I honestly think a lot of the problems at DC Comics today boil down to bad leadership at the top level more than anything else, including how any of DC’s executives personally feel about some of their characters. Since becoming DC Entertainment, DC Comics has become a corporation first and a comic book publisher second, a topic more-like-a-justice-league discussed in a well written post here.
With DC becoming a corporation under Time Warner, the business model has changed in such a way that prioritises increasing revenue however which way they can, which has led to a lot of short term strategising. Over the last three years, it’s become increasingly transparent that Batman has become DC’s financial safety net as evidenced by the number of books Batman has in proportion to other characters, the number of narratives that feature Batman at the front and centre, and the amount of marketing Batman gets at the expense of other characters. I equally suspect the ‘only Batman sells’ mentality influenced the decision to bring in Thomas Wayne as ‘the new Earth-2 Batman’ despite this world’s Bruce Wayne already having a successor in the form of his daughter, Helena Wayne, the Huntress.
The point is DC has consistently demonstrated that they don’t believe their own franchise and characters can sell on their own, which leads to the other problem I’ve been noticing: there is a complete disconnect between the needs of DC executives and those of DC fans. To start with, the current leadership does not understand the value of the characters they own, their respective histories, and what all of these things mean to not just comic book fans, but to people in general.
These characters are iconic for a reason, and a lot of that has to do with the fact that they were created to represent the best of humanity. These characters have endured the test of time because they mean something to people. They give people hope of a better life and future, and these characters even help people cope with their lives when times are dark. To the current DC leadership, these characters are nothing more than fictional characters that exist for profit. But to the general public, these characters feel like old friends to us. That is why when DC guts the very things we love about these characters, we can’t help but to feel hurt in return. We tend to feel like our old friends were taken from us.
With that in mind, the other problem I’ve been noticing as well as that the current leadership does not take criticism very well, and continue to repeat the same problems they’ve been called out on over, and over, and over, and a trillion times over again. As such, it’s been anything but surprising that outside of Justice League and Batman (DC’s default top sellers), the rest of their books have slumped in sales. It’s pretty much acknowledged at this point that the current leadership does NOT know how to expand their readership. They do not know how to strategise for longterm success, and they especially do not know how to market their properties to a wider demographic. It especially doesn’t help in their case that they’ve largely catered to a singular demographic (in this case, the adult, white, heterosexual cismale) and never listen to their more diverse fans (who are also their customers) when problems get addressed. As such, steps are never taken to effectively improve the quality of their product, and diverse fans are often left feeling devalued.
I know this turned out far longer than you probably anticipated, but I am very much convinced at this point that, after three years, all of the problems go back to bad leadership. I think once you change the leadership and hire people who care about these characters and their fans, are more innovative in their business strategy, possess better marketing and PR skills, I think you will notice a huge difference in both the business model and the quality of the books. By extension, even the films, television programmes, and video games. All of these things connect.