Dan DiDio Out, Siskoid In

This week on Great Ceasar's Post, Maxo responded to yet another round of rumors that Dan DiDio would be canned from his position as DC Comics Editor-in-Chief by asking where we'd personally take DC (not that I think he's doing a particularly bad job). Playing editor is just my thing! I did it once before in a post that tried to come up with a Final Crisis strategy. It's almost a year later and you know, those ideas still seem good to me. But let's go further this time:

I would still call for a Final Reboot and ask writers to tie up storylines before the end of FC, still publish Reboot Month, still have characters' rebooted backstories detailed there without requiring any character to be reset at Year 1, and still launch every new series about an established character with a Reboot Special. Details HERE.

In addition...

-Publish a new version of Who's Who that takes the new history into account, with special minis to come for pre-Crisis, post-Crisis, post-Zero Hour, post-Infinite Crisis continuity (like Marvel Universe has done with decades).

-Keep events to families of books à la Sinestro War. Enough with the major crossovers. Make the Final Crisis truly Final for the foreseeable future.

-Better editing, definitely. Continuity between titles is very poor at the moment.

-We all have our own biases as far as artists, writers and characters go, so obviously, there are some people I wouldn't be giving work to - Benes, Meltzer, Starlin, Daniel, etc. - and others I'd try to attract from the competition: Fraction, Brubaker, Romita Jr.

-Flagship titles deserve the very best creators. No crap, and no stunts (i.e. non-comics writers).

-More Omnibus-format books, possibly with soft covers. Higher end than Showcases, lower end than hardcovers. (NOT EVERYTHING REQUIRES COLLECTED HARDCOVER TREATMENT!)

-The split between DC and Vertigo needs to be repaired. Not only do I see no problem with Vertigo stars appearing in DC books, I think it would oil the wheels for crossovers in the other direction. Vertigo needs an injection of new blood in addition to creator-owned projects.

-Get into that digital comics racket all the kids are talking about these days.

-Tie creators more closely to their books. When a creative team puts a definitive stamp on a title, why keep it going after it has left? Take for example the decline in both quality and interest in All-New Atom after Gail Simone left. Is Blue Beetle on its way there as well? The Darwyinless Spirit? Why take the risk? Ending the series (indeed, considering it a "limited" maxi-series) opens the schedule up to new projects and keeps the property open for either a properly planned relaunch or the creative team's return in mini-series or specials to continue the story. So I know people are sad to see Catwoman canceled, but if Pfeiffer was going to leave anyway, I would have to approve. (Obviously, this isn't a scheme for DC's big properties.)

-DC's recognizable properties (i.e. that have been successful in other media or are part of the cultural zeitgeist) should be kept in print as much as possible and given strong attention: And yes, that means Supergirl too.

Now for some notes on individual titles...

-Cancel and never again resurrect: Batman and the Outsiders, Titans (only needs one monthly), Infinity Inc., all those Confidential books, Superman/Batman.

-JLA: Off-track. Needs to be bigger and bolder, closer to both Morrison's run and the Justice League Unlimited cartoon. Leave the soap opera in X-Men where it belongs and make this an event book. Maybe then there won't be a need for extreme tonnage in event mini-series all year round.

-Teen Titans: This family of titles has gotten so far off track that we're better off reseting it entirely post-FC. If it could have a Year One vibe, that would be great.

-Flash: Hard to say before FC wraps up, but I wouldn't mind bringing Barry Allen back and retiring Wally, or rebooting him to Kid-Flash status for my rebooted Titans book. CSI with superheroics. Let's do it already.

-Legion of Super-Heroes: We'll see how the Legion Crisis shakes up the book, but I wouldn't mind the 80s Legion back in full force as per Geoff Johns' vision.

-Checkmate: Replaced by Suicide Squad. Now.

-Batgirl: Sorry, we don't need Cassandra. A book staring Barbara Gordon before The Killing Joke would be great, however. As the current Batman Confidential story arc shows.

-Shazam!: Jeff Smith needs to come back for more. (Though I'll gladly give Mike Kunkel's new series a chance. Captain Marvel really needs to show some face on the racks.)

-Aquaman: The real one, as policeman of the seas, please. Enough with the blond Namor trope.

