Crisis Crisis: Don’t Blame Didio

Every Wednesday for years, before I finally gave up on DC, I would stare at the store shelves and ask myself the same questions.

Does it all just boil down to brand loyalty? Is it really just that they got their hooks in me when I was young?

I flirted with Marvel Zombie-ism throughout the entirety of childhood, even before I was a regular reader. For as long as I could remember, Marvel’s characters had seemed to resonate with me; the world stopped when The Incredible Hulk came on CBS every Friday night, and an issue of Marvel Team-Up from my grandmother’s drug store featuring the jade giant was officially my first comic. (Adult scrutiny would later reveal it to be one of the most lackluster fill-in comics ever printed, but never mind; let the record show I was introduced to the brilliantly named Power Man before almost any other Marvel hero and kept reading anyway.) Anything with Spider-Man’s mask on it had my immediate, undivided attention going all the way back to The Electric Company. It’s not like I didn’t give the other guys a chance; I saw the Superman movies, and Adam West’s Batman, and episode after episode of the Super Friends. I was down with Gleek. For some reason, none of the DC guys ever seemed to stick in my psyche, but as a kid I had no firm loyalties; I had a fairly open mind about your flying men.

Then came 1985. The summer of my tenth year, I reached the crossroads, made my choice and never looked back.

At the time, one Secret War was ending and another was beginning. I had started out reading G.I. Joe and The Transformers, but I was slowly branching out as more allowance money became available; I didn’t have enough dough to be current with my crossovers, but I was scrambling through bins like a raccoon and snapping up back issues of the big events whenever I could. At the time, I knew exactly one other guy who was interested in comics, my friend Derek. Unlike me, Derek was a huge DC guy, and one day as we biked over to Book Brokers for our meager weekly stashes he started to wax poetic about this comic he was starting to read called Crisis on Infinite Earths. He was breathless in a way that biking uphill alone could not explain.

“Parallel Multiverse Anti-Monitor blah blah something something,” I recall him saying. “Everybody in the whole universe is in it, and they’re all going to die. Cosmic fight! Only one earth can survive! Tons of history is going to be erased and started from scratch!”

“Hold on,” I said. “So what you’re saying is, right now, Batman is fighting gods in outer space, and when it’s all over a bunch of the comics you have won’t have ever happened?”

“Right!” exclaimed Derek.

“That,” said ten-year-old me, “is the stupidest thing I have ever heard.”

And that was that.

I cast my lot with Marvel, and by extension Secret Wars II. Though I have still never read Crisis, I guarantee you it was the better book based solely on the law of averages, but I still have no regrets. Since 1985, every time I listen to someone talking to me about DC Comics, I start to feel like I am at some kind of cosmic accounting seminar. During one year or another, I will take a chance and start reading Batman, but it’s only a matter of time before some Zero Hour thing is coming along to balance the continuity ledgers because somebody forgot to carry the 2 during the last epic/audit. Maybe I am the lunatic a-hole here, but watching you pull at threads in your Multiverse until the whole sweater unravels is not entertaining to me. At all. Call me when Robin is tracking down jewel thieves or something that relates to my Earth in some way.

But for years, when I had these snarky thoughts, I did so with shame. Thousands of people reading comics were reading these comics, and 50,000,000 Elvis fans can’t be wrong. Clearly, the fault was mine, so when I came back to comics as an adult I made a concerted effort to give the Distinguished Competition a shot. I tried Kevin Smith’s Green Arrow, but it seemed to be focused on correcting a death I never knew about in the first place while also taking place in “Star City.” (I mean… come on. What am I, Rainbow Brite?) Everyone on Earth-1 loves Geoff Johns, and his Avengers run was good, so I took a shot on Green Lantern: Rebirth. As near as I can tell, it was written in Esperanto; I loaned my copy to the garbage man. I even read the first issues of Infinite Crisis and 52… let us never speak of it again. (I have been told here at iFanboy that 52 and Countdown play by different rules because they are weekly books; the pacing is different, so it only gets good once you spend $40 or so. I accepted this line of thinking until Marvel started releasing the weekly The Amazing Spider-Man, which really screwed up the pacing of a weekly book by just being good right away.)

All of this has been on my mind for a while, but it is serendipitously relevant now because of the firestorm surrounding Dan Didio in the last week or two. Lately, all I read about is how this poor man should lose his livelihood. After years of thinking I was crazy for not being able to get into these books, suddenly every comics blog seemed to be echoing my complaints. And sure, you read this kind of “fire the bum” thing all the time, but there’s “they should can Quesada for what he did to Mary Jane,” and then there’s “oh my God, we’re taking on water in steerage!” In the online echo chamber, it sounds a lot like DC’s captain has made some serious missteps and people are gunning for him. I don’t know about that. But I do know that one of the gripes I read about most frequently is “DC is not friendly to new readers,” and in that case I am an expert witness. We find the defendant extra-guilty.

Still! This was not intended at the outset as a 1000-word slam. What I wanted to tell you, before the Didio controversy erupted, was that I the Marvel Zombie had indeed found a couple of DC books that were semi-awesome. I’m not talking about Vertigo books; I have read plenty of those, but they’re not what I have in mind here. Not the usual classics; everyone knows Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns¬†are four-color Shakespeare, and my saying so would not break any new ground. For the purposes of this discussion, I am trying to stick to the in-continuity, recent-years books that said “DCU” to me. Many have been fitfully good (Robin, Batman, and Detective Comics have all attracted my attention in the last couple of years, but all seem to yank the creators out from under me every time I give them a chance) but there were two that stood out in the years since I started reading comics again.

