The past year or so has seen the classic “DC vs. Marvel” debate take on added significance due to the success of DC Rebirth and the faltering (to put it lightly) of Marvel under the tenure of Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso. There are many reasons for Marvel’s failures, but DC’s Dark Days: The Forge #1 shines a giant Bat-Signal spotlight on one of them.
The bottom line is that DC, whether it’s something like The Button or Dark Days: The Forge, is telling good old-fashioned “yarns” because it’s actually concentrating on big ideas — namely the issue of Good vs. Evil.
The Forge #1 is a tale that revolves around two beings — one of goodness and light, the other of darkness and evil — who are granted immortality via a mysterious metal and then tasked to fight each other in cycles of reincarnation. Batman’s discovery of the metal prompted a years-long investigation into its origin, which led him down a dangerous rabbit hole. It’s one that no man — even Bruce Wayne — should explore.
What separates modern DC from Marvel is that the former is willing to explore ideas of good and evil in serious ways. If you pick up most Marvel comics, then what you’ll find is moral relativist heroes fighting each other over a catty disagreements; and heroes fighting villains in a “going through the motions” manner because that’s what they’ve always done; political allegories that primarily use characters as vehicles to vent anger at [insert politician here].”
Out of all the comics I’ve read over the past two years, I think only Charles Soule’s Daredevil confronted a character described as truly “evil.” When most Marvel heroes talk about good and evil, they do so in ironic Deadpool-speak.
Paraphrase [insert hero here]: “Do you think we’ll come out of this one alive? Of course we will — we’re the good guys!”
People who believe good and evil are real — not just artificial constructs in a godless universe — typically do not become jaded. If you believe that your life has meaning and is intrinsically good, then you are not prone to hold life in contempt.
DC appears to have enough writers and editors on its staff who understand this, who are genuinely inquisitive about big issues, and then willing to appropriately use their iconic stable of characters to explore them.
Marvel, on the other hand, appears to be populated with a cloister of bitter moral relativists who write books for a small population of philosophical malcontents. Then, when their screeds don’t sell, they rhetorically lash out at fans for not being embracing Mighty Marvel Pessimism Pods.
I don’t know too much about Dan DiDio, but I do know quality work when I see it. I got into DC in a significant way for the first time in my life this year, and I don’t plan on leaving anytime soon as long as I keep getting books like The Button and Dark Days: The Forge.
Kudos to DC’s creative team for a job well done.
Editor’s Note: I’ll be reviewing Dark Days: The Forge #1 on my YouTube channel soon. If you haven’t already subscribed, then please do. I don’t always have time to transfer the videos over to WordPress as quickly as I’d prefer.
From what I’ve read so far, it seems like conservatives are not reacting too well to DC’s Superman: Earth One. This is somewhat expected, given reports like this:
The creators also portray the new Superman as politically correct — refusing to become “an instrument of politics or policy” of the United States, saying things like: “I was raised in this country. I believe in this country. Does it have its flaws? Yes. Does it have its moments of greatness? Yes. Bottom line is, it’s my home and I’ll always carry those values around with me. But if I do what I can do just for the U.S., it’s going to destabilize the whole world. It could even lead to war.”
In and of itself there actually isn’t too much wrong with this statement. In a vacuum it’s actually rather innocuous. It’s healthy to be skeptical of one’s government. However, a Superman imbued with a liberal worldview would mean those very same comments are much more loaded than they appear. When conservatives see The Huffington Post giving rave reviews, it’s understandable that their antennae would be on moral-relativist alert. And after what’s gone on with Wonder World-Consensus Woman or Captain “The Tea Party is the New Red Skull” America over the past year or so, I can’t begrudge conservative comics fans for being on the defensive.
DC’s Dan DiDio wants to reach out to a younger audience, and that’s understandable. Marvel basically did just that with its Ultimates line (which I also don’t read). One theory on how to get new readers is by wiping the slate clean so the clutter that comes with decades of continuity doesn’t need to dealt with by first time readers. Understandable. Another way is by regularly writing really good stories with really good artwork —that actually come out on time—but for all intents and purposes DC is behaving rationally. If they want to write “Superman for Twilight fans,” as DiDio put it, then fine. I won’t buy it, but God bless them if the market rewards them for the decision.
My biggest problem is having a culture where our heroes are just as confused as the people who are supposed to look up to them. People aren’t perfect, but they can achieve great things if they have an ideal to live up to. If you expect excellence from someone they’re going to sometimes disappoint you, but they’re also going surprise themselves with just how much they’re capable of achieving—and experiencing a little strength and success has habit of becoming addictive to those who experience it. It would be more comforting to know that the stable of heroes helping to shape the minds of young people has a few men and women who could instill strong values and encourage them to dream big. A listless hipster Superman who attends Jon Stewart rallies, and whose ‘S’ basically stands for “Sub-parman” or “So What?”, doesn’t do that.
In this case I’ll reserve judgment. Anyone who is familiar with J. Michael Straczynski’s work knows that he’s a pretty creative guy. I’ll be looking forward to reading the first conservative review by someone who’s actually completed Superman: Earth One, instead of reactions to press statements, or excerpts from the book.