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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Border Mutt said:

52 #17 - Last of the Czarnians

 

Day 1: Luthor’s “dream team” of newly powered heroes has a marketing meeting / performance review with the boss.

 

Day 2: The space castaways try to make their way through an asteroid field... and fail miserably.

 

Day 4: Without a sufficiently fast ship or enough oxygen, things start to look bleak for the castaways... then they seem to get worse as Devilance shows up.  Luckily, Devilance promptly explodes and Lobo arrives to tow our castaways to safety, for the low price of Starfire’s top, (and possibly some later consideration).

 

Day 7: Red Tornado’s upper body turns up in the Australian outback.

 

Luthor’s new heroes, like the Conglomerate and Power Company before them, are embracing capitalism.  (It seems Supernova isn’t able to fill Booster’s niche all by himself.)  They’re being paid to live and work as a team while being molded and groomed for their marketing possibilities.  This of course makes sense for Luthor, as he not only wants to control the next generation of super heroes but he also wants to further his empire.  It’s interesting though that the team is anxious for the trappings of the regular super heroes, such as distinctive costumes and code names, even though they don’t have the underlying requirements, (their identities are publicly known and the team identity should be sufficient to alleviate public concerns of whether they’re the good guys).  However, these kids won’t consider themselves to have “hit the big time” until they’re distinct marketable units... how very celebrity corporate.

 

Stepping back for a moment, I think it’s interesting that of the spinoffs that came out of 52, Infinity Inc. didn’t have more legs.  The very idea of a team like this seems rife with possibilities and directions that really haven’t been explored very extensively.  It’s easy to say the book was too under the radar or the creative team wasn’t at the top of its game or perhaps that its potential was fulfilled (or curtailed) within 52 proper.  While these might all be valid reasons, (I know they were sufficient for me not to support the title at the time), I wonder if the biggest reason is that DC’s big characters pushed them out?  To truly explore the themes a young team artificially created to be the next generation of super heroes brings to the universe, perhaps one would have to embrace actual change in the regular dynamics, something DC won’t let its big guns endure.  It’s a thought anyway.

 

Other items of note:

- Luthor continues to like purple and green.

- Apparently the powers Luthor grants can be targeted for specific results; even the Invasion group wasn’t able to do this.  Seems like something it would be hard to put back in the bottle.

- Eliza’s inability to slow down suggests another benefit granted by the speed force.

- Adam’s comment about alien princesses suggests he might not be quite as happy with Alanna as he’s normally portrayed to be.

- Red Tornado obviously still has his voice box.  Makes one wonder what they actually discovered in issue 5.  I guess we’ll just call it a redundant system unless it comes up again.

 

Questions:

- Why did Red Tornado materialize in a different area than the others?

- Will we be able to find 52 mysteries that are never explained in 52?

 

Best Lines:

“Her royal highness has the power of the aristocratic sneer on her side.”

 

Did this group of Luthor's superpeople go on to form a new Infinity Inc?  Fell off my radar if so.

 

I started reading Avengers Academy lately.  That has really good writing and a good approach to this kind of villain-created team of youngsters.  There was a good essay on the webternet a short time ago that said Marvel were positioning themselves where DC were about 15-20 years ago, in using the different generations to give depth to their stories, whereas DC had just scuppered their own history.  Avengers Academy was one example of that.

 

The generations thing is hard to do once you start to really go into everyone's ages and the timeline.  DC's use of Barry, Ollie and Hal all being gone added to the illusion that real time of a sorts was passing, but I guess that approach started to be a little untenbable when they brought Hal back and de-aged him.

 

Morrison was always annoyed when people started questioning how Damien could be 10 years old, and when was he conceived etc.  His line was that it was comicbooks and they do things differently there.

 

In any case, how the generations relate to each other is a big thing out here in the real world.  An ongoing tragedy in some ways, so its a pity when it can't be reflected in superhero comics, just because they have their IP that can't get too old.  It's definitely one of the reasons the New 52 seems pale and anemic compared to the depth of the previous DCU at its best.  A world consisiting only of fit 25 year olds won't have too much depth.  (OK, there are ancient beings too, but they seem to act like very immature 21 year-olds, from what I gather.)