One of my favorite books from any company in the last several years was undoubtedly Gotham Central, which ran from early 2003 to 2006. Like the also-excellent Y: The Last Man, Gotham Central had the kind of premise that sounds like it could be a really tight SNL sketch: it focuses on what it is like to work in the Gotham City Police Department’s Major Crimes Unit as they attempt to deal with the madness of living and working in Gotham City, trying to do things by the book only to have costumed vigilantes swoop in and nullify all the work. In slightly different circumstances, the book could have instead been titled, Ugh!… F***ing Batman. If you’re the kind of person who loved Spider-Man’s Tangled Web, this is a similar flavor, a Batman book in which Batman almost never appears. If you are a fan of Alias or Bendis’ Daredevil, this is a book that also takes the outlandish premises of superhero fiction and applies them to a real-world setting with relatable, realistic characters. It is a book where no one will ever, ever travel through time by running super-fast on a goddamned treadmill.

sooo good.DC has collected most of this 40-issue series for your enjoyment, though not the last few stories. That is probably for the best, since the series ended (2-YEAR-OLD SPOILER ALERT!) with one of the cops becoming The Spectre, whoever that is, and the other main character becoming The Question, whoever that is. And Gotham Central was so… not the book where that would happen. I loved Gotham Central so much; when these things happened, I nearly took to bed. It’s worse than Alias morphing into Frontline; it’s like Alias relaunching as The Adventures of Jewel and Her Wonder Dog.

But never mind that! There is another recent DC, continuity-heavy book for the newbie to enjoy, and its name is Identity Crisis.

One thing the DC Universe really gets right is secret identities. They understand that a superhero has to keep those lips zipped about what they do when they’re not caped up. How often do you read a Marvel comic and see people dressed in elaborate drag on a battlefield, their identities and faces completely obscured, only for one of the anonymous vigilantes turn to the other in the heat of the fight and shout, “Hey, Carol”? How well would Marvel’s books sell if they were called The Adventures of Steve and Friends or The Mighty Tony, Simon & Carol? There’s a reason you guys put on those domino masks.

In the course of reading Marvel’s Civil War, there was an untold anti-reg story I really wanted to read about the fallout of giving up the secret ID. In time, I realized I had already read that story back in 2004. DC published it as Identity Crisis.

Identity Crisis is a mystery in which an unknown murderer begins trying to hurt the loved ones of all the major DC superheroes. In the DC Universe, they know: you keep that “Bob” and “Carol” stuff to yourself out in the field, or Doctor Unitard is totally going to kill your dad. The investigation into who might be responsible dredges up all sorts of dark secrets about the DC heroes’ relationships to one another, secrets which I understand are very upsetting to fanboys who actually know who any of these people are. (I don’t know who this Sue Dibny is, but I do know this: she really hurt Brad Meltzer in some way in junior high or something. For Mrs. Dibny, things do not go well.) To new readers like me, free of any context, it was just an entertaining, occasionally shocking/horrifying mystery that drove home the importance of living that dual life. When I read it, I felt like I was reading something I could not get anywhere else. Also, Batman’s frequently-repeated question, “Who benefits?” has become a catchphrase in my house whenever something bad seems to happen to me for no reason.

I am sure that those who adore Didio’s reign will say that I have missed many books that would have made a DC lover out of me. (I am sure that many more are preparing to angrily tell me I don’t know what I’m talking about. Resist that urge. The fact that I don’t know what I’m talking about when it comes to DC is my entire point.) I still dip a toe in every now and again; I am currently trying Trinity, which should be the perfect gateway book but instead is starting to seem like some kind of elaborate joke on me. I am still open to suggestions, but I am less likely to listen to them than I used to be. If you want to send me the book that will convert me, by all means feel free; just don’t put any money on it.

 


Jim Mroczkowski is just mad that DC got to the name “Infinite Crisis” before he had a chance to use it for his memoirs. He can be reached at jim@ifanboy.com or Jimski.com, which is just begging to be spammed by the DC Nation.

Comments

  1. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    *shakes head in disbelief*

  2. It is some what funny reading about all this stuff about Didio and DC at a time when their flagship character (the whole of comics flagship character for that matter) has two of the greatest titles on the stands in All Star Superman and Action Comics. It really has been along time coming to see this happen. But some people are blind I guess. A guy (company) gets graded for its event alone it seems.

    Well, lets do just that.

    I think if we were to take all of the completed events that came from the big two in this decade, Identity Crisis and Sinestro Corps War stand so far ahead of everything else. But that is just my tastes. I haven’t forgotten those stories and I doubt that I ever will.

  3. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    My neighbor just called. 

    "Did someone just die in a carpentry accident?"

    "No…."

    "We heard a horrible groan like the dying of nations, like a wounded god."

    "Oh, I just read Jimski’s horribly wrong column."

    You can’t read an issue of 52 and cry havoc, you creep!

    Read JSA (anything with those letters in it) and Action Comics and we’ll try this again, you wretched, wretched Zombie!

     

  4. I tried out Action Comics during One Year Later; didn’t take. I like Gary Frank, though!

    Is JSA the one with 47 members, or the other one with 47 members from the future? 

