The Death of the Justice League story in the upcoming Justice League #75 is another misstep by DC Comics. DC Comics has been on a road to self-destruction ever since the debut of the New 52. It has been a combination of toxic editorial decisions combined with sheer stupidity and a lack of confidence in what makes the DCU so special. DC Comics was hellbent on destroying their own business and driving away readers with the New 52. And that is exactly what happened. After the predictable sales spike for the initial issues, it was a spectacular crash and burn as DC shed readers at an alarming rate and sales numbers crumbled. The sad thing is that anyone who had at least two brain cells and a passing knowledge of the comic book industry knew that the New 52 was doomed to fail.
DC Comics eventually realized their folly and pivoted to Rebirth in a sad attempt to win back the legion of readers who abandoned DC Comics during the New 52. However, this was short-lived as DC Editorial reverted right back to their self-destructive ways with Dan DiDio (the genius who brought you the New 52) unveiling his plans for 5G. The readers who had remained with DC Comics groaned since everyone could plainly see that 5G was a scaled-down version of the New 52. Instead of trashing all of DC’s continuity, DC Comics was simply going to trash all of their established characters and replace them with shallow characters designed around checking off boxes that lacked any large support from the readers. Again, it was obvious to anyone that 5G had disaster written all over it.
At any rate, DC Comics wisely canned DiDio and it appeared that DC Comics was finally going to avert another self-inflicted wound. Sure, we got the Future State line of comic books. And they all have posted terrible sales numbers. Now, to a sane editorial staff, this would be proof that DC Comics was wise to avoid the 5G route. But, no. When it comes to stupidity and a willingness to jump off a cliff, DC Comics has no peer. So, here we are with DC Comics’ latest desperate plan: The Death of the Justice League.
What is it?
Check out Kevin’s detailed and excellent breakdown of what exactly is DC Comics’ plan for Death of the Justice League. I am not going to rehash it here in this article. Just hop over to Kevin’s article, read it and then come back here.
Who Dies And Who Survives?
We know that from the group of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, John Stewart, Martian Manhunter, Hawkgirl, Green Arrow, Black Canary, and Zatanna only one character will survive. Now, it is obvious that DC Comics is planning on killing off easily their most iconic and biggest name characters based on this list.
First, you have the holy trinity of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. It does not get any bigger than that. Do I expect all of them to die? Yes. We have seen this before with both Superman and Batman. It is hardly a novel idea. Instead, this feels like a warmed-up left-over from years ago that nobody was asking to have to read yet again.
Also, don’t forget that DC Comics already has Jace Fox running around in the DCU. DC Comics also has Jon Kent who they are so desperately trying to make a thing that fans care about despite the poor sales numbers. DC editorial will be so pleased to make these two characters the center of attention.
We have already seen how DC Comics has completely stopped caring about Diana’s character while focusing on characters like Yara Flor and Nubia who have failed to drive good sales numbers. In Yara’s case, she is already getting her solo title canceled. I am guessing this is to pave way for a new Wonder Woman title starring Yara Flor. DC Comics lost the plot with Diana’s character a while ago, so I see no reason why DC Comics would feel like keeping Diana around.
Aquaman is also going to be killed off. Poor Arthur Curry. This is another excellent character that DC has no idea what to do with at all. The only exceptions have been when Peter David helmed Aquaman and later when Geoff Johns wrote Aquaman. Other than that? DC editorial has largely been clueless about what to do with Aquaman. Also, DC Comics has Jackson Hyde that they are just itching to make Aquaman despite Hyde’s terrible sales numbers.
Then we have John Stewart who I would argue is the most iconic Green Lantern outside of Hal Jordan. Frankly, I am stunned that DC Comics did not take this opportunity to completely fuck Hal Jordan’s character once again. Anyway, DC Comics is mad that fans love Hal, John, and Guy and not the paper-thin characters in Jessica Cruz, Simon Baz, and Teen Lantern. DC editorial wants to push Jessica and Simon so John has to go.
I feel confident that Green Arrow is going to die, too. He is a straight white male character so I see no reason why DC editorial would want him to be the lone survivor. Plus, this would allow DC Comics to push either Emiko Queen or Mia Dearden as the new Green Arrow.
Now we get into the hard part of this exercise with the remaining characters in Martian Manhunter, Hawkgirl, Black Canary, and Zatanna. I am confident that DC editorial is going to want the sole survivor to be a female character. So, with that let’s say that Martian Manhunter is also killed off.
