DC’s new 52 debuts in earnest next week.  Justice League #1 was this week’s appetizer.  Next week, the real experiment begins.

            It’s been interesting to watch the reactions since this ambitious endeavor was initially announced.  At first, there was an equal mix of cynicism and enthusiasm.  That tells us more about fandom- and humanity in general- than it does about DC.  There will always be pessimists prepared to declare a new initiative the worst idea ever and optimists ready to hope for something brilliant. 

Then there was an exaggerated mood of disappointment when the actual comics were announced as if some fans secretly hoped that the line-up would be designed individually for them.  I remember one of Captain Comics’ great philosophies: “I don’t like wrestling and I have no interest in wrestling comics but I’m glad they make them because it means they’re making comics for more than just me.”  Some of the new 52 titles that I’m least interested in are the ones that have other fans the most excited.  Good.  I wasn’t going to buy all 52 anyway.

I’ve also been intrigued by the way in which many fans have assessed the new 52 for how well the list has conformed to their own continuity checklist.  In the long run, that’s not going to matter.  The books will succeed based more on quality than whether or not the right character is wearing the Robin mask.  After all, I was prepared to dislike the third Firestorm series because it didn’t star Ronnie Raymond.  But Jason Rusch’s adventures were so good that I was persuaded he’s the better Nuclear Man.   

Yet, without the actual books to talk about, it is fascinating to discuss how these books fit with our own personal notions.

 

The Superman Family: Action, Superman, Superboy, Supergirl

 

I’ll admit that I was disappointed when I heard about the back-to-basics approach for Superman.  I grew up with John Byrne’s Man of Steel.  I liked having a Ma and Pa Kent around.  And I had no objection to the idea that Superman wasn’t the first superhero.  Like Babe Ruth or The Beatles, he didn’t have to be the first to be the best.  So I didn’t like the idea that DC was returning to the Silver Age status quo.  It struck me as a move backwards. 

But then I thought about it a bit more.  DC isn’t trying to get old Silver Age fans back.  They’re trying to attract new fans.  Those potential readers would know about Superman primarily through the long-running TV series Smallville.  Jonathan Kent died during that series (and Martha too for all I know).  Plus, Clark was the first hero who eventually inspired and assembled others.  I realized this isn’t about the Silver Age; it’s about Smallville.  That’s especially evident in Action Comics where a beginning Superman hasn’t even adopted a costume. 

They’re still not the choices I would have made (I’ll miss you, Man of Steel) but now that I get what DC is trying to do, I’m much more likely to give this new continuity a chance (say hello, Man of Tomorrow). 

 

The Batman Family: Batman, Detective, Batwing, The Dark Knight, Batman & Robin, Batgirl, Batwoman, Nightwing, Catwoman, Birds of Prey and Red Hood & the Outlaws

 

I’ve never been a dedicated Batman reader.  I’ve sampled Batman from time to time but there were always too many titles for me to become fully engrossed in the line.  That hasn’t changed- and it’s not going to.  However, I have been a big fan of some of his apprentice heroes.  On that score, the new Batman line has both a hit and a miss.

  As much as I enjoyed seeing Dick Grayson finally wear the mantle of the bat, I knew that it wasn’t going to last.  So I’m glad that he’s landed gracefully on his feet, back in his own title as Nightwing. 

On the other hand, I wasn’t happy that Barbara Gordon was going back to her Batgirl identity.  Like a lot of fans, I liked Barbara as Oracle.  She proved a lot more effective beating the bad guys with her mind.  And she increased DC’s diversity as a handicapped character.  Plus, I liked Stephanie Brown as Batgirl.  She had earned it after long service as Spoiler and a short stint as Robin. 

But then again, I wasn’t currently buying either Batgirl or Birds of Prey.  And I’m intrigued enough by this new series that I’m planning on buying Batgirl.  I want to see if DC can make it work, even if I think they shouldn’t have done it.  I guess it’s another case of fans saying one thing with their keyboards and another with their wallets. 