 

I can't remember where the look of the team went after this, but it's hard to imagine that Luthor would let go of his brand colours.  Green and purple are like the sick version of the red and blue primary colours aren't they?

 

There was a lot in the Space Odyssey section for me to enjoy.  They had fun with the conceit in 'cosmic' comics that the characters can talk to each other in the vaccuum of space.  We've all read those comics.  (They also hung a lampshade on how Lobo can smoke cigars in space.)

 

Adam’s comment about alien princesses suggests he might not be quite as happy with Alanna as he’s normally portrayed to be.

 

Morrison's take on the dynamics of Adam Strange's relationship to Alannah rang very true to me.  Waid mentions in the notes that the old Mystery in Space stories were about the on-off intensity of a long-distance relationship more than anything else.  I think I came to much the same conclusion myself.  Adam is obviuosly a loner, unhappy no matter where he is.  I think that is precisely why his relationship with Alannah was perfectly suited to him, and made him as happy as he was capable of being, just to subtly contradict your line above.  I did say in my look at one of his 70s comics that Adam happily living with Alannah on Rann had lost something very vital to the stories.  And we get some kind of an explanation why Adam isn't at too much of a loss without his eyes.  He's plugged into the ship's navigation array.

 

I'm somewhat uncomfortable with the scene between Lobo and Starfire.  It's more or less a sexual assault played for laughs, but Lobo is a cosmic level genocidal bastich, so it makes sense also.

 

I loved the scenes of Animal Man trying to convey his 'Kathmandu' experience to Starfire.  There's a lot of Morrison in that.  It all felt real to both Grant and Buddy, but they are both stuck back in their respective 'mundane realities' with the suspicion that maybe they were mistaken, that they know it all sounds crackpot, but also they both feel that they've been given an insight that 'the universe has a plan for them.'

 

Morrison's chat with Kevin Smith here is a very accessible and conversational relation of Morrison's 'Kathmandu experience'.  Once you listen to it, it's clear that Animal Man's little conversatoin with Starfire is very personal indeed to Morrison.

 

I'm sure I'm not the only one that was hoping more could be done with this part of Buddy's history, but that story was told, I guess, and everybody has to move forward.  Although they weren't above using everyone's fondness for Grant's Animal Man series to lead us on a bit furhter down the track.

 

Considering that Morrison's Seven Soldiers was just winding down at this time, and it tied into Final Crisis in a big way, it's hard not to see that Devilance the Pursuer's unfortunate (for him) encounter with Lobo is the first "death of a New God" in this sequence of stories, and does prefigure Orion's in Final Crisis a little.  Orion the Hunter, to give him his full mythological title!

 

Red Tornado obviously still has his voice box.  Makes one wonder what they actually discovered in issue 5.  I guess we’ll just call it a redundant system unless it comes up again.

 

D'oh!

 

Good to see them in Australia anyway.  A little link with Adam's past adventures in the Southern Hemisphere, too.

 

There we are - caught up and it only took me a year!  35 issues to go...  (Does '35 to go' have any other significance, I wonder?)

 

And Rob - yes, reread this and join in the conversation.  There's a lot  to enjoy here.

(Image courtesy of comicbookdb.com)

52 #18 - Dismantled

 

Day 1: The Croatoan Society, a mystery solving team, arrive at the House of Mystery for a meeting and find one of their members apparently liquified by Dr. Fate’s helmet.  They decide to bring their missing member, Elongated Man, in on the mystery.

 

Day 2: The Question and Montoya receive the Order of the Crescent from Black Adam for preventing a terrorist act at his wedding, however, Renee doesn’t show up for the ceremony.  Black Adam hunts her down and finds her cavorting with a local.  She tries to bait him into hurting her due to the guilt she’s feeling for killing a child but cooler heads prevail and they all decide to focus on stopping Intergang.

 

Day 3: Detective Chimp, of the Croatoan Society, finds Ralph in France.  Ralph agrees to look into the mystery but requests that Bobo brings in the Shadowpact to help.

 

Day 4: A fiasco of a funeral is held for Booster Gold in Cincinnati during which Skeets meets up with Daniel Carter, Booster’s ancestor.

