A couple of weeks back, I wrote a post about the upcoming ‘Dark Cheerleader Mary Marvel’ that was coming in the DCU. Several people took me to task for singling out DC and not writing about how many of the same dark, cynical and death-filled story lines were/are happening in the Marvel Universe as well. These folks are right, of course. It’s happening at both companies. I suppose the difference for me is that– my own personal point of view– the contrast between Marvel and DC has been for years that Marvel’s books were always darker in tone– more supposedly based in the ‘real world’… and that DC’s offerings were brighter… more colorful and came from more of a place of hope and light. The heroes of the DCU stood for optimism and the promise of a brighter future in the face of forces that would bring darkness and destruction to the world. In essence– the DCU was, to me, the place for a more stark contrast between the forces of light/good and the forces of darkness/evil. Perhaps that’s a naive and myopic viewpoint (and also maybe entirely off the mark… but it’s my perception nonetheless)– but DC comics were always more colorful and fun for me.
Now Bart Allen joins the ever growing list of characters who are dying in the DCU.
This one hits a bit closer to home since I was in on his very beginnings, having been asked to design his IMPULSE persona when Mark Waid created the character in FLASH (which granted me the title of ‘co-creator’… but make no mistake, this was all Mark’s baby. I was happy to accept the royalties and residuals that came from that status, but I didn’t have any illusions). Let me be clear– I haven’t read FLASH #13. I don’t really read that many superhero books anymore because the dark and depressing nature they’ve adopted just doesn’t interest me. I got my fill of that in the mid 80′s with DARK KNIGHT and WATCHMEN. I’ve read many reviews of the ‘event’, though… and I think the reaction overall has been that the story was 1) very badly done… and 2) in the end, a real yawner and not something that’s had the ‘stunning event impact’ that DC was hoping for. I think this is symptomatic of the idea that fans are simply getting a bit weary of all this kind of thing. I think that the event-comic-that-heralds-the-death-of-lots-of-characters has become the new gold-foil/Lenticular/Acetate/holographic cover of the 2000′s. They’re stunts… gimmicks meant to sell comics. The writing seems to have taken a back seat to earth-shattering events that are having less and less impact as they are overdone.
I’ve had many conversations with creator friends of mine about the pendulum swing that happened in the wake of the IMAGE explosion back in the early 1990′s. The sort of ‘we don’t need no stinking writers’ attitude of the IMAGE founders resulted in what were nicely drawn comics with little story, for the most part. They became commodities and not comic books with good stories to go with the flashy drawings. The other major companies, in response, tried to emulate the initial massive success IMAGE had by doing similar types of books with crazy cover gimmicks thrown in for good measure… and the quality of the entire industry, for the most part, suffered. It drove many long-time fans away. In the aftermath of that sales bloodbath, the creative pendulum swung in the writers direction and away from the emphasis only on artwork as the selling point. It’s been that way for some 15 years or so now…. and I think that pendulum swing may have reached its apex. My feeling is that in recent years, the quality of writing in comics has diminished. Maybe it’s not the writers’ fault… maybe it’s editorial edict that has replaced good story, plot and character development with the stunt… the event… to sell comics. Maybe I’m just a middle-aged fuddy-duddy who has lost touch with what makes for interesting comics.
I hope the latter is true, for the industry’s sake. I’d hate to think of another big downturn in sales due to a drop in quality. That wouldn’t help anyone– especially those of us who make our livings in this business. What do the rest of you think? Am I that far off base….? Anyone read FLASH #13…? Did you find it to be a good story? Feel free to leave your thoughts on any of this.
OK… that’s it for today. Back to work for me.
This is Entry 393.