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Wednesday, September 29, 2010 

Bob Harras is appointed DC's editor. What does this mean?

On a tip from Hube, I learned that Bob Harras, formerly EIC for Marvel, has now been hired for that very position at DC. Quite a surprise.

But is this good news? As the article I linked to says, the industry say it's good, but will we, the audience, feel the same way after a year or two, if the majors are still around by that time?

When Harras was EIC for Marvel, there were some pluses, like Peter David's run on the Incredible Hulk (though I think his terminating Betty Banner at the end was a mistake), and the Thunderbolts was launched during this time. But there were also plenty of minuses, like how a]Spider-Man suffered badly at the hands of the Clone Saga, b]the Avengers sunk into mediocrity, c]the X-Men really became weak under his reign, d]Iron Man was reverted to a teenager, and e] even the Fantastic Four didn't do well at the time. All of which led to the monstrosity that was Heroes Reborn. Some of these disasters were the result of editorial mandates, the biggest problem during the 1990s. Their storytelling approach became seriously implausible too, as they veered away from the kind of convincing human relations that made the MCU really famous in its time.

I suppose it's fair to note that towards the end of Harras' run as EIC, some things did begin to climb back, as some decent writers were brought in to fix the Heroes Reborn mess, and they backed away from the Clone Saga's premise that Peter Parker was the clone, and the real one was done away with. Even so, Harras did a lot of damage during his time as EIC, which may have been what led to the massive drop in sales. And even then, they were still having dire straits: Spider-Man was damaged again when the Final Chapter undid the death of aunt May Parker in 1998, and Mary Jane was "killed off", leading to a very dismal year for the series. And the X-Men was still a very mediocre affair. That's what led them to let him go, yet it did no good as they brought in Quesada in his stead, and we've all seen where that led in the long term.

I'd argue in fairness that he may not be as bad as his successors have been, but that was years ago, and it remains to be seen what he's like now, and if he's learned any lessons from his past mistakes when he worked at Marvel. These could include reversing the damage Dan DiDio inflicted upon the DCU when he was EIC, and if he can bring back some of the writers DiDio fired (Chuck Dixon, for example), while distancing them from writers like Geoff Johns. This can also include cutting out the company-wide crossovers, and even adopting a better format than monthly pamphlets with rising prices.

But if he doesn't do any of these steps, then it's just business as usual, and he may find himself out of a job as quickly as he came, since there'll be no publishing left. I'm sure there's many Marvel fans who'll attest they'd be wary of what he could do now that he's in charge of DC.

And I still think it'd be a lot better if DC and Marvel's comics publishing were owned separately from the conglomerates they're part of, and owned by a book publisher like Simon & Schuster instead. That way, they could get back to basics, be repaired, and even adapt to the current age much more convincingly.

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I doubt he'll be empowered to overturn DiDio's decisions since DiDio is, you know, his boss now...

I don't see this as a good thing at all.

Now that I remember, Harras wrote a concluding story to the previous JLA series about 5 years ago, that may have been a followup to Identity Crisis, with the League mostly disbanding in defeat. If he was willing to do that, you're right, this is nothing to look forward to at all.

And Harras was the one who first began steering Marvel away from believable storytelling efforts in the 1990s. One more reason why there's little reason to expect anything positive from him at DC now.

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