Eye on Comics

Comics criticism and commentary from Don MacPherson

The New DC, Picks and Pans – Part 2

Posted by Don MacPherson on June 12th, 2011

Before moving onto my thoughts on the second half of DC’s new fall lineup of titles (the first half is discussed here) and what DC did right and wrong with those choices, I first want to discuss briefly what it’s done right and wrong in another respect. Overall, regardless of how one feels about these new comics and the impact this broad publishing initiative might have on the comics marketplace, I think DC is to be commended for how it’s conducted its publicity campaign thus far. Not only has the September relaunch dominated industry news and discussions, but DC has managed to penetrate the mainstream media consciousness with this move. People outside of comics are aware of the relaunch. Furthermore, it’s managed to control the story well and kept a significant number of players from spoiling its secrets. And with DC’s announcement this week it will follow up that PR campaign with national television advertising, the publisher has demonstrated that this is not business as usual. Such dramatic shakeups in any business, let alone the comics publishing industry, are rare, and one has to respect the willingness to take on such an immense professional undertaking.

While I’ve taken issue with some of the choices DC has made in terms of specific titles in this relaunch, there’s been little to criticize as far as the publicity is concerned. There’s really only one aspect with which I take issue, but unfortunately, it’s a significant issue. DC forgot (or so it seems) to do one thing for this initiative, and that’s to identify. DC hasn’t named its baby, and that’s led to some possible misinformation and misrepresentation. Newsarama and Comics Beat have taken to calling the initiative “DCNu,” a play on “DCU” (short for “DC Universe”). Others keep referring to the relaunch or reboot, and DC officials have maintained it’s not a reboot. Maybe the publisher is holding off on announcing the branding identity for the relaunch so as to give it something to announce later on, thereby keeping the initiative in the pop-culture news cycle. Still, failing to name this line-wide endeavor seems like a missed opportunity to me and a painfully obvious move that DC shouldn’t have been able to overlook.

Anyhoo, on with the second half of my title-by-title, team-by-team commentary…

The Dark Side

With the climax of its popular Brightest Day event earlier this year, DC made a big deal out of the decision to bring its iconic horror character Swamp Thing back into the DC Universe proper, and a relaunched title featuring the elemental hero was the next logical step. Actually, it was an obvious step, but where DC went right was with its choices of creators for the new book. Writer Scott Snyder has impressed many with his work on Detective Comics recently, but he also brings some Vertigo, mature-readers credibility with him, given the success of American Vampire. Artist Yanick Paquette (whose name DC has unfortunately misspelled in its solicitation information for this title) also boasts something of a refined and popular profile thanks to his recent work on Grant Morrison-penned Batman stories. This is not only a formula for a sales success, but for some good storytelling. I’m there.

Writer Jeff Lemire has demonstrated he’s adept at telling stories featuring oddball characters, so tapping him to write a new Animal Man book was likely an easy and smart choice for DC editors. Lemire’s been teamed with the art team of Travel Foreman and Dan Green, and as I recall, Foreman delivered some interesting and unconventional visuals in several issues of the much lauded Immortal Iron Fist series from Marvel a few years back. I think Animal Man is a hard sell to a wider audience, but this one’s got a shot at connecting. I plan on reading it; we’ll see if it holds my interest and that of other readers.

Justice League Dark is one of the goofiest ideas to emerge from the 52 new titles, but it’s also one of the most telling. Given the lineup of John Constantine, Deadman, Shade the Changing Man, Madame Xanadu and others, this has about as much to do with the Justice League as The McLaughlin Group. It seems clear to me that DC is trying once again to expand its Justice League brand in the same way that Marvel has successfully transformed the Avengers into its most popular brand. DC has had a supernatural super-team before with Shadowpact, but I’m guessing DC hopes the Justice League label will give new take on the concept more staying power. At first, I thought the concept to be ludicrous, especially with Constantine’s and Xanadu’s inclusion. But writer Peter Milligan has been responsible for some smart, challenging comics in the past, so I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt at least for an issue or two. Spanish artist Mikel Janin is pretty much an unknown quantity to me, but samples on his website show a lot of energy and edge that might serve these characters well.

I know many have heralded the work of writer Paul Cornell, both for Marvel and for DC, but I’ve found his work so far to be somewhat unremarkable, though capable. So the announcement of Demon Knights — a medieval super-hero series starring Etrigan the Demon, created by Cornell and artists Diogenes Neves and Oclair Albert — didn’t do much for me. I found it also further spotlights the fact that DC hasn’t really known what to do with the Demon property since the Garth Ennis-helmed series ended years ago.

Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. is another unusual choice by DC, but the property has a great pedigree. It was Grant Morrison who started this interpretation of the literary monster in a Seven Soldiers limited series a few years ago, and again, putting that property in the hands of writer Jeff Lemire for the relaunch is a logical move. Furthermore, artist Alberto Ponticelli is coming off a critically acclaimed run on Unknown Soldier, and his style is a good fit for the title character. I’m looking forward to this, even though I thought this past week’s Flashpoint: Frankenstein and the Creatures of the Unknown was a bit too formulaic and predictable for my taste.

The return of Resurrection Man was another big surprise in the relaunch lineup. The original incarnation of the title, published more than a decade ago, didn’t have the strongest sales, lasting only a couple of years, but it was a great premise and a fun, dark book. I’m pleased DC has tapped the original writers, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, to, ahem, resurrect this book. Abnett and Lanning’s recent return to DC is also noteworthy, as the writing team was essentially behind a full line of cosmic, space-opera comics at Marvel until recently, so it’s a bit of a coup for DC. I’m unfamiliar with the work of artist Fernando Dagnino, but my affection for the character and the writers’ rep are enough to get me to check the book out.

When it comes to the I, Vampire relaunch, I’m torn. I’m pleased to see a rather obscure DC horror property returning to the forefront, and I’m interested to see what indy writer Josh Fialkov might do with it. On the other hand, given the cover image by artist Andrea Sorrentino (who also handles the interiors), it seems clear to me that this is DC’s effort to capitalize on the Twilight/True Blood trend. DC is far too late getting to the party, and the attempt to tap into trends doesn’t strike me as a strong foundation for a new comic-book series. I won’t be inviting this vampire into my home, and I suspect it won’t be long before he’s staked through the heart… er, I mean, cancelled.

Voodoo was the first one of the DC’s new 52 titles that revealed the publisher would incorporate some of its Wildstorm characters into the new direction. Judging from the solicitation information (which notes that “Priscilla Kitaen has just found out she’s a monster … a half-alien hybrid…”), DC is starting over from scratch with the character. There’s no reference to her WildCATS membership, for example. Written by Ron Marz and illustrated by Sami Basri, this book is really an unknown quantity. Even Basri’s cover art — featuring a closeup of the title character’s face — doesn’t give a strong indication of what we can even expect visually. I suppose it could’ve been worse… it could’ve featured a closeup of Voodoo’s ass. Since I was never a fan of the character in the 1990s, there’s not much here that’s piquing my interest.

Young Justice

I was quite surprised to learn DC was maintaining a count of two titles featuring the Legion of Super-Heroes among the new 52. I don’t follow either of the two current Legion titles, but after seeing the teaser images and text for Legion Lost and Legion of Superheroes (which is, for some reason, missing a hyphen for the first time in its long history), I’m keen to reconnect with the Legionnaires. Legion Lost, by Fabian Nicieza and Pete Woods, boasts a familiar premise — featuring a team of Legionnaires stranded in the present. DC already did this back in the mid-1990s and it was a lot of fun, but I think there’s still plenty of mileage in the premise. What has me interested in the future-set Legion book — penned by longtime Legion writer Paul Levitz — is the richly imaginative and unique artwork by Francis Portela. His cover alone makes it look as though this comic will be quite lovely. Furthermore, since there’s the potential for a reboot or revised history in play for this title, my hope is that Levitz’s new take on the Legion will be much more accessible and unburdened by decades of continuity.

Wow, but those character designs on the cover of the first issue of the relaunched Teen Titans are ugly, aren’t they? I really don’t get why DC is intent on eliminating any sense of innocence or fun among its sidekick characters. Everything about the look of the characters screams that it’s trying to be an edgy, over-the-top Image comic from the early 1990s. The creative team — made up of writer Scott Lobdell and artists Brett Booth and Norm Rapmund — says the same thing. This reinterpretation of the Teen Titans may prove to be one of the biggest missteps DC will make with this initiative.

We’ve already seen that DC made room for its Wildstorm characters in its new lineup, but I was pleased to see it also saved a small part of it for Milestone Media — namely, a Static Shock series. John Rozum, who’s no stranger to Milestone’s characters, is co-writing the book with artist Scott McDaniel — there’s that promotion of artists as writers or co-writers turning up again. With inker Jonathan Glapion, they make a solid enough creative team. Still, I have to admit I’ve been really followed Static much in the past. If this was a new title outside of the context of DC’s relaunch project, I doubt I’d be reading it, so I can’t really see why I’d do so within the context of the line-wide initiative.

