Saturday, 15 December 2007

DC Presents All-Rape Western

One good reason to avoid the Palmiotti and Grey revival of Jonah Hex has been the frequency with which rape has featured in their stories. It’s as monotonously repetitious as gore and dismemberment in a Geoff Johns comic, or the death of leading characters at the hands of Judd Winnick, but even more distasteful.

Now, at least Jonah Hex was always supposed to be at the nasty end of the spectrum of westerns, though long-time writer Michael Fleisher used to keep things more varied. But a revival of Bat Lash, DC’s answer to Bret Maverick? With stories by co-creator and noted humourist Sergio Aragones? And drawn by John Severin, a veteran of the days when American comics were suitable for children? That’s got to be different, surely? That’s going to be banter and frolic, right?

Apparently not.

The problem, I think, lies with DC’s branding strategy. Compared to Marvel, DC as a company publishes a much greater variety of material. But with Marvel, everything – cartoon capers with Franklin Richards, standard superheroics, adaptations of The Iliad - comes with that big white-on-red Marvel brand.

DC, on the other hand, subdivides its publications into a range of imprints each of which has a very consistent tone. Johnny DC emulates television animation. Vertigo is about applying modern urban sensibilities to the fantastic (or, in the case of Northlanders, to the historic). Minx brings you stories of girl outsiders who find social acceptance without compromising their individuality. And CMX … well, to be honest, I’m not sure what kind of manga CMX prints, not having read any, but from their adverts it hardly seems to be casting its net very wide in Japanese stylistic waters.

So there can be western comics under DC’s DC Universe imprint, but it seems that they have to have the tone of their standard superhero books. Out with the banter and frolic, and bring on the blood and the pain and the rape. Because that's what the DC bullet stands for, now.

Do you think they could start an imprint for people who are sick of that?

Bat Lash Issue 1 “Guns and Roses” Chapter 1 “Splendor in the Sage”, by Peter Brangvold and Sergio Aragones (writers), John Severin (artist), Pat Brosseau (letterer), Steve Buccellato (colourist), Rachel Gluckstern and Michael Wright (editors), DC Comics, February 2008


Lew Stringer said...

Well put Steve. I for one found DC's extremely juvenile "Identity Crisis" inappropriate because of Doctor Light becoming a rapist. It's *Doctor Light* FFS! A rather stupid looking supervillian originally designed for a children's comic!

Do some fanboys and immature writers think that putting old children's characters in rape dramas immediately makes them more adult? If so they have a lot to learn.


Walaka said...

I believe DC did once have an imprint that published stories for the kind of reader you describe. Its logo looked like this.

Le sigh.

Siskoid said...

I'm with Lew on this one. ID crisis was very disturbing. In all the wrong ways.

Alicia said...

There doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to what DC picks up (or lets go) for the CMX line. It just seems to be about what licenses they can get hold of. Right now they're publishing a scattershot collection of pulpy girls and boys comics, some more "mature" stuff with blood and action, irreverent humor, based-on-a-true-story nerd-hero tale Densha Otoko, anything with an anime tie-in hitting DVD, reprints of Gon, OEL "webmanga" Megatokyo, and a heavily censored version of porn artist Oh! Great's ode to crotch shots and violence. There's no consistent tone or prestige level associated with the manga selected; a few are extremely well-regarded and others are adaptations of video games that have never been released in America. Toss in Megatokyo, which is not remotely Japanese. Generally, manga fans consider CMX one of the absolute worst imprints simply because they snag properties at random, don't seem to understand properties once they get them, and tend to censor more heavy-handedly than a lot of other publishers (and without input from creators).

Steve Flanagan said...

Walaka - Can I have that with go-go checks, please?

Alicia - it would seem, then, that CMX may be an exception to my putative one-imprint, one-tone rule for DC.

I haven't read Identity Crisis. The few bits of Brian Meltzer's work that I have read seemed so unappealing that I never picked it up. So I can't really comment.

Jonathan Nolan said...

All I know is from personal experience of his work- Palmiotti is the kiss of death. Horrible.