It seemed like only yesterday that we were celebrating the possibility of shinier, happier stories. Marvel touted their Heroic Age by proclaiming that heroes would act like heroes again. And DC’s Brightest Day seemed to promise the same. At least, that’s what I recall.
But it didn’t take long before a set of fans were up in arms and editors were on the defensive. DC debuted the new direction for the Titans with the sudden (but not necessarily shocking) death of non-Titan (and non-Caucasian) Atom Ryan Choi. Then, there was the Arsenal mini-series in which Roy Harper does a number of detestable things, including saying degrading things about the women he’s supposedly loved. Now, there’s the solicited cover for Green Arrow #3 with Oliver Queen taking an arrow to the forehead.
It all came to a head at a recent DC Nation panel at Heroes Con. Caroline, aka Mad Marvel Girl, reported Ian Sattler’s response to the controversies. The DC editor commented, “We never said Brightest Day was going to be about nice happy stories, people just inferred that from the name.” Say what? Is Ian Sattler seriously suggesting that the fault lay at the feet of the fans? Well, okay then.
On the one hand, there’s a legitimate point that fans may have over-reached with unrealistic expectations for Heroic Age and Brightest Day. The announcement of these two brands wasn’t going to change everything overnight or be as far-reaching as some fans inferred. It wasn’t like authors were never going to kill a character again. And villains were still going to do bad things; they are villains after all.
Additionally, some of the controversies have little to do with either Heroic Age or Brightest Day. For example, Nightcrawler was killed off in Second Coming, the month before Marvel’s Heroic Age was supposed to begin. Even then, the X-Men aren’t scheduled to enter the Heroic Age until later this summer with the debut of the new X-Men #1. To a lesser extent, this applies to the Roy Harper situation as well. “The Rise and Fall of Arsenal” mini-series isn’t part of the Brightest Day brand, so there’s a possibility that it’s still playing under the old rules. Even if that excuse doesn’t hold, we should note that there is a difference between the Brightest Day title and the Brightest Day brand. All of the controversies have arisen out of other titles- Titans, Arsenal, Green Arrow- but not out of Brightest Day itself.
Finally, DC and Marvel were never going to go back to the comics of the ‘60s where everything was resolved neatly by the end of 22 pages. They also weren’t going to replay the TV shows of the ‘80s where a hundred Cobras could shoot a thousand lasers and never hit a single one of the good guys. And honestly, most fans don’t want that.
On the other hand, the editorial response is particularly tone-deaf. It’s generally not a good idea to tell your customers that they’re wrong.
Furthermore, miscommunication is not always the fault of the receiver. I find it hard to fault the fans for thinking that Brightest Day might indicate a return to slightly shinier stories. If that’s not what the story is about, then DC should have named it something else. Or at least, they should have been clear about the tone and direction of the story during its promotion. Fans were not unwarranted in jumping to the conclusions that they did.
More importantly, their conclusions were indicative of their
desires. Fans wanted to see a return to
happier stories- where Captain
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it’s a vocal minority demanding the changes and the majority of fans enjoy the senseless killing of supporting characters or the graphic depiction of arrows embedded in foreheads. But, based on the reaction to these controversies, I don’t think so. Maybe DC’s editors need to listen a little more to what fans say they want, and spend a little less time telling them they’re wrong.
I still have high hopes for Brightest Day and Heroic Age. As I mentioned earlier, the controversies haven’t come out of the main Brightest Day title (which I’ve been enjoying immensely) and Heroic Age has just gotten started. But the titles orbiting Brightest Day have been a black eye so far. And my expectations have been tempered somewhat as the editors, based on their comments, don’t seem to share that opinion.