Friday, January 23, 2009

Commentary: Didio's 20 Answers

Read the January 23rd edition of "Dan DiDio: 20 Answers, 1 Question" at Newsarama, then come back...

Back already? Great. Reading Didio's replies, I couldn't help but have some visceral reactions:

ON TITANS FUTURE: Didio says, "Jericho was revealed as that book’s villain, we found out that Jericho, in leaping from body to body has also been picking up character traits and memories of the different people he’s been in, so it’s been leaving his mind a little shattered and rambling."

In DC DECISIONS (as I understand it) Jericho specifically tries to assassinate one of the candidates. Over in TITANS, he's confused and wants to do evil things. So, he's NOT "acting" like Slade or any villain in particular. He's just acting like a psychotic crazy person. And, what about all the heroes he's possessed? They have no sway on his psyche? And again, with this idea that Slade out and out "hates' the Titans. He NEVER hated the Titans - it was a contract he was FORCED to uphold. Then abandoned, and even became the Titans' ally. Everyone keeps claiming they revere the Wolfman/Pérez era Titans - as they proceed to ignore all the great things Marv and George built.

ON TITLES FOR "ALL AGES" and TWEENS: By Didio's response, it's almost like he doesn't understand the difference between "all-ages" and "for kids under 8 years old." Something like THE INCREDIBLES is all-ages, providing fun adventure for the kids, and some sly references and intelligent scripting for older folks. And while "all-ages" isn't specifically geared towards tweens, it would at least appeal to them.

Books like TINY TITANS and SUPERFRIENDS are only appealing to small children (and maybe some fun-loving fanboys). Tweens would grow out of those series by the time they were 7 or 8. And DC Comics has nothing for tween consumers. The mainstream DC titles are took dark for Tweens, with harsh language, sexual references, rape and violence.

Didio says, " I think people sometimes forget what brought them in when they were kids. An Uncanny X-Men by Claremont and Byrne, or a New Teen Titans by Wolfman and Perez and even the Legion of Super-Heroes by Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen – a lot of those books are books that current fans now point to as being what brought them to comics when they were kids. "

Yes, those books brought me into comics when I was 9-12 years old. But I must have missed the issue where Cyclops called Wolverine an a--hole (language used in FINAL CRISIS). Or the one where Cosmic Boy tore someone's body in half on-panel while Lightning Lad decapitated some woman (se several DC titles, like INFINITE CRISIS and 52). Or the issue where Professor X mind-wiped the team after Magneto raped them all (like in IDENTITY CRISIS). Or the issue where Starfire was lying naked in bed handcuffed, waiting for Robin to come in and have kinky sex with her (like in an issue of TEEN TITANS). Yeah, I missed those.

The sad thing is some of those books - IDENTITY CRISIS, FINAL CRISIS, INFINITE CRISIS, TEEN TITANS - feature mainstream DC characters like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Robin on their covers. Is Didio really suggesting this content is appropriate for a 9 year old?

Didio states that tween readers like "to read up." That is true. But so do younger readers. They will outgrow TINY TITANS and SUPERFRIENDS sooner than you think. And the content of the mainstream DC universe is too adult for them.

The real answer would be to tone down the adult content of the mainstream DCU to make it appropriate for tweens. But that's not the flavor of the day at DC. Their bread and butter is from the older fanboys, and I'm sure DC would live in fear of alienating them. So, short answer? DC really isn't interested in acquiring new, young customers. They'd rather try to get older long-term fans to buy more books.

Marvel, on the other hand, is more "all-ages" friendly for the most part. Stuff like MIGHTY AVENGERS, UNCANNY X-MEN and AMAZING SPIDER-MAN contain similar content as the books I grew up reading. The language may be a little coarser and the suggestiveness may be a little more, but it does track with what you see on TV these days compared to 20 years ago.

Marvel also has a "tween line" with their MARVEL ADVENTURES. Does Didio really not understand the gap in DC's product line?

