If I Ran DC Comics

I had tried to blog about every single #1 of the New 52, but I couldn’t do it. There were only so many ways to say “what an incredible disappointment”. I’ve heard the latest reboot is decent, but it seems to mostly be reverting back to a pre-52 world without making too many real improvements, especially in staffing.

All comic companies have problems, but I’m a DC girl at heart. This is going to be all about what I’d do if I ran DC. It’ll mostly be about the comics, but there might be a post or two about movies and TV. I’m hoping some of the people I’d want to hire as new voices will want to write posts about what they’d do as creators. I’m going to invite them to do guest posts.

The first thing I’d do if I ran DC Comics is replace all the higher editors, especially Didio. He’s been a complete disaster. I’d look for editors & creators who are POC, LGBTAIQ, & women. People who have disabilities. People with new, positive ideas and stories.

I’d bring the multiverse back and actually use it! Universes for every type of story that we want to tell. And we’d tell more stories. SF, Horror, Fantasy, Mystery, Romance. Comics are a format, not a genre. I’d consider bringing back imprints like Helix, Milestone, and Minx. But I’d also consult with POC to see if they’d want an imprint like Milestone again or if they’d just want the main universes to include these titles. There’d be plenty of POC in the regular universe regardless.

And I’d change a lot of the existing characters to be POC, to be LGBTAIQ, to have disabilities. There’s no reason for comics today to be bound by the era in which the characters were created. Comics are a living medium, let them live, change, evolve.

Barry should have stayed dead. Bring forth new characters, don’t undo some of the most powerful stories you’ve told because you have some weird need to bring back your old favorites, make new favorites!

I intend to post at least once a week, maybe more, about changes I’d want to make. Some posts will be about certain titles, some about imprints or universes, some about characters, etc… What it all comes down to is that I love DC Comics and I hate what it has become. The promise, the hope, the inspiration have all given way to events, grimdark, the past, and desperation.

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Batman #1

The focus of the first Batman issue of the reboot seems to be to establish that he’s even more high-tech than he was before. The issue opens with a riot at Arkham and Nightwing is there, disguised as the Joker to help put the riot down. He’d been posing as the Joker to investigate corruption in Arkham, though there’d certainly be any number of better disguises. Instead of any traditional disguise, they’re using some kind of 3 dimensional image projection system, apparently just to drive home that they have access to futuristic technology.

There’s no real drama to the Arkham scene, the riot is put down matter-of-factly. There’s never a hint of an escapee getting away or of there really being much danger, it is a throw-away setup. We get a 2 page splash of the Batcave, again designed to show off the tech Batman has at his disposal. We get a moment of the “family”: Bruce with Dick (Nightwing), Tim (Red Robin) and Damian (Robin), mostly to show what point we’re at in the timeline, but even this scene is used to show Batman is now high tech. I’m sure all of these techs will be used in the future and they didn’t want them to seem conveniently appearing excuses to get him out of trouble, but right now  all the emphasis on the technology he’s using seems a little repetitive and plodding.

We also find out in the “family” shot that Tim might not have been adopted by Bruce in this timeline since he’s shown as Tim Drake. The art is a little weird, in the “family” moment, Dick is drawn quite a bit shorter than Bruce, it looks almost like the artist thinks everyone keeps getting taller as they get older.

We also get a few pages of Bruce giving a speech that serves mostly as a recap of Batman’s origin and to show Bruce intends to use his vast wealth to try to improve Gotham as well. It is a fairly forgettable sequence. There is the beginning of a real story at the very end of the issue, a murder mystery in which Bruce is announced as the murderer’s next target. I’m hoping that the criminal isn’t one of the established villains. Whomever it is has planted evidence leading to Dick being the murderer.

This title shows promise, despite the merely serviceable art. Since they’ve painstakingly done so much setup they should be able to concentrate on plot and storytelling over the next issues. There’s quite a bit still to be revealed about how this universe got to this point and I’m hoping they take the opportunity to change some things. Primarily I’m hoping they have Damian come to be in a different way. I’m also kind of hoping Tim’s dad or mom is still alive. It seems a waste of a reboot to leave these clunkers in place.

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Birds of Prey #1

The Birds of Prey reboot is a strange one. I’d been hoping the team’s very existence meant Barbara Gordon had been Oracle during her time in a wheelchair, but the conversation between her and Black Canary in this issue strongly suggests she was not. That’s very disappointing as I’d been hoping they’d preserved one of the strongest characters they’d created in the last 20 years, even if only with a truncated tenure.

They’ve redesigned several costumes, created a new character and seemingly added Poison Ivy though she only appears on the cover. I miss Black Canary’s utilitarian boots and leather jacket. This new costume seems much more generic superhero. Katana’s new outfit only appears on the cover and I’m hoping it stays that way.

The new character is Starling and she appears to just be a woman with a gun and a tattoo who is overly fond of fretting out loud. I’m guessing they had to get rid of Zinda because the Blackhawks were rebooted and maybe the other main female heroes that were in the old Birds of Prey either don’t exist (like Manhunter) or haven’t become established at this point (like PowerGirl or Huntress). Still, it is a strange lineup. I had thought Starling was Thorn from the cover and first few pages of her appearance. It’d be nice to have more clues for when this takes place in the reboot. The only real clue is that it is after Barbara returns to being Batgirl.

