This is somewhat old news (in 2009 terms, at least, which is four days ago) that somewhat slipped under the radar, but I was reminded of it when Andrew Hickey’s impressive and exhaustive (but exhaustive in the good way!) “Hyperpost” series got me to thinking about comic book continuity, and the desirability thereof.
To wit: Did anybody see DC is overhauling their Superman/Batman title?
Over the next few months, you’re going to see Superman/Batman actually reflecting major events of the past of the DC Universe. We’re going to be building on other stories, other events, using these characters. So you’re going to see an expansion on Superman/Batman’s role in the post-“Emperor Joker’s” world. So you’re going to see effects of “Emperor Joker” in Superman/Batman. As well as “Our Worlds at War”. There are going to be events that we’re going to be filling out there.
Now, let me just say I haven’t been reading Superman/Batman and don’t intend to start right now. I don’t mean that as a judgment, but rather just to say that I have no vested interest in the title, and so this decision impacts my life in no way whatsoever; I am an entirely outside observer.
That said: It’s damned weird, isn’t it?
I don’t keep up with current sales figures and don’t really know where to look for a complete list, but I am guessing Superman/Batman isn’t selling as much as DC would like it to, right? Hence the shakeup. That makes sense. And DiDio does say the stories will also be tying in with events in the current DC Universe. That also makes sense. You can ignore a Superman/Batman book that’s going on in its own little bubble, but if it’s got a “Blackest Night” banner on it, you’ve got to buy it, right? (Note: You do not actually have to buy it.)
But expanding on past stories? Books like those aren’t known for tearing up the sales charts, are they? Legends of the Dark Knight had 200-plus issues, Legends of the DC Universe did okay for a while, and they’re still putting out Batman Confidential. But Superman Confidential only lasted 14 issues. JLA and JSA Classified are gone and not terribly missed. Untold Tales of Spider-Man was well-regarded (and don’t think I didn’t love it), but cancelled after 25 issues; Webspinners: Tales of Spider-Man only made it to 18.
Also, look at the specific examples DiDio uses. “Emperor Joker” and “Our Worlds At War,” circa 2000-01. All right, here is where I admit something to you: I bought both of those crossovers when they first came out. (I was in high school and had a part-time job, so I had money but little responsibility; I have never bought more monthly superhero comics on a regular basis before or since, and I probably never will again.) “OWAW” reads like a hamhanded commentary on 9/11 and the national mood in its aftermath, although strangely it came out just a few months before. “Emperor Joker,” on the other hand, a story where the Joker gets access to Mr. Mxyzptlk’s powers and remakes the world in his own image, I remember as being thoroughly decent; not great, not awful, but entertaining enough for what it was.
And yet, I have no interest in this whatsoever. I thought “Emperor Joker” was already too long at nine issues spread over two months. And an “expansion of Superman/Batman’s role” in the storyline? The story was all about Superman and Batman in the first place. It’d be one thing to ask, “What was going on with these characters during a crossover in which they were only marginal figures?” This is like saying you’re going to retell Spider-Man’s origin from Spider-Man’s perspective.
Mr. DiDio: I do not often agree with your editorial decisions, but I am not the sort to wave my arms about and call you an idiot. I realize that being EiC of a superhero comic book company is a demanding but somewhat thankless job. Nevertheless, I have to say I fear you have made a grave miscalculation here. Because I am the target audience for this book; older fans probably care more about stuff like “Invasion!” or “Legends,” and younger fans have never heard of “Our Worlds At War.” This should be right in my nostalgia wheelhouse, and yet “Emperor Joker” is maybe a notch below Deep Blue Something in the grand hierarchy of Things I Cared About In High School.
So I have to ask, who is supposed to be buying this comic, if not me? And why is DC pushing “untold tales” when “untold tales” are rarely sales successes?
It may not surprise you to hear that I have a theory, but it can wait until next week. But let me know in the meantime — does this strike anyone else as a baffling strategy, or is it just my problem?