September 12, 2013
Go, Read: Various Articles Debating/Lauding/Ripping Mainstream Comics Figure Dan DiDio Of DC Comics
Figuring out nuances of mainstream North American comic book culture isn't a great strength of mine or this site, but I did notice that there were three articles on sites I read making a "case" for the man many believe to be the primary editorial voice at DC Comics over the last half-decade or more, Dan DiDio: Bleeding Cool
, The Beat
, and The Outhousers
. I tend to view the call for hirings/firings that you see from time to time, that led in this case to these push-back articles, as an extension of companies wanting those that consume their works to hold the belief that they have that kind of voice in what they're consuming. It's another side of kind of roping folks in -- in this case comics readers -- into a level of fandom where they become fans of the wider process as opposed to solely engaging with the material that results. That's something that's been done in comics, at least, for decades and decades now. You could probably pull one or two letters to the letters page from "Mad Bomb" era Captain America asking that Jack Kirby be removed and change some names around and have a modern web site posting about your editorial miscreant of choice. The biggest difference now seems to me the general agency conferred upon a certain kind of fan through the Internet, and the percentage of this kind of involved fan within the general readership numbers.
So while it can be entertaining to crank through articles like those linked-to in the above graph, I'm not sure they mean anything. They probably mean about as much as the shouts from the readers that this person or that person be fired in the first place. I would question the certainty
of proclamations on either side of things. In this specific case, in reference to the idea that Dan DiDio needs to be thanked for saving the mainstream comics industry, because he really did you know
, it seems to me one could pretty easily build a case to disconnect DiDio a bit from the idea of New 52 as a drop-dead certain industry saving success. That argument's basic construction would probably go along the lines of 1) DiDio was on board during the decline that preceded whatever sales boon followed, so at best he was correcting, not saving -- Superman tossing Lois Lane out the window in order to catch her; 2) rebooting the entire line involved significant risk but more than likely was going to have a massive, short-term benefit if you look at the history of similar publishing moves, OR it was the only move they had given how poorly things were going and thus no decision at all; 3) the credit for the surge itself has to be shared by the retailers and those at DC that have worked closely with them over the years in all the way that aren't directly related to content, and was/is a testament to the trust built up there; 4) you have to include some of the positives seen since to the trade program of all of these companies, particularly DC, rounding into shape and creating a trades-focused serial readership; 5) the managerial task in terms of the content was finding a way to makes this a long-term surge with benefits for the characters across the line, which many believe hasn't been a success. I'm sure there are a dozen ways to build a case from multiple sides here, and I'm distrustful of anyone that tries to get us to the same place in a single sentence. It's always complicated.
I don't know that I'm smart enough or informed enough -- I'm not sure that we get enough truthful
information -- to figure out exactly what's going on in a broader sense so that a call for a very specific, summary reaction has power and force. Fire Dan DiDio? Praise Dan DiDio? Hell if I know. People rarely get fired or
praised due to the convincing nature of the case that can be made against them on the Internet. I do think the fact that arguments can be pieced together on multiple sides indicates that thundering declarations of certainty in any one direction may be kind of silly, and that is particularly true of arguments that roughshod over gaps of information or that attempt to build simplistic cause-and-effect relationships where there are a bunch of people involved. Most of the time it's not even necessary in order to make one's point. For instance, I don't know what kind of pressures DC's comics team is under from an on-high perspective, so I can't really proclaim that any project that might result from such pressure is wholly justified or not, even were I to accept the implication that everything is justifiable given enough pressure that one might be out a high-paying job. But I do know that we ought to keep the possibility of such pressures in mind, and I think that's enough in some cases to kind of push back against certainty from a critical
point of view. It may even play a role; I don't know. It's usually enough to wonder. I don't know if it's the after-effect of reading so many comics that by genre, nature and appeal favor simplistic solutions, but it seems to me problematic to reduce these complicated levers of industry to a few personalities in play, and it might be best for us to stop.
posted 2:40 am PST
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