Wednesday Comments – Advice for DC Entertainment

I recently finished reading the final Starman Omnibus and naturally it got me thinking; will DC ever have another book as great at James Robinson’s Starman? Furthermore what current books (or future books for that matter) would possibly be worthy of the “Omnibus” treatment?

Of course Starman was a product of a different era. Starman was championed by Archie Goodwin an editor of status, who not only believed in the book but protected it until it found it’s footing and eventually it became a critical darling.

Also every issue of Starman was written by James Robinson. It’s an impressive feat and nearly unheard of in the current climate. Starman was also unique in it featured an original character who had ties to DC’s rich history. Basically Starman was the perfect storm of creativity and passion.

But the current DC Entertainment seems focused on branding and multimedia platforming. It’s unfortunate that DC seems to be intent on taking cues from other media. The Joker is scarred just as he was in The Dark Knight. Clark Kent and Lex Luthor spent time together inSmallville, just like in Smallville. John Stewart is a former Marine just like he was in Justice League Unlimited.

I’ve decried DC modeling characters and continuity on tv and movies tons of times in the past and I’m really not in the mood to do it again. Instead I’ve decided to give some ways that DC could take cues other media entities and create better product, something along the lines of Starman, while they’re at it.

Tonal Diversity – DC has been promoting the DCnU as being much more diverse than the previous DCU. I’ve had my doubts, but this isn’t about that kind of diversity. It’s about diversity in the tone of the books.

A television network doesn’t just offer up one kind of show. The Big Four networks all have at least one night of the week devoted to sitcoms, while generally every 10pm slot is devoted to an hour-long drama.

DC would do well to mirror that model of line up. Apparently the DCnU will have books in various genres and hopefully it will work out. But they could use more. There should be funny books and espionage books. They should run the range of fiction.

Counterprogramming – This is when networks or film studios try to fill a void in the market. For instance, releasing a comedy when the theaters are full of Oscar bait or a chick flick when a testosterone heavy tentpole comes out.

DC could and should do this. If Marvel is launching a huge summer event, DC could publicize that every issue that month will be a self-contained “one and done” story. Or even counterprogram their own books. If there’s a mega crossover with the Green Lanterns books maybe DC offers up some down to Earth stories involving supporting characters in some of their Earth bound titles.

Targeting a niche – Again, this is something that studios and networks often do. Usually they’ll target the female or geek audience. Tyler Perry targets the Black audience.

This is something DC should really look into. To a certain degree it’s what they did with Jonah Hex. But DC really ought to have to a book, like Starman, that builds upon the rich legacy of the character and the universe.

Respecting the Audience – This is a big one. Television shows like Mad Men, Breaking Bad and The Wire held the audience in the audience in high regard. They didn’t dumb things down and rewarded the audience for paying attention. There was deliberate pacing and the audience always received a payoff.

Apart from Grant Morrison’s run on Batman, DC doesn’t seem to have anyone with a long term goal in mind. Again, Starman is a fine example of this. Alan Moore’s work on Promethea and Top 10 were both loaded with the subtleties of someone working on building something.

Invest in a Creative Vision – For the most part, something that’s “created by committee” isn’t going to be a success. “Too many chefs in the kitchen” is a saying for a reason. When creators are replaced behind the scenes the work suffers. Movies with too many screenwriters generally suck and shows that have showrunners replaced midway though a season usually get the axe.

Starman worked because it had a singular creative vision. Gotham Central, the only other modern DC title to get collected in the hardcover format, was guided by Ed Bubaker and Greg Rucka.

DC needs to foster the creative vision in their creators and then promote those books. They need to support the creating of new characters in the DCU and helping them into the fold. Both Starman and Gotham Central were set firmly in the established DCU, yet starred characters who were relatively new. DC needs to take more chances like that if they want to reap the rewards of success.

One of the times that DC trusted the creative vision of someone was when Geoff Johns pitched them Stars & S.T.R.I.P.E. They published the book and he eventually went on to become one of the guiding hands of the DCU. It worked out then, they should try it again.

I’m a guy who loves DC Comics and a guy who pays attention to the media. I’m pretty sure that if DC follows those tips, they’ll get the critical success that will make buzz books cool and get interest from people who don’t normally read comics.

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