With DC starting another weekly series and Figs anxious to continue his Morrrison-athon, this seems like a good time to take a look back at 52.

 

<SPOILER ALERT> .... Due to the amount of plot building and foreshadowing in this series, spoilers aplenty will be tossed about. You have been warned. ... <SPOILER ALERT>

 

DC has tried the weekly comic format a number of times. 

 

The granddaddy of DC's weeklies would be the Millennium crossover series.  I suspect this was issued weekly because DC wanted to confine its annual crossover to the summer.  Millennium started off with a bang but ran out of steam quickly after the initial Manhunter reveals.  One could argue that the story was forced to move too slowly to wait for each monthly to have a crossover.  In any case, DC’s takeaway was that another format would work better for their crossovers.

 

DC’s next weekly project was Action Comics Weekly.  This was run as an oversized anthology title with six different features; a Superman 2 pager, a Green Lantern 8 page lead, and four rotating 8 page features.  After 42 issues ACW was reformatted back to a regular length title, once again spotlighting Superman.  A number of the features received new titles and minis but DC did not try an anthology title again until the Showcase series in the 90s.

 

The triangle Superman titles were DC’s next go at weekly storytelling.  DC had four titles that were telling Superman stories, Superman, Action, Adventures of Superman, and Superman: Man of Steel, and they decided that rather than having each creative team look for a different perspective to differentiate their title, they’d have each storyline continue from one title to the next.  To make sure there were no gap weeks, Superman: The Man of Tomorrow was added to cover 5th weeks.  This system required lots of coordination and editorial control but lasted for a number of years, until the titles had a reason to separate after the death of Superman.

 

It was many years before DC tried another weekly, finally giving it a go with 52.  52 was a comic that DC put a lot of resources towards, essentially putting five of their top writers on one comic.  Greg Rucka, Mark Waid, Grant Morrison, Geoff Johns, and Keith Giffen crafted an anthology comic of interweaving stories set during a time the rest of DC’s line was restricted from using, except through flashbacks.  The comic was supposed to chronicle what went on during a missing year, and did to some degree, but ultimately wound up focussing more on the stories of its lead characters.  DC intended to have a puzzle that would be filled in, showing how the one year later status quos came about, causing fans to become more invested in their characters.  Fans became invested in 52 and its focus characters, making 52 DC’s most successful weekly to date, allowing most of the key characters to spin off into either minis or ongoings, and showing that people will read both weeklies and anthologies if the circumstances are right.

 

After the success of 52, DC almost immediately started another weekly, Countdown (To Final Crisis).  Once again, Countdown was set up as an interweaving anthology.  This time, the series was set up with one main writer and in the same time frame as the rest of the DCU.  Whereas 52 was off on its own, Countdown made a concerted effort to act as a “spine” for DCU current events.  This proved to be unwieldy for continuity and unsatisfying as a story.  Countdown proved to be a critical failure, mostly ignored going forward.  However, sales were high enough that DC decided to try another weekly the next year, Kurt Busiek’s Trinity.

 

Trinity was a more focussed story, with bigger name characters to increase its draw.  It initially focussed on the relationship between Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman but quickly veered into an alternate reality story about how the DCU would differ if Supes, Bats, and WW were removed.  By going with an alternate reality story, Trinity removed the need to coordinate with the rest of the DCU, however, it also became less “important” in the context of the DCU.  Ultimately, Trinity didn’t do as well as its predecessors, whether this was due to problems with the story or because Countdown poisoned the well is debatable.

 

The next weekly from DC was a departure in format, the broadsheet comic, Wednesday Comics.  This was an anthology set up like newspaper comic strips of old rather than comic books.  This had big names, working on varied characters, over a shorter time frame.  Each strip had its own flavour as the creative teams were varied and were not bound by comic book continuity.  Although, widely considered a creative success, more volumes have not been forthcoming.

 

This leads us to DC’s latest attempt at a weekly comic, Before Watchmen.  Before Watchmen is different from its predecessors as it’s more accurately 7 minis with a common backup and trade dress.  It remains to be seen if the backup will in some way relate to the other stories or if the minis will have any themes in common beyond working towards Watchmen.  Regardless though, with its scheduling and a backup that requires all the minis for the full story, this has to be seen as a type of weekly comic.

 

So, as DC turns away from the interweaving anthology weekly in favour of linked mini series, the time has come to take a look back at 52 to determine what made it so uniquely successful.

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52 # 1 - Golden Lads & Lasses Must...

<SPOILER ALERT> There’s lots of foreshadowing and plot building throughout this series and things will be mentioned in their wider context as they come up.  You have been warned.

