A DC Question for Discussion

The only good thing about DC’s obsessive nostalgic navel-gazing — writing stories whose only purpose is to reintroduce the elements the writers read when they were younger — is that they often have to reprint the original stories so the new ones make sense. So those of us who remember when it was much harder to read classic stories, we appreciate the wide-ranging reprint volumes now available. Agree? Disagree?


11 Responses to “A DC Question for Discussion”

  1. James Schee Says:

    I guess it could be good. What’s DC reprinting right now tha falls into that though? I like that they are doing the JLI/E stuff and Levitz LSH. I’m hopeful for some nice Milestone collections.

    Yet I’d love Blue Devil, Amethyst and atari Force collections. I wouldn’t mind seeing some Blue Beetle (Ted Kord) collections given how “important” is death is being made to be. Even if it was just as a Showcase volume.

  2. David Oakes Says:

    I agree that DC’s obsession with (Geoff Johns and his obsession with Crisis and it’s obsession with) the Silver Age makes for good reprints. But I also agree that not as much is being done as could, much less should to catch people up on “what has come before”.

    Outside of the requisite Batman and Superman Showcases, we have had, what? Booster Gold? I guess the Jonah Hex Showcase could have been seen as a test case. I love my House of Mystery, but it is not like it ties into the current series. And is “Batman of Another World” in the current Showcases?

    If anything, Marvel seems to be doing the reprint route better, or at least more targeted. Their “Monster” editions and non-Annual Annual/Specials include reprints of the specific stories being commented on. (Or remade. Or even being made moot through the current ret-cons. But at least they are there.)

  3. Johanna Says:

    True, maybe I was being optimistic again. I just liked the idea of an Ambush Bug Showcase.

  4. George G. Says:

    Interesting point, and a nice way of finding a silver lining, at least. On the whole, though, I was doing fairly well getting my hands on most Golden and Silver age classics through Archives and other collections, and whatever gaps were being left in Bronze Age reprints via Archives and trade paperbacks were more than covered by the ease of finding back issues (albeit at sometimes too high a cost) online. I think on the whole I’d probably prefer the company taking a less retrograde approach. Or, at least, that the stories coming out of it were being better written, and less suffused with a weird kind of self-loathing.

  5. Ryan Says:

    The Showcase reprints have also included Legion stories that fed directly into storylines in Justice League, Superman reprints have added flavor to series like All Star Superman, and the list goes on. Marvel DOES do a great job with its reprints, but DC does a great job of bringing not just the series that tie in with recent events (ex: Superman vs. Brainiac), they also provide collections of all sorts that in Showcase format, the new DC Library format, those Levitz Legion reprints, what have you. And, honestly, they have a much longer publishing history and more diverse set of titles that they can sell. And just for fun, they’ll do releases like the “Invasion! (Secret No More)” or the “DCU Goes Ape” collection apropos of nothing but a reminder that DC touched on something similar to whatever Marvel is hawking.

    And (if may roll my eyes) before we go tossing accusations, Marvel’s entire focus of this year’s Secret Invasion event was just as much a trip in continuity rich navel gazing of the past. And as much as I’m enjoying Captain America, what IS that series but a rehashing and reutilization of Cap’s villains, past supporting characters, etc…

    I get the criticism to an extent, but it’s starting to sound like one of those things that happens every year or two that everyone agrees on, but doesn’t make any sense (remember when everyone agreed writers shouldn’t stay on a title more than six issues or so?)

  6. Jim Perreault Says:

    I am grateful for the Huntress reprint book, so I do think the reprints are a good idea even though I agree they are revisiting the past way too much.

    I read a column a year or so back, I think it was by Peter David, which had a good insight on the topic. He basically said that all writers want to write the version of the character that they read about when they were fans. So you see things like Whedon and Cassiday redoing the Claremont/Byrne X-men. ( The article predicted that in 10 years, a future creator would be redoing the Morrison X-men).

    I’ve been thinking about that a lot recently, as DC has pretty much undid Crisis. And like Ryan said, Marvel does it to. (Witness the return of Mockingbird.) Although Captain America does not quite fit the mold because Brubaker has been drawing on so many different eras that it has quite a unique feel to it. Still, I wish he hadn’t killed off the one new villain he had created.

