The New York Times has a really quite fascinating article on Karen Berger that’s pretty much essential reading for anyone with even a passing interest in comics, and no, not just superheroes but comics as a medium and where the major companies are heading.
There’s a couple of sections which stand out for me. The first is this one:
Ms. Berger said she noted changes in DC’s priorities in recent years. “I’ve found that they’re really more focused on the company-owned characters,” she said. DC and its Disney-owned rival, Marvel, “are superhero companies owned by movie studios.”
This is probably the first time I’ve seen a high level employee (or ex-exmployee) point out what’s been increasingly obvious over the last decade that DC and Marvel have focused on pumping out titles featuring their superheroes at the detriment of anything else. Of course there are people who will point out the odd one or two titles which aren’t just superheroes, but on the whole DC and Marvel publish superhero comics to a decreasing marketplace.
Which brings me to the second part which stands out…
Dan DiDio, the co-publisher of DC Comics, said there was “some truth” to these feelings of a shifting landscape, which he said were industrywide. For comics published by Vertigo and by DC, he said: “There’s not a challenge to be more profitable out of the gate. But there is a challenge to be more accepted out of the gate.”
Mr. DiDio said it would be “myopic” to believe “that servicing a very small slice of our audience is the way to go ahead.”
“That’s not what we’re in the business for,” he added. “We have to shoot for the stars with whatever we’re doing. Because what we’re trying to do is reach the biggest audience and be as successful as possible.”
Again, this is the first time I think Didio has admitted publically that creativity, innovation and experimentation is a thing of the past, and that ‘servicing a small part of our audience’ really means ‘fuck you’ to a large a loyal audience of readers who would enjoy the experimentation of the Vertigo years. It is however about servicing a not much larger section of the audience with superheroes, or at least, how people think superheroes should be portrayed to a shrinking marketplace.
So when your audience is teenage boys and middle aged men you end up with Batman fucking Catwoman on panel, or any of the dozens of other examples of DC fuckwittery which means they appeal to a smaller and smaller market. It’s all calculated to sell as many copies to as limited an audience as possible while ensuring they exploit as much intellectual property as possible, and if it’s sexist or moronic then great because a lot of the audience want that.
Never mind there’s a larger group of people who might want to read stories about Catwoman where she’s not just an arse and a pair of tits, or seeing Sue Dibny raped in a story which set the tone for the last decades worth of DC stories.
There’s no joy in this. There’s just people trying to be ‘mature’ by being as sexist as possible while the buying audience decreases because superheroes aren’t fun and as children’s characters they should be fun. However this is basically DC telling us that it’s over for anything fun or different or experimental.
It’s all grim, misogynist rape and violence for here on in. I’m no prude, but when you make children’s characters deliberately inaccessible to children and most women then you’re really not reaching for the stars and trying to expand your readership because frankly, everyone is too scared to lose their job and take the leap that Berger has.
So I wish Berger well. She’s helped provide me with vast amounts of entertainment over the years, and I apologise for trying to chat her up at a UKCAC in the 90’s. My only excuse was I was exceptionally drunk…