One of the industry’s big super-hero comics publishers made another successful foray into mainstream-media public relations, with DC announcing Clark Kent is quitting his job as a news reporter at The Daily Planet in a soon-to-be-published Superman comic book. My immediate reaction to the news was simple: “So what?”
Since I’m working night shifts this week, I’m sitting at home today, waiting for a particular sound: the sound of the Internet breaking in half (again). In another well-executed public-relations move through the mainstream media (Good Morning America, Entertainment Weekly), DC has announced its central New 52 line of comics will feature a landmark relationship: Superman and Wonder Woman are going to be a couple.
Purists are going to lose their heads, arguing Superman is meant to be with Lois Lane. The argument ignores the fact the two characters spent years apart over the course of their histories in various media; I’m specifically reminded of the time in the 1980s in Superman and Action Comics when Clark Kent and Lana Lang were together as adults during Clark’s stint as a TV anchor.
Still, anything that purports to go against the status quo (or “tradition,” as it’s usually presented) always seems to elicit strong reactions among comics fans, especially when availing themselves of the immediacy of online communication. I doubt this time will be any exception. If Marvel hadn’t debuted a multi-racial Spider-Man last year and DC hadn’t reinterpreted one of its Green Lantern characters as gay this year, the Superman/Wonder Woman relationship would’ve had the potential to stand out as the a perfect example of how comics fans can overreact to something that “happens” to fictional characters.
I remember the first time I encountered Joe Kubert’s artwork. It was in DC Special Series #19, a “Secret Origins of the Super-Heroes” themed digest featuring one new story (a retelling of Wonder Woman’s origin) and a bunch of reprint stories. Among them was a reprint of The Brave and the Bold #43, featuring a Hawkman story by Gardner Fox and Kubert. I would’ve been eight years old when the 1979 digest was published. I hardly possessed the most refined eye or appreciation of comics storytelling at that early juncture in my almost-lifelong love of the medium, but I was immediately struck by Kubert’s distinct style, especially in the context of so many other super-hero stories by a diverse array of artists. For an eight-year-old kid to recognize the uniqueness of a super-hero artist’s work is a testament to the powerful visual “voice” Kubert had.
I’ve been reading DC Comics titles since the late 1970s, before I even reached double digits in terms of age. As such, I’ve read, from time to time, of the exploits of the comics publisher’s softball team over the decades. Back in the day, its accomplishments and defeats were chronicled occasionally in the pages of its various comics in supplementary/advertorial material. In recent years, the folks responsible for Blog@Newsarama have kept the industry apprised of the team’s games.
On Facebook the other day, I stumbled across a link to a blog, the DC Bullets blog, which offers more detailed accounts of the team’s efforts and no doubt the fun its members have on the field. Honestly, I don’t have much of an interest in rec-league softball in New York (or anywhere else, for that matter), but what caught my eye wasn’t the link to the game report, but the team logo (seen at the right).
In September, DC is trying to recapture some of the sales and marketing success it had with the launch of its New 52 initiative a year before with a slate of zero issues for all of its core, New 52 titles (which is a slightly different lineup than it was a year ago). A zero-issue month is far from a new phenomenon for DC. It had one in 1994, coinciding with its Zero Hour crossover event. Zero issues have become, perhaps unfortunately, a much more common gimmick in the world of mainstream comics, especially in the super-hero genre. Still, there are times when I see the use of the odd numbering shtick.
My appreciation for some super-hero publishers’ event books is no secret. There was a time when my reviews were known as “Critiques on Infinite Earths,” a nod to DC’s landmark 1985 series Crisis on Infinite Earths, the first big crossover event book. Unfortunately, over the years, the crossover has, for the most part, devolved into a sales gimmick super-hero publishers — mainly Marvel and DC, though smaller publishers have taken their own stabs at the subgenre — trot out to inflate sales on waning titles and boost its bottom line. As a result, it’s become something of a dirty word among discerning comics readers and fans of good super-hero storytelling.
Still, occasionally, some interesting work can be found in such event titles. Marvel’s Civil War started off strong with its exploration of the conflict between personal liberties and security. Secret Invasion followed up on such themes by tapping into Western paranoia over terrorism and growing multicultural diversity. While many of Marvel’s more recent event titles have fizzled in the end, at least they started out being about something.
I’m not looking forward to the various Before Watchmen comics DC will publish later this year. I do plan to read many of those comics, though. It’s not out of interest in the characters or out of curiosity to see into what DC is building the brand. It’s because in general, I enjoy comics by the likes of Brian Azzarello, Amanda Conner, Darwyn Cooke, J. Michael Straczynski and other creators involved in the project.
As anyone familiar with Watchmen and its history of publishing politics in the many years since its initial release in the mid 1980s knows, opinion about using the characters and concepts writer Alan Moore crafted so long ago is polarized.
