“Welcome To Abilene”: DC’s Next Big Idea and Why it’s Going To Annoy You

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Let’s talk about DC Comics for a moment, you remember them right? I know everybody forgets that there is such a thing as a “Not Marvel Comics” out there but I assure you, they exist.

DC Comics, they publish Batman, remember?

Courtesy of Wikipedia

“Home of Batman and bunch of other stuff related to Batman”

 

So let’s take a trip back to 2011, an ancient age separated from our current time by a Jay Z Album, a presidential election, and several dozen episodes of Keeping up with the Kardashians. It was a dark time, where a crappy Micheal Bay movie about robots reigned supreme and someone thought a 4th Pirates of the Caribbean movie would be a good idea. Into this age, DC birthed Flashpoint, a multi book crossover where Flash goes back in time and messes up the time stream to the point that the DC universe that I had been reading since 1990 was radically altered. This event is now known as the “New 52” and it was a desperate gamble to bring in new readers that required the company to ditch everything in their quirky, less than hip universe and bring in crazy new ideas that were written by Dan Dido which didn’t feel that new or even that good.

A lot of fans hated this idea, yours truly included, and despite a lot of angry moans from comic shops across the country,  we watched helplessly as DC and it’s evil corporate masters pushed forward with their horrifying plans. Suddenly the DC universe was filled with idiocy like Superman wearing battle armor, not being married to Lois Lane, and dating Wonder Woman. Catwoman became a sexual predator, Starfire from the Teen Titans became an intergalactic Paris Hilton, Obsidian, the best Gay super hero ever, was wiped from history so they could make Obsidian’s super hero father gay… in an alternate reality. Nobody hired any new female writers, or black writers, or even new writers, and Liefeld got his frat boy hands on Hawkman. In a way it felt like Revenge of the 90s, with funky new costumes, a new Constantine book, and the weird return of talent from Image Comics.

But I am forced to admit there were a lot of good things in the New 52 that worked really well: Green Lantern Simon Baz is a fun character, Cyborg looks and feels right at home in the Justice League, and Scott Snyder’s Batman and Brian Azzarello’s Wonder Woman are perhaps the two best books I have ever seen in my entire life. Other stuff now feels fresh and clean thanks to New 52’s reorganizing. For the first time in two decades, DC’s often underused magical characters became a hell of a lot more important. In fact, Swamp Thing, JL Dark, and Animal Man are having a strange Renaissance as the Former Vertigo characters receive a lot of mainstream support (again, Revenge of the 90s). And this publishing event did achieve its stated goal of bringing new readers into DC Comics. People of all ages stopped by to check out what DC was up to and DC went from being that old curmudgeon at the end of the street, to that grandpa who offers cookies to passing kids.

However, none of those “achievements” needed the New 52, DC didn’t need to demolish 20+ years of continuity to tweak Superman’s uniform or end his marriage, DC didn’t need to ditch hundreds of issues of story just to make their universe younger and hipper, the Young Justice cartoon and Arrow TV series did that for them. In the end, New 52 has felt like driving a long distance to gain surprisingly very little. This is a publishing event that at best people can say achieved a mild success while Marvel Comics threatens to become so important to pop culture that Obama may have them on his speed dial. So despite achieving it’s goal, despite bringing in new readers and earning tons of publicity for the brand, New 52 is really an incredible failure because it failed to help the House of Mystery regain it’s former place in the market.

Fast forward to this morning when USA Today reported this:

From Syfy.com

Pictured: Exhibit A of my future murder trial

That’s right,  Convergence, a huge, annoying crossover from the Company that perfected the huge annoying crossover. It seems DC is bringing back all of its Pre-New 52 characters for a crossover that establishes that “it’s all still relevant” (whatever the hell that means) and where a little bit of my soul dies inside. Once again, DC Comics is attempting to have its cake and also eat that cake and also hit the gym and count calories by using multiverse fudging that pretends to give me everything I want without actually accomplishing anything . After two years of pretending that JSA, Donna Troy, Blue Beetle, JLA, the hook hand, Electric Blue Superman, and the red underwear were gone forever, I am forced to suffer the indignity of Dido and Warner Bros using my nostalgia against me to make a sale. God damn them.

What infuriates me, and probably a lot of other fans, is that even after four years of hearing the fans scream: “This is dumb.” and watching DC struggle to find its footing, now DC appears to be backpedaling. Now finally they’re going to fix canon, try to give us some of the stuff we enjoyed, and then turn around and say “Remember all that old stuff?” to all the old fans as if that wasn’t what we were begging them to give us four damned years ago.

They didn’t listen to the fans when they started us on this journey and now they refuse to acknowledge that maybe that journey was dumb in the first place.

Have you ever heard of the Abilene paradox? It’s a concept from Human Resources Development and business management that’s used to illustrate “group thinking” and bad decision-making. Basically, there’s this family in Coleman, Texas who decides to drive the long distance to Abilene to go to a fancy restaurant. None of the family members actually want to go to Abilene but each of them privately assumes that everyone else wants to go and thus no one raises their private objections. So they go to Abilene and have a terrible time and on the way home, everyone blames one another for forcing them to go to Abilene when really it’s everyone’s fault.

That, to me, sounds like the best explanation for how DC must have come to its initial decision to create the New 52 and that is why it’s never really felt like a good idea. New 52 is yet another example of DC failing to listen to it’s fans, failing to listen to the market, and just plain failing in general. They thought they needed to be “younger” and “cooler” to get more fans and in the end they removed the organic things that the fans already loved to get to a very artificial place.  New 52 has largely failed because it had none of the things fans ACTUALLY wanted (female writers, evolving perspective, better stories) and instead offered us things that we never asked for.

If you’d like to talk to DC about this, feel free to write them a letter at their new corporate offices. I don’t have the address on me but I hear it’s in Texas…wanna guess which city?

Daniel Monaco