General DC

DC Brings Back Letter Columns. We Ask Why?

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DC Comics announced on their Source Blog the return of letter columns to their comic books.

We are pleased to announce the debut of letters pages in all of your favorite DC books. Now you have the chance to ask questions and offer your observations directly to our editors and creators — so write in now and let’s get the conversations going!

Why is DC doing this?

In an interview with Comic Book Resources Dan Didio had this to say:

Well, one of the reasons why we’re doing it is because the fans have been asking for it, to be quite honest with you. We’ve been out there talking to readers at different panels and conventions, and we’ve been getting letters and requests online as well about bringing back the letters pages and bringing back a sense of community to our books. That’s something we considered, and when we were rethinking our books and going to the $2.99 strategy, we wanted to make sure that even though the page count went down to 20 pages for the books themselves, there could still be more content or things people could enjoy in the monthly comics. One of those things we went back to was the letters pages. We looked at it and discussed it in terms of coming up with a formula that made the letters pages feel current. We didn’t want them talking about things that were three or four months old but things that were just coming out. We’re going to be putting a system in place this month to gather information, comments and more to put that sense of community back in our books again.

The reasoning to keep up content even with a lower page content is somewhat acceptable, but still something is “off” to me.  It comes off as a smoke screen where they can claim they’re still giving tons of content for $2.99 and attempt to distract that the page count is down to 20.

Jim Lee in the same interview claims it will help build community and bring back something “special.”  To me it’s filler.  Community isn’t made through a page, community in the 21st century connected world is live interaction with the fans and encouraging them to interact with each other along with comic book creators.

Now, is this even a good idea?

In this age of Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, websites, the idea of a stagnant and outdated letters just doesn’t fly.  People expect 24 hour connection and news and a letter column is antiquated way to interact with the public.  Instead, make this a daily feature to sub-sites for your comic books.  A letter of the day online would do wonders to drive traffic to a website and potentially build word of mouth and community as opposed to one page in the back of a printed book.  It’s a tradition who’s time has passed and needs a 21st century face lift and version.  In their interview it sounds like there may be more than the traditional letter page we know, but I remain skeptical.

Didio addressed the anonymity of the internet as an issue:

And I’ll add one thing too: We’re looking at the letters pages too as a place where everybody uses their real names. We want people out there to be identified so we can see who our fans are. It’s not going to be anonymous because we really want to have that sense of community where people are meeting each other, knowing who they are and enjoying the comics together.

There are methods to force those veils to be lifted online.  Facebook Connect is an example of a tool to force people on the DC websites to identify themselves.  And are there procedures in place to prove these letter writers are who they say they are?  This is a feint to the bigger issue that DC’s online interactive strategy lacks it’s competitors.

This is just a #fail for us the fans on so many levels.