 

Day 7: The Shadowpact meet Ralph in Egypt and attempt to learn the history of the helmet.  During the process, the helmet starts talking directly to Ralph and convinces him to take it on a pilgrimage through the realms of magic in order to obtain his heart’s desire.

 

This is the issue where Elongated Man kicks off his second arc, making him the clearest (and perhaps only) example of a protagonist being setup with multiple arcs in this series.  Black Adam had an early abrupt turn, from someone setting up a block of power, to someone building (and avenging) his family, but I’m not sure you could call the first part a different arc so much as an extended setup to show how quickly priorities can shift.  Booster’s turn from public, attention seeking hero to undercover hero might be another example, but the later backstory implies he was undercover almost the whole time; is this truly a separate arc?  (Plus, there is the question whether Booster is in fact the protagonist or whether the protagonists are Skeets and Rip Hunter).  Likewise, Renee’s late priority switch to helping Batwoman, is this just the fulfilment of her Question apprenticeship?  In any case, Ralph quite clearly shifts to a second mystery that will carry him through to the end of the series.

 

For the Booster section, I think they went a little overboard with the classless funeral.  It did, however, give them a reason for Skeets to “accidentally” bump into Daniel Carter.  Since this was so obvious, I wonder why they didn’t structure this differently?  Who knows, maybe they just wanted to vary things up.  Sometimes you want subtle, sometimes you want blatant... like that Vertigo bumper sticker on the casket.  (I guess they were just trying to make his funeral a little more classy. :))

 

Other items of note:

- The cover did a good job setting mood with the subtle aged paper effect.

- The credits in the photo frames were another nice artistic choice.

- For some reason Cain is not picking up his mail.

- In the Question origin, gingold is listed as a component of the Question’s mask.

- Intergang’s monster men and use of kids as weapons is an early prefiguring of elements in Morrison’s Batman Inc.

- Both the Post-Crisis Question and the Nu 52 daughter of Vandal Savage decided to take Sage as their adopted last name.

 

Questions:

- Is the Croatoan Society new or has it been seen before?

- Did the Helmet of Fate one shots fit in well with 52?

- Is Terri Thirteen intended to be Traci Thirteen, (as Wikipedia contends), or perhaps a relative?

 

Best Lines:

“Alvin Burgson!  Please.  Arthur Conan Doyle based Sherlock Holmes on a doctor named Joseph Bell, whose grandfather’s neighbor was named Alvin Burgson.  It’s like you wanted to be found.”

(Image courtesy of comicbookdb.com)

52 #19 - History Repeats

 

Day 1: Skeets breaks into Daniel Carter’s house and convinces him to access Rip Hunter’s lab for the opportunity to become a hero.

 

Day 2: The space castaways wind up in a galactic refugee camp where Lobo holds court and offers them the chance to leave with him, although his journey goes back through the devastation.

 

Day 3: Wonder Girl and Supernova capture the Weather Wizard in Metropolis and Wonder Girl expresses her belief that Supernova is actually Kon-El.

 

Day 4: Daniel and Skeets break into Rip’s lab and Skeets discovers Rip Hunter has identified him as a problem.  Skeets locks down the lab causing Daniel to be pulled into a death trap.

 

In the Booster (or should I say Skeets) section, we have the first case of the cover not only giving a tease but also setting up expectations, announcing “The New Booster Gold?”.  In the actual comic, we see Daniel recruited by Skeets, (while reminding us that the Luthor plot is simmering in the background).  Daniel dons some of Booster’s equipment but rather than assuming the mantle he’s betrayed by Skeets who makes a heel turn and runs away.  Once again, we have a fairly self contained story that is setup and payed off in one issue, but it’s interesting how the cover was used to help us have a quick buy in by both featuring Booster and by having the leading blurb so that the twist works more effectively.

 

The space team section plops the team down in a refugee camp and gives us a better idea of what’s going on with Lobo; unfortunately, once again, this section lets us down a bit.  The art really isn’t doing a good job conveying what the text is describing.  The dialogue is describing a weird and extensive squalor while the art makes it seem small and fairly normal, except for a few extra aliens roaming around and attending church.  Meanwhile, some of the dialogue suggests things that haven’t even been hinted at in other DC comics.  Starfire wants them to “mobilize the whole galactic community”, umm, who exactly?  Lobo, the rough and tumble space biker speaks 17,897 galactic languages... really?  I get that these things sound cool but if they’re not actually borne out by the comics, is it fair to drop the lines?

