Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Service Charge

At Newsarama, Vaneta Rogers talks to Keith Champagne, the writer of DC Comics' upcoming miniseries Countdown: Arena. Obviously, the book is a spin-off of the publisher's weekly Countdown title. Its premise: Alternate versions of DC's major characters beat each other up inside an arena over positions in the Countdown villain's army. There's even a website on which DC let their fans vote on the outcomes of four of the fights - one for every issue.

Asked about the criticisms which have been directed at Countdown: Arena since it was first announced a few months back, Champagne is puzzled. "I was surprised at the mixed reaction to a project that’s been designed to be so fan friendly," he tells Rogers. And Champagne isn't alone in his confusion, it seems. Back in August, trying to convince people of the book's merits, DC Comics executive editor Dan Didio described Countdown: Arena as "fan-fiction at its finest."

Again, as with Didio's recent admission that "about 75% of the concepts that are being created [for DC's mainstream superhero line] are editorially driven," it's not really a great surprise to anyone who's been following DC's output that this sort of editorial policy exists. The surprising part, once more, is the fact that they wear it as a badge of honor.

Comments by Countdown editor Michael Carlin, again made at Newsarama, highlight a related problem.
NRAMA: Mike - hate to keep kicking this dead horse, but wouldn't this have been a great place for an Editor's Note? After all, you've got a main character referring to something which hasn't even been seen yet... so it's not as if even the regular readers know what's going on, let alone the readers who only pick up Countdown... I mean - what's the philosophy behind not pointing readers to another story they might enjoy and possibly buy?

MC: The answer remains the same: There would simply be too many footnotes in a series like this... There are already several narrators forcing several caption styles and I would still like for some of the art to show through the copy. Also the internet does much of this job for us, and we’ve just run several DC Nation pages to help you out.
Let's summarize: (1) The reason why there are no editorial notes in Countdown helping readers to sort out what's actually happening in the book is because there would have to be too many of them. (2) The term "fan-fiction" is a seal of quality at DC.

If you've been wondering why sales of the publisher's DC Universe line has been drastically losing steam over the last year, you can probably stop now.

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