  5. Anyone who lets Chuck Dixon get away deserves a lightning strike to the testicles.

  6. I just recently started really buying comics and thought I would be mostly attracted to Marvel since I grew up watching the Spider-Man and X-Men cartoons.  And though ASM is probably my favorite book out there, I find that I buy DC books almost 2 to 1.  Action, All-Star, and Superman.  I thought I hated Superman.  I guess not.  I even get JSA.  Now, I don’t know who 85% of those people are, but the book does a good job of saying, "Hey ******, you’ve got the ability to *****, right?"  And I can read it.

  7. Hey Jim. Don’t worry, buddy. I’m in the same boat. I really, really want to like the DC characters. WHen they’re written in certain ways, in certain stories I do like them. On the whole, though, I just don’t like them.

     The characters are often so far removed from the human realm you cannot relate to them. DC has thrown its continuity into tumult (I’m a mild continuity nerd, but I really can’t make heads or tails of where stuff is taking place in the time line). In the 90’s, DC commited to moving forward and letting some of their classic characters fall by the wayside – they have now slid back to those characters and ignore the younger, more entertaining characters in favor of ones that already have 40+ years of history. Finally, the stories, for all the grandiose nature, are not very deep or complex – you can usually see through the plot from very early on.

  8. Great, great article, Jim. You really nailed why many of the DC books I’ve tried in the last couple of years have had so little interest for me.  Best way to make me check out is to show those Monitors in a comic.

    And, I also believe Trinity is shaping up to be some kind of elaborate joke.  I committed to try the first four issues– although it was obviously a poor quality book after issue #1.  It started mediocre and just dove downhill from there.  To me it had become an embarassment by the end of issue #3– I can’t imagine how bad it will get before it’s over.

  9. very nice Jimski

  10. Jim, Sir, I am in complete agreement about how hard it is to get into a DC story without being a DC expert. I continue to read DC trades, because some of them are fantastic. You are right – Identity Crisis was breathtakingly good.

     

    On the other hand, the two prior Infinite Earth crisis books were an excersie in incomprehensible density. How many Green Lanterns do I need to know in exquisite detail? What the heck is the Psycho Pirate? Is Aquaman even a DC character any longer?

     

    I think that it is fair to judge an editor-in-chief by the standards of his companies big events, since that’s the only thing that attracts the casual fan like me. For all their faults, Marvel’s big events are generally straightforward. Who couldn’t understand Civil War? Is House of M so complicated? On the other hand, I wanted to like Kingdom Come – I really did. Why then did I have to spend so much time figuring out who 666 was and what the difference between Gog and Magog is?

  11. I have an odd relationship with DC.  I’ve never been into their whole "universe" as much as I would be with Marvel.  But I’ve read DC titles for my whole comic reading life, off and on.  

    It started when I was a youngster with Detective and Batman, in the late 80’s where things got pretty good.  Then, I read Morrison’s JLA, which made me love, and finally in the late 90’s, I read Mark Waid’s Flash, and Ron Marz’s Green Lantern.  I dug those a lot.  And then the Gotham Central years, which were preceeded by the Rucka/Brubaker years on the Bat titles.  Those were good.

    Have you read All Star Superman?  I was surprised how much I liked that.  Also, dare I say, Starman?  

    I think that if you’re a Marvel guy, you won’t necessarily love DC "events," but there’s nothing wrong with many of the titles out there.

    There’s something intangibly different betweent the companies, and I’ve never heard an accurate explanation of what that difference is.  

    All that said, I think it’s significant that you brought up Identity Crisis, because that title did exactly the same for me when I read it, and it was hardcore DC, so you tell me how that works.

  12. Aside from the fact that DC has almost a 30-year jumpstart on Marvel – why do people continue to denounce them because of convoluted continuity?  In my eyes, Marvel’s continuity is just as confusing and convoluted.  Face it, you like the books that you are comfortable with and its difficult to jump into ANY ongoing book that has any amount of history in it. 

  13. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    As for the treadmill, have you looked at the wikipedia page for any mutant?  For Spider-Man? 

    Wolverine was originally supposed to be an actual wolverine. 

    Nobody is innocent here.  

      

  14. Boy… I did read the hell out of those Batman books in the ’80s. I need to dig those back up.

    @Josh- I bought, I think, as many as two issues of All-Star Superman. When you don’t necessarily care for Grant Morrison and can barely deal with Superman, that turns out to be a monumentally foolish way to spend that money. Even so, I could see the charm in what they were doing, sort of putting a new spin on what seemed like a very ’50s style of story. I just don’t have those wires, I guess.

     @NjBaritone- oh, believe me, every time I read a DC comic now I end up having a meta conversation with my conscience on this very topic.

    "There’s a tiny sun?? And Superman is grabbing it??"

    "You wouldn’t even blink if this happened in a Marvel book. You’d be fine with it if they had Iron Man doing it."

    "They would never have Iron Man doing it!"

    etc. 

  15. I agree with NJBaritone and PaulMontgomery – both Marvel and DC have equally convoluted histories and characters.  I think the only difference is that Marvel has a much better PR machine going that has made people forget that they are just as convoluted and also makes it cool to make fun of DC for it.  They won the PR game and DC continues to pay for it.

  16. @Conor Agreed.