 

Day 1: We’re shown Elongated Man, Ralph Dibney, looking through the wreckage of his house, Renee Montoya doing some heavy drinking at a bar, and Steel helping clean up wreckage in Paris.

 

Day 2: Elongated Man is still sorting through things while finding out news about who might have been hurt in the heroic community, Montoya is still drinking, and Steel has moved on to help in St. Louis.

 

Day 3: More of the same from Ralph and Renee.

 

Day 4: Steel is still helping out in St. Louis but takes advantage of some down time to talk to one of the “regular heroes”, a fireman, to give him a bit of a wider perspective.

 

Day 5: Booster Gold makes the scene, apprehending Mammoth in Metropolis.  Skeets cheerleads and Booster mugs to the cameras like the old days.  Ralph has become completely despondent and is about to commit suicide when he finds out his wife’s grave has been desecrated.  Steel finally gets back to Metropolis to find that his niece, Natasha, isn’t behaving as he wants her to, (she’s a teenager, go figure), therefore, he takes away the armour that he’d previously built for her.  Black Adam has decided to take a more active role in the world’s affairs; as he announces this, a suicide bomber attempts to attack.  Black Adam publicly tortures the terrorist, demonstrating to the world he won’t coddle criminals.

 

Day 6: Doctor Sivana is attacked and kidnapped.  Most of DC’s major (and lots of minor) heroes gather to attend a memorial for Superboy, with the notable exceptions of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman.  Booster finds out that Skeets historical data is diverging from reality, freaks out a little, and accidentally hurts an obviously not invulnerable Clark Kent.

 

Day 7: The Question shows up in Gotham and repurposes the Bat Signal to shine a question mark through the window of Montoya’s apartment.  Renee shuts the blinds and goes back to drinking.

 

The first thing I was struck with on rereading this issue was how dependent all the plotlines were on previous events.  This issue picks up immediately after Infinite Crisis and the ramifications are the starting place for the whole book.  Beyond just Infinite Crisis, Villains United and Identity Crisis are specifically referenced and as we’ll see later, the Rann/Thanagar War is going to be important as well.  Yet, even with all this continuity coming into play, everything we need to understand the story is contained in the issue itself.

 

The comic makes a point of showing events happening on each day, even if it’s just reflection.  For this issue, it drives the point home that the effect of dealing with villains and catastrophes doesn’t just cleanly end when the battle is over.  Also, lots of days important events will occur but some days are comparatively quiet.  While this is a strength with this issue, as the series goes on, this will cause a little bit of drag and continuity problems.  Further into the series, the writers will abandon the need to show what’s going on every single day and the narrative will pick up.

 

Elongated Man spends the issue trying to come to grips with Sue’s death.  The events of Infinite Crisis have trashed his house and forced him to finally confront his loss head on as he sorts through the remains of their possessions.  A plot point from much later in the series is brought up in his very first panel, (a special gun from one of his previous cases).  Later in the issue, Ralph is about to commit suicide with the same gun when he’s interrupted by a mystery.  This is the first example in the series where an important element is introduced and is used immediately, distracting from the fact that it will be important in a completely different way down the line.  (I think one of the reasons 52 is so well regarded is that it meticulously sets up elements ahead of time instead of pulling solutions out of thin air.  One of the reasons the series demands multiple readings.)  Ralph being saved by a mystery just shows an intrinsic understanding of the character.  My guess for key contributor of this part would be Mark Waid.

 

Renee Montoya, quite simply, spends the entire issue drinking.  One could look at it as drinking to avoid thinking and asking questions, then, at the end of the issue, the Question comes to her... but she’s not ready and she again turns her back.  The key contributor for this part is almost certainly Greg Rucka.

 

Steel is trying to help out as needed throughout the world.  Starting in Paris, moving on to St. Louis, and finally returning to Metropolis.  (I found it curious that they went out of their way to show him globetrotting and then left him in St. Louis for 3 days, it seemed to undercut what they were trying to get across.  Did Steel have some tie to St. Louis I’m unaware of or did Infinite Crisis only focus on damage in Paris and St. Louis?)  While in St. Louis, Steel has a talk with a normal fireman during which it becomes apparent that regular DCU people don’t generally learn even half of what’s going on, yet when something really big goes down they get a sense of the tension.  On returning to Metropolis, Steel gets upset with Natasha for wanting to join up with the Titans rather than helping with clean up, (despite the fact Metropolis seems to be mostly back to normal).  This could be a concern for her safety or it could be him taking out his frustrations that other heroes haven’t been doing more on his niece.  The generational divide aspects and the open to interpretation motivations suggest Grant Morrison may have been the key contributor of this part.

