Did you see Man of Steel? I didn’t. I have a policy and that policy is “Never give DC Comics any money ever again.” Anyway, even though I didn’t see it, apparently Superman kills somebody. Like, intentionally murders him. Which is a bit of a big no-no because Superman doesn’t kill. (AND THE BATMOBILE DOESN’T HAVE MACHINE-GUNS EITHER.) He doesn’t, he really doesn’t. He is dead-set against killing, if you’ll pardon the pun.
A lot of people were upset by this because it goes against the very core of the character of Superman. He doesn’t kill because he’s not the judge, nor the jury and he can’t be the executioner. Even Superman obeys the law. If such a powerful being as him felt that the law no longer applied to him … that’s a nightmare, that’s a doomsday scenario, that’s potentially the end of the world.
Then again, the guys who created Superman were robbed, literally robbed by National Comics in 1938. They sold their creation for a paltry $130 and didn’t see a dime in royalties until 1978, when DC was pressured into providing a pension for Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster, or else face a wave of negative publicity around their new blockbuster Superman movie. DC made untold billions of dollars off of Superman; not just the comic books but radio shows, tv shows, movies, cartoons and the cavalcade of licenced products – beach towels and lunch-boxes and action figures and Halloween costumes and on and on. These guys never saw a dime and it’s a fact that DC wouldn’t have paid them anything at all if Joe Schuster hadn’t been losing his sight. The fact that they robbed a blind man wouldn’t have gone over well, even in the Me Decade.
Then there’s Bob Kane, “creator” of Batman. Kane signed a contract and then heard that Siegel and Schuster were getting screwed and re-negotiated his deal, claiming that he’d been a minor when he signed that contract and demanding the Earth and the Sky in his NEW contract. And rather than lose Batman, who was popular immediately and was one of their break-out hits, DC gave him what he wanted – sole creator credit and a buncha money. Meanwhile, Bill Finger and Jerry Robinson, the two guys who created everything from Gotham City to Robin to the Joker and Commissioner Gordon (And Alfred, the Bat-Signal, the Bat-Cave, the Bat-Mobile, you name it) … got nothing. At all. Bill Finger’s first writing credit in a Batman comic came as late as LAST YEAR, forty years after he died. Kane did nothing on the Batman strip after about 1940, he just took credit for it and cashed the cheques.
Also in 1940, Will Eisner tried his hand at cashing in on the superhero trend and created a hero named Wonder Man. DC immediately sued him and quashed the character as a derivative rip-off. As they tried to do when they went to war with Captain Marvel and Fawcett Comics. The law-suits dragged on until 1953, when comics were beginning to feel the pinch from television and movies biting into the Attention Budget of their fans (they were also coming under scrutiny from a congressional investigation.) when Fawcett gave up and ceased publication of Captain Marvel. (DC would later buy the rights to the character that they couldn’t actually call Captain Marvel because Marvel had trade-marked the name, in a strange litigious twist.)
They ran Quality Comics out of business and bought their characters, too. And Police Comics, home of Plastic Man.
They got lazy during the 1960s. They didn’t notice Marvel coming up in the rear-view mirror until it was too late and then they struggled to catch up. They used to deride Marvel in private and ignore them completely in public. They thought of themselves as better than Marvel but they couldn’t ignore the sales figures. Not only was Marvel a rival, it was actually out-selling them. Something had to be done. They tried to copy Marvel, with hilarious and embarrassing results. They were like the old guy, trying to appear “hip” to the kids.
In 1970, they lured Jack Kirby away from Marvel by offering him credit and creative freedom. It didn’t work out. They wanted instant results and Kirby was never given enough time or support to really find his footing. He created the Fourth World and Kamandi and Omac and The Demon and did a stint on the war book The Losers and was back at Marvel by 1975.
Then DC gets the great idea to flood the market with titles, squeeze Marvel right off the news-stand. Bury them in paper. They called it the DC Explosion and hyped it for months. They had a great new line of DC Stars, ready to take their place in the firmament! Unfortunately, their plan back-fired because the cost of paper went up and most of their new sensations were either quickly cancelled or were never published at all. None of them were any good anyway.
They reorganized their mystery comics and their war books into Dollar comics, which effectively killed them both off because nobody wanted to pay a dollar for a lousy comic book in 1978. Since for some time they’d been raiding the Philippines in search of artists who would work cheap, the loss of market-share affected more than just the bottom line for a lot of people. For every Alex Nino or Gerry Taaloc or Ernie Chan, who had established themselves, there were entire schools in Manila that went out of business overnight.
In the early 80s, they totally copied Marvel’s successful X-Men and finally had a hit – the New Teen Titans. They also started raiding England for writers and came up with Alan Moore. That crazy hippie changed the way comics were perceived with Swamp Thing and Watchmen and V For Vendetta. And then DC remembered who they were and screwed him on the rights to Watchmen and he vowed never to work for them again. He went to Wildstorm for a while and did the great Top Ten and the ABC line and the League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen and then DC bought the company, just to get Alan Moore. (They unfortunately also got Jim Lee, who I’m sure is a nice guy and a fine artist but he is no costume designer.) Alan Moore quit in disgust, AGAIN.
Then there’s the Crisis On Infinite Earths. Much hyped-mega-event, designed to simplify and stream-line their continuity and revitalize their image. In reality, a bloated, confusing mess (with great art from George Perez) that killed off Supergirl and the Flash and a bunch of other nobodies and extraneous bits of embarrassing Silver Age silliness. They actually tried to make DC more like Marvel – more gritty and realistic. They rebooted their entire line and started over.
Then they did it again, with Zero Hour, in which they turned Green Lantern insane and then killed him. And then rebooted their entire line.
They gave Superman and ugly and stupid new costume and new electric powers. Oh and they killed Superman but he got better. Well, he came back to life, he didn’t actually get better.
Then they had Infinite Crisis and rebooted the entire line, AGAIN. Then they had Final Crisis, which rebooted the entire line. Again. (It actually killed off Batman but he also came back to life.) Then they had Flashpoint and repeat after me – “they rebooted the entire line again.”
Which brings us to the New 52, and I don’t even have to tell you what that did.
If you have to reboot your entire universe that many times, in that short span of time? There’s something wrong with it. It’s not working right. I want my money back.
And I didn’t even mention the crossovers like Millenium, that gave us a gay superhero with AIDS and a villain who got his powers from snorting cocaine. (I am so not kidding.) Or Bloodlines, about alien murder-monsters that raped humans and gave them super-powers. Or the time they desecrated the corpse of Green Lantern’s girlfriend by stuffing her in a fridge to give him a cheap motivation for revenge.
Your Honour, at this point, I’d like to request a recess. I still have a lot of material to cover. I haven’t even gotten to the movies yet.
NEXT TIME – BAT-NIPPLES!