Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Something is going down at DC Comics.

1) It seems DC is getting back into the idea of continuity.

For those of you who do not know what continuity is: The way that serial or episodic television programs build on one another as one long story? How what characters learn from episode to episode effects how they will behave in subsequent episodes? How if Character A gets their eye poked out, in the next episode, s/he most likely will not have an eye?

That's continuity.

Comics from both DC and Marvel sort of gave up on continuity a few years ago. The writers stated that they needed the freedom to tell their own stories. There may have been some truth to that, but the writers were hired to do a job. In my opinion, the writers weren't willing to do their homework when they came onto a project and wanted the freedom to do whatever they felt like.

Unfortunately, this had a widespread chilling effect on the comic industry. Intended to bring in new readers, the move drove off long time fans. Despite the fact that a fan may have been loyally reading, say, SpatulaMan, since 1970, if Hot Writer of the Week showed up, he was under no obligation to know anything about the comic he was writing. And Hot Writer usually saw to it that he was in print telling unhappy fans that they were being immature or silly for being confused when major stories from the series were altered or ignored altogether.

2) Continuity on titles is rolling into interconnectivity of titles once more

Back in the bad old days, continuity also meant that if, say Spatula Man got a new hat in his own comic, when he appeared in League of Utensils the next month, there he'd be with his new hat. He might even comment on the new hat. And voila! Instead of one comic book you read, as these comics sort of bumped up against one another, you had this sort of vast tapestry of comics to pick from and see what was going on in different aspects of the same world, all telling different stories.

Recently DC has made a point of ensuring major characters guest in each other's comics and discuss events from multiple titles. (ex: Wonder Woman might show up in Superman comics and mention an event from JLA).

This not only assists in presenting a cohesive single view of events and characters in DC Comics, but it also reminds me of why I sort of thought comics were cool when I was a kid. Michael Chabon referred to the effect as "secret knowledge." Simply by being familiar with the comics, a whole separate ongoing and interesting world was constantly unfolding each month in each issue of each comic. And the ability to keep up with it gained you a unique perspective on teh tapestry as a whole.

It's also a good outlet for my OCD.

3) A Crisis Brewing?

DC has been trying to relive the colossal boom of Crisis on Infinite Earths since 1986. Crisis not only sold phenomenally well as an individual series, but helped sell through a lot of other comics being published.

What this took was a heck of a lot of coordination on the part of the DC staff to make sure all the comics could sensibly tie-in to Crisis.

DC would love to see a pile of comics in 2005, just like they did in 1986.

Hints of a crisis really began back in Superman/Batman #6 when Luthor got stomped by Superman and, in the epilogue, promised "a crisis!"

4) What does it all mean?

It means that not only have a few hints online suggested a new "Crisis" is brewing, but that with increased continuity across multiple comic titles and writers clearly working together, it's a lot of fun reading multiple DC comics right now.

It's not clear yet what the Crisis event is, but there have been hints of it everywhere from Superman/Batman to Teen Titans. Identity Crisis, the huge cross over event of 2004 appears to have been the first act in what the writers have planned.

I welcome folks to check out DC comics to see what's going on these days.

If NOT, I would redirect you to the All-Star titles which should be debuting this summer.

3) DC All-Stars for new and occasional readers

Recognizing that some of their comics have run since 1938, DC isn't pressing new readers to necessarily pick up the past 70 years of comics. They're releasing contained multi-issue stories with familiar story elements folks might expect picking up a DC comic.

I know I've harped on these before, but when they come out in a few months, I'd really encourage folks to pick them up. These'll be fun stories told by the absolute best in the superhero business.

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