Pros and cons of the “New 52,” one year later

Justice League (2011) #1This started out originally as a comment on another site, but since apparently “what are the pros/cons of the New 52” will be asked a lot with the one-year anniversary of DC Comics’ latest reboot now upon us, I thought I’d just write one post with my thoughts and link to that in the future (the next time someone asks). Thus, here’s my pros and cons for the “New 52.”

Pros

  • DC making some attempt at diversity, including giving some minority characters (including Static and Mister Terrific) their own books. Batwoman’s own comic also remains ongoing. Unfortunately, many of said new books were quickly given the axe, save those tied in some way to Batman (such as Batwing).
  • Comics being sold as same-day digital sales is a sign there’s some attention being paid toward the future of content consumption (or maybe the popularity of new forms of comics such as webcomics). Granted, the books still have the drawback of being DRM laden, but DC’s at least following Archie’s lead.
  • The imprints/other DC lines such as Vertigo remaining unscathed by all of this.

Cons

  • Much of the tone feels like a continuation of what I’ve disliked about DC’s trends in recent years. The emphasis on shock-value violence in particular continues unabated.
  • The sexist treatment of some female characters (Starfire and Catwoman in particular) is also rather insensitive, going well past mere “cheesecake”/”fan service” standards. Note to DC: women read comics too, and the crowd you’re apparently trying to attract with this knows how to download naughty pictures of real women online for free (versus shelling out $4 for cartoon imagery)…
  • Elements that feel like a retread of bad 90s comics trends. The heroes all as humorless as a depressed 15-year-old (including, oddly, Superman) and being stuck in ugly redesigned costumes (including Superman losing red trunks and gaining pointless body armor) comes to mind.
  • Character and story ideas that sound like bad fan fiction stories. Wonder Woman in particular comes to mind, between “Zeus is my daddy,” “my people are glorified black widow spiders” and “Superman’s girlfriend.”
  • An over-reliance on Batman. Batman and Bat-character related books make up a full fourth of DC’s “New 52” output. When Mister Terrific and Static got canceled, one of the replacement titles was yet another Bat-character book. I can’t recall if any single character’s been so over-relied on by DC historically. I’m not sure if even Superman in the 50s/60s dominated DC’s output the way Batman currently seems to, and DC during that time had Supes’ name in their logo. Granted, said Batman over-reliance extends to DC’s non-comics media as well (much as I like most of them, how many Batman TV cartoons do we need?!). Maybe Sue at “DC Women Kicking Ass” is right, and DC’s logo should be a bat-symbol…
  • While the reboot’s selling well, it’s mainly to either lapsed readers or those reading other companies’ comics. It doesn’t seem to have brought in tons of truly new readers as hoped.
  • The comics still cost too much, at $4 apiece. Even worse is they charge the same amount for their (DRMed) digital comics. Even with a price drop after a month (by a whole dollar), it sounds like a hard sell to prospective new readers (versus paying the same for an app, iTunes/Amazon.com music, etc.), who can easily get their superhero fill through movies, TV shows, cartoons, or video games with the same characters (in more publicly-recognizable depictions).
  • They still aren’t trying to appeal to children, their future new readership audience. DC’s kids’ comic line could also stand a bit of a revamp or renewed focus, plus more DCU-set books that are at least somewhat more kid-friendly. (Dan Slott’s “Amazing Spider-Man” at Marvel I could see myself giving to older kids; the same I can’t say for much of the “New 52″…)

All in all, while the “New 52” is doing fine for the short-term (from a business perspective), I’m not sure it’ll truly change anything in the long run for DC, or the superhero comic genre in general. Offering overpriced comics to a narrow demographic who have lots of other things to spend their money on (including DC’s corporate cousin video games, TV shows, etc. using the same characters), with some of said comics’ elements coming off as tacky or outright offensive toward some (such as women) seems like a short-sighted business plan to me. Of course, from Time-Warner’s perspective, DC’s just an “IP farm,” and thus sales might not matter anyway, as long as the future TV show/movie plots and characters keep coming.

Overall, other than “Action” (which I’ll ditch once Morrison is done), I’m back to the kids’ line of books/reprints as far as DC’s concerned. As I said before, I’ll just watch the 52 stuff from the sidelines as a bewildered spectator…

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