Thursday, June 02, 2011

Repeat Rehash....Relaunch???

"I've been there...done that...what's next?" - Jon Astley

According to this USA Today article, DC Comics is in for some big changes come September:

Starting this summer, the publisher will re-number its entire DC Universe of titles, revamping characters such as Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and others from its 76-year history for a more modern and diverse 21st century.

The first book to be released under this new era: Justice League No. 1, out Aug. 31. The series by writer Geoff Johns and artist Jim Lee reunites the famous lineup of Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, The Flash, Wonder Woman and Aquaman.

Johns promises a focus on the interpersonal relationships within DC's trademark superteam. "What's the human aspect behind all these costumes? That's what I wanted to explore," he says.

..."We really want to inject new life in our characters and line," says Dan DiDio, co-publisher of DC with Lee. "This was a chance to start, not at the beginning, but at a point where our characters are younger and the stories are being told for today's audience."

I've got to say, I'm not exactly feeling the love.

Maybe it's the fact that, as a 45-year-old near-lifelong comic reader, as well as a near-lifelong Superman fan, it's not my first time at the Reboot/Relaunch Rodeo. Or maybe it's just that I think this is a really dumb idea. DC is crowing about how this has never been done before, but I can't help wondering: Maybe there's a good reason for that.

Here's what we can look forward to:

***New readers!! (Uh, maybe...)*** - Like many of DC's editorial moves over this past decade, I have to ask: They're attempting to market this to...whom, exactly??

DC's been accused of catering too much to nostalgic existing continuity-nerd fans to the exclusion of too many others, but even many members of that group are being thrown under the bus here. Take what Grant Morrison's been doing in the Batman books, for example. What's the point of them getting invested in "Batman Inc" if it's all going away never to be referred to again, in 3 months? Is that how you want to treat the fans of the most popular character at the company? Especially the way superhero comics have been hemorrhaging readers the last few years? And what about the 5 current or former Robins? If Batman's being made younger in this reboot, odds are at least one of them's saying bye-bye. And why are they making Barbara Gordon Batgirl again when there are two other perfectly good Batgirls to fill the role, whereas there was only one Oracle?

I'll admit that this is a good move:

In an even more important move in the competitive comics industry, DC is making all of the re-numbered titles available digitally via apps and a DC website the same day they arrive in comic shops. It marks the first time that a major comics publisher has done so with its popular superhero titles.

But if DC Comics' goal is to make its line friendlier to new and younger readers, then why give us covers like this???

Look, kids! Comics!!

***New Origins!!! Yay!!!*** - Because if there's one thing DC hasn't been doing enough all these years, it's monkeying around with their characters' origins. Just ask Donna Troy fans. Or Hawkman fans. Or Power Girl fans. Or Ice fans. Or Black Lightning fans.

Or Superman fans. Like me. I was fine with the original Crisis and the Byrne reboot back in '86. Byrne, Wolfman, Ordway, Stern, Jurgens, etc. actually did an admirable job re-introducing and reinvigorating elements of of the Supes mythos while adding new elements. Creators came and went, and story quality waxed and waned, but the canon remained relatively solid and self-consistent.

Then came the new millennium and all hell broke loose.

We had Birthright. Followed by Infinite Crisis. Followed by Secret Origin. Supergirl's Matrix.... no, wait, she's Superman's daughter from the, wait, she's Kara Zor-El again. Kon-El was cloned from some guy named Paul Westfield... no, wait, he was cloned from Superman and Luthor. Clark was never wait, yes he was. Clark never joined the, wait, yes he did.

And now we get to see yet another reworking of Clark's origin. Not only that, but Bruce's. And Diana's. And Hal's. And.... everyone else's. Can't hardly wait.

***Diversity! Diversity! Diversity!*** - DC claims they're doing this reboot "for a more modern and diverse 21st Century".

But does this lineup from Geoff Johns and Jim Lee's upcoming Justice League look "modern and diverse" to you?

