I was filling out my pre-order list for March when I noticed something unusual. My DC entry was extraordinarily low. Of course, this didn’t happen overnight. My interest in DC’s output had been steadily shrinking for some time but the March preorders revealed that I’d passed a tipping point. I noticed it first when I checked off more comics from Dark Horse than DC. But it truly astounded me when my order for IDW also exceeded my order for DC. Had DC really fallen all the way to fourth?

This isn’t the first time that DC has failed to sit in first in my orders of comic books or in my esteem. I’m not excessively loyal (though you may argue that point if you wish). DC and Marvel have often traded places at the top of my pull list depending on their current output. And there was a brief period (too brief, if you ask me) when CrossGen was the king of the mountain for me. Yet DC had never fallen lower than second. They certainly hadn’t fallen all the way from second to fourth in a single month.

This also isn’t some sort of predetermined protest against DC in the name of continuity or creator rights. I buy the books I like and the books that interest me. I’m not interested in making political statements with my purchases.
I’m aware that a lot of fans are still upset with DC for restarting their entire line in the fall of 2011. Personally, I didn’t have a problem with the concept of the new 52. I was even excited about and gave myself permission to exceed my normal budget for a few months while I tried new titles. In fact, I commend DC for recognizing that they needed to do something noticeably drastic in order to turn their fortunes around.

The problem is that a lot of the new titles weren’t very good. I expected that DC’s revitalized output would make it difficult to cull my pull list back down to a manageable (and affordable) size. But that wasn’t the case. It was really easy to drop title after title. Too many comics were poorly conceived or poorly executed. Within 6 months, I was down to the titles I had been collecting before the re-start (Green Lantern) plus a couple of others that I would have picked up anyway based on the writers involved (Geoff Johns’ Aquaman and Justice League, and Gail Simone’s Batgirl). By the end of the first year, I was following the same number of DCU titles as the summer before (I dropped Justice League due to a lack of interest, and Aquaman due to an impending crossover with the Justice League title I had just dropped).
I’m aware that a lot of fans are upset with DC for going ahead with plans to publish Before Watchmen in spite of Alan Moore’s objections (and I’m aware that there’s some overlap between these two camps). I’m not one of them. I don’t need to rehash all of the arguments here. But I’ve always felt the proof would be in the pudding. If the books were good, their quality would be their own defense and they would have demonstrated that they were worth doing. If the books were bad, they would not blemish the original work anymore than “Code of Honor” failed to sully “Marvels” or “Scarlett” was unable to diminish “Gone with the Wind.”

I’ve followed all of the Before Watchmen books. I’ve appreciated the different approaches to many of the characters. I’ve admired the twists on the Comedian’s history. I’ve delighted in Silk Spectre’s adventures as a young woman. And I’ve been amazed at both the beauty and complexity of the Minutemen. I enjoyed the comics so much that I willingly signed up for the later additions of the two-part Moloch story and the Dollar Bill one-shot. From my vantage point, they’re a way to give the audience (me) what they (I) want.

Actually, it’s the conclusion of Before Watchmen that caused my DC orders to crater. For the past year, Before Watchmen has kept my DC orders inflated with an extra 4 or 5 monthly comics, masking the underlying decline. With Before Watchmen gone, my DC orders were suddenly cut in half.

The closest I came to making a political statement with my March orders was in dropping Batgirl. I was buying the book because of Gail Simone in the first place. Without her involvement, I wasn’t as interested. I might have dropped Batgirl even if Gail Simone had left of her own accord. Her unceremonious dismissal made it an easy decision to dump one more DC title. (DC’s wise decision to reinstate Gail as Batgirl writer means that title will be back on my pre-order list for April).

The issue for me has been the simple question of quality. DC’s comic books haven’t been very good. Justice League was slow-moving and forgettable. Aquaman started out strong but lost steam when it shifted to The Others storyline. Green Lantern Corps became simplistic and trite. Red Lanterns had a navel-gazing lead character and a distinct lack of action. And those were the books that enticed me to stick around for a few months at least. The other titles couldn’t even manage that.

I’m still buying a few out-of-continuity titles right now. Batman Beyond Unlimited is a monthly treat with the ongoing adventures of the futuristic Batman, Superman and Justice League. And my daughters eagerly anticipate each new issue of Superman Family Adventures. I haven’t quite canceled my orders for every in-continuity book either. I’ll come back to Batgirl with Gail Simone. And Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern remains a riveting read.

As I said previously (and repeatedly), this isn’t some sort of protest. I’m not opposed to DC. I’m simply not interested in them. But, after twenty plus years of collecting comic books, that’s kind of remarkable.

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Comment by The Baron on January 26, 2013 at 3:11pm

With the end of Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E., the only "on-going" DC books I'm reading are All-Star Western, Earth 2 and World's Finest, and I'm on the verge of dropping Earth 2 and World's Finest is warming up in the bullpen, which currently leaves Hex's book as the only one that I'm especially enthusiastic about anymore. For me, the post-Flashpoint re-boot really killed my interest in DC. I don't think it's a coincidence that the two books of the DCnU that held my interest were about characters - Frankenstein and Jonah Hex - that I hadn't followed before the re-boot.

