Archive for DC Reboot

Reboot Hill

The big San Diego Comic Con was this past weekend, with comic publishers and movie studios showing up to make big announcements and try to generate positive buzz for new projects. There was, of course, more attention than usual going to DC Comics, as they made multiple announcements and conducted numerous panels about the upcoming DC Reboot in September.

And the more I hear about it, the less I like.

First, I really do try not to give in to the desire to scream “THEY CHANGED IT, NOW IT SUCKS” because that’s such a pitiful nerd stereotype. I mean, there are lots of things about the Reboot that I like. I like seeing a new “Blue Beetle” series. I like seeing a new “Static Shock” series. I like seeing a new “Batwoman” series. The previewed “Wonder Woman” art looks incredible. I don’t even mind all the costume changes — I can deal with a Superman who doesn’t have the red underpants, and I can deal with a Wonder Woman who wears pants. Granted, most of the new costumes are spectacularly bad (Hello, Flash. Hello, Arsenal. Hello, Starfire. Hello, every character in “Teen Titans.”), but most of those costumes will only last ’til the artists decide they want to draw the classic costumes again.

Nevertheless, the more I hear about the Reboot, the more I think it’s going to be a colossal failure.

How bad are things looking? Well, there was a report this weekend that Wonder Woman was going to have retractable pants. I’m pretty sure that was a joke — but the real announcements coming out have been so bizarre, I’m not really sure whether they were kidding or not.

Among other things:

  • There’s still no indication that the new DC Universe will have a place for popular characters like former Batgirl Cassandra Cain, former Flash Wally West, or anyone from the Justice Society.
  • Superman is going to be pushed as a grim, brooding, anti-social loner. In fact, Supergirl and Superboy look like they’re going to be brooding loners, too. This is completely counter to the past few decades, where one of the Man of Steel’s most unshakeable character points was his optimism and charisma.
  • Batman has been active for just five years but has already burned through four sidekicks of varying ages. This is going to cause huge continuity problems — for example, Damian, Bruce Wayne’s son, is about 12 years old, but I doubt Bruce tangled with Ra’s al Ghul and his daughter (and Damian’s mother) Talia prior to becoming Batman.
  • And something that just infuriates me. Remember Lian Harper? The five-year-old daughter of Speedy/Arsenal/Red Arrow — adorable and much-loved supporting character — who was shockingly killed at the end of the reviled “Cry for Justice” miniseries. Well, Dan DiDio announced that, in the rebooted DCU, the character never existed at all. What the heck is DiDio’s problem with the character? Jason Todd gets brought back to life, Deathstroke gets multiple unsuccessful series, Sinestro gets shoehorned into the Green Lantern Corps — but Lian Harper is apparently so hated by DC’s top brass that they have to basically kill her off twice? Seriously, DiDio, this next bit is just for you.

Other problems? DC’s PR blitz for the Comic Con seemed at times to focus less on promoting their new comics and more on insulting fans who had legitimate questions about the Reboot. People who asked why DC chose to hire an alarmingly small number of female creators were shrugged off and sneered at. At one point, Grant Morrison told female creators to submit their work to DC — despite the fact that DC doesn’t accept unsolicited submissions. DiDio insisted that DC only hired the best creators, implying that there were no female creators who were good enough to work at DC. I mean, last year, Marvel filled up three issues of the “Girl Comics” anthology miniseries with nothing but work from women, but DiDio doesn’t think any of them are any good.

Seriously, Dan DiDio thinks Rob Liefeld is better than Amanda Conner, Nicola Scott, Kathryn Immonen, Colleen Coover, Marjorie Liu, Devin Grayson, Ann Nocenti, Trina Robbins, Stephanie Buscema, Jill Thompson, Louise Simonson, Molly Crabapple, Nikki Cook, Ming Doyle, Faith Erin Hicks, and Carla Speed McNeil.

That’s not how you do PR. Any normal company would have your PR manager scrambling to fix the damage over the weekend, waiting in your office the next morning ordering you to stop speaking to the press, and telling his supervisor he needs a raise if he’s going to fix your disasters anymore.

I don’t wanna keep rattling on about this forever, so let’s hit another couple of serious issues about the Reboot and call it a day.