Yeah, this lineup just screams "diversity". If this were 1975, that is. Ooh, there' woman! Not only that, there's....(Gasp!!!)... one black guy!! And... only five white guys! (In fairness, this may be only half the lineup, and maybe they're just keeping us in suspense about the other half.)

I understand certain economic realities regarding some of the main Justice League and Avengers books: Justice League (with the Giffen era being the aberration) generally sell better when their Big 3(Supes/Bats/Wondy) are all on board, and the same goes for Avengers when their Big 3 (Thor/Cap/Iron Man) are all present. But beyond that core is where the creativity kicks in. With the right creative team and vision, you can have an Avengers team with the Big 3 and, well, whoever the fuck you want. Same goes for Justice League. Take the Big 3, along with a Flash and/or a Green Lantern, and then anybody else you want. Want to make the rest of the lineup more diverse in race and gender? Then go for it. Add good, fresh ideas and good stories and you should be golden.

In fact, having the right ideas and stories, even with characters I've never heard of, is much more appealing to me than reading irredeemably bad stories about characters I've known and loved for decades.  The Satellite League and Spider-Man were among my favorite characters in my youth, but Cry For Justice and One More Day were just....painful.

On the other hand, my most recent favorite new series is Avengers Academy, despite the book starring characters I'd never even heard of before this year. Despite the lack of African-American cast members, this book contains more racial and gender diversity than the new Justice League appears to have. The male-female ratio among the students is an even 50/50 split, while its 6 members include the Asian-American  Hazmat and the Hispanic Reptil. Even the metallic Mettle was originally a non-Caucasian Hawaiian native prior to his "change". Speaking as someone whose wife teaches at a predominantly Hispanic school and is half Hispanic herself, I think it's important to remember that "black and white" isn't all there is.

I gave the book a shot after reading good things about it from Ragnell just a few months ago. Although the supporting cast includes stalwarts Hank Pym, Tigra, Justice, Speedball, and the delightfully snarky Quicksilver as instructors, none of them has exactly been big sellers on their own. However, the focus is not on them but on the Academy kids. And they're the ones I've really gotten to care about, so much so that I've bought almost all the back issues and one Special in the last 2 months. The engaging, original stories (by Christos Gage), crisp artwork (pencils by Mike McKone and later Tom Raney and Sean Chen, inks by Scott Hanna), and appealing characters hooked me, plain and simple. I've gone from never having heard of these characters to loving them, all in the space of 3 months.

That's how iconic characters become iconic characters.

I wish the Big Two would remember that more often.

***New Costumes!!*** - So, apparently, Jim Lee has designed 50 new costumes for this reboot.

And I'm supposed to be excited about this why, exactly?

Let me refresh everybody's memory about some of the past Jim Lee costume designs, shall we?

Lee's the one who decided that Huntress, a grown-ass woman and non-powered urban vigilante who operates in Gotham City, should wear this....

How about the Wild C.A.T.S.?

Or Psylocke?

Oh, and let's not forget that Lee also designed Gambit.


So can you see why I'm not exactly psyched here?

***Brand New Super-Day????*** - If there's one thing about this reset that's pissing me off to no end, it's the possibility that this will mean the reversal of the Clark Kent - Lois Lane marriage.

Maybe it's just the lingering stench of One More Day/Brand New Day, or maybe it's because I'm now married myself, but I see this as a huge slap in the face from DC. It also reeks of something that DC has been displaying all too often recently: failure of imagination.

It may be just me, but it seems like a lot of the current Big Two superhero writers and editors have absolutely no clue whatsoever how to write happily-married couples. In the case of Superman, their solution to this problem is to avoid writing about it whenever possible. We had one yearlong storyline where Kal lived on New Krypton, immediately followed by another where he's undertaking a walk across America. Aren't many of these guys married themselves? Jesus, I've been married less than 2 years and even I can find holes in their portrayal of marriage. Here's an example: If Clark and Lois behaved like a real married couple, "Grounded" would never have happened. The whole conflict would have lasted one issue, max. They've been avoiding the Super-Marriage like the plague. And now it looks like they're going to reverse it completely.