Offering up more evidence of a 1990s influence on some titles in the line, DC is bringing back Hawk and Dove with artist Rob Liefeld. Really? Rob Liefeld? He illustrated a five-part Hawk & Dove limited series back in 1988. It was an early work from the artist that eventually led to bigger and better things… well, better for him, not necessarily for the world of comics. He’s joining writer Sterling Gates on this revival. I honestly can’t fathom what DC is thinking here. Not only is there no chance that Liefeld will be able to maintain a regular schedule, but his fanbase just isn’t what it once was. On top of that, DC has already tried this. Liefeld joined writer Gail Simone on a two-part Teen Titans story a few years ago (featuring a new Hawk and Dove, both women this time) that went nowhere. I expect the same will hold true for this attempt.

The Edge (not U2’s or Pizza Hut’s)

We’ve already seen DC’s “mainstream” super-hero characters make their presence known in the Wildstorm continuity and vice versa, but the teaser for the new Stormwatch book promises more of a lasting merger, with Martian Manhunter joining some of the more popular Wildstorm characters on a new super-team. Among the other players in the book will be Apollo, Midnighter and Jack Hawksmoor, better known as core members of the Authority, but I’m pleased that DC is using the Stormwatch brand instead, recognizing that it’s what eventually evolved into the landmark Authority series. In the first part of this rundown of DC’s 52 new books in September, I said that I’ve not really been all that drawn to writer Paul Cornell’s work. Stormwatch may prove to be different. With art by Miguel Sepulveda, I’m intrigued enough to see how these creators fare with these unusual characters.

One of the things DC is doing with this initiative is to reinvent some of its lesser-known properties for the 21st century. Blackhawks is one such title. Instead of featuring a team of World War II fighter pilots, this new series, set in the present, features “an elite group of mercenaries” who want to “kill the bad guys before they kill us.” I’m unfamiliar with writer Mike Costa’s work, and I’ve always found that Ken Lashley has offered capable but rather standard super-hero art in the past. The premise doesn’t interest me, and I don’t see that DC is giving its audience a reason to seek this book out.

Now Sgt. Rock and the Men of War (which is possibly titled just Men of War, which would be an odd choice — why dump a recognizable character name from the title?) features a slightly similar premise, but it boasts a much stronger hook. Instead of the classic World War II comic hero, the Sgt. Rock in the title refers to the original Rock’s grandson, who leads a team of soldiers in the modern DC Universe. Written by Ivan Brandon and illustrated by Tom Derenick, it sounds like it’s got a bit of a Suicide Squad riff to it. While I’m not sure this twist on Sgt. Rock is the right move, it’s something a little different. As for the art, Derenick strikes me as an unusual choice. He’s best known for fairly generic, deadline-driven super-hero artwork. His work definitely doesn’t have the kind of edge to it one would expect from such a project. I’m on the fence about this one as a result, and given my desire to keep my comics spending under control, that means I probably won’t end up reading this comic.

Though it’s hardly boasted the strongest monthly sales, Jonah Hex was a decent performer for DC in collected form, so I wondered if DC would make room for it in its new lineup. It has, albeit with a new/revived title. All-Star Western — still written by Hex scribes Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray (whose name is also spelled wrong in the solicits) — tweaks the Western story formula a bit by connecting the hero to Gotham City, no doubt in an attempt to draw in Batman fans. With Moritat on art, I’m on board, as I was a semi-regular reader of Jonah Hex in the first place. I’m even more interested in this book give that it’ll carry a backup feature, spotlighting different DC Western heroes. As a result, it’s not holding the line at $2.99, but the reader will get extra pages for an extra buck. On another note, I have to admit I was surprised that DC tapped Palmiotti and Gray to write only one of these 52 books. The writing team has been a reliable resource for the publisher for several years now, so their limited role in this initiative struck me as odd.

The next series on the list — Deathstroke — takes us back to the 1990s once again. DC tells us little about it, save for the fact that the title character is a “metahuman mercenary” out to solidify his rep once again. Looks like this book (written by Kyle Higgins with art by Joe Bennett and Art Thibert) will be a DC iteration of the Punisher archetype. Not interested. DC managed to popularize the character again in recent years by focusing on him as a villain. I expect returning the character’s status as an anti-hero will fall flat.

I’ve never been terribly taken with the wise-cracking rogue of the WildCATS, so at first, when DC announced Grifter would be among its new lineup, I was put off and disinterested. And then I read who was writing the book. I’ve been absolutely thrilled with the quality of the storytelling in Who Is Jake Ellis?, written by Nathan Edmondson, and that DC is placing this character in his hands — a fresh, new voice in comics — pleased me to no end. Now, maybe he won’t be able to work his magic with the character, but I’m certainly willing to see what he and artists Cafu and BIT have in store.

