DC: I Want to Believe

This was one of those weeks when I wished I could be Tom Katers.

Online, I mean. Tom and I have never met face to face. For all I know, in real life he lives under a bridge and grinds up Oxycontin by the fistful for breakfast. Online, though, Tom Katers is known as The Most Reasonable Man in Comics for good reason. This is a man who has burned untold calories on three podcasts and counting about old DC comics who reacts to the rumor of a DC Universe reboot like he’s reading a zen koan. If you were to look at a cartoon representation of Tom Katers’ mind, I imagine you would see a drawing of the Buddha placidly playing strat-o-matic baseball in a hammock.

If you were to look at a cartoon representation of my mind, you would see a big green YES button, a big red NO button, and a chimp with a mallet who smashes one of the buttons the second he hears a noise.

I hate that chimp. Alas, we are what we are until we find a meditation technique that works for us.

(Which one of those images sounds more like you, John Q. Comment, I will leave for you to reflect upon.)

Anyway: This Week in Comics was an emotional roller coaster ride, one of those rickety all-wood ones that throws you around like a rag doll, and also the carny has passed out on the controls while you shriek helplessly. The long-whispered rumor that DC would be renumbering the whole shootin’ match finally became fact early last week, and before I had ten minutes to even read what the facts were the chimp lunged for the red button.

This was the ghost of the same knee-jerk reaction I had been having to the DC Universe since I was ten years old and getting heavily into comics for the first time, when my friend Derek began explaining Crisis on Infinite Earths to me and I thought, “I have got to find out the name of the company publishing this illustrated quantum physics textbook he’s describing and give all of my money to their biggest competitor right away. Why would anyone want any part of such a tedious sounding morass?” And that was how I accumulated the largest collection of Secret Wars II tie-ins in the continental United States.

It is probably not true that DC spends more pages than anyone else on continuity accounting. I’m sure it just feels that way to me because of my background as a reader. When The Flash: Rebirth set up a ton of great story ideas in the first issue only to never touch on them again so that Reverse Flash could spend the rest of the series pulling out a whiteboard and delivering an oral presentation on the physics of the Speed Force Or Whatever, there were surely longtime readers who were satisfied by that.

I am not a longtime reader.

I want to be, but I seem to have an uncanny knack for poking a toe in right as a Zero Hour or Crisis is swinging through the scene like an incredibly expository wrecking ball. You can only end so many crossovers by going through your reality with a red pen. To the neophyte, it sounds like every one of these events has the same climax, and it’s some variation of “none of that happened just now; never mind. The reality ledgers are balanced for another fiscal year.” That’s not particularly compelling. I realize that all of these books functionally hinge on the illusion of change, but there’s perpetually maintaining the status quo with sleight of hand and then there’s literally telling the same story over and over from the beginning.

I also have a knee-jerk gut reaction to the re-costuming, re-aging, renumbering relevance gambit. It reminds me of the girl I knew in high school who was a different person every semester; “granola” gave way to “preppy,” then she got accepted to UVA and spent all summer practicing her southern accent and telling people to call her “Rhoda.” You don’t need new pants and high collars to make everyone like you and take you seriously, DC. Just be yourself! People will like you for you, if you let them.

But it is that point in the mini-tantrum at which I realize how foolish my gut reactions are. Frankly, what business do I have even having an opinion about this? If DC comics and their continuity are fine the way they are right now, and the series are great and best left alone, someone should tell that to my pull list and its three monthly DC books. I have no room to be turned off by this move. My prejudices should be the very reason for me to love it. I cannot go to bat for keeping Green Lantern the way it is. I’ve dropped more DC books in the last few years than I ever thought I’d read. I should be more open to a clean slate than anyone, as long as I don’t have to sit and read someone droning on about how the slate got cleaned and where they bought the Windex. It’s probably the best thing that could happen to me as a reader.

(Potentially, anyway. The creative teams I’ve seen announced so far do not exactly hold the promise of a bold new direction. “The artist you love is back on the book! As a writer!” makes the chimp pound NO until the handle breaks off the mallet. If I could articulate why, my brain would be a different cartoon.)