  17. For what its worth, I found that watching a few epsiodes of ‘Justice League Unlimited’ was a great way to help my sis get into DC continuity, headache-free. After that, she breezed through Green Arrow, Identity Crises and GL: Rebirth. Think I’ll introduce her to Teen Titans next, before having some sort of history class to prepare her for Infinite Crises. 

  18. For me when it comes to big company crossovers I tend to side with Marvel on being more acessable than DC though DC fans will say thats ridiculous, fair enough.  As a whole I find any big event where DC continuity is the center subject to be awfully hard to get through not knowing the minutia.  But there are some fantastic individual titles from DC that I think are so great because of the creators associated with the title.  Geoff Johns anyone? 

  19. also I think DC should impliment the recap summery front page.

  20. @Kimbo

    I agree that a Recap or something should be in a lot of comics.  Although in the age of Wikie… why bother?

  21. @CharlieBlix– that’s true but ain’t it a shame I got to go to website to get something the story isn’t providing?

  22. @Kimbo- Very true.  I don’t think you should do homework to make any stroy arc understandable.  I do think that its okay to have more depth to your story if people know the past events but if they don’t it should hold up on its own.

     I’m just someone who wants to know who everyone is and how they became to being and everything else for that matter.  For that reason Wikie is my go to for most everything when it comes to comics.

  23. How on Earth could you consider Green Lantern: Rebirth bad? Trinity, ok, that sucks. But GL has been so good since Rebirth.

  24. I feel like all any DC enthusiast would ever need to say is, "Marvel, huh? Talk to me about the Beyonder."

    As for the alternate universe thing, I think the key is that Marvel treats them like they couldn’t matter less while DC can’t stop obsessing about them. 

  25. @Kimbo – Reading Wikipedia now is the same as scouring back issues to find out who people are and why they do what they do in the pre-internet days.  Nothing has changed, it’s just the the tools are different.  The reason you DON’T need to do that for Marvel books is because you know who they all are, for the most part.  Marvel and DC are no different.

  26. @Coner – regarding the characters you’re totally right but the recap page is also good for story points leading to where we are at that moment is my point.  I don’t read issues in order most times and I find I’m awfully lost with certain DC books in terms of just what happened in the story to get us to the issue I’m holding in my hands.   

  27. @Kimbo – I agree about DC’s needing a recap page, by the way.  It’s just good sense to have one.

  28. The problem with DC continuity, as best as I can tell it, is that sometimes it matters to them and sometimes it doesn’t. They push very hard to make everything fit and the next issue go ‘Eff it’ and do whatever they want.  Their fear to change anything about any of their characters is saddening too. In the 90’s the proactively changed to the ‘New Generation’ of heroes. Most of these heroes were modern, dynamic and didn’t have 30+ years of stories told about (ie. hadn’t saved the world 4000+ times). They made since. They were relevant in a modern context. Most of all – they were human. They were not icons or paragons.

     DC has choked and killed most of this new generation of heroes. Mortified them and prepares to cut them off and leave them for dead. In favor of telling old, stale stories with characters that aren’t relevant in a modern way, aren’t fun to read and aren’t human in any meaningful way.

  29. @Zombox – The "old" characters might be boring to you.  I myself found Kyle Rayner to be boring.  Bart Allen was okay as Impulse but I never bought him as The Flash.  Conner Kent did nothing for me.  The idea that DC is afraid to hand new characters old costumes is entirely baseless since that’s what DC is all about – legacy.  It’s part of what sets the DCU apart from the MArvel Universe – Marvel doesn’t really do that – the people behind the masks stay the same. (There are, of course, exceptions, but on the whole it doesn’t, not the extent that DC does).

  30. @Zombox – And the idea that "sometimes continuity matters and sometimes it doesn’t" as a purely DC thing is ridiculous.  Again, Marvel and DC do the exact same stuff, Marvel is just better at making people forget about it and move on.

  31. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    If you want to talk about credible continuity, don’t pick the side with Spider-Man on it. 

  32. I think a lot of this brnad loyalty has to do with where you started. In the seventies in England Marvel UK was a real presence in the local newsagent so getting those stories was easy for us. Once we were bitten by Marvel it was too late to go back.

    I sometimes try a DC book but in the end it does seem too much effort to cross reference every page with Wikipedia. I know the Marvel U is just (if not more) as complex but at leat the grounding I had as a youngster means I can follow a story even after years away from the continuity.

    I enjoy an elseworlds or non-continuity story but in the end I just can’t bring myself to really make the necessary effort with DC. After all there’s only so much money. 

  33. I don’t think Marvel comics are necessarily better than DC books because of any continuity issues or differences.  With the recent truly awful One More Day storyline, Marvel lost any credibility on that issue for a long, long time.

    I do personally prefer Marvel characters, in general, to DC characters.  With their lower super power levels and more of a focus on real-world problems, I just find them more relatable and interesting.

    To be honest, without Geoff Johns I don’t know that I’d still be reading any DC books.  Well, I guess I’d still be checking out Batman RIP, and Final Crisis.  And All-Star Superman (although I think people have gotten carried away with declaring that book the best thing since sliced bread).  

  34. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    In terms of super power and invulnerability, how is Wolverine any different than Superman?  Iron Man is pretty damn powerful too. 

  35. Wowsa…maelstrom of a topic you’ve got here, Jimski!  This has been an issue I’ve never really had to deal with.  I have never really been an *insert company name here* guy.  I’ve always pretty much bought what I liked from the start.  It’s weird to take the perspective of the guy on the outside looking in.

