13 April 2014

Old Teen Titans for Old Fans

DC Comics made news a couple of weeks back by announcing the end of its Teen Titans series, and then last week by announcing the start of a new Teen Titans series. As to what was new—not that much. The team has had a small membership change, but nothing more significant than what happens regularly in superhero team stories.

Newsarama asked new writer Will Pfeifer, “As you start with a new #1 issue, what are your thoughts about relaunching the title? This team doesn't look that different from the last one — why the relaunch and new #1?”

To which the correct answer would be, “Why are you asking me? You know very well how editorially driven DC Comics is these days. You know that writers don’t decide on issue numbering. You know that for decades a #1 issue has been a way to sell extra copies and draw new attention to a title.”

But Pfeifer offers a game try by saying, “…that #1 lets the reader know that this isn’t just a continuation of the other series. Yes, the Titans are the same heroes, and no, we’re not going to kick things off with a year of origin stories, but we are heading in a new direction and exploring some new themes.”

Of course, he can’t say much about those new things because adventure comics depend on a series of surprises. And because they’re probably no different from the “new direction” at the end of any storyline and any writer’s tenure. One idea Pfeifer repeats a lot in this interview is that these Titans as teenagers are prone to overenthusiasm and mistakes. Will that resonate with teen readers and boost sales?

Former DC editor Janelle Asselin doesn’t think DC is even trying for that new audience. She unloaded on the cover for the new #1 issue, starting with how the image focuses one’s eyes on Wonder Girl’s breasts:
The problem is not that she's a teen girl with large breasts, because those certainly exist. The main problem is that this is not the natural chest of a large-breasted woman. Those are implants. On a teenaged superheroine. Natural breasts don't have that round shape (sorry, boys). . . .

A secondary problem is that no girl with breasts that large is going to wear a strapless top for anything, much less a career that involves a lot of physical activity. . . . we're one bounce away from a nipslip. On a teenager. In case you forgot that entirely relevant point.
Asselin also finds the cover to be lacking in visual coherence and perspective, full of distracting visual details from the paper airplane in the sky to the artist’s neon signature, and lacking the exciting action of previous Titans covers.

But the real lost opportunity in this relaunch, Asselin argues, is that DC’s aiming for an old audience instead of a new one.
You know who loves Teen Titans? People who enjoyed the early 2000s Teen Titans animated show, many of whom are female and many of whom are teenagers or young 20-somethings today. Market research could and does back this up. . . . Say a quarter of those fans actually tried a Teen Titans comic aimed at their demographic—you’re going to have a significantly higher number than the 26,000 copies Teen Titans is estimated to have sold in March. . . .

Virtually all of DC’s New 52 books appear to be aimed at the exact same demographic: Males 18-39. And this cover is made for that demographic. It shows that, once again, DC is relaunching a book with no thought to targeting wider demographics or a new audience. This is not a cover you run if you’re trying to appeal to teenagers, and it’s especially not going to appeal to teen girls.
That said, in one way DC is clearly pulling back from its ’90s-comics-inspired “New 52” revision and trying to appeal to the Titans’ TV audience: Gar Logan as Beast Boy is once again green and elfin, rather than red and badass.

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