 

Booster Gold makes his appearance in day 5, once again fighting a super villain in Metropolis while hyping sponsors and playing to the camera, suggesting the DCU is starting to get back to normal.  Did Booster get all his grief out of the way in the previous four days or is he just trying to lead by example?  (I find it kind of interesting that the one who seems most unaffected by Infinite Crisis in this series is the one who will go on to be most affected by it later on.)  At the memorial for Superboy, which the heroes are treating as a reunion/social event (this seems quite real to life for me and seems especially likely to happen now that the League’s headquarters has been destroyed), Booster finds out there’s something wrong with Skeet’s historical records.  The other heroes assume something’s wrong with Booster, bringing up parallels to how Beetle was treated in Countdown to Infinite Crisis.  The key contributor on this part would seem to be Geoff Johns.

[To me, this portrayal seemed like a step back for Booster, almost like Infinite Crisis was being used as an excuse to reboot.  It makes me wonder if the writers felt these aspects of Booster were fundamental to the character or if they simply felt most readers of 52 wouldn’t be very familiar with Mr. Gold.  Ironically, after 52 Booster will forever move past this status quo... well until the next reboot.]

 

After Infinite Crisis, (and Villains United), Black Adam has decided to take a more active hand in world affairs.  He moves into a moral void left by Wonder Woman having exited the world stage, a point driven home by the fact that at least some of his embassy buildings were formally Themyscira properties.  Whereas Wonder Woman represented a heroic ideal of kindness, Black Adam represents an anti-heroic idea of violence.  Hearing about this on the tv, Sivana decides Black Adam is doomed to fail, not because the world won’t make a moral shift, which he’s completely oblivious to, but because Black Adam represents magic which Sivana believes will always fail before science.  Geoff Johns is likely the key contributor to this part.

 

Other items of note include:

- Dr. Sivana becoming the first of many mad scientist kidnappings.

- Mr. Mind shown to be alive and in the picture.

 

Odds and ends:

On page 4, there are insets focussed on what the heroes are obsessively focussed on.  For Ralph it’s Sue, for Montoya it’s drinking to block things out, and for Steel it’s helping others.  I thought this was especially effective.

 

On page 5, there’s a hot dog cart marked “hot dididogs”.  I initially thought it said “hot Didio dogs”, I like my way better. :)

 

The cover of each issue has a website address down by the bar code.  If I’m not mistaken, this was a new thing for a comic book.  Did anyone ever go to the website?

 

Best lines:

“... assume Superman’s going to give the eulogy.  He has to.”

“And then probably some big rah-rah speech about peace and brotherhood and all that crap.”

“You’re the one that brought the camera, Guy.”

Wow! There's a lot here, which is fitting, as there's a lot in 52 and there's a lot to say about it!

I read your posts with much nodding on my part, but for now I'll just bump it to give it another moment in the sun.  There's a lot to respond to, but I'm a bit strapped for time right now. 

Since there are still more than 50 issues left to go, I’m going to move on to issue two but don’t let that stop anyone from commenting on anything you find interesting or worth noting.

52 # 2 - Looking Back at Tomorrow

 

Day 1: Ralph goes to the cemetery to view his wife’s vandalized tombstone and look for clues, ultimately concluding that it’s a message for him. 

 

Day 2: Doc Magnus gives Skeets a checkup and can’t find anything wrong with him.  Magnus then goes to visit T.O. Morrow in a specialized prison built for mad scientists, where each prisoner is set up in his own cell house.  Morrow makes Magnus aware of the rash of mad scientists that are going missing.

 

Day 3: The Question startles Montoya awake, leaving her an address to look into with no indications as to why.

 

Day 4: Following Skeets historical info, Booster goes to help a crashing plane land safely, however, the information is slightly off and Booster barely pulls off the rescue.  Montoya takes the first step to check out the address, at which time the Question makes contact again and pays her to keep surveillance on the building.

 

Day 6: A resurrection cult has formed around Superboy’s memory.  Wonder Girl is a member and defaced Sue Dibny’s tombstone to draw Ralph in.

 

This issue also began the “History of the DCU” feature.  I don’t really consider this part of the story but two things did jump out at me.  First, the Guardians’ backstory has been changed so that they started out on Oa rather than migrating there.  Second, the imagery of the multiverse being created and the rockets escaping Krypton are very similar.

 

The most interesting section of this issue for me was the Magnus/Morrow parts.  The relationship between Magnus and Morrow is fascinating.  Although one is essentially a hero and the other a villain, neither seems to hold it against the other, instead falling into student/teacher or mentor type patterns.  Science is bridging the hero/villain divide... or maybe just preexisting relationships overriding knowledge learned second hand. 

