The DC New 52 Reboot Has No Patience
So Clark Kent quit his longtime reporter job at the Daily Planet last week, in Superman #13. For some reason, major news outlets thought this was news, and it was splashed all over the Internet and mainstream media. I didn’t write anything about it at the time because I don’t consider this news. And not just because it’s a story in a comic book – that stuff is totally news worthy.
And while I don’t think it’s news, I do think it’s a symptom of a larger problem at DC Comics: They’ve had zero patience in this first year, telling big, important stories without taking the time to establish and grow their characters. They’re screwing themselves over in the long run with the New 52.
I’ve wanted to write this article for awhile now, and it’s taken many forms. But the big deal made out of Clark Kent quitting the Daily Planet really underlines exactly what I think is wrong with the New 52: they’re publishing for the short term only. Their events and stories are all designed for immediate sales and popularity, with seemingly little thought put into what the comics will look like 5 or 10 years from now.
Join me after the jump for more, and a deeper exploration of what it really means for Clark Kent to quit the Daily Planet.
Let me start off by saying that I have no in depth grasp of sales figures, nor do I know much about the transition from print media to downloadable comics. I don’t sit in on DC board meetings, nor do I know what their creative minds are planning. All of my opinion comes from being a comic book fan for the past nearly 20 years, and from my general knowledge of the comic book industry. And I’m not trying to put down the New 52. I’m enjoying DC Comics, for the most part. I just think they’re rushing ahead of themselves so fast that they’re eventually going to trip on their own cape.
So Clark Kent quit the Daily Planet in last week’s issue of Superman. Like I said, it was big news in the geek blogosphere, and on mainstream news outlets. I like that comic books are getting this kind of recognition, though I don’t necessarily like that the mainstream news has devolved into such an organization that comic book stories make news. But that’s not what this article is about. This article is about why do I not think this is such a big deal.
First of all, this isn’t the first time that Clark Kent has quit the Daily Planet. He’s been around since the 1930s, with millions of stories told about Clark Kent and Superman. More than a few times, he has quit the newspaper and held other careers. Granted, those all took place in prior continuities, but the point remains the same: this has happened before, it will probably happen again.
I don’t trust the mainstream news to understand comic books. It’s like when the death of Spider-Man was big news, except that it was only the death of Ultimate Spider-Man. Normal Spider-Man, the one people had been reading about since the 60s, was fine. It’s the same with the New 52 reboot. Almost all of Superman’s history was rebooted last year with the rest of DC Comics, so all those previous times he’s quit the Daily Planet aren’t in continuity anymore. So technically speaking, this is the first and only time in the new continuity that he’s quit the Daily Planet. Fine, I get that. But it’s still not a big deal.
Second of all, Clark quitting the Daily Planet happened in the first regular issue written by new Superman writer Scott Lobdell. This is important to understand. Since the New 52 reboot last year, Superman has had four different writers. And when the first New 52 writer, George Perez, quit, he ranted about just how messed up the editorial decisions were on Superman. With a new Superman movie on the way, and the current success of comic book movies, the Warner Bros. corporate overlords were poking down into DC Comics. According to Perez, there were just too many editorial cooks in the kitchen, constantly making changes and asking for adjustments. Basically, when they rebooted the DC Universe, they did not have a solid plan in place for Superman. This may explain why there have been four different writers.
Lobdell has been working in comics for more than 20 years, and he’s been a part of the New 52 since the beginning, writing both Teen Titans and Red Hood and the Outlaws. So it’s safe to say that Lobdell is a solid company man, and I think that’s why DC turned to him to become the new writer of Superman. He’s a safe bet. He’s not a rising star like Scott Snyder of Jeff Lemire, and he’s not a noteworthy writer like Grant Morrison or Mark Millar. He’s just a solid, experienced writer who likely won’t bolt from the comic in three months like the other guys.
It’s also clear, from interviews like this one that the decision for Clark to quit the Planet was entirely Lobdell’s idea. He talks about how he wrote a proposal to the DC brass with these big ideas, and was worried about getting shut down. But he knew he wanted to “go big or go home” on the title, so he pushed for it and got it approved.
