Friday, June 3, 2011

The New DC

Back in the 1980's the phrases "We're not just for kids anymore" and "These aren't your dad's comics" were rather ubiquitous, part of an intentional marketing effort from the publishers at holding onto readership as they got older by skewing their titles towards their changing interests and sensibilities. They did their job a little too well, to the point where the new readership from younger generations isn't making up for the atrophy of the older generation. Comics, especially the mainstream superhero comics, aren't for kids. They're for teenagers at best, and by that age, if they haven't hooked them already, then they're competing with movies, television, video games, countless on-line and hand-held distractions, and, let's be frank, drugs and sex.

I'm not saying that comics need to be for kids again, not solely, as there have been some pretty good offerings from the big two and beyond (Boom's Pixar books or Bongo's Simpsons comics or even Archie for example), but there's also not a good transition point between the kiddie books and the shared universe books, because, as we all know, continuity is the greatest barrier to entry that faces the mainstream.

In that regard, a relaunch/reboot/tweaking of the establishment's nipple is just what DC needs right now. It's what the industry needs right now. A ground floor, an entry point for new readers, and one that hopefully won't isolate the old, but instead intrigue and entice them, and draw others in with them. It's not unprecedented.

If you point back across DC's history, there was the Golden Age, the dawn of superheroes, where they were created fresh for the mid-war and post-war generation. Powerful American icons to both inspire and distract their audience. 20 years later, the Silver Age, where those old heroes were revamped for a then-current audience. Their powers more grounded in "science", their stories reflecting the economic and cultural growth of the country. Another 20 years passed, to a name-yet-to-be-decided era (bronze age?), when heroes became completely wrapped up in their own world, reflecting less the real world and providing a full-fledged, shared universe for the readers to escape into, full of nuances to be explored and continuity errors to bitch about. Another 20-plus years have passed, and there hasn't been that same flip of the switch to bring the characters into the modern world. The transition has actually happened, somewhat organically, but the characters and universe is still mired pretty deeply in a convoluted continuity. So it's happening now.

It is all happening rather suddenly mind you, and releasing 52 new books in one month is perhaps a tad overwhelming, but it's also can be exciting. To look at it one way, each character, whether it's Superman, Firestorm, or Grifter, they're all starting on equal footing in September. Of course, the bigger characters have the advantage of the recognition factor... even if he's different, you still know who Batman is, as opposed to Deadman who may be a complete unknown to most people. But the potential is there for characters to break out (Mr. Terrific is getting his own series!) where they may have been relegated to the background before. Stripped of all past baggage, a character like Hawkman done as a modern Indiana Jones or Aquaman as eco-terrorist could lend them an air of relevance they've never actually had, and in a global context, rather than simply an American one. The DC pantheon has for too long been focused primarily upon serving the American audience, even in dealing with things on a universal scale. Broadening the scope of their books to an international level (as Grant Morrison has been striving to do for the past few years with, amongst other things, the Great Ten and Batman Inc.) would make sense where the internet and 24 hour cable news puts us face to face with the rest of the world every day.

DC going day-and-date with their relauch/reboot is as bold and positive a step as the relaunch/reboot itself. If the purpose of tweaking and re-engineering their characters is to appeal to a modern audience than so to is addressing the digital age head on. It will be interesting to see how this digital plan impacts the brick-and-mortar stores. I don't see it having much of an immediate impact on weekly floppy sales, but I think trade paperback sales may pick up a little more as digital readers seek out a physical copy (the same way someone buys a dvd after seeing a film in theaters a few months prior), and it could have effects both ways on the aftermarket as physical copies of a hot issue may be in greater demand (but less supply) while an average book may have little to no afterlife if a digital version is always available.

What do I think of the New DC? It's necessary.
How it plays out, I'm not sure. I don't have a complete sense of what the corporate directive is behind the relaunch, except to help strengthen DC's market share. From a story/universe perspective, we're still awaiting details on what's being handed down. Women in pants, apparently, but what else, I can only speculate (as I did a bit yesterday).

Let's see where we are on the confirmed titles front (commentary by me in italics):

1) Justice League #1 by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee
Jim Lee probably shouldn't be designing costumes. Perhaps they should employ, you know, a costume designer. I'm honestly not even sure the guy should be drawing anymore. His comics look as '90's as Liefelds.

Four Green Lantern titles (via CBR)
Spinning out of War of the Green Lanterns, it would appear things are status quo, or moving forward as planned without much reboot-like impact. But we'll see.

2) Green Lantern #1 by Johns and Doug Mahnke w/ Christian Alamy
As long as Mahnke is drawing, I'll be reading

3) Green Lantern Corps #1 by Peter J. Tomasi and Fernando Pasarin w/ Scott Hanna

4) Green Lantern: The New Guardians #1 by Tony Bedard and Tyler Kirkham w/ Batt

5) Red Lanterns #1 by Peter Milligan and Ed Benes w/ Rob Hunter

via Bleeding Cool

6) Wonder Woman #1by Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang
I'm totally sold on the creative team, as for what they do with the character, well, I'm hesitant

7) Aquaman #1 by Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis
I'm hopeful Johns has something good in mind here. It has to be much, much better than in Brightest Day

8) Flash #1 by Brian Buccellato and Francis Manapul
Is it still Barry Allen? Then no thanks.

9) The Fury Of Firestorm #1 by Ethan Van Sciver and Gail Simone (writers)and Yildiray Cinar (art)
Uhhh... I'll probably try it but I'm not expecting to like it

10) Hawkman #1 by Tony Daniel and Philip Tan
Not a fan of Tony Daniel's writing, and not a big enough fan of Hawkman to care what's new.

11) Green Arrow #1 by JT Krul and Dan Jurgens
See above, substitute "Dan Jurgents' art" for "Tony Daniel's writing" and "Green Arrow" for "Hawkman".

12) Justice League International #1 by Dan Jurgens and Aaron Lopresti
All I remember is Jurgens took over the League from Giffen/DeMatteis and added Maxima to the team and invented Bloodwynde. Pass.

13) Mister Terrific #1 by Eric Wallace and Roger Robinson
This is the first thing they've announced that actually has me stoked. I don't think I know Wallace as a writer but I'll keep optimistic.

14) Captain Atom #1 by JT Krul and Freddie Williams II
I have nothing against Freddie Williams II but his style all wrong for Captain Atom. Still, if this is a dimension/time hopping Captain Atom, I'll be happy.

15) DC Universe Presents #1 starring Deadman by Paul Jenkins and Bernard Chang
I'm assuming this is an anthology series with a rotating cast of creators and starring characers, but unlike the recent "The Brave And The Bold" series, it's a solo book instead of a team up book? But I am just assuming.

With definite (16-19):
Superman and Action Comics (perhaps with the involvement of Morrison, George Perez and Rags Morales)
Batman and Detective Comics (perhaps involving Jock and Greg Capullo and Dwayne Swierczynski)

Heavily rumoured (20-30)
Omac (by Didio and Giffen)
Teen Titans (by Scott Lobdell and Brett Booth)
Birds of Prey
My Greatest Adventure (w/ stories by Aaron Lopresti and Kevin Maguire)
Legion Lost
Justice Society

Personal Speculation (because it's fun to do):(31-38)
Swamp Thing
Legion of Super Heroes
Jonah Hex
Shazam/Captain Marvel

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