Sunday, July 31, 2011

No art here. Just comic thoughts.

Boy, all this 'more women for DC Comics' stuff is everywhere! I've read it all, see all the sides of the story, etc. etc. and don't have anything to add that hasn't already been said, but one thing that did strike me is what's wrong with the DC Relaunch from another perspective.

And this is all meant in a purely constructive way. I hope the DC relaunch is a success. I'm even interested in some of it. I hope, in general, it just ends up spreading the joy of comics wider, raising all boats with the tide! I really do. But I'm skeptical, and here's why...

The DC House Style.

I know DC have always had a house style, but surely, in a relaunch intended to grow readership, this should have been the first thing to go. One thing I've seen people saying a lot lately is, yes, there are a ton of female creators, but they don't fit the DC style so the point is moot. Well, get rid of the style! That's your first barrier to diverse creation right there. Not just for females, but anyone who wants to do something truly different and out there.

In creativity, more than anywhere else, you gotta take risks, you gotta go for broke, and keeping to a house style is an unnecessary restraint. Dark and gritty works for Batman, but it doesn't work for Teen Titans. What works for Superman, doesn't work for Supergirl even, and so on. Most of us have seen some of those failed pitches floating around, from Dean Trippe's Lois Lane: Girl Reporter to Ben Caldwell's YA Wonder Woman series, and I can only imagine these were passed over because they don't fit the House Style. Maybe tons of other reasons, too, I have no idea, but if you're pitching a radically different take on a character that DC thinks should only ever look one way, well... it's a long way uphill from there. It'd be like giving Jim Lee a picture of a giraffe and telling him that's what he looks like in the mirror. "Pfft. Get outta here with your crazy ideas!"

Forget breaking up DC in to statistics of men/women/minority/etc characters for a second, and lets break it down in to style. (This is the part where if I had the inclination I would do a pie chart that showed 100% Jim Lee or Similar.)

Now, don't get me wrong, I don't mind that style. It would work for many a book, but not EVERY one. And yes, there is wiggle room within that style - Frank Quitely is nothing like David Finch, etc, etc. but Frank Quitely is also nothing like, say, Mike Maihack. Or Doug TenNapel. Or Kate Beaton... actually, Ms Beaton already does her take on these superhero characters that seem to be wildly popular with a lot of people - judging by how the superhero strips of hers get more widely tweeted, tumbled, liked, etc. than her more literary/historical strips. At least, they're usually only ever the ones I see. Why isn't DC offering her insane money to make them even more insane money?

Imagine a DC Comics where Morrison and Finch gave us Batman, but Faith Erin Hicks gave us Batgirl. Where Johns and Lee delivered us some Superman, but Clio Chiang gave us Supergirl. Where Zatanna was brought to us by Ted Naifeh, Teen Titans by Sarah Mensinga, alongside Flash by Manapul, and Green Lantern by Mahnke. Why is there no room for that kind of diversity??

Honestly, you could give as many awesome examples as you want for who could be doing great things for DC, but more often than not, you're going to come up with names of people who just don't want to. UNLESS they're given free reign. UNLESS they're allowed to be themselves, artistically. IF their uniqueness is perceived as a value, not a detriment. If they're allowed to bring what they offer to the table without it being re-shaped in to big boobed, beheaded bimbos!

Where is the benefit in doing the SAME thing 52 times every month, endlessly? Even Jim Carrey gets sick of being Jim Carrey, you know? Diversity is never going to happen if you sit around in your House, only answering the door to people who know to come round back, while ignoring the possibilities of opening up the front door to everyone else.