     

    That being said, I’ll play DC Eye for the Marvel Guy©&™:

    Seems like you like the man on the streets characters and have some kind of affinity towards the Batman mythos.  If so, Nightwing seems like logical starting point.  Anything written by Chuck Dixon is golden.  The current run by Peter Tomasi & Rags Morales is really good too.

    You are the only human being alive that didn’t like Kevin Smith’s Green Arrow run but you dug Meltzer on IC.  Have you tried out his Green Arrow?

    The Johns/Frank Action Comics is currently my favorite superhero book.  I don’t think it’s possible to dislike the amazing art and outstanding story telling within.  Geoff Johns has a lot of real quality DC stuff.  His runs on Flash and Teen Titans are great and highly recommended.

  36. Another DC book that might appeal to a Marvel guy is Marc Andreyko’s Manhunter. 

    It has a background with deep ties to DC lore, but NOT in a way where you have to understand everything. There’s a very clean surface story that can be understood without looking deeper. But the ties are there as little easter eggs for the readers so inclined.

    And dare I second Josh’s nomination of Starman? Oh, I dare. Easy to understand, cool style and lead character, and more deep ties to continuity that presents it in a way that’s very easy to digest.

    I read more Marvel these days, but I read mostly DC throughout the 90’s, so I’m very familiar with both worlds. For me, right now, Marvel is doing a better job than DC at keeping many of their books isolated. Yes, they cross over, and yes there are events, but there are more Marvel books that I can read more often without wondering which title I have to read next.

    That said: Jimksi, it seems to me that part of your problem is that you’ve cast your die and chosen Marvel. So while SOME DC books are very hard to penetrate, others are not any WORSE than Marvel — you’re just more familiar with Marvel, so it gets more of a pass. As the others have said: there are ridiculous problems with any fantasy universe. And hey: Marvel and DC do have little differences in their scope and POV. So to decide that one is more to your taste is OK. But i think there is fun to be had on both sides of the fence, so to speak. 

  37. I’ve read about 60% Marvel and 40% DC my whole life and actually right now it’s about 50-50, but Josh hit the nail on the head for me:

    "There’s something intangibly different betweent the companies, and I’ve never heard an accurate explanation of what that difference is."

    In about 15 years of reading comics, DC just seemed, and seems, dense.  Marvel absolutely has continuity problems, but it seems to me that I am more often lost when it comes to the DC continuity.  It could be that I have been suckered by the hype machine that Conor and Paul are talking about.  Then again, neither marvel or DC’s continuity problems have ruined the actual stories I read, so It really doesn’t make much of a difference.  I’d like to figure out why I DO lean more toward Marvel, though. 

  38. I might just be wierd but when I got into the DCU, I didn’t find it confusing at all.  So, there’s a bunch of universes.  I’m okay with that.  I get it.  Beyond Countdown (which I did not get), I’ve seen very little of the 52 universes and even if I did, it’d be nice to see New Frontier and The Nail again.  I will say that Marvel’s continiuty is as messed up as DC’s especially with One More Day/ Brand New Day and the whole Xorn/Magneto fiasco, not to mention how Iron Man could be imprisoned by the Hulk, going crazy with seeing dead people at SHIELD, and dead all in the same month.  I do like DC’s events more than Marvel’s.  That being said, I do read more Marvel than DC, but I find both universes enjoyable.  I just think Marvel is fanatical at trying show their universe is more relatable where DC seems more focused on making modern mythology.  Even if it isn’t exactly accurate, I do notice that DiDio and the DC crew say "This is American Mythology" more and Quesada and the Marvel crew is always saying "Marvel is more relatable and realistic."  I think how the two kind of present themselves as color how we read them even if the distinctions aren’t 100% accurate.

  39. I find DC characters to be more complex in a way that rewards engaged reading.  Marvel character are, by and large, easier to get an handle on in a single page recap.  DC tells big stories using larger-than-life concepts as metaphors for real life situations.  Marvel uses real life situations.  I enjoy that extra level of complexity, but then I read Shakespeare for fun.

    When I was in high school, people read Marvel because they liked pretty pictures (since Marvel had atrists like Jim Lee and company at the time) and people read DC because they liked interesting characters with complex stories.  I think that’s still largely true, although there has been significant talent bleed in the last twenty years.  

    Think about it, though.  Arguably the most interesting Marvel title? Nova.  Written by two former DC writers (whose run on Legion of Super-Heroes is vastly underrated) it is about a guy with cosmic powers.  Why is this not a DC title?  Seriously.  Among the least interesting DC titles, for me?  Teen Titans, which is written by a guy who got his start writing Marvel kids books.  This is not a coincidence.

  40. Lots of excellent points; lots of interesting recommendations. I don’t know how I feel about a deluxe Omnibus of something I’ve never read, but Starman is starting to sound mandatory.

    That having been said: Paul, that Superman question is meant as a joke, right? Did I mention I just saw him grab and throw a sun? 

  41. I don’t know, I’ve seen Thor do some crazy stuff like kill the "gods of the gods" and such.

  42. I’ve always been pretty split between the companies.  When I first got back into comics a few years ago, I really seemed to be buying more Marvel stuff, but lately, I find that I’m buying tons of DC books like I did when I was a kid.  DCU can be dense, but sometimes you just leap in and figure it out as you go along.  I find a lot of what’s being produced (and will be produced) by DC has been above quality, while Marvel’s titles have been mired in events and subpar quality in between said  (this, of course, excludes some titles, which have been mentioned on the show as being mostly excellent and justly so).  Really, the companies that have been getting more of my dollar as of late is Dark Horse and Image.  I buy too much of their stuff now.

