Thursday, January 12, 2012
and the first shoe finally drops
Thursday, January 12th, 2012
By Josh Kushins
In May of 2012, DC Comics will release a “Second Wave” of titles as part of its historic DC COMICS-THE NEW 52 initiative. Six new, ongoing series will build on the shared universe and bold concepts introduced in September 2011 with the renumbering of DC Comics’ entire line of comic books. [...] The six new series will replace BLACKHAWKS, HAWK AND DOVE, MEN OF WAR, MISTER TERRIFIC, O.M.A.C. and STATIC SHOCK, all of which will conclude with their eighth issues in April....
Given sales, I can't say that any of the cancellations surprises me. All but one of them would have been a hard sell, conceptuallly. I haven't heard much about Blackhawks, OMAC or Men of War -- I don't know anyone who read them, and I didn't care enough to look up the reviews. Everyone I know who tried it, and the few reviews I've read, say that "Hawk and Dove" was outright awful.
"Mister Terrific" was on my pull list, and I can say that ... it wasn't very good, frankly. I never had the sense that the creators (or DC, for that matter) had a good grip on who he was. There was this limp corporate conspiracy that not only didn't seem to be going anywhere, but which would have seemed impossible to carry out, and which Michael would have been an utter idiot not to have taken at least some steps to prevent ahead of time. And on a pure character note, there's the utterly baffling question of why a person whose life seems, in both directions, to be the epitome of unfairness would have the words "Play Fair" tattooed into his skin.
The one title where the cancellation saddens but doesn't entirely surprise me is "Static Shock." Sad, because it would have been nice if the title had been given a little more time to find its audience. Unsurprised because, if you didn't read the previous Static Shock title or watch the animated series, this title would have been utterly baffling. There were just enough connections to the old series to aggravate readers of the older series at the changes -- many of which, like the move to New York, seemed utterly pointless -- and to irritate new readers, because these connections were never fleshed out enough to make sense to them. It never explained, for example, who Hardware was or why Static would be involved with him. (For that matter, even if you did read the previous series, that relationship would be utterly baffling.) It never explained what had happened with Sharon or why there were now two of her and they couldn't tell which -- if either -- was the original, although it seemed to be meandering around to that issue. And we got Static's origin story in this past issue and ... he was going to take a gun to get some gangbangers off his back when he got caught up in the Big Bang. I may be misremembering, but that doesn't sound at all like the Virgil Hawkins from either the old comic or the TV show. Even so, the title seemed to finally be finding its feet, after floundering through a confusing setup. Unfortunately, the floundering seems to have driven away readers.
The sad thing is that all of this squandered the potential for that title. I mean, the audience was there. Granted, a bit older than DC would have preferred. The people who would have fond memories of the series would now be in their 20s; the people with fond memories of the original comics in their 30s. Nonetheless, there was some sort of audience there for the title. But they managed to give a version of the character and his world sharply at variance with what the people who remembered the original title and TV series would have been expecting, without a good explanation or reason. And the storytelling was both dense and disorganized enough that a new audience coming to the title just couldn't get enough from it to stick with it.
I'm especially sad because Marc Bernardin was coming on as the new writer, and I'd have loved to see more of his take on Static. As it is, we're going to get two issues, and then he's done.
There are those who will say that this is more proof that minority-led titles just can't' sustain themselves and ... I don't know. I don't know if these titles are the best to judge that by. Mister Terrific was simply not a very good title. Static Shock couldn't give its old audience what they expected and didn't grab a new audience. On the other hand, at least for the moment, "Blue Beetle" and "Voodoo" are hanging on -- albeit probably by the thinnest of threads, and because DC doesn't want to cancel five of its six titles with minority leads in one fell swoop, with the horrendous bad publicity that would follow. (EDIT: And it turns out to be six titles, because OMAC's lead was Kevin Kho, a Korean-American man, which I hadn't realized previously.) "Batwing" is actually not doing terribly ... until you consider that it's a Batman-related title, and DC seems to have very little tolerance for lower sales in that group, because expectations are higher. It is, by a fairly healthy margin, the lowest selling of the Bat-related titles, trailing "Birds of Prey" by 10,000 copies per month.
That said, Blue Beetle, according to the numbers reported by Comics Chronicle, is selling only 5,000 per month more than Static Shock, and Voodoo slightly less than Blue Beetle. Blue Beetle, frankly, is a pretty interesting title -- once you get past the fact that they made one of Jaime's friends, who had been a perfectly average teenager, a sort of gangbanger, for no apparent reason. I haven't read Voodoo -- it didn't interest me in the slightest in concept. (Frankly, of all the carryovers from the Wildstorm universe, the only one that's interested me at all is Stormwatch, which seems to be doing well enough for now to keep Midnighter and Apollo on our pages for another year or so. But I digress.) Assuming standard attrition, and that DC's tolerance for low sales seems to run around 15,000 issues per month for the DCnU titles, I wouldn't expect either Blue Beetle or Voodoo to last more than another year, if that. Batwing is a little harder to predict, because there is the big Night of Owls crossover coming up that may buoy its sales for a bit. And, I assume, a big Leviathan related crossover coming a few months after that, if it can hold on long enough. (Please. It's Morrison, it's Batman, it's the DCnU. The idea that there is NOT a big Leviathan-related crossover coming down the pike is utterly laughable. That it may not come around for another year, however, is not unrealistic, and I don't think Batwing will last another year if it takes that long.)
It will be interesting to see how much more time DC is willing to give those titles, and if they can manage to find an audience before the other shoe drops.
Posted by iain at 02:14 PM in category things comickal