Sunday, August 30, 2015

Should DC Stop Batgirling Superman?

So, with us not even 3 months into the new DC You initiative, the internet was abuzz with stories that DC wanted a return to more old school, meat and potatoes superhero comics. The rumor was that DC editorial had requested writers stop Batgirling titles (a term inspired by attempts to capture the lightning in a bottle popularity of that title.) Among the titles brandied about as a failure was DC's new take on Superman.

But a week on the internet is a long time, so by Saturday, DC had put out a statement trying to dispel this rumor. And while DC's statement may quash the rumor for now, there's no denying that so far Batgirling Superman has not work. Check out these July 2015 Sales numbers from ComicsBeat:

36 - SUPERMAN ($3.99)
07/2005: Superman #219  -- 71,036 
07/2010: Superman #701  -- 54,506
07/2011: Superman #713  -- 36,646 <-- Last pre-Flashpoint issue
07/2012: Superman #11   -- 56,066 <-- Jurgens DC 52 Run
07/2013: Superman #22   -- 42,961 
07/2014: Superman #33   -- 62,998 (- 39.1%)<-- Start Johns/Romita Run
08/2014: Superman #34   -- 56,568 (- 10.2%)
09/2014: Futures End #1 -- 77,949 (+ 37.8%)
10/2014: Superman #35   -- 53,692 (- 31.1%)
11/2014: Superman #36   -- 52,272 (-  2.6%)
12/2014: Superman #37   -- 50,383 (-  3.6%)
01/2015: --
02/2015: Superman #38   -- 48,987 (-  2.8%)
03/2015: Superman #39   -- 50,260 (+  2.6%)
04/2015: Superman #40   -- 52,666 (+  4.8%) <-- End Johns/Romita Run
05/2015: --
06/2015: Superman #41   -- 53,393 (+  1.4%)<--- First DC You Issue
07/2015: Superman #42   -- 46,691 (- 12.6%)

Looking at the numbers, we may see a return to Superman selling at an all time low again. Which brings up the question: Can Superman Ever Become A Major Seller Again?


I've danced around this question before, but since that post, we've seen quite a number of talented writers work on Superman (Grant Morrison, Dan Jurgens, John K. Snyder, Geoff Johns) but none have them have been major sales successes.

I think part of the problem is that today's writers tend to try to apply modern storytelling techniques to the character using personal crisis or identity searches as the axis of their stories when in truth most Superman fans don't want any of that crap. IE: It's okay if Batman wants to struggle with what it means to be THE BATMAN. Batman's already a headcase to begin with. What's more morbid introspection for that guy?

Superman, on the other hand, is supposed to epitomize humanity. He gives his fans an oasis from their real world pressures with his never ending mantras of self affirmation. Like this classic scene form Superman 397 in the 70's.

So, rather than use the trope of  Hidden Depths characterization that seem to get trotted out with each re-visioning of Superman, why not put him situations that take advantage of his (arguably antiquated) personality traits and focus on how they help him survive some hooky insurmountable circumstance.

Here's how I see the Superman formula should work:
  1. Superman faces some villain/obstacle that overwhelms him on some level
  2. The apparent solution to is one that would make Superman break his moral code -- (this could be things like killing a villain or leaving a planet to be ruled by a tyrant)
  3. Superman uses his brains and/or determination to find a better solution
  4. This story unfolds in 1 or 2 issues, tops, but can play into a larger story overall.

Now imagine 12 issues of a run like that. That's the sort of evergreen graphic novel DC could sell for a long time to a wide range of fans. (You could argue that's what All Star Superman is, but that just proves my point.)

So, will we ever get a return to a top selling Superman title? Maybe. I'm just not convinced so-called Batgirling is the answer.


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