 

The Supernova section reveals Wonder Girl’s hope for Supernova’s identity.  This shows that Cassie is still in the denial stage regarding Superboy’s death, as she’s grasping at any and all possibilities that he might have cheated the reaper; (which is not quite as inconceivable as in our own world).  This option does have some extra merit from our perspective, as it follows soon after a ceremony where Ralph’s wife might have been partially revived, thus becoming a somewhat legitimate red herring.

 

Questionable Science Alert:

 

The issue does suggest that the Green Lantern sectors are based on a galactic scale rather than a universal scale.  YAY!! 

(This idea seems to have been pushed for previously by Tony Bedard but doesn’t seem to have gained any traction with Geoff Johns.)

 

Daniel, an ancestor of Booster’s, separated by at least 10 generations, is enough of a genetic match to fool a computer with a genetic type lock.  BOO!!

(This was a plot point for Waid... I’m a little shocked.)

 

Other items of note:

- World’s Finest is a DCU magazine; this will be used again in the DCnU Justice League title.

- Lady Styx put a bounty on the space team’s head.

- Booster didn’t only pimp himself but also Skeets, official spokesbot of Skeetles Candy.

- Lobo following the “Triple Fish God” hearkens back to Giffen and DeMatteis’ Justice League where space dolphins were practically the only beings he liked.

 

Best Lines:

“It could have been worse, Daniel Carter.  You could have ended up a museum janitor.”

“Uhh... That’s a pretty specific reference.”

I keep thinking that they did all this work and then they did Flashpoint and rebooted it all away. I just can't figure that out.

(Image courtesy of comicbookdb.com)

52 #20 - God Is Fragged

 

Day 1: While Gotham City is picking up on the existence of Batwoman, Supernova roots around in the Batcave.

 

Day 3: Steel is starting to adapt to his metallic body as he helps out at a fire., so appropriately, this is when Kala brings him information that the artificial metagene can likely be deactivated.

 

Day 6: The space refugee camp is attacked.  The heroes manage to fight off the attackers but in the process let Ekron know where his eye is... Lobo decides it’s time to leave.

 

Not a lot to say about this one.  The action ratchets up a little and the space heroes actually get something to do, however, the action seems kind of underwhelming.  Part of the problem is that the issue is constrained by the art choices of the previous issue, but it also goes the route of making the threat mysterious rather than visually distinctive.  Perhaps they wanted to convey the idea of confusion in battling the unknown... mission accomplished I guess... 

 

This is the first issue we get a true clue to Supernova’s identity, beyond his air of experience; he’s someone who knows the location of the Batcave.

 

Other items of note:

- While many comics try to retroactively redefine characters, 52's only attempt seems to be with the Emerald Eye of Ekron, an object of power from the Legion era.

- The alien parasites that Animal Man borrows power from can shoot fireballs.  (I don’t want to know what part of the body they like to live in.)

 

Best Lines:

“These people are crawling with handy alien parasites.”

52 #18 - Dismantled

 

Day 2: The Question and Montoya receive the Order of the Crescent from Black Adam for preventing a terrorist act at his wedding, however, Renee doesn’t show up for the ceremony.  Black Adam hunts her down and finds her cavorting with a local.  She tries to bait him into hurting her due to the guilt she’s feeling for killing a child but cooler heads prevail and they all decide to focus on stopping Intergang.


There's depth in this.  (Rucka again.) Guilt and the taboo of killing are strong forces out here in the real world, so it's refreshing to see a hero not just stride away from a 'necessary killing' with their head held high.  That way might be 'awesome' and fan-pleasing, but it's not really human, unless you've been totally brutalised and inured to killing somehow.

For the Booster section, I think they went a little overboard with the classless funeral.