Now, which of the remaining ladies will survive? It is a tough choice because I could see DC editorial backing either Hawkgirl, Black Canary, or Zatanna.
I think Zatanna is probably going to get killed off. While Zatanna is one of my all-time favorite Justice Leaguers, I am in the great minority with that belief. I do not think that DC editorial values Zatanna’s character. Therefore, let’s remove Zatanna from the mix.
I have a hard time thinking that DC editorial wants to kill off Hawkgirl. After all, DC editorial effectively replaced Hawkman in the Justice League with Hawkgirl. I could definitely see DC editorial wanting to kill off Hawkman and replacing him with Hawkgirl. But, that is not happening here. So, my guess is that Hawkgirl dies and DC editorial can use this to focus on Hawkman’s grief over Hawkgirl’s death. Plus, since Hawkgirl is Chay-Ara, an ancient Egyptian who has been reborn throughout history, it will make it so easy for DC editorial to bring Hawkgirl back to life a year or so from now. It is all part of Hawkgirl’s gimmick. Therefore, I think Hawkgirl gets killed off.
That leaves Black Canary as the lone survivor. This makes sense. DC editorial will want the lone survivor to be a female. Also, Black Canary is one of the core members of the Justice League so she would be a better choice than Hawkgirl or Zatanna to lead any new super team. Plus, DC Comics can have Dinah dealing with Oliver’s death.
Creative Bankruptcy And Meaningless Deaths
The Death of the Justice League is DC Comics completely giving up. This is as creatively bankrupt of an idea as possible. It feels that DC editorial has a giant wheel of “big” storylines that they spin to see what will be their next new “big” storyline. We just keep getting slightly remixed versions of what we have already gotten before. This storyline is obviously editorially mandated. Joshua Williamson is simply doing what he is told to do. There is nothing about the Death of Justice League that seems fresh or creative at all. This has the foul scent of remix culture clinging all over it.
First, everyone knows that this is just a cheap cash grab. Comic readers have seen this over and over again across the decades. A desperate comic publisher “kills” off an iconic character. A desperate comic publisher replaces a big-name character with one nobody cares about. The same comic publisher pushes the “new” character for a year or two. The comic publisher then resurrects the iconic big-name character to much fanfare. It is a ready-made opportunity to enjoy a giant cash grab at least two times. The first cash grab happens with the death of the big-name character. Sure, sales numbers will plummet as the new character takes over and turns away readers in large numbers. But, there is then the opportunity for the second, and even larger, cash grab when the iconic big-name character makes their triumphant return.
It is all so predictable. DC editorial will pass off this joke of an idea in the Death of Justice League as something very “serious” and “permanent.” That this is a brand new direction. An evolution in DC Comics.
Except it is not. It is a desperate move by a comic publisher stuck in a death spiral in the single-issue sales charts. This is an uncreative cash grab. The beginning of Death of Justice League will post large sales numbers. Then these sales numbers will crash and burn. The return of the iconic Justice Leaguers will cause another sales bump. But, that will also be temporary as readers get tired of being yo-yo’ed back and forth and treated in such a disrespectful manner.
What makes all of this even more of an eye-roll of an event is that death means nothing. DC Comics and Marvel Comics have abused the “shocking death” as a means to artificially drive sales numbers so often that readers have become totally numb to any death. There is no reversing this. The damage over the decades has been done. There are several things DC Comics should do instead. First, stop with the “shocking deaths”. Second, focus on building up their new characters with their own identities and deliver entertaining stories that are meant to appeal to a wide audience. Third, DC Comics should continue to deliver comics staring the established characters that everyone knows and loves. Then, DC Comics can let the market dictate which titles survive and which get canceled. And when a title fails, DC editorial needs to take an intelligent and critical eye at why that title failed and seek to rectify and avoid those mistakes when the character gets a new title.
Trashing Icons For Characters With Small Sales Numbers
The biggest concern for DC Comics is that the second sales bump they are hoping for when the iconic characters return may not happen. At some point, fans get tired of being pissed on by DC editorial and being told it is rain.
There are several mistakes that both DC and Marvel have made when creating new characters over the past five years. Both publishers start with a list of boxes they can check off of the intersectional hierarchy. The publishers use those boxes as the very foundation, basis, and very existence for the new character. These boxes then become the sole identity and purpose of the new character. The result is a flat character that has no purpose outside of who they are. They are a character that lacks depth and substance. They are characters that appear fake and manufactured. None of it feels real, creative, or interesting. The result is characters that these new diverse characters seem more like pandering and tokens than real fully developed characters that readers get interested in and want to read about.
