Fact: DC is in the metaphorical shitter. It’s losing market share to Marvel, and it needs to do something to improve sales, fast. Keep in mind that the sales data here comes from Diamond and pertains only to the Direct Market— and thus, single issue sales— mainly across the USA (and wherever comics stores demand comics from Diamond).
What’s DC to do? One would maybe suggest quitting the direct market in favour of distributing comics anywhere outside the traditional comics shops. Get comics everywhere! Groceries, stationeries, record stores, you name it. Couple that with a proper digital strategy and a handful of welcoming new titles, and you’ll have a winner, right?
Maybe I’m not cut to run DC’s economic strategy after all, as the company decided to stick to Diamond, mess up its digital strategy (no one will buy a digital comic for the same price as a physical pamphlet, mark my words), and, biggest of all, reboot, refresh and relaunch a whole mess of series and properties. 52 of them, in fact, to hit the racks sometime this September. I’ll be going through which of these titles hit my attention in some way or another, and maybe give a few opinions on the way, with particular attention to the slew of redesigned costumes which appear to be an obligatory part of such an “event”. Ready? Ready.
MEN WHO HAPPEN TO BE SUPER
Action Comics #1
The God of All Comics himself, Grant Morrisson, will be on Action Comics duty, writing Superman! Exciting stuff, seeing how All Star Superman is some of his best work (and some of the best Superman comics in general, but that goes without saying). Plus, the dependable Rags Morales is on the pencils, so it should look pretty good, too. Just hope Morrisson channels that All Star magic on this, eh?
As to why Superman’s rocking a mini cloak on his Hot Topic “S” t-shirt, I’ve no idea. Maybe it acts as a towel to gather up sweat caused by grimly moving too many large and heavy rocks around.
One would think that it would be daft to redesign your most iconic character’s costume just before a major reboot— yet that’s what DC’s just done with this (clearly) Jim Lee designed number. And I’ll just ask, why? Worthy of note are the armoured boots, the overuse of piping detail, lack of red trunks (still has them, mind you, they’re just blue), and the collar (it’s there, look closely) and a “nice” red belt. Also, he’s angry. Look at him be angry! Grr!
Supergirl’s a character who’s never been lucky when it comes to costumes (just like most women right? Right? I’m outta here). This number is kind of okay, in that it hits the right colours (blue, red) and fails at showing too much of skin— with the exception of the boots, which appear to have a bare patch right at the knee. Or is it flesh coloured kneepads? Still, it’s not only weird, it’s also distracting, colour wise.
Fact: They should have hired Cory Walker to redesign Supergirl’s costume instead.
MEN WHO ARE VENGEANCE, THE NIGHT, AND BATS
Not much to report on the Batman front, other than that unsurprisingly Grant Morrisson’s changes to the character (and his little patch of DCU) have been rebooted to make way to things going back to being exactly the same as they always used to be. Gee, where/when has that happened before? Dick Grayson’s been demoted back to Nightwing, while, hilariously, Batman now appears in five titles. Five of them! That will be Batman, Detective Comics, Batman and Robin, Justice League and Justice League International. Oh, and Batman Inc. (so make that six titles) will go on until 2011’s end, which is when it will also get rebooted to #1. Hmm.
DC shows itself to be typically American by lumping the entire African continent— a landmass bigger than the United States and Europe combined— into a single “country” of sorts with the Batman of Africa, a Grant Morrisson creation from the pages of Batman Inc. Admittedly this could be interesting (although I don’t think I’ve ever read anything by Judd Winick). I also wonder if the other African heroes (who appeared in, well, 3 panels in Batman Inc. #6) will show up in this?
Fact: If Africa can get its own Batman, Continental Europe should have its Batman too! (the UK has Knight & Squire and The Hood so it doesn’t count).
Fact: If not a Batman of Europe then at least The Nightrunner (the Batman of France!) should have his own title. Fair’s fair.
This is a tricky one. On one hand, Barbara Gordon is back to being Batgirl! Celebrate! On the other hand the DC Universe lost its only disabled character! The whole issue with Barbara Gordon/Oracle is a weird, tricky one, especially since this is a character residing in a world where superheroes are very real, one of whom is Cyborg—a dude who is basically a robot. Not to mention all the magic using characters, and the alien technology, and time travellers… you catch my drift. I should write about the subject of unfairness in comics universes sometime in the future, it real bugs me.
Costume wise, here’s another Jim Lee number, covered in pointless piping and detail shit for some reason. On the plus side, it’s an Adam Hughes cover, so it’s all awesome and Babs is all smiling and happy. Yay!
Since this title lacks the names ‘Darwyn Cooke’ and ‘Ed Brubaker’ on the cover, it absolutely fails to pique my interest. Sorry, Judd Winick and Gulliem March! Thankfully the Darwyn Cooke designed costume remains unchanged, and here’s a nice enough cover, if one with some worrying subtext— Selina all fuck-me eyes pouring a condom’s contents (it’s diamonds, right?) on her bare cleavage? Really? I’ll admit, though, that Catwoman’s not a character I have any particularly strong feelings about, but here’s an article by comics blogger Laura Sneddon with a feminist perspective on the character which is well worth a read.
