Next up? Next IP?

It’s the year of announcements—Wonder Woman, Black Panther, Daredevil, etc. The floodgates have opened and every Kal, Bruce, and Logan has been plastered across our small and silver screens. C- and D-list white male characters (S’up, Gambit?) and even A-list male characters of color and white female characters (T’Challa? Carol? Very nice to see you!) have crossed the four-colored threshold into the third dimension. Is that scraping we may hear at the bottom of the barrel?

Not hardly. Hollywood has yet to fully exploit the superhero genre. Yes, we are well into our second decade and there are still stories to tell. Much like the reviled rom-com, the superhero is not going anywhere. Critics may cry that the movies are of no substance, but the films make very large numbers of people with considerable sums of money feel very good. And for that reason, much like your annual meet-cute vehicle for the ingénue of the moment, they will be around for a long time.

Yet much like the public tires of particular ingénues after a period of time, it will tire of particular brands as well. And still Marvel and DC approach the public the way a dealer approaches an addict—or, quite frankly, the way publishers currently approach comic-shop retailers—pushing more of the same product to the same people at a faster rate with no thought of changing markets or the condition of their consumers.

No, the public will not tire of superheroes, but if you saturate the market with one particular brand, one set of characters, it will grow weary of hearing stories about them. The tales of Marvel and DC characters are our modern myths; they will stand the test of time as did Zeus and Paul Bunyan. But how often does the public wish to hear the origin story of the Greek gods in 2014? The public does not even want to see the origin story of Jesus on-screen more than once a decade let alone Spider-Man’s!

To bring in an example from our modern era, how many James Bond tales can entice the public each year? Even one a year would be too much. Has the public tired of action thrillers? No. But it does have a set tolerance for James Bond. And when that level has been reached, it is time for John Wick.

If you flood the market the public will tire of you faster—and you will have to wait that much longer for the public to once again embrace you. Though the current slate of announcements has elated Marvel and DC fans, some of the upcoming superhero movies will be flops—more than likely those helmed by Sony and Fox, studios so desperate to hold onto a superhero franchise that they will churn out a subpar product to maintain it. I have a sneaking suspicion Inhumans will do poorly as well; it is a weaker rehash of the X-Men’s tale—a tale that has already lost its way by having no members of any ostracized groups involved in the telling of a story about a group of people contributing to a world that hates and fears them. The lack of voices from those the world currently, quite honestly, hates and fears has removed the teeth from the X-Men (and will from the Inhumans). Hopefully Marvel can fix this issue before the franchises are due for a major launch/relaunch by either including those voices or changing the basic premise of the two franchises. Both options are easy fixes.

If Marvel and DC wish to consistently remain in the spotlight and stay in the public’s good graces simultaneously they will have to bring more to the table than just superheroes. And they will have to let some of their superhero IPs lie fallow for a period of time. Luckily, they have quite a few IPs in other genres that are ripe for exploitation—characters that are currently languishing in limbo. Which ones? Well, that’s a topic for another blog post.


Where are you, Keezy?

I cannot be the only individual desperate to know Karen Berger’s next step professionally! Not only is Berger an amazing editor, but more vital to any publisher looking to add to his or her creative arsenal, the woman is a walking Rolodex. Her connections and her ability to develop an easy rapport with some of the industry’s most notoriously eccentric—though talented—personalities, makes her a key asset. The comic industry needs women like Karen Berger.

Unfortunately, Berger does not require the comics industry to thrive professionally. Her knowledge regarding the publishing industry extends far beyond the smaller world of comics publishing. She could easily set up shop with a publisher of trade books. She would be missed, but should she wish to forego the many glass ceilings of comics, it would be understandable. Even as enviable as her position at Vertigo was, she deserved more.

Given Image’s shrewd repositioning as a modern-day Vertigo, one has to question if Berger will move to the independent publisher once the dust has settled regarding her departure from DC. I jokingly stated on Twitter that as Image has become the new Vertigo, now Vertigo must become an avant-garde IDW, selecting edgy licensed properties to develop given the ensuing difficulty it will soon have in obtaining new works. Sans Berger and a creator-friendly outlook, convincing writers that their creations will be safe at Vertigo will require a level of finesse DC may no longer possess. However, DC does possess the strength and financial backing of Time Warner, which may provide it with the funding necessary to simply buy the rights to the trendy IPs it will need to remain competitive.


Ramblings about DC’s 52.

“You know what would be awesome? If DC had an eight-page weekly comic that was solely digital and ran for free on iTunes for a year. I think it’s a damn good way to get a whole bunch of eyes on your IPs. Plus, it primes those eyes for a regular expectation of DC content. I say DC because DC and Marvel are really the only companies with the money to do that. Or (going into souless company man mode) you make it a talent contest and have the audience vote on eight-page stories. So, you’re getting free content from creators who wish to audition. The entry with the highest rating gets a miniseries deal.”