 

Another interpretation that comes to mind is that by putting moral constraints on himself, Magnus is limiting his scientific accomplishments.  The Metal Men don’t seem to work anymore and Magnus can’t find any problem with Skeets despite having all the outside world’s resources.  Meanwhile, Morrow in his prison is noticing patterns that others aren’t seeing and is building things like a tv that receives future signals.  Yet, because he’s on the right side of the law, Magnus gets the acclaim whereas the criminal scientists get no recognition.

 

The key contributor for the mad scientist section is most likely Morrison.

 

Other items of note:

- The constraints of the format make it so that Ralph is taking longer to investigate things then you would expect him to.

- It would appear the Question is paying Montoya to look into things he already knows.

- Hundreds dead on another crashing plane with a similar number in Australia or Nova Scotia implies more than just historical facts are off.  Some type of synchronicity maybe?  Is this ever addressed?

- I’d love to learn the story reasons as to why mad scientists are imprisoned differently than other villains.  They’re not giving them anything to work with, so it doesn’t seem like it’s to gain inventions and we’ll see going forward that it’s not a minimum security facility.  I’m intrigued.

- Morrow is accused of attempting to start a war between parallel worlds.  Is this a continuity glitch?

- Morrow seems to be concerned by mad scientists being rounded up despite the fact that he’s already been rounded up.  Was this just a warning for Magnus that things are about to flip?

 

Best lines:

“Red Tornado gave his life... to protect the Earth.”

“Why does he have to keep doing that?”

OK, I'll just jump in and discuss some of the the above. 

 

DC's other weeekly series:

 

The breadth of your reading and knowledge of DC is showing here.  This'll be a whistle-stop tour of my ignorance!

 

I have Millenium downstairs, the central issues, but I haven't read them yet.  What I know of the revelation about the Manhunters was pretty daft.  Why would you put some kind of alien sleeper as part and parcel of the great American Myth that is Superman's boyhood and youth?  That's just crazy!  The point about Superman's boyhood is that he was nestled in the totally normal all-American small town.  Otherwise you've got something different!

 

As for Action Comics Weekly, I have the Gaiman GL/Superman story that tied everything up at the end - with a bow.  And they didn't publish it until years later?!  By Gaiman!?  In any case, it was a fine little comic.  I must dig it out again sometime.

 

The triangle Superman comics were a novel experiment, and I can see why they were so successful saleswise.  It would be fun to get a Superman comic every week.  There are Australian soaps that are made to be shown every night of the week.  With that turnover, the quality isn't too high, but once you watch a few in a row, you are right in there and want to see the next episode.  The issues might have been pretty consistent, but they didn't soar too high, as far as my subjective opinion is concerned.

 

Two words to send a chill into the heart of any Superman fan: Kenny Braverman!

 

Writers on Superhero comics writing is a fine book.  I recently dug it out because there was a lot in it about DC One Million.  In it Jurgens, who must have been a senior Superman writer in the triangle era, said that ultimately he was unhappy with them.  He said the different creative teams each had a different Lois, a different Jimmy, even a different Superman. It's a lot to ask writers to subsume their personal creativity and imaginative engagement with the characters to a committee-agreed diktat.  I think the 52 writers got around this by allowing each of the 4 writers to 'control' a different character.

 

I'd wonder how much of an influence 2000AD was on the weekly, essentially anthology comic that 52 turned out to be.  Morrison worked for it and Spider-Man and Zoids weekly for some time before coming to DC.  Its influence is probably not much, when it's all added up, I'll admit.  When I read 2000AD during its late 80s Golden Age, though, it seemed that every week's issue had at least one 'Wow!' moment, and I think 52 might have managed that.  (Note that both 2000AD and 52 had the numerical, calender-based name in common!)

 

Having read the first half dozen issues again, it looks like 52 were indeed high quality stuff for DC Comics.  Hopefully we'll discuss the various aspects of this, but the exclusion from continuity during the missing year has to be a contributing factor.  Consider that the handful of really high quality DC Comics tend to be even more drastically removed from continuity, that helped a lot with 52.

 

I know you specified DC's forerunners to 52, but Secret Wars is probably worth a mention.  You have the characters removed from the regular ongoing continuity, and the fans already knowing sort of where the series ends.  DiDio was trying to latch more onto that aspect of Secret Wars, where the fans wanted to see how the characters involved reached the point they were at when the story in question ended.  Of course the story became much more about the characters that we didn't see at the start of One Year Later...

