Flipping Point: The Coin Is Scarred Side Up

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[Editor's note: Former Beat contributor Mark Coale makes a special return with his thoughts on the DC Reboot. His opinions do not necessarily reflect those of this site.]

While there will be plenty of PR spinning about DC’s big news as a great jumping on point for new readers and all that other doublespeak, let’s look at the other side of the coin.One of the dirty not-so-little and not-so-secrets facts about the comic book business, especially the superhero end of the pool, is that it is all about inertia. We all know lots of people who buy BOOK X because they have been buying it since they were 8/10/12/21 and don’t want to stop. They say, “but I have 400 issues of Batman” or “I have every issue of Avengers since Hawkeye became Goliath.” They buy through good stories and bad, good art and bad, good cross-overs and bad, Chromium Covers and Variant Covers. Call them Completists or Obsessives, but they are what keep the local comic store and the big superhero publishers in business.

Or maybe that was just until The Mouse bought Marvel and Warner Bros re-discovered DC. Now, the comics often seem to be loss leaders that serve as slop to feed the pigs on their company’s IP farms.

So, now we have the DCU being rebooted again (for the fifth? Sixth? time, it’s hard to remember some times). “The Universe will Never Be the Same Again” again. And a million new number one books. Just the thing to attract the mythical new/casual reader, right?

Sure, but also, it’s cutting the cord between the fanboy and his longbox full of Silver/Bronze/Present Age comics. A new beginning means a new end and the perfect time to jump off.

Personally, I am already 90% out the door anyway and this is just DC Editorial slamming the door behind me. I was someone who regularly bought DC Comics for over 35 years.  Went to the local convenience store to buy books when they were still a quarter of 35 cents. Had a subscription at a local store as a teen. I was one of those people who took the underdog’s side in the popular culture war over which was better, DC or Marvel, picking the long-standing company with better-written stories than the flashy and more popular company (much in the same way I argued the NWA was the better wrestling promotion than the WWF, just in the beginning of their national expansion).

Even as late as last year, I was still buying a stackful of DCU titles, along with a smattering of Marvel, Dark Horse, Oni and other books. But now? Zero. Zilch Nada. Sure, there are still some books i flip through in local comic store or will grab a trade to read at Borders. But, after the end of Paul Cornell’s “Knight and Squire” book, that was it for the DCU for me. (still love a bunch of Vertigo books, including the afraid-it-will-end-soon “Scalped” among others).

Did I finally, some could argue decades too late, grow out of superhero books? No, there are plenty of excellent Marvel titles right now. After years of being one of those people that defended Dan Didio and his term in office, I couldn’t do it anymore. In many titles, the sheer sadistic and almost pornographic hyperviolence became intolerable. Does the ripping off of character’s body parts really need to be a regular superhero comic? We’re not talking about “Destroy” or something like “Punisher MAX.” And for all the good outside-the-box work being done by some talented creators, what does it say when a company’s biggest storylines sound like warmed-over third-generation fan fiction? I recently sat down with a big stack of hardcovers at Borders bought and determined to try and finally give [company cross-over redacted] but they just sat there and I couldn’t bring myself to read them.

I can’t lie and say that I won’t be curious to hear about the plot of this latest apocalyptic story. And I’m sure there will be some gems to be found. But I won’t be buying them. And, as I fear for the local comic store owners and the talented people working in the industry, I won’t be alone.

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The former Helper Monkey at the Beat, Mark Coale is the editor and publisher of Odessa Steps Magaine, which just started a new web project, Russian Flag Burial, an in-depth analysis of 1984 Mid-South Wrestling.