 

Green Lantern, Green Lantern Corps, New Guardians, Red Lanterns

 

The Green Lantern line was one of DC’s most successful franchises.  So they didn’t have to change a lot.  They did anyway.  I approve.  I like that they’re being bold, rather than rightfully resting on their laurels. 

Some of the changes are slight.  Guy Gardner and Kyle Rayner have traded places, but they’re still both Green Lanterns.  Guy and John now share the lead in Green Lantern Corps (Guy had been the lead in Emerald Warriors).  Kyle now takes over the third Green Lantern title as New Guardians replaces Emerald Warriors in the line-up. 

Other changes are significant.  Hal Jordan has been kicked out of the Green Lantern Corps.  Sinestro has been bonded to a green ring against his will.  And, at least initially, the new Green Lantern title will feature Sinestro instead of Hal.  Is it permanent?  Probably not.  Is it interesting?  Very. 

They haven’t changed everything, of course.  The color spectrum is still represented by other corps, and one of them now receives their own title.  Although older fans claim to hate it, the other corps have been incredibly popular.   Even Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory has been spotted wearing T-shirts from the other corps. 

 

Justice League, Justice League International, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Captain Atom, Fury of Firestorm, Savage Hawkman, Mister Terrific and DC Comics Presents

It’s nice to see Aquaman, Firestorm and Hawkman back in action.  One of the reasons why I loved Brightest Day was that it resurrected so many of these older characters.  Yet it was more than that.  Brightest Day made them relevant again.  I liked the new Aqualad.  I liked that Jason and Ronnie now shared the Firestorm matrix.  I could have skipped the Hawkman storyline, but at least he was alive again.  I always hoped that they would get their own titles coming out of Brightest Day, just as Booster Gold got his own title coming out of 52.  And now, my wish is granted.  I’m especially pleased that they’re going forward with a combined Jason/Ronnie Firestorm.  Their interaction has been a lot more interesting than any previous incarnation.  I would have liked to see a Martian Manhunter title too but we’ll get to that later.

The Flash is the title that reminded me I have my own continuity checklist as much as anyone else.  I like Wally West as the Flash and I’d be a lot more interested in this title if he was the lead instead of Barry. 

            The biggest continuity change comes in Justice League #1 as Cyborg replaces Martian Manhunter as a founding member of the team.  I have no problem with that.  I’ve been through enough ret-cons by now that I no longer bat an eye.  Plus, my allegiance to both characters is about the same- they’re both safely in my top ten for DC heroes.  I’m also intrigued by the new line-up in Justice League International.  It’s nice to see one of the heroes from the Great Ten be integrated into the greater DC Universe, even if their own title didn’t sell well.

 

The Dark: Justice League Dark, Swamp Thing, Animal Man, Frankenstein, I Vampire, Resurrection Man and Demon Knights

 

            This section isn’t really for me.  I’m ambivalent about whether or not the main characters belong in a separate Vertigo line or back in the DCU.  I prefer a pseudo-Silver Age Animal Man with the cool orange costume to the warped Vertigo version.  And I’ve never been interested in The Demon. 

            That’s okay, of course.  I’m not the target audience for this and DC should be targeting multiple audiences.  If this reinvigorates interest in Swamp Thing or provides some off beat cult hits like Frankenstein: Agent of SHADE or I, Vampire, that’s a good thing.     

            The one thing I like is the return of Resurrection Man.  That was one of the underrated titles of the late ‘90s and it will be fun to get in on the beginning this time. 

 

The Edge: Stormwatch, Voodoo, Grifter, Deathstroke, Suicide Squad, OMAC, Blackhawks, Men of War and All-Star Western

 

The big change here is the integration of the Wildstorm characters into the DC universe.  I’ll lay my cards on the table: I’m all for it.  I’ve read a lot of comments from people who are opposed to the idea.  Some of them simply don’t like the Wildstorm characters.  That’ s fine.  You don’t have to read these titles if you don’t like them.  But these characters have been around for 20 years now and, at a certain point, the complaints sound as ridiculous as old people criticizing rap music.

