Thursday, September 8, 2011

Got your 'New 52' right here.

By Jay Stringer

First things first, the guys over at The Deceptionists podcast are recording a crime fiction special tonight. What makes a story into crime fiction? What marks out the genre? How do you write it? As long as my secret formula (coffee) works, I'll be guesting on the show to throw in my own two cents. But what do you guys think? If you have any questions you'd like to ask, head over to their twitter account (@deceptionists) and holler.

Okay. As long time readers will know, I'm a comic book reader. They're how I learned to read, and I've never stopped. I'm not the only DSD'er who reads 'em, but I'm the one who has the platform today, bwahahahahahahha.

/Evil laugh.

Anyway. You've probably heard about the DC relaunch. The 'New 52' has been quite a news story, the idea being that DC has relaunched it's entire main line back to number 1. It's not a total CASINO ROYALE style reboot, because some of the bigger titles are carrying over a few chunks of continuity. Think of it more as a new show runner on DOCTOR WHO; the past is still there, in an undefined way, but the current story can also act as the first one for a whole new generation.

The real excitement for me is that DC is also using this as the launching pad for day-and-date digital releases. That is, new issues can now be purchased digitally on the same day the print versions are released into stores. Anyone reading this is well versed in the online crime fiction community, and it's obsession with debating print vs digital, so you'll understand what a big step that was.

There's a sense of excitement in the air right now. Twitter is full of people talking about comics in excited tones and caps-lock. It's really great to see.

I know that there are people out there who read our occasional foray into comic book chat and think, well, I like the idea of comics, but I never get the time or I'd be lost in a comic book store. Another that I hear is, but there's all that continuity to learn about. Now is your time.

Head on over to comixology every Wednesday this month and check out a couple of titles. Not all of them will work. Not all of them will entertain or grasp you. A simple fact of producing 52 titles is that some will miss the mark, and different books will cater to different tastes. But along the way I think there will be something in there for each of you.

Warning, it's habit forming. Bwahahahahahhaha.

/Evil laugh #2.

What has been interesting for me in these first few days of the relaunch has been the handling of exposition. Clearly, there is a mandate from the editors that this is all about new readers. Every concept needs to be explained in the first issue, and as quickly as possible.

Just like the digital debate, this is an issue that's our stock-in-trade. How do you get past history across to the reader? What exactly is show-don't-tell, how much is too much? All issues that we could talk about, and all issues that Chuck Wendig can do better than I can.

But it's been fun watching the different ways in which the writers are handling it. There have been some that simply haven't worked. Heavy handed, clunky writing. There have been a couple of issues that have been zipping along nicely, then hit a brick wall when the writer feels the need to then explain something that probably should have been left to the reader.

I'll be interested to see what any of you have been thinking so far. Especially if you're one of those new readers that editorial mandates are trying to cater to. How much can you pick up as you go? And, as new readers, are you noticing this exposition is slowing the story down, or has you felt that you've needed it?

In closing, I'd like to single out one of this weeks titles for special praise. If you're only going to try one book during all of this, well, then I'm going to cry down in the DSD basement while uncle D asks to be let out for another flash-fiction challenge. BUT then I'll come back upstairs and say, if you're only trying one, make it ANIMAL MAN.

I read it about an hour ago, and then read it again straight away to see how it had worked so well.

It has more work to do than almost any of the other books. We can all pick up a book with Batman or Superman in it, and we'll know know at least half of what we need already, even if we've never read a comic. But ANIMAL MAN? That's a harder sell. The writer, Jeff Lemire, needs to get across a complicated back story, an unusual superpower, and a fairly unique home life. All of this needs to be gotten across in 20 pages, whilst also giving us an exciting stand alone story, making us care about the characters, and making us excited about the future. And issue 1 delivers on every single one of those.

If you open the book knowing nothing about ANIMAL MAN, you'll reach the other end knowing all that you need, and wanting to know what happens next.

Considering that this was a week when we had a new stories for Batman, Superman, Green Arrow and Bat Girl, it's a stunning achievement that the easiest and most effective read was ANIMAL MAN.

Go for it.


Spencer said...

just picked up my first installment of the new 52 (local deal all 52 for $52!) couldn't pass them up. i'll try out ANIMAL MAN!

Scott D. Parker said...

Jay, Having not read your post (yet; day job), I wrote about Detective #1 and Comixology. How's that for serendipity?