 

I'll just end here by saying that you could have added DC One Million to your list of precursors to 52 (It has another numerical, calender-based title, at that).  DC One Million was a weekly series, even if it only lasted 5 weeks, and was a similarly collaborative effort between Morrison and some of DC's best creators at the time (and some of their worst, and the rest in between!)  Perhaps there were other 5-6 week long mini-series/crossovers, but I'd be surprised if they had the same complex interweaving of so many different strands of narrative as DC 1m had.  To that extent DC One Milion was definitely a sort of practice run for 52.  One of the reasons for the delay in my writing about it, is in teasing out the various strands that are spread over 40-odd comics.

 

In terms of various seemingly unrelated characters and stories interweaving into one big story, then Morrison's Seven Soldiers of Victory is another precursor.  It's conception and structure has much in common with 52.  In DC time, it ended just before 52 began.  The similarity to SSoV is significant and shows how Morrison's work was influencing such a major project at this stage of his relationship to DC.  (One of the reasons he gives for leaving Marvel just prior to this was how other writers there kept stealing ideas that he put forward as proposals.  Come to that, One More Day owes a lot to Morrison et al's Superman 2000 proposal!  And with the Superman 2000 proposal we have another Morrison-related precuser to 52!  Down to the weekly schedule and the seamless collaboration between top writers.  Have you read it, Mutt?)

 

Although 52 looks exceptional and unique in his output, it's clear that with 52, we have another work of Morrison's that has grown out of and developed from his earlier work; another of his 'hologramatic variations'.  Just like the other instances in his output where he does similar things in different ways, (or different things in similar ways) there's probably some value in placing 52 beside DC One Million and Seven Soldiers of Victory.

 

Which is not to downplay the work of the rest of the 52 creators, but just to say that 52 does have its place in Morrison's output as well.  I wasn't expecting to go off on a Morrison speil in my first post here, but all of the above just occurred to me as I typed!

I've been reading the first few issues of Countdown, as a reference for this discussion.  The biggest difference with 52 is it's use of continuity as a substitute for storytelling.  In Countdown we were supposed to care for an early character just because she was the Joker's Daughter.  We weren't given anything to show us what it was like to BE her, or what being the Joker's Daugheter would involve.  Then the dynamics of the Rogues was all about their relationship to the Flash, rather than again, what being part of a coven of super-criminals would actually feel like, or what such a life would involve.  Writing is about communicating states and experiences, times and places that the reader doesn't have first hand knowledge of.  That's what writing is, and Countdown substituted that central aspect of storytelling with continuity. 

 

52 used continuity wonderfully, but also made us feel and experiece, with loads of significant details, for example, what Ralph and Montoya's grief and despair feels like.  Everything in their early scenes is fashioned to this purpose.  "You're breaking up" someone on the phone to Ralph says in his first scene.  That's good writing and keeps the focus on communicating Ralph's state of mind.

 

The early weeks of 52 are all about the aftermath Infinite Crisis, but we get a series of scenes exploring what the aftermath of any traumatic and tragic period would feel like.  The characters repairing their cities and their lives is something very universal and human.  You don't have to have read Infinite Crisis to understand the heart and the point of those scenes.  They explore and illuminate universal, human situations and experiences.  That's what good writing is about!

 

So it's not continuity I hate, so much as when it is a substitute for good writing.  Does that make sense?

I have Millenium downstairs, the central issues, but I haven't read them yet.  What I know of the revelation about the Manhunters was pretty daft.

It definitely worked better in some books than others.  I remember the JLI issue being particularly effective and the Flash reveal seemed to get some good mileage.

 

As for Action Comics Weekly, I have the Gaiman GL/Superman story that tied everything up at the end - with a bow.  And they didn't publish it until years later?!  By Gaiman!?  In any case, it was a fine little comic.  I must dig it out again sometime

I'm not really sure what comic you're referring to but most things by Gaiman are worth reading.  

I have a good chunk of the ACW issues, (although I never read it weekly), and in my opinion the Superman story was generally pretty ineffective,  the Green Lantern story was just this side of awful, (though it did pick up around the end and the follow up specials were decent), but a lot of other features were actually quite good.  One progressive thing that they did was have people vote on their favourite features so that they had a readership basis as to which features to bring back or spin off.  (I don't know if this was actually important to the decision process but it seemed like a good idea.)

 

Secret Wars is probably worth a mention.  You have the characters removed from the regular ongoing continuity, and the fans already knowing sort of where the series ends.

I hadn't realized that changes went into effect to the rest Marvel's line prior to the end of the series.  

