Brainiac On Banjo #002: A Swing And A Miss

Sigh. SPOILER ALERT! If you haven’t read Batman volume 142, number 50 and you’re planning to, or hoping to, or waiting for the bubble gum cards or whatever, then you can pass this one up. However, I’m only doing what DC Comics did eight days ago, but I’m doing it five days after the damn book hit the airwaves. So there!

The run-up to the current Batman #50 (there have been others) was fantastic, largely due to Tom King’s remarkable turn as writer. Indeed, I waxed on about Batman #49 in this space last week. So here’s some thoughts on the wedding issue itself.

DC Comics is the biggest party pooper in the history of the medium, dating all the way back to the days when comics stories were painted on cave walls. For months, in all sorts of comics including a bizarrely numbered run-up mini-series, the issue “will the Bat marry the Cat” has been on many a Batfan’s lips. They gave the story to the New York Times without an embargo, and they ran it the Sunday before the release date. Yeah, nobody reads the Sunday New York Times. Well, I don’t, but lots of people do.

Great. Thanks for spoiling the ending of another one of your damn events, DC Comics. Hey, you know what? Rosebud was a sled! Nyah, nyah. 

The argument, hastily worded for a quick response to the fans assembling with torches and pitchforks, was “this will bring more people into the comic book stores.” Well, I’m sure some newbies did track down a relatively nearby comic book store to pick up Batman #50. After all, when we say SPOILER ALERT, we don’t run the rest of the article in pig-Latin and some people like the “be the first one on your block” feeling. Once their curiosity was sated, how many will come back for Batman #51? Impressed by the variety of cool shit available at your friendly neighborhood comics shop, how many will buy tons of other stuff?

And then, how many of their regular customers were disappointed to know the ending in advance? Sure, most all of these folks will continue their buying habits – “fan” is short for “fanatic” – but damn near every comic book fan changes their pull list from time to time. Ever-expanding price increases (that’s akin to gravity), changes in creative teams, a dislike for the direction of the series, and/or exciting new titles that reach into your wallet all by themselves. I doubt DC cares all that much if a reader switches from one DC title to another DC title, but there’s no guarantee these expatriates will do that.

There’s nothing special about Batman any more. There are enough Bat-characters to fill Soldier Field. I just do not see a big long-term win here by leaking the story to the press. I do see readers who are annoyed or, worse, sporting a “well, what do you expect from these people” attitude.

The story itself was a bit of a disappointment as well, not because it wasn’t good or well-written or well-drawn, but because it was stunted to death. Lots and lots of really good artists (and a few of lesser talent) did what we used to call “pin-up pages.” Fine… except these pin-ups were incorporated into the story itself. King wrote lengthy soliloquies to smooth it out, but after a while all they did was interrupt the story flow. Most readers want a story that moves at an exciting pace to its denouement. All those pin-up pages did was create an internal Greek chorus that I found became quite annoying. And, as nice as most of these pages were, the massive and abrupt change in styles exacerbated my annoyance, making the whole thing look like expensive padding.

The publisher has an obligation to entertain the reader. There’s a lot of people out there and you can’t please everybody. But if DC shifts their product from so-called “events” to good, solid stories, I think they’ll do better in the long run… and so will the comics shops.

Some wag at DC said “well, you know, this story’s not really over,” or words to that effect.

Oh… yes it is.

4 thoughts on “Brainiac On Banjo #002: A Swing And A Miss

  1. “There’s nothing special about Batman any more. There are enough Bat-characters to fill Soldier Field.”

    I gotta agree with you there. There are so many Bat-characters that they only serve to dilute the brand. In fact that seems to be the motivation behind whoever the villain is in the latest Detective Comics. He is attacking the ancillary characters, (Duke and Cassandra so far), with dialogue that frankly, I agree with.
    “Once you were something glorious. Now you’re a novelty. A brand you share with unworthy children, Slapping your precious symbol on people who don’t deserve it.”

    I know Bendis just stripped away Superman’s immediate family and Kandor. Maybe he should be writing Batman too.

  2. I’m a Sunday NYTimes reader too…but that particular weekend I was busy and skipped it. I then spent days avoiding the spoiler.