However, some Wildstorm fans have also opposed the idea.  I’ve seen several suggest that the Wildstorm characters are better off on their own little world.  I strongly disagree.  They’ve been segmented off in their own little world for a long time and it hasn’t been a good thing.  The last series was a great post-apocalyptic tale and it was practically ignored.  The only way for these characters to become relevant again is for them to become part of the DCU.

I’ve heard similar arguments over the years about Captain Marvel, Plastic Man, Blue Beetle and the Freedom Fighters.  “They’re fine in their own world but they don’t belong in the DCU.”  I think it’s ridiculous.  When SHAZAM had his out-of-continuity series in the ‘70s, it was quickly cut back to a bi-monthly and lasted 35 issues.  The in-continuity series in the ‘90s lasted 47 issues.  Ted Kord’s enduring popularity today has more to do with his appearances as part of the Justice League than with any of his solo series.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Plastic Man was given his first ongoing series in almost 40 years after joining the JLA. 

The exposure is good for the Wildstorm characters.  And though I’d rather see him in his own title, I’m fascinated by the idea of putting the Martian Manhunter in charge of Stormwatch.

 

Young Justice: Teen Titans, Static Shock, Hawk & Dove, Blue Beetle, Legion of Superheroes, Legion Lost

 

I’m impressed that DC came up with a group name.  This is a very disparate bunch.  In terms of continuity, there are some backward steps, forward steps and corrected steps.

The backward step is Hawk & Dove.  I’m one of the few people on this board who actually likes Rob Liefeld but even I’m disappointed by this class reunion.  Why is DC intentionally trying to revive a minor hit from the late ‘80s?  That seems like a bad idea.  I’d much rather see Dove and her sister as Hawk than retread old ground. 

The forward step is Static Shock.  I know that some other observers think this is another backward step.  After all, DC is reviving another ‘90s concept.  But this isn’t a straight retread.  They’re incorporating elements from the successful cartoon and building off of his recent appearances in Teen Titans.  I’m intrigued by this new title and I hope it does well.

The corrected step is Blue Beetle.  I can’t say that I was an avid fan of the previous series.  I borrowed a couple of trades from the library after the series was already canceled.  But it was very good.  So this is a smart revival.  DC could build on the positive reviews and the good will from the previous series.

There’s also a sideways step in the form of Legion of Superheroes.  It certainly seems like the recently re-launched Legion is being re-launched again simply because everybody else is doing it.  It’s essentially the same creative team and concept as before. 

 

That’s my checklist.  I know that it won’t match with everyone, or even anyone.  We all have our own opinions about which character should bear which codename and which heroes should be in which team.  Those opinions have been shaped by favorite stories and series of the past.  Then again, it’s always possible that these new series could shape new opinions.  After all, who would have thought in 1986 that they’d like a Justice League with Blue Beetle and Booster Gold? 

 

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Comment by Martin Gray on September 3, 2011 at 8:04am

Great round-up, Chris. I'm also excited about some stuff, less-so about others. I'm most attached to the Superman Family, so not keen on the idea of going back to their beginnings again, but then, I'm not the target reader. DC are trying to bring in new people here, without scaring us oldies off. And at least the execution (Grant Morrison, George Perez) looks promising.

 

It's Supergirl I'm most wary about - she was finally in a good place. Happily the new writers say their influences include Silver Age Kara and Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade, so it could be that the solicits are lying and she won't be a grumpy get.

Comment by Jason Marconnet (Pint sized mod) on September 3, 2011 at 11:02am
Good round up, Chris. I am sampling from each of the categories you listed except for the Young Justice line. I think I've got about 12 or 13 titles from the new line I'm going to give a shot.
Comment by Luke Blanchard on September 3, 2011 at 12:21pm

First, comparing run-lengths from the 70s and the 90s is comparing apples and oranges, as the markets were very different. Second, after the cancellation of Shazam! the feature appeared in World's Finest for twenty-nine instalments and in the Adventure Comics digest for a final two. Third, the 70s Shazam! may have started off on an eight-times-a-year schedule. It was a monthly at least briefly before it went giant-sized with #12. It became a bimonthly at that point. Batman and Detective likewise went bimonthly when they went giant-sized at the same time. They, however, reverted to monthly frequency when they returned to normal size, whereas Shazam! did not (and even went down to a quarterly schedule briefly at one point). Fourth, the 1976 JLA/JSA crossover bought the Marvels into DCU continuity, as inhabitants of Earth-S. Prior to this Captain Marvel had met Luthor in Shazam #15 (in the story Luthor travelled to Captain Marvel's world by magical means).

