Up until today, DC Comics has been on a record-breaking streak of not doing anything stupid. The counter at Has DC Done Something Stupid Today is covered in cobwebs and rust, having reached an all time high of 86 days. However, all things come to an end, and DC has seen fit to end their streak today.
In truth, I didn't want to reset the counter. DC has been doing a decent job of not doing anything too terrible to piss off their fans or employees. They're trying new things with their comics. Their comics have been priced lower than Marvel's with less gimmicks and crossovers. But the company seems to be daring The Outhouse to reset the counter today, and I'm going to tell you why.
Exhibit A: Superbro, Wristblade Woman, and the Bat Bunny
DC revealed redesigns for their top three superheroes this week. Superman will wear black jeans and a t-shirt, Wonder Woman will wear a marching band uniform with metal blades extending from her wrists and armored shoulder pads, and Batman will be... well, you really have to see Batman to believe it:
That's right, Batman is now some kind of robotic bunny rabbit. Now, all of this alone, would not be enough to reset the counter. Some people really hate it, but there are undoubtedly people who will like it as well. The creative teams may be able to make these new costumes work, though Scott Snyder has a much better chance of that than David Finch.
But this was not the only stupid thing DC did today.
Exhibit B: Pissing Off Walt Simonson
DC is planning an Orion Omnibus featuring the work of Walt Simonson, which normally would be a pretty good thing. However, while, according to Simonson, the company usually consults with him when reprinting his work, they neglected to do so this time (at least to the usual extent), resulting in a number of backup stories Walt wrote to go along with his regular features being shuffled to the back of the book, out of context and out of the flow of the storytelling as they were originally intended. Simonson wrote a long Facebook post publicly expressing his displeasure, which is normally enough on its own to reset the counter. Here's an excerpt:
To say I was dismayed at these discoveries is probably too gentle a word, but what’s the point of going further? What’s done is done. It seems unlikely that there will be future collections of the same material. I feel it’s some of my best work, and I am very unhappy that the stories in this collection are never going to be read in the correct order by anyone except perhaps by extremely die hard fans of the work, or by people who simply go back and buy the original back issues.
Walt Simonson is a legendary comic creator and should never be made to feel dismayed or worse. And yet, DC has managed to do that. To make matters worse, it wasn't even a malicious thing. According to Walt, Dan Didio is perfectly willing to correct the matter in any future reprints (which may or may not ever be made). If they had just spoken with Simonson in the first place, the whole thing could have been avoided!
Textbook stupidity. But still... I was unsure of letting even this kill DC's ongoing streak.
However, this was not the only stupid thing DC did today.
Exhibit C: DC Takes the Five Dollar Comic Plunge
If there's one thing that really gets me going more than just about anything else about this industry, which you're well aware of if you read my ongoing SAY NO TO FIVE DOLLAR COMICS column, it's the constant choice to gouge the dwindling readership with higher prices for the same content rather than lowering prices and reaching a potentially much wider audience. Corporations like to play it safe. They have quarterly profits to report to shareholders, and they don't like to take risks. But comics are ostensibly more popular than they've ever been, if you consider the widespread, mainstream success of superheroes in other mediums. However, the comics readership itself remains stagnant.
One of the biggest, if not the biggest, reasons for this is the cost of comics compared to other forms of entertainment. It takes roughly ten minutes to read a modern comic book, but they cost, on average, $3.99 to buy. For that same price you could buy a paperback novel that takes days to read. For the price of two comics you could subscribe to Netflix and watch thousands of hours of television shows and movies. For $60, you could buy a video game that plays for anywhere from 30 hours to infinite hours if you play online multiplayer. Hell, even movies, which are horrendously overpriced, are cheaper per hour of entertainment than comic books are. Why would new readers pay four dollars for a single issue comic book? Or, even if they did, why would they ever pay for another one after seeing that they only get one fifth of a story written for the trade that they need to wait six months to complete?
No, four dollars is too expensive for comics as it is. But publishers are still not happy. For the past year, both Marvel and DC have been putting out "special" comics priced at $4.99. The entire time, I've been telling you that this is the precursor to an industry-wide price hike where $4.99 will stop being the price of "special" comics, special being defined as having extra pages, having a fancy variant cover, or being a pivotal issue in some super-mega-crossover event, and will become the price of "regular" comics, once you've all gotten used to paying it. At that point, "special" comics will start to cost $5.99, and the cycle will begin anew.
Today, DC has taken the next step toward this price hike, raising the price of their $3.99 direct market books to $4.99 on the news stand. As Bleeding Cool points out, this historically usually precedes a direct market hike, one that we've seen coming for a while.
For me, this is the final straw in DC's very stupid day.
Exhibit D: The People Have Spoken
Despite the evidence, and even before the price hike news, I decided to measure public interest in a counter reset. Had DC built up some good will over the course of their 86 days? Well, yes and no. It seems that a lot of people were willing to forgive some of the stupid things DC did today. Some people liked the Superman and Wonder Woman costumes, but hated Batman. Some were okay with the costumes, but hated what DC did to Walt Simonson. Some were okay with the Simonson thing, but hated the comics. And even though it was not part of the poll, I'm sure there are some people out there who are okay with the price hike.
But when put to a vote, and with hundreds of people responding in just a few hours, the overwhelming majority of voters say that the counter should be reset:
I'm sorry for this, DC. You really have been better lately. Any one of these things alone, we could forgive. But I've got to take them all together. On this very stupid day, the people have spoken. And their voice, by a very wide margin, rings out:
IT HAS BEEN 0 DAYS SINCE DC DID SOMETHING STUPID!
And the counter has been reset.