I was hoping to do a Finally Watched this week. I even spent the last two days trying to decide which movie to do, but I can’t let this week go without discussing the latest DC news.
DC Comics recently announced two new imprints aimed at younger readers, feeling that kids and teens have not been properly addressed in their comics. Because making comics friendly to kids like the ones I grew up with (and it wasn’t exactly kiddie comics in the Bronze Age–this is when Speedy was on drugs and my first Batman comic was about a crazy man who murdered the homeless) is too difficult. Not that I would mind a kid-targeted DC Universe mind you. As long as they get exposed to superheroes. Kids need superheroes. Kids…are not getting a lot of superheroes from these lines.
Well, only one of them is for kids, DC Zoom. The other, DC Ink, targets teenage readers. And there are some interesting ideas here, but not a lot of superhero ideas, and none of them really featuring classic superhero adventures. In a time where superhero movies and cartoons (if not on Cartoon Network because it interferes with showing another episode of Teen Titans Go, which they only interrupt to show some other wacky comedy vaguely about fighting bad guys) are quite active kids are getting superheroes elsewhere. This could have been DC’s chance to get more kids interested in superheroes. And that’s not what we’re getting. There are some good stories, some I might even check out if I had money, but superhero adventures? We aren’t even getting a Justice League Action tie-in, because I don’t think Cartoon Network is even airing the show right now. So what are we getting?
This posting has a list of the upcoming titles, and the video below gives more information about them. I’m just going to give the two imprints a basic run-through for time.
Let’s get my complaints out of the way and see who sticks around to see what I think is good. I don’t know if you see the initial problem or not, but the big misstep is that few comic creators are involved with this project. Most of the people here have at least worked on some comic in the past, but only a portion of them are seriously comic creators, and one even admittedly she wasn’t a comic fan. The others write children and young adult (aka teenager) books, which is how they’re selling the books to the librarians in the above video while comic creators I know are trying to convince librarians that comics are fine the way they are. And I don’t think they are really interested in telling superhero stories. It feels more like they’re making the same stories they usually do and slap DC character names on it. That’s nice if you want exposure for your stories but if the point was to get future comic fans interested in DC superheroes you really missed the mark here.
I also don’t see many ongoing stories. I loved ongoing stories. I collected The Transformers every month and then subscribed to it. Super Hero Girls is just another of their graphic novels, maybe Superman Of Smallville (and of course they dump on the classic outfit and de-aged the parents) will be an ongoing, and I don’t know what’s going on with Super-Sons (why is Damian dressing like Jimmy Olsen?) and Teen Titans (are they even still going to be in regular DC continuity?), and the former appears to still be a shorter story. I keep getting the feeling DC wants to get rid of the monthly issues altogether, which is why the main books are always written for the trade collections rather than embracing the advantages of a monthly series. It’s probably just us old fogeys who want comics monthly so they’re training the next generation of comic readers to not reading them the way comics have been read for decades. So kids only get graphic novels. Am I the only one left who wants to write an ongoing monthly series?
Then there are the changes to the characters themselves. We seem to be getting yet another Green Lantern (we’re up to 6 from Earth alone in the main universe…how many planets get more than one?) just because the author wanted an Asian Green Lantern and to homage a ring his grandmother gave him. Why not use one of the actual Asian superheroes in the DC Universe, like Kyle (an actual GL who is half-Asian), the non-rapey Doctor Light, Katana, or some other hero? For that matter, why are you putting an Asian character into a story where Superman fights the KKK, when that clearly (if you really need to create a brand new character) that should be a black person? Heck, bring Ron Troupe in (and really he needs to be in this story somehow) and you already have a black character, the race the KKK are mostly known for going after. I’ll talk more about this in the positives.
But outside of yet another GL I can actually overlook all that. But you have so many de-aged characters, and characters changing races in one story because diversity can only be done by changing races rather than using actual characters of other races and making them just as good as the other characters. Static was created in the 90s and we finally have a Black Lightning TV series. If you want kids and superhero tales, why isn’t Billy Batson and his kin in here? The Marvel Family were designed with a young audience in mind and putting them is adult-targeted tales has been a huge mistake that doesn’t use Captain, Mary, and Junior Marvel properly since Batlazar, Franco, and Mike Norton were off Billy Batson & The Magic Of Shazam!. Also, this is where Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures In The Ninth Grade should finally be put out after a re-release of Eight Grade! I know for a fact that Landry Walker and Eric Jones have the thing at least half-done by now. Instead we have two Batman stories trying to be Gotham for kids while a third is Batman in fairy tales…which admittedly sounds totally cool so let’s just use that to segue into what I like.
And yes, Batman Tales: Once Upon A Crime sounds awesome. Superman Smashes The KKK (possibly a nod to the old radio show that did an anti-Klan storyline) sounds like something I really want to read. Dear Justice League could be a good comic and I want it to be. Batman Overdrive and Super Sons sound good. I want Super Hero Girls to be an ongoing series, but sorry kids you only get graphic novels because DC wants to kill the floppies. None of the DC Ink titles interest me but they sound like good stories.I’m not trying to rain on DC’s parade here. They have some good stuff, but “better than nothing” doesn’t cut it with me. Four actual superhero stories, a few pre-superhero stories, and a bunch of stuff that has nothing to do with superheroes but bare their names, plus one that is in name only. (Two if you count Steve Trevor being split into two people in the Wonder Woman tale.) I think that’s all the superhero titles and maybe a quarter of what’s being offered.
(I’m also curious why there are two different takes on Mera, one by Zoom and the other by Ink. That’s not a complaint, she’s a good character. It’s just an interesting coincidence.)
There is some good stuff, but it’s not the superhero stories kids want, and kids do want superhero stories. They may well enjoy these, but it’s more concept over characters stuff and the stories that do seem to care about the source material are about pre-superheroes rather than superheroes. There’s a reason I don’t watch Gotham and have no interest in Krypton. I would totally read the comics I have listed and the target audience may enjoy the rest, but don’t they deserve classic-style superhero stories targeted to their age group? There are so few, as if DC doesn’t think kids want superheroes. Well, they do. Everyone does. It’s why superheroes are so popular right now. I’m glad DC is diversifying beyond superheroes but not at the expense of superheroes and the characters that have been around since before World War II being turned into vague concepts to create something original because pushing new IPs are too hard for them.
I know most of this article were complaints but overall I do see this as a step in the right direction. DC has abandoned younger future comic readers and I do hope this succeeds. However I hope to see more classic superhero tales in the future, and maybe have DC get over their hated of ongoing series and doing something other than graphic novels and one-shots. Kids grew up with this stuff for decades. I’m sure today’s kids wouldn’t mind having what we had in their own way. I like what I saw despite my ranting, but all I see is potential that I fear is will be lost in altered concepts, de-aging, and superhero characters in the hands of writers who don’t write superheroes. Today’s kids are missing out on what got me through rough times and kids connect to superheroes better than adults. There’s plenty of evidence of that, so they really shouldn’t be denied what we grew up with.