Countdown Tanking?

Valerie (link no longer available) linked to this Newsarama interview with Dan DiDio (link no longer available) with the announcement “Countdown to officially include little editorial boxes to explain what the bloody hell is going on.” I’m sure that’s considered a concession by those driving the DCU these days, but I was more astounded by the opening of the piece.

if last week’s issue was a snuff film dressed up as a superhero comic, this week’s was one of those scenes in 24 where Jack tortures the terrorist du jour in some fairly gruesome ways.

They’re comparing DC’s highest profile project, during an interview with the company’s Executive Editor, to a SNUFF FILM?!?! And this is from a site known for being in bed with the big superhero publishers? How badly is Countdown tanking that that kind of opening is considered good publicity, or even acceptable?

The kind of stories that are considered okay to publish with DC superheroes these days have sunk to such a level that I’m sure it’s an accurate description of the content, sadly. I was just amazed that that was the opening. Stop and think for a moment. They’re comparing DC’s blockbuster superhero story to watching people get killed for a turn-on? And no one stopped and said “let’s rethink this”? Either in terms of the coverage or the story itself?

As for the “news” — DiDio wants readers to know that, halfway through the year-long weekly series, they’ve now figured out what they want to do.

The good part is that right now, from #26-on, we’re moving everything at the proper speed. We have mapped out now basically where every beat occurs, and I feel that the tempo has been picked up, and the energy has been put back into the series itself.

Changes include the previously mentioned editorial captions to direct readers to additional comics — because you know, that’s the sole purpose of this series, and it shows, reading as “corporate” instead of “creative” — there’s another change, which boils down to “we’re not going to worry about spoiling other comics”. DiDio says:

Let every story have its own pace. If someone feels, correctly or incorrectly, that their “experience” has been revealed in Countdown or revealed in say, Sinestro Corps War, that’s reflected in another series…I’m willing to make that sacrifice because at the end of the day, I’m confident that Countdown is better because Superman Prime appears at the moment he does, or more importantly, the Superman Prime storyline plays out in the way it does in Sinestro Corps War, and we don’t alter one story or the other.

So the much-vaunted greater editorial coordination isn’t working, then? Here’s another telling quote:

That’s particularly noticeable with the Trickster and Pied Piper — it was supposed to be a much deeper examination of homophobia, to be perfectly honest, but it turned into much more of a buddy flick. We went from being The Defiant Ones to Midnight Run.

What a surprise, that DC shied away from exploring homophobia, when they keep giving big titles to one of the best-known ones in comics. But that’s not the biggest problem. Creators with a point of view who want to tell a good story have been driven away from DC by the current emphasis on editorial-dictated material. The people that are left are mostly interchangeable cogs that can be plugged into whichever week needs content, since it’s all written to editorial order. That’s not how you get good stories with well-known characters, which is what will bring true success. If all the books serve the universe instead of vice versa, then it all smushes to mediocrity.

How is Countdown selling in your area? I’m hearing anecdotal reports of sales dropping as fans are tired of $3 a week for a crappy comic where nothing happens and every storyline is only set up before it’s sent off to some other miniseries. No one has faith that there will be a worthwhile payoff, or much of any payoff at all. Maybe fans have finally gotten smart about being taken for granted? Or maybe I’m just breaking my arm patting myself on the back about being right. It’s still a top seller, after all — in an increasingly small fishpond.


10 Responses to “Countdown Tanking?”

  1. Derek Coward Says:

    On my podcast, I’ve been saying almost since the beginning that DC needed to have some sort pointers to tell readers where the scenes either started or were going to continue. There’s no way I can in all good conscience even call that thing a story. Countdown seems like a bunch of random scenes that didn’t seem to fit in anywhere else thrown into a book that DC could sell for 3 bucks a pop.

    And what part of the Piper-Trickster storyline was supposed to be a deeper examination of homophobia? From the beginning it seemed like an excuse to make lame gay jokes.

    The ONLY reason that I’m still buying the thing is because I do a podcast where I talk about it.

  2. Johanna Says:

    Can’t you find another podcast subject and break the dependence? :)

  3. James Schee Says:

    I think that line and Didio suddenly doing the interview/recap instead of Carlin is a sign of sort of how antagonistic many of the prior ones had been.

    I don’t follow Countdown despite it having some of my favorite characters who don’t have a spotlight title currently. Because the books just reek, in terms of art and just plain direction and dialogue.

    Yet I have been following the Countdown recaps and have been amazed at what seems pure disdain Carlin has for answering some questions there.

    I’ve been around long enough to know that its hard to read emotion into what someone writes online. Plus had very pleasent times with Carlin back in the old AOL DC chat days.

    Yet from repeatedly denying the need to have editorial boxes, which DC seems to now feel differently about. To dismissing editorial mistakes to “its just comics” its been like watching a train wreck.

    Which given the state of the Countdown series and how huge a mess its been, can be understandable in part I guess.

  4. Johanna Says:

    Oh, that is interesting — I had no idea of that history.

  5. Sarah Says:

    Hey. Midnight Run is a great little comedy. It doesn’t deserve the comparison!

  6. Anthony Says:

    >>The kind of stories that are considered okay to publish with DC superheroes these days have sunk to such a level that I’m sure it’s an accurate description of the content, sadly. I was just amazed that that was the opening. Stop and think for a moment. They’re comparing DC’s blockbuster superhero story to watching people get killed for a turn-on?<<

    Given a bunch of their stories of late seem to be basically snuff films-as-comics (see: any Joker story from the past 10-15 years or so—-I still wonder who finds him doing nothing but repeatedly and graphically killing enough people per appearance to fill Yankee Stadium for no reason besides “he’s craaaazy!” as entertaining—or that Three Stooges eye-poke Black Adam gave the Pyscho-Pirate in “Infinite Crisis), it sounds like a pretty apt description to me, unfortunately…

  7. Journalista - the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » Nov. 26, 2007: Z-Culture wars Says:

    […] “They’re comparing DC’s highest profile project, during an interview with the company’s Executive Editor, to a SNUFF FILM?!?! And this is from a site known for being in bed with the big superhero publishers? How badly is Countdown tanking that that kind of opening is considered good publicity, or even acceptable?” – Johanna Draper Carlson […]

  8. Rob S. Says:

    True, Sarah — Countdown *wishes* it was Midnight Run.

  9. John Seavey Says:

    I’ve kind of gotten the impression, admittedly without any proof, that Carlin’s antagonism in the interviews is basically venting of frustration with the project. He was, after all, stuck onto ‘Countdown’ after the project had already started, replacing an existing editor on a weekly series that had already been mapped out from start to finish by “consultant” Paul Dini. I’d have to imagine that this is somewhat like taking the wheel of the Titanic shortly after it hit the iceberg.

    This doesn’t excuse some of his comments, of course, but I think he’s a very good editor being asked to defend indefensible positions to a hostile reading public, and really, there’s no way to do that gracefully.

  10. Joel Says:

    I’m with Sarah and Rob S. “Midnight Run” is a decent buddy comedy. Nothing deep, but at least it’s competent. Whereas “Countdown…”




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