First, there’s this from Todd McFarlane. Now listen, I’m not the biggest fan of McFarlane’s comics — but he’s been running an immensely successful company for a couple of decades, and I think he’s making tons of sense in this interview, where he outlines his reasons why he believes the Reboot isn’t going to be successful for the company or for retailers.

Second, there’s an issue that hasn’t gotten a lot of attention, but which I think could cause major troubles for the Reboot. While most of the superhero comics are set in the present day, Action Comics and Justice League are both set five years in the past. It seems to me that’s something that’s going to cause tons of confusion for readers, especially new readers. Why is Superman a nonflying superhero wearing a T-shirt and jeans in one comic, but a flying, armored powerhouse in the other? Besides confusing readers, you’re also guaranteed to cause even more continuity headaches down the line.

And finally, there are the $64,000 questions: Why is DC being rebooted, and who ordered the reboot? The members of one of the Superman panels said the Reboot hasn’t been planned for that long — probably not much more than six months ago.

I don’t think this was an idea that came from within DC Comics. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the Reboot was cooked up after Time-Warner started taking a stronger interest in the comics division. And I also don’t think it’s a coincidence that many of the changes being made in the Reboot — dark, brooding Superman, weird costumes, increased emphasis on “dark comics” like “Justice League Dark” and “I, Vampire” and “edgy comics” like the new Wildstorm relaunches — sound exactly like what you’d expect a clueless Hollywood movie exec to come up with in an attempt to make comics “hip.” I think the whole Reboot was ordered from the higher-ups at Time-Warner — either from Diane Nelson, in her role as the head of DC Entertainment Inc., or from someone even higher up in the corporate hierarchy.

Is that a good thing? I mean, we expect the folks running Time-Warner to know how to make popular entertainment, right? Well, I do hope that they can re-create the success of the “Dark Knight” movies within comics themselves — but on the other hand, these were also the people behind the recent film versions of “Watchmen” or “Catwoman.” On the whole, I’m not particularly hopeful.

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Reboot to the Head

Yeah, the DC Reboot is still going on. And it’s still looking like a disaster.

Standard disclaimers: I can’t see the future, and it might turn out fine. Always beware geeks pronouncing DOOOOOOM. And I have no idea what DC’s secret plans may be.

Having said that, I still say it’s looking like a disaster.

Let’s be optimistic and start with stuff that looks good. Because there are a number of comics on the list that sound good and that I’ll probably pick up.

Yeah, I’ll pick up “Batgirl.” I complained about moving Barbara Gordon out of her role as Oracle, but it’s written by Gail Simone, who is one of DC’s best writers, and who has made it clear that she cares about Barbara as a character and is aware of and sensitive to all the issues involved in de-handicapping a prominent handicapped character. I trust that Gail is awesome enough to make this a great comic.

I’ll read the new “Wonder Woman” title, entirely on the strengths of Brian Azzarello as writer and Cliff Chiang as illustrator. I loved what they did in “Dr. 13: Architecture and Mortality,” and I think they’ll do excellent work again.

I’m overjoyed that there’s going to be a new “Blue Beetle” series, starring Jaime Reyes, with what looks like his original costume intact. And it’ll be set back in El Paso. It’s going to be written by Tony Bedard and illustrated by Ig Guara.

I’ll pick up “All-Star Western,” written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray. It’s basically gonna be Jonah Hex with some Western guest stars, and that sounds pretty good, especially in the hands of Palmiotti and Gray.

I’ll read “Static Shock,” because I loves me some Milestone characters and because it’s written by John Rozum and Scott McDaniel, and because the art by McDaniel and Jonathan Glapion looks excellent.

I don’t want to fill this up completely with images of covers, but I’ll also read the new Batwoman ongoing, several of the Batman series, Swamp Thing, and maybe Justice League International. I might pick up some of the supernatural-themed comics, but I haven’t decided if they just look too freaky for me or not.

Of course, some of these comics just look awful. And now we shall look at them.

Well, hi there, new version of Superman. Yes, they got rid of the underwear-on-the-outside — and the costume still sucks. Why does Superman need armor? I do not know. But just seeing it makes me not care. I’m really unsure that even Grant Morrison can make that guy interesting.

Well, hi there, new version of Superboy. Apparently, you’re a robot now. I will not be reading you.

