Trade Perspectives: What DiDio's done for DC

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

It's been a fascinating week in comics-news-dom with the rumors of Dan DiDio's firing. Rich Johnston at Comic Book Resources put it best that "based on nothing but fan discontent based on message board postings, this wishful thinking was whipped around the internet long enough until people convinced themselves that it was going to happen, even reaching outside of the fan community."

In and of itself, the fan blowup over the DiDio rumors is an amazing phenomenon, and one worthy of further study. But we come here today, as they say, not to bury Dan DiDio (or analyze comics fandom), but to praise him. I've spent the week, frankly, wondering if I'm reading the same DC Comics as everyone else -- personally, I think Dan DiDio has DC Comics producing its best work in years.

Let's talk about it. My reasons follow; if you agree or disagree, please leave a comment below -- or better, post on your own blog, link to this post, and email me (address at right) to let me know about it. I'll post a list of the responses later.

My reasons are these:

1) DiDio revitalized the summer event crossover. Say what you will about violence or tone or art delays, Identity Crisis and Infinite Crisis were riveting. Were you ever as interested, in the reading, with Genesis, or Joker: Last Laugh? Maybe there's too many crossover titles, maybe crossovers are too expensive -- but under DiDio's DC Comics reign, crossovers have been good.

2) DiDio has created greater continuity inside the DC Universe. You may not have liked when Wonder Woman killed Maxwell Lord, but the confluence of Wonder Woman, Superman, and The OMAC Project was inspired. You may not have liked that Bart Allen died, but when Countdown, Flash #13, and the end of Justice League of America: The Lightning Saga all hit at the same time, I think it really did break the Internet in half for a minute. You may not like the events happening in the DCU (and sometimes, you're not supposed to), but you can't deny that the universe is more cohesive than ever before, and personally that's something I enjoy.

3) DiDio puts emphasis on a good story. Superman: Last Son is by all accounts a debacle, but you have to admire the goal: delaying the story until the original writer and artist could finish it; ditto on Wonder Woman and other titles. Additionally, DiDio's been a big supporter of "indie" DC Comics, those titles with low sales but cult following like Manhunter and Blue Beetle. This, too, was something missing from DC Comics in the Chase and Damage days, and something I think we want to encourage.

Agree? Disagree? Again, let's talk. If you'd like to respond, please leave a comment below, or post to your own blog and let me know by email, and I'll link to your response. Thanks!
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8 comments:

  1. I'm going to have to agree. I don't much care for Didio's public persona, but I have been enjoying DC Comics lately for all the reasons you mention. There are some things I don't like so much, like Jason Todd and Countdown, but it's just a fact that when experimenting with new ideas some will succeed and others will fail. Thanks for pointing out some of the successes.

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  2. It's hard for me to get perspective on this, because I only started reading comics regularly in 2003, a couple of weeks (maybe even THE week) after Didio was brought on board. So I have no frame of reference for what the Dark Ages of Comics TPB was like.

    Still, I don't share the rabid "Didiot"-level hatred that much of the Internet fandom has, mainly because I've only read books that I enjoy. (Checkmate, Blue Beetle, Green Lantern, 52, etc.) All others, I AVOID LIKE THE PLAGUE. Maybe fandom could try that sometime.

    P.S. A minor caveat on the "wait for the artist" thing: I'm not so sure if people would agree that it was an admirable thing. Unprofessional, yes, but hardly admirable. (Three freakin' years before I can finally read Last Son! THREE!) It's complicated by the fact that I'd be annoyed if another artist takes over midway through, as is the case with Final Crisis, where Carlos Pacheco is helping J.G. Jones out. Pacheco is a fantastic artist, but if a book's advertised as "by J.G. Jones", I want to read a book completely done by J.G. Jones, dammit.

    ...I'm not making things easier for DC, am I?

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  3. I also DiDioed a post today.

    Like you, I don't think he's doing a particularly bad job, and DC has put out comics under his aegis that have actually made me buy rags (as opposed to trades) for the first time in years. What is him and what is a particular writer, or him letting that writer run with something, I can't tell, of course.

    On your specific points:
    1) The crossovers a big and "matter" more than anything since the (early) 90s, but there's too many of them, too many tie-ins and slack coordination. So let's call it a work in progress.

    2) I'm not sure this has been such a good thing, or properly handled. Were books before DiDio so isolated from one another?

    3) In the trade world, that's not a bad thing. Story'll come out when it comes out, and it'll read as one cohesive unit, not a medley of artist (or yeesh, writer) styles. Month to month, it's hard to keep any kind of momentum going with a less than bi-monthly schedule.

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  4. I think part of DiDio's problem might be that neither he, nor DC as a whole, are judged on his/their own merits, but rather in comparison to Marvel and Joe Quesada. I personally think DiDio gets a lost of unwarranted flak, and that a lot of DC's problems are not of his making, but rather some of the Old Guard who are so entrenched there that they can get away with whatever they like.

    There's also a ver pronounced perception that, in comparison to DC, Marvel really have their s&!t together.

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  5. I thought Didio was doing a great job back in 2005, when Infinite Crisis came out and DC revitalized 70 years of continuity in a coherent, exciting way.
    A few years down the road, DC has thrown almost all that goodwill away and alienated a huge contingent of its fans. Greediness to over-promote Final Crisis led to an entire line of lead-in books (mainly Countdown) that made absolutely no sense at all, and, for the most part, destroyed all the progress and trust the company had made over the past few years.
    The evidence has got to be in Final Crisis # 1 not topping the sales charts. There is no excuse for such an awaited book to underperform in such a fashion, and it seems very apparent that the reason for this is fan discontent over the mess that was Countdown.
    A lot of folks invested a lot of time and a lot of money on DC's books over the past year (again, mainly Countdown), only to be continually disappointed and have storylines that might have seemed interesting contradict each other at every turn. The last laugh was on DC when this resulted in fans revolting against what otherwise seems to be a great book (Final Crisis).
    I've been saying for a few weeks now that whoever is responsible for DC's continuity over the past year-and-a-half - mainly Countdown and its tie-ins - should be fired, no doubt about it.

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  6. Since it's been a couple of days since I sent you an email, I figured I'd just drop a line to mention that I posted a response on my blog.

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  7. I buy and read all the DC trades that come out monthly and there is stuff I love and there is stuff that is just okay, but overall, the entertainment value is still there for me. Not everything is going to resonate with me, and that's okay. Didio is just one guy at a big company, he may set the tone, but there are a lot of talented writers, artists and editors at DC who create the ideas and have input into what's going to happen in the DC Universe. Fandom's opinions on what concepts work and which one's don't are subjective and change depending on who you talk to. Vilifying Didio or DC editorial in general is juat silly. These characters will outlive all of us.

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  8. tightsandcapes, well said. Don't miss my follow-up post to this one, which touches on what many of the commentors have said here.

    Overall, I agree with you completely. I've been thinking, though, as the DiDio Internet blowup clears up, whether comics fans may have some right to feel cheated sometimes -- not by DiDio, but just by comics companies in general.

    If you start buying a miniseries with the promise of one artist, and another takes over later, was that false advertising? (Or is that just the nature of serial storytelling -- when a TV show replaces one actor with another playing the same character, we don't feel "cheated," per se, but then again we don't pay money per TV show like we do with comics.)

    And if a miniseries is branded as a lead-in to another miniseries, and then they don't match up, is that false advertising, or are thems the breaks?

    I'm not certain of the answers, and these are not necessarily DiDio-centric issues; just issues I think the comics world is facing.

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