DC Comics co-publisher can be something of a polarizing figure in the industry, but say what you will about the man, but there’s evidence that he truly loves comics. Case in point is his decision to co-write a new OMAC series with penciller Giffen, who illustrates the book along with inker Scott Koblish. Whether Didio should be writing comics is another issue, but it is encouraging to see he has Giffen, a seasoned veteran who truly understands the nature of the medium, as his guide. Honestly, I’m not a big OMAC fan and hadn’t planned on picking up this title when the initial rumor about it broke. But I have to admit that cover image is striking. Nevertheless, this is another one of those books that I go could either way with, and that probably means I’ll be skipping it in the end.

I’ve been a fan of Suicide Squad from the first issue of the John Ostrander penned series of the late 1980s, and whenever the concept turns up again in a DC title, I’ve always been curious enough to check it out. This new incarnation is penned by Adam Glass, who’s about to show us what he can do when writing super-villains with the upcoming Flashpoint: Legion of Doom mini-series. He’ll be joined by artist Marco Rudy, formerly the artist on The Shield (which I never read), but I do recall his work from the first issue of Final Crisis Aftermath: Escape. He employed something of a mind-bending, weird style, so I honestly don’t know what to expect. I do know that I don’t care at all for the cover image (by Ryan Benjamin), which seems more focused on Harley Quinn’s penchant for fetish rather than black-ops super-villain intrigue. the cover makes me want to steer clear, but my personal love for the Suicide Squad concept is at odds with that reaction. I don’t know what I’m going to do about this one.

Now, one could dismiss the inclusion of Blue Beetle in the lineup of the new 52 titles as another example of DC’s push toward more diversity in its world of super-heroes, but there’s certainly more at play here. When the previous incarnation of this series was cancelled, its hero was just beginning to find a new fanbase thanks to the Batman: The Brave and the Bold cartoon, and the Blue Beetle has proven to be a popular, recurring character on that show. Bringing him back for another stab at a solo title was a smart move on DC’s part. Tony Bedard, another one of DC’s go-to guys, has been tasked with the writing, but what’s interesting is that Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers artist Ig Guara is on board as the artist. I’m honestly curious about this new book (despite the fact that I only followed the previous incarnation of the series for a couple of issues), so I’ll give it a chance when it debuts in September.

Look, Up in the Sky…

Like many others, I think DC is giving up something of weight by renumbering Action Comics, the longest-running ongoing comic title, with a new #1. I suppose there’s no point in lamenting it now, especially considering that I suspect that DC, following Marvel’s many examples in recent years, will eventually return to the original numbering, no doubt as part of a marketing hook. In any case, Action promises to be one of DC’s finest offerings in September. Writer Grant Morrison transformed how many modern comics readers viewed Superman with All Star Superman, so I can’t wait to see what he has in store with this new interpretation. It’s also a relief to see that he has a hand in this relaunch initiative, though it’s a lost opportunity that it’s only with one title. Artist Rags Morales’ realistic style will no doubt emphasize Superman’s human side. I can’t imagine that this won’t be a critical and sales success.

The George Perez cover image for the first issue of Superman leaked early, and as a major Perez fan, I eagerly anticipated reading a book he’d write and illustrated (even though the prospect for the latter on an ongoing, monthly basis seemed unlikely). When the book was officially announced, I have to admit I was quite disappointed to learn that Perez was only contributing breakdowns to the interiors and that it was Jesus Merino who was billed as the main artist on the book. While he’s a fine inker, I haven’t cared for Merino’s solo work on such comics as Justice Society of America and pages from the recent Action Comics #900. Still, I’m willing to see how it’ll look when he’s following Perez’s breakdowns. Even if they aren’t any help, Perez’s writing is a draw as well. His work on Wonder Woman in the late 1980s was intelligent and emotionally resonant, and I’m interested to see what he has in store for the Man of Steel.

While I will be checking out the two main Superman books, I won’t be doing the same for the other two members of the Superman family of titles. While I enjoy the work of upcoming Supergirl artist Mahmud Asrar, I’m ambivalent about the participation of Superman/Batman writers Michael Green and Mike Johnston. And the description of the reinterpreted title character as having “the unpredictable behavior of a teenager, the same powers as Superman and none of his affection for the people of Earth” doesn’t make me want to read the book.

It seems that DC decided to bring a similar edge to Superboy, who’s described in the solicitation information for his title as “a deadly weapon.” It appears from the cover art that DC might be endeavoring to bring the published incarnation of the character in line with what we’ve seen in the Young Justice cartoon. While I enjoy that show, I won’t be signing on for the new comic, to be illustrated by R.B. Silva and Rob Lean. The main reason: it’s written by Scott Lobdell. While I’ve enjoyed a few of his stories in the past, for the most part, his work just isn’t for me. If Lobdell’s titles prove to be solid performers for DC, we can expect more of these interpretations of its characters. I hope that doesn’t come to pass, as these Kewl concepts don’t appeal to me, and I’m not interested in more of that approach.