When Didio first took over, there was lots of talk that he was making DC ape Marvel.  It doesn't surprise me that he would adopt that idea as it was obviously a cool concept.  (This could go a ways to explain why he expressed some disappointment in 52, as he wasn't getting the full effect he was hoping to get.  He has since said how proud he is of 52, which I also believe.  Being disappointed that a storytelling goal wasn't realized doesn't preclude being proud of the product that actually was published.)

I'll just end here by saying that you could have added DC One Million to your list of precursors to 52 (It has another numerical, calender-based title, at that).  DC One Million was a weekly series, even if it only lasted 5 weeks

DC One Million came out at a time when I'd mostly stepped away from comics so I hadn't realized it was a weekly.  Actually, I think there were probably a couple of other crossover series' that DC put out weekly; I have this inkling that War of the Gods and Our Worlds at War might have been as well.  As you say though, DC One Million probably was DC's most successful weekly crossover.

In terms of various seemingly unrelated characters and stories interweaving into one big story, then Morrison's Seven Soldiers of Victory is another precursor.  It's conception and structure has much in common with 52.  In DC time, it ended just before 52 began.  The similarity to SSoV is significant and shows how Morrison's work was influencing such a major project at this stage of his relationship to DC.    Have you read it, Mutt?)

I read SSoV when it was coming out and have rather mixed feelings about it.  I liked a couple of the minis but not the others, (although there was always a sliver here and there that was interesting).  I remember feeling that the interweaving and tie up was particularly ineffective, but I also didn't reread the whole series before the final issue.  I wonder if this might not be more in common with Before Watchmen rather than 52. 

 

I've been reading the first few issues of Countdown, as a reference for this discussion.  The biggest difference with 52 is it's use of continuity as a substitute for storytelling. 

 

Countdown definitely was not a case of storytelling brilliance.  I think you hit it on the head about continuity substituting for storytelling, although I would add that its reliance on repeating formulae was also a major problem.  Of course, there's always a chance that it improved after the first half dozen issues but they left such a bad taste in my mouth, I never found out.

 

The early weeks of 52 are all about the aftermath Infinite Crisis, but we get a series of scenes exploring what the aftermath of any traumatic and tragic period would feel like.  The characters repairing their cities and their lives is something very universal and human.  You don't have to have read Infinite Crisis to understand the heart and the point of those scenes.  They explore and illuminate universal, human situations and experiences.  That's what good writing is about!

52 is definitely the gold standard of DC's weeklies.

Having read the first half dozen issues again, it looks like 52 were indeed high quality stuff for DC Comics.  Hopefully we'll discuss the various aspects of this, but the exclusion from continuity during the missing year has to be a contributing factor.  Consider that the handful of really high quality DC Comics tend to be even more drastically removed from continuity, that helped a lot with 52.

This is something I find frustrating about the DCnU.  Looking back over its history, DC should be able to see that the titles that have received the most critical acclaim are those that were able to chart their own course.  Beyond just critical acclaim, their perennial sellers are much more often comics that are mostly self contained.  Why on earth then are they insisting on all these freaking crossovers when they're launching their new universe?

The Neil Gaiman GL Comic is: Legend of the Green Flame.  If you have the other Action Comics Weekly issues, you'll want this one.  All the characters who appeared in ACW have guest appearances.

 

2000AD also urged everyone to write in with their votes for top 3 stories and wishes for future stories.  Those polls very strongly guided their editorial policies for years.

 

(I didn't point out above that Superman 2000 was also another numerical calender-based title.  Morrison and Millar - the 'Headmen' for the proposal - were both 2000AD graduates.  Not only did Superman 2000 share 2000AD's num-cal titling and weekly format, but the title specifies the exact same year!  Not sure where I'm going with this num-cal thing, but it's interesting, no?  DC1m was dreamed up by the Morrison/Millar partnership too. I'll shut up about it now.)

 

What you say about DiDio's disappointment/pride is reasonable.  I'm just sad he couldn't apply the lessons of 52 better going forward, and his regime couldn't better appreciate and try to hold onto some of these fine writers.

 

52 and SSoV look very different on the surface, but have a lot in common - chiefly how all the very different character strands are woven into one long tale.  In some ways, even though they are under the same cover in 52, the strands in 52 interact less than the strands in SSoV.

 

Regarding Before Watchmen's proto-types, it struck me that the previous series it most resembled was Moore's 1963 as originally conceived (another num-cal title too!)  Except with little mini-series instead of single issues that were pretend middle issues of ongoing comics.  Did I read somewhere that BW is to end with a one-shot that brings the strands together?  1963 was supposed to have a similar ending, with a one-shot team-up with Youngblood c1995.

 

Yeah, Countdown isn't fun to read, but it did take me a ltittle while to figure out what was wrong with it.  On the surface it looks like a fun superhero comic, and Dini is normally a fine writer.