Comment by Wandering Sensei: Moderator Man on January 26, 2013 at 5:58pm

For my latest order, it's just Jonah Hex, a couple of Batman books, and Action Comics. I will occasionally pick up Earth 2 or Worlds' Finest or something that strikes my fancy that particular month, but nothing else on a regular basis. I used to look at the work of a great new artist at DC and dread the day they would be inevitably pulled to Marvel or elsewhere. For the first time ever, I'm looking at some awesome artists at DC (Rafa Sandoval, Aaron Kuder, and Eric Burnham) and hoping that Marvel will offer them a contract.

I started reading as a DC guy, and that's always been my default. But until they get new editorial practices put into place, I'm just not interested, much like Chris. My books are mostly Marvel, IDW, and Dark Horse. And Oni when Stumptown comes out.

Comment by Figserello on January 26, 2013 at 6:51pm

Methinks you're going to get a lot of responses to this one, Chris

Where to start?  First of all, you've given elsewhere one of the best defense and appreciations of bad  Image-style 90s comics that I've ever read. Given that so many commentators contend that DC seem to be following that template, overseen as it is by Bob "did someone say bad 90s comics?" Harras, I'm surprised that it was you of all people who wrote this piece.

Comment by Figserello on January 26, 2013 at 6:57pm

Second of all, its depressing to hear that Beneath Watchmen might be pleasing some fans. You talk about quality, but I fear that the takeaway DC will get from the sales of them is that there is mileage in disrespecting the artform's best creators, outraging half their prospective market, and alienating those in the mainstream press who might have thought to cover DC comics in a favourable light. 

Comment by Emerkeith Davyjack on January 26, 2013 at 7:24pm

...Well , Figs , I have not read any of the BWs myself - I have , of course , read Watchmen , but I've never been as inclined to consider it The_Masterpiece_Of_All_Time!!! that so many seem to see it as...

Comment by Travis Herrick (Modular Mod) on January 26, 2013 at 7:52pm

Man, if this was about Marvel instead of DC I would be right there with ya. I have 3 series I am currently reading from Marvel. They make it so hard for me to try a new series when they are almost always $4, and then they will usually double ship as well.

DC, I still have a healthy stack of reading. I've really liked a number of their new series. Some more than I ever expected.

Comment by ClarkKent_DC on January 26, 2013 at 8:34pm

Well, after the New 52 launched, I pretty much followed the books I was following before, or the closest analogues, or the characters I liked the most: All-Star Western (in place of Jonah Hex), Action Comics and Superman, and I tried Wonder Woman for four issues.

As noted elsewhere, I did try several #1 issues when I got a batch of them cheap: Batman and Robin, Batwoman; Deathstroke; Demon KnightsFrankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E.; Green Lantern, Grifter, Legion Lost; Mister Terrific; Red Lanterns; Resurrection Man; Suicide Squad; Superboy, but didn't follow any of them. I did start getting Catwoman (as noted here). I got Batgirl, but not Birds of Prey; the relaunched BoP is without Oracle, but Batgirl has Gail Simone, a writer whose work I always enjoy, so that was an easy call. I also tried Earth 2's #1 issue, and at Free Comic Book Day, I got Superman Family Adventures, which was cute.

So what am I getting now? I'm still with Action Comics and Superman, but they're barely holding my interest. I still look forward to All-Star Western, Batgirl and Catwoman each month, and I'm liking the new version of World's Finest featuring Power Girl and Huntress as strangers in a strange new world. I also came on board with Justice League just because of the budding romance between Superman and Wonder Woman; I want to see where that goes, since it tosses the Clark Kent/Lois Lane/Superman paradigm out the window. And that's it.

(I skipped Before Watchmen because I couldn't afford all of them, so I chose not to get any of them.)

So that's seven DCs for me each month -- although, admittedly, Action, Superman, and Catwoman are on thin ice, and Batgirl would be if you hadn't told me here that Gail Simone is going to be back on the book -- but that's still more than I get each month from Marvel. But that's a different conversation.

Comment by Wandering Sensei: Moderator Man on January 26, 2013 at 9:27pm

Whoops...I forgot that I'm still buying Wonder Woman. Best book put out by DC right now.

And Figs, I have to say that Before Watchmen had some of the best writing and some of the best art that I've seen or read from DC since the New 52. Definitely a highlight of DC. I liked Watchmen alright, but this was an experience in reading it in issue form as it came out. I thought it was a lot of fun! Obviously, your mileage varies, but doggone it if this wasn't just pitch-perfect for me.

Comment by Figserello on January 26, 2013 at 9:42pm

It's just a pity that this was the project that DC decided to give the best talent available some space and proper remuneration for their efforts.  An ironic pity!  I don't think the creators on the mainstream DCU titles feel quite so respected.  A point not unrelated to the drop in quality Chris perceives.


Various factors are affecting the quality of the work the creators are putting into their DCU work, and I'd contend that DC's treatment of someone who gave them the very top of his game and brought them so much favoiurable publicity is one of them.


Comment by Jeff of Earth-J on January 28, 2013 at 1:33pm

I’m reading Before Watchmen but I don’t really consider a DC title so much as “its own thing” (besides, it’s almost over). I’m reading Action Comics, but I’ll be leaving when Grant Morrison does (one more issue, I think). I gave about a half dozen “New 52s” at try, most of which I’ve dropped for one reason or another. The only mainstream DCnU I’m reading these days is World’s Finest. When it comes right down to it, this is the problem:

I no longer have any connection whatsoever to the DCU as it exists today.

And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.


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