As I have mentioned before in other articles, names have power. There is a lot of connotations that accompany a name, both positive and negative. For anyone who wants to create something, they have to be very considerate of the name, both as a way of communicating to one’s audience what your creation is about, as well as the meaning behind the title and the historical/cultural impact it can have.
I say this because last weekend at C2E2, it was announced that DC Entertainment will be publishing a new sequel to the beloved Frank Miller mini-series, The Dark Knight Returns. I’ll leave out my feelings that come from DC once again giving Frank Miller work, considering the massive controversies of his more recent work (this being one of the biggest understatements I’ve written in a while) and just focus on the name of this work that Miller is co-writing with Brian Azzarello (Wonder Woman, Joker). “What’s that name,” you ask:
The Dark Knight III: The Master Race
Okay, like I said, I really don’t want to go into the, let’s face it, insane politics behind Miller’s work and just want to focus on the name. Specifically, who at DC thought this name would be a good idea?! Now, I know Marvel also announced the release of the Loeb/Sale Captain America: White and yes, while that has a great deal of insane connotations (making it doubly weird considering Sam Wilson’s current tenure with the mantle), at least that has some foundation in a theme of titles that Loeb/Sale have created at Marvel. Dark Knight III: The Master Race? Just…why?
Seriously, I have to ask: Why? I just sit and think: DC has recently begun a drive towards more diverse titles this June with titles like Cyborg, Black Canary and Midnighter. That’s great! I am all for that in so many ways. But then you go and say the title of a new Batman book is The Master Race. DC, be honest here, all these new audiences that you say you are trying to court: What are they going to think when you associate your biggest cash cow with one of the most horrible times in the last one-hundred years?
If you are truly trying to appeal outside of what the comics industry has classified as “the norm” (i.e. straight, white, American males) for the last seventy-five years, you have to be incredibly careful with what you are putting out into the field and charging $4 a pop for. If you are going to put a book out there called “The Master Race” or, to go over to Marvel’s recent announcement, “Hank Johnson, Agent of Hydra”, you really should not be shocked to expect a load of blowback. The concept of “Trigger Warnings” is becoming more and more of a real thing and to think a book with the subtitle “Master Race” wouldn’t be be a massive trigger for some people is naive at best.
I am not saying that books with trigger warnings or inflammatory titles should not exist. That is ludicrous. We don’t know where boundaries lie until we push them; that’s true in all forms of media. However, I feel that there should have been someone…anyone at DC considering that maybe this was not the way to go.
Maybe Dark Knight III: The Master Race will be good. My honest thought on it is that, I could not care less about that because as a writer and as a human being, Mr. Miller’s work this last decade offends me on many levels. Maybe that mindset invalidates my opinion on the work at time of writing, but as I said at the beginning of this article: Names have power. It is the responsibility of the publisher to use that power responsibly.
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