November.

Teen Titans is the longest-running title on the list, with a new creative team, Robbie Thompson and Javier Fernandez, recently joining the title with issue #39.

Robin betrayed them. Superboy abandoned them. Now the only Teen Titans left are Crush, Kid Flash, Red Arrow, and Roundhouse,” reads the solicitation for Teen Titans #47, the series’ final issue. “As the teen heroes wrap up what may be their final mission, they’re going to get some unexpected encouragement from a group that knows a little about how hard it is to be heroes. Special guest stars the original Titans prove there may still be some good this team can do in the future.”

Meanwhile, Brian Michael Bendis is joined by artist Scott Godlewski and Naomi co-writer David F. Walker for the finale of Young Justice, marking the first Wonder Comics’ ongoing title to end since the imprint launched.

 

With that kind of premise and those kind of writers, I can’t say I’m shocked these tanked in the end. Walker’s past conduct alone is reason enough to avoid the book he was co-writing, with a man who wasn’t all that different in his attitude towards Avengers fans when he was at Marvel, which could explain why he had no reservations about Walker joining him on his next venture.

 

It’s also unclear if Aquaman will last much longer, even as a writer as awful as Kelly Sue deConnick is leaving the writing, according to Cosmic Book News:

 

While not confirmed, Aquaman is also thought to be ending as November’s solicitation states: “Guest-starring the Justice League in a finale that will amaze you!” In addition, the issue is also the final issue by writer Kelly Sue DeConnick who came over to DC along with Brian Michael Bendis and replaced Dan Abnett on Aquaman (sound familiar Marvel Cosmic, fans?). DC also hasn’t announced a new creative team.

It’s my guess that some of the titles will be relaunched in conjunction with movie releases, such as a new Suicide Squad comic book to go with James Gunn’s movie that gets released next August, the same for Aquaman as the sequel is in the works, etc.

Regarding what Jim Lee had to say, Lee confirmed not only is DC Comics reducing the number of comic books published but that they are focusing on their “franchise brand content,” which means whatever WarnerMedia decides to go with on the big screen, streaming, etc. (more Batman comics with Batman movies, Aquaman movies, The Suicide Squad, etc).

 

See, that’s another problem: if the only titles they can produce are those connected to what’s considered movie and merchandise material, then creative freedom is further limited; exactly what’s gone wrong with art in the past decade. And this leads to the Hollywood Reporter interview with Jim Lee about where DC’s going now:

 

“This week has been a really heavy difficult time not just for me, but for the entire organization,” Lee tells The Hollywood Reporter via a Zoom call. “We’ve said goodbye to people that have been huge contributors and who have helped define and make DC what it is today.”

If that includes reprehensible screwballs like Andy Khouri, all he did was destroy some of their brands. No point in thanking people like that. The article also says, interestingly enough:

 

Yes, there will be more Batman — John Ridley, who won an Oscar for penning 12 Years a Slave, is writing a Batman mini-series (“It will have a huge impact on the rest of the line,” Lee says) — and there will also be the return of Milestone, a label that features under-represented heroes and creators.

But what if a revival of Milestone winds up merely being used as a vehicle for leftist Black Lives Matter propaganda? If they make it overtly political, then it’s bound to do more harm than good. And why more Batman, but not Superman, who curiously enough goes unmentioned in this interview? Whenever the Man of Steel gets blotted out of the conversation, you know something’s wrong. THR goes on to ask Lee:

 

Is DC still publishing comics?

Absolutely. One hundred percent. It is still the cornerstone of everything that we do. The need for storytelling, updating the mythology, is vital to what we do. The organization leans on us to share and establish the meaningful elements of the content that they need to use and incorporate for all their adaptations. When we think about reaching global audiences, and we see comics as helping drive that awareness and that international brand, it’s very much part of our future.

That said, we will be reducing the size of the slate. But it’s about looking at everything and looking at the bottom 20 percent, 25 percent of the line that wasn’t breaking even or was losing money. It’s about more punch for the pound, so to speak, and increasing the margins of the books that we are doing. It was about aligning the books to the franchise brand content we’ve developed and making sure that every book we put out, we put out for a reason.

 

Do they intend to relaunch any of these titles later on, without jettisoning any of the negative elements they’ve been bound by for over 15 years by Dan DiDio’s mandates? If they stick by the worst status quos he imposed, along with the most loathsome ideas Geoff Johns could foist, and don’t even undo the recent damage wrought by Tom King in the Heroes in Crisis miniseries, then there’ll be no point to relaunching any cancelled title. And what do they mean by “international”, something discussed further down? If that means selling by movie recognition, their strategy is weak.

 

Now, here’s whom they’ve appointed as editors in chief: 2 women:

 

You now have two interim editors-in-chiefs, Marie Javins, who headed digital strategy, and Michele Wells, who headed the YA imprint. How is that going to work?

We thought it would be a great pairing to bring them together to help draft and organize the content we’re doing along these lines. Across digital, across global, we want to make sure we have diversity and inclusivity, and making it in a way that we have authenticity to the storytelling that we’re doing.

It’s really about consolidating all of our efforts and having every editors involved in all these directives and also organizing, broadly speaking, in content that is for kids 6 to 11 and then 12 to 45. It’s about consolidating format and oversight to a smaller, more concentrated editorial group.

 

When he speaks of diversity and inclusion, that’s a warning they’re still hell-bent on politically motivated pandering, not merit and entertainment value. It remains to be seen how well either or both these women now taking up their specific roles, one replacing the now ousted Bob Harras, will fare, but if they were chosen as diversity hires (and the latter’s previous role strongly suggests such), then of course they’re not guaranteed to ensure better sales, let alone regaining audience. Also, how do we know a smaller group of editors doesn’t suggest micromanaging, which pretty much happened already under DiDio? Lee also told them in response to the following:

 

Do you still have the title of publisher?

