Tuesday, May 31, 2011

On the need to destroy to build anew


It was theorized, it was whispered, but nobody seriously thought they'd do, but they have.

DC announced today that come September they were re-launching the entire DC UniverseFifty-Two new #1 issues.  New origins, new costumes, new stories.  So far the only book announced officially is a new Justice League title by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee, a book that has been a poorly-kept secret for at least two years.  Other titles being bandied about include a reboot of Birds of Prey NOT under the control of everyone's favorite woman in serious need of help, Gail Simone, a Hawkman title by James Robinson and Philip Tan, and a Fabian Nicieza-helmed Teen Titans.  All good news.

Fifty-two titles is about the same number of mainstream DC books they're publishing now, not counting the Vertigo and DC Kids titles. But they're already saying that quite a few titles won't be returning, and are promising a "wider range" of titles.  Heaven only knows what that'll mean.

Naturally, many questions come to the fore, such as:

WHAT STAYS AND WHAT GOES? We don't yet know how much of DC Continuity is being rewritten here.  They've said the JLA is getting a new origin, and the implication is that other bits will change as well.  While they're shying away from using the word "reboot", they've said things will be "at a point where our characters are younger".  So, does that mean a younger Superman, before he married Lois?  A Batman earlier in his career, where Dick Grayson is still Robin?  Where Wally West is Kid Flash, and Bart Allen does not exist?  At this point we don't know.

To a degree, DC seems to be taking a  page from Marvel's book when they did this to Spider-Man a couple years back.  After the much-maligned One More Day arc (If you don't know, do NOT ask), Spider-Man was no longer married, and several years younger; closer in age to the readers.

It's not a bad idea.  It used to be known as the "Sliding seven years" - the concept that all of modern comics history took place in the last seven or so years, in the same way that all ten seasons of M*A*S*H took place within only a three-year police action.  But with 50 years of adventures since the launch of the Silver Age, that's generally considered to be more like 12-15 years now.  That puts the big guys like Superman and Batman in their mid-thirties, easy, maybe pushing forty.  Winding them back a few years makes them a bit more easy to identify with.

But will readers accept seeing their biological clocks wound back, and potentially any number of stories wiped off the canon?  Well, now that the grousing is over, Spider-Man is doing very well (Dan Slott is bringing an unbridled glee to the book; it's more fun to read than it's been since well before JMS took it over) and though people swore it'd be a colossal disaster, Superman's reboot by John Byrne was a total success, as was Geoff John's more recent soft-reboot.  So it's certainly get past performance on its side.

More than the events of years past, the question of what more recent events will "count" are on my mind.  We're reading War of the Green Lanterns right now, and just finished reading Blackest Night, the end of a since massive story arc that started in issue on of Green Lantern Rebirth. Considering the GL titles are a sales juggernaut right now, it seems likely that they won't change much.  But Justice League Generation lost ended with the promise of a new JL:I title.  Is that still on the books, and will it still be based off the events of the maxi-series?  After investing a year (and longer for the GL titles), it might rankle some for the new DC paradigm to ignore those stories, partly or in toto.  Many readers were annoyed that several of the alleged Final Crisis prequel titled like Death of the New Gods ended up being stand-alone stories that were completely ignored and even directly contradicted by the following event.  It wouldn't do to have that happen again.

WHO WILL LIVE, WHO WILL PERISH? While books are going away and new one are replacing them, might the same be true of characters?  There's already rumblings that Adventure Comics will no longer star the Legion of Super-Heroes, but other characters who had graced its pages in the past. 

One of the biggest complaints about the past few (ok, more than a few) years at DC ar the massive number of deaths that served only to waste good characters in exchange of a brief hotshot and some cheap heat.  With time itself being up in the air in FLASHPOINT, who's to say that a few of those deaths couldn't be...fixed?  Everybody's got someone they'd like to save, and if you have read my stuff in the past, you likely know whose mine are: Ted Kord, and Ralph and Sue Dibny.  Their stories were well told, they were moving, and ironically, they all got more use and respect after they died than they did for years beforehand.  That doesn't reduce at all my desire to see them alive, hale and hearty again. 

I also have a few things I'd like to see done, as long as everything seems in flux...

CAPTAIN MARVEL: Rather a drop-kick here.  They've been teasing a return of the Big Red Cheese as more and more of the brain-softening fiasco that was Trials of SHAZAM got stripped away and tossed in the bin. This would be a perfect chance to bring him back to the DCU proper.  The SHAZAM book by Art Baltazar, Franco and Mike Norton was stellar, but suffered from the fact that by running under the DC Kids line, it was deemed "Not a real DC title" by the comics-reading intelligentsia.  Well I've gone on record before that the DC Kids titles have been putting out entertainment on par with the "real" DC books ever since Jann Jones took the line by the horns and made something of it. 
As neat an idea as the S!H!A!Z!A!M! kids seem in Flashpoint, that is absolutely NOT the Cap I want to read long-term. 

USE ALL 52 EARTHS:  One of the real problems in the DCU is when Superman is the top dog, the drop to number two is precipitous. As powerful as, say, Captain Atom is, when he's trying to fight an alien invasion or natural disaster, in the back of your mind you're still thinking "Why doesn't Superman just come help him?"
But put him on his own Earth, make him the biggest fish in the pond, and you can make him a real star.
DC has already brought back the Multiverse, albeit an abbreviated version, with 52 Earths.  Put the ACTUAL Charlton heroes on Earth-4, not a Watchmen-ish version of them.  Likewise Captain Marvel - he works best when he's off on his own,  with or without the other Fawcett heroes
Oh, and get rid of that teen Ibis with the inexplicable costume while you're at it. He shames us both.

HOW ABOUT SOME OF THAT "POSITIVE" FEELING? After each event since Infinite Crisis, we were promised a return to a more optimistic tone for the DCU, a less rapey-murdery time where people survived adventures with just some scrapes and scars.  And we never seemed to get it.  This may be the time.  I don't want to see a return to the simplistic and goofy sixties or anything, but it's possible to do a story that doesn't end with a body.

There's a bunch of books I'd like to see done as well.  Considering how well the DC Kids books are doing, I'm at a dead loss as to how a monthly Captain Carrot book isn't being done.  I'm hoping the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents survive the cut, and take a more active part in the the DCU, becoming its analogue to SHIELD, one that Checkmate was never able to be.

They promise a "Wider Range" of books.  Are they talking diversity of characters, or a wider range of topics?  I would love to see if a war title could hack it in today's market, or dare I dream, a comedy title like PLOP!

I'm on board for this. I want to see what they have planned, and see how many creative teams and titles interest me.  I'll lay odds I'll end up getting more DC titles than I am now, and that, friend, is saying something.

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