 

The question isn't just whether Captain Marvel belongs on the same Earth as Superman (arguably, it reduces him; he can't be the Superman of his world if he's on Superman's), but whether he belongs in the same style of story as other superheroes. DC broke with the use of a cartoony art style on his feature with the final two issues of Shazam!, but the stories mostly remained gentler than those of other DC superhero features of the time. (The first story in the new style, from Shazam #34, is arguably an exception, as it depicts Junior as wanting to take revenge on Captain Nazi.)

 

While "Shazam!" was appearing in World's Finest DC published the Superman vs. Shazam tabloid and Captain Marvel appeared twice in DC Comics Presents (in ##33-34 and #49). Afterwards, he appeared pre-Crisis in DC Comics Presents Annual #3 and All-Star Squadron. I haven't seen all of these issues, but those I have seen were in the standard superhero style of the era, and from the creators involved I assume the same is true of the others.

 

DC's first attempt to relaunch the feature post-Crisis was the Shazam! The New Beginning mini. This was in a standard superhero style, and did not lead to a series. I've not read any of the Power of SHAZAM! issues. That series may have lasted forty-seven issues (plus a graphic novel and annual), but in the oughts the modern style The Trials of Shazam! twelve-issue mini didn't result in a new ongoing series. Conversely Jeff Smith's out-of-DCU-continuity cartoony-style four issue mini, Shazam! The Monster Society of Evil was followed by an ongoing, Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam!, which lasted twenty-one issues.

Comment by Mr. Silver Age on September 3, 2011 at 2:29pm

 DC isn’t trying to get old Silver Age fans back.

Yeah, I don't see that happening. I'm not sure which elements of the new Superman seem SA-ish (I haven't seen the first issues yet), but I'm not aware of any influence there. The SA Superman was focused on a Superman who had been a Superboy and now was a nebbishy guy trying to hide his identity from a suspicious Lois while palling around with Jimmy and dodging all kinds of kryptonite, especially red and green.

I presume Supes is unmarried, if he's starting from the beginning, but I don't see the rest of that being part of the mix. An unmarried Superman isn't strictly SA, it's also not GA, BA, MA, Dark Age, Mylar Age or any other age except post-mid-90s.

I don't know if Ma and Pa will be dead, which is how they were until 1985, so I wouldn't call that a SA concept specifically, either. BTW, Martha made it to the endof Smallville, and Jonathan made so many ghostly appearances he was virtually a regular. I prefer them dead, but I would. Sorry Ma and Pa.

 it could be that the solicits are lying and she won't be a grumpy get.

That strikes me a a whole lotta wishful thinking. Movie trailers often disguise what a movie is REALLY like, but I have a hard time believing DC has been that misleading in its basic summary of the new series. OTOH, if the creators really said they were inspired by the SA Kara, then it's hard to rationalize what I've seen and read of the new one.

-- MSA

-- MSA

Comment by Captain Comics on September 3, 2011 at 3:25pm

Great round-up, Chris! DC ought to put that on "The Source."

 

File me under "optimists ready to hope for something brilliant." You don't collect comics for 45 years unless you're prepared to embrace change, and to always look forward to tomorrow with anticipation. I do my fair share of complaining, but (hopefully) it's all in good fun.

