“DC is not hard to understand”

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We don’t normally read Newsarama’s message board because…well, we have to live in this world. A trackback led us there, however, and we found this. It could be typical, or isolated, but the February sales posted by Marc Oliver have set off every message board in existence on a “DC is in trouble” rampage. This fellow shows that not everyone is so frustrated:

I’ve never been a real comic book reader before until Infinite Crisis. Before that, I basically knew what I did about comics from the 90’s cartoons, and what my dad and brothers told me. I just recently got into comics (specifically DC) right about when Countdown to Infinite Crisis came out. You’d think that it’d be the worst time ever to start reading, but it really wasn’t. When IC #1 came out, all I had to do was go to wikipedia and look up crisis on infinite earths. This guy Alan Kistler also has a good article on the story. Seriously, coming from someone who knows almost nothing about continuity, I was able to figure out the whole story and most of the context with just about an hour of internet research. In fact, I read the original crisis after IC and I was still fine. While I may be a continuity cop, I have a pretty good grasp on where the DCU is right now and where it’s been. Why is it so hard for other people to figure it out?

*end of rant*


How many audiences come built in with the willingness to put in “just about an hour of internet research” to understand their entertainment? That seems to be the core question here.

Comments

  1. Skipper Pickle says:

    But the research is also entertainment, yes?

  2. Steve says:

    I wonder if the people who complain about not having time to do a Google search are the same ones who complain that decompressed stories only take a couple of minutes to read.

    (I can see why poking around Wikipedia isn’t necessarily everyone’s idea of a good time, but it just struck me as kinda funny.)

  3. I thought the overall story was pretty clear. As long as you Wiki’d the ending of Crisis on Infinite Earths, you could get by quite well.

    I mean the details of all the contunity could be perplexing but the story as a whole could be followed.

    Then again, I fully admit I read way too many super hero books.

  4. UberShep says:

    Why can’t you have fun researching characters that interest you?

  5. I think the question here is not addressed to the faithful DC/superhero reader, but to a new reader who would come across Infinite Crises (should be a plural, correct?).

    Then again, reading “For Whom the Bell Tolls” might lead me research the Spanish civil wars of the 1930s, so who knows?

  6. I know that when I began reading comics, I spent some serious time and money picking up back issues, etc… (they didn’t have collections in the mid-80’s to pick up) in order to understand all those “Editor’s Note: See Uncanny X-Men #162″ boxes that filled my comics.

    The prevelance of sites like IMDB, Dark Horizons, Ain’t It Cool, Newsarama, and, yes… The Beat sort of answers the question “How many audiences come built in with the willingness to put in ‘just about an hour of internet research’ to understand their entertainment?”

  7. I love to hear people talk about how CRISIS (the one on infinite earths) kept things from being “confusing”.

    A couple of different earths is far more difficult to grasp than the muddled mess we’ve had since 1986, apparently.

  8. I didn’t have to do any research to understand Infinite Crisis.
    It was still crap.

  9. A couple of different earths was easy to understand. A multiverse made total sense to me at the age of 13 when Crisis on Infinite Earths came out. Anyone who watched Sliders grasps the concept. It’s really not that tough.

  10. Torsten Adair says:

    How many? Quite a few. Read “Cooedarates In The Attic” for an extreme example. Next in line are the sports fanatics who have their own RADIO stations to feed their passions. Then there are the soap operas which have weekly columns in the newspaper to summarize all of the plot points. And the teenage chess champions who MEMORIZE opening gambits. And their grandmothers who play bridge, and their uncles who play Texas Hold ‘em, and…
    Every hobby has it’s experts. Some kids, like Jay Gould, turn that passion into a rewarding career. Others are just happy to tinker with it a few hours a week. And some, like myself, require(d) some stern words to keep from becoming annoying fans.

  11. Chad Anderson says:

    How many episodes of Lost did you need to watch before you understood all the nuances of its current run of episodes?

  12. SporksOnTheInside says:

    When I was a kid I just loved spending hours on research just to understand a comic book story.

    I also liked watching grass grow and paint peel.

  13. It’s not understanding, but making us care about a story. DC has done nothing to make me care, for a long time. Marvel’s worst book (right now) still makes me care more then DC’s best. Maybe they sould think about bringing in a new E’n’C. There!!! I said it. I feel so much better now. So much for getting a job there.