But while fans seem ready for the Man of Steel to move on to the next phase in his life, Lobdell said that he was initially worried that DC Comics wouldn’t go for his ideas. “I wrote a proposal for the series and I remember more than once thinking ‘No way they’ll let me do this — not in a million years!’ But then I’d look up at the Post-It® over my computer that says ‘Scott, Go Bold Or Go Home!’ and I just kept writing! For weeks after I turned it in I kept waiting for the phone call that said ‘Uh, yeah. Interesting. But never in a million years, Lobdell!’ Instead I got a text that said simply said ‘Congratulations,’” said Lobdell.
So this tells me that DC picked a solid, experience company man to write Superman, someone who was reliable and dependable and could write good enough comics. This new writer, one single person, thought up this idea that Clark would quit the Daily Planet and become a blogger. DC said OK, and here we are.
The whims of one single, relatively unimportant writer made national news. The same guy who has been writing the terrible Teen Titans comic!
And why do I think this is not that big of a deal? Because the issue where Clark walks out of the Planet isn’t really about that at all. It’s just one single scene. Most of the issue is about Superman fighting a giant space dragon.
And even that is just a lead-in to an upcoming crossover where Superman and Supergirl team up to fight a Kryptonian villain named H’el. Because everybody loves a good pun.
So in my opinion, this isn’t some big, grand exploration of Clark Kent and the state of modern day journalism. This was never DC’s plan all along with the reboot. This is a snap decision from a mediocre writer who wants to do something big and noteworthy, but is far more interested in telling a story about space dragons and evil aliens.
Which, at long last, brings me back to my original point. Sorry, I tend to ramble a bit. This story, and it’s seemingly on-the-fly decision, is going to hurt DC in the long run. And it’s not the only bad decision they’ve made in terms of rebooting their universe. What’s Superman going to look like 5 years from now? Or 10 years? If this New 52 continuity lasts as long as the previous reboots, is DC really going to go all that time without Clark working at the Daily Planet? What happens when he eventually returns to the Planet? The classic status quo always wins out when it comes to comics. Clark will eventually return. But when he does, DC will have already used up the ‘Clark quits’ storyline. They’ll never be able to tell that story again in the New 52 continuity, not without grossly repeating themselves.
Or take Darkseid’s introduction in the first story arc of the rebooted Justice League. I didn’t particularly care for the story. Darkseid was just a big, generic, and boring take on that classic villain. Rather than take their time and really build him up, rather than come up with something new and exciting for a rebooted Darkseid, DC just threw out the most boring version possible, and they used him as the first major villain for the League to fight.
Which means one of the greatest villains that DC has in their stable has been already wasted in the New 52 continuity. No great build up, no redefined persona or motivation. Just plain, ordinary Darkseid.
So Darkseid has already been established as a big, dumb bad guy. Clark Kent has already quit the Daily Planet. Green Lantern has already quit the Justice League. Aquaman has already uncovered the secrets of Atlantis. Batman has already had four Robins. The Guardians of the Universe have already been revealed as evil. DC are writing big, flashy stories instead of taking the time to build their characters and their new universe. I think this is going to cost them in the long run.
Or hey, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe this is a brilliant move. Maybe this will lead to new, fresh stories. Maybe Clark Kent will never return to the Daily Planet, and he’ll start a new blogging career that will become synonymous with Superman for decades to come.
But I think we all know that the status quo always wins in comics. No matter how things change, they always stay the same.
Also, speaking as a newspaper reporter myself, if DC really wanted to explore this issue, they should have had Clark Kent fired from the Daily Planet. Respectable print newspapers like the Planet aren’t turning into gossip rags in the real world. They’re getting shut down. Newsweek is ending their print magazine. The Post Standard in Syracuse, one of the largest, oldest newspapers in my region, is cutting back to only three issues a week and fired 100 people from their staff. This is the problem facing print today.
Clark Kent should be laid off due to budgetary constraints. Now that’s a story!