I hate the fact that I’m accidentally promoting this event…given that DC themselves has a solicit and not much else. No trailer, no teaser…I’m not even sure why they have a YouTube channel except to push their movies. In light of something that will come up later that makes even less sense, but their new parent company doesn’t care about the comics any more than Marvel Studios does so those of us who comment on such things already care more than the stewards of this universe. And yet I’m not even going to bother looking at the titles in this new case of Eventitis because if they don’t care, why should I?
Instead I want to talk about how the 2023 year long event “Dawn Of The DC Universe” by nature already is hampered by all the problems DC Comics has had lately as a comic book publisher. I expect David Zaslav to not care. He’s a TV guy. Jim Lee is a comic guy and his lack of caring does bother me. Still, the problems are quite easy to see why this won’t work in bringing back comic fans…it’s not like it’s going to matter, and that’s important in maintaining a series, never mind a shared universe of multiple titles. Just as DC is doing a subpar job promoting this event on their own, so too have they been doing a subpar job overall.
First off what is this event? Supposedly it’s yet another soft reboot. This has been DC’s big problem the last decade. Crisis On Infinite Earths, Armageddon 2001, Zero Hour, Flashpoint and the New 52, and Rebirth have been all about adjusting small and large mistakes in their continuity. The original Crisis was about combining the various universe that had formed and ending the multiverse because they didn’t know how to keep Earth-1, Earth-2 (the Golden Age had it actually aged the characters), Earth-S (the Fawcett characters) and some of the other continuities they had created were either jammed together or tossed out. For example we see Arkon’s world wiped out, and I think Camelot 2000 was also a victim. I’m surprised Sonic Disruptors and Amazing Man weren’t show wiped out. They had a special fate planned years later for Captain Carrot’s universe. Things got out of control and they didn’t know how to make separate imprints for each universe (funny when you think about Vertigo and Milestone coming out a few years later and nothing happening to the Watchmen universe) so they decided to scrap it all. The reboot wasn’t properly thought out and Batman rarely suffers a major change when this happens. (Jason Todd did but going from Dick Grayson clone to his own history was the best thing for him…had they done him right after that. A discussion for another time.)
The New 52 suffered the same problem, right down to doing barely nothing to Batman’s story or the various Robins. It was another total reboot, and one that was not a fan favorite due to the amount of changes. A soft reboot, Rebirth, tried to correct those mistakes, what presumably Dawn Of The DC Universe is supposed to be, but as soon as Dan DiDio returned so did DiDio’s Darker DC. With some of his writers still there, this attempt to undo Future State and the various “Dark” events and allegedly restore the classic DCU heroes while still boosting the new ones, still look down the barrel of the DiDio acolytes who preferred his direction and darker tones. How long will it take before shock value comes into play?
That leads to another problem. This is another event that’s supposed to shake up the status quo…but what status quo? DC has been changing that every couple of years for the past decade with nothing being permanent. Undoing mistakes like eliminating beloved characters is one thing. Killing them off again is not showing you addressed the problem, and turning them evil is just causing a new problem. It’s the status quo that helps benefit readers, which goes back to the previous Art Soundoff, “The Rules Make It Fun“. If our lives were rebooted as often as the DC or even Marvel universe we wouldn’t have a world history. By having lore, by having a history, you make it feel like a more fleshed-out world. We don’t have to be fully knowledgeable about every story that came before. Using a character again? All you need to tell new readers are the important details.
I’ll discuss this in tomorrow’s Art Soundoff but there’s an episode of He-Man & The Masters Of The Universe, the original 80s show, called “Eternal Darkness”. In it a character the Eternian defenders faced before, Dark Dream, escapes to challenge our heroes. We have never seen Dark Dream before because there IS no story of his first appearance. In fact this is the only time he even so much as a mention in the show. Here he is the main antagonist but the episode doesn’t go telling us everything we need to know about that original encounter and how the Heroic Warriors sealed him away. It only tells us that he’s attacked Eternia before, they beat him, but now he’s found a way to escape his prison and is giving everyone nightmares again because he’s kind of like Freddy Kruger if he existed in the waking world instead of the dreamscape. Treat a new story with a pre-existing character like there is no story and give your readers what they need to know to follow the villain’s latest evil scheme. The same goes for any event previously. It’s lore material from the writer’s guide, but you get the important details right for the fans who have been here all along and want to see the story continue from that one. That’s hard to do when the universe keeps changing. No status quo, no reason to care about the 56th incarnation of Brainiac.
