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Up for Another Weekly Countdown?

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With 52’s end creeping closer and Countdown set to take over as DC’s new year-long event, is another weekly series a good thing?

As I learned of DC’s intentions to publish a new weekly series, my first reaction was why? Why is DC betting on another weekly publication format? After all, the industry is more accustomed to the status quo of monthly publications.

So, after the relative success of 52 – a weekly limited series consisting of 52 issues – DC announced Countdown – another weekly series, also consisting of 52 issues. Does that mean that weeklies are here to stay? Is the weekly format the new thing? Or is it just a marketing trick?

But, when considering both series, one cannot just account for sales figures or format preferences. 52 and Countdown aren’t isolated series, portraying a given character (or characters) and its respective locus. These weeklies relate to the broader DC Universe and all of its intricacies.

DC has just been through Infinite Crisis, a world-shattering and universe-reshaping event (as it was marketed). A sequel to the original 1985 Crisis on Infinite Earths, this event paved the way to several changes in the DCU. These included the death of a few heroes; the restructuring of some power relations; mysterious disappearances; the birth of new heroes; and… some legacy questions. After this event, DC’s mainstream titles jumped immediately – and cleverly – to one year afterwards, dubbed One Year Later. From that moment on, all the action happened OYL after Infinite Crisis, i.e., all the changes and mysteries were left… unexplained. To catch up readers were left with one option: to follow the weekly 52. That can be perceived as a (very) negative aspect of 52, for it backed, essentially, a marketing stunt.

But 52 also had a very bright side. On one hand, it presented readers with a panoply of top-shelf storytellers: Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid, and Keith Giffen. On the other, it told the stories of some characters with less exposure in the DCU: Animal Man, Black Adam, Booster Gold, Elongated Man, Will Magnus, Renee Montoya, The Question, Starfire, Steel, and Adam Strange.
And that, my friends, almost compensates the evil marketing ploy behind the series. Here we had top writers working on minor characters, while explaining how the DCU has changed. That’s almost pure gold!

But what about Countdown? As we have seen, right on the aftermath of Infinite Crisis came 52. Now, on 52’s aftermath comes Countdown. And again, we have an evil marketing ruse on its genesis, only on reverse (evil reverse marketing ploy?). In fact, rather than preceding a big impact event, Countdown will deal with the big events, or, as head writer Paul Dini stated at Wizard Universe, “this is a story with a lot of action, a lot of change, and a lot of repercussions for the overall DC Universe. In fact, when we get toward the end, you’ll see some truly world-shaking changes that will start in Countdown and then sweep through all the other books and will really change the face of DC for a long time to come”. And there you have it… in fact we’re just being promised the same old, same old, we’ve been promised since Crisis on Infinite Earths, all the way back to 1985.

        

Therefore, unfortunately, we can’t yet analyse these weekly series based solely on its basic premise: being a weekly published format in an industry more accustomed to monthly titles – which would be extremely interesting, if I may add. The weekly format holds huge potential plot- and character-wise. There’s an all different pacing to it, and an all different way to structure the plot and its development. And that provides great opportunities to pick up characters with less exposure, showing along the way how DCU isn’t solely about the more well-known characters and their actions, but also about other heroes everyday life.

Consequently, one can only analyse both 52 and Countdown based on their marketing premise: being big event dependent.

A recent thread poll run at Newsarama shows that about 61% of the voters (92 people) say that they bought 52 and will buy Countdown; 21% (32 people) voted that they bought 52, but will not buy Countdown; 7% (11 people) stated that even though they didn’t buy 52, will buy Countdown; and about 11% (16 people) assured that they won’t buy a weekly comic. Of course, this poll can only be seen as a mere entertaining exercise, lacking any accurate support.

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Still, it shows that only a small percentage of people clearly refuse the new format. Reading on opinions throughout said thread, many readers show support for and interest in the format. On the other hand, many of the singled out negative aspects relate to both series’ marketing premise (big event related). Many people are getting tired of big events by the main publishers, which are entering a spiral of having to do better, bigger and more significant.

Overall, the new weekly can’t be perceived as purely a good or a bad thing. More of a marketing strategy, Countdown falls in the big events category and it should be analysed as that. And, in what concerns DC, it gets people talking about their books and characters, generating a fair amount of buzz and curiosity. That can’t be a bad thing.

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