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Wednesday, September 05, 2007 

Julius Schwartz would never have done it that way

Reading the latest on DC's sales results at the Beat blog, I came across another reader comment well worth considering:
"Blue Beetle and Atom were part of Dan Didio’s colorful new revamps. In retooling many of the characters, part of Didio’s Brave New World, he replaced the lead characters in an attempt to bring more ethnicity to the line. A noble move but the road to hell was paved with good intentions. At the time, this move pissed off so many readers, it left a stink and instead of attracting readers, it repelled them. Additionally, he didn’t just replace the characters people knew and liked like Ted Kord, Ray Palmer and Ronnie Raymond. He destroyed those original characters, also turning more people off than on. This creates an aversion to people picking up the book. Even Julie Schwartz knew this when he replaced characters in the silver age, you don’t destroy the originals."
Absolutely correct. When they brought back the Golden Age Atom, Al Pratt, during the Silver Age, they did not kill him off in order to make way for Ray Palmer. They didn't need to. He was in no way obtrusive, not just because he didn't specialize in shrinking like Ray did, and not just because he lived in a different earth-plane at the time, but because he did have qualities as a character of his own, even if he couldn't carry his own title. And it's a shame that, when DC mandated Zero Hour during 1994-95, they didn't understand this.
"Thing is, fans and consumers feel an immense amount of ill will towards the sweeping changes in ‘DC Nation’. Whether it be because of all the late shipping titles, the bloodbath slaughtering of many people’s favorite characters, the sweeping replacements of Brave New World and the mess called Countdown, the fact still remains. DC has created more ill will amongst fans than good will. The ill [w]ill has left such a stink, creating such an intense aversion towards DC that now, its not just titles facing a loss but the entire DC brand.

[...]

So, while there may be many unconditional DC supporters out there who are willing to ride it through, this is not reflective of the majority consensus. Again, DC’s pissing and turning off of readers was so wide spread and intense during the past year or two, that once you turn your consumer away, it’s two times as difficult to get them or new readers back because all people remember is that DC as a brand has too much ill will. DC may feel their readers don’t matter (Dan Didio’s comment that he pays no mind to the online community) but obviously, they do otherwise they would be buying the books.

And its going to take a whole lot more than what they’re doing now to regain reader respect and consumer confidence. After all, you can throw the garbage away but when the stink is that bad and intense, the foul air is going to linger for a long time after."
Quite right. Anyone who's gathered the strength to leave the readership now can be very hard to lure back even when you take steps to make repairs too, one more reason why DiDio's mandates are likely to take a toll.

There are also some other points to make here: while ethnic characters can certainly be welcome, it's started becoming very forced lately, not to mention artificial, and haven't we seen the particular minorities they're using before? This is exactly why I've thought that, if there do have to be protagonists of certain ethnicities introduced in comics, surely they couldn't introduce some more of specific European backgrounds, like Armenians, for example? Or, if it's folks from Asia, couldn't it be Filipinos, who also seem to be overlooked?

But whomever they introduce, good writing should always precede/accompany them, and they shouldn't be touted on their background alone. And while it may be possible to replace the everymen with some of them, it shouldn't be done by destroying the everymen in the process. That's like implying that the everypersons were never any good to begin with, and an insult to their creators who put only so much work, like Gardner Fox, John Broome, and of course Julie Schwartz.

Let's also not forget that most minority group heroes featured in comics years ago were introduced as their own characters/protagonists, and weren't being intro'd just to replace the main heroes. Example: John Stewart, when first intro'd by Denny O'Neil in 1971, became a GL Corps member, but even if he too was called Green Lantern, he was in no ways intended to be a forced replacement for Hal Jordan like Kyle Rayner later became. And Black Panther and Black Lightning were intro'd as heroes of their very own, who could also be given character development as the years went by. It was nothing like the artificial approaches that have become a problem since the turn of the century. That's what today's editors and publishers besides the writers have to learn, or re-learn from. And they cannot just go around forcing mandates that lead to company wide crossovers on almost every book in sight since that just makes it near-impossible to write up any real character development.

The best thing DC and Marvel could be doing now is to start moving away from all these forced efforts to shoehorn minorities into comics -- especially if they're going to ruin originals heroes for the sake of it like Ray, Ronnie and Ted -- and force crossovers upon their entire lines for at least several years, and start focusing again on development for the protagonists who took up these roles to begin with, which is certainly possible to do. And if they have to replace the originals, then they should at least give the originals a respectable retirement and not go around ruining them and all the other things around them. Multiculturalism is just one of many things that's ruining comics today, and it's time to move away from that. As a minority group member myself, I've decided in the past few years that it would be ill-advised to demand more heroes of a Jewish background if it turns out to be artificial, certainly if their only idea of how to intro them is to contemptuously throw out original protagonists and forcibly put the new Jewish characters in their place. If they do it that way, I'll be very offended, because IMHO, it's wrong to ruin good creations for the sake of any one group.

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  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
  • I was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. I also enjoyed reading a lot of comics when I was young, the first being Fantastic Four. I maintain a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy in facts. I like to think of myself as a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. I don't expect to be perfect at the job, but I do my best.
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