Why I’m Sitting Out The DC Universe Service

Today DC announced the main details for its new streaming movies/TV/comic service, DC Universe.  The anchor of the service will be four new TV series, and they’ll also have all your favorite old DC shows, movies and cartoons. The new shows are Titansan incongruously R-rated version of Teen TitansDoom PatrolSwamp Thing and a fourth, to be announced this week, show.

I won’t be getting the service, despite its reasonable price ($7.99 a month, $75 paid yearly). It’s not because the trailer for Titans is a try-hard grim n’ gritty embarrassment (“Fuck Batman,” Robin intones into the camera before SHOOTING a bunch of alleyway thugs to death). It’s not because I don’t actually need a service that has Legends of the Super Friends on demand 24/7. It isn’t even because I’m unemployed and shouldn’t be spending my limited dollars on something like this.

No, it’s because they’re doing the comic book part of it wrong. According to the press coverage, the comic book aspect of DC Universe will be curated comics, rotated out perhaps as often as monthly. Someone at DC will choose which comics go on the service that month – likely tied in to whatever the corporation is promoting – and then hide them away when their time is up.

I hate this.

Marvel has a service to which I subscribe called Marvel Unlimited. It doesn’t have TV shows or movies, but it has a library of digital Marvel Comics that actually predates Marvel Comics – you can read Timely and Atlas comics. They add old comics every week, and every week the library gets bigger and more robust. It’s already jam-packed with thousands of issues of hundreds of titles, and if I woke up today feeling like I wanted to travel down the history of Brother Voodoo, the service will have a lot of comics that allow me to do this.

This service costs the same as the DC Universe service, but to me it’s more worthwhile because it offers this deep, constant library of comics. I don’t have to hope that the powers that be decide this month is going to be Brother Voodoo month, I don’t have to worry that I need to finish reading an old storyline before it disappears off the service.

I don’t even understand why DC is using this false scarcity model for the comic book aspect of DC Universe. It literally makes no sense, unless there’s some sort of bandwidth/storage issue to which I’m not privy. But I feel like you could pack the entire run of Detective Comics into less space than it costs to store a Nolan Batman film.

It’s especially a bummer because DC has such a tiered history. There are multiple DC continuities, and one of the joys of having the whole library available would be to dive into whichever speaks to you the most. I’m a post-Crisis guy, which means I don’t care that much about post-New 52/Flashpoint stuff, but if I had to guess I would assume the service will favor those comics in their curated lists.

But I’m also really interested in just surfing around weird Golden and Silver Age DC stories, which again, I’m assuming will not be heavily represented. They will surely have SOME old stuff every month (I bet when they have Cheetah month in honor of Wonder Woman 1984 there will be a smattering of Cheetah stories from every Age), but that’s not enough.

If DC were to just throw open the doors of its digital comics library, I’d be in. $7.99 a month is a little high, especially since Titans looks so bad and I’m assuming the other shows will be in the same terrible vein, but I could probably see myself ponying up the yearly fee if guaranteed access to any random ass old DC title I wanted to read. But this curated business… it just doesn’t work for me.

Here’s hoping that someone at DC Universe decides to change this model, to give us access to the astonishing richness that is the DC Comics back catalog. It seems to work for Marvel – it can work for DC too.