DC Comics’ big event hype over the summer has been the Batman/Catwoman wedding. Now we all know how comics have worked the last couple decades, and we know by proxy that “nothing is forever” – and by forever, I mean lasts more than 2-3 years before it gets rebooted, redone, respun. How anyone can take these comics’ continuity seriously anymore is beyond me, but that’s another story for another blog.
I want to talk about the importance of staying true to your readers, and how DC failed spectacularly in doing that in this issue. Spoilers of Batman #50 ahead if you care about such things and haven’t already seen it posted all over the internet.
Over the last several months, DC has put out a ton of issues tying into a Batman/Catwoman epic. Readers have had to drop significant amounts of money to keep up, like with every event, and the big wedding shebang was supposed to hit in issue 50. Long story short, DC hyped all of this with marketing machine, invitation cards at local comic shops, dozens of books with THE WEDDING stamped onto it.
As a reader, one was being led by the marketing hype to expect Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle relationship drama on a level we’ve never seen before. While we knew this would be temporary because of the way comics work these days, it sounded like an interesting storyline to many.
The big issue, oversized, overpriced, overextended then features Catwoman leaving Batman stranded at the altar.
That’s right, after all that hype, DC Comics ended with, “Ha! We tricked you!”
Moreover, tricked Batman, the “world’s greatest detective” and beautiful billionaire playboy by getting him completely shafted, and blindsided never seeing this coming. It doesn’t make sense on a character level, and from all the promises DC made to the audience, it doesn’t make sense on that level either.
It’s so important to fulfill promises as a writer. And unfortunately what we have here is current literature’s obsession with “the twist” taken to much too high a degree. For those who aren’t into writing and the like, when you have a story going linearly, writers usually add a twist so something unexpected happens that makes sense in context of the story. This gives the reader a sense of surprise so they’re not bored with having everything happen as they’ve expected.
But there’s a fine line between that and tricking your reader. With all the marketing jazz, we needed a wedding here. We were prepped for it, and it’s not a twist to not do that, it’s a broken promise. It leaves readers feeling angry because they were led so far down a path only to have the rug yanked out from under them.
It’d be a lot as if I promised my readers a #SummerOfSteampunk with sequels to my hit novel, For Steam And Country, and then turned around and delivered a bunch of urban fantasy werewolf romance novels. When you hype something on the marketing end, it has to match the product you deliver, and if it doesn’t, you’re going to lose big.
I think writers tend to think they’re clever when they’re tricking readers. And the end result of what it does is makes readers feel like their intelligences are being insulted. And they are. Readers aren’t stupid, but they are buying into several event tie-in books based on what the event’s supposed to be. If the book hadn’t been hyped for what it is, there are still so many character issues with the story, but at least the readers wouldn’t have been tricked into their purchases.
And that’s where comics have gone wrong for a long time. It’s always about a hype gimmick, it’s never about the story, the characters, real development. It’s not always about politics with these companies, sometimes they just treat their readers with disrespect in other ways. It’s leading to their downfall, but also giving independent artists a new avenue to compete.
If you like character development that goes in a direction where I promise, then do read For Steam And Country. It’s the #SummerOfSteampunk after all, and there’s going to be a lot more adventures to come. Read it here.