THE MULTIVERSE: Didio says, "Let's go through the idea of the Multiverse first. Grant has a very clear, concise interpretation of so many of the worlds that inhabit the Multiverse – that's one of the reasons I say it's Grant's playground, because he really understands it, gets it, and knows what the full potential is. So, realistically, I'd rather work with Grant on exploiting the potential as he sees it, and I think the fans will react very positively to it."

So, it's Grant's playground because "he really understands it, gets it, and knows what the full potential is"... unlike John Broome, Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway, and Marv Wolfman? Yeah, those hacks just didn't get it.

It's parallel worlds. It's a pretty simple concept. I dunno, I enjoyed a ton of parallel world stories, and Earth-2 and Earth-C stories - before Morrison came in. We don't need Morrison's acid tripping to tell parallel world stories. I feel DC has ruined the fun and wonder of the Multiverse. They brought it back, and then squandered every potential it offered.

LEGION OF 3 WORLDS: Asked about the status of LEGION OF 3 WORLDS, which has been running exceedingly late, Didio replies, "We decided that, even though it's connected to Final Crisis, the story's events take place in the future, and therefore it didn't have to run lock-step in conjunction with the main series. Legion of 3 Worlds is essential to the DC Universe and tied to Final Crisis, but because stories take place in a future timeline, it doesn't need to come out in the same way that Revelations did."

So.... when the heck is it coming out? Just about everything surrounding FINAL CRISIS has been a monumental clusterf--- of scheduling. "Status" means "what is happening with the series right now?" That's part of the question. I'm disappointed Newsarama failed to press for any answers.

It's no wonder my DC pull list has dwindled to almost nothing....



  • At 9:24 PM, Blogger Mr. Fob said…

    I agree that there aren't enough all-ages titles from DC, but I disagree with the general consensus I've been hearing lately, that there aren't any. No, Superfriends isn't all-ages, but Tiny Titans is. It's not a traditional superhero adventure comic, but rather more of a comic strip humor comic; tweens who've watched the Teen Titans animated show would get most of the jokes, whereas younger kids don't at all. As for more traditional superhero comics that are all-ages, there's Billy Batson & the Magic of Shazam, and Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the Eighth Grade. I read all four of these to my kindergartener and Superfriends is the only one where she understands everything going on--the rest are targeted at kids 8-12, but both she (younger than target) and I (much older than target) enjoy them quite a bit. I suspect the Batman: Brave and the Bold adaptation coming out next week will be similar in tone.

    That said, the blood and gore and way-beyond-innuendo in the main line are getting kind of old. Granted, when I was thirteen I was reading Stephen King, but still... I guess it's just more jarring to see people ripped in half in a visual medium like comics.

  • At 1:07 AM, Blogger Nightwing said…

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • At 1:09 AM, Blogger Nightwing said…

    I agree that TINY TIITANS can be seen as all ages. But, I work in marketing, and I know a few things about the tween market. If it "looks like" kids stuff or beneath their age range, they generally reject it.

    I think tweens start gravitating to things like DRAKE AND JOSH, HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL, STAR WARS: CLONES WARS and HARRY POTTER because they are slightly more mature fare than Disney Princesses and THOMAS THE TANK ENGINE. My cousin rejected the Disney Princesses as "baby" stuff at 7 years old!

    I looke at books like the SUPERGIRL IN THE 8th GRADE and TINY TITANS, and I just feel that kids will think they are "baby comics" by the time they get to 6th and 7th grade.

  • At 1:27 AM, Blogger Mr. Fob said…

    I look at books like the SUPERGIRL IN THE 8th GRADE and TINY TITANS, and I just feel that kids will think they are "baby comics" by the time they get to 6th and 7th grade.

