DCU Inventory

By | Wednesday, November 21, 2007 Leave a Comment
So I was looking through the list of books that are in marvel's initial offering of issues in the Digital Comics Unlimited program. There are some books that I think make a lot of sense, and some others that make me wonder what they were thinking.

Golden Age Books
All-Winners Comics #1-8
Astonishing #3-6
Captain America Comics #1-2
Human Torch #2-5A
Love Romances #89
Marvel Boy #1-2
Marvel Comics #1
Sub-Mariner Comics #1-2, 5
Tales to Astonish #1-10
Young Men #24-28
While I personally would rather see more of the older books, I understand that they're not as popular generally speaking. But kudos to marvel for having at least a sampling of them available. On the downside, I don't see any of their older Westerns and there's only the one romance book.

Multiple Character Iterations
Amazing Spider-Man
Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man
House of M: Spider-Man
Marvel Adventures Spider-Man
Marvel Age Spider-Man
Marvel Knights Spider-Man
Marvel Mangaverse: Spider-Man
Peter Parker, Spectacular Spider-Man
Sensational Spider-Man
Spectacular Spider-Man Adventures
Spider-Man and Power Pack
Spider-Man India
Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane
Spider-Man: Blue
Ultimate Spider-Man
The same concept holds true for other characters beyond Spidey, but there are multiple versions of the character available; it's not just the in-continuity stories that we're looking at. I'm actually surprised at the number of versions that marvel's using here, and the only notable omissions I can think of offhand are the version licensed out to the Electric Company (and that could well have been a rights issue) and Spider-Man 2099. I think this is reflective of marvel's relatively recent realization that they're no longer a comic book publisher but the holder of several significant character licenses.

Heroes Reborn
Avengers #1
Captain America #1-12
Fantastic Four #1-6
Iron Man #1-6
I have to admit to some confusion here. I understand why they're putting some of the Heroes Reborn books online, but the specific choices don't make sense. All of these titles' sixth issue were part of a single storyline, of which Avengers #6 sat smack in the middle, and all of the titles' twelfth issues were part of a single storyline, of which Captain America #12 was the finale. I would think it would make more sense to post the earlier parts of the story and leave off the ending, coercing readers to search out the trade paperbacks for the conclusion, rather than publishing the endings and leaving out earlier sections.

Heroes for Hire
Daughters of the Dragon #1-6
Daughters of the Dragon: Deadly Hands Special #1
Heroes for Hire (2006) #1, 6
Immortal Iron Fist #1
Iron Fist (2006) #1
White Tiger (2006) #1
As near as I can see, there's no reprints of the original Heroes for Hire title or, for that matter, any Power Man or Iron Fist stories of any sort written before 2004. I can understand somewhat not wanting to highlight some of the more naive attempts at urban relevance or cultural equality or whatever turn of phrase you want to use, but ignoring it entirely? I'm not saying marvel's deliberately trying to whitewash their history, but it still strikes me as a curious set of omissions.

Death of Captain America
Fallen Son: Death of Captain America: Wolverine
One of marvel's biggest PR successes in the past several years, and the only acknowledgment of it in any capacity is this one book. I would think, if nothing else, you'd want to include the actual death scene itself since that would be an easy way to "hook" more casual readers. Especially with the launch of DCU, it would be a good extra step towards drawing in all the people who couldn't find the issue when it first came out.

1970s Oddities
Adventures into Fear #1
Champions #1, 12
Devil Dinosaur #1
Now, some of the 1970s books marvel's putting out make complete sense to me. Omega the Unknown #1 of course can help bring awareness to the new title of the same name. I suppose Champions here might be done to indirectly highlight Hercules' new prominence, so does that mean they've got plans to reinvigorate Devil Dinosaur? Also the book that was known as Adventures Into Fear was actually just titled Fear (although later issues sported "Adventures" on the cover, the first issue only uses the word "Fear" by itself). More interesting, though, is that the book only reprinted older monster stories, mostly from Tales to Astonish. Which means the DCU is reprinting reprints?

Limited Series
There's any number that I could list out here, but let me just generalize that I don't understand the thinking behind these. Some of the titles are captured in their entirety, but others only have the first issue or two. At first, I thought it was that older books were getting the full treatment while newer books (which are more likely to be on the shelves in TPB form) only get a teaser, but that doesn't seem to be the case. Why Strange (2006) #1-6 but only Dr. Strange: The Oath (2006) #1-2 for example?

Unintentionally(?) Humorous
Spider-Man/Black Cat: Evil That Men Do #1-3
So do people have to wait five years for marvel to post the second half of the series?

In general, I understand that marvel's library is huge and trying to whittle down all of the possible comics they choose to put online to online 250 is a daunting task. And I get that many of their decisions are going to be based on marketing "hot" properties. But a lot of the decision making here seems to be inconsistent. Now it's certainly possible that they've got a larger plan, with staged roll-outs that make sense in the broader context. And it's possible that there were extenuating circumstances (technical or legal) that prevented them from posting certain issues. But I'm just not seeing the logic. It's like they're going along a straight path, making fairly wise choices, but then fall asleep at the wheel for a bit and are woken by the rumble strips before getting back on the road again.

Every time I start to think marvel's getting the hang of this whole "we're now a character licensing company" thing, they highlight that they're really just winging it every bit as much as Stan Lee used to do as a editor-in-chief/publisher. And while Stan may have been able to succeed at that in the 1960s and 70s, I don't think that approach is going to work now in the 21st century.
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