 

I'm OK with whatever they want to do with Superman. I know that's heresy, but everyone's been doing a variation of the Mort Weisinger version for a long time and it's just not working any more. Will they make him more cynical? Probably, because of the age we're in. And that won't make a lot of older fans happy. But if Superman doesn't continually change to remain relevant, he'll be -- literally -- history. And I have to say, putting Grant Morrison on the main book is genius. This is a man who has given a LOT of thought to the very concept of superheroes, and he probably understands the cultural underpinnings of Superman better than anyone. He has said that Superman is the greatest literary creation in history, and I don't doubt he believes that -- and I can't wait to see what he will do. It may be great, it may be awful, but it is going to be well thought out and it won't be timid. I'm ready, Grant -- give my a 21st century Man of Tomorrow, one that anticipates the 22nd century.

 

I have no checklist. that I'm aware of. If I have any disappointment, it's that they didn't go BIGGER. Bigger changes, bigger shake-ups, bigger breaks from the past, bigger non-superhero categories. Comics need to expand beyond the shrinking pool of readers it has now, and whatever works, I say go for it -- even if it's not my specific cup of tea. There are plenty of books for me; I want the majors to make more books for other people.

 

Speaking of which, the books I'm most excited about are the ones off the beaten path. All Star Western, Blackhawks, Frankenstein, I Vampire, etc. I haven't seen 500 variations of these concepts, so I'm looking forward to something fresh.


But I still love me some superheroes. And there's plenty there for me to love. Anything by Morrison, Geoff Johns, Gail Simone, Ron Marz and a couple of other writers are automatically on any pull list I'm likely to make. Batwoman looks like a tour de force. I'm intrigued by Batgirl. I'm wondering about how Batman has  had so many Robins in so short a career, and hopeful they'll do what I suggested years ago, and have an army of urchin, un-costumed Robins -- the Baker Street Irregulars of Gotham City. (Think how often Batman could say "a little bird told me.") I wonder at the fate of Wally West, Stephanie Brown and so many others. Like Chris, I don't bat an eye at Cyborg being a JLA founder, and am curious to see how that plays out, while Martian Manhunter as leader of Stormwatch seems very similar to his role in Justice League Unlimited -- which worked fine.

 

In general, I'm excited and ready to go.

Comment by Captain Comics on September 3, 2011 at 8:02pm
I was tweeting with Ron Marz about Voodoo, and he said "If we haven't shocked every reader by the second issue, I'll be surprised" or words to that effect.
Comment by Martin Gray on September 3, 2011 at 8:43pm
I hang on to my hopes of false advertising re: Kara, Mr Silver Age - remember the house ad when the Giffen/DeMatteis/Maguire/Gordon (Lappan, can't recall the colourist ...) Justice League was upcoming. Cover showing stern heroes and tagline: 'We're the tough. We're the proud. We're the strong'? And what we got was so much better than grim and gritty ...
Comment by Chris Fluit on September 4, 2011 at 9:29am
Wow, I appreciate all of the compliments.  I'm glad that my approach caught your attention.
Comment by Mr. Silver Age on September 4, 2011 at 12:36pm

I hang on to my hopes of false advertising re: Kara, Mr Silver Age

I agree with you on that wish, Martin, but I don't hold out much hope that it will be fulfilled. I was looking through the preview comic DC released, and the Supergirl summary amounts to ONE SENTENCE. Could they really not summarize the new Supergirl without a lie in the only sentence they use? If the notion is that she'll quickly learn how cuddly we Earthlings are and change her mind, it seems a dumb approach, not that it would be the first. We shall see.

I agree with Cap on Grant Morrison's Superman. His All-Star version was the best Superman in a long, long time. It's hard to believe his "21st century" version will be totally different and unlikable version. I'm hoping for the best and prepared for the worst--IOW, I'm along for the ride, but I'm willing to bail if it's not resonating with who I think Big Blue should be.

Un-marrying him and offing Ma and Pa would certainly be two steps in the right direction. Sorry, Ma and Pa.

-- MSA

Comment by George on September 4, 2011 at 8:01pm

Capt, Comics said: "Speaking of which, the books I'm most excited about are the ones off the beaten path. All Star Western, Blackhawks, Frankenstein, I Vampire, etc. I haven't seen 500 variations of these concepts, so I'm looking forward to something fresh."

 

Same here. These are the only titles I'll probably check out.

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