Here’s another image of the new versions of the Teen Titans. See, it’s just as bad as you feared. This Superboy has a completely different costume than the one above, and he doesn’t have a logo on his costume at all. There are also three characters who no one can identify. This is going to bite the wax tadpole.

There’s the new Suicide Squad. Harley Quinn is the one in front. Paul Dini should punch someone very, very hard. Oh, and King Shark is now a hammerhead. Apparently hammerhead sharks are cooler than great whites. DC doesn’t know anything about cool, do they?

They’re putting out a new “I, Vampire” comic. You should refer to it as “I, Twilight,” and you should not read it at all.

Besides that, we’ve got comics starring new, high-tech, hyper-violent versions of Blackhawk — I’m sure the kiddies will love reading about these characters who haven’t been interesting in decades. We have a comic starring the grandson of Sgt. Rock — instead of, say, reading comics about the original Sgt. Rock, who was legitimately awesome. We’ve got high-profile comics for characters who haven’t been popular in ages, like Hawkman, Captain Atom, Deathstroke, Jason Todd, and Aquaman. Wildstorm characters like Grifter and Voodoo are getting books, as well as Stormwatch, which will, oddly, co-star the Martian Manhunter. And we have the absolutely insane fact that DC is going to let Rob FRICKIN’ Liefeld draw a comic book for them.

It’s looking a lot like DC’s plan for becoming more successful involves trying to make their comics look like 1990s-era Image Comics. Good luck with that, guys. Not even Image looks like ’90s-era Image anymore.

Let’s also consider that the new DC, supposedly a much more diverse universe, has only one female creator — the aforementioned and impossibly awesome Gail Simone. (CORRECTION: notintheface at Stars and Garters points out that Amy Reeder Hadley will be handling art on the new “Batwoman” series.)

Let’s also consider all the series that we, for some reason, will not be seeing. No Justice Society. No Power Girl. No Secret Six. No Stephanie Brown or Cassandra Cain. No Captain Marvel. That’s a lot of stuff I really, really liked getting tossed on the junkpile. “Secret Six” was one of the best comics being published, the Justice Society books were bestsellers for years (not recently, granted, but still…), and Bryan Q. Miller’s “Batgirl” was an amazingly fun comic. And I’m really a bit astounded that “Power Girl” is getting cancelled. I mean, Jason Todd, Voodoo, and Hawk and Dove get comics, but Power Girl isn’t popular enough? Is it possible that DC Comics is actually just pranking us?

And with this many of my favorite comics getting the axe, do I need to start worrying about whether or not “Tiny Titans” is going to make it?

Ultimately, what irritates me the most about the Reboot is the staggering marketing failure of the entire enterprise. Yes, DC is getting a lot of publicity, but they’re also doing serious damage to their brands. I assume Time-Warner knows what Dan DiDio, Geoff Johns, and Jim Lee are up to — and that means either they’re mad enough to think this is all okay, or they think DC is such small potatoes that they just don’t care.

Okay, here’s how I would’ve handled a reboot at DC.

First: I would keep in mind that I was rebooting DC Comics, not re-creating ’90s Image. That’s going to be a serious problem going forward for DC.

Second: costumes. Limit the major costume redesigns to minor characters. You can redesign costumes for Booster Gold, Martian Manhunter, Zatanna, and Captain Atom all you want. But you don’t give Superman armor. You don’t give Wonder Woman long pants.

You have to remember that most merchandising of your characters is going to include the classic costumes. You don’t have to make ’em look exactly like they did in the ’70s, but you’ve got to try to keep most of those classic looks intact, partly to keep the marketing folks from killing you, and partly to make sure that new comics readers actually recognize the characters in your comics as the same ones on their Hot Topic shirts.

Ya know what else? Don’t have a single artist redesign your costumes. Jim Lee is a good artist, but when you have him redesign everyone, you end up with a lot of superheroes with pop-up collars, and that looks silly.

Third: Remember that your goal is to sell more comics. Not to get written up in USA Today. Your goal is to sell more comics. So yes, do what you can to bring in new readers. But don’t alienate your current readers. You have to remember that you need them, too. Will they still yell and complain about every single change you make? Yes, they will. But make sure your changes can be defended as something other than publicity stunting — and don’t make them all hate what you’re doing.

