Newsarama had a pretty good story yesterday, offering what they called "unsolicited advice" to DC Comics ahead of their upcoming relaunch. While the story raised some pretty good points, many of them weren't that different from something I'd hammered out myself in the days immediately following the relaunch and circulated to some friends and industry professionals to get their thoughts.
In the spirit of Newsarama's story, I dug up those old thoughts and have laid them out here, along with a minimal bit of fine-tuning to adjust for things we know now, which we didn't know then. What about you, as readers? What do you hope to see in the new DCU?
I'm looking for:
- Innovative and invigorating takes on characters whose die-hard fans spend a ton of time trying to sell them to us, but who haven't had a successful book in years. (I'm looking at you, Aquaman, Hawkman, Firestorm and even Captain Marvel!) If these characters are capable of instilling such passion in their fans, how is it that the rest of us are never able to pick up on what makes them great? Clearly there's something being lost in the way the message is transmitted.
- A balance of simplifying a title and a character's backstory with retaining the best elements and supporting characters (Johns' take on Green Lantern is a good, but not perfect, example of how to do this and I've got faith in his continuing in that vein). We expect even the all-new, all-different Oliver Queen to be a limousine liberal, for example. It's one of the few things about him that everybody knows.
- Speaking of supporting characters, let's have some. Some of my favorite titles of the last ten years have featured characters who couldn't support their own title, but whose supporting casts were so strong you really wanted to see more of THEM when the solo book was gone and the character in question was relegated to being another face on a team book (see Marc Andreyko's Manhunter or the recent volume of Blue Beetle for how it's done). Creating a meaningful connection with remaining supporting cast members or even some new ones may ease some of the ache of losing guys like Rip Hunter and Wally West.
- And the way to do that? Team books can be for teams and universe-level events. Let's see solo titles steer clear of such things for a while, leaving us to really get to know the CHARACTERS. This is especially important with the characters who are more drastically changed, as not only do new readers need to get to know Superman and Green Arrow, but old readers have to realize that they can't take things for granted either.
- Focus on more done-in-one stories or short arcs. I know we've all been saying this for years but here's a dirty little secret: I haven't. I love things like the Sinestro Corps War. But if the digital new frontier is really intended to bring in fresh eyes, we need to make at least the early stages of their introduction easy on those eyes. The challenge, of course, is to even this out with a direct market that disdains these things. This is the item on my list that evoked the most "Yeah, but..." responses from people who saw it early on.
- An anthology series that has enough promotion, talent and whatever else it takes to SURVIVE. I'm delighted to see they're soliciting an anthology series but it would be a real shame if it ended right after the Deadman arc was through. If we could find a way to make this title something people really anticipate and enjoy, maybe it could launch new or obscure properties to unexpected levels of popularity (see also: Wednesday Comics). This, as well as the Western and War titles may be something that DC has to bite down and take some lumps on in order to have it around to help the overall line.
- Speaking of anthologies, it would be great to have one digital book for like $10 that collects the week's new releases, like what they have with the free preview booklet thing every week on Comixology. If they could make it available as a black-and-white newsprint copy two weeks later or something to retailers for cheap that would be even better, but that's looking backwards not forwards and not something that's likely to happen.
- A good weekly, and one that focuses on being Good as opposed to "Important" (again, like Wednesday Comics). New readers who are paying 1.99 or 2.99 for digital copies are likely going to rationalize it by likening it to the TV show model, where that's the going rate for an episode. Great! But TV shows are weekly and comics are monthly. Launching in September, just as most popular TV shows are getting going again after their hiatus, means that digital consumers may get monthlies lost in the shuffle unless it's a book they really fall in love with. Get a decent weekly going--even if it's just re-purposed classic stories. I'd love to see 60-page, self-contained reprint stories coming out weekly for cheap.
- And speaking of the TV model, let's go for something that has been almost completely lost to the direct market: Subscriptions, and subscription pricing. I bought Bones and Glee as digital products instead of DVDs this season. It's the first time I've ever done such a thing, and I'm NOT the target audience for that. Why did I do it, then? Because when I went to buy an episode my DVR had missed, it was $2.99 for an HD version or $0.94 per episode to subscribe to the season. Obviously that's an incredibly deep discount and probably not wise or sustainable for DC at first...but looking at products like Batman: The Brave and the Bold and Young Justice shows between a 5% and 15% discount if you commit to buy. It also automatically purchases new releases for you and e-mails you to let you know when they come out. None of this seems out of the realm of plausibility with Comixology or whatever software DC ends up using.
- And lastly (not because I don't have more I'd like to see but because I'm starting to drift dangerously away from the "IN the DCU" part of the question), I'd like to see broader support for non-Apple devices in the app store/digital comics marketplace. I have a Nook Color, which is about half the cost of an iPad and does everything I want in a tablet. Comixology doesn't support my Nook's version of Android, though, and so the only way for me to read the digital titles I buy is to use my web browser to read it on their monumentally inefficient and badly-laid-out website. Seriously--try going there after you've been away for a while and, just for a laugh, look for where your already-purchased digital comics are. Then call me half an hour later to let me know you found it.