A month ago, my friend Nick Provenzano wrote about the soft relaunch of the DC Comics Universe with their “new 52″ initiative. Long story short, DC has for years been far behind their main competitor in sales, Marvel Comics, and so they took the opportunity to do yet another universe-ending event that rebooted some books completely while keeping others much as they had been before. Please keep in mind that DC has done this at least a couple times before, once back in the 80s with Crisis on Infinite Earths, which was a hard reboot of the entire line, and again in the 90s with Zero Hour, which they used as an opportunity to try and fix some of the problems that came out of Crisis in the first place.
Anyway, Nick wore an overwhelmingly positive post about the relaunch based on only one book release. DC actually released 52 comics over the course of the month, and I’m here to report back that it’s not all sunshine and puppies. In fact, most of the books are tolerable at best, and many of them are complete trash. I actually did read every single issue released in the last month, so here’s my checklist:
As you can see, most of the books are “meh.” They’re mostly forgettable, although a few have some good ideas but poor execution. A very small group (~15%) are books that I plan on continuing to read. A much larger group (~30%) are terrible, terrible books. They range anywhere from nearly pornographic to terrible characterization to atrocious art. See the comic below for one of the biggest offenders on all fronts:
So what lessons should we learn from this relaunch?
1) Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. DC had some great books and story lines that were cut off prematurely because of this relaunch. I’ll gladly admit that schools have a lot that needs fixing. But schools also do a lot of good. We should take a good look at what works in schools and find ways to extend those successes whenever possible. (Problem, of course: define “good.”)
2) A pursuit of the shiny and new is not enough. It feels like DC updated a lot of these books just to update them. Especially for those of us pushing for more use of educational technology, we should have compelling reasons to move in that direction and good plans for doing so.
3) The Market is fickle. Continuous chases of quick hits to get quick sales is one of the reasons why the comics market is in overall terrible shape. Sure, DC has great sales for this month, but already retailers are freaking out about how they should order for issue number 2. To me, this seems remarkably similar to school districts in perpetual search for that magic solution to increasing test scores.
4) Engage your community. DC dropped this bombshell on people only a couple of months before it happened. Creators didn’t get too much more notice before that. Are you making changes because they’re better for you or they’re better for the community?