    That's a good point. I was in sixth grade when I started reading TMNT comics and I had to justify it to my friends by pointing out that, as opposed to the kiddie cartoons, these ninja turtles had killed Shredder in the first issue. In my mind, violence made the comic more "adult," and at eleven "adult" is what I wanted. When I was twelve I read Dark Knight Returns and liked it for similar reasons. Assuming I was a fairly typical kid (which I'll admit is a pretty big assumption), that makes me think that the sex-and-gore mainstream DCU titles really are focused at this age group, throwing in the naughty stuff to achieve the appearance of maturity without actually appealing to truly mature tastes. The fact that many of us adult fanboys and girls haven't matured beyond a twelve-year-old's definition of maturity just makes the marketing people's jobs all that much easier. I don't think the question is so much whether tweens want to read that stuff as whether we want them to read it. Which is still a valid question, to be sure.

  • At 1:57 AM, Anonymous FrankiePitt said…

    "In my mind, violence made the comic more "adult," and at eleven "adult" is what I wanted."

    I think that's a natural way for a kid to look at entertainment. It somehow legitimizes the 'geek' stuff.

    Unfortunately, I think that Didio's editorial voice, or for lack of a better term, his prime directive, is that of an 11-year-old boy. "Look, the heroes are mind-wiping Batman! Look, Elongated Man's wife got raped! Look, Superboy is maiming the Teen Titans! Look, death, death, and more death! Plus, blood and gore!"

    He seems to feel that violence (and to a lesser, but still prominent degree), language and sexuality, is somehow equated to quality. "Adult" things are happening, so it's "good."

    At worst, he's been a disturbingly short-sighted and misguided destructive force in the DCU. At best, he's naively torn asunder something which took generations to build, all while patting himself on the back.

    Didio seems to forget that the buck doesn't stop with him. These characters existed long before he was on stage, and, if we're lucky, they'll still be around when he's gone. In his eagerness to tell "good" stories, all he's successfully done is disrespect the past and leave a legacy of darkness and violence in his wake.

    I worked at DC under Mike Carlin, and while it wasn't easy, Carlin made sure that we treated these characters well, and that the DCU books could be enjoyed by readers of any age -- without that awful "all ages" tag. Comics were for everybody, plain and simple. And while Carlin's comics were for everybody...well, all I can say is that Didio's comics aren't for me. I've tried, but I just can support his point of view anymore.

  • At 12:47 PM, Blogger Hellfyre D said…

    Respect. That's the one word that many of today's creators need to learn. Respect for the characters they write, respect for what's come before and, most importantly, respect for their audience.
    The current Marvel and DC Universes are a clustered mess. Dark this and Final that ... please. I'd like to see some solid storylines that are told about super-heroes. Not emo-wannabees or sociopathic psychos ... super-heroes.

  • At 3:39 PM, Anonymous Cenzo said…

    Good Lord Bill, it's not the '80's anymore, move on!

  • At 3:49 PM, Blogger MetFanMac said…

    Great and incisive comments, Bill. I regard the Marvel All Ages books as the epitome of "all ages" comics--stuff DC used to have with DCAU and TTG! books.

  • At 11:56 PM, Blogger Nightwing said…

    Cenzo, I don't want 80s comics. Didio is the one who brought up the 80s. And, also, it's not about "the 1980s", it's about respecting EVERYTHING that has come before.

    And lest you think I want some form of retro comics, I'm enjoying a LOT of Marvel's input right now. They are putting out a good number of amazing books!

  • At 2:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The Judas Contract was written in the 80s.....the original Crisis happened in the 80s....Jason Todd was killed in the 80s....

    The 80s were part of the problem. The 80s is when the idea that you don't have to respect characters first got it's foot in the metaphorical door.

    We shouldn't look back to any one decade and say, "That's when they were doing it right." We should say, "This is what we need to do *now*."

    But of course, so long as Didio is in charge, all of this is moot. And the really scary part is that whoever succeeds him might be just as bad, or even worse.

  • At 6:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    "The 80s were part of the problem. The 80s is when the idea that you don't have to respect characters first got it's foot in the metaphorical door."

    Give that person a cigar. DC in the 80s was not much better than the 90s or now.