It was pathetic wasn't it?  I guess it is also a commentary on the fleeting nature of modern celebrity, and how quickly people can tear down yesterday's golden boy. (As it happens, I read up a little on Tim Tebow yesterday.  If - God Forbid - he'd died this time last year, his funeral would have been massive.  A national event probably.  If  - again God Forbid - he walked under a bus today, not so much.)

 

Again, its the writer's using the story they are telling to comment on our world - maybe at the expence of the dignity of these fictional creations.

 

Having listened to a ton of those old Superman Radio serials since I last read 52, I was able to get the PEP Cereal references this time aorund.  Even Booster's funeral is sponsered in a tacky manner.  And having read Morrison's SSoV in the meantime, and certain old JLA comics, I knew who Mind-grabber Kid was, and it was good to see him.  They built a joke around MG Kid coming on to that shapely heroine by citing his showbiz connections, but notice that she wasn't contacted by anyone to attend the funeral.  She's there out of sympathy and respect to a fellow marginalised no-hoper like herself.  Sympathy, empathy, respect.  We're in the hands of fine creators here, even in the midst of the ridicule.

 

- Intergang’s monster men and use of kids as weapons is an early prefiguring of elements in Morrison’s Batman Inc.

 

Mind grabber Kid and how he was used to highlight the twilight celebrity world of low-ranking superheroes is a direct carry-through from the Bulleteer section of Morrison's SSoV.

 

The use of the Croatoan reference is another carry-through from SSoV, so there's plenty of Morrison in this issue despite there being none of his designated strands.

 

Morrison would have been employed as 'ideas man' from before Infinite Crisis, and many of the ideas here may be his.  Perhaps both the Croatoan society and Shadowpact?

 

I can see his hand in both these groups , in trying to forge connections between different characters from different eras and make the DCU join up (and become sentient!).  This was one of the things he was trying to do with SSoV too.

 

- For some reason Cain is not picking up his mail.

 

Perhaps Cain and Abel have been AWOL since Vertigo became barricaded off from the DCU?

 

- Is Terri Thirteen intended to be Traci Thirteen, (as Wikipedia contends), or perhaps a relative?

 

Was Terri (or Traci) the one in Azarello's back-up strip that used elements of Morrison's comicbook limbo ideas from Animal Man?

 Mark S. Ogilvie said:

I keep thinking that they did all this work and then they did Flashpoint and rebooted it all away. I just can't figure that out.

 

I knock other comic stories for paying more attention to continuity housekeeping than the story at hand, but perhaps 52 is guilty of that here, although we do get development of each of the main characters and where they stand right now.

 

Shadowpact and the Croatoan Society are kind of only brought in for an issue to show us how they are constituted and the differences between them, even though they use the same 'clubhouse' strangely enough.  Perhaps the DCU needed this explication of some of its more obscure corners.  In any case, and to address Mark's point, there is a lot of world-building going on here.  Fate helmet imparts the news to Ralph that in this new post-Infinite Crisis DCU, magic cannot be used without paying a price.  This feels dangerously close to infodumping about the DCU world as a whole, rather than concerning the story at hand, although they do have that new guy that I never heard of turn to water because of messing with forces he can't control.

 

I don't know why they make a big deal about how this is a 'locked room mystery' and they need Ralph to solve it.  I can solve it in two words - "Because Magic!".  But they set out to deliberately have mysteries and mystics rub shoulders in this issue, so maybe that's the point.

 

In any case, one of the points of the whole series is to show how wide and varied the DCU is.  This mash-up of Silver Age sleuths and magic users from across the decades is part of that, and is contained in the same story as God-like superpeople, cosmic space-farers and trilby-wearing gumshoes.

 

As the two shadowey groups highlighted in this issue illustrate, it's not just to show that all these characters exist on the one fictional world, but also to show that they'd have all kinds of interesting connections between them.  I don't think we've seen the Croatoan Society before, but it does throw a bunch of interesting characters together, and gives them a mutual history and reason for getting together.  The fact that they were  created at different times and for different styles of stories just makes their being together on the same page all the more interesting.

 

It's interesting that Waid seems to be the writer of the back-up strips and they seem to be reconfiguring the characters for a new age too, and throwing in little bits of information that seems to relate to the 52 main story itself. 