Most importantly, it will be easier than ever to sample the books and find out one way or the other. Another loop-the-loop on the emotional roller coaster this week happened when I drove across town on Wednesday for my comics only to be told that my shop had no new comics until Thursday because of Memorial Day. As I drove home empty-handed, I thought, “How can I not yet live in a world where this problem is avoided with the push of a button on my laptop?” After Flashpoint, it will be. The promise of day-and-date digital comics is going to change things in ways I can barely wrap my mind around now, and even if you don’t like any of the books they’re going to motivate people at other companies to compete in this space. I’ve uninstalled the DC app on my iPad twice already (and reinstalled it; I want to believe!) because the selection was negligible to the point of nonexistence. Let’s go ahead and call that problem solved.

I don’t really care how much the digital ones cost anymore, either. The chimp and I have gone past our “the paper must cost something” phase; I cannot look at my app with a straight face and clear conscience and say, “I have to pay $3 for a Batman comic? This is bullshit.”

By the end of the week, I could at least take solace in the idea that I was right there with Tom Katers by the time the ride came to a complete stop. Change is scary at first blush, but if you can keep snark and pessimism in your holsters long enough you might just enjoy it. If nothing else, keep them in your holsters long enough to remember this is the exact same stuff you said when the Ultimate Universe started.


 


Jim Mroczkowski is sure a lot of other people commented about all this, but Jim Mroczkowski is going to level with you: Jim Mroczkowski did not go anywhere near those comments. It was better that way. The chimp, you understand.

Comments

  1. Just as long as Tim Drake is still around I’m ok. He is my favorite DC character

  2. I thought Tom’s opiate of choice was Lortab/Vicodin? 

    I agree with every word. Jim, I’ve said it before and will probably say it again: You’re my alter-ego. Except funnier and more successful.  

  3. I like this article overall, though I am a bit tired of the ultimate marvel universe comparison. They are hardly the same thing, Ultimate Marvel was created as a Seperate Entity, its own universe, its own stories etc.. I know at the time people freaked out about it, but I honestly believed them (however naive that may be) when they said this won’t affect your month to month comics. I can reserve judgement to wait and see what happens but it sounds an awful lot like the DC MO of wipe it all out start over from the begining and that other stuff only happened if X writer needs it for an issue. 
     

  4. Ultimate Marvel didn’t REPLACE the original line, it added to it. Time may confirm this as having been a smart business move for DC. But I will seriously miss JOCK on Detective Comics. For me, hope springs eternal because Damian is still in place and they’ve not yet said anything about Red Robin.

    So … who thinks they’ll still do a Detective Comics #900 issue regardless?

    I really should thank DC, because my monthly comic book budget just got a little smaller.

  5. I have been reading comics since forever. Change is good since the “universe” could be getting a bit loaded with too much baggage for a new generation of readers coming on board. Let’s give DC credit for trying to keep its readership happy. I know its a good thing for me seeing Nightwing make a comeback. I’m a big Batman fan (Marvel stuff at times too). I was liking Batman, Inc. though it would not upset me if it went away, really. Just enjoy comics and have fun with it!!

  6. @convoy83  pretty much

  7. Give your chimp a hug Jim, everything will be just fine.

  8. It made me a little crazy at first too. I’m starting to realize that life, and stories, will go on. Now, I just view it as something I’ll be explaining to the husband a few years from now when he has questions about whatever new movie DC is putting out being different from something floating around in his brain from either Batman: TAS or just generally being a non-reader who’s comics adjacent.

     

  9. sometimes your columns hit so close to home it scares me. this and your love of SNL make me think that we must share some sort of psychic bond

  10. I love the mental picture of the chimp in Jim’s brain.

  11. This is like a four-man rotation in baseball. Conceptually it could be very effective but you better be damn sure you have the right people in place to make it happen.

  12. Jeff Reid Jeff Reid (@JeffRReid) says:

    Jim, I think I see what you’re saying with this article. You’re saying that you want to borrow my Zero Hour trade. That’s fine. Just let me know when you want it.

    Right now, I’m imagining your chimp hitting that green “Yes” button over and over. 

  13. I’m not reading much DC anymore anyway. The last time I jumped back on their bandwagon was around the time of the last renumbering (WW, Atom, JSA, Spirit, Doom Patrol, etc.).

    A few titles look interesting (B: TDK continues, Freddie Williams III on Captain Atom, a Hawkman re-imagining). Not really gonna go whole-hog on this. I’ll pick and choose whatever I think looks cool, and wait for the inevitable wave of cancellations and re-reboots.

