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Monday, July 05, 2021 

A digital project lets readers decide the characters' fates

Remember the time DC made themselves look incredibly ludicrous in 1988 by letting readers decide the fate of Jason Todd in Batman? Coin Desk has an article about a digital NFT-based comic project titled The Nine whose producers have a similar objective:
In 1988, when fans turned against the second character to wear the costume of Batman’s sidekick, Robin, a character named Jason Todd, D.C. Comics set up a telephone poll system to decide whether Todd should live.

Fans voted for that Robin to die, and so the Joker killed him off in Batman #428.
Did fans really turn against Todd? That's very disputable, since the margin in the phone poll was narrow, and less than 12,000 votes were logged in the final result. DC may have advertised the stunt, but 11,000 or so votes (some of which could possibly have been multiples by the same person) hardly says much about the audience, even at a time when customers for mainstream were at least more than they are today, even if back then, it still didn't comprise a very high number of the wider public.
In those halcyon days, there were other analog ways for fans to interact with the comic books they loved, most notably the letter columns printed in the backs of the books. Today, comic publishers have dropped such forums into the oubliette.

Now a new crypto-powered entertainment company aims to bring interactivity back to comics.

Called InterPop, members of its creative team promised there will be similarly crucial decisions for fans to make in its storylines as its lines of comics roll out this year.

InterPop will start off by introducing a bunch of characters in its Emergents universe, starting with a book called The Nine, issue #0 of which will come out July 17.

“Characters are going to die over the course of this run of comics. And it will be fan decisions that will dictate who those characters are and what shoes they will be wearing,” Brian David-Marshall, InterPop’s president, said in an interview.

Rachel Gluckstern, the editor of the comics, is a veteran of the big comics publishing houses. She sees fan voting as a slightly more humane way to get feedback “that doesn’t go by sales information,” she said. It’s an internet-era approach that evokes those old days of comic book letter columns. “This is a way for us to really understand what fans are thinking,” she said.
This could certainly explain why they're heading in a decidedly flawed direction for marketing, in addition to pandering, however unintentionally, to a segment who put a low value on the importance of life. If they intend to kill off characters instead of trying to get readers invested in them, what's the whole point? This is counterproductive to the power of storytelling if you're only in this to make mincemeat of whomever the targets turn out to be, and I most definitely will not be associating myself with this NFT project.

It's bad enough the whole Jason Todd affair pushed this kind of obsession with character slaughter in mainstream superhero fare over the edge. Now there's indie publishers out there who really believe it's a positive direction, no matter how much the end result looks more like bad fanfiction.

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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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