    As for recommendations, I think Manhunter, Nightwing and JSA are good.  I might also recommend Green Lanter–the Secret Origin story has been fantastic and requires no background whatsoever. 

  43. It should be noted, I never claimed Marvel’s continuity was better. It is very dense too, and can be hard to get into for new readers without investment. I think ignoring continuity beyond that which is within the last three or four years is probably a good idea. That said, DC brings back obscure and non-sensical points that only long term readers will get, and never explains them. I have yet to find a single book that has a good starting point beyond issue 1, regardless of recommendations.

     I also didn’t say that there wasn’t a place for stories with Hal Jordan, Barry or other supposed ‘legacy’ oldsters. DC should not co-opt the stories of newer, fresher and more vibrant characters for what we’ll call classic characters. The notion that DC has a ‘legacy’ program has become inane, since those legacies have all been reclaimed by the most famous bearers.

    Finally, the characters that everyone loves are not, in any way, defineably human. They are epic, mythological gods. I understand if that’s what you like, as this is purely a preference, but I prefer actual humanity in my characters.

  44. Me I am more of a Marvel guy….probably 60/40ish.  But I find that when a DC book is good, it is fanfuckingtastic.  When a Marvel book is good, it is great but not up to par with DC top notch book.  But on the flip side, when a Marvel book is bad and a DC book is bad I find that DC are much more horrible. 

    I also find that when creators change on DC books the characters seem to change just a little more and are a little different from the last arc.  Where Marvel to me has creator changes go more smoothly.  Now I don’t think this is all the time because just look at some of the X-Men creator changes. 

    Both companies have continuity issues.  Which depending on what you read more, one you will understand better.  And like Conor said, Marvel hides there problems a bit better.  But in doing that it, it is easier to pick up a Marvel book in my opinion and understand in continuity where it is taking place compared to the DCU.

    Again this is all just my opinion so I don’t need to get roasted on this…..but if you want go for it!

  45. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    There’s no lack of humanity in DC comics. 

  46. I met Dan Didio this weekend and he is one of the most genuinely likable people I’ve ever had the pleasure of talking to.

  47. I really think Conor hit the nail on the head — it’s not a difference in the companies but the way they sell themselves.  Remember the Bloom County strip where Milo & Binkley argue Coke vs. Pepsi for 8 panels, then ask Opus what they’re missing, and he says "The fact that they both taste like malted battery acid?" Sometimes i’ts like that.

    I was at a Didio panel at Heroes Con this past weekend, and he might as well have been wearing a T-shirt that said ‘We don’t want new readers.’  It was my first experience with him; I’ve seen Quesada multiple times, on TV and once at a con, and he’s always playing the salesman.  I know this isn’t an entirely fair comparison — the panel was about was about ‘favorite moments in comics’ and was really playing up nostalgia; plus, the guy might understandably not have been in a mood to think about the future of his company at the moment.  Still, being used to Quesada, I was a little jarred by the difference in style.

    My frustration with DC is that I really would like to read more about the DC Universe — I loved 52, but I can’t find other books that feel like that.  Which in a nutshell is what I commented at the panel and basically got a shrug; I’m sure JQ would have thrown half a dozen titles at me in response to a similar question.  I’m not saying he would have been right, but I at least would have felt like he wanted my business.

     

     

  48. I think Quesada and Didio are very comfortable being the exact opposite of the other guy.  Didio is the guy that makes the faithful readers happy and Quesada is the pitch man that brings in the new blood.  If you find DC difficult to jump into with stuff like Final Crisis or Superman, there’s Quesada to give you easily understandable books like the Avengers or Ultimate Spider-Man that you can read without a lot of baggage.  If you’re annoyed with Quesada’s disregard of continuity or his drastic changes to your favorite characters like in Civil War and One More Day, Didio’s there to tickle your fancy with the Sinestro Corps War and All-Star Superman that gives the old-school feel you had for those characters you’ve loved with a new twist.  I think Didio wants the readers Quesada pisses off and Quesada wants the readers Didio doesn’t shoot for.  It’s an odd dynamic.

  49. Jimski,

    Again, I think we’re lost brothers or something. My DC buying days peaked in 1984-5 when I was getting The New Teen Titans, Tales of the Teen Titans, and Crisis. Then, about three issues into crisis I said, "I have no fucking idea who any of these people are, what they’re doing, and, frankly, don’t want to know." Since Crisis had pulled the Wolfman-Perez team off the Titans books, I quit DC alltogether. And I’ve never really looked back.

    Sure, I’ve had some DCU involvement since. Who hasn’t? Josh mentioned the Morrison JLA; I picked up the trades a couple of years back and they’re good. Then Waid took over and the series became not so good. Not that I have anything against him, it’s just the book became mundane again. I bought the whole Kevin Smith run on Green Arrow, but beyond some neato dialogue (and Smith dealing with more Catholic guilt), it was kinda blah. The Brubaker/Cooke Catwoman was good, but when Ed left my interest didn’t wane, it fell off the table. I have the Absolute New Frontier and think it’s wonderful. No interest in getting any regular book with any of the characters. NF was a once a decade event.

