Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Getting Over the Hump: Wednesday Comics #1

I worry for Wednesday Comics' safety. No, I'm not concerned about its success; I think this title is innovating enough to maintain a core readership's attention for its intended twelve consecutive weeks. I mean, I worry for my copy's safety. If you haven't heard of Wednesday Comics, you probably don't read comics, so you may be interested to know that the title is a weekly newspaper-sized anthology starring some of DC Comics' most popular characters, like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and the Flash. It's printed on newsprint, too, which implies an inherent sense of importance and mobility, like the newspaper a businessman might tuck under his arm getting on or off the subway. As such, I'm tempted to bring this thing with me where ever I go, to share its art and format with others -- but we fanboy folk are trained to treasure our comics, to "bag and board" them against the elements, as if the value of the paper they're printed on is more than the story or art within. Now you see my mid-week dilemma.

Of course, when the second issue hits stands tomorrow, I'll probably feel less attached to this first one. I certainly don't intend to lug all twelve issues around with me when this series is said and done. Yet, DC's plan to offer mainstream comics in a more mainstream way has reignited my love for their characters, especially when the monthly titles we geeks are accustomed to browsing are mired in crossovers and continuity. Oh, yes, I'm as excited about Grant Morrison's new Batman and Robin as much as the next guy, but I can't very well share this spirited new title with just anyone -- not without explaining that the Dark Knight is now former Robin Dick Grayson, and that the Boys Wonder is Bruce Wayne's son Damien. Wednesday Comics looks like the Sunday funnies everyone read as a kid, and its content is just as approachable. Oh, Batman is present and accounted for, but as the troubled hero he should be . . . not a continuity victim forced to play pass-the-cowl.

So far, at least. With only one issue available, and with every story only one newspaper-sized page long, these tales promise to move at a snail's pace compared to the usual twenty-two page chapters most familiar to longtime fans. Also, considering the instant accessibility of the Internet, I wonder if the average reader can hold on for twelve long weeks; the most common criticism I've read of this first issue is how either nothing really happens, or it seems something is just about to happen. Uhm, that's kind of the point -- to establish characters and concepts, either through the introduction of a dilemma or a sudden explosion of inexplicable action, all with motivations to come. Me, while I'm usually a story-first kind of guy, I'm willing to fork out the controversial $3.99 every week for the chance to see how these all-star artists are using the bigger format to pace their respective adventures. Some, like the Wonder Woman piece, crammed in as many panels as possible; the Hawkman and Sgt. Rock pieces sought more spacious ambiance than that. I liked both, presuming the story will find a favorable pace once it gets over the hump of week one.

There's the rub. This first issue is experimental, in style and substance, and as such will be hit or miss for many fans, new and old. If Wednesday Comics finds distribution outside the standard comics shop, I wonder if it would become as important a pop culture piece as that well-tucked newspaper. Any comic with the right gimmick can make the news. The distinction between marketing gimmick and legitimate artistic exercise will be in its ability to be the news, to be as important and exciting to read as any other daily headline.

Wednesday Comics #1 was written and illustrated by way too many contributors to list here and was released on July 8, 2009 by DC Comics.