DC and Doctor Who: The Times They Are a-(Barely) Changing

A few news items from last week bear mentioning given this blog's usual focusususes (foci?). But not too mentioning TOO much. By which I mean, will these REALLY change anything? Perpend:
DC Rebirth
So less than 4 years since the New52 relaunched everything, DC Comics feels the need to do so again with Rebirth. The above image was tweeted by various DC big wigs and apparently, the plan is to relaunch everything with new #1s and a line-up more in line with the characters and concepts featured in DC films and TV. Not that movie/TV popularity has ever had a proven incidence on comics sales, nor that the titles will necessarily emulate the tone of the movie or show it's related to. And we shouldn't call it a "reboot" until we know for sure it's not just a renumbering scheme/creator shuffle.

On the one hand, DC has been more than a little out-of-step with what's popular at the moment. TV and movies may not seem to create too many new comic book readers, but those that already exist can be driven to suddenly popular characters. Crossover hits can probably drive sales, especially of trades (remember how everyone suddenly had to read Watchmen a few years ago?). And right now, Supergirl is a crossover hit and there's no Supergirl book on the stands. Buzz for Batman v Superman might bring someone to the comic book store, where they'll find depowered Superman and Gordon in Bat-armor. You'd think the families of books that suffer the most editorial interference (and Batman and Superman's certainly fit that profile) would have been driven to matching other media sooner. But I guess the various "arms" of the WB are in the middle of a pissing match or something, and don't really care about cooperating with one another. Or is that about to change? "In line with" does not mean we'll see a bearded Aquaman or a grizzled old Batman or Supergirl working with her sister at the D.E.O., after all. But bringing some of these characters back to their roots is a good idea. Except that more obscure characters are likely to get the shaft, which is too bad because they generally interest me a lot more. I think we should probably be thankful to the TV series, because they keep introducing more characters who could conceivably translate their visibility into a spot in the line-up.

But all this is rather beside the point because where DC really needs a change is behind the scenes. Rebirth (and some have already coined the term Afterbirth) can't be too different from Flushpoint, because it's the same people running the show. DiDio, Lee, Johns, apparently hiring the same old folks, both good and not so good, to work on tweaked versions of the same old books (only more of each, if the rumors turn out to be true, because the world needs even more Batman titles). It's not a change, it's more of the same. And "the same" is changing everything then mass cancelling and changing everything again when there's no immediate return. I don't follow stuff like number of copies sold, etc., but every time I hear about it, it's always how every DC book is dropping by over a thousand readers with every issue. Perhaps it's time to accept that readers and retailers (and creators, many of which have been abused by this regime) have lost faith in the company's output and ethics, and that it's time to change not just that output, but the IMAGE the company projects. Or to change the business model entirely, because let's face it, it's not like Marvel is doing that well either.
Doctor Who's new showrunner
The other big news is that Steven Moffat is (some will unkindly say, finally) leaving Doctor Who, though only after Series 10 which, because Moffat is doing too many things at the same time, will only air in 2017, which means this will be a pretty bleak year for Doctor Who. My personal choice for his replacement would have been Toby Whithouse, who's written a number of good episodes, and who proved his mettle with Being Human. I hardly ever get my wish. The actual choice is Chris Chibnall.

Now, I can't claim to have caught everything he's done - I'm on the wrong side of the Atlantic for that - but his Doctor Who episodes have been just okay. The Power of Three was fun and unusual, but then The Hungry Earth was a UNIT-era pastiche that had nothing original about it. He ran Torchwood during Season 2, which was a favorite of mine, but also wrote the worst TW episode ever, Cyberwoman, which yes, is worse than even the American season. I've seen his first season of Broadchurch, which was a great thriller, until the complete hogwash of an ending. Apparently Season 2 has a bad case of diminishing returns. So I don't know what this means for a Series 11 and beyond. Could be good, could be bad, probably would vacillate between those two poles.