 

I do remember Dan DiDio addressing the complaints of a crowd at some Comicon some time after 52 had run it's course.  They were unhappy that all the big stories had been changing the status quo over the last few years and the continuous upheaval meant there was no steady status quo to ground the stories.  He said that the little back-ups in 52 were a part of addressing that and that the DCU was going to be settled for a while from then on, and concentrate on telling good stories featuring the characters, rather than more stories of them dealing with their whole reality and pasts changing.  It sounded mighty sensible, but the whole New 52 was confabulated shortly after this, which shows how fickle it all is, and also how incredibly quickly the New 52 was slapped together, as I'm pretty sure Dan meant it when he said there'd be no changes for a while.

 

In any case, 52 shows some great creators doing some great world-building and laying some good foundations for stories going forward.  It's true that not a whole lot came of this effort  Maybe the very idea of doing that was flawed, and it's better for creators to come up with stuff just as the story in hand requires?

Figserello said:

I do remember Dan DiDio addressing the complaints of a crowd at some Comicon some time after 52 had run it's course. They were unhappy that all the big stories had been changing the status quo over the last few years and the continuous upheaval meant there was no steady status quo to ground the stories. He said that the little back-ups in 52 were a part of addressing that and that the DCU was going to be settled for a while from then on, and concentrate on telling good stories featuring the characters, rather than more stories of them dealing with their whole reality and pasts changing. It sounded mighty sensible, but the whole New 52 was confabulated shortly after this, which shows how fickle it all is, and also how incredibly quickly the New 52 was slapped together, as I'm pretty sure Dan meant it when he said there'd be no changes for a while.

When I was reading 52 it seemed very well constructed. Is the reason that they dumped it all that the sales didn't increase fast enough?

Well, saleswise 52 was a HUGE success, probably way beyond what they thought such an odd format with very minor C-list characters would manage.  The sales probably stayed in the 90-120k range for the whole run.  That's block-bustin'.

 

And it went beyond just sales, as such.  Few runs of 52 issues manage to hold on to or increase their readership over the run, but 52 did that.  The numbers swelled after the early issues and fell off just a little bit towards the end, but nothing like the 'standard attrition' that guts the sales of most long ongoing series that stick to the same creative team and story set-up for the duration.

 

So you had a loyal approving audience (not all of whom, I suspect, were dyed-in-the-wool comics fans, but maybe quite a few 'daytrippers' too, interested in a good story without the usual overtly fan-orientated nonsense that DC slips into), and what's more it was the equivalent of producing 4 bestselling smash-hit series a month, not one, because of the release schedule.

 

Apparently it took huge commitment from the creators - every moment of every day, I'd say - and probably a lot of DC's resources to keep the 52 show on the road and on schedule.  It's certainly not the kind of thing that would be taken up lightly again.

 

DC didn't dump it.  It just reached the end of its projected run.

 

If you mean by 'dumping it' that DC threw out the deeply thought-through world-building and depth of 52 for the hollow hype and shallow bombast of most of the projects that followed it, well that's another matter.  I'm trying to highlight how 52 took an untypical approach for its time to superhero comics.  It built up this world, drawing on its long and multi-faceted history, making it feel real in various ways, allowing the characters time to develop and gave us plenty of their quiet moments, as well as the big chin-punching splash pages.  Notice that we spend quite a bit of time with the heroes and support cast in civilian roles, which was something that we've got less and less of in superhero comics over the last decade or two.  Clark being the only major hero at Booster's funeral shows us why he's Superman, costume or no.  (Respect, empathy, sympathy again!) As well as Superman himself, Ralph, Renee and the Question are all in civvies most of the time.  Even Lex Luthor in his business suit is a very recogniseable manipulative "Koch Brother" type from our real world.

 

Looking at what we get in 52 and comparing it to the kinds of projects DC directed most of their resources at in the years that followed, I can only guess that DC took entirely the wrong lessons from the success of 52.  But that's another post.

52 #19 - History Repeats

Meanwhile, some of the dialogue suggests things that haven’t even been hinted at in other DC comics.  Starfire wants them to “mobilize the whole galactic community”, umm, who exactly?  Lobo, the rough and tumble space biker speaks 17,897 galactic languages... really?  I get that these things sound cool but if they’re not actually borne out by the comics, is it fair to drop the lines?

