Cheap stunts ruin comics

By Luke Wilusz

DC Comics began a new project called the New 52 on Aug. 31. The project, which was announced in May, is a complete reboot of the DC Universe. The comic book giant is erasing the entire backstory of all of its series and starting fresh by re-launching 52 titles and renumbering them from issue one.

This tactic is intended to draw new readers into the hobby and boost sales in a dwindling comic industry, but it seems like more of a cheap ploy than a permanent solution. This kind of thing has been all too common in comics over the past decade, and it isn’t just limited to DC.

In 2007, Marvel Comics killed off Captain America in a large-scale, sensational event to finish off its massive “Civil War” crossover series, only to resurrect the iconic character approximately one year later through the kind of convenient plot loophole that writers only get away with in comics. Last year, Marvel killed one of its very first super heroes, the Human Torch, in a similar publicity stunt. In October, the publisher plans to end one of its flagship titles, “Uncanny X-Men,” which has been the signature series for the iconic team since its debut in 1963, in another large-scale crossover event called “Schism.”

These major comic book events can feature compelling stories, but lately, they haven’t. Seeing the two major publishers in the industry taking risks and trying new ideas loses some of its impact when those earth-shattering catastrophes that they promised would “change everything forever” are essentially undone again after a few months or years of floundering sales.

Instead of employing cheap gimmicks to garner some mainstream media attention to their work in the hopes of drawing some new readers into comics, Marvel and DC should put their effort into the things that made so many people fall in love with comics in the first place: exciting stories starring compelling characters brought to life through incredible artwork.

They should put their resources into making comics better so people will actually want to read them rather than just trying to sell as many copies as they can. They should also embrace digital distribution if they want to stay profitable and successful in the modern era like the rest of the publishing industry has.

To be fair, DC’s New 52 plan involves digital comics that release simultaneously with their print counterpart, which will probably prove to be a step in the right direction, even if the rebooted characters and storylines end up being less successful. Marvel should follow suit and introduce current titles to its massive library of digital back issues. If both companies focus on quality and innovation instead of cheap thrills and meaningless publicity stunts, comic fans and the industry as a whole can only benefit from it.