I have always been a DC boy. I don’t dislike Marvel, that sort of sad fanboyism is, I think, what scares people off from comics in the first place. But a friend lent me Sandman, then I was told about Preacher, then Hellblazer, which was my gateway drug for the DC Universe (DCU).
Even stranger, and likely thanks to Grant Morrison’s incredible ‘All Star Superman‘, it was the character of Superman that really got me, (alongside the much more lowbrow and entertaining Booster Gold). Batman has always been the ‘cool’ character to like, I think, but I believe the two are a brilliant ying and yang at the center of the DCU. Where Batman is dark and gritty, Superman is light and hopeful.
They are, to coin a musical cliche, The Lennon and McCartney of comics. Everybody says John is their favourite, but behind closed doors, I believe everyone’s favourite Beatles songs are the more sentimental McCartney ones. I know I I would listen to Here, There and Everywhere a million times before I listen to Revolution 9‘s hackneyed, masturbatory, faux-experimentalism again. Likewise, I would reread Alan Moore’s For the Man Who Has Everything, but I doubt I would bother ever rereading The Long Halloween.
And this seems to be where the problem has arisen. Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, while brilliant HAS RUINED EVERYTHING. These films were dark. And gritty. And hugely successful. And now it seems to have polluted every editorial decision made by DC. For non-comic book readers, you have probably seen the result of this in Man of Steel, where Superman was reinvented as a lunk-headed, child abuse victim who is quite happy to cause 15 September 11ths* to defeat one villain. It was moderately successful, but nowhere near as loved as any of the Dark Knight films, even Rises.
The same has happened in the comic books. Writers have quit over editorial edicts, including stopping a wedding in Batwoman, because the heroes “aren’t supposed to be happy”. The result is a samey mulch of depressing books, of which barely two or three stand out. Two or three out of 52 books. That is a shit awful average. When the new 52 first launched in 2011, I read all 52 books. and now, I read 3. Occasionally I dip my nose into one or two others to see if anything new is happening, and invariably find myself disappointed. DC executive editor Dan Didio’s edict is that DC is to be dark and gritty, and the result is that everything is a murky grey.
On a related side note, I have to recommend reading Ee! Tess Ate Chai Tea. He reviews every issue of DC’s current .output, with added knob jokes, and when he hates, he hates hilariously.
When I contrast this to Marvel’s current output, I can think of five books I look forward to every month, funny and violent Deadpool, the hipster quirk of Hawkeye, the dark and thoughtful holocaust allegory of Magneto, legal dramedy in She-Hulk, and The Punisher. Just because. Marvel appear to be going out of their way to hire different voices and try different angles, and the result is that I can’t wait to read these each month.
In short, I am praying that DC find a new direction soon, and reignite my passion for their output. It looks promising, the next few months promise a Booster Gold one shot, Gotham Academy, which looks quirky, and the wonderfully funny warrior for the rights of seemingly every minority group of one or more members (or the whole human race individulally I suppose) Gail Simone’s return to Secret Six.
So I live in hope, I suppose. Which is why I liked Superman in the first place
*can we use this as a measure of building destruction now? Tasteless, but so useful! I quite like Godzilla, it had about 20 September 11ths. Lower than I expected, but it was quite a brooding film. And I hope they introduce King Ghidra in the sequel.