 

I followed Trinity for the duration.  It was solid enough, but took a few deeply weird turns for a WW/Bats/Supes comic.  It makes most sense as the third part of a yes -trilogy - starting with JLA/Avengers, then going to Busiek's Crime Syndikat run on JLA (issues 100-108 or so.)  It really has to be read as part of that progression.  Because the 3 parts are so wildly different in format - an inter-company crossover mini-series(!), a part of a long ongoing comics' run, a 52-issue weekly series - I haven't seen many people note that they are basically one story.  The JLA, The Crime Synikat and the Big Blue Guy, are the throughline.  The egg appears in all three too  I wasn't surprised to see that Busiek wanted to use Metron in Trinity, but wasn't allowed to.  He was an important connector for the first two parts.

 

Trinity also seemed to set up Earth One (of JMS' Superman GN) in a really weird way.  Which was a strange point of its mandate.  I see it as another little pointer that the Nu52 was a last-minute rush-job.  Why set up something so intricate when you were just going to steamroller over everything with Flashpoint?

 

Which brings us to your complaints about the DCnU.  Yep, there was a definite lack of ambition there.  They had a blank sheet to do several Watchmen-type books if they'd wanted to, where practically anything could have happened, when you think about it, at least for the first year.  Also some Year One type books, that took the other superheroes out of each other's stories.

 

They could have done stories that were out-of-continuity yet ultimately in it, which is something they don't get to do often.  If you read Alan Moore's proposal for his Twilight of the Superheroes, he goes to some pains to show that you can produce a comic that can be collected as a high-quality bookshelf number while still tying it to continuity, and that such care is commercially sensible.

 

Ah, well.  That boat has sailed.

Trinity also seemed to set up Earth One (of JMS' Superman GN) in a really weird way.  Which was a strange point of its mandate.  I see it as another little pointer that the Nu52 was a last-minute rush-job.  Why set up something so intricate when you were just going to steamroller over everything withFlashpoint?

You've got me curious but unfortunately Trinity is still in storage.  How did Trinity set up the Earth One series?

I've actually been rereading a handful of the Action Comics Weekly features (Secret Six, mostly, but Superman too, since it's only 2 pages). I find that while the quality varied -- and yeah, paging through Green Lantern gives me every indication that it stunk on ice until Mark Bright took over the pencils around #620 -- there's some really cool, adventurous stuff in there. 

Final Night is another brief, weekly DC crossover. It was definitely more creatively successful than Millenium, and is still pretty highly regarded.

52 # 3 - New World Order

 

Day 1: Luthor’s body is found in Gotham.  Meanwhile, over Africa, Black Adam prevents Power Girl from pursuing Terra-Man into Kahndaq’s airspace, informing her that it’s off limits to America’s super heroes.

 

Day 2: John Henry plays hard ass with his niece, enrolling her in summer school and lecturing her on impatience.

 

Day 3: Intergang visits Black Adam bringing him a kidnapped woman as a gift.  Black Adam hears them out, then kills them.

 

Day 4: Booster Gold stops Shockwave and signs on with a new sponsor who’s future apparently looks bright but who’s promptly arrested for securities fraud.  Deciding that time anomalies might be the problem, Booster asks Skeets to find Rip Hunter.

 

Day 5: John Henry examines Luthor’s body, determining it’s a perfect genetic match but due to a different eye colour must be from a different dimension.  Almost immediately, Lex Luthor walks in with a press entourage and blames all his evil acts on his doppelganger.

 

Day 6: Black Adam gives a press conference to announce that he and his country will no longer be soft on super villains and to prove his point he tears Terra-Man in half on tv.  Mr. Mind has gone into a cocoon.

 

Day 7: They rest. :)

 

This issue is a fantastic example of setting up and moving along plotlines for the series as a whole while providing a satisfying story in the issue itself.  So, while we see an important character introduced, Black Adam’s agenda becomes a little clearer, and Mr. Mind starts some changes, we also see two self contained beats, where Terra-Man and Luthor’s body are introduced then payed off in the same issue.

 

Black Adam takes centre stage this issue, providing the first gore moment of the series.  (Geoff Johns was definitely a key contributor).  Adam makes a comment about “so many sheep in this world”, referencing the western/Christian moral stance and reinforcing the implication from prior issues that he’s setting himself against it.  Likewise, a news report mentions that scholars won’t acknowledge Black Adam’s place in history, following up on the prior issue showing that the DCU won’t recognize its villains for their achievements.  We also get a little foreshadowing from a news blurb, when the country of Bialya set themselves in opposition to Black Adam.  Finally, we see Adam’s love interest introduced, blindfolded in front of him as he kills the Intergang thugs; in a sense, she’s both blind to what he’s doing and yet fully aware at the same time.

