Just like the gaming industry, the comic book industry is talking only among themselves.
For those of you don’t follow video games, E3 (the Electronic Entertainment Expo) is going on right now, and the big three console makers – Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo – all had their big press conferences this week. And, frankly, I couldn’t have been more disappointed. Especially when it came to Nintendo.
Nintendo announced a new video game system which, no matter how much I love Nintendo, I think had got to be the most pointless idea I’ve ever seen. But what really got me, and not just when it came to Nintendo, but to all the conferences, was the game announcements. Namely, there were hardly any. And what was announced? Sequel after sequel after sequel.
I mean really, Halo 4 Microsoft? Haven’t you already milked that franchise into the ground? And Final Fantasy XIII-2? XIII-2? Square, have you even finished vs. XIII yet?
Even the new Zelda, I series I’ve loved since I was a kid, is looking dull to me.
With the Wii, Nintendo was all about trying to expand the market and brining people who either never gamed or had lapsed at gaming back into the hobby. Now? With this new system – called the Wii U of all things – that strategy appears to be out the window. Because all this new system is is what the industry kept whining they wanted Nintendo to do – a Wii HD. Which is playing right into the same arms and perception race that Nintendo got into with Sony and other companies before, that lead them into falling off from being the top company for the previous two generations. Case in point? The game trailers shown for the Wii U (and whomever at Nintendo came up with that name should be fired for being an obvious plant/troll for Sony/Microsoft) were all actually the PS3 or 360 versions of said games.
Don’t believe me? Check it: http://thisismynext.com/2011/06/07/nintendo-wii-u-games-xbox-360-ps3-fak/
And this brings me to DC Comics and this whole reboot thing, which – as rumor has it – will include ending the Lois and Clark marriage. And the notion that doing this will bring in new readers to the comics, including the Superman ones.
Here’s the thing DC Comics: No, it won’t.
Maybe a few people who used to read Superman but dropped it will start picking it up again, but that’s not expanding the market and bringing in new readers – which is what articles and some executive talk about this whole thing is claiming is the goal here. That is just giving old readers a new coat of paint to something they are already in-the-know about and familiar with.
And in this case? The coat of paint isn’t even new. It’s grabbing a can of paint from the Silver Age and using that instead of going out and buying a truly new, fresh coat of paint.
Just like the Wii U is nothing but a new coat of paint to the original Wii. An HD coat of paint, with a dumb controller that has none of the appeal that the Wii remote had when it came to the original Wii.
A short history lesson for those who don’t follow gaming:
What happened after the success of the original NES was that Nintendo allowed themselves to get into an arms race with Sega in the 16-bit era, and then with Sony and other companies (Sega and Microsoft) in the follwing eras after that. In Japan, the name of the NES was the Famicom, which was short for Family Computer. Nintendo wanted everyone in the family to play games on the NES and made games that played to that philosophy, and so did many 3′rd party companies.
That all started to change in the 16-bit era. They still won that era, but the strategy became less and less making games for everyone and became more about out-performing the other guy in graphics power.
And that got taken one step further when Sony entered the market. Sony made it a strategy with the PS0 that no 2D games could be made for the system, which locked out everyone from the 8-bit and 16-bit eras who weren’t into 3D gaming. And then, not only that, they were not making games for everyone in the family, like the NES was trying to do. They zeroed in on a “core” group who demanded the best graphics and powers and obsessed over the specs of a game – frame rates, etc. Nintendo was branded by Sony as the “kiddy” company . . . which Nintendo, instead of embracing that they were trying to appeal to everyone (kids, adults, girls, women) got into that perception race with Sony as well as the graphics race.
And getting into those two races is what caused Nintendo to fall after being the kings of the market for two generations before.
With the DS and the Wii, all Nintendo did was go back to the original strategy they had during the NES – making a console and games for everyone, not just a hardcore select. Because catering to that specific hardcore select? Is what has caused the gaming market to shrink and become more and more insular during th previous two cycles (N64/PS0, Gamecube/PS2/Xbox eras), giving the industry less and less people to market and appeal to. And the people they were reaching were only the hardcore who actually not only knew but cared about the technical specs of a game – not if the game was, you know, actually fun and actually playable. (The apex of this focus on graphic over game play mentality being a little game called Lair for the PS3).
But now? Nintendo appears to be falling back into their pre-DS and pre-Wii patten of engaging in a battle that goes against what they were originally about and actually helped them – and the industry itself- grow.
And this is, quite frankly, what has been going on with comics since about 2000. And it is what is going on right now with this whole reboot stuff.
The hardcore comic book fans are all talking to themselves when it comes to things like this. Geoff Johns and those guys are all doing this and writing what they want to read. Which hey, as a writer myself, isn’t a bad way to think. You can’t write trying to please everyone, because you’ll end up pleasing no one at all. But, on that same end, you can’t just write for a small select group of people either. Because then, like what happened with Nintendo, you end up shrinking your audience more and more. And they are completely incorrect if they think what they find appealing will appeal to a wider mass of people when, as I said in a post above, they are not offering anything really new here. It’s all nothing but a new coat of paint – a Silver Age paint, that I guess they think will grow the audience since comic book sales were high during the Silver Age. But that too is incorrect thinking. What worked for one era of time does not always work in another.
This bringing in new readers thing is bull. Or just a really bad business strategy. Why the hell would new readers even care that this is happening? What in all of this appeals to them? Superman/Clark and Lois aren’t married? Okay, and? If that was keeping anyone away from reading Superman comics, I seriously doubt it was that large a number of people. Frankly, I don’t think that large a number of mainstream people even knew they were married in the comics. Married on Lois and Clark? Yeah. Sort-of-kinda married on Smallville? Maybe. The comics? People in comic book circles knew it, but I’d leave it at that.
What new stories open up because Lois and Clark aren’t married? Oh, and they’re younger. Clark dating other women? And . . . so? He did that in the Silver Age. Hell, he did that in the Modern Age before he and Lois got together. We watched him do it for 7+ years on Smallville. What’s new, that he’ll probably date Wonder Woman for longer than two seconds? Again I say . . . and?
Resetting the marriage, making Clark, Lois, etc, younger isn’t doing anything new and different with Superman. Hell, I could be a real smart ass and point out that Smallville more or less already did all of this stuff (with the only exception being that Clark wasn’t in the classic suit when he was off saving people). So this isn’t going to stop DC – or hell the industry in general – from the bleeding audience they’ve been having for over a decade. Only something really new and different will get a real wide audience interested in these books again, not just a new coat of paint.
And, as I said before, even the new paint isn’t that new.
They want to reboot stuff? Okay, fine. Once you all at DC get bored with this new new continuity you’ll probably do it again another 20 years from now. I just want to know why making them younger, unmarried, etc. is going to appeal to a new audience who has never cared to pick up a comic book before this, when all of this sounds like nothing more than stuff I’ve seen done in various other places over the years before – including in the comics themselves.
What’s kept all these comic book characters popular with the mainstream for the past decade or two hasn’t been the comics. It’s been the movies, the tv shows and the animated series’. A vid I saw a few years ago talking about the comic book industry – which also then went into relating it to the gaming industry – and how it shrunk itself said it best: you can’t get younger kids to read comics anymore unless they are in paperback, imported from Japan and backwards. Why did Manga take off in the west? Because it was new and different. What DC is doing here isn’t new OR different. Like the gaming industry, they are still just talking among themselves.