Overall, DC has a mix of talent participating in its new line. There are a few new (or relatively new) voices joining the DC Universe choir, but for the most part, the powers that be at the publisher have opted to stick with creators with whom they (and the DC readership) are already familiar. Not everyone’s back, and personally, I’m struck by one absence in particular. Artist (and sometimes writer) Scott Kolins has been a mainstay of DC super-hero comics for years now, and his influence has been felt across a wide variety of titles. He not only contributed to various iterations of The Flash, he also contributed to two or three Flash-related mini series, Justice Society of America, DC Universe: Legacies and a Solomon Grundy limited series that featured a diverse array of weird DC monster characters.

Of all of those creators who didn’t graduate onto the relaunch line, Kolins’ omission may be one of the most surprising. Of course, that may mean nothing. DC is obviously planning beyond this September relaunch. It has Grant Morrison and artist Christ Burnham working on followup to Batman Inc. for release next year, and it no doubt has other projects and titles in the works. I hope one of them involves Kolins, preferably in an artistic capacity.

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9 Responses to “The New DC, Picks and Pans – Part 2”

  1. Steely Dan Says:

    I’m almost embarrassed at the level of interest I’ve had these past two weeks since DC began announcing its latest marketing scheme. Like you, I was always a “DC kid” growing up (never understood the appeal of Marvel’s characters and for the most part still don’t), but other than the recent Batwoman collected edition, those Alex Ross Treasury Editions from the late 1990s, and the super-hero stuff that Darwyn Cooke has done for them, I haven’t bought and kept (i.e., enjoyed) a new DC comic book since the late 1980s. This isn’t because of any snobbery; even though most of my comix purchases today are alternative and indie comix or classic reprints of old comic strips, I still maintain a genuine nostalgic affection for DC’s stable of characters. But for the last decade-plus that fix has been satisfied by things like the Nolan and Burton Batman movies, Superman Returns and Bruce Timm’s DC Animated Universe.

    And so after two weeks of news about DC’s new relaunch dribbling out and a clearer (although still not entirely clear) picture of what will be coming in September, my original guarded optimism about the initial announcement has transformed into disappointment and apathy. I am the poster boy for the lapsed DC Comics fan whom they need to win back — someone who genuinely likes their characters but whom has had zero interest in buying most of their product line for the past two decades. But the more details that emerge, the more it becomes clear that they are still catering to the same withering, incestuous fan base whose demand of absolute fealty to 75-year-old continuity has driven away fans like me.

    Here’s what I think DC has gotten right so far:

    — The day-and-date digital release schedule: I really, really don’t like going to most comic book shops (there are exceptions), and I really, really don’t like the physical, printed periodical format. So being able to (legally) sample comix digitally before they are collected is a very good move.

    — Starting the numbering over at #1 across the line: A new beginning is good and this symbolic move is a good marketing decision.

    — Implementing new costume designs across the line: As iconic as some of these characters are, the fact is many of these characters have embarrassingly bad and/or dated costumes. Freshening up the fashion sense of the DC universe is a good idea.

    So that’s the good. Here’s what I think DC has gotten wrong so far:

    — As good of an idea as it is to redesign their characters’ costumes, putting people with no fashion sense in charge of this is downright asinine. Other than Bryan Hitch, I can’t think of a single mainstream cartoonist who has any fashion sense at all. Here’s a tip to DC: hire a costume designer or a fashion designer to do this job. Like the people who redesigned the movie costumes for Batman Begins, X2, Iron Man, Captain America or Thor. You know, people who actually understand these things. So far Jim Lee’s redesign’s have been almost universally terrible.

    — If you’re going to shake things up, don’t put the people who screwed things up in the first place in charge of the relaunch. I’ve never met Mr. Didio, Mr. Lee or Mr. Johns, and I’m sure on a personal level they are all very nice people. But you couldn’t find three people more emblematic of the type of thinking that drove away loyal fans like me.

    Part of what drove me away from super-hero comix in the early 1990s was the rise in popularity of the pre-Image artists such as Todd McFarlane, Rob Liefeld and Jim Lee, artists who were all flash and no substance and who couldn’t draw their way out of a paper bag. Unfortunately, from what I’ve seen in the few issues of All-Star Batman and Robin, Mr. Lee still can’t draw and still celebrates all that went wrong with mainstream cartooning in the 1990s.

    Another thing that drove me away from super-hero comics was this incessant, almost pathological drive to put continuity before storytelling. And quite frankly, this is the kind of “storytelling” that has been the bread and butter of Mr. Johns for the past decade.