Then of course you have the race swaps, gender replacements, characters coming out of the closet, five different superheroes using the same hero name, and other such “representation” maneuvers. There are two things wrong with this. One is that you don’t have enough faith in these new characters for them to survive on their own, meaning already you’re poisoning your audience against them even if they were calling for more representation. (Some of them even actually read comics. Sadly not all of them and their opinions shouldn’t count because they won’t read them now, either.) Each of these characters were new at some point, some characters were created within the last couple of decades, and despite DC’s questionable history with minority characters some of them took forever to finally get the fame they have today. For that matter so did the white characters. Green Arrow made a cameo in the first season of Superfriends and didn’t really show up again outside of comics until Justice League Unlimited decades later. The only live-action version they gave him was the show that only bears half his hero name that started the CW’s “Arrowverse”. So reusing an existing name on a new character comes off as a cheap marketing ploy. reusing popular names while creating a bunch of what are essentially namesakes. If you don’t have enough faith in your characters to make them original and give them the chance and time to earn the fame of the other characters, why should I have any faith in them when they cost me a favorite character? Believe in your work, and do representation correctly and you end up with MORE fans instead of LESS.
That’s what it all boils down to, though…marketing. All these events, all these diversity hires and replacements, all the characters suddenly being gay (or bi so they can stave off the “but they dated the opposite gender” while we all know they never well again because the activists who don’t even read the books get upset when a gay soap opera character doesn’t have a happy relationship because somehow I know more about soap operas than they do), and all the reboots and shock deaths serve only as cheap marketing gimmicks. That’s the only reason they’re doing it. It gets their name in the comic press, and sometimes even the mainstream press if it’s popular enough engineering or involving shocking situations with characters known to the culture but not really to the reporters. It looks good in an article and there’s some belief that this will lead to sales. However, the best you get is a short boost and even that is starting to dwindle away as more and more people are catching on. It’s another shake up for a short appearance, and that’s if they don’t spoil the ending in the news in the hopes that the shock alone will get you to buy when normally you wouldn’t. If you are invested in characters or a story arc, don’t bother. Unless he or she can sell merch or serve as movie/TV fodder Warner Brothers Whatevertheirnameistoday doesn’t care.
Marvel suffered the same problem with the Clone Saga. It was selling so the story was artificially extended, which ended up killing not only the story but the plan to send Peter and MJ off so they didn’t have to write the Spider-Marriage anymore. Instead we got Joe Quesada’s character assassinating idea that became One More Day. Over at DC, making Alan Scott gay, killing off the Justice League for a hot minute, Wally West accidentally wiping out heroes in Sanctuary, even Superman getting a son in the first place, and later fast-aging him, were all marketing (or DiDio’s war on legacy characters) rather than an attempt to tell a story. Again, stories were sometimes spoiled to artificially boost sales with no concern for the fans who were following along only to have the story ruined for them, often with a reveal they hated. It was all to get their names in Variety and other outlets that otherwise couldn’t care less about comics or video games, just their lame “adaptations” that are nothing of the sort but are at least in the “approved” media formats with their own marketing ploys to win the Oscar and the GLAD award so they feel special when they aren’t.
So no, I don’t care about Dawn Of The DC Universe. I don’t expect it to actually solve the issues to begin with, I don’t expect it to last, and I don’t expect it to matter, especially if we’re still doing that “Omniverse” bit where every matters like the main DC Universe became Grant Morrison’s wildest narrative fantasy. If everything matters, nothing matters. There’s no continuity, no flow, no status quo, no real history, and no reason for me to get invested in stories that are just product. I’m better off going to the times when those things existed and mattered, treating the random interesting story like some one-off rather than part of a non-existent continuity. If I’m supposed to get invested, if I’m supposed to care about this imagined world like I would my own, I need a reason to beyond “I grew up with these characters”. Because these aren’t the characters I grew up with even if they look like them. They don’t walk like them, talk like them, act like them, or do what I liked about them. So if they don’t care, why should I? I’ll just go back to when we all cared and remember WHY we cared.