—Cheryl Lynn Eaton

Please note that my awesome ideas are awesome and should happen immediately. Also, please note that a digital exclusive that costs money will not get one anywhere. People who have never tried comics are not going to start if they have to open up their wallets. They need a regular hit of that free, uncut Batman to get them hooked and into the routine. Man, DC. What the hell are you doing over there?

Also, if the entries are really good? You package those suckers into a couple of graphic novels and make a few bucks off printed trades. It would also be best if the content were serial in nature. Like a soap, strip, or old radio show.


JL: The B-List

Justice LeagueI feel rather guilty commenting on this image. After all, a character is a character is a character where a superhero is concerned. The redundancy that occurs is so rampant that a mainstream comic is only as good as the creative team attached to it. The concept? The character’s design? Well, it has all been done before, hasn’t it? Any complaints I have simply come down to a matter of personal taste. My opinion is no more valid than the opinion of any other reader.

A company only has to worry when a large number of negative opinions correspond. And even in this instance action is not necessarily needed right away. Trademarks can take quite a few blows before one is forced to assess the damage and make crucial changes. DC could have happily coasted on America’s love for Batman for several more years if need be. However, its second base, Superman, seemed to be wearing away beneath a wave of apathy and continuous court proceedings. It was clear that a change was needed. But have enough changes been made?

Aside from the addition of Cyborg, DC’s “big seven” are the same characters we have always seen. And so far, the costume designs and origins have not been altered enough to spark my interest. But on a positive note, these small changes might be the exact changes needed to rein in lapsed DC fans. Personally, I would have swapped Cyborg out for Mr. Terrific. Yes, Cyborg is a known intellectual property, but the majority of individuals familiar with the character know him as a teen. Placing him in the JLA is akin to putting Blade in a children’s cartoon. It can be done, but why? Mr. Terrific is a better fit as the JLA’s resident tech hero and a JLA placement would have helped to bolster sales of his solo series. Again, just one opinion. I would have also swapped Barry for Wally, but most Americans couldn’t care less which character is in the suit. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t really matter. All of DC’s most powerful trademarks are lined up in a neat little row—as it should be.

The second tier is where DC veers severely off course. And sadly, the second tier is more important than the first, for that is where the powerful trademarks of the future are found. Judging from this group? DC’s future looks weak and out of touch with mainstream America.

But let’s focus on the good first. The Atom. If that is a poorly rendered Ryan Choi, then I’m very impressed. Bringing an Asian American character into the “big leagues” is a great move. Bringing back a dead character that fans thought of fondly? Even better. Bringing in a character that can bring a fun Spider-manesque quality to the table that is truly unique for the crew assembled? Enjoy your home run, DC. You’ve earned it. Still, that could be Ray Palmer depicted, but I’m not even going to contemplate the possibility that DC would make such a backward-looking and uninspired choice.

Moving on, we have Deadman, Element Woman, Firestorm, Green Arrow, Hawkman, Mera, and an unknown woman who could be any number of DC’s light-haired heroines. The first thing that comes to my attention is how overwhelmingly white the troop is. This wouldn’t be an issue, but given the minimal ethnic and racial diversity within the “big seven” it is a troubling problem. This is supposed to be the future of the DCU. These are the intellectual properties that will be DC’s building blocks for the next several decades. And they in no way reflect the future of America visually. They in no way reflect the present of America visually. I think making this incarnation of Hawkman multi-racial/ethnic would help—especially given America’s latest crop of action heroes. However, DC’s new characters of color seem to be exclusively male. This should also be rectified. Replacing a redundant character such as Mera or Element Woman with a female character of color would be an improvement—preferably a woman who is not the same ethnicity as Atom or Cyborg and doesn’t have the same exact powers as another member of the team (Aquaman or Firestorm). Energy blasts or magical powers, perhaps?

The addition of Green Arrow is another misstep. The character’s skills are dated. A character that shoots arrows in an age of guns? The character’s appearance is dated. A Robin Hood pastiche? And there are already two white male blondes on the team. Why has a third one that brings nothing to the table and has failed consistently in connecting with fans been added? The answer to that question had better not be because the character appeared in Smallville—a show that is now cancelled.

As for Deadman, Firestorm, and Mera, being showcased in high profile events and series have not roused fan interest. Why the continual promotion of characters that fail to perform? Is it because DC is looking to place these characters in film or television? Note: What works in one medium does not always work in another. I think Hitman would work well as an HBO series. Hitman would also be a terrible addition to the JLA. Everything has its place. Research and common sense help to identify that place cheaper and faster.

And with that? The constant DC coverage comes to an end. I mean, really. DC doesn’t pay my bills and doesn’t even produce the comics I actually read!

Shout out to Dark Horse, by the way.