    The final nail in the coffin that drove me away from mainstream super-hero comix was the almost numbingly incessant line-wide mega-event crossover series. When I stopped reading super-hero comix in the late 1980s, early 1990s, I thought things had reached their absolute nadir with Invasion. I was wrong. Things have only gotten worse since then, and from what I’ve read it seems that no one was leading the drum beat for these mega-event-crossovers during the past decade louder than Mr. Didio.

    So the fact that these three gentlemen are the architects of DC’s relaunch gives me no hope at all.

    — Starting over all of your series at number one is a good idea. Starting over 52 series at #1 ALL AT THE SAME TIME is downright stupid. This is Marketing 101. No one can afford all of these comics. There will be a huge sample rate for the first month or two until people start dropping titles like flies. Instead of creating sustained interest in this initiative for a year or two by staggering the launch of these titles, DC is instead going for huge headlines up front, once again thinking short-term at the expense of the long-term.

    — Digital release of comix on the same day that the printed editions go on sale is a great idea. Selling them at the same price as the printed editions is unbelievably stupid and a great way to destroy the momentum for this scheme from the very beginning. I don’t pay the same amount for an iTunes album as I do for a physical CD. I don’t pay the same amount for a digital movie as I do for a physical DVD. I am a consumer of other media. My expectation is that digital media — because I don’t own a physical copy of it — is going to be cheaper than physical media. And these expectations are going to be applied to my comix purchases, too. For all of my other complaints about the DC relaunch, it’s too late for DC to do anything about them. But this is one area where there is still time to tweak their plans and I encourage them to do so.

    — But perhaps my biggest disappointment about the DC relaunch so far is that, despite the early press suggesting that this was a line-wide reboot with all of the characters starting over from scratch, as more news is released it is becoming increasingly clear that this will not be the case at all.

    DC had an opportunity to do something really radical, something which they almost pulled off in the 1980s with that line-wide revamp, but which they ended up muddling when management go cold feet. As much as the fanboys complain about having to read yet another origin story, the fact is that most people who don’t know these characters (or whom only know them through things like lunch boxes, action figures, and childhood memories of the Super Friends) DO like seeing these characters stories told from the beginning. Witness the success of these characters in other media. Movies such as Batman Begins were successful precisely because they promised the audience a new beginning. And if DC really does want to broaden their audience beyond the 80,000 or so people who go to comic book shops every Wednesday, they are missing a HUGE opportunity by not starting over from scratch.

    I mentioned up front that I was always a DC kid growing up and never understood the appeal of Marvel’s characters. That was true until Marvel began their Ultimate Universe. The Ultimate Universe of the early-2000s offered a terrific opportunity for people like me (who didn’t like Marvel comix) to actually sample their work and see what all the fuss about their characters was all about. And I loved it. The entire line didn’t appeal to me, but I faithfully bought every issue of The Ultimates and Ultimates 2, Ultimate Marvel Team-Up, Ultimate Daredevil and Elektra, and the first several story arcs of Ultimate Fantastic Four (as well as Ultimate Galactus Trilogy and Ultimate Origins). And this is coming from someone who did not like Marvel’s characters. I also loved the recent Thor: The Mighty Avenger, another series that started over from the beginning and was mercifully free of decades of continuity.

    This is what DC should be doing in September!

    I sample single issues of a lot of series, but I am very particular about which comix I keep in my permanent collection (as collected editions whenever possible). As much as DC mismanaged their relaunch in the 1980s, it’s actually pretty impressive how much they actually got right back then and how much of that stuff I still hold onto, re-read, and enjoy:

    The Man of Steel (by Byrne)

    Batman: Year One (by Miller and Mazzucchelli)

    Hawkworld (by Truman)

    Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters (by Grell)

    Blackhawk (by Chaykin)

    Twilight (by Chaykin and Garcia-Lopez)

    Enemy Ace: War Idyll (by Pratt)

    Black Orchid (by Gaiman and McKean)

    And even later stuff that was done in the same vein like:

    Sandman Mystery Theatre (by Wagner, Seagle, and Davis)

    DC: The New Frontier (by Cooke)

    Batwoman (by Rucka and Williams)

    What each of these book has (and why I still read them again and again) is a definite beginning. Most of these are either origin stories or Year One-type stories. And even the ones that aren’t, like Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters and Blackhawk, offer such a clean break from what came before that they literally ignore almost all of the character’s previous history essentially start over from a new beginning.

    I am not seeing that with the announcements so far. What I’m seeing so far is a continuing embrace of all the convoluted that came before with every character but with a new “#1, First Issue” splashed on the cover.