And finally and most importantly: Remember that your reboot is absolutely guaranteed to fail. None of them have ever managed to permanently change the status quo. “Crisis on Infinite Earths” was undone. Same with “Zero Hour,” same with “Infinite Crisis,” same with all of them. The DC Reboot is going to be undone, because, well, how could it NOT be?

You have to design your reboot so that, when it’s eventually reversed and the old ways are brought back, the un-reboot doesn’t end up making you look too embarrassing and clumsy. Do it for the sake of your comics, do it for the sake of your readers. Do it for the sake of your own dignity and future job prospects, comic creators.

Thus endeth the lesson. Let they what has eyes to see and ears to hear and noses to smell absorb the teachings and go forward into the glorious future.

EDIT: Some corrections above — and I wanted to point out this list of all the Reboot titles — which includes not only the many characters and titles that are being abandoned, but also the very, very many creators who are getting left out in the cold.

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DC’s Reboot Disaster

Holy bananas, I can’t believe I’m going back into this stuff.

DC’s Reboot is looking more and more like a company-killing disaster. They’re alienating readers, throwing scares into retailers, and running off good creators like Chris Roberson.

A lot of the new titles they’ve announced have not really made me excited — they might be good, they might be bad, but they’re uninspired enough to make me not care whether they exist or not.

Of course, some look pretty good, and I reckon I’ll be reading Wonder Woman, several of the Batman titles, Swamp Thing, and the new Static series.

But too many of the titles announced recently look shockingly bad.

First, there’s this one, from Monday’s announcements:

That one’s called “Red Hood and the Outlaws,” starring psycho former Robin Jason Todd, Arsenal (now with both of his arms again), and Starfire. It’s written by Scott Lobdell and illustrated by Kenneth Rocafort.

Okay, first, you’re rebooting your whole universe, you’ve given Roy Harper both his arms again, indicating that you’ve removed James Robinson’s horrible “Cry for Justice” from continuity, and you can’t bring yourself to erase Jason Todd from existence? I mean, no one likes Jason Todd. He’s the character who no one can believe was resurrected instead of Ralph Dibny or Ted Kord. He’s done nothing since coming back to make anyone think he’s a worthwhile character. Why not reboot him back to the character graveyard?

Second, superheroes should not wear baseball caps. I’m sorry — it just looks stupid.

Third, wait, why is Starfire an anti-hero? Oh, I guess they needed boobs in the series. Siiiiigh.

Fourth, Lobdell? Are you sure? I actually re-read some of his old X-Men books the other night, and they weren’t that good. Has he improved in the last decade?

Then came the Wednesday announcements, including this one:

A new “Teen Titans” series, featuring Superboy, Red Robin, Kid Flash, Wonder Girl, and a couple of new characters. Written by Lobdell again and illustrated by Brett Booth and Norm Rapmund.

Problems: Where the heck do we start? With Red Robin’s feathered cape? With Tim Drake’s new background where he was apparently never Robin? With yet another completely random costume for Wonder Girl? With the ridiculous Kid Flash costume?

Do we really want to ask why Superboy has his logo Scotch-taped to his back?

Another book by Lobdell. Frankly, not a good sign.

And then there’s this.

“Hawk and Dove.” Written by Sterling Gates. Illustrated by Rob Liefeld.

Yes, Rob Liefeld.


Dan DiDio, Geoff Johns, Jim Lee — I will need your resignations on my desk this afternoon.

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The End of Oracle

The latest news on the DC Reboot is that the new Batgirl is going to be — not Stephanie Brown, not Cassandra Cain — but Barbara Gordon, the first Batgirl, who has spent the past 20+ years as the wheelchair-bound super-hacker Oracle.

I can’t say I’m happy with this. I liked Barbara Gordon more as Oracle than I ever did as Batgirl. I thought she was a stronger character as Oracle. Barbara Gordon as Batgirl was just another Bat-character, as stuck in the Silver Age as Barry Allen ever was. Barbara Gordon as Oracle was a paralyzed former acrobat who overcame adversity to become a greater crimefighter than she ever had before. Could she have done that as Batgirl? I don’t think so — without her handicap, she never would’ve been written as anything but a former sidekick.

