Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The DC Reboot and the Death Spiral

Back in June when I first discussed the impending reboot of DC Comics' entire superhero lineup, with each and every one of their titles being cancelled and relaunched with a new first issue, I mentioned that it was reflective of how bad the state of the comics industry is that the company, home to superhero stalwarts like Superman, Batman, and the Justice League, felt that this was the only option left to goose sales out of the freefall they currently find themselves trapped in.

This is a sentiment that's echoed by no less an authority than superstar writer Grant Morrison, whose brilliant All-Star Superman I discussed here and who's now been tasked by DC editorial with relaunching Superman from ground up with the relaunched Action Comics (cover by Rags Morales to the right). Interviewed by Rolling Stone to promote his new nonfiction tome Supergods -- which I can't recommend enough, whether you're a comic fan or not -- Morrison pulls no punches when asked what the reboot says about the industry, encapsulating both its current travails and also what its loss would mean:
DC is relaunching its entire line – is there some desperation there?

There's always going to be a bit of that because comics sales are so low, people are willing to try anything these days. It's just plummeting. It's really bad from month to month. May was the first time in a long time that no comic sold over 100,000 copies, so there's a decline.

Do you think this is the death spiral?

Yeah. I kind of do, but again, you can always be wrong. There's a real feeling of things just going off the rails, to be honest. Superhero comics. The concept is quite a ruthless concept, and it's moved on, and it's kind of abandoned, the first-stage rocket.

Abandoning comics?

And moving on to movies, where it can be more powerful, more effective. The definition of a meme is an idea that wants to replicate, and it's found a better medium through which to replicate, games, movies. It would be a shame, because as I said in the book, one of the most amazing things about those universes is that they exist, there's a paper continuum that reflects the history, but people don't die, it's like the Simpsons, people don't age, they just change.
I never fail to be impressed by the erudite and intelligent Morrison in interviews. His ability to take the long view of the industry, evincing a preternatural understanding that perpetuating this popular mythology can function as a means of societal renewal, is unmatched by most comic pros -- which may go some way toward explaining the current troubles. Much more from him at the link, including his thoughts on why he hates the use of the word "geek" as an honorific (something that my recent pursuits would indicate disagreement with).

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