The Week We Almost Lost Earth One, and What We Learned From It

Friday, August 13, 2010

I have been very excited about DC Comics's forthcoming Earth One Superman and Batman graphic novel series, and so I was as concerned as everyone else by the news that it was potentially on the rocks. This, after there's been a distinct lack of Batman: Earth One news that suggested Earth One might already be in trouble.

If you blinked this week, you might've missed it, so here's how the story unfolded as near as I can tell, and then a couple thoughts about the reactions to the Earth One rumor.

Crisis on Earth One
It seems the Earth One story started on Monday when Kevin Huxford at SCHWAPP!!! rightly noticed a line in Comic Book Resources's reporting of the CCI Superman panel, in which it appeared J. Michael Straczynski suggested the first Superman: Earth One book would be an original graphic novel, followed by single issues to be collected in subsequent collections. Conor Kilpatrick at iFanboy and Johanna Draper Carlson at Comics Worth Reading picked up the SCHWAPP!!! story.

On Tuesday, The Beat looked to DC for confirmation of the Earth One format change; Dan DiDio and Jim replied (in unison?) that "plans ... have not changed," but a little wiggle room in the statement left the possibility of having single issues at some point still unanswered.

Wednesday, Rich Johnston at Bleeding Cool had a statement from Straczynski himself, who said he'd been mis-quoted and that he'd actually been comparing Earth One to his other series Brave and the Bold at the time. iFanboy also posted the statement with a mea culpa from Conor. Right away, however, both Blog@Newsarama and Robot 6 went to tape -- actual recordings of the panel -- which showed that Brave and the Bold wasn't mentioned in the exchange at all; even as he apologized, it seems Conor wasn't so off-base, at least in terms of reporting what was said at the panel.

Both The Beat and Comics Alliance picked up the fact that nothing, ultimately, has really been explained, though they both settle on the cause of the confusion maybe just being end of convention tiredness; if Straczynski didn't actually say Brave and the Bold, maybe he meant it, or thought the person asking him a question said it.

Lessons from the Crisis
A couple of thoughts I had in the midst of all this:

1) Earth One is more popular than it once was. If we take our Time Bubbles back a ways, we'll remember that when DC announced Earth One, there was somewhat lukewarm response in concerns that having "another Earth" confused the DC Universe further; that having another Superman origin in addition to Secret Origin and Birthright only continued to dilute the character; and that the general price and page count for the Earth One books wasn't viable for comics shop readers. Some pro-Earth One attention is a good thing.

2) A dual graphic novel/single issue format is unlikely. Once the initial "Earth One is cancelled" concerns passed, much of the late attention this week focused on Earth One's first volume coming out in original hardcover, and then the second volume coming out in single issues before DC collected it. I don't much like this idea, as it defeats the immediacy of the Earth One collections (everyone reading the same thing at the same time), and it's seemed so unpopular online that I can't believe DC would proceed with it, even if it had one been in the cards.

3) What about single issue-waiting? The above said, I wonder if there's any viability to DC keeping the Earth One books as original graphic novels, but releasing single issue chapters of the OGNs after each one, in the time between the volumes. At least one reason (among many) that fans still collect single issues is that immediacy I mentioned; that, among other things, one doesn't have to wait a year after everyone else to read Blackest Night or the like. I'd be fascinated to see, if this were turned around and the collection were to come out first and the single issues second, would any fan "single issue-wait," as it were, instead of trade-wait? Taking the immediacy out of it, will fans still buy mainstream single issues?

Seems to me, the real headlines for this story won't be when Superman: Earth One volume one comes out, but when we later see what DC does with volume two ...
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8 comments:

  1. That's the result when you just link to other people's reporting instead of doing the legwork yourself. Without a primary source, no one should have reported this in the first place. If they had listened to the tape and drawn their own conclusion, that's one thing, but you're not really a news site if you just repeat information collected by others without confirming.

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  2. "they both settle on the cause of the confusion maybe just being end of convention tiredness"

    But the panel was on Friday, the first full day of the convention.

    It seems to me that JMS just isn't very plugged in to the publishing/scheduling aspect of the business (which is fine! He's a writer, not a publisher or an editor), which led to him making all sorts of confusing and odd statements at SDCC 2010 panels. He talked about stories that had already come out as if he planned to sit down and write them after the con, talked about hoping to one day have the chance to write characters that he'd just used in The Brave and the Bold, and obviously there's the whole confusion over Earth One. So I'm not sure why anyone would take any of those statements about publishing/scheduling at face value.

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  3. I hoped someone might bring this up:

    "That's the result when you just link to other people's reporting instead of doing the legwork yourself."