    How cool would it be to have the DC Universe whittled down to just Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman for the first six months, telling their stories from the beginning (and not as stories set in the past, but having their “Year One” be the present). Then at the six-month mark launch Green Lantern, Flash and Aquaman. Then at the one-year mark introduce the JLA, have Batman meet Robin for the first time. By the end of the second year have all of the second-tier characters launch, such as Hawkman, Green Arrow, The Atom and others. By the third year introduce all the derivative characters such as Supergirl, Batwoman, Kid Flash, Aqualad, Wondergirl, and Speedy. By year four introduce the Teen Titans. By year five have your first line-wide mega event where all the characters come together (I’m not against all mega-events, just incessant mega-events). Between year seven and ten the entire line would probably have exhausted its full potential. At that point DC could just start over again, just like they do in the movies (like how Batman and Robin begat Batman Begins; The Hulk begat The Incredible Hulk; Spider-Man 3 begat The Amazing Spider-Man; and Superman Returns begat Man of Steel).

    What I’ve just outlined above is an actual plan, just like the one Bill Jemas, Mark Millar, and Brian Bendis developed for the original Ultimate Universe (which, unlike the new DC relaunch, did NOT relaunch all at once but staggered the launch of various titles over the course of years). Some complain that the Ultimate Universe isn’t nearly as interesting as it used to be, and I would actually agree. But that isn’t because of an inherent flaw in the Ultimate Universe master plan, but instead because these characters only have a finite amount of potential. To expect these characters to go on for decades at a time in one continuous continuity is unrealistic. If you can get seven to ten years out of them you should consider it a success. At that point simply relaunch the line all over again (just like they do with the movie versions of these characters).

    Again, I’m almost embarrassed at the amount of thought I’ve given this, especially since I don’t actually read most of DC puts out. But again, that’s the point. I’m the audience that DC needs to reach, and the plan that they’ve put forth so far leaves me very pessimistic that they actually will win me over.

    Sorry for taking up so much space.

  2. Jim Says:

    While DC will get a lot of publicity with this line-wide relaunch in the coming months, but how long will the likes of Blackhwawks, I, Vampire and any of the Wildstorm titles will last more than 12 issues? I predict those titles that doesn’t have Batman, Superman, Green Lantern stamped on the title or have big names writing them like Morrison, Johns, Perez, etc. will be languish in sales after a few issues and some will eventually be cancelled.

    I’m also surprised that a proven talent like Scott Kolins isn’t working on any of the 52 titles. But only him but the likes of Jamal Igle, Don Kramer, Dustin Nguyen, Fraser Irving, Nicola Scott, Phil Jimenez, Marc Andreyko, as well as the other names I mentioned in Part 1… but likes Liefeld, Lobdell and Didio have their comics. I sure hope DC is planning something with them post-relaunch, we know that Fraser Irving is the only one out of the bunch who have something planned. If not I can see Marvel snatching these creators from DC like they have done in the past few years.

  3. Don MacPherson Says:

    Jim wrote:
    While DC will get a lot of publicity with this line-wide relaunch in the coming months, but how long will the likes of Blackhwawks, I, Vampire and any of the Wildstorm titles will last more than 12 issues? I predict those titles that doesn’t have Batman, Superman, Green Lantern stamped on the title or have big names writing them like Morrison, Johns, Perez, etc. will be languish in sales after a few issues and some will eventually be cancelled.

    I’m also surprised that a proven talent like Scott Kolins isn’t working on any of the 52 titles. But only him but the likes of Jamal Igle, Don Kramer, Dustin Nguyen, Fraser Irving, Nicola Scott, Phil Jimenez, Marc Andreyko, as well as the other names…

    Sure, several of these 52 series will likely face cancellation. And yes, there are a lot of writers and artists upon which DC has relied in the past who aren’t included in the initial lineup. But it’s not as though the people at DC have set up these 52 titles and said “Mission accomplished.” There are no doubt several other books in development, potentially as replacements to titles that don’t find an audience. The relaunch of 52 books is a major, ambitious undertaking, but it’s doubtful it’s the end of the story. It’s just one step — a huge stride, yes — but still just one step.

  4. Jim Says:

    I’m sure DC has some sort of plan with after post-relaunch, however, it’s probably going to be something like if Scott Lobdell’s Red Hood and the Outlaws gets the chopping block, he’ll just be reassigned to another title like All-New Ethnic Atom (Tom Brevoort joke) and the Electrons and see if that title last longer.

    Anyway, for those not given any of the 52 titles to work on, how long will those creators (that aren’t tied up to contracts) wait for DC to give them a title? If I was in their shoes, I don’t want to be twiddling my thumbs waiting for a call from Lee/Didio/Johns/whoever for months. Instead, I would find work from another publisher. Also, I would feel hard done by if I wasn’t chosen to work on any of the 52 titles, especially when there are other people who were selected who… well, to put nicely, haven’t written/drawn any good titles in a while and be relegated in the reserve/emergency/”we’ll go to you if these titles are cancelled first” team.