    Gotham Central was a masterpiece. I started with the first trade and because DC couldn’t get the others out in a timely manner, started buying mothlies. It was great. Until the Spectre thing. I know Rucka’s said it’s one of his favorite things about the series and how it fits the character. At the risk of getting big, scary, Greg "Rhymes with fucka" Rucka mad at me, he’s wrong. That shit was, for lack of a better term, wack. 

    So, like you I’m a Zombie. Or, perhaps not Zombie so much as DC-phobe (I get a lot of Image, Wildstorm, and Dark Horse to go with my Marvel).  Like other phobias, it’s not rational, I know, but there it is. I’ll pick up an occasional DCU book – the latest Action, which was quality product and quite enjoyable, I admit – but I can almost never get into it. Something inside me wont let me. 

    Of course, I also have nearly every Wildstorm book published, so my opinion means less-than-squat. And it’s not "Earth 50", damnit! It’s the Wildstorm UNIVERSE.

  50. @Tork   That makes a bizarre kind of sense.  I’m still kind of bewildered, because he had everybody in the room who had been reading for at least a year put their hands up, then put them down if you had been reading for less than 5, less than 10, etc up until they found a guy who had been reading for 50+ years.  He got those people talking about their first comics, and the dialogue moved on from there.  Which was NEAT, you know, but on the other hand I expected him at some point I expected him to turn to those of us who said ‘less than 5 years’ and ask about what brought us there, but he never went there at all.  Possibly, he suspected we were primarily Marvel readers, which is at least true of me and my friend who was also in the < 5 year club with me.  I just found the whole thing surreal and kind of off-putting.  I can’t really understand the mentality that my views and experiences (to say nothing of my money) matter less than those of somebody who happens to have been reading longer.

  51. @ohcaroline – That’s a panel that Didio runs at almost every con he goes to.  It’s just about the love of comics – not a specific DC sales pitch – and often involves people from other companies than just DC.  I suspect he just wanted to ask that specific question to the people who had been reading for 50 years because that’s … well that’s really unique and probably really interesting.

  52. Yeah, I’m 22 so, by default, I’m in the shorter category, so that is kind of strange, but I’m kind of okay with it, given I soak up comic knowledge like a socially dysfunctional sponge so I get a lot of the stuff that goes on.  I look at as part of the idea that Didio is the Anti-Quesada.  Where Joe is catering to the newbies at the possible expense of irking the long time fanboys like with the Spidey fiasco last December.  On the other side, Dan is playing to the long-timers and making them feel important at the possible expense of making the new blood feel unwelcome.  I think both have their separate niches and are fine to be at opposite ends though I think both should probably be thinking more about both sides together a little more.

  53. I would take issue with Jim’s comparing 52 to AMAZING SPIDER-MAN.  The latter is telling stories that last three issues at a time, with only the barest of threads connecting them.  And when they do connect, it’s usually in the background in the b or c-plot.  The former told a 52 part story.  They are each paced completely differently.

  54. I am starting to re-embrace my Marvel Zombie-ness, which I abandoned sometime around 1985 when Dark Knight and Watchmen came out and DC suddenly seemed more adult and then I found out about the Crisis and how the Flash died and the new Flash was poor and he had to eat a lot because of his super-fast metabolism, and again DC seemed like it had trumped the realism factor even though it is set in Candy Gumdrop Land and Wally won the lottery which c’mon was a real cop-out

    But lately I have been more-and-more fed up with DC and tending to enjoy Marvel’s stuff more, then last week also re-read Identity Crisis, and then the JLA Crisis of Conscience TPB and then Infinite Crisis, and these were good books. DC had a damn good run in 2006. And I started re-reading 52 in the TPB I got from the library and even though I didn’t finish it, I thought fondly for a while about the mystery of who Supernova was and how I never ever ever thought it was **2-year old spoiler here** Booster **end non-spoiler**.

    I’m not really sure what the hoo-ha is over Didio but even though his demeanor kind of rubs me the wrong way, this is the guy that was in charge while some really good stuff happened at DC. I dropped out of Countdown last August and today I finally read Final Crisis #1 and I liked it. I think sometimes it’s better if you don’t know what’s going on because you just take it for what it is. 

  55.  Enough already.  I have heard enough from Marvel’s point of view are you people being paid by Marvel or something.  Yeah Marvel has some great characters and great talent working for them but so does DC.  Certain Marvel fans seem to have the need to degrade DC in oder to convince themselves that DC is less than Marvel.  People who degrade DC make me sick because that means they know nothing about comic history or care less about it.  They seem to forget without DC there would be no Marvel.  I recently attended the Superman festival in Metropolis, Illinios and had one of the greatest experiences.  Being there in the museum and seeing all the fans of Superman both young and old made me realize how important Superman is as well all DC characters.  Marvel fans would scoff at such an event because to them Superman is unrelatable and juvenile. So what if DC has a loaded continuity (they have been around a long time) I just wish Marvel fans would stop bitching about it

  56. I don’t know if that’s being fair to the people posting above, Seagalism.  It seems like the people here are just explaining why DC has turned them off, why they prefer Marvel– starting with Jimski.  And, other folks are explaining why they feel differently about DC.  I don’t see any mindless "degrading" here, or sense that the posts about are from people who "know nothing about comic history or care less about it." 