-Hawkman: With continuity as confused as the Legion's, the Hawks need to be rebooted as the sexy married couple Kubert used to draw in the Silver Age.

-Also worthy of an ongoing series: New Frontier, something relating to the 7 Soldiers, Swamp Thing. I might also get behind Doom Patrol, Blackhawk and the Question (especially if it's a rebooted Vic Sage).

-Limbo characters I would like to see given a shot (either in DC or Vertigo mini/maxi): Green Team, Global Guardians, Prez, Slam Bradley, some would say Wild Dog is primed for a comeback.
What would you do?


De said...

Probably my biggest edict in De's Fantasy Editorship would be no more weeklies that last a whole friggin' year. An event lasting a month or so is fine but let Countdown serve as a reminder that it's a Bad Idea. Ditto Trinity (I'm already unimpressed)—it's a gimmick that has overstayed its welcome.

52 was a friggin' miracle that it was as good as it was.

Siskoid said...

I don't dislike Trinity. At least, no yet.

What did you think of the days when the Superman titles were a de facto weekly? When they had the little triangle on the cover?

rob! said...

you had me at

>>>Publish a new version of Who's Who<<<

...i didn't even need to hear about the Aquaman idea, which is, of course, totally awesome.

Austin Gorton said...

I definitely like your idea of a new Who's Who (complete w/"era" focused appendices); DC has been lacking in this area FOR YEARS and I absolutely love all that encyclopedia-style stuff. In a perfect world, I'd have the Marvel Handbook with DC characters.

Better editing, tighter focus between titles, "in house" events are all things that need to happen.

I'd love to see Romita Jr. on some DC books.

One of my big pet peeves in comics nowadays is rebooting a long running title just to showcase a high profile creative team that will probably leave the book after one arc. So in principle, I agree with you there: just give the creators their own book to do their thing, and don't interrupt a long running title for it.

However, I disagree that something like Blue Beetle should be canceled just because the creator is leaving; but then again, I've always been more of a "character" guy then a "creator" guy.

Siskoid said...

At the very least, Who's Who could be of help to editors and writers prone to continuity glitches.

Siskoid said...

Teebore: I understand the feeling. I'm as old school as the next guy.

For me, it's a middle ground between playing by American comic book industry "rules" and a more European style of publication (which frankly makes more sense).

Blue Beetle (in the example) would have a better chance of surviving as a series of minis and maxis over a number of years. You could be reading BB 5 years from now, just not as often. Sometimes, we're trapped in a "monthly" mentality that does disservice to those characters we love.

Jayunderscorezero said...

You know what? I was totally prepared to argue the toss with you on the "no stunt writers" issue until I really thought about it and realised that the comic book landscape would probably look a lot better without things like Anita Blake and the spectre of Ultimate Wolverine/Hulk cluttering it up. So basically: yeah, good call.

Bill D. said...

I think you mean Jeff Smith for Shazam, not Jeff Brown.

Though I'd *totally* buy a Jeffrey Brown Shazam book, so what do I know?

Siskoid said...

Hey, an author wants to bring me a strong completed script for a graphic novel, I'll hook him up with an artist.

Siskoid said...

Bill: Haha! So would I! Fixed it in the main text though.

Austin Gorton said...

Oh yeah, you're absolutely right that some characters are better served by the "series of miniseries" approach; it's just a personal hangup of mine I may need to get over, and I'd be sad to see all comics switched over to that model.

I hate "series of miniseries" because I'm one of those anal-retentive types that loves to see the numbering of a series climb higher and higher with every subsequent issue, something that doesn't happen when every story arc ends with issue six and the next begins with one.

But that's just me. I'm weird like that :)

It is a fine line, the difference between what would be best longterm for the industry and keeping the things I like the way they are. I'm glad I don't have to walk it, except in theory.

De said...

What did you think of the days when the Superman titles were a de facto weekly? When they had the little triangle on the cover?

I didn't mind it too much pre-Death of Superman although the soap opera stuff was wearing pretty thin by then. Some decent arcs in there (ex. Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite, the time travel story). After Reign of the Supermen, it was an exercise in tedium that caused me to eventually drop all of the books.

Siskoid said...

