TV, Comics

Moving On

This is a thing I’ve been thinking about for a while and I’ve been trying to put it into words. But those words not only seem unnecessarily stark and also sort of mark a fundamental change in my identity: I don’t think I like DC Comics anymore.

I know that doesn’t seem like anything, but that’s sort of my whole deal. There is no fictional world that I love more than the DC Universe. It’s possible that there isn’t a topic that I know more about. As much as I hate nerd binaries, my relationship with Marvel is very different.  I love the movies and the current TV shows and I’ve got a lot of affection for those weirdos. The “He stood alone at Gjallerbru” bit from Walt Simonson’s run on Thor is one of my favorite moments in comics. But my love of the Marvel Universe is more conditional. Spider-Man is great – I love that guy – but there are big swaths of Spider-Man history that I don’t care about even a little bit. The Thing is my favorite Marvel character, but I haven’t read Fantastic Four in fifteen years. Not only do I not read the stuff that isn’t to my taste, it doesn’t even get space in my brain. Which is probably how healthy people deal with entertainment.

But over at DC, until fairly recently I just knew it all. Continuity reboots and a general floundering have made a mess of the last decade, but up until then, I knew everybody’s overall status whether or not I read their books or particularly cared about them. DC was always one good run away from making any character a favorite where Marvel was a bad one away from losing me.  

Things started to get shaky in 2011 with a disastrous “New 52” reboot where they never quite settled what was going on and why some characters had their continuity scrubbed and why Batman, for example, picked up exactly where he left off but occasionally, they’d pretend an established villain was being introduced. And frankly, a lot of it was very bad. But I was eventually OK with following the stuff I like and not keeping track of the other stuff. There was a whole thing where Superman died but he was replaced with the pre-reboot Superman and I’m not sure how that makes sense but I wasn’t following it at the time and haven’t gone back and tried to figure it out. So that was my new relationship with DC. Then came another partial reboot that theoretically was supposed to get back to things that were good, and it didn’t really help. Eventually it all got tied in to Watchmen and, as Polygon’s Susana Polo put it, “Dr. Manhattan killed Superman’s parents so King Shark is a hammerhead now”. That’s where I tapped out on continuity and I don’t know the status of most of my longtime favorites. Does the Spectre exist? Which of the contradictory versions of the Creeper is the one they went with? How is it that Ted Kord is the former Blue Beetle, the current Blue Beetle, never the Blue Beetle, and also dead? It’s a nightmare.

So I just paid attention to the stuff I enjoyed and didn’t concern myself with anything that wasn’t in front of my eyes at the moment. And eventually rising costs and general malaise left me only reading Batman books from month to month. I love Batman. More than just about anything. That’s why it feels wrong to admit this, but I maybe don’t need to keep buying new Batman comics. The main books have not been to my taste for a while now. There are still plenty of side projects and weird one-shots that I’ll check out, but for the first time in thirty or so years, I won’t be buying either Batman or Detective on a regular basis and that’s pretty much it for me and monthly comics.

It feels weird, even though I’ve got a huge library and the DC Infinite app lets me read almost anything whenever I want. It’s still a part of my life, but not buying the new Batman every month is a change in my relationship with DC as an ongoing entity. The company as a whole, something I used to unreservedly love, isn’t for me anymore. 

It doesn’t help that the fanbase is increasingly toxic and fragmented. It used to be fun to talk about comics or even just hop on a DC subreddit and read theories from weirdos. But every DC fan account I follow on social media has adopted this weird hostile tone where they’re obsessed with arguing that DC movies are better than every Marvel movie (they’re not), or demanding that Warner Bros. Restore the Synderverse (they won’t), or proving that Ray Fisher is a big whiner and it’s good actually that Joss Whedon and Geoff Johns treated him so poorly (it isn’t). I’m not going to read your post about how Ben Affleck is “The One True Batman” and I’m definitely going to unfollow your page when it becomes all about how some actress cast in the upcoming Flash movie isn’t hot enough.  There’s no fun to be had anymore outside of talking about the JLI or weird Eighties miniseries with my friend.

But the thing is, DC is probably right to pivot away from the EJ demographic. Instead of a weird interlocking universe, they’ve settled into multiple versions of the handful of characters who have movies or TV shows. The Young Adult stuff where Batman’s supporting cast goes to high school together couldn’t be less for me, but it is for the customers they need. I mean, I’m old. There’s not a lot of toothpaste left in this tube. It would be insane for them to cater to me as I move into my dotage. They need fresh blood, to build relationships with new people who are going to buy what they’re selling for years and years. I’m not entitled enough to demand that they do otherwise. It’s easy to forget that outside of hardcore nerds, people don’t necessarily like the same things in entertainment for their entire lives. People like a thing and they grow and move on and don’t demand that the Ghostbusters catch up with them. 

I’m still a little sad – I miss my enthusiasm for this strange fictional universe. I miss the rush of new comics day. I like being excited about things, you know? When something new catches my eye, I’ll check it out. Grant Morrison announces a new project or Tom King writes another miniseries about a C-list character, and I’m there. But that’s going to be the exception. In a way, it feels like more of a loss than it did when I stopped talking to my best friend from high school because he turned into a Trump guy. And maybe the fact that not keeping up with fictional characters makes me sadder than losing an actual friend means that maybe I need to spend less time with fictional characters. I genuinely can’t shake the feeling that I’m making Batman sad, and that’s not how a normal person processes entertainment. I feel like it’s a key part of my identity but not necessarily a part that anybody in my life understands or acknowledges so maybe it’s a part that ultimately doesn’t matter.

That said, it’s important that Batman knows I still love him very much and I’ve got this stack of Caped Crusader collections that I’ve been meaning to read so I’ll see him soon.

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One Comment

  1. Fictional characters and animals are both of higher rank than most people to me… especially in our current world. When I sat in the theater as credits rolled on Rise of Skywalker (sequel trilogy flaws and all) I was genuinely sad because that was the end of the saga. I love some of the new stuff (some of it is better than the sequels and moreso the prequels), but there is new stuff that doesn’t grab me or feels like it is just not quite right. Ultimately, I remember that it’s time for them to make it for someone else. I still have everything that made it awesome to me. Time for others to have a go. If something new lands with them like the “Skywalker Saga” landed with me, then that has to be a good thing. I got a lot of fun and entertainment for more than 40 years and ongoing. As a youngster, I had friends but it was a small contingent but there was an huge amount of bullying directed at me. At one point I didn’t go to school for a month because I was scared of a one charming youth who said he was going to re-brake my arm after my cast came off. I could watch the movies and forget for a bit. I derived and came to understand hope as a concept from Star Wars. I learned about quieting my mind and the perils of living on anger. To tie this back to DC, I found that same excitement, humor and hope and fun from so many characters (Supes, Bats, GL, Blue and the Gold, JLI, The Spectre). It definitely stings a bit as they are redone or the version I know fades away entirely, but that is okay too. They are still there, in the back issues and in my mind. With comics too, I have to remind myself it is time for them to be for other people. People who need the escape, people who need fictional friends, people who need hope.

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