IT’S THE SUPER FRIENDS, DAMNIT
Wonder Woman #1
Another character/title I have no feelings (negative or otherwise) for, but I like (no, love) Cliff Chiang’s artwork, so this will go to my pull list. Brian Azzarello’s on writing duties, whose work tends to be something of a mixed bag BUT his last collaboration with Chiang was the brilliant Doctor 13: Architecture and Mortality. Meaning my expectations will be kept at a relatively “excited” level.
The Savage Hawkman #1
WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS SHIT? Do look at him all going GRRR! EXTREME!
Yes, “The Edge”. Which is where all the Wildstorm properties have been sent (presumably to die), alongside “edgier” titles and the like.
Isn’t “the Edge” also the second most obnoxious dude from U2?
While WildCATS’ Grifter getting his own title, Stormwatch (previously notable for a realpolitik-based run by Warren Ellis, before turning into The Authority) gets the reboot treatment. On the cover, Martian Manhunter (he had to find a job somewhere) together with Apollo (in a decent redesigned costume) and… Midnighter, all ready for a night of Rollerball. Check out all those spikes, man! He’s even got a chin spike! How very… edgy. (slowclap, exeunt, fin).
The real question: are Apollo and Midnighter still gay? One assumes homosexuality (one would say sexuality in general, but more on that later!) does not sit well with DC’s target audience of sexually insecure teenage/20-something males. Thus, until confirmation, I’ll be assuming the two characters have also gone through the gay-be-gone treatment.
Suicide Squad #1
Right, that Harley Quinn redesign. Talk about quality character design! I’ll admit I lack in particularly strong feelings for the character, but this stripper getup leaves me absolutely cold, never mind the extreme attitude. I’d only read a comic starring such a character (in such an outfit) if Josh Lesnick would draw it, following his own proposal down below:
Yep, pair her with a dude clad in split miniskirt and have them rob banks. With sex! However, while the Big Two comics companies are more than eager to flash tons of tits and ass around in their books, their far less comfortable when it comes to the actual sex— not unless there’s some “tragic” rape element (read “violence against women”) involved. Which handily crystallises a generally hypocritical attitude towards women and sexuality in a supposedly “liberal” society.
Fact: I’d pay top dollar for Josh Lesnick’s take on Power Girl
Fact: I have no knowledge (never mind opinions) on the Street Shark and that dude from Dead Space behind Harley Quinn
All Star Western #1
Fact: Keeping Justin Gray and Jerry Palmiotti on a Jonah Hex title is a wise idea
This also goes on the pull list. Gray and Palmiotti are a proven team, while Moritat is a solid artist I’ve been following since the first issues of Elephantmen (a not too easy gig, seeing how it involved following on work by Ladronn). Carry on with the good work, sirs.
JUSTICE THAT IS… YOUNG!
Teen Titans #1
It might be the year 2011, but right here is the most 90s comicbook drawing ever. Where can one even begin with this mess? What about Superman, in his black tank top, barcode-S tattoo, biker gloves and what looks like a micro cape taped to his back? Or whatever bug girl on the lower left even is? Robin, now with added wings (‘cos they’re awesome, right)? Wondergirl’s so extreme her lasso’s made of thorns, while the other female character is both naked and seemingly made of smoke. Wonderful.
What we have here is the nadir, a distillation of everything that’s wrong in the American superhero comics industry.
Hawk and Dove #1
ROB LIEFELD? ARE YOU FUCKING SHITTING ME?
Clearly not. Next!
THE DARK. ARE YOU… whatever
Yes, a comics line named “The Dark”. Seriously. It appears to cover, well, darker supernatural-themed stories, akin to early Vertigo, with Swamp Thing, John Constantine and Madame Xanadu showing up in a couple of titles. Still, couple of interesting titles here.
Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #1
I haven’t read anything by Jeff Lemire (who’s penning this very series) other than his take on Ultra the Multi-Alien in Vertigo’s Strange Adventures, but the concept of DC’s Frankenstein (not to be confused with, umm, Frankenstein’s monster) teaming up with other monsters to deal with threats from the unknown sounds pretty enticing. So yes, I suppose it’ll go on the pull list.
Sweet J.G. Jones cover, too.
Demon Knights #1
Horrid name (Demon Knights!), neat concept— Etrigan and Madame Xanadu forming a team of heroes in a mediaeval DC universe. Plus it’s written by Paul Cornell, so it should be (near) guaranteed to being a fun read. Pull list material, unless the art happens to be shit or something.
Will DC attract to hoards to the comics stores with this reboot? I somewhat doubt. The selection is middling - some decent titles, some real trash, a lot of the stuff of the kind we’re long used to. And, it appears, that’s basically that. As it remains, DC’s character stable seems to have a history of treated more kindly by other media, particularly animation…
The more things change, the more they remain the same.