DC Comics and the Continuity Lie

It really bugs me when someone says they're going to do something and then doesn't do it. Such is the case of DC Comics who, as a prelude to its New52, made the claim that a reboot was necessary to allow new readers in. In other words, that continuity was so opaque to potential new readers, we lost them before we even got them. Now, I could go on about how I got into comics fine in the 80s even though current DC continuity was already 25 years old, or how they were at fault for complexifying that continuity through badly edited crossover events over the last 20 years, or even point out that the non-reboots of the better-selling pre-reboot books (the Batman and Green Lantern families) have retained their continuity opacity. But that's not what I'm posting about.

No, my question today is: If DC is so worried about confusing continuity issues driving readers away, and if they have a real commitment to a fresh, standardized continuity new readers can use as a jump-on point, then WHY OH WHY are they producing so many alternate-continuity projects? 9 issues into the New52, we have the following:
-Young Justice animated series and comic: These do not use the new continuity, and in fact, make reference more often to the former DCU.
-Beyond universe: Based on the Batman Beyond animated show, this is a future once again more based on the former DCU than the new.
-Smallville Season 11: Based on the TV show's continuity.
-Ane-Comi Girls: An entirely different continuity based on anime-style statuary, it has rebooted Wonder Woman (more to come) for the second time in 9 months.
-Earth-1: Twilight-ed re-imaginings of DC characters are still being pushed through this label, with Batman and a Superman sequel in the works.
-Green Lantern animated series and comic: Since GL wasn't strictly rebooted, this is closer to what's in the New52, but still has important differences.
-Batman: Akham City, Unhinged etc.: Based on the Batman video game, it has its own continuity and features, for example, a pre-reboot Nightwing.
-Legends of the Dark Knight: Just launched, these Batman tales are explicitly marketed as being set outside the New52 continuity, despite the Batman family not getting a proper reboot.
-While the New52 were being published, we also got non-canon projects like DCU Online Legends (based on the MMO) and Batman: Odyssey (based on Neil Adams' apparent insanity).

The fact that several of these are digital exclusives, and that the push for same-day digital was part of the strategy DC announced to bring new readers into the fold (those who don't frequent comic book stores, impulse buyers, etc.), hasn't been lost on me. On the one hand, I can understand how fan of a video game or tv show might find their way to digital comics and not staple'n'paper venues. On the other, I find the whole continuity discussion/justification completely disingenuous, since DC is clearly putting out as many as 10 versions of its universe (more if we include the movies, which may well spawn their own digital books, oh, and the much-hyped gay-GL Earth-2). Seems to me, DC isn't using its new continuity to get new readers, it's producing alt-continuities those readers may or may not be more familiar with, and they're not making them gateways to the New52 continuity (which is just about as opaque as the old one, frankly). So if only the same old readers are going to read the new continuity books, why create that continuity at all?

The answer to that question lies in marketing, in creating media stunts, etc., but NOT in simplifying continuity. So please, don't trot that dry old chestnut out. Regardless of the quality and merit of any given New52 book, that's the lie on which last summer's reboot was founded. I didn't believe it then, but now I think DC didn't believe it themselves.


snell said...

The irony is that no one--no one!!--was more continuity-obsessed than DC brass. They would put out massive event just to clarify tiny points of continuity (who were the founding members of JL? Did Batman ever catch Joe Chill? What's up with Hawkman). Then they would turn around 3 months later and go "No, wait, ignore that."

Of course, they had the temerity to argue that all this made their comics impenetrable, and then they would have the gall to blame the "fanboys" for being "continuity-obsessed." Which is what they teach the first day in business school, "bash your own product blame the customer for your screw-ups."

Siskoid said...

As I've been saying for a year now, there has been a massive communications failure at DC. They've completely lost control of their message.

De said...

I'm surprised you didn't mention the head-scratching nonsense of the zero issues coming this fall. Titles that are only a year old (some will be significantly less than that, such as Earth 2) are getting a zero issue to let folks "jump on"?

We're only 11 issues away from what would have been Detective Comics 900. Is DC really going to resist the allure to trumpet that achievement? The next gimmick is much more important than good storytelling now as the Big Two slowly circle the drain into obsolescence. Our generation could very well be the last traditional comic book fans.

Siskoid said...

Well, I can't use everything up in one go. ;)

Wayne Allen Sallee said...

Siskoid, remember your continuity bottle posts? I commented on how this time around, all those in charge were fanboys. I've read that Paul Levitz nixed several ideas, and nu52 in some form was one of them. So there's that. Johns' GL stays the same and Lee gets to bring back the crap-end of the Wildstorm universe.

Adults--actual adults--would not fall back on this "re-imaging" crap unless they used that phrase in each instance you gave that warranted it, e. g., the E1 GNs.

SallyP said...

I love my continuity! Dammit! So, DC's solution to befuddling new readers, is to make 100 NEW Continuities, and all of them are different!

Sure, that'll work!

Robby Reed said...

What's the difference? DC rebooted their books as a sales stunt. Now that sales bump has worn off, so they're doing all #0 issues. When that sales bump wears off, they will probably reboot their line every week.

At this point, the company exists to provide material for film and TV shows, but they can't even get that right. In 10 years, DC Comics may not exist at all. Personally, I won't miss them. Their books are overflowing with blood, violence and darkness. Good riddance.


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