    It's the 20 years of rarely-met expectations that creates such disillusionment in fans.

  • At 3:09 PM, Anonymous WEST said…

    Dude, which Marvel books would you reccomend actually, because seriously, I'm sick of Bendis man.

  • At 6:51 PM, Anonymous Redbird03 said…

    I honeslty couldn't agree with you more Bill. The fact is, Didio is horribly patronizing towards his audience and treats his reads like they don't understand anything. Now I'm not one of those fans who is going to say that the writers should bow down to us the fans, because we claim know better than they do... however, whenever I hear Didio talk, he sounds condescending towards the fans.

    I see this particularly in regards to his comments about 'all ages books' and how some of us have 'forgotten' what brought us into comics. I don't know about you, but for me, what brought me into comics wasn't 12 months of a convoluted cross-over storyline, that went around killing off people left and right, and then raping others, and constant 'reformating' of history.

    What brought alot of us into comics was characters who were got to see ourselves in. Stories about the heroes stealing victory from the bad guys at the last minute. Characters building relationships with other character. The first DC comic I owned was when Tim Drake offically became the new Robin, by defeating Scarecrow. I was five or six at the time. What drew me to the character was the fact I could relate with him.

    I think back to that, and then wonder what would have happened were I five again and my first comic been an issue of Identity Crisis where Sue is getting raped, or Infinite Crisis, where Superboy Prime went on a killing spree and ripped off an arm so graphically... I'm pretty sure my parents would have looked at the book and then at me and gone "You're joking right?"

    I always thought books like Vertigo were supposed to be aimed at adults, while DC was more for everyone. But DC has become full out adult literature. New young readers still in the begining of grade school aren't going to understand the idea of rape and swearing on every other page. And their parents aren't going to want to explain it to them.

    And yes, I know all comics had their darker stories, like Jason dying, or Barbara being shot and crippled. But for the most part these sorts of stories were stuffed into one massive convoluted plot, and made even more gory in order to create more 'shock' value.

    I know Marvel has it points of extremely dark stories (i.e. Decimation, where a majority of the X-Men's students get murders very horribly), but for the most part, I flip through an issue of Spider-Man or the new run on X-Men, and I feel everyone could enjoy this. Yes, adult situations come up, like Cyclops and Emma having sex, but its hardly a graphic rape scene where the heroes then betray their morals by performing something more villain-like than heroic.

    And the multi-verse just makes my head hurt. Especially after reading Final Crisis. I'm still not fully sure what happened in that thing.

  • At 6:49 PM, Blogger AlbertJohn3 said…

    I think your remark about Marvel books being more friendly to the tween market is very wrong. The X-Men books have more adult like content in them than any DC title I read. One of the first statments in Uncanny #501 is that since they moved to San Fransico, all you see is X-Men having sex with each other. Not what I would call a tween type story. I would put DC's Johnny DC line up against Marvel Adventures any day. DC have very innovative titles like Billy Batson, Tiny Titans, and Supergirl. Marvel Adventures is just a "dumbed" down version of the Marvel U.

  • At 5:18 AM, Anonymous Redbird03 said…

    Well considering I've just so happen to have the new run of X-Men since the move to SF and I'm not really seeing anything that bad as you are implying. They have images of Scott and Emma lying in bed together after sex... hardly that bad. And yes, Emma Frost makes the comment of them feeling more sexually active...

    And yet, I find that FAR less disturbing and less adult than say showing Sue Dibney getting raped by Doctor Light.

    Sooo... I'd say we'd have to agree to disagree. Because discussing the acts of making sex, is hardly as bad as showing kids a man beating up a woman and then forcing himself on her.

    I have to agree with Bill, that while books like Tiny Titans are fun titles, they are not made for Tweens. They are made for the pre-tweens. Marvel adventures might be 'dumbed' down, but frankly a little kid can pick that up without feeling like its beneath them and 'baby-ish'.


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