There’s an undeniable problem with the comic book industry that has bugged me since I first became a fan in the 80s. No, I’m not talking about Marvel and DC’s ongoing struggle with transitioning to digital. Growing up through the 80s, I became a lover and loyal fan of comics. I never took part in the flame wars many of my friends loved to engage in — that being the inevitable argument of who’s better, Marvel or DC? There is no good answer, and there never was in my opinion (I still believe this). You just happen to like characters who you happen to like you know? For me, I tended to read DC more, but that was not because I happened to believe their publication was superior in any way — no, it was mainly that I preferred some of DC’s characters. Still, I frequently purchased many different titles from both of these two giants during the 80s, and even 90s.
So what about the 2000s? Well, during the early 2000s, my comic book reading increasingly slowed, as I became busy with things. Or so I thought! Surely, one could scrap together a few hours a week to head to their local comic book shop and pick up some of their favourite titles, eager to get home as fast as possible to start reading. Well here’s the problem: I slowly started to remember what annoyed me about the comic book industry when I first started reading them as a kid. Titles, there’s just too damn many of them! This I believe is a huge problem for many people, and not just to readers who are new to comics, although they are particularly affected by this. The glut of unnecessary titles needs to stop.
I felt that I could scrutinize DC’s current new52 lineup under a very particular lens — that of Apple computer. When Steve Jobs came back to Apple in 1997, he knew right away how he would save the company, who at the time was on the brink of bankruptcy. There’s a particular story of how Steve Jobs entered a board room and immediately started drawing on the white board what he though should be Apple’s ideal product lineup (at the time they ventured into printers and other non-typical Apple products. What Steve drew that day was a drastically minimalistic lineup of products. Everyone knows Steve loved minimalistic design, which of course he took to great painstaking lengths — much to the indignation of some of his engineers. Anyone who knows Apple and Steve knows that he didn’t like to be minimal for the sake of being minimal. There was always a purpose, and he knew very well that doing simple was in many ways harder than doing complex. So what does Apple have to do with the comic book industry? Well, as someone who is now getting back into comics again, I have to tell you, the glut of titles is dizzying! I can’t imagine how overwhelmed someone must feel coming into this today, with little or next to no knowledge of comic books.
For the record, I’m going to reference DC’s current relaunch efforts, the new52:
Action Comics, Superman, Superboy, Supergirl
Batman, Detective Comics, Batwing, Batman: The Dark Knight, Batman and Robin, Batgirl, Batwoman, Nightwing, Catwoman, Birds of Prey, Red Hood and the Outlaws
Green Lantern, Green Lantern Corps, Green Lantern: New Guardians, Red Lanterns
Justice League, Justice League International, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Captain Atom, The Fury of Firestorm, Green Arrow, The Savage Hawkman, Mister Terrific, DC Universe Presents
Justice League Dark, Swamp Thing, Animal Man, Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E., I, Vampire Resurrection Man, Demon Knights
Stormwatch, Voodoo, Grifter, Deathstroke, Suicide Squad, O.M.A.C., Blackhawks, Men of War, All-Star Western
Teen Titans, Static Shock, Hawk & Dove, Blue Beetle, Legion of Super Heroes, Legion Lost
That’s clearly a lot of titles (hence the number 52 in ‘new52’). Of course I know this is not entirely new, and that we’ve always had a ton of titles that have the same character(s), but with different writers and story arcs. I’m going to just cherry pick one beloved character of mine — Batman. So here we have a great, complex and very human character. Yet, DC thinks it’s a great idea to put him into the following various titles: Batman, Detective Comics, Batwing, Batman: The Dark Knight, Batman and Robin. That’s five titles for the same character… Five. Forgot what has been in the past okay? I want to look at this with a fresh perspective, going forward, and what I believe would simplify — in this case, DC’s publications. For the sanity of current readers, but even more importantly, future new readers, let’s pair down these titles. I don’t want five Batman titles of varying and arguably questionable quality. Please give me just one Batman title. I’ll give you a freebie DC, let’s call it: ‘Batman.’ Pretty creative huh?
Here’s my Jobs’ian re-working of DC’s new52 lineup:
Superman (Ruthless, I know)
Here I’m consolidating Action Comics and Superman into one title. Yes that’s right, I axed Superboy and Supergirl. I’ve always found them far less interesting. Also, you don’t need a title other than the apt ‘Superman.’ It speaks for itself.
Batman, Batwoman, Robin, Nightwing, Birds of Prey
Once again, just one Batman self-titled series is needed. I’m consolidating the three main Batman titles, and axing Batwing, Batgirl, Batman and Robin, and Red Hood and the Outlaws. Why? These titles don’t sell nearly as well, but more importantly they don’t seem to be nearly as well favoured. My rationale for keeping Batwoman is because I’ve never liked the name ‘Batgirl’ — it just seems so juvenile. As for Birds of Prey, I think that titles is unique and interesting enough that it survives this round of cuts (only assuming the writing is top-notch). I also felt that Robin should once again get his own title, which would effectively replace the need for Batman and Robin. I’m not saying Robin can’t be in the occasional Batman title, but I feel that he should just get his own series instead of being featured full time with Batman. The current Catwoman title is sexist to the nth degree, but that aside, I just can’t see Catwoman having her own title. I never have, and I’ve read enough of them over the years.
Green Lantern, New Guardians (re-titled for simplicity), Red Lanterns
Justice League, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Arrow, The Savage Hawkman
Swamp Thing, Demon Knights
Meh. I could do without theses.
Teen Titans, Blue Beetle
There are some titles that I left in, but which I believe have never been strong. I don’t know about anyone else reading this, but Hawkman has never piqued my interest. Maybe because he just looks so damn silly. My goal here was to simply pair down the glut of titles and simplify the entire product offering. While this serves to primarily benefit and entice new readers who are new to the comic book world, it will also help the sanity of existing readers who may feel like they need to read every ‘x’ variant ongoing issue of their favourite character(s). If the writing is strong, but ultimately the characters are inherently flawed in too many ways, or are simply uninteresting, then I think they should be cut completely.
Reader note: Assume that I believe the title and/or character(s) that are cut are weak if I don’t mention a reason why they were cut.