Monday, June 22, 2009

Nerve Than a Toothache

On the Legion World boards, intrepid correspondent Exnihil recently announced that he'd be visiting the Wizard World Philadelphia convention, and that he'd ask a question of Dan DiDio at the DC panel if anyone could come up with a good one. He picked this question from intrepid correspondent Fat Cramer:

I would like to know what the criteria would be for the Legion to get its own comic. Fan support? Sales of the Adventure book? Gut feeling? A creator begging to do the book?

and, after the panel, reported the following response:

I did ask Fat Cramer's question, and was told that fan support is essential to bringing the Legion back to the forefront. DiDio likened this period to the post Adventure period, where the Legion played backup to Superboy until enough noise was made to give them their own title. He said that although he always sees the Legion as having a presence in the DCU, this "second feature" status will continue for a period. I followed up, asking how long he anticipated that period being and he said... very discouragingly... "could be a year, could be infinity".

Well then.

Let's first of all get some bookkeeping out of the way. We're assuming for the purposes of this discussion that Exnihil is an accurate reporter. We have to: none of the other convention reports mention this particular question, so there's no independent verification [Edit: actually, there is! A comment on the Legion Omnicom's post about the weekend's cons]. Let's also stipulate that it would be silly for DC to put out any comic book that they didn't think would sell. And let's not completely dismiss the possibility, despite the complete lack of any evidence for it, that DC does in fact have big plans for the Legion but DiDio isn't prepared to talk about them yet.

(Aside: I'm not one of the many who are calling for Dan DiDio to be fired. I don't have the expertise or the information to make a call like that, and I won't pretend that I do. There is almost certainly a lot more to his job than any of us understand. Plus, he's done a lot of stuff right. Wednesday Comics? Great idea!)

Now, a lot of people who will be reading this know a lot more about the social history of the Legion than I do, so if I'm wrong about this I hope they can correct me. But my understanding is that the Legion was turfed out of Adventure back in the day not because of poor fan interest but because of editorial jiggery pokery. (Just like now, in other words.)

Look: sales for the threeboot were reasonably strong. Or, rather, they were reasonably strong until DC shifted its focus to the retroboot Legion and left the threeboot all dressed up with no place to go. Sales for the retroboot-related arcs of JLA, JSA and Action have also been quite good. And Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds has sold very well. So if there's no Legion comic right now (and there isn't), I don't buy it that low sales is the reason.

For that matter, the Legion has been one of DC's reliable-selling titles for basically the last fifty years... and now DiDio wants us to believe that DC doesn't know if the Legion will ever be able to carry their own title again?

It doesn't really make sense, does it? Geoff Johns just spent, what, more than two years of his life putting together the sequence of events that culminates with FC:L3W #5. (Well, two years for the Legion-related stuff, anyway.) And that was all to set up... an eight-page backup in a Kon-El comic?

I hope the audience at this panel had their hip boots on.

But none of this is what annoys me. People who are representing corporations tell us stupid stuff all the time and try to get us to swallow it; it's absolutely par for the course. DC's position on the Legion doesn't make sense? So what else is new.

What bugs me is that DiDio is implying that this is all our fault and that it's up to us to save the Legion. Like, if we don't run out and buy ten copies each of the new Adventure, the Legion will never have their own comic again. Oh no! If only we had been better fans! Matters should never have come to such a pass! Please, Dan, tell us how we can help the Legion! It would actually be quite amusing if it wasn't so obnoxious.

Seriously, I'm not going for it at all. I will not permit Dan DiDio to play hardball with me. It wasn't me who made Legion continuity what it is today, and it wasn't any of you either. Our consciences are clear. It certainly wasn't me who pulled the rug out from under the threeboot and LSH31C. No, for those contributions, you have to look to DiDio and his coworkers and predecessors.

So don't let DiDio snow you. Here are some things that I believe to be facts. I hope you will use them to make the purchasing decisions that seem good to you.

1. We cannot exert our will on DC Comics. They're going to publish exactly what they decide to publish. We can influence them, maybe, if we're vocal enough, but the final decision is always theirs. We can't make them do anything.

2. Voting with your dollar is a poor way of sending a message. If Adventure sells well, is that because of Superboy II or the Legion or Geoff Johns or Francis Manapul or the quality of the comic book? If it sells poorly, is that because of Superboy II or the Legion or Geoff Johns or Francis Manapul or the quality of the comic book? And how can DC tell? Think how silly you would feel if you organized a save-the-Legion campaign where every Legion fan promises to buy ten copies of Adventure, and DC responded by giving Kon-El a second title in addition to Adventure.

3. Writing a letter is a better way of sending a message. A paper letter, not an e-mail; paper letters get more attention. The best letters are legible, clear, civil and concise. DC's mailing address is DC Comics, 1700 Broadway, New York, NY USA 10019.

4. The Legion is one of DC's strongest candidates for what characters can hold down a monthly title. Not top-ten, maybe, but certainly top-twenty. Therefore it is inevitable that DC will try it again at some point, and, given the groundwork that Geoff Johns has been laying down, I see no reason why it couldn't be successful.

I'm not here to tell you to buy Adventure or not. My point is that it's your decision to make for any reason you want, and that you shouldn't let DC scare or browbeat you into it. I didn't decide myself whether I was going to buy it until partway through writing this article. Here's how I decided: I asked myself, "What if the Legion did have an ongoing series, that I was buying, in addition to the backup in Adventure. Would I buy Adventure then?" And my answer was, "Yeah, I probably would. Yes, of course I would. Sure I would! Why wouldn't I?" So I will.

Yes, I'm annoyed at how DC treated the threeboot. Yes, I'm ticked about the deceptive aspects of the retroboot. Yes, I'm irritated about DiDio trying to blame all of DC's problems on me, and I'm hacked off that the Legion doesn't have a regular title of their own. But all of that is details. What I want is interesting comic books, preferably Legion-related, and while Adventure is a poor substitute for a regular Legion comic, that doesn't mean that it isn't of interest as what you might call a supplementary Legion comic. I am willing to exchange money for such a comic book. And if I let these fribbling little disputes get in the way of these transactions, then I won't have the comic books I want. Which is not the way I want this to come out.

Anyway, that's how I'm making my decision. It's none of my business how you're doing it, and it's none of DC's either. And if Dan DiDio doesn't like it, he can go roll his hoop.

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