  57. @conor  — Yeah, I get what he was doing.  It was just such a different approach than what I was used to.  And to be fair, right after several wow-that’s-dismissive-of-newbies moments, he had to answer a guy who was indignant about the end of Charlton comics characters being changed when they were brought to DC.  My friend and I just kind of stared at each other and were like, *This dude has been angry about the same thing for more than forty years.  We are clearly too young to understand that kind of passion.*  So, obviously, DD is getting it from all sides. 

  58. And to expand on that a little more — I don’t mean to sound like I’m bitching about showing respect for long-time fans (50 years is impressive!) but just the general feeling of the panel being a longevity competition wasn’t a very welcoming vibe.

    But Jimski — about the original post, I meant to say, if you liked "Identity Crisis" and "Gotham Central" there’s plenty of incentive to read ’52’ in trade.  Skip/skim the space parts if you want, but you already know two of the main characters in Dibny and Montoy, and most of the other stories are written to be ground-floor accessible as well.  I can’t speak for the pacing as a weekly, but as a collection it’s a long twisty, world-spanning epic novel with tons of great character-moments.  

  59. You know what Caroline, you’re sort of right about that.  I wouldn’t have though to tell him to check out 52, but there’s something to that.

    I wonder if it would be as much fun to read if you’re not reading it weekly.

  60. @josh- It might be more fun; that whole "pacing" thing becomes a non-issue, for one thing.

     

  61. @josh  52 is amazing in graphic novel form.  It’s one of the first DCU things I read and (though, like Jim, I had read Gotham Central & Identity Crisis) and it’s largely responsible for what I love about that universe.  I think it’s actually a great entry-level rec, because it’s written with the realization that these ARE minor characters not everybody is going to know and be pre-invested in, so they actually all have arcs.  The problem I’ve found so far with Trinity is that it’s going back to the assumption that just because these are major characters, readers are automatically going to care. 

  62. @ohcaroline- I only read 52 in the collected form and it is wonderful.  I kind of wish I had experienced it weekly, the cliffhangers were really good but it definately felt like a graphic NOVEL.

  63. Yeah I read 52 in graphic form and I thought it was a great read.  Loved it.

  64. I happened to start reading superhero monthlies exactly when 52 started, and have to say it was a fantastic way to get acquainted with the DCU. In fact, I credit that series for my tendency to be more of a "DC guy" than Marvel Zombie when it comes to my pull list these days. When it comes to Marvel, I pretty much love everything Brubaker writes as well as the cosmic Abnett and Lanning stories (Nova, Guardians of the Galaxy), but for some reason I just haven’t been able to get into the flagship Avengers books, nor into any of the big events I’ve read thus far (Civil War, World War Hulk). In terms of universe-spanning epics and characters, the DCU is just more appealing to me. I know a lot of Marvel fans love the street-level feel to many of their characters, but I prefer the sci-fi/time travel/multiverse/cosmic zaniness of the DCU.

    Of course, a lot has to do with which writers are at which company. If it weren’t for Geoff Johns or Grant Morrison, I would hardly be reading any DC books. Also, I’m just not a huge fan of Mark Millar or Brian Michael Bendis (don’t hate ’em but don’t love ’em, either), which precludes my enjoyment of most high-profile Marvel events of the last few years.

  65. I’m a Marvel zombie, myself, and despite having flirted with DC in the past, I don’t know that I’m ever going back. Sinestro Corps was absolutely very good (though it started to drag on the ground when it came to Earth), but DC doesn’t really resonate with me the way Marvel does. It certainly doesn’t help that my favorite DC character (Captain Marvel/Shazam) barely makes a dent in the DCU.

    There’s a fair amount of good DC out there (Judd Winick’s Green Arrow stuff is golden), but there’s so much more Marvel stuff that’s more important to me. If I had unlimited money, I might throw a few bucks DC’s way, but that ain’t happening anytime soon.

     

  66. Ive never understood the whole ‘there too much history’ or ‘the continuity is too convoluted’ arguments. One of things I enjoy most about comics is encountering a character I don’t know much about and tracking down information about them, whether it’s from Wiki, back issues or just chatting to mates. It’s a shame that some people won’t look past the issue in their hands for an expansion on the characters and story.

    Also, as someone else has mentioned, bringing DC up on charges over their continuity when Marvel has just released the OMD/BND clusterf*ck on their premier character is strange to say the least.

  67. …also on the more positive side, DC has some of the best books on the market at the moment, Action Comics, JSA, Green Lantern, Batman, Booster Gold, All Star Superman, Detective Comics, Nightwing… not to mention all the great Vertigo books that are out there.

  68. @mattstev2000, my only problem with DC continuity is that they just won’t stop fiddling with it. It seems like for about 40% of the years I have spent reading comics, DC has been under the hood tinkering around and trying to get me to pay for it. "Okay, before we said this didn’t happen and this Earth didn’t exist, but now this Earth does exist and this never happened, but that did happen, but that Superboy died, and this Superboy never existed, see Appendix C."

    Oy.

    Also, One More Day was one the best things that’s happened to comics in years, but we’ll save that for the next time I want my article to get a lot of comments.

  69. "Still! This was not intended at the outset as a 1000-word slam."

    Well, it was. Pretty condescending to DC fans too.

    I’m a DC guy, always have been, but I have never felt like I had to insult Marvel (I was just never into Marvel as much) to make my "company choice" seem right.

  70. Wade, I think you stopped reading at about the DC logo.

  71. Nope, I read the whole thing.