Wednesday, August 09, 2006

It Had to Be Said #3

Crisis on Infinte Earths did not fail in its goal of creating a simpler universe that new readers could understand.

Crisis on Infinite Earths succeeded in its goal of creating a more complicated universe that took better advantage of all the toys that DC had to play with.

Consider, if the purpose of the book was to simplify the universe, they should have just wiped out everything and started over from the beginning. Said THIS is the first appearance of Batman, everything that came before doesn't matter. (With Superman, they kind of did do that, but with the Man of Steel miniseries, not COIE, and it didn't take).

Instead, Marv Wolfman basically said, "You know the past 50 years of comics, spread out over three companies and innumerable separate titles? Yeah, almost all of those stories happened, but all in the same place and over a period of about 10 years." Does that sound like he was even trying to make things simpler?

No, what he was trying to do was create a world where THIS was possible:

Now, you can either start each issue explaining why Dr. Fate and Captain Marvel are on Earth 1 and just which Batman that is, exactly, or you can just accept that they are all from the same Earth and just go from there. Which would you prefer?

Then there's the fact that ongoing books sell better when they are tied to other, more successful ongoing books. It's one thing to read about Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters. But interest is peaked and sales are higher if you know that, at any moment, Wonder Woman might stop by. That's the main reason the Charlton characters were brought into the DC Universe, rather than be relaunched with Watchmen. (On the other hand, somewhere in Hypertime there's a 20 year old ongoing series set in the Watchmen universe, still written by Alan Moore and drawn by Dave Gibbons).

Besides, there's a lot of arrogance that goes into the thought that the DC U needed to be simplified, or still needs to be simplified, for new readers. Remember, we were all new readers, once, and unless you've been collecting since Action Comics #1, there was some piece of backstory you didn't know when you first sat down. Somehow it didn't stop you from having fun, why should it stop someone else? Anyone could understand parallel earths, anyone could understand unified earth, I'm pretty sure everyone will be able to grasp Earth-New.

No, if there's a problem with getting new readers to enjoy current comics, it lies not with the rich, confusing history created by Crisis on Infinte Earths, but with current comic not using that history properly. Comics too worried about correcting, contradicting, clarifying, or simply copying the comics of the past, and not worried enough about creating new stories, new histories, for the comics of the future.

There, it had to be said.

1 comment:

Marc Burkhardt said...

I think Marv Wolfman actually wanted to wipe things out and start over at square 1, but TPTB at DC didn't have the cajones to pull the trigger.

Hence, years and years of stories trying to explain weird inconsistencies and the constant rebooting of characters like Hawkman and the Legion.

I agree that comics should stop trying to explain the past and just take the best elements of old comics to create new stories.

The best titles at DC and Marvel these days play on the strengths of those respective universes without a. rewriting history to make it more kewl or b. completely trashing everything in a quest to be "new."