You know, it’s been a long time since I laid into DC Comics, but this just pisses me off.
Apparently our favorite company started putting advertising into its story pages yet was somehow unprepared for the world’s most predictable backlash: readers found it intrusive. Now, I’m not going to get into an Art v. Commerce debate, because that would be inappropriate. I’m the Catwoman writer with the non-prostitute origin who does for love what those guys do for money; it’s too meta. I’m going to stick with how they publicly justify the decision and the glaring spotlight it shines on the company’s loss of vision and focus. According to IGN, DC Comics head Dan Didio said “We are in the business to have ads in our books. We’ve always been the best with ads in our books, and now we have companies interested in buying ads in books. So I think that’s a good thing.”
Now, this isn’t Ray’s Air Conditioning Repair on Interstate 42. This is the head of DC Comics, a division of Time Warner. I’m not saying it has to be a polished statement crafted with Sorkinian eloquence saying the thoughts and prayers of everyone at DC Entertainment, Warner Bros and parent company Time Warner goes out to the readers as they adjust to this traumatic intrusion on their comic-reading experience, but I have to wonder what ‘We are in the business to have ads in our books’ translates into behind closed doors when they’re being blunt.
The guy sitting next to me at the bagel place was able to translate the above into an appropriate corporate statement on a dare:
We are in the business to tell great stories and make phenomenally entertaining comics, and to do that competitively in today’s world means exploring different ways to deliver ads.
You could also mention that advertising keeps the issue price down, allowing the reader to buy more titles, which I’m sure the local comic shops would appreciate. You could, in short, view the reader as the customer, not the product. According to Mr. Didio, DC sees itself in the business of harvesting eyeballs to deliver to advertisers, not telling stories that are good enough people will pay to read them.
I wonder which of the writers and artists creating those comics would agree? Actually, I think I know. When you see someone come in on a title who changes everything the character has been, changes the cast and relationships and even sexual orientation, almost as if their story was written for a different character entirely in another book–possibly one that’s just been cancelled, you’ve found one. You see, none of it matters because the character traits that made him or her beloved to the readers are not relevant, making the story compelling or even coherent is not relevant. It’s all just equipment in a factory used to acquire eyeballs that are the true business of the company. The comics aren’t the product, YOU ARE. That’s presumably why they think they can change you to fit whatever their new business plan calls for.
Here’s a tip, guys, from the Dead Poets Society. Your real writers and artists know it’s true whether they’ll tell you or not, because that’s why they chose to do that for a living instead of a dozen other things that would pay better and for companies that would treat them better.
We do not tell stories because it’s cute. We tell stories because we are members of the human race, and the human race is filled with passion.
If you’re not, I don’t know why you went into entertainment in the first place but you’re taking up a slot that could be filled by someone who is.