Friday, July 13, 2007

Organ Grinder

Back in March, DC Comics released a preview of books shipping in June. Included was an image supposedly showing the cover for Justice League of America #10, drawn by Michael Turner, which displayed a character named Power Girl with an impossibly large chest. It wasn't the first time, and a bit of a controversy among online observers followed.

A month later, the publisher released information on titles shipping in July. This time, an image by artist Alex Ross accompanying the solicitation copy for Justice Society of America #7 showed the character Citizen Steel with a particularly keen crotch, which again aroused online commentators.

So far, so good. Neither the offending images nor the resulting response were anything unusual. DC's superhero line has been at the center of a number of controversies in recent years - notably after 2004's Identity Crisis, which featured the rape and murder of a popular female supporting character by a cheesy old super-villain. What's different now, however, is that DC are actually reacting to the online uproar and go to the length of modifying the images before they see print. For our convenience, Devon Sanders kindly puts the Citizen Steel pieces next to each other, while Loren Collins demonstrates Power Girl's "breast reduction." (Links via Lisa Fortuner of Blog@Newsarama.)

What is all of this telling us? Well, the alterations may or may not be justified, depending on what your expectations on DC's comic are. In essence, though, it's obviously a case of the publisher paying close attention to online reactions and tweaking two of their publications accordingly - and on very short notice. Which, in turn, also lends more credibility the evidence that the reversal of the recent Flash relaunch wasn't the result of a long-term plan, but a remarkably prompt reaction to an overwhelmingly negative response by the audience.

The pattern that emerges doesn't exactly suggest that cooler heads are prevailing at DC right now. Surely, if they've thought this stuff through, it can't be so bad they've got to pull the emergency brakes immediately when something doesn't go according to plan. Unless, of course, (a), they didn't think it through, which begs the question why. Or (b), someone's twitchy because they're fearing for their job.

Either way, some curious things are going on at the publisher right now. Given that the average sales of their mainstream superhero line are still almost 50% up on four years ago, you'd think that was a solid basis for some confident long-term planning. But apparently not.

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