My open letter to DC Comics re: the 2/27/2013 death of the newest Robin, Damian Wayne.
"Dear DC, in your current era of generally unimaginative, uninspiring, repetitive and unpleasant comic books, 'Killing a Character' is all you seem to know how to do. And you don't even do that very well. But since you seem focused on following this path so often that the Styx route needs a toll booth to help prop up sales, please do all of your once-loyal readers a favor and indulge yourselves; kill everyone. Go ahead, get it out of your system, we'll wait. Kill every single character in the most horrible and inappropriate way possible. Then fire yourselves. Clear the queue so that Time-Warner can begin from square one with new characters and, hopefully, they can also find some editors and writing talent worthy of the profession. And while you're at it, allow any rights regarding established characters to revert to their creators or their families. At this point, only doing these things could create the shock and awe you so crave. But killing a character, AGAIN? Meh, not so much."
Perhaps rightly, it is said that the writers are not to blame so much as the current crop of frustrated-writers-masquerading-as-editors. This may, indeed, be the case. If the new (original) owners of the characters wish to hire some of the former writing talents and let them, you know, actually -write- stories, then no harm and no foul. But short of a scenario as ground-breaking as the highly unlikely one outlined above, I don't see myself ever being a 'regular reader' of the Big Two comics companies ever again.
Let Us Cut Down All the Trees for Lumber and Burn the Seeds - Yah, this has been a problem for a while now. The Big Two want to fleece the maximum number of $$$'s from those who have the most $$$'s. They are just as happy to take it in exchange for cool figures, statues, t-shirts, posters and brik-a-brak based on their character images as for anything written or drawn...like, y'know....books. Books that all the non-book stuff is based on. Continuing to ignore young potential readership because it is 'not as profitable', because 'kid books don't sell' (which REALLY means in corporate-speak, 'they don't sell enough to make us happy'), is unwise, unhealthy, unimaginative and unconscionable. It's a business bottom line upon which is written the word 'DOOM' for DC & Marvel both. And it has nothing to do with the ruler of Latveria. How to fix? Invest in kid's material 100% more than you currently are. 200%. 300%. Ignite their imaginations. Write stories that are clever, engaging, fun, creative. AND make the written materials (not just cartoons on TV) readily available in outlets and places kids frequent. Take a financial hit if you have to. The investment will enrich the comics art form of the future. And it will repay you in future financial footing, too, Big Two. But it -will- require more of that bravery and boldness mentioned above since it violates the company policy of Instant Return on Investment. And on a related note...
Freeze Cover Prices - This notion is so eloquently expressed by Slade Grayson in his online feature 'What's Wrong With Comic Books?' (found in its complete form here http://www.examiner.com/article/what-s-wrong-with-comic-books) that I will excerpt it for this posting. "The United States Postal Service reports record losses and blames email and competitive package delivery services as the reason why their consumer base dwindles every year. So how do they combat the shrinking customer numbers? They raise the price of postage over and over again and talk of stopping service on Saturdays. And how will the customers react? The same way they have been: Sending less cards and letters through the mail and seeking cheaper shipping services elsewhere. And of course the USPS will simply raise the price of postage yet again.
It's the same principle with comic books. The market shrinks so the companies raise their prices, which causes more readers to drop some of their regular titles or stop reading comic books altogether. In which case the companies will raise the prices again in order to cover their bottom lines. And on and on…the serpent swallowing its tail again.
A suggestion: Put a freeze on cover prices or convert the comics to a paperless format (i.e. digital) so readers can still enjoy their favorite series without the possibility of having to go into bankruptcy."
And online downloadable comics have become a reality. So there is -some- progress on this point at least.
Concentrate on the Charm, Lose Some of the Ugly - This is probably a true Older Reader View. It may have nothing to do with Current Reality. Prove to me that the success of past comics enterprises had a lease on Reality or anything more than Wish Fulfillment, and I'll remove this one. Until then, it stands. But in that casual reader way I've mentioned, I have recently picked up some DC and Marvel fare deemed worthy of collecting into TPBs and even hardcovers at the local library. There was no spark there for me, but then I -am- one of those Older Readers, not given to spontaneous sparking as perhaps I once was. So, after reading these tomes I decided to see what others, regardless of age, had to say about the collections and the Big Events condensed and included in the volumes. I wanted to know how the general readership reacted to them. The word that was repeated over, and over, and over was 'Ugly'. It was an ugly story, characters were acting out of character and in ugly fashion, the ugly response of the heroes was no better than the problem posed by the villains. Readers (new, young, old, casual, intense) shared a common care about the characters involved and how they were portrayed. Based on their comments, they cared lots more than the people editing or creating these books did.
COMING IN PART 2.... More steps to reclaim comic book greatness! How printed books should take a page from movies based on them! And I answer the age-old response, 'Oh, yeah? If you're so smart, what kinda comic book series pitch would YOU field?' PLUS: Laying down The L.A.W.!!!