I probably dropped 'em at the same time. Then tried them again, then dropped them again a few months later, as I recall.

I certainly wasn't there for Electric Superman.

Maxo said...

Good stuff! I especially agree with the need for tighter editing (I'm not sure what the set-up is, but you'd think there'd be some managing editors overseeing individual book eds — if there are, then someone's dropping the ball), and I really like the idea of keeping the events within a family of books.

I was on the fence about limiting some titles to limited series, too — but then I remembered Hellboy. Dark Horse seems to take that approach with that family of books, and I think it helps keep a freshness to them. And I appreciate the flexibility it gives me as a reader; there is continuity, but it doesn't get in the way of my enjoyment of any individual storyline, so I can pick and choose what I eventually bring home.

I don't see any reason this wouldn't work for many of my favorite superhero comics, including Blue Beetle and Manhunter. Honestly, I wouldn't mind seeing many comics go to a straight-to-trade format.

Siskoid said...

In some ways, Manhunter is what gave me the idea. It's really been three maxis, hasn't it?

Jack Norris said...

No Barry, please. (Yeah, I know it's already a sure thing that I won't get my wish, but it's still the way I feel.
Barry is the Dull Flash From When I Was Still A Marvel Zombie, while Wally was the "hey! This is pretty good! And I like the idea of a sidekick taking over for good" Flash from when Marvel's BS made me forsake my loyalty and "defect".

Siskoid said...

Oh, I think a character is only as good as its writer. Storytelling has come some ways since Barry ran as the Flash. I bet a new interpretation could be really good.

Don't get me wrong, Wally's my Flash too, but he seems to be at an impasse as a character.

mwb said...

Overall, good directions.

There are only a small handful of titles I look forward to which are partly because DC ignores them enough they do good work I suspect.

Jon said...

Re: Batgirl, an idea I had that would be cool but will never happen- Babs gets her legs back and goes back to being Batgirl, and Ted Kord comes back as the new Oracle.

Also, more support for 2nd tier characters with potential. They've tried a little, but need to do more. Firestorm joined the JLA, and then hasn't appeared in 6+ issues (he got to do a lot of standing around in Countdown). Blue Beetle sort of joined the Titans, but not really. Manhunter atleast has been getting good face time in BoP.

H said...

A perfect plan with one flaw. Where's the part where you get them to hire you? Hostile takeover? Hypnotism? Charm? Dumb luck? Have me appointed head of Time Warner so that I can hire you?

Siskoid said...

Truth be told, H, I don't think I'd actually want the job!

I mean, where would I find time for my blog?

LiamKav said...

Although I support you on nearly everything, Siskoid, I do strongly disagree on several of your arguments here. Particularly the "looking to the past" stuff. Not in terms of style, such as making Teen Titans more like the "Year One" stuff, but in the specifics like bringing back Barry Allen. Which, yeah, has happened now anyway, but hear me out.

Comics have a huge advantage over TV and movies in that they are not tied to actors aging and moving on. No matter how much you like a show, it always comes with a built in lift span. Comics don't have that. Christian Bale won't be playing Batman in 30 years time. The character thought will still exist.

However, time and time again culture and media has shown that if you give people limits, they often produce better work. Look at what Batman: The Animated Series managed to do without (much) violence, bad language or continuity porn. The death of Robin's parents couldn't be directly shown, and yet it was one of the best versions. Artists thrive with limits. Comics remove a lot of them, which unfortunately has the side effect of things not sticking.

Let's take Barry Allen. He gets a great death, it's generally agreed, especially as his character had grown stagnent. He's replaced by Wally West, to considerable success. However, Wally has now grown stale. As you say, "he seems to be at an impasse as a character." However, you also point out that a character is only as good as his writer. If Wally is being written badly, that's the writers fault, not the characters. And, if, lots of people fail with him, then come up with something new! Don't go back to what worked several decades ago. Come up with new ideas! New characters! New angles! Making Barbara into Batgirl again wouldn't be new, it would be old. And after 10 years, everyone would have forgotten she was ever Oracle and you would have reset decades of character progression.