    Yes, that's true, some of that did happen in regard to this. But, in an era where some very serious instances of mis-reporting have taken place on other topics, I found it concerning that Straczynski accused these writers of the exact same thing (in the full rebuttal posted at Bleeding Cool), when it turned out that the Comic Book Resources summary was right in the first place. Conor Kilpatrick, for one, issued a very sincere apology that he probably didn't need to give.

    Reporters need to be careful and seek primary sources, absolutely, but a source accusing reporters of taking a statement out of context is serious enough that sources, also, should be careful when making that claim.

    I understand what you mean and in general I agree with it. Thanks for chiming in.

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  4. Actually it was also a DUMB move by Dc to let know about these proyects so far ahead in time.

    I mean I was excited but now I have to wait until 2011 for Batman by Johns and Frank?

    DC should take their heads out of their asses!

    And soon!

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  5. I get the complaint about relying on other people's reporting. I'll admit that I was ready to jump right on this after simply reading CBR's account.

    But then I stopped to read Newsarama's, which said essentially the same thing. Two sources making the same statement. Pretty sure that's normally considered decent enough to go on.

    The way Albert Ching phrased it on Newsarama only left in doubt whether JMS meant that the second volume would be serialized BEFORE it was sold as a GN. Both stories indicated that the first volume would be sold as single issues after being released as a HC OGN. So, my blog entry addressed both possibilities (giving up on it as an OGN after the first volume or just the questionable decision to serialize after the fact).

    As to JMS not being clued in, that doesn't seem like a good explanation. He'd have to have been clued in to something to suggest the OGN will come out as single issues after its HC debut. He may have misunderstood something, but he wouldn't pull that out of thin air due to being out of the loop.

    As I've said just about everywhere that's covered this, I'm disappointed that most outlets seem content to let DC's non-answer and JMS's inappropriate complaining pass. I'm, also, disappointed in how many fans are shouting down the people who reported on it, apparently being defensive of their preferred publisher being criticized. I can't tell you how many people have simply ignored the fact that JMS's "explanation" was inaccurate because they rather believe his version than reality.

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  6. This is one of those times when simply reading a transcription of the panel isn't enough. I urge everyone to visit DC's website where the audio from the panel is available for download, and then judge it for themselves.

    Yes, JMS's explanation leaves something to be desired, but I don't think it's unfair to suggest that he might have been speaking about "Brave and the Bold" and simply didn't realise he hadn't named the book. I appreciate, though, that that seems a bit like an apologist's defense on JMS's behalf. And when I listened to the audio again, I still think it sounds like he's talking about the "Earth One" book.

    I believe, and this is complete speculation on my part, that if you listen to the audio it ~does~ seems like JMS is confused about the publishing direction of the "Earth One" book himself; the way he says as much to the person asking the question seems to suggest that he's not exactly thrilled with the mixed message of 'HC, then single-issues, then more collections.'

    Maybe he just misunderstood something he'd been told. Or maybe there were new plans on the table that he didn't agree with and he just let some of that frustration slip out there.

    Or maybe this is just more of an apologist's defese on his behalf!

    Either way, I can't speak for anyone else, but I personally still have no idea what the future publishing plans for these bloody books are. Book 1 = HC. Book 2 = HC/single issues/non-existant? Not good enough, DC.

    The lesson here is definitely to stop announcing books so far ahead of when they're actually going to be available. If we hadn't heard about these books until the October solicits came out, the question wouldn't even ahev been asked at the Con.

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  7. Agreed with the above; while I'm excited about the Earth One initiative, I think this was announced too early -- so early, even, that there's been too much time for fans (myself included) to pin their hopes and dreams on the series, when it seems maybe DC's plans for the series were still in flux.

    As Kevin says, DC's answer is a non-answer, but I don't believe anyone could get much more out of them until they're ready; I imagine we won't know for sure the various formats of Earth One until we see them. If anything, the community response ought be a good indicator to DC that serializing the second volume of Superman: Earth One before collecting it isn't at least initially popular.

    Unless the Earth One stories are out of sight, the fact that they're disconnected from the main DC Universe makes me skeptical that Earth One could survive as a monthly series. Producing it as a monthly series and then collecting it takes away the uniqueness of this; that's no different than Teen Titans, Birds of Prey, or any other title on the stands. If that's DC's plan (and again, I guess we won't know until we know), it makes me far less excited about the whole thing.

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  8. It was revealed this week that Straczynski was suffering from chronic bronchitis during SDCC.

    http://www.bleedingcool.com/2010/09/14/jms-responds-to-superman-703-lateness/

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