    Jim

  7. Alan Coil Says:

    DC operates their reprint line (and their regular line) based on a budget imposed by the Corporate Gods. So they have to pick and choose which books to print each year. Marvel is its own Corporate God, so they can reprint whatever they want whenever they want.

  8. George G. Says:

    Just to clarify: there’s nothing wrong with taking inspiration from the past–and there’d be little point in having a rich imaginative history and not using it–but there’s a difference between being inspired and being (primarily) derivative, and even between a retro approach–which can innovate as much as it looks back–and mere nostalgia. I mean, I LOVE Darwyn Cooke’s NEW FRONTIER and SPIRIT (and most of his other work)–and think the new BRAVE AND THE BOLD cartoon is a completely wonderful hoot. But the umpteenth iteration of a universe-altering “Crisis” at DC (to name only the most prominent example) is just sort of ho-hum.

  9. Ryan Says:

    I get what you’re saying, but (a) the two stories “universe-altering ‘Crisis’ stories were twenty years apart, (b) I don’t know if DC is any more guilty with the three Crisis stories than Marvel and “Secret Wars”, “Secret Wars II”, “Secret War”, “Civil War”, “Secret Invasion”, what have you… Honestly, Marvel is tilting ever closer to DC with every passing year in scope, scale and long-lasting effects of their events. Just as Marvel is handling editorial management through storytelling (One More Day, the return of Mockingbird), that’s kind of the point of continuity, universe altering stories like Infinite Crisis.

    Sure, it’s a matter of taste whether you prefer Marvel’s approach to the problem or if you prefer DC’s reboot approach, but I’m not sure if Marvel’s tendency to retread the same territory is any less (I mean, they just brought back Magik and the whole Limbo shenanigans, and why else would you reset Peter Parker as a swinging single with an Aunt May who finally underwent character development for the first time since Ditko was drawing her?).

    I honestly sort of LIKE DC’s tendency to use their past as a well. But I’m not trying to just defend the company I tend to follow more often. If we’re going to look at it as a problem with DC, we need to see if Marvel is demonstrating the same bad habits.

  10. George G. Says:

    I’ve not been enough of a Marvel reader in recent years to know if they are more or less “guilty” than DC of story-retreads. And, yes, of course, some high proportion of that is par for the course of any serial storytelling medium (cf. soap operas). So I can’t really say whether I prefer Marvel’s reuse of its past or DC’s. All I offer is that, from where I sit as a 35+ year reader, DC’s gone to the same wells too many times in recent years without bringing back water I like. It may suit others just fine, and that’s great.

    As to Johanna’s original question about whether DC’s current reprints of its backlist are being driven by its use of older stories in current series, I do think that’s a potentially nice silver lining for those of us who don’t care for the current stories themselves.

    But it still leaves me a little out in the cold waiting for some DC reprints I’ve been waiting for for more than a decade, as I don’t think Bat Lash’s original stories or the Skeates/Aparo run on AQUAMAN (to name but two examples) are going to be playing a role in FINAL CRISIS. (Then again, it is Morrison, so anything’s possible….)

    And DC’s been weird on these things in the past: look how many years it took us to get high-quality color collections of Kirby’s 4th World books.

  11. Ryan Says:

    Marvel was (is?) simply better about revving up their collections department, and DC is still hit or miss with their massive library (I don’t love the paper quality in those 4th World reprints). But I wouldn’t write off seeing anything come back into print, especially in the Showcase Presents format.

    It’s unrealistic to expect that they would release their entire library at one time. With 70 years worth of library and a limited audience for any single run or series, they have to be careful. It at least helps the collections team a bit if those books will tie into something that’s currently going on. When DC eventually relaunches Aquaman, we’ll see what they put back into print. Had the Bat Lash mini been more successful (I liked it, but I don’t think sales were high) we’d probably see something at the comic shop.

    At the end of the day, they’ve got to make money on those books or its not worth printing. If anything, this is a good argument for a Marvel Digital Comics-style model for online publication of those libraries of comics that a more limited number of readers would want to read, but which would be cost-prohibitive to bring to print.

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