Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Focus: Touch

Touch #1-2
Written by John Francis Moore. Illustrated by Wesley Craig and Prentis Rollins.

"Get ready for DC Focus, a new line of gritty, character-driven comics that take place in a world separate from the traditional DC universe."

Or don't. That was the info DC released about the Focus line of comics (way back in 2004). But it quickly became apparent that people were going to take the second option and just ignore them entirely.

Touch was apparently the one least interesting of all, as it debuted with sales of just over 11,000 (#151 on the charts), before sinking to just 5000 (and #223) with the sixth, and final, issue. Admittedly, it was barely behind another Focus title, Fraction, but that just shows how poorly this line was received.

Part of me wonders what DC were thinking with this line. There were no big creators, and while there was a push for the line, it didn't seem like there was any reason for it to exist.

Going back to 2004, when this line launched, we can see DC making a lot of these sort of strange publishing decisions, and putting out piles of comics not necessarily interesting to their typical superhero-comic-reading fan. This was, after all, when the ill-fated DC/2000ad and DC/Humanoids imprints were launched, and CMX, which somehow still exists despite putting out (to me) mystifying manga series.

It all kind of seems to indicate a period when DC was flailing around seemingly completely at random in an attempt to find something that would sell. It didn't work, so now they just put out more Green Lantern comics.

Still, who was the market for the Focus comics supposed to be? Based on the covers by indie comicker Tomer Hanuka, and the drab and murky colouring, I can only assume that the intended audience was indie/Vertigo readers.

Except that doesn't make any sense, because if you want to attract those readers, you should give the books to people that already have followings. Don't just get the guy that wrote X-Force and Doom 2099 (as good as it might have been) to write your titles*.

There's also the strangeness behind launching an entire line of comics (which I'm not sure has ever really succeeded before, it's not like Vertigo just showed up one day), with line-branding, similar covers, style, and colouring, fairly generic names, and yet not have any information inside the comics telling you about the others. The house ads are all for other DC comics, and the back of issue two just tells you about a bunch of DC universe titles. Had DC already given up on the line by that point? I don't know.

The colouring on these comics is another mystifying idea. The entire line supposedly had a drab, washed out look, which doesn't sound like the best idea but could work. It doesn't though. Well, that's unfair. There are scenes where it works, the opening pages of issue one are at the bottom of a mine shaft, and the dark colours work pretty well there. When someone breaks through to rescue the miners he's backlit with brighter colours, and it looks pretty good. The rest of the issue is coloured with the exact same colours (grey-blue and grey-red), no matter if they characters are walking down the street, in a bar, in a hospital, inside, outside, wherever. It's like the movie Dark City, where everything happens at night, except with no point or reason. It's the rare comic that has more colour on the cover than the insides, but this is one of them. Issue two seems even worse, with the red becoming even greyer.

It's like there was a coloured ink shortage.

The comic itself is alright. A guy has superstrength, and helps people. Well, for the right price for him and his manager. The first issue ends with you learning that the hero isn't the main character after all, he's just been given his powers by someone else. And what can be given can be taken away. It's a decent twist, and it actually makes me appreciate the cover (which I thought was pretty good to begin with) a lot more.

The second issue goes into this a bit more, and I guess the point of the series was sort of like Dial H for Hero, except with the mystery of how this guy got his powers. And who that crazy dude in the second issue was. Were either of these mysteries solved? I dunno. And I kind of doubt I will ever actually find out. It does not however seem like the plot for an ongoing series.

One final thing to mention is that only five years ago DC launched an entire line of comics at $2.50 each. It's kind of hard to believe that in the five years since then we've gone from that price up to the $3.99 that so many comics now launch at. Still, I'm sure I'll be able to buy them from a quarter bin in five years time no matter how much they originally cost.

*That's who wrote (and created, and even, according to the indica, had some of the copyright of) Touch, by the way: John Francis Moore. And that's true up above too, I did generally enjoy his run on Doom 2099. It wasn't a masterpiece or anything, but I thought it was pretty fun comics.

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