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Well, as of April 9th, Bobbie Chase has been promoted to Editorial Director (What does that even mean?) and Executive Editor Eddie Berganza was effectively demoted to Group Editor (which in my understanding is a more hands-on overseer of continuity). Of interest is the fact that at some point in the next 2 or three months, a new Executive Editor will be appointed (Bobbie?) by Editor-In-Chief Bob Harras, after what may be the shortest run as Executive Editor that anyone's had. Jenette Kahn's was the shortest at just 3 years.
These change-ups come amid rumours that even more books from the New 52 are getting cancelled. The unofficial name of this shakeup is the "DC-Mation" - like decimation. Which is not unlike the famous(ish) DC Implosion from way back (the 70s?) when DC started a pile of new books, and then discovered that nobody wanted them. Bleeding Cool News projected that the replacement books will be coming in August.
Apparently, the editorial staff are looking at cancelling twelve more titles, in addition to the 6 (it was 6 right?) that will be cancelled as of Issue #8 this month and replaced in May with the Earth-Two books and Dial H.
From Bleeding Cool: "The twelve lowest selling titles that have not been cancelled are, in highest selling order, Batwing, Hawkman, Deathstroke, Frankenstein Agent Of Shade, DC Universe Presents, Fury Of Firestorm, Resurrection Man, I Vampire, Grifter, Blue Beetle, Voodoo and Captain Atom. DC Comics declined to comment on this."
Now, I actually like some of those titles (Whereas with the first wave of cancellations, I didn't care about any of them). In particular, I hope to see Batwing, Resurrection Man, and I, Vampire continue for some time. I have not been reading Batwing, but I know that Judd Winick is a solid writer - particularly when it comes to Batman - and that the book is probably much better than Batman: The Dark Knight. That book is probably the worst of the more mainstream books, and certainly the worst of the Batman books. The latter two books are full of both narrative and artistic potential that I would hate to see ended prematurely.
I can see why most of the other books are low sellers. Take note of the fact that two of the books are heavy with leftover Wildstorm continuity - Grifter and Voodoo. Rather than capitalize on the amazing wealth of material that Alan Moore provided to draw from in Voodoo Vol 1, Joshua Williamson took the great setup that Ron Marz provided, and pretty much filled the whole place up with Daemonites and crossover material that makes no sense without reading the other Wildstorm abandonees like Grifter and Stormwatch. Since things got messy, with Voodoo, the book has retained too much of its Wildstorm origins and too much of a Marvel flavour for a mainstream DCU book (I feel the same way about Scott Lobdell's Teen Titans, but that's another story).
Blue Beetle is in a tricky place, because Jaime Reyes is a relatively new character, who has built up a fanbase since his introduction after Infinite Crisis. But older fans miss Ted Kord, and saw the New 52 as the perfect opportunity to bring him back. In addition to that feeling like an old favourite has been replaced by the "younger, hipper" hero, there is an overwhelming sense that Jaime's ethnicity is an example of the 'diversity hire' - where he is only still around because he's Hispanic. This is not to say that that feeling is warranted at all, but in my experience, there is a dangerous line to walk where either your character doesn't acknowledge his own ethnicity enough, or the book becomes so full of cultural baggage that whitey just can't get into it (whitey being the predominantly white comic buyers). In a sense, I'm saying that catering to a minority - or even APPEARING to cater to a minority - means that the book is only going to be bought by a minority of readers, which unfortunately imperils the Blue Beetle book.
Here's a question: why are there two heroes in the DCU who have the ability to manipulate atoms and molecules? Firestorm and Captain Atom have always been fringe characters, except when they were part of a team - and even then, they were fringe members of that team. I read some issues of the older series of Firestorm with Ronnie, and several issues of the Jason Rusch version. Both were fairly interesting, but I can understand why they would always be among the lower selling books. It should be remembered that when you have 52 titles, the spread for sales is made quite large, while the majority of buyers are going to go straight for the Big Seven (the Justice League heroes, when it's the good team). Meanwhile, critically acclaimed books like Animal Man and Swamp Thing, who both have a history of being critically acclaimed books are both being written by critically acclaimed writers, and are filling a gap that fans of the old pre-vertigo 'British invasion' DC have been missing since Vertigo got started. Long story short, Captain Atom and Firestorm were never going to sell well, comparatively speaking. Maybe not a convincing argument, but it's my opinion.
The same is true of Deathstroke and Frankenstein. Deathstroke has always been a cool character - but mostly when he appeared in someone else's book as a source for drama. Primarily in Teen Titans. Frankenstein seemed to come out of the blue. Everyone I knew was like "What the hell is Frankenstein getting a comic for, and what is SHADE?" Well, I didn't know then, and I still don't know. I gather that it's an interesting and quirky book, with perhaps a bit more camp than necessary. I have not read it. There are probably a lot more people out there who are like me - therefore, it does not sell well.
I wanted to single out Hawkman for two reason. Hawkman has had a troubled history, but my opinion is that he was best when they were making stories about his relationship with Shayera that spanned across centuries and all that. Anything that hearkens back to the days of Hawkworld, or ignores his history as a member of the JSA is going to pale in comparison to either his days in the JSA or his origins and the love story with Shayera.
The second reason actually applies to a lot of characters who have floundered since the New 52 began. They start fresh, but then they bring characters who have done much better in ensemble books out into their own ongoing series - and it doesn't hold up. Mister Terrific was an interesting supporting character in JSA. Now there's no JSA, and the character just fills the page with nonsensical pseudo science as a means of explaining his powers, and then there are no significant character interactions. Cancelled.
Hawkman has a strong history as chairman of the Modern Era's JSA, and it was from the connections he built in that book that the Hawkman series started to stop being a total mess because of Hawkworld etc. Hawkman is the cautionary tale that DC should have learned from about messing with character histories without having everything mapped out properly.
When you introduce a former member of an ensemble cast to an entirely new audience who doesn't have any foreknowledge of that character's history in that ensemble cast, or you create an entirely new story for that character that isn't as strong a narrative as the years of continuity that were built up prior to the relaunch - they start treading water fast.
Now, I think there are a lot of holes in the New 52 right now that need to be resolved. The fringe books are starting to get hung up in dragging outside characters onto their pages instead of building continuity at an appropriate rate. It's a gimmick that shows that they've already fallen through the thin ice they were skating on, and they need a Batman or a Superman to help drag them out of it. There's a difference between a legitimate crossover, and lazy attempts to bring in established characters as a means of buoying up a sinking title.
I hope that some of these twelve titles can regain their footing, but it will take much more than a change of writer to get the numbers up. While it may improve the book exponentially, it will take promotion and awareness-building to make a book like Voodoo - about which most people know very little - up to the same level as Green Arrow, which has poor writing, but is still making decent sales.
Comics are a medium that are grounded in continuity. Their strength is in their fluidity, and their serial nature. While they can change dramatically, that change has to happen within the logic of the universe, which is confined to certain rules by past stories. I believe this is a good thing. There are plenty of stories to tell within the confines of continuity - because continuity is not as confining as some people think. Every now and then, we have to shake the wrinkles out of our sheets, but the fact is that the more you sleep in them, the more wrinkled they get, and the softer they feel. It isn't economical to be throwing out our sheets all the time and buying new ones. We have to remember that new characters and totally new back-stories are more of a novelty than a need. The real gold lies in the established histories.
Hopefully, the changes to come will pave the way for a more coherent universe that isn't plagued by books that can't figure out where they're going.