I mentioned earlier here how I used to be a huge Spider-Man reader as a kid. I bought the series on and off as I got older. Then came One More Day in 2007. Since then, 127 issues of The Amazing Spider-Man have come out under the Brand New Day continuity. Do you know how many issues I've bought in that time? Four. Two because they had Barry Kitson. One because it had the aforementioned Avengers Academy kids. And one because it had this. But mostly, I avoided the revised Spidey book.

What kept me away? There were some very talented writers and artists on the book in this period. From what I'd heard, even many of Spidey's villains got some new life breathed into them. I still loved Spidey as Spidey. But I found myself despising Peter Parker more and more. This greatly increased after I got married, and I'll tell you why: Because, in my head, Married Peter was someone I could identify with. He was me. And not in the standard ways like race, sex, and hair color, but because I could relate to juggling the unique responsibilities that come with marriage, and I could relate to the private husband-wife moments.

But once the demonic deal was done and Peter was single, it felt like he took a giant step backward. Maybe it was just more obvious after I got married because I had reached the same point Peter had and could recognize how much he fell. Instead of being someone I strove to be, Peter became someone I never wanted to be again. (Best-kept secret: Much of being single sucks.) Worse, with One More Day, it felt like Marvel was telling me that my life wasn't relatable enough. It felt like a slap in the face. And now it looks like DC is essentially telling me to turn the other cheek.

***New management....Oh, wait.

  And that might be the problem right there. Maybe I'd feel a little more confident that this relaunch might actually fix some of the major problems if the people currently in charge weren't the ones who caused them in the first place. It's the same reason why I didn't vote Republican back in 2008 or 2010. The whole thing has the feel of an incorrigible ex-husband or ex-boyfriend saying "Baby, I've changed, please take me back! It won't be like before! No, really!"

The way this relaunch is looking, it has a high chance of attracting scores of new readers..... to Marvel or Image.

(Special thanks to SpaceBooger for inspiring this post's title.)


At 1:30 AM , Blogger Ami Angelwings said...

B/c I rly need to hurry up and make some food to eat... I will just say... I am in complete agreement w/ this.. and am also just as skeptical >_<;; (maybe more so, since I stopped buying DC a while ago, and I didn't even KNOW about this until it hit the mainstream media -_-)

Plus the new JLA? -_-;; Like... so they added Cyborg. It RLY seems like they just realized that if they DIDN'T it'd be ALL WHITE. How about reboot it with some of the heroes becoming CoCs? Or maybe John Stewart being the first GL? Or... something? Nething?

No -_-

And Zhinxy said it right... there's no point in doing a reboot if you're still targeting the same people you were before :\ Convoluted continuity is ONE reason ppl weren't reading but it's not the ONLY reason and honestly, it's not even the main reason -_-;;

At 6:47 AM , Blogger Starman said...

You forgot that he also designed Kyle Rayner's Green Lantern uniform from GL #151 onward.

At 8:23 AM , Blogger notintheface said...

Starman, I actually liked that one except for the dog collar (ugh!).

At 8:38 AM , Blogger notintheface said...

Ami, you may be too young to remember this, but everyone in this "new" lineup was together in the 1985 "Super Powers Team" cartoon lineup. How's THAT for "modern", huh?

And I have to disagree that they're targeting the same audience. I think they may be going even NARROWER. Or maybe by "new audience" they mean "the imaginary audience in Dan DiDio's head".

At 3:32 PM , Blogger Saranga said...

as usual face, you make a lot of sense. I am not enthralled about this.

I don't want a reboot of Superrman. I want Supes being Super and heroic. I want him married to Lois.

I want to know what on earth the Titans did to deserve that travesty of a piece of art.

At 3:52 AM , Blogger Ami Angelwings said...

Well Zhinxy was being generous xD

I know OF the Super Powers team but yeah... I would have been 3 xD and even tho I act super young, I'm alrdy on the pretty end (if not past) the age that DC is supposedly trying to target

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