As an aside, some writers are, indeed, very good at bringing back old ideas/characters and doing things with them. Morrison on his Batman run and All-Star Superman. Johns is much more hit and miss. Yeah, lots of people really like Big Space Opera Green Lantern, but did they really need to bring Hal Jordan back to do so? Even in that case, though, Hal had been around as a character pretty much constantly, and it seemed like they had ideas with what to do with him. It wasn't quite undoing his death, and just carrying on with the character in another way. Barry Allen though just seems like a huge-reset button labelled "meh".

I think the 80s Crisis was, overall, a good thing. But it's also lead to a situation where people can now ask for characters to be "rebooted" when they get too screwed up. And Marvel, for all their many faults, don't do that. Much.

Siskoid said...

Well, I use the word "reboot" in this article, but it just means returned to some semblance of status quo in most cases.

My feeling is that the weak editing of the last decade+ has led to major mistakes that we shouldn't let that pesky thing called continuity prevent us from fixing. The reason I call for so many "reboots" is that many titles have strayed from their purest concepts, making them opaque and uninteresting to new and old reader alike. Green Lantern, Legion, Flash, Titans, Aquaman and Hawkman have all done this.

Example: Should we live with a dead Arthur Curry? I don't think so. Aquaman is to many a beloved character, and a well-remembered concept (even with all the levity around it). Killing him off and replacing him with his undersea barbarian son was a mistake, one that could not sustain sales even with a star writer at the reigns.

Legion and Hawkman, two of the most confused books, had fallen prey to continuity hacking, with way too many stories just trying to make sense of their existence. You said it yourself: Free of the shackles of continuity, Batman: Brave and the Bold has sparkled. This is all I was really calling for. Let's get back to the original, pure concept, and do away with the crap that's destroyed that concept. (While Titans and Batgirl were specifically mentioned as Year One type books that took place in the past, not in the present.)

And while Barry Allen seems a superfluous reboot, it was in the air 3 years ago, and I simply stated I didn't mind (after years of protestations on my part). However, it has purified the concept (slowest man alive/fastest man alive) and I think that 25 years on, there might be new things to say about the character.

LiamKav said...

I suppose it depends on how well you can "undo" something without having to do a full reboot. I mean, teenage Tony Stark technically still happened, but it was terrible and we just pretend it didn't and it's never mentioned and that's fine.

It's always tricky saying "get back to the original, pure concept" because that often means different things for different people. It a "pure Superman" one who goes around pushing wife-beaters out of windows, or a all powerful god-type being who spends his time winding up a woman who wants to marry him? All-Star Superman wasn't about a "pure" version of him. It was simply about an awesome version of him. Likewise the Hulk... the original version is a Jekyl and Hyde repression of man's darker side which comes out at night, which is a bit different from "man gets angry, rips shirt and punches things". Peter David's run on the Hulk changed the character drastically, but it was one of my favourite runs in comics and I think it did the character far more good in the long run than harm.

What I worry about it an exageration of a current problem... I like Brubaker's Captain America run, and I like Peter David runs because you know that they will last a while. Characters will get to progress, and usually at least some of it sticks. On shorter runs, that doesn't happen. There are editorial notes at the end of the first Brand New Day trade, and they mention the number of writers who introduce new supporting characters who are then dropped when a new writer comes in. It makes it seem like writers only want to write about the characters they were reading as a kid, rather than a character that might have been created by a work colleague. Each issue should be made to matter, not just matter until a writer changes or the next reboot.

Finally, as you say it's a bit unfair making a blanket "don't undo any deaths" rule. Aquaman's death was, well, pointless, and we'd never have gotten the Winter Soldier if Bucky had stayed dead. But those weren't Big, Dramatic Deaths. Hell, Bucky's was retroactive anyway. Cap was also clearly never meant to stay dead, so that's fine. But in the case of Barry, or the Marvel Captain Marvel, or the first Jean Grey, death, they were meant to be Really Big Deals. And while you can say something with those characters if you bring them back, I think you're tinging the whole enterprise with a feeling of disrespect. "Yeah, we know they died, and we said it was important, but we want to use them again so nyah to you."

(Replying to three year old threads is really not the best way to get debate going, is it?)

Siskoid said...

Not with anyone except me.

Of course, I might(would) do something different today. Remember that 3 years ago, we were just about to get a Crisis that COULD have rebooted stuff.


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