In fact, this feels to me like we’re actually losing a lot of what made Barbara Gordon important as a character. Can you see Babs-as-Batgirl serving as the Justice League’s secret information broker? Can you see Babs-as-Batgirl founding and leading the Birds of Prey? I can’t. It doesn’t make any sense.

By the same token, can you imagine Babs-as-Oracle swinging through Gotham’s night sky? Well, no, but can you imagine her kicking ass against non-paralyzed opponents? We didn’t have to imagine it — it happened pretty often in “Birds of Prey.” She even made a decent stand against Prometheus, the anti-Batman, in an issue of Grant Morrison’s “JLA.”

Bringing Babs-as-Batgirl back means we’re losing Babs-as-Oracle forever. But we’re also going to lose any possibility of Cassandra Cain as Batgirl or Stephanie Brown as Batgirl. Heck, Babs-as-Batgirl essentially holds the exact same niche as Steph-as-Batgirl — chipper, upbeat, fun crimefighter. Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if Steph Brown gets killed off again six months to a year after the reboot, just to make sure people stop comparing the two characters. And we won’t see Barbara returning to her role as Oracle — that would probably require re-paralyzing her, and I doubt even DC is cruel enough to do that a second time.

There was this picture that showed up earlier today on the DeviantArt website by Jamie Noguchi — it was linked in an article on ComicsAlliance. It’s generally been portrayed as a happy picture, showing Babs in her moment of triumph, finally escaping the wheelchair to return as Batgirl. Here ’tis:

It doesn’t look happy to me. I keep focusing on the wheelchair and on the invisible character — the adult woman, serious-minded, smart as a whip, capable of running the Birds of Prey, organizing the JLA, keeping every superhero on the planet connected to each other, still able to whup the tar out of bad guys — who is now going to fade away and be forgotten in favor of the jaunty, optimistic, acrobatic schoolgirl. It doesn’t look like a triumph to me. It looks like the final tragedy in Oracle’s life.

More thoughts on this subject from Andy Khouri and especially Jill Pantozzi, who brings an important perspective to all this.

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House of Bane

Secret Six #34

After the last storyarc sent the team to Hell, this issue is a much-welcomed rest break. The serial killer who’s kidnapped Scandal’s girlfriend Liana gets his meeting with the Six, and I don’t think it’s a big spoiler to reveal that it doesn’t turn out well for him. Scandal reconciles with Ragdoll, Jeannette sings an old Irish ballad, Bane goes on a date, and King Shark eats a turkey. But we’re warned that, as always seems to be the case with this book, more bad things are on the horizon.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Awesome dialogue, great action, wonderful art. Bane’s date is a bucket of pure win. King Shark is awesome, even though he’s only in one or two scenes. It’s sad, it’s sweet, it’s funny, it’s profane, it’s awesome.

How to improve this series: I’m not real sure you could improve on this. Gail Simone is one of DC’s best writers, and this is one of their best series. If they don’t preserve this for the Reboot, they’re completely insane.

Avengers Academy #14.1

What’s “14.1” mean? Well, Marvel’s trying to make sure there are some “0.1” issues for their series, to give new readers a chance to jump on board — so this issue is, in part, meant to be an introduction to the series for those who aren’t familiar with it.

After the Academy students battle the oh-so-1970s-weird Ruby Thursday, they decide they want to see how other young metahumans who were tortured by Norman Osborn turned out — Finesse quickly tracks down a kid named Jeremy Briggs, a super-genius matter-transmuter who is now running a very profitable chemical megacorp. He introduces them to some other former “students” of Osborn’s — a kid who used to turn into a monster whose transformations are now held in check with medicine; a healer keeping people healthy in third-world nations; and a cold-controller who, unfortunately, has just been killed trying to stop the Wendigo. And Briggs has an ulterior motive for talking to the Academy kids — he wants them to quit the hero-or-villain business and come to work for him.

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s a depressing little story, but it’s very well-told. Dialogue and action are good, and the characterization is excellent. I hope we get to see more of Briggs in the future — he makes a great foil for the team.

How to improve this series: Ya know what I think I’d like the most for this title? A new costume for Hazmat. I hate the way the helmet hides most of her face — makes it so hard to get anything but a vague impression of her emotions and reactions.

