So as print media and especially print newspapers are dying, DC comics decides to put out a print comic that mimics newspaper funny pages. Is this brilliant, or ridiculous?
In this case, it’s brilliant. The comics are high kitsch, pure throwbacks to the heyday of newspaper comics. Highlights for me include the hilarious double entendre-a-line Metamorpho scripted by Neil Gaiman, Superman with Lee Bermejo’s utterly stunning art, and Ben Caldwell’s hallucinatory Wonder Woman. Really, though, there’s not a miss in here–and this is coming from a girl who is lukewarm at best on superheroes and has little to no healthy nostalgia for the days of yore.
But the media theorist in me wants to take this a step further. Wednesday Comics seems like an epitaph for newspapers in general and newspaper comics in particular, a tribute especially pulled together for a dying medium. The very fact that DC puts out something like this, on newsprint, is as loud a signal as any I’ve seen that we probably won’t be seeing comics in newspapers much longer. If we still had a vibrant newspaper culture, no one would find it deliciously different to buy comics printed this way.
I regret the death of the broadsheet print newspaper as a cultural artifact more than I do as a personal choice–I’ve never liked getting ink on my fingers and have never really been able to read a paper cover to cover. By the time I started jonesing for news, we already had the 24-hour news cycle and the Internet. But like most people, I remember reading the funny pages as a kid (Garfield was always my favorite).
Superhero comics carry that same kind of reassuring nostalgia for most of their audience. People grow up with Superman–life might change, fall apart, but there will always be Superman. The characters chosen for Wednesday Comics are those same classic characters, and the writers and artists are some of the biggest names in the business. The message of the whole project seems to be: Newspapers might be dead, kids, but Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman? They aren’t going to leave you.
It’s a well-done project, though, and the pure joy and love for the medium shines through and tosses some residual afterglow onto the newsprinted page. It won’t slow the shift to digital media, but it will certainly be an artifact worth keeping.