 

Has the GL Corps and the Guardians been reconstituted by this point?  Maybe that's where Starfire is thinking of starting?    If so, its a reminder that we are usually following the adventures of a highly privilaged elite.  $#!& happens all over, but Starfire was a Teen Titan, who were connected to the JLA, who have a Green Lantern in their ranks, so she is in a position to do something about stuff others would be helpless before.

 

(Although Johns reconstituted the GL Corps as a contingent more of swaggering, posturing super-thugs than the more 'humanitarian' disaster mitigation/rescue organisation that they'd been before Hal that yellow thing vanquished them all.)

 

Perhaps Lobo's reference to all his languages is an acknowledgement that he's usually able to converse (if not very civilly) with whatever lifeform, from whatever corner of the universe, that he meets.  I haven't read too many Lobo comics, so I don't know if they use the 'universal translator' conceit in those, or if they just ended up unwittingly implying that he knows many languages!

 

(As Obama would tell you, anyway, ridiculous violence is a language that everyone understands in any case.)

 

Lobo's facility with language might be similar to how the text of the comic when Lobo first appeared highlighted that there were certain types of beings in superhero universes who can speak to each other in the vacuum of space.

 

This storyline of Lobo's is wonderfully thought through.  It'd be hard to use him in any other way, as he's such a nihilisitic destructive character, and it's hard to justify why he doesn't just frag any heroes he meets like he does to practically everybody else who crosses his path.  His apparent conversion makes him more than the sneering one-note thug he's usually depicted as.  His frustration at not being able to frag everyone is real, as is his self-control at this point, and Lobo doesn't usually have anything like that depth going on, in terms of his character and impulses.

 

Lobo seems superficially to resemble a 2000ad anti-hero, rather than a superhero, but his stories don't seem to have the moral core that the best 2000ad despite their nihilism and violence, stories have.

 

 Daniel, an ancestor of Booster’s, separated by at least 10 generations, is enough of a genetic match to fool a computer with a genetic type lock.  BOO!!

(This was a plot point for Waid... I’m a little shocked.)

 

It lifted an eyebrow with me too.  I had presumed the Booster secton was written by Johns, because he continued it in Booster's own series, but maybe not.   Johns is Black Adam and Steel, I'm pretty sure.

 

But that is quite a heel turn, and a shock for the first time reader.  The art of Skeets speeding away is very effective.  Chilling and comical at the same time.

I guess it would have been clearer if I had said "didn't increase fast enough in the regular titles after 52."

Of course, it's remarkable that they could pull off this level of quality and consistency for an entire year of weekly comics. After they took a breath it was probably hard to bring that back.

P.S.: I enjoyed it in particular because of the emphasis on the less-well-known heroes. 

Richard Willis said:

When I was reading 52 it seemed very well constructed. Is the reason that they dumped it all that the sales didn't increase fast enough?

52 #20 - God Is Fragged

 

Not a lot to say about this one.

 

:-)

Agree that some of the art choices make whats otherwise straightforward confusing. The attacking swarm are conceptually too close to the parasites Buddy is talking about, for one thing.  But the creators' hearts are in the right place in wanting to focus on the distress and fear of these comicbook space refugees, but the art does muffle the message somewhat.

I've mentioned how working together does help to cancel out some of the writers' usual problems, and this cosmic odyssey/ Lobo strand does seem a more straightforward sci-fi space opera than we usually get from Morrison. So far.

Lobo may not have been created by Keith Geffin (or was he?), but he is very closely associated with him, so I do see Lobo's role in the story as a little nod to Geffin, producing an issue a week of layouts as he is, and no doubt in need of a fillip.

 

So I'm guessing we've seen the 'Eye of Ekron' in Legion comics, but this is the first time we get to meet Ekron himself?  Doesn't Ekron look like a product of the 'rape' of Swamp Thing by that sentient 'mothership' during Alan Moore's run...?

 

Not having met either Ekron, nor the BIg-Whop space warrior villainess who are both chasing our heroes now, they were kind of confused in my mind the first time I read this.  (So maybe there is some Morrison confusion here after all.)

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