  14. I agree with the above commentor. The real problem just now is far from whether continuity has been screwed up (although some recent storylines involving Cassie Cain do come as prominent examples), but rather, whether the stories and characterization are appealing. And a lot of what I’ve seen recently from DC just doesn’t cut it. Part of the problem is that they’ve been almost forcibly making their heroes less heroic, if at all, and wallowing in mindless violence. And if they’re going to continue to abuse even minor characters like Elongated Man, Sue Dibny, Ray Palmer and Jean Loring, then why should I waste my time on DC? I’m also making the call to bring in a new EIC to replace Dan DiDio as well.

  15. I think the guy quoted is the exception rather than the rule. The fact is, he did his research because IC struck a positive note with him and got him curious. Some people love layered continuity they can geek out over (be it comics, tv shows, or whatever), just as some people love cars, or brass bands, or indigenous Peruvian music. I don’t know this guy, but I’m going to make a leap that he has a personality that lends itself to digging deeper into a subject. Many people do not, and to put IC in their hands would, I think, have them deeply confused, with no desire whatsoever to go further.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think most folks are quite happy to roll with it in terms of things they don’t know if there’s enough going on that they like. For example, someone watches an episode of Lost, or maybe 10 years ago of The X-Files, and the plot touches on the larger story. As long as the meat of the episode – the 45 minute plot – is good, they’ll often happily keep watching, and play catch-up as the series continues and things become clearer. And in this day and age of DVD and Google, some may go back to find out more, but many will not.

    But I think the sheer density of continuity within IC is just too much. Characters pop in and out, and the entire plot rests on a massive convoluted history. Not to mention the fact that it relied heavily on its crossovers for plot which then fed back into the main series.

  16. I think what DC should really do is get in gear about A, having everyone agree on what is now in and out of continuity and B, when they publish TPBs, don’t be afraid to maybe do the smallest amoung of editing to keep a story in continuity.

    What do I mean by that? Simple. In INFINITE CRISIS #7, Wildcat mentioned remembering Superman of Earth-2. Then DC decided they weren’t gonna have the JSA remember their Earth-2 lives. So when the hardcover trade for INFINITE CRISIS came out, they just rewrote Wildcat’s line so that he was just mentioning how this older guy looked a lot like Superman. Did it chance the story? Not at all. It just took away a remark that no longer made sense in continuity.

    That’s all you have to do. Start publishing trades of older stories that are still in continuity and if you need to do some minor editing here and there, just put a “REDUX” label on the cover so that continuity purists will know what they’re getting into. Also, that way it’d be easier for more casual readers who wanted to get deeped into the mythology to know which trades are in continuity or not when they go to BORDERS and want to add to their bookshelves.

    Just a thought. Oh. I also think we should have more mini-series representing the “old days” of the DCU now that a bunch of Silver Age continuity is back in action. Hell, if DC would let me, I’d be more than happy to write it myself! :-)

    I write a lot of articles concerning continuity on http://www.MonitorDuty.com and while it’s fun, it’s also scary to see how some characters just get seriously messed up by writers and editors (and FANS) disagreeing on what should be done with a character and his/her history (remember Hawkman? Brainiac? Donna Troy?). But now that I’ve said all this, I have to point out that DC comics is, in my mind, currently easier to understand a lot of the times than Marvel, whose chronology seems really mixed up at times and who don’t seem to edit their own books. An issue of CIVIL WAR directly contradicted a Fantastic Four CIVIL WAR tie-in. And an Iron Man CIVIL WAR tie-in gave a contradictory explanation of somethign that happened at the end of a New Avengers tie-in that happened that same month. That’s just lazy. At least DC is aware of what happens in each other’s books.

  17. I’ve become a DC expert through watching Justice League with my son. I did all the Wikipedia research with him so he could know who Arkkis Chummuck and Dr. Destiny were. I’m pretty well-versed in this stuff, and I still can’t make heads or tails of Infinite Crisis, Crisis on Infinite Earths, Countdown to Infinite Crisis, Identity Crisis, any many many other books.

    This to me is the number one thing that keeps new, casual readers out of comics stores.

  18. SporksOnTheInside says:

    I think that a case a lot of the time. The Bruce Timm shows with great characterization and strong stories have a lot of people interested in the characters, but the comics are so self-involved and impenetrable to the casual reader that isn’t really a bridge from one to the other.

  19. mario says:

    I’ll say it here first:
    PAUL DINI FOR EDITOR IN CHIEF!!
    BRUCE TIMM FOR CREATIVE EXECUTIVE OFFICER!

