Ink & Paint: Addressing the DC Nation

Well, I managed to get a bit of spare time, and since it's been two weeks, I wanna give my initial impressions of Cartoon Network's new DC Nation block.  It's too early to give an overall impression, but enough has aired that I want to give some summary of my reactions.  As usual, this will be in list format.

1. The Shorts Need Their Own Segment:  My DVR doesn't record the block as a whole, only as the two separate shows.  So whatever short is aired between GL & YJ is always cut in two.  Yes, I know, set a manual recording (which I did this week), but between that & the second short always being buried in the ads on YJ's commercial breaks, I think the shorts should get their own spots.  I liked them all, and it'd be nice to see them get their due.  That bizarre Aardman short that was basically "Creature Comforts" with superheroes & children each fed an entire bag of Dum Dums ties with the Plastic Man short & the inexplicable yet awesome "Baby Superman" for being more entertaining than even five minutes of the shows that form the majority of the block.  (As for the Titans short... well, more on that later.)

2. Expand the Block to At Least 90 Minutes: If they aren't going to give the shorts their own set chunk of time, then they can at least give a bit more time on the schedule to one of their older series or roll out more than one new series, preferably one in a different art style (GL = CGI, YJ = flat "serious" designs, really could use a third at least other than the shorts).  Toonami & Miguzi each rolled out with two-hour blocks, and CN has more than enough DC-based shows to fill more time.  I'd love to see some cancelled series like Legion of Super-Heroes or Teen Titans brought back from TV Limbo to find new fans; it wouldn't be the first time you had success with a mix of old & new shows (*cough*Toonami*cough*), and it'd save the world from even more of your live-action crap.

3. Better Branding Equals Stronger Presence: You knew a Toonami promo when you saw it, and the same goes for Miguzi, You Are Here, Saturday Night Action video-game-thing (don't remember the exact name), etc.  The DC Nation block's branding is the logo superimposed over stills of group shots from YJ.  Not very creative or distinctive.  DC Nation really needs to have bumpers that don't blend wordlessly into the shows, an intro that makes you pay attention, and a sign-off that isn't reduced to ad space.  Treat it like a proper block of programming, and the audience is more likely to remember it & go out of their way to watch.

4. Drop Young Justice Like the Steaming Turd It Is:  People are always surprised when I tell them that I didn't hate the Young Justice comic - I just hated the insane cult-like fanbase that was centered around it.  Peter David knew how to mix of characterization, goofiness, and serious dramatic moments, do so with an appealling style in a way that was accessible to both old & new fans, and they never needed a fill-in once during the series' run (that's VERY impressive to me).  I will hold that Teen Titans was actually its best adaptation, because even if it didn't use the name or cast, it kept the tone of YJ and was just as accessible.  The show, however, is a largely joyless affair where the only humor comes in seeing how annoying & patronizing their characterization of Miss Martian can be every time she's featured (and how many terrible voice roles CN can keep giving poor Danica Keller).  There's no better example of this than the episode they chose to debut at DC Nation's roll-out, supposedly an adaptation of the "World Without Grown-Ups" that helped introduce comics.  None of that story's pathos & charm was there, and none of the tragedy of Zatanna's father rang true, coming off mostly as "We need to emphasize how terribly serious our show is, so let's kinda kill someone off."  It's like a bad fanfic, where we need to show how serious we are by being totally joyless, but is worse because it is using the name of a series that came to be synonymous with "fun comics".  How people can keep praising it up & down is beyond me, but I chalk it up to the "dark & grim = automatically great" fallacy that infests comics like logical kudzu.  If you're gonna continue to run such a dour & proud of it series, maybe they'd do better not to put the lion's share of the comedic shorts in its timeslot where they feel especially out of place & unlikely to connect with the audience.

5. Revive Your Older Series Properly:  I can't be the only person who was disappointed by the Teen Titans short, right?  I know the old series had lots of silly moments (Bunny Raven, anyone?), but the short was just trying too damn hard.  When something genuinely funny happened, they'd immediately follow it up with something trite & stupid (Cyborg's tofu wisecrack leads right into Beast Boy's pants inexplicably falling down).  I could live with a comedy superhero series, with these characters, and with these designs.  But it felt like they weren't trying.  The other shorts were all distinctive in their weirdness; this just feels like an attempt to lure in older viewers with a revival for which they no ideas what to do with the property.

6. Let's Get Synergistic:  I will forgive any number of YJ-related sins if you just give me a crossover between Ben 10 and Dial H for Hero.  It could be a short, I don't care - it'd get fans of the former in to view the new block and introduce a wider audience to the latter.  Win-win.  Or maybe show that highly praised, high quality new Thundercats revival some basic respect and do a tie-in of some sort (Thundercats meet Kamandi!).  Crossovers are part & parcel of comics, and if this is gonna be comics on TV, more or less, then maybe you should consider them to bring in the viewers.

Whether the suit monkeys in charge of CN now realize it, the gold standard for a block of shows - especially action shows - will always be Toonami.  A lot of us want Toonami with DC shows, which isn't as bad as it sounds.  Toonami as a brand meant more to many of us viewers than CN as a whole.  I wanted DC Nation to give you that same sense of purpose & focus, to maintain the creative energy that seemed so on display when they announced the shorts.  So far, only the shorts have really shown any promise, and they're kind of buried.  GL could be a decent series, but the sub-par TV CGI is so ugly that it negates any positives about the show, and my opinion of YJ is firmly established.  DC has a HUUUUUGE potential pool of reference from which to draw material, but it feels like CN is once again shooting their action shows in the foot through their half-baked efforts.  I have a feeling that this will burn out faster than You Are Here unless they're actually willing to show the block some genuine TLC and make more of it than it currently is.


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