To achieve more diversity, DC Comics needs to first come up with unique and interesting character traits and objectives and then decide what ethnicity, religion, or sexuality the character will be. This way the character has a purpose and identity beyond those intersectional checklist traits and becomes an actual fully fleshed out and appealing character. They stop being archetypes or pandering tokens and become real characters that readers have a higher chance of connecting with and supporting.
Another reoccurring problem is that DC Comics approaches pushing a new derivative character by killing off or trashing the iconic big-name established character. This is such an idiotic move that dooms the new character. Every. Single. Time. This only leads to fan backlash and fan alienation. This then leads to the shedding of readers and collapsing sales numbers.
The solution is to create new characters that have some reason to exist outside of what boxes they check. Then give those characters their own unique codenames and gimmicks. Then push those new characters. If they fail in the comic sales charts then that is proof that there is simply not an audience present for that character. Some of these characters will fail. However, some will also succeed. It involves hard work and some risk, but that is what comic book creators are supposed to do.
DC editorial needs to remember that to build up someone does not mean you must tear down someone else. A rising tide raises all boats. The fact is that increasing diversity among DC’s characters is not a zero-sum game. One side need not be torn down and shunned for another side to being lifted up. DC editorial’s zero-sum game approach is self-destructive, unnecessarily toxic, and hateful.
I never rely on social media or what some rando contributor writing for a website might say about how popular various characters may or may not be. All DC Comics needs to do is just focus on the numbers. Sales numbers never lie. And what is the market telling DC Comics? That most of DC’s newer characters get awful sales numbers.
Jon Kent as Superman has done nothing in the sales charts. Superman Son of Kal-El #3 sold 34,000 units. Yara Flor has already had her title canceled. Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz have been sales duds. Green Lantern #6 sold just 29,000 units. Jackson Hyde? He is DOA in the sales charts. Aquaman The Becoming #1 sold a pathetic 24,000 units. I am not even going to begin to get into how badly manga is whipping DC Comics’ ass in sales numbers.
Why DC editorial thinks killing off the popular established characters is going to make these newer characters sell any better is completely beyond me. It is simply another case of DC editorial giving their readers the middle finger and telling the readers to shut up and dutifully eat what DC Comics serves them. Because DC editorial knows better than the readers.
Possible Legal Motivations
The first Batman comic and the first Superman comic will both be in the public domain in 2033. The first Wonder Woman comic, the first Aquaman comic, and the first Green Arrow comic will all be in the Public Domain in 2036. Now, 2033 may seem a long way away from now. But, that is just eleven years. For a giant corporation, that is not a long time. Once these characters slip into the public domain you could see a Boom Superman comic based on his debut issue. Maybe an IDW Batman title based on his debut issue. An Image Wonder Woman title based on her debut issue. Is DC Comics going to want to be publishing comics starring these characters when other publishers can do the same?
If DC Comics does not want to have Bruce Wayne, Clark Kent, Diana Prince, Arthur Curry, and Oliver Queen as parts of their universe once they enter the public domain then they need to work on transitioning from them now. DC Comics will want to engage in some trial balloons to see if readers will be accepting of different characters in these roles. Then DC Comics needs to figure out if they have the right replacement characters at this moment or if they need to come up with some new ones. This type of massive change to these iconic franchises will require a lot of time and some trial and error. It would not surprise me if this is a large motivating factor behind much of what DC Comics has planned for the future.
These days, being a comic book fan can feel like being stuck in an abusive relationship. Fans have to deal with the hostile and toxic actions of many of DC’s editorial staff, writers, and artists that are aimed at readers who dare ask questions. The dismissive and confrontational attitude in which DC Comics deals with its readers gets so tiring. I have been a lifelong fan of DC Comics. While I have also read Marvel Comics since I was a kid, I am definitely on Team DC Comics. DC means far more to me than Marvel ever could. I want nothing more than to see a healthy and vibrant DC Comics posting excellent sales numbers. A DC Comics that consistently delivers creative and entertaining comic books. A DC Comics that treats its fans with appreciation and respect. Unfortunately, it does not seem that DC Comics is on that path in the near future.
DC Comics seems to be stuck in this cycle of doom that has extended all the way back to Flashpoint.
To comment on this article and other Comic Book Revolution content, visit our Facebook page, our Twitter feed, and our Instagram feed. Also, catch up with all of Rokk’s other musings about comics, anime, TV shows, movies and more over on over on Twitter and Instagram.