    I’ll probably also drop The Spirit at the renumbering. That and iZombie were about the last DC titles I was getting (other than Finch’s brief and intermittent The Dark Knight two-issue “run”).

  14. It’s so easy to be like Jim but we should all strive to be more like Tom

  15. I didn’t know I wanted to play strat-o-matic in a hammock until I read this. The die rolls will be hard to pull off though.

  16. If MARVEL was being re-booted, re-numbered, and de-aged, this would be a very different Jimski article.  Let’s all admit that at least.

  17. Yeah. Different things are different. You pulled back the veil.

  18. “If you were to look at a cartoon representation of my mind, you would see a big green YES button, a big red NO button, and a chimp with a mallet who smashes one of the buttons the second he hears a noise.”

    This might be the best thing you have ever written, Jim. Hilarious visual.

    For as much as I would like to be all ultra zen like Tommy Katers. I gotta admit that Jim’s take is much more along the lines of my own. The whole idea of a big reset seems a bit hollow and fake after seeing all the Green Lantern and Batman solicits. It’s pretty much more of the same, just with a new fancy package and crazy hype surrounding it.

    My chimp smashed the red button upon hearing about DC starting new and de-aging their characters. Which only a week later now looks to be a massive overreaction as things don’t seem to be all too different so far. Oh well. Gotta love people with big opinions and too little facts. Oh, internet. How much more sane we’d all be without you.

  19. Jim, great column.

  20. DC should have taken all the money it cost them to do this renovation of their company and used it to hire better writers. JT Krul is still JT Krul no matter what the issue number.

  21. “You can only end so many crossovers by going through your reality with a red pen.” – Brilliant.

    “‘The artist you love is back on the book! As a writer!’ makes the chimp pound NO until the handle breaks off the mallet. ” – Also brilliant

  22. @Thechangingman  Thinking they were kinda prepping him up to be the next Geoff Johns last year.

  23. When Tom Katers started writing for this site I was the only negative commentor of that article, if I remember correctly.  But thats a plus for this site because people obviously like what he brings.  The diversity is great.  That brings me to my point.  I always look forward to anything you write Jimski, and as per usual, you’ve delivered again.  Thanks and keep up the good work!

  24. So is Jimski iFanboy’s Bizarro Tom Katers?

  25. Doom Patrol #1 with Grant Morrison would sound pretty nice right about now.

  26. nice article, Jimski. I am in full agreement that DC needs to do something drastic to get me as a regular reader; I think they are doing absolutely the right thing with the digital strategy and the reboot, but the actual content is the very definition of shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic. There is simply no new talent coming in. 

  27. I am planning on dropping all monthly DC titles in September.  Not so much because of the reboot (which “isn’t a reboot”, according to DC’s Bob Wayne in a letter to retailers last week), but because they are dumping 52 monthly ($3.99!) titles into the marketplace ALL AT ONCE!!  Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure 20 or 25% of those books will be good, some of them really good.  But it’s too rich for my blood.  I’ll wait until the dust settles in a year and the bleeding-edgers have sorted out the lot of them, and pick up a few titles in trade collections.

  28. Yeah, how ridiculous of DC to wipe out characters’ pasts.  You’d never see Marvel erasing somebody’s marriage, or bringing a dead character back to life, or having someone from the future try to change the timeline…..

  29. @ASSTACKLER  This is an honest question regarding your Doom Patrol/Morrison statement.  Does this indicate that you are interested primarily in the Doom Patrol as a collection of characters, that you are interested primarily in reading material written by Morrison, or that you base your expectations on his previous work with the the Doom Patrol?

  30. @positronic  The majority of them are going to be $2.99, aren’t they? JLA is the only one announced to be 3.99, since it’s oversized. And I doubt they will all hit in the same week – I’m expecting them to be spread out over a couple of months at least. Still, nothing wrong with sitting on the sidelines to see how it pans out of course. If a book is good, you’ll hear about it.

  31. @cahubble09  What they’ve shown of red robin it’s better to not have him around anymore. I am a Tim Drake fan he was robin when I started reading comics and when he became red robin I loved it but that TT cover makes me wish he just got killed off.