We all knew it was coming, we just didn’t know when — until now. DC Comics has announced its second wave of ongoing titles in its New 52 line of super-hero comics (or other genre books set in the same continuity). And it’s sticking to that “New 52” label and set number of continuing series. May’s debut of six new titles corresponds to April’s cancellation of six books.
Discussions about DC’s New 52 relaunch initially focused on its tremendous success in September and October, but in the weeks since, the focus has shifted in part due to the announcements of several creative shakeups in more than a few titles. Some have interpreted this to be indicative of a higher level of editorial interference, but DC’s management of the New 52 is understandable. It may give rise to some concerns from a creative standpoint, but from a business perspective, it makes sense. DC has undergone a successful rebranding, almost a rebirth. Corporately speaking, there’s no doubt a lot of pressure to maintain that momentum, and the source of that renewed energy and interest in the brand come from on high, stemming from decisions made on a corporate level.
And now, to turn our attention to the individual titles that are a part of this successful initiative. I’ve already covered most of the book in Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3, so let’s wrap things up with the fourth and final instalment of my New 52 overview.
Squirrel Girl, a rare 1990s creation of the legendary Steve Ditko (along with writer Will Murray), was clearly meant to be a cute character from the start. Some might view as a joke, others as an endearing tribute or even satirical comment on the campiness of the Silver Age. She’s been a relatively obscure character, popping up from time to time, but lately, the character’s profile has been significantly boosted by writer Brian Michael Bendis’ decision to incorporate her into the cast of New Avengers, not as a member of the team, but as a superhuman nanny to the infant daughter of Avengers Luke Cage and Jessica Jones.
Since this boost in visibility, readers have “learned” a lot more about her, in that Marvel writers have started tossing out little tidbits of her history, perhaps the most significant of which was this nugget…
The recent news DC’s New 52-driven lead in the marketplace over chief rival Marvel Entertainment narrowed in November doesn’t come as much of a surprise, but it shouldn’t detract from DC’s accomplishment with its bold publishing initiative. It’s revitalized interest in its brand and characters, and it’s proven to be a boost to the comics marketplace overall. Furthermore, I strongly suspect DC will bolster its position in that marketplace in 2012 with a second wave of New 52 debuts (either under the New 52 branding, or a new banner), coming on the heels of the inevitable cancellations of some under-performing titles. DC clearly has its promotional machine in top working order, and it will no doubt continue to capitalize on that strength next year.
In any case, it’s time to continue my overview of the New 52 titles a few months into the initiative. With the first and second parts of the feature behind us, here are my thoughts on the third and penultimate group of the New 52 stable.
Welcome back for the second in my four-part series examining DC’s New 52 line and how I feel about them a couple of months after my initial run of reviews of all of the first issues. Some of the titles remain in favor, some have fallen out. I remain disinterested in some, and there are a couple that didn’t click for me at first but have managed to pique my interest since my exposure to the first installments.
In the first part of this series, I made my way through the 52 titles in alphabetical order, so let’s continue on as such…
The New 52 Review Project — which ran on Eye on Comics through September and into October — proved to be one of the more popular periods for the site in some time. The endeavor saw me reviewing all of the first issues of DC’s New 52 line, and even as I approached the end of the project, I was getting a number of requests for readers to share my thoughts on subsequent issues — even for the entire line again. That wasn’t feasible. The project was a short-term undertaking, made possible by sponsorship and a temporary night-desk schedule at work. Still, in the time, I’ve continued to read some New 52 titles, while others I cast aside as soon as I was finished with the first issue. With three months of these comics behind us and the fourth about to begin, I thought it might be interesting to share with readers which titles I stuck with, which ones I’ve ignored since their debuts and which ones I’ve dropped in the wake of any initial enthusiasm.
Whew! That was a lot of writing about one publisher’s comics. My New 52 Review Project turned out to be a success, as far as Eye on Comics is concerned. Traffic on the site rose, and I found the tight schedule to review all 52 first issues in the line in a timely manner to be an interesting exercise in writing. I was able to write a lot more about each comic book than I expected, and I think I refined my process as a writer — not just as a comics reviewer, but in writing in general. I pumped out almost 50,000 words between Aug. 31 and Oct. 3, and it’s made me realize provided the right motivation and circumstances, I could pen a book (not about comics) I’ve had on the backburner for some time.
About a week or so before the release of Flashpoint #5 and Justice League #1, which marked the beginning of a new era at DC Comics, I had a realization about one way in which the publisher could market its new line of super-hero comics, at least to those who still buy comics but few or no DC titles. It struck me that by starting over most of its more recognizable properties from Square One (the successful Green Lantern and Batman franchises being the exceptions), DC was avoiding the kind of story/sales gimmick that has been the bane of super-hero comics for years: the crossover event.