June 9, 2010

Oh, That Wacky Ian Sattler!

Sometimes - just sometimes - I wonder where the heck people are coming from.

Case in point - recent blogs have focused on this quote made by Ian Sattler about DC "killing off" a minority character to make room for the return of an older character:

A serious topic came up about how characters who are minorities who happened to be legacy characters like Ryan Choi are killed off so their caucasian counterparts can return and how they feel like they are being cheated or sidelined out of their roles. Sattler took a more serious tone. "It's so hard for me to be on the other side because it's not our intention. There is a reason behind it all. We don't see it that way and strive very hard to have a diverse DCU. I mean, we have green, pink, and blue characters. We have the Great Ten out there and I have counter statistics, but I won't get into that. It's not how we perceived it. We get the same thing about how we treat our female characters.

Putting aside the off-handed pink/blue/green remark, much of Sattler's comment reveals what is DC's strength - and its weakness - an excessive reliance on its past.

Let's imagine we head back almost 50 years to the release of Showcase # 4, and the debut of the Barry Allen Flash. Had the Internet been around then, there may be someone complaining that DC was practicing age discrimination because - let's face it - DC had little faith in an older guy who ran fast, but stuck with the younger guy. What DC did - creatively however - is have its cake and eat it, too, and claim that both heroes could (and did) exist in the same multiverse.

Unfortunately, many of the same people who read those comics...are now running things at DC. Instead of finding a way to make Ryan Choi work (and I think he could have been a great Atom, investigating weird science in Ivy Town), it was a simple matter to just kill him....because, quite frankly, Ray Palmer will always be the Atom to a set group of people.

(In my opinion, Ryan Choi = fun, cool character. Ray Palmer = kinda boring and whiny. There. I've said it).

And for those who say, "That's why I read Marvel"...well, they're really engaging in much more of the same phenomenon. It's not based on strong storytelling (although both publishers have exceptions), but on a more fan-fiction type of level. It's no longer about building their respective universes, but making sure that every character is a franchise coming soon to a multiplex, toy aisle, and cheap fast food drinking glass near you.

(And lest we forget, I loathe the term franchise).

It's easy to fall into negativity around this because, quite frankly, it deserves a little negativity. It shows that increasingly, the big two are falling into the easy trap of making comics that please a small - but dedicated - group of fans. It means that diversity in their eyes is as simple as checking off an appropriate group. It means that as long as their youthful favorites stay within their frame of mind, comics will be ideal.

But more importantly, it means that they risk alienating current readers then taking more risky - yet infinitely more rewarding - creative chances that might lead to more readers.

Or, more simply put - I'm probably of the same generation that is running both DC and Marvel. I enjoyed the comics I read back then. I simply ask that they not be recycled into current comics.

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