    Will the likes of Johns, Morrison, Snyder or any of the DC’s go-to-guys were in the same position as those creators, will they be as accepting? Assuming the creators not named on any of the 52 titles are accepting it well. I’m sure those guys aren’t cynical like me so they are probably taking it very well than I thought.

  5. Don MacPherson Says:

    Jim wrote:
    I’m sure DC has some sort of plan with after post-relaunch, however, it’s probably going to be something like if Scott Lobdell’s Red Hood and the Outlaws gets the chopping block, he’ll just be reassigned to another title like All-New Ethnic Atom (Tom Brevoort joke) and the Electrons and see if that title last longer.

    That’s a rather far-fetched assumption based on… nothing, I’m guessing. The evidence strongly suggests that this is not longer Business as Usual at DC Comics. There’s a lot of information to which the public isn’t privy.

    The fact of the matter is that we don’t know if those “excluded” creators were excluded at all. Yes, through Facebook, Twitter and online comments, we’ve heard of a few creators who have been left out in the cold, so to speak, but that doesn’t mean everybody’s been cast aside.

    The reality is that freelancers are shut out from work at publishers with which they’ve been associated for years all the time. Someone who’s a Golden Boy one day can himself to be persona non grata the next for any number of reasons — new editor, new management, budget cuts, poor sales, poor choice of words. It’s unfortunate, but that some creators found themselves out of work as a result of DC’s new initiative is just a larger version of a familiar development in the industry.

  6. Jim Says:

    Maybe I was basing my assumptions on nothing, I was still on rant mode on my disappointment with the lineup of the relaunch or maybe I’m basing on DC’s (and Marvel too) strategy of throwing comics on the wall and see what sticks or DC’s multiple reboots throughout the years or the failure of DC’s Year One and Brave New World titles. Anyway, one has to raise an eyebrow when Scott Lobdell gets three titles to write, someone who hasn’t wrote an ongoing for either Marvel and DC for a while and it’s not like he’s been writing critically-acclaimed indie titles, while the crops of other talents were left out of the 52 titles. Maybe he’s DC’s new Golden Boy. While it’s not longer business as usual at DC, I doubt that will stop creators jumping ship to another publishers like Dixon, Mckeever, Rucka, Waid and many others before them, DC has a not so good record of keeping talents in the last few years.

  7. C. Towns Says:

    The Grifter book holds on interest with me but I’m warming to the idea of Voodoo. I like the character but it helps that my limited WildCATs reading is all Alan Moore.

  8. D. Peace Says:

    I am impressed that the Vertigo and WildStorm characters that are being integrated into the DCU are being done so in a way that appears thoughtful and well-conceived, relative to the tone and style of their previous comics. The creative teams on Grifter, Stormwatch, All-Star Western, Justice League Dark, Animal Man and Swamp Thing provide an indication that, although sales numbers aren’t guaranteed, we’ll probably get some surprisingly good comics out of this relaunch.

    The mainline, standard-bearer DCU books are a bit hit-or-miss, however. You’ve got what seems to be a brilliant plan of reinvigorating Wonder Woman on one hand but also Rob Liefeld gets a new comic on the other. You’ve got Grant Morrison doing a Superman book on one hand but Tony Daniel getting a Batman book on the other. A mixed bag with that group, although I’m very pleased they’re keeping Scott Snyder around. You’ve read his run on ‘Tec, correct?

    I get the feeling that all this babbling (myself included, of course) is moot. The bigger picture is that DC wants to put comics, new comics, into the hands of a new generation. Everyone is deciding whether or not we like the directions these titles and characters are going in but, face facts, we are a rapidly shrinking and rapidly aging group of about 300,00 people (here in the United States, anyway) that is mad about just about everything. No hurt feelings, of course, but business is business and we aren’t a profitable demographic and we’re surely not growing. The point of this whole exercise ISN’T to pump up numbers or gain attention through creative re-launches, it’s to pump up numbers and gain attention by changing distribution methods… the change in creative teams and focus is just incidental, relative to the larger plan of putting all their comics in your iPad as well as on wood pulp at the same time.

    So… what I’m saying is that I really hope DC is pushing for readership and doing some heavy marketing in demographics that AREN’T on message boards or blogs complaining about such-and-such creative teams or cheering on their old favorites. The real test is to see how these comics will do among people who have never bought a comic before in their life. If you know a teenager who uses digital media more than print, spread the word.

  9. Kyle Garret Says:

    Don, are you familiar with Josh Hale Fialkov’s work? While it’s kind of reaching on its own to say that two, scantily clad vampires on the cover are a nod towards Twilight, the fact that Fialkov is writing the book means it won’t be remotely close to an “effort to capitalize on the Twilight/True Blood trend.”