But mostly, it's an UNINSPIRED choice. Chibnall produces TV by the numbers, quite adept at emulating what a show has already done (just look at "42" is RTD-era by the numbers, or Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, which is Moffat-era in the same way). Does he have a style of his own, one that applies to Doctor Who? I don't know, but I don't think there's really a unique vision there. Will he take chances, or will he be a safe BBC stooge? with Moffat driving for a female Doctor, will Chibnall actually take the bait, or will we get a safer choice once Capaldi leaves? I should be excited at the prospect of a new era, but I'm not. And that's a problem.

In both these cases, it's the status quo by any other name...


Anonymous said...

I still can't understand why anyone would give Moffat anything other than praise. Sure he's made some choices I didn't like, but overall the direction and quality of "Doctor Who" have never been better than under his control.

As for DC's Rebirth, man, I wonder how much will be fixing what's broken and how much will be breaking what's fixed. I have to admit I have little faith in DC getting it right.

Wish they'd put Dan Jurgens in charge of the Superman group, as an editor. I'm not a great fan of his writing, but he at least gets Superman, and would have better ideas than depowering him and putting him on a motorcycle.

Stop trying to be gimmicky, DC. Embrace your characters for what they are, and find writers and editors willing to do the same.

snell said...

As I understand it (and I, too, am on the wrong side of the Atlantic), it was the BBC's decision to go Doctorless in 2016, as the upcoming Summer Olympics and other "big events" were going to jam their schedule and make a contiguous run difficult.

As for Chibnall, I'll just say that while RTD's own episodes were rarely my favorite, he did a fine job shepherding the revived franchise. So I'm williung to withhold judgement--and it will be nearly two years until we get anything nder his run, at the earliest!--and ponder where he stands on the chair agenda...

Unknown said...

I'm a DC head... I have been for a long time... I even told people to chill when the new 52 happened. I used to say "multiverse" as a cure for everything.

I might have been wrong.

I might...

This "Rebirth" makes me feel like I am just constantly in labor.

This is a permanent state of LABOR!!!

As for Dr Who. Well, I love the show, I love what Moffat did in the past (i actually know what he's done other than Who). But I do look forward with optimism and hope... like the Doctor would.

Siskoid said...

I'm a Moffat supporter myself, but there comes a point where no matter how much you love an era, the show must regenerate lest it become a little samey. Some say we're past that point. I think this last season tried new things and Moffat's not out of steam yet.

Good metaphor, Bass. It feels like the DCU has been screaming itself out of the womb for 4 years now. Poor thing is like an unwanted baby forced back into its mother when deemed imperfect.

Andrew Gilbertson said...

As someone who LOATHED Hungry Earth/Cold Blood (and consider the only episode of Matt Smith's era that I actually hated*), and was less than impressed by '42'... I am not in the most optimistic of moods. Then again, I liked Power of Three (minus the tortured ending narration) and Dinosaurs on a Spaceship... but never as much as I *loved* Moffat's pre-showrunner work. So... we shall see. 'Uninspired' seems like a good descriptor to me.

Meanwhile, for DC, I have to agree with Anonymous in having little faith- and cynically agree that this is probably just a 'move in closer line with the movies/tv shows' rather than 'fix what Flashpoint broke'- but I'd sure love it to be the latter. I mean, I don't particularly want to see the DEO or Cisco and Kaitlin at STAR Labs in the comics. The comics version of Coulson is fairly uninspired; I don't see any DC tie-in as being better. These characters work for their own medium- the comics need to have characters tailored to THEIR medium.

And not telling terrible stories about hollow shells of the characters we once knew. That would be good, too.

*That I can think of at the moment

Delta said...

My prediction from last May was that, granted the movie interests are now the main component of the business (and directors are usually given carte blanche to re-design characters in any movie however they wish), we can basically expect to see comics and cartoons from now on as continually being re-booted in a fruitless chase after the movie properties. Maybe that's not even a very bold prediction: Universal Realignments.


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