Sir Edward Grey, Witchfinder: Lost and Gone Forever #5

While Morgan tries to hold off a horde of undead bandits, Sir Edward ends up getting gutshot, and then seemingly killed by the witch Eris, who is bartering souls of Christians for colossal mystic power. But with one hero surrounded by unkillable zombies and the other shot full of lead and sitting in the Paiute land of the dead, is there any way to stop Eris?

Verdict: Thumbs up. A good end to the series. Absolutely gorgeous art by John Severin and Dave Stewart. Nicely suspenseful, too — it really looks like Sir Edward and Morgan are done for near the end.

How to improve this series: Can’t think of much you could do to fix this. It could’ve been an issue or two shorter, but that would’ve shortchanged the great interpersonal stuff between Sir Edward and Morgan that really made this series fun. We also could’ve found out more about Eris’ motivations and the weird mysteries behind Isaac. But that’s nitpicking.

The DC Reboot

In a way, I don’t want to say very much about this — all we really have to go on is DC’s press releases. There’s no way to tell yet what is going to work and what isn’t going to work and whether it’s going to be a good thing or a bad thing.

But I am not looking forward to this.

Part of it is that DC has tried reboots before — Crisis on Infinite Earths, Zero Hour, Infinite Crisis, Final Crisis — and they never last. Before long, readers and creators start jonesing for “classic” comics, and everything goes back to the way it was before. This one will be no different.

What else? I hate the costumes, and that’s something DC really pushed hard. Look at that Justice League cover above. The costumes are not good. Superman, Aquaman, and Green Lantern all have corny pop-up collars, and Wonder Woman’s choker is essentially the same kind of collar. And what the heck are those things on Flash’s and Cyborg’s chins? I don’t know a thing about art or clothing design, but those costumes look like garbage — and that’s what you get when you have one guy — Jim Lee, in this case — design all the costumes. His design preferences creep into everything so they all look alike. And these will be the first things that get discarded after the reboot. I mean, look at ’em. Superman looks like a complete dork. And look up the costume design for Green Arrow — it’s a direct copy from the “Smallville” TV series. A series that has been cancelled and which, honestly, was never all that popular in the first place. The costumes are bad, bad, bad.

I’ll admit I’m looking forward to some of the titles. Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang working on “Wonder Woman”? I’ll be buying that. But most of the others are just not filling me with very much enthusiasm. Gail Simone writing “Firestorm”? Okay, but why is she being saddled with Ethan Van Sciber as co-writer? It’s an insult to Simone’s writing skills, to be honest. Geoff Johns — a writer I’m rapidly coming to think of as DC’s version of Brian Michael Bendis — is writing too many series. Dan DiDio is writing another, and I’m pretty sure y’all know I’m not a fan of that guy. I don’t trust DiDio or Johns to do good work on these — their instincts tend to lie more with DC’s previous tired gimmicks of Silver Age worship and pointless, over-the-top violence.

The announcement of the reboot threw retailers into a panic, thanks to DC’s decision to release digitial editions of comics on the same day as they release the print versions. That’d be the equivalent of movie studios letting you rent DVDs on the same day they released the movies in theaters — and it had a lot of retailers worried that lots of readers would quit buying from stores in favor of buying comics for their iPads. On the other hand, DC wants to charge the same prices for print and digital comics, which has digital readers scratching their heads, because no one else charges as much for digital as they do for print. So DC managed to alienate both retailers and digital comics fans at the same time.

Another thing that bugs me is this seems more like a publicity stunt than something that’s going to lead to long-term increases in readership. There’s not much here that seems to be designed to bring in new readers — just a lot of stuff to make current comics fans angry. Sometimes, it seems like that’s all that DC or Marvel know how to do — stir up buzz by doing stuff to upset their current readers. Sure, it gets coverage in USA Today, but media coverage doesn’t necessarily lead to more readers, and that’s what DC needs.

And ya know, I’ve already gone on for a lot longer than I meant to on this topic. So I’ll reiterate — I don’t like the idea of the DC Reboot. It’s a bad idea at a bad time, and I worry it’s going to do long-term damage to the comics industry as a whole. I hope I’m wrong, of course… but I worry I might be right.

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