 

Luthor makes a brilliant move to get himself absolved of guilt, (and revert back to a previous status quo).  It’s kind of a cool world they live in when a genetic match with different colour eyes is immediately determined to be an inter-dimensional doppelganger.  (One continuity quibble though, wasn’t Alexander Luthor the son of Lex’s counterpart?  I could see how they would look similar but that would screw up the genetic match.)

 

Other items of note:

- Power Girl’s origins are not a JSA secret as Terra-Man is aware of them.

- Steel feels quite strongly that you have to work and sacrifice to be a true hero, perhaps indicating more dissatisfaction with his peers.

- The way Skeets pushes the gyro guy out of the way is reminiscent of a dog.  Sort of makes one wonder if Skeets is seen as less than Red Tornado because he’s not humanoid.

 

Question:

What role does the ticker on the front cover serve?  Is it simply an extra highlight of what’s in the issue to get people to open the front cover?  Does it serve to drive home this comic’s place in time?  Is it supposed to give the impression of immediacy?  Just an affectation?

 

Best lines:

“I appreciate that this is an interruption in your obviously hectic workday sir - but you’ll thank me in approximately four seconds.”

The idea of the world in Trinity developing into Earth One is only dropped as a hint, but it's there.  I realised it while reading and later saw it confirmed by Busiek in an interview.  It was a bit subtle, but there was no other reason for those suggestions to be there in the text of Trinity.  The ending of Trinity was like 52 as regards the ending involving the multiple Earths concept.

 

Week 1

 

Very impressed with your reading of these comics so far.  It looks like you've read this series a few times, or reread it a bit while reading it the first time.  I only read it the first time, on the level of a weekly soap opera and I've been meaning to reread it since.  I'm loving all the stuff you are pointing out as preparation and evidence of the amount of work the team put into the structure of the story.  It really is like a novel, and a Dickensian one at that, with all the different plot threads building up a picture of a whole world.

 

The structuring of the story is good, and also the deeper, more subtle stuff.  As you say, no doubt Ralph was feeling bad about his wife's death for a long time (I think?), so the writers addressed the question, "Why does he lose it now, rather than before?"  Hence, as you say, we see him in his marital home which has been destroyed in the crisis.  That's giving depth to the piece, and psychological truth, as well as making his desolation and the detruction of his world something physical.

 

Booster perplexed me on my first readthrough.  Even I knew that he'd moved past his 'Greed is Good' phase by this point.  And they give the impression that he'd returned to the future in the meantime, and stocked up on Skeets memory banks and Booster's gadgets.  Perhaps that's just the impression I got.

 

Something is very wrong with time, if the events are starting to diverge from Skeets' records.  I can't recall what the reason exactly was for this, but I look forward to finding out.  It's a departure for a Morrison story, because time is usually 'a fixed solid' for him, where everything always works out the same, even if you try to change things.  (He's no doubt influenced by the old DC rules, as well as certain ideas in modern physics.)

 

I think www.52thecomic.com was a mock up of the Daily Planet website and had links to stories etc.

 

The one sequence that jumped out at me was where Steel is describing how the heroes were almost done for by the villains in the run up to Infinite Crisis. 

 

"...After years of hitting and running, all the supervillains... and I mean all of them ... teamed up, declared all out war on the white hats.  Picked us off in twos and threes before mounting an attack the likes of which should, by all rights, have ripped this planet in half."

 

What's interesting about this summary of Villains United, is that it is a thread that runs all the way back to a story by Mark Millar in one of the JLA specials during Morriosn's run.  Basically, the JLA, in their hubris, put the idea of ganging up on the heroes into the villains head as part of a scheme to entrap a huge number of them.  We didn't really cover it too well in our readthrough, although we touched on the 80 Page Special that contained it.  Colin Smith wrote a good piece on the Millar story here.  He argues that Millar was trying to highlight some of the darker aspects of Morrison's 'tyrannical Justice League', and links the story to Millar's 'Wanted'.

 

It's great that we can trace threads and themes being developed over many stories in the DCU (often by the same writers), but the Nu52 does throw a spanner into the works somewhat for things like this.  Continuity shouldn't be what a story is about, but it can add richness and depth to things if used properly.

 

Regarding Sivana's capture, I noticed this time that his captors had a furry arm and a reptilian arm...  The scientists being captured is very much a nod to Watchmen, isn't it?

 

I think the DiDiDogs are an in-joke for the creators, or one of them, anyway!

 

More anon.

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