Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A legacy of poorly drawn women and botched sales initiatives

-SKIP THE FOLLOWING IF YOU DON'T CARE ABOUT MY STUPID COMPUTER AND ITS ISSUES: Having semi-major computer problems, though they appear to be cleared up. The graphics card I installed about 9 months ago was apparently causing some overheating problems all of a sudden, perhaps related to the new monitor we got about a month ago. In any event, the monitor occasionally shut itself off, giving a "no signal" message. At the same time I noticed the fan was running much more than normal; downloading a temperature monitoring program confirmed that the CPU was running hot. This morning the monitor shut off and wouldn't acknowledge a signal, even after I let it rest. So I pulled out the video card, leaving us reliant on the pretty crappy graphics adapter thing built into the chipset. Which, in turn, makes this nice new monitor look equally crappy. On the other hand, the temperature has returned to normal levels and the monitor is willing to run without randomly shutting down while I'm in the middle of a post, so that's good I guess. But now I have a video card I probably can't use in this computer. At least the computer's working, though.

Anyway, this is all to say that I don't have a long entry for today.

-Outrage over DC's new, extra-busty sculptures is brewing. Will it prove to be greater than the outrage over DC's "anime" action figures? Will anyone notice, given that DC manages to pull something like this nearly every week?

I think it might be time to consider if this kind of icky pandering will be Dan DiDio's ultimate legacy. I don't know how much DiDio controls the collectible merchandise arm of DC, but I don't think it's too much of a stretch to say that these statues and action figures kind of reflect the current content of DC's superhero comics. One would think that appealing to gynophobic men would be a winning proposition, yet One Year Later was an undeniable failure. I don't necessarily think DC is losing readers due to its portrayal of women--as I've said before, I think it has more to do with DC's inability to capitalize on its big Infinite Crisis crossover, a mistake compounded by the concurrent launch of Marvel's Civil War. Still, I have to think the clock is running out on DiDio. DC as a whole isn't doing well--Vertigo is struggling to replace its cornerstones and the Wildstorm relaunch has been disastrous. This makes DC more reliant on its DiDio's DCU division, which is itself is bleeding readers. Delays on Action, Wonder Woman, and All-Star Batman have been huge black eyes. It's unclear how the fill-ins will affect sales. If there's a major drop-off, that's another strike against DiDio. Countdown, however, is the real high stakes game. From the anecdotal evidence I read on the internet, it seems that retailers are cautiously optimistic about it. If Countdown sinks, I suspect that DiDio and DC will lose a great deal of credibility with retailers. That could spell the end of the DiDio era at DC.

What does any of that have to do with Supergirl, Power Girl, or Mary Marvel? Not a whole lot right now, but the folk history of comics tends to elide such nice details. If DiDio is remembered as a failure, it could be that the portrayal of women under his watch (notable even for comics!) could be blamed, at least in part. People will blame other things as well--a reliance on continuity pornography and poor management of creative teams in particular. I'd bet that the controversies surrounding women will comprise a large part of his legacy, however.

-So if DiDio is fired in the next year or so, who will take his place? I can't think of any obvious in-house candidates. I guess someone from Marvel might get poached, but who? I suspect that Time Warner would instead hire someone from the television industry, maybe a Cartoon Network or Nickelodeon executive. On the other hand, that was DiDio's background as well. Hmmm.

-One last question: how secure is Paul Levitz? Seems like he should take some of the blame as well, right? There may be a lot riding on the Minx line for Levitz.

-Johanna Draper Carlson's review of Toupydoops (what a terrible, terrible name) makes it seem positively radioactive:

"It’s a story you’ve seen before, the aspiring young performer who moves to Hollywood to make it big… only Toupy is blue, with antennae, and the companies that run the big town make comics instead of movies. McShane describes it as 'Swingers meets Roger Rabbit'. The Swingers part is mostly Toupy’s roommate — think Charlie Sheen in Two and a Half Men, only looking like some kind of dog-like creature but still getting all the babes."

Swingers is bad enough, but Two and a Half Men? And is it me, or does this look like the sort of comic that was common during the big B&W glut of the 80s? Just the sort of thing my brother and I used to buy in the quarter bin at Sports Cards Unlimited when we were on vacation.

(Related: I think Mike Sterling is getting at something that was bugging me a little too.)


Dan Coyle said...

I have a friend that floated as a conspiracy theory at the time that Identity Crisis was so lurid because DiDio hated working at DC and figured it would get him fired once Warner executives noticed Meltzer's bizarre little tale.

This was also the year of DiDio's bizarre DCU panel at Wizard World Philadelphia, where everyone thought he was drunk the whole time, spluttering bad jokes about the artists on stage with him and asking them about books they weren't working on.

I think it didn't work.

In any case, the luridness... that's going to be his legacy. Has it made good comics? In my personal opinion, Christ Almighty NO. But some of them still sell.

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez said...

Whether or not Countdown is successful -- my prediction: mildly, but not anywhere near 52 --Didio will surely be gone by the first quarter of 2008, if not sooner. His DCU is comics' New Coke.

Levitz, who should be shown the door, too, will likely survive as long as Minx is relatively successful and their overall TPB/OGN operation continues its steady growth, though I suspect there will be a structural shift of some sort to lessen his power if/when Didio goes.

Anonymous said...

"Pandering" -- that's the word I've been searching for to describe what's been bothering me so much about DiDio's tenure at DC.

Yeah, it is pandering. To the lowest denominator and there's so much suck because of it.

-Katherine Keller
EIC, Sequential Tart

K. Thor Jensen said...

That Toupydoops book really freaks me out and looks gross and I can't figure out why people like it at all, it looks like some awful mid-90s Antarctic Press book or something. But then I draw with a stick dipped in forest dirt.