  20. R. Maheras says:

    Rule #1 for filmgoers: The vast majority of film patrons will only spend a few minutes checking up on a film before deciding whether or not to go see it.

    Rule #1 for comic book readers: See Rule #1 for filmgoers.

    It’s human nature, folks.

  21. What’s the old adage?

    “Every comic is someone’s first…”

  22. Tom Spurgeon says:

    I had to look up “Arkkis Chummuck” just to understand this comments thread!

  23. Holy sh*t! I’ve out-geeked Tom Spurgeon! Soon I will become a being of pure energy!

  24. just read jonah hex…its easy.

  25. I take back what I said in my first post. I don’t want to see anyone lose their job. I just don’t want to read DC comics while things are the way they are. I’ll just read comics where everything I need to know, is right in front of me. I’m reading Blood and Gold by Anne Rice right now, and she knew that she needed to re-cap “the story so far” for people who might be picking up that book as there first Rice read. Comic writers need to know that too, and notes from the editores don’t count.

  26. matchesmalone says:

    DC is tough to understand, and IC was especially so. I’ve read … 8-10 DC books a month since the last Crisis, and I had trouble following a lot of what was happening, who the characters were, why I hould give a rat’s ass…

  27. I don’t think DC is tough to understand and I’m just now getting into their stuff and in direct reply to EIC situation I’ll say here what I said before. You cannot make a decision as an EIC at Marvel or DC that everyone is going to like and unfortunetly the first ones to ever comment on message boards are the ones that hate the decision you make as an EIC you do your best to make the best decisions possible and then you say your prayers.

  28. Chaltab says:

    I’m not fan of DiDio, and I think DC’s current direction is going to hurt them in the long run.

    But continuity doesn’t bother me. I began reading comicbooks in mid 2005, and began with Johns’ Teen Titans run, then read Crisis on Infinite Earths, and began picking up all the recommended highlights of the genre.

    I guess a lot of people are turned off by excessive continuity, but any time you start a new comic you should KNOW going in that you won’t understand everything. It seems to me that it ought to be common sense that if you jump into something during the middle of a story, you wont’ understand everything right away. I hadn’t read any of the minis that led into Infinite Crisis, and I still understood the story. Yeah, it took a little research, but I think that it was worth the effort.

  29. Anonymous says:

    The problem isn’t having to do research to understand details in comics. It’s having to do research to know why you should care about the story in the first place. DC’s recent “events” are not remotely interesting unless you bear a deep emotional attachment to pre-Crisis DC.

  30. William Burns says:

    Understanding continuity isn’t hard, so long as you are interested in it. I took some serious time in researching various characters myself before I even walked into a comic book store. While say, my brother, who expresses no interest in comics or superheroes, would be left confused if I was able to convince him to read any book at all.

  31. People seem to be using “continuity” to mean two different things:
    1. Is this story consistent with what has gone before?
    2. Does this story rely on reader knowledge of what has gone before?

    New readers won’t know about the first type of continuity one way or another. Casual readers might notice discrepancies. Long-term readers will definitely notice discrepancies, and will appreciate consistency, even of the easter egg variety. So it’s in the publishers’ interest to keep track of this type of continuity.

    The second type is a question of story structure. Anything that’s absolutely critical — including, yes, why one might care about what’s happening — should be provided in the exposition. Worst case, you do a Star Wars-style prologue. Best case, you work it into the opening act. A good example of this would be “Identity Crisis,” which spent much of the first issue establishing characters so that by the time the murder happened, even a new reader would feel some connection to the victim.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] After what seems like quite a few weeks of relative silence, DC seemed to take over Newsarama this week, whether it be interviews or news stories. In a week that showed that even the Metal Men can get a movie deal, or that DC couldn’t manage to just slip 4 more pages into the double-sized 52 final issue (Don’t get me wrong, 48 pages for $2.50 is still very nice, but still. 52 pages would’ve just been better, somehow), it was as if DC’s poor showing in the February sales figures and the fan reaction from that made Dan Didio’s crew suddenly aware of what the mothership had to offer them. [...]

  2. [...] Well, this has been a big week, and a surprisingly good one to talk about fanboys, something of an idee fixe of your musings last week. Wally West and family got pulled back home from Speed Heaven; the Legion of Super-Heroes is all up in modern-day DC business again; it’s a good time to have been reading this stuff for an unhealthy length of time, or to have a love of Wikipedia. [...]

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