Dear Titans Gang,
Or rather, "Bye," Titans gang. To make this short and not very sweet, NEW TITANS #76 was the last issue I plan to buy. Ever. I want you to understand how painful it is for me to say this, so I'll explain. I've been reading this book from the beginning, back to the first run of TEEN TITANS. I've followed the group from their days in THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD. I guess that dates me. It's not that I don't like change, but after CRISIS, my total of comics bought per month went from 22 to 3. The Titans were number one on that list. I wouldn't have minded a new, alternate Earth, so things could start over with new origins and the whole works. I actually pretended that's what happened -- Supergirl is alive and well somewhere, etc. At least, I had the Titans to read. They were solid and dependable and always entertaining. I don't even mind having characters die (Ferro Lad in LSH was an especially poignant case); however, when it seems to be done just to clean out the super-hero closet, I resent it, as a longtime, loyal reader. The recent storyline in NEW TITANS disturbed me. It was the final straw.
Maybe I'm getting too old (38 in two weeks) or maybe I've been reading comics too long (30 years now) and I have gotten jaded, but I've had it. I give up. I don't care which Titan is dead. Id on't want to know. This wonderful book, so full of truth, reality, fun, drama, pathos, humor, and wonder has lost its sense of joy. Don't tell me you're trying to be more real or some other such thing. I've seen it before, a few times, in a number of titles, and much better done than this. It's not just the loss of innocence -- I don't really mind that. It's the apparent mean-spiritedness that is driving me away. I'm sure I won't be missed, what with all the other readers you have. Good luck with the book. It doesn't matter if you print this LoC or not -- I won't be buying the book to see it. Believe me, I never thought I'd be writing a letter like this and I wish I didn't have to, but the book's current direction has saddened me deeply. I hope you guys really know what you're doing, because I feel as if I've lost and old and dear friend. I had hoped to be reading NEW TITANS forever.
Okay, so, yeah, I kept checking the next issues, eager to see if they dared to print the above, and they did, so I bought it because I like having copies of my published words. And the answer was about as long as my letter. I don't feel like retyping it all, so I'll excerpt it here:
"Actually, [my name], so did we. We're sorry to see you go, and even though you may never see this reply, I'd still like to publicly say that your letter so moved me when I first read it, that I felt a need to share it with ALL our readers.At the time, I don't think I wanted to see that, but I can also say that it wasn't the changes so much as the execution and the overall tone of the book that bothered me. Having more recently read Brad Meltzer's "Identity Crisis" which was about some horrible things and a lot of change, I can honestly say that for me, despite a few bumps here and there (mainly on the overall pacing and mystery elements), he handled the characters with more respect and understanding than I recall feeling about the NEW TITANS book I dropped back in 1991.
"Why? Because, my friends, the unfortunate truth is that things ARE boing to be changing around this title. Big tiem. And I know that some of you "longtime" readers are going to be put off by quite a few of these changes. You're going to watch a a lot of old "friends" (Dick, Donna, Kory et al.) move on into all-new directions. But then, isn't that what life is all about?"
[More explanation along this line follows]
In his response, Jonathan (the Big Kahuna) Peterson (yes, that's how he signed the lettercol), also said:
"Now, I want everyone out there to realize that we're not out to create an aura of 'mean-spiritedness.' I hope that you all realize that ANYTHING we do -- from a simple costume change to a character's demise -- is done for a particular REASON (which might not be clear to you until you've read a follow-up story several months down the road). But believe me, despite the seemingly unpredictable nature currently prevailing in this book, we DO love these characters every bit as much as you. Heck, think about this for a minute -- We love these guys so much, we made taking care of them our professional jobs!"Which brings me to a related issue. The need to move forward, the love for characters, and the attempt to write intricate stories not quickly resolved vs the need to keep a readership and to make each chapter as good qualitatively as the previous one. With books, we can read as quickly as we want. We don't need to wait a month or longer for the next chapter, or even a year for it all to become clear. A writer needs to keep us reading. Some readers kept reading, obviously, but I didn't For me, the writing failed.
As for love of characters, that can be said for writers who would take the same characters in very different directions, often portraying them in ways out of character from what is considered the norm. Devin Grayson attempted something with Nightwing that could have worked better if she'd executed her premise better (her pre-OYL storyline in his book), but next to what Bruce Jones did after, hers was sheer brilliance. And I didn't like the whole Dick in the mob, Dick teaching Rose Wilson, etc. story at all. I wouldn't say Bruce Jones hated Nightwing, but he sure didn't have a handle on him.
Now, Marv pretty much created Nightwing from Robin and he wrote NEW TITANS and he's writing Nightwing now, and I like how he writes him, but I think back then, the book needed a change, but the direction they went, and from what I understand from after I stopped reading, was not good. It wasn't good writing. It wasn't good comics. For me, it seemed they ran out of ideas and were making changes to make changes because "life is like that." They didn't let the changes happen naturally. And at the heart of things, they didn't write good stories.
The answer to my LoC went on about the reason for change, stuff about "Blazing new trails" leading to a "bumpy road ahead," but why should that be? The bumpy road should be for the characters, not for the readers. We should be pulled along where we eagerly await the next issue, not dread it.
"Stories where there isn't just some monthly run-of-the-mill 'super-powered' criminal for the Titans to easily triumph over and throw into jail. I'm talking about stories where there might not be any EASY choices or PAINLESS solutions. Stories that will NOT leave you complacent -- but rather stories that will leave you angry, tearful, astonished and emotionally torn. In short: stories that MATTER once again."And that takes more than what they were doing, because the book around the time I stopped reading wasn't giving us any more "Judas Contract"s. Again, it's all about execution. The only emotion I was feeling was sad about the state of the book, disappointed, disgusted, heartsick that something I loved was dying. Not the characters dying, but the book losing its heart and soul.
There was some "sorry to see you go" comments, then the line that really bugged me: "The TITANS can't be an 'old-style 1960's amiable' comic anymore. It's the 1990s -- and it's time the TITANS moved into that era."
I never asked for the '60s back. Those stories, after all, were a bit silly, and are quite dated, were quite dated even in the late-'80s. All I wanted was for the book to return to the skillful plotting and deft characterization that marked the '70s and much of the '80s as it moved forward. That's all I ever want in comics. I don't think it's fair to ask readers to bear with the creators as they feel their way. They're professionals. Comics from a top company, as DC is and was, should be ready to put out stories where the bumps are for the characters, not the readers. We readers can feel those bumps with the characters, but we should never feel the ones under that surface. We shouldn't see or feel the seams, the jagged bits holding it all together.
As 52 moves onward with seamless energy, no matter what you think of the events, and the OYL titles show varying degrees of adaptability to the jump, we can see this more clearly. Some writers -- Wil Pfeifer and Gail Simone, among others -- can handle it far better than some others -- Bruce Jones. Still others, like Judd Winick, seem a bit stuck in the middle, doing okay, but not quite able to make it all seem so natural. Writing a serial that takes months and months to unfold, is difficult. I like change. I don't want to read the same thing over and over. But I want it to be well written and skillfully handled. Not too much to ask for, is it? It takes a lot of skill. And there are many places to lose or win readers along the way.
The publishers have to hope they gain more readers than they lose. Because gaining new, younger readers is hard, so losing too many loyal, longtime readers won't be good for them, either.