Comics Newsletter

Dear DC: You Can, and Should, Do Better

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S.W. Sondheimer

Staff Writer

When not prying Legos and gaming dice out of her feet, S.W. Sondheimer is a registered nurse at the Department of Therapeutic Misadventures, a herder of genetic descendants, cosplayer, and a fiction and (someday) comics writer. She is a Yinzer by way of New England and Oregon and lives in the glorious 'Burgh with her husband, 2 smaller people, 2 cats, a fish, and a snail. She occasionally tries to grow plants, drinks double-caffeine coffee, and has a habit of rooting for the underdog. It is possible she has a book/comic book problem but has no intention of doing anything about either. Twitter: @SWSondheimer

A few months ago, Book Riot Comics made some suggestions as to how Marvel Comics might gain back some of their audience and market share. At the time, one reader asked if we had completely written off the other half of the Big Two, DC Comics. Just to be clear: we haven’t written Marvel off. We are irked and angry because we love so much of what they do but we feel squidgy about consuming it for a variety of reasons detailed in the aforementioned.

I haven’t written DC off entirely either, though my consumption of their offerings has historically been a much lower percentage of my weekly pulls and trade purchases. Yesterday, when I went into my local comic shop, however, I cancelled my last three DC books. I know it won’t mean much to the juggernaut that is only part of a media empire, but Nightwing was my super fun book and the current run of Aquaman is being gorgeously drawn by one of my all time favorite comic artists, so putting them back on the counter and walking away meant something to me. Enough that I’m taking the time to sit and write this. Enough to be irked and angry because I know, as a company, like Marvel, DC could and should do better by their fans and consumers.

How? I’m going to pretend you asked.

  • Congratulations, you fired Eddie Berganza. It’s about damn time. Now, fire everyone who protected him and apologized for him and facilitated his abhorrent behavior for years. Fire Kreisberg. Kick Brent Ratner and his production company to the curb (and, by the way, that shouldn’t take a threat from the woman carrying your cinematic universe). Prove to us you meant this:
    “DC and WB are unequivocally committed to cultivating a work environment of dignity and respect, one that is safe and harassment free for all employees. We take all claims of harassment very seriously and investigate them promptly. Employees found in violation of the policies are dealt with swiftly and decisively, and subject to disciplinary actions and consequences.”Clean your house. And those “disciplinary actions and consequences?” Zero tolerance. No strikes. Anyone, anyone, who does this thing is out. No one who has gets hired. Learn from your mistakes. Learn from lost talent and shattered dreams. Prove to the women who came forward, and to the rest of us, that it isn’t public pressure, but a fundamental human decency that determines your company policies.
  • Enough with the grimdark. I like gritty. I like dark. I’m even in the mood for grim sometimes. But not every book and not all. The. Time. Even Bruce “I am the night” Wayne goes out in daylight every so often. Give us some variety both within books and among books. Stories can have moments of light and lightheartedness without being fluffy and hell, maybe some of them should be fluffy (my husband is loving the Hanna-Barbara crossovers, for example). There’s no crime in publishing something that gives people a chuckle once a decade.
  • Fix Batman. He’s your cornerstone and I don’t know what happened with the last arc (War of Jokes and Riddles) but not only does it make zero sense, it’s boring. Tom King is one of my absolute favorite comic writers and his Miracle Man is incredible; thus, I find it hard to believe this is on him. So, whatever your master plan is and whatever timeline you’ve given this very talented author needs to be tossed in a dumpster fire, spread to the winds, and rebuilt from the foundations.
  • No. Major. Events. For. At. Least. Five. Years. I don’t want to have to read every issue of Metal to figure out what’s going on in Nightwing. Even if I had the money to purchase every DC book, which I don’t, or the time to read them, which I also don’t, I really just want to read Nightwing.  DC is equally as guilty as Marvel of the constant, cross-company debacles that leave me throwing up my hands and shrinking my weekly pull list. You want Constantine to drop in on Bats? Fine. Aquaman to show up in Superman’s bathtub for some weird reason? Cool. Occasional stand-alone mini-series? Rad. But knock off the reboots and the resets.
  • More writers and artists of color. More LGBTQI+ writers and artists. More female writers and artists (yes, I know how much Gail Simone has done for DC and I know how much Nicola Scott has done). I know there was an attempt during the last Major Event but I can’t help but feel the lede got buried and then vanished altogether. And, while you’re at it, DC? Instead of bringing Superman and Robin back for the umpteenth time, bring back Renè Montoya. Let Kate Kane get married. Have the Spectre reincarnate in not a white dude. The options are as limitless as the diversity in the world. There’s a lot of that. Let’s see it.
  • Stop cancelling the experimental books before they’ve had a chance to find their audience. Gotham by Midnight was amazing. It took an old character in a new direction. It was dark without being hopeless. The art was gorgeous and innovative and the color palette was wild and engaging. I was riveted to every panel. And, just when it reached the height of amazing? It went away. Maybe at least see how the first trade does before you yank something with so much potential or take a peek at the digital numbers? You’re missing out and so are we.

So, there you have it. Not written off, but certainly teetering. I’ve kept a few Marvel books on my list because they’re female-led or have POC authors (or both) but I am down to zero DC books. Again, that’s just me and I know I don’t affect the pre-sales DC uses for its numbers, but the ones I was getting I was devoted to. So, once again, not having them in my stack means something significant to me.