Sunday, August 14, 2011

DC Retro-Activity

In recent years, DC has taken advantage of the summer (when traditionally students released from school for vacation swell comics sales) to release special projects, often ones that appeal to nostalgia. A fondly-remembered one is the "DC Wednesdays" series of sunday funnies-type tabloid comics. For this summer's project, DC has released a series of "Retro-Active" one-shots, each featuring a character as written and drawn in the '70's, '80's, or '90's, each written by and (usually) drawn by an artist who illustrated the character's adventures in that era. Each also includes a reprint of a comic book of the character from that era, usually one tied into the new story. It's an expensive package ($4.99 per comic), but an entertaining one.

What the project highlights, though, is some of the directions DC Comics have changed -- and not always for the better. In the '70's and '80's, comics editors emphasized individual comics issues that were paced as individual issues -- with beginnings, middles, and ends -- even when the comic was part of an ongoing storyline. In subsequent decades, paperback compilations of comics stories eclipsed the sales of individual issues, with the result that creators paced individual issues like chapters of a book -- meaning that individual issues joined stories in mid-stream, and left them that way.

To some longtime readers, like me, the pacing of most modern comics seems off. Fewer individual comics offer a satisfying reading experience when taken out of the context of long continuing storylines. Sometimes it takes a revival of the past to remind you of some of the shortcomings of the present.

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