Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve regaled you with anecdotes ranging from the very beginnings of the comic book industry and I’ve barely scratched the surface. I’ve told you how DC Comics have swindled their own employees and acted without scruples as a matter of policy. I’ve shown how they’ve mismanaged and misinterpreted their own intellectual property on a consistent basis. Please allow me one more because it’s one that I find is representative of DC’s cavalier approach to the creation of artistic content.
Who is Donna Troy? It’s a valid question that doesn’t really have an answer.
Donna Troy is Wonder Girl, Wonder Woman’s kid side-kick. What’s that, you say? You didn’t know Wonder Woman had a kid side-kick? Well, she used to.
I mentioned the Teen Titans earlier so perhaps I should elaborate a bit. The Teen Titans were like the Junior Justice League, made up of the kid side-kicks of other heroes (… and Aquaman, who sucks) – Robin, Kid Flash, Aqualad and Wonder Chick (… I mean Wonder GIRL.) Scripted by the late, great and utterly crazy Bob Haney (who was channeling Stan Lee at his most frenetic), they were quite popular, at least for a while. By the mid 70s, they’d been cancelled and revived and cancelled again. They expanded their roster to include any young hero, not just side-kicks but poor art and spotty distribution meant low sales. They lay dormant until the early 80s when they were revived yet again, this time Marvel-Style.
The X-Men had been a perennial low-seller for Marvel and was almost constantly on the verge of cancellation until 1974, when writer Len Wein and artist Dave Cockrum created a diverse new cast (out of rejected concepts for the Legion Of Super Heroes, Cockrum’s previous assignment at where else? DC) and created the All-New, All-Different X-Men. They were succeeded on the title by writer Chris Claremont and artist John Byrne who took their assignment to new heights. The X-Men were some of the most exciting comics of the late 70s and redefined the team dynamic while introducing the world to the character of Wolverine. The cast was diverse, the art was lush and cinematic, there was globe-trotting high adventure and moments of real character development. DC, always greedily eyeing the zeitgeist, wanted a piece of that success. So they dragooned writer Marv Wolfman (yes, that’s his real name) and super-star artist George Perez to do exactly the same thing Wein and Cockrum did – revive a moribund property by injecting fresh blood into it by any means necessary. And that’s what they did.
The New Teen Titans was an immediate hit, a fan-favourite book and one of DC’s best-sellers for a few solid years. But if you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know that that couldn’t last.
The Crisis On Infinite Earths was published in 1985-86. After it was over, Wonder Woman’s origin was substantially altered. She no longer ever had a kid side-kick, which left Donna Troy (and DC themselves) in a bit of a quandary. How could Wonder Chick (… I mean Girl) even exist without Wonder Woman? Wolfman had written an acclaimed story called “Who Is Donna Troy?” a mere year before that retold and clarified her origin that was now completely irrelevant. In fact, the entire run of the New Teen Titans was a contradiction of the meaningfulness of the Crisis, merely because of the existence of Wonder Girl. They tried to “fix” her by monkeying with her origin again, making her the illegitimate daughter of Zeus. Then they sent her into space for a while. Then they killed her off entirely. At this point, she doesn’t exist in the DC Universe, even though a small and dedicated group of fans still hopes for her eventual, inevitable return. Again, another viable character that they just ruined and threw away. To make matters worse, a female character, beloved by fans. DC seems to do that a lot to female characters.
They paralyzed Barbara (Batgirl) Gordon and then brought her back as Oracle and then erased that and started over. That’s better treatment than Stephanie (Batgirl) Brown received; she was tortured and allowed to die. Cassandra (Batgirl) Cain was next; they broke her character so badly that fans are still mad about it a decade later. They killed off Supergirl in the Crisis and then brought her back as a non-human blob of goo. Then they mind-melded her with a teenage abuse survivor and gave her wings made of flames. Then they killed her off and started over. Black Canary was viciously assaulted in the Longbow Hunters, a prestige-format miniseries about Green Arrow and they used images from the assault in advertising for the comic itself.
It’s dangerous to be a woman in the DC Universe.
Their licenced products encourage little boys to be Batman-in-training, whereas the best little girls can aspire to be is Batman’s Girlfriend. They cancelled Young Justice, an animated version of the Teen Titans, because the audience skewed “too female”. There have been seven Batman movies, six Superman movies and zero Wonder Woman movies. There’s supposedly one in production but the President of DC (a woman, no less) has publicly opined that Wonder Woman is “hard to get right”. No kidding. She’s the premiere female super-hero in the world, in the minds of the general populace, probably the only one they know. And a talking raccoon beat her to the screen.
In short, they don’t know what they’re doing. It’s as if General Motors all of a sudden decided that all cars needed to have five wheels on them and then changed their minds six months later because it was a stupid idea in the first place. You’d hesitate to purchase a General Motors vehicle is you couldn’t accurately predict how many wheels it was going to have or whether or not the radio only played death-metal at a volume used to break the will of terrorists, our new standard feature in all General Motors products. You’d be reluctant to slide behind the wheel of a car that was also a boat and was shaped like a baseball because that’s what our market research has told us that that’s what people want – cars that are also boats that are also shaped like baseballs that can’t go faster that 45 mph and don’t actually float. Did I say baseballs? I meant footballs. No, I meant baseball bats. No, not bats, helmets. Would you buy a car from a company like that? I wouldn’t.
In summation, I’m reminded of the words of Grand Guy Grand, the protagonist of Terry Southern’s satirical masterpiece The Magic Christian. Grand relates the advice of his father, Grand Guy Grand Senior, “Dad” Grand, as he was known. He was known to say “If you want them to play your course” Dad Grand was an avid golfer – “if you want them to play your course”, he’d say, pausing for effect. “If you want them to play your course, DON’T PUT ROCKS ON THE GREEN!”
Rocks on the green, ladies and gentlemen. Rocks on the green. It takes all the fun and enjoyment out of a lively round of golf when there are rocks on the green. So too with DC Comics. There are too many barriers and impediments to enjoying them anymore. The whole thing has become a joyless and tawdry money-grab that has spoiled my passion for my own hobby. That’s why I have a policy and that policy is this – “Never ever give DC Comics any money ever again.” I strongly urge all of you to do the same.