Around the DC Universe: Titans, Swamp Thing, and More!
Stuff is finally starting to come together on Titans. This week saw Starfire and Beast Boy pulled into the main thread alongside Dick and Rachel. I like how they’re using Starfire to add an element of real mystery to Raven’s story line. Just about everyone knows what Rachel’s big reveal is but it will be interesting to see exactly how Kory fits into it. That said, after the Hawk and Dove episode I’m worried they won’t keep her core background as an alien intact. The juxtaposition of sci-fi and fantasy elements is a feature of superhero comics that has been largely neglected on TV and it would be nice for Titans to break the mold.
Between Halloween and recent casting news regarding the upcoming Swamp Thing series, this is the perfect time to read some of the best horror comics ever published by DC or anyone else. Alan Moore‘s run on The Saga of Swamp Thing is one of the high water marks of the medium as groundbreaking as The Dark Knight Returns or Watchmen and maybe even more influential by virtue of the fact that it was an ongoing monthly series. The earliest issues with art by Stephen Bissette and and John Tottlebein are currently on DC Universe and it actually stands apart from the bulk of the run quite well though you do miss out on the early appearances of John Constantine. What’s here is more than worth it, a look into some of the murkier corners of the DC Universe including a guided tour of Hell itself. Be warned that there are many uncomfortable themes including rape, incest and necrophilia. These are not comics for the squeamish either. No evokes the corrupting atmosphere of body horror quite like the team of Bissette and Totlebein. If you’re a big fan of movies like John Carpenter’s The Thing or David Cronenberg’s The Fly, then The Saga of Swamp Thing is a must read. Available on DC Universe in The Saga of The Swamp Thing (1982) #21-34 and Swamp Thing Annual (1985) #2. Read the Swamp Thing Annual between issues 31 & 32.
After almost 2 months since release it’s time for an update on technical issues. Overall I’d say DC Universe has gotten a lot better. The community portion of the site has added moderator tags and restricted one of the boards to moderator posts so it’s much easier to get official announcements.The inability to directly interact with other users remains a stumbling block but there has been improved functionality in terms of what you can post and the ability to bookmark threads. Communication is greatly improved but there are still blind spots. Death of Superman was up for the better part of October missing key issues in the story. This was never addressed despite the fact that this was pointed out by myself and other users in several spots on the community and through direct communication with customer service using the form available through the app itself.
The rotation of special feature comic titles continues to prove frustrating. While DC has mostly been adding worthwhile titles on a regular schedule, the rate at which they rotate out is inconsistent and you have to dig to find out how long a given issue will be available. It would be nice to know in advance how much time there is to read a given special feature without have to trawl through a message board. Similarly three out of four issues of Batman: Year One, which I had thought would be part of the regular library until at least the end of this month, mysteriously vanished while issues of Batman ’66 seemed to appear without warning.
To add a further wrinkle to the matter DC originally stated that their full digital library would be available for purchase in October, presumably at a per issue price similar to ComiXology (though DC has stated that the two services’ libraries will not sync meaning you would need to purchase a book twice to read it on both apps). This note has now been replaced with one that states more comics are coming soon. Whether this means that DC is planning to retool DC Universe to have an unlimited library similar to Marvel’s remains to be seen. It does seem unlikely that DC, a company that relies far much on “evergreen” trades like The Dark Knight Returns or Watchmen, would want to hazard risking those sales by making such titles available digitally for such a low price point (especially given the cost of producing their original shows) but there is also a lot of discontent in the community with the current vault approach. If anyone from DC is reading this I would suggest a hybrid approach: regular monthly titles released in a style similar to Marvel Unlimited with a six month or even a year lead time to preserve comic shop sales and a rotating, themed selection of the best selling boutique material in trade. This should allow for a better value for money for readers who are primarily interested in new material while DC is able to maintain the value of their older titles.