Yes.

 

Is he being truthful? Because for all we know, AT&T as new owner could announce they hired a new overseer tomorrow in the role, which would contradict his insistence he’s still got the publishing job. The next part has good news and bad news:

 

DC in the spring broke away from Diamond as its distributor and signed with two new companies. Some people said at the time it would be a mistake. How has it fared?

Not only has it exceeded our initial expectations, but the size and strength of the business is that same level or higher than pre-COVID. There was a lot of fear mongering out there about another Heroes World type of debacle that occurred decades ago; there is nothing further from the truth. Things have transitioned very smoothly — that’s not to say there aren’t kinks that need to be worked out. , they’ve done an amazing job transitioning all the content we produce and putting it into new pipelines and getting it to retailers.

And we’ve gotten some tremendous numbers on some of recent books. We’re back to press on the Joker War storyline that has been running in Batman. Multiple printings on that. In fact, every issue since its launch has gone up in numbers and you know how hard that is. Usually when you launch, you start big and the numbers go down. But here it’s climbing issue to issue. We got our numbers for Three Jokers and the first issue sold over 300,000 copies. And that’s an $8 book. That’s a gigantic number for having new distribution.

This wasn’t about taking our distribution business and placing it the hands of two entities, it was about, “What can we do together to do things that were never contemplated before.” Things that we would love to do to grow the physical market.

 

Maybe it’s true the change in distribution was successful, but it obviously hasn’t salvaged titles that don’t star a flagship character. Yet it’s regrettable how Batman is constantly the one pushed as the biggest deal, although not clearly mentioned here is that Three Jokers, written by the insufferable Geoff Johns, is supposed to go on sale on August 25, as noted at the bottom of this CBR item. What that means for now is that it’s the stores who’re banking almost entirely on such easy-peasy choices as the Masked Manhunter, and not enough on products where sci-fi has a more prominent role. I haven’t been able to find proper sales charts on ICV2, so there’s no way to ascertain for now if Lee is just boasting and grandstanding.

 

One rumor I heard this week is that DC is going to only sell trades and OGNs and make a deal with Marvel for them to publish DC’s comics.

(Laughs.) There is nothing further from the truth in that. I don’t know where you would even connect those dots. Why would we ever do that?

 

Why not to save money and give readers the satisfaction they wouldn’t have to spend more money on a story to read through to the end as they could get the whole story in one stroke? The inability to recognize a complete story can have advantages in this day and age is another telling weakness of theirs.

 

Where do you see DC in two years?

You’ll definitely see more international content. You’re going to see more digital content. When you talk about growing our business, both physical and digital, to me the opportunities are global. That’s what we’ll be focusing on. Sometimes that takes the form of content that we take here and translate and sell in other marketplaces, but we want to partner with creatives in various territories and unlock stories that feel authentic to their marketplaces with characters that they can embrace as their own, and look for opportunities to take those characters and seed them throughout all our mythology.

With digital, that’s more of a windowing issue, meaning we’ll go out there with digital content and the stuff that performs well in digital also performs well in print. A good example of that is Injustice, the digital comics that tied into the video game. When that came out, it was the best-selling digital comic of the year, it outsold Batman. And brought a lot of adjacent fans into our business. And when we took that content and reprinted it in physical form, we sold hundreds of thousands of units. It was as big of a hit in physical as in in digital.

We’re using that as a model as we go out and do more digital content. We’ll take the most successful books and repackage it as physical books .I think there is definitely business to be had in physical periodicals. But that said, I think there’s greater upside in digital because we can go to a more global audiences and the barrier to entry, especially in this pandemic, is lower. It’s a lot easier to get digital content into the hands of consumers that want to read stories. We want to lean into that and think thoughtfully what digital content should be, what it should look like, the format.

 

Produce digital stories, fine, but why continue ad nauseam with a monthly pamphlet format that’s no longer working? In any event, there’s plenty of reasons to worry what Lee means when he speaks of going global. It could mean pandering to Islamic beliefs (as both they and Marvel have already done), along with China’s communists like Hollywood film studios are doing, and again, let’s not think they have any intention of abandoning extreme leftist pandering. And while it may be easier to market digital files to consumers, the question remains whether they actually want to pay a potentially high price for possibly so little? Also disturbing is the highlighting of the Injustice video game, which, as noted before, builds on the worst possible elements, with Superman easily the biggest victim of its political correctness. Yet it’s clear such a concept didn’t bring in masses for long, as their financial losses of the past years make clear.

 
One more note to make about Aquaman, since we’re on the subject, is that, as bad a writer as I believe deConnick is, she’s actually willing to restore Arthur Curry and Mera’s marriage in the pages of the volume she’s written so far, but if if turns out there’s a PC-based catch, that’ll ruin everything. Apart from that, one good thing is that it does give some hope that, if DC’s Atlantean couple could have their marriage restored (and the Atom and Jean Loring, amazingly enough, had theirs restored a few years ago post-Rebirth, as indicated in Justice League of America #17 from 3 years ago, though both were unfortunately still marginalized), then someday, Spider-Man and Mary Jane Watson will have theirs fully restored as well. That’s one thing we should at least hope for, yet still be wary of political correctness turning up.
 
 
 
Originally published here.
 

Avi Green

Avi Green was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. He enjoyed reading comics when he was young, the first being Fantastic Four. He maintains a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy of facts. He considers himself a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. Follow him on his blog at Four Color Media Monitor or on Twitter at @avigreen1

JUST KEEPING THE LIGHTS ON