Dear DC Comics,
I love you. Do you hear that? I love you! You were there for me when I was just a toddler; you, Adam West, Christopher Reeves, a bunch of writers and artists that I didn’t know of at the time, whom I would find out to most likely be Jim Aparo and Denny O’Neil. I’d go to the hospital where my dad worked, a short distance from my grandmother’s home to the gift shop to get the latest issue of Batman. Barring that, whatever had the lead characters in the corner (Marvel).
DC, you were always in my heart, but there was a time of inconstancy. I was a kid, I had no clue about continuity. Crisis on Infinite Earths? That would have completely gone over my head. Legends? As I understand it, if I had not read CoIE, I wouldn’t have gotten it. You’ve been trying to make it easier for new readers to come on board for the last twenty years DC, and I commend you for that, but then you have to go and make thing complicated.
I jumped back on as a teenage Marvel Zombie with Zero Hour: A Crisis in Time, but please, stop a moment to thank Wizard Magazine for explaining the importance of the story to me, and the speculator market for getting me back in the first place. The romance didn’t last long, if you would care to know.
Let me tell you about something completely and utterly awesome that you did with Marvel in the mid 90s. DC vs. Marvel. The story stunk to the high heavens, the idea of allowing fans to vote on the outcome was even worse, but that didn’t stop my friend Jason and I from exchanging partisan cards from across the room during classes during training in the US Navy for the Batman/Captain America card. We both knew about comics and the characters, we had bought them before, but we had fallen out. This brought us both back into the fold, but not for long.
Then came the long dark night, the Blackest Night, if I could coin a phrase. I didn’t care about you for the longest time. Comics were a non entity, but they were there. I’d read Crisis on Infinite Earths after I bought the tradepaperback. I wasn’t completely gone though. Warren Ellis enraptured me with Transmetropolitan which I read up until the very end. Then you had to go on and do another Crisis.
Infinite Crisis, how much homework did I have to do to read this series? A lot! I knew from friends that it was the direct sequel to Crisis on Infinite Earths but I didn’t know how much I needed to know before I even set forth into reading it. Was it really necessary to have four separate limited series that tied into the main limited series? (I’m not counting the one-shot Countdown to Infinite Crisis into this total BTW) It’s overwhelming, and frustrating, especially seeing as issues were delayed.
One Year Later came, at about the same time as Battlestar Galactica pulling the same bunny out of it’s hat. It was a great time for new readers to jump on board, something had changed the status quo, and it was always on the lips of the characters, so new readers hadn’t felt left out. It could have been a golden age…
But you slipped back into complacency DC. Blackest Night is going on right now. It’s been several years since Infinite Crisis and now I find my self having to explain it to my girlfriend in under a few minutes and I failed. I gave up. It’s too complicated. I stopped about half way through. It’s one of the greatest story lines in modern comics and I gave up trying to explain it. It’s too mired in DC history, to explain it means that I have to explain the entire history of the Green Lantern Corps up to the current events.
Is this part of the problem? You bet it is! I appreciate Blackest Night, but it’s not going to be on the same level as someone who just picked up their first issue. As much as this is good writing, it’s also bad writing for the genre. Have we forgotten that every issue of a comic is somebody’s first issue? I think so.
So here is my proposal DC and the comics industry as a whole:
Every five years, end the character. Kill them off, marry them, have them retire, whatever. Treat every series as a 60 issue limited series. From there you have a new beginning, a new middle and a new end. This will serve to keep old readers and bring in new readers, and things will never get so complicated that you will ever have to do a Crisis ever again. Five years. Five years is enough to develop a character and bring him or her to a logical outcome.
Five years, is the optimum shelf life.
(And let’s forget that Final Crisis ever happened, ok? I’m sure the writers are with me)
I’m also going to put my money where my mouth is:
If you can explain Hawkman and Hawkgirl’s total continuity from the Golden Age to now in one hundred words (100) or fewer, I have one hundred dollars for you. Out of my own pocket. My contact information is below if you feel up to the Hawkman Challange, and these have to be complete sentences. (attempts WILL be published)