I understand that they’re telling this story from the creation of the team and that we’ll see more team members as the story progresses, but introducing a plot point that Black Canary is accused of murder on top of introducing a new character, a mysterious criminal agency, lots of action and a reporter investigating and stalking the heroes is a bit much for an initial issue. There’s a lot that happens, but not necessarily what should happen. Perhaps introducing one or two of these while fighting a routine bank robbery or generic supervillain would have allowed a more solid introduction of Starling or set up Black Canary’s new background better or even given a better idea of Dinah’s relationship with Barbara. As it is we have no idea how well Batgirl and Black Canary know each other, Starling just comes off as annoying and we aren’t given any reason for the reporter stalking the heroes. Maybe it is because of the accusation of murder, something else that we could have cared more about with more time, but there’s no hints at all.

This could be a solid comic, but this first issue doesn’t give us any idea if it will be or not. At least it doesn’t establish itself as a terrible comic as some titles already have.

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Superboy #1

When they decided how to reboot Superboy, they went all in. They’ve rebooted him further back than we’ve ever seen the character before. Any further and the first issue would be nothing but illustrations of in-vitro fertilization. It starts out with him in the ubiquitous human-sized, fluid-filled tube, connected to wires of various sorts.

He’s conscious, but his creators don’t know it because the writers have decided to get all weird with his physiology and his consciousness is spread throughout every cell in his body. Should be interesting watching him lose memories when he gets cut. Of course, they won’t do that, they never do. OK, I know one place where they come to that logical conclusion: the web strip Schlock Mercenary. (Warning, this is a long running strip. it will take a long time to get caught up.) They’re very unlikely to do it with a major, established character in a mainstream publication.

One thing I really dislike about his new origin, is this distributed consciousness. It makes sense in shapeshifters and their ilk, but not for this character. They put him in a virtual reality and monitor what he does in it. The lead scientist states “This program was designed to plumb the depths of his cellular subconscious – ” (They bold “program”, apparently feeling the need to drive that idea home.) “To try to bring the memories of his original genetic donors to the surface.” What? Now his memories are genetic? It isn’t enough to have an inane “distributed consciousness” they have to give him memories from the people that his genetic material comes from?

We know who his genetic donors are supposed to be and neither has a “distributed consciousness”. It’d be very strange if they gave this oddness to Superman as well and Luthor certainly doesn’t have it. So where did this come from and how in hell would that work? SF is one thing, but this is pure babbling fantasy. Superboy is an interesting enough character on his own without all this nonsense. It feels like they’re desperate to get to the reveal of his genetic donors and because they’ve written themselves into a corner in other ways they’re throwing this in there so they can still get to it without lots of searching and investigation.

When it comes down to it, a reboot like this is kind of cheating. Sure, you’re starting new stories and can pick and choose what background to maintain, but the characters, no matter how early you start in their story, are still established characters. Most often, they still have a large part of their established environment and friends, you’re just going to make the stories a little different. In fact, this is so expected in a reboot and so much of it does indeed follow this line, that when they introduce new characters, especially new major characters, it is jarring.

It doesn’t really happen in this title, but it seems to happen in a few. Of course if those new characters don’t last long, they don’t really count, they’re a plot device not a character. It’ll be awhile before we can tell who lasts and who doesn’t. For some reason they’ve thrown Rose Wilson (Ravager and Deathstroke’s daughter) into the series. Is she going to end up being a teammate as well? Did they just need another recognizable character in the series? I’m hoping they use her well here.

They seem to be taking a lot of this Superboy’s attitude from the Young Justice cartoon, not the anger so much as the detachment. He’s had no chance to learn how to interact with other intelligent beings and he’s been betrayed frequently in just this first issue. At the close of the first issue, the people who have created him have decided to send him to kill some heroes that have been troubling them, of course, they’re the Teen Titans or Young Justice or whatever group they are calling themselves. We’re likely about to be treated to the oldest superhero team trope of all: Heroes meet, there’s a misunderstanding (or one is lied to about the others), they fight, they realize the mistake (or uncover the lie) and all team up to fight the real bad guys. There’s a place for revisiting the old standards, let’s hope they do something worthwhile with it.

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Resurrection Man #1

I really like this character. I like the idea of an immortal who is immortal in a different way, he dies, but is instantly reborn fully adult. In the character’s origin he took awhile between incarnations, but that time shortened between each instance until today when it is virtually instantaneous.

I like that he has different powers each time he is “reborn” and that he has no idea what those powers will be. It is a neat gimmick that was handled much better than the similar heroes in Dial “H” for Hero where they became full-fledged superheroes with a name they somehow knew and ridiculous, but appropriate costumes. The powers they gained were also often absurd, while the powers of Resurrection Man have been more typical, frequently useless, but never as bad as having candy-based powers the way Dial “H” for Hero once did.

That said, I don’t think I like where this new title is starting out. The first issue suggests that Heaven and Hell are upset that he’s been “reborn” so many times and are aggressively attempting to collect his soul. I’m hoping this turns out to be weird alien groups or criminals who want to duplicate his abilities because any time DC gets into the whole “heaven and hell” thing outside its Vertigo titles, it quickly becomes an unreadable mess.

Sure, Lucifer was one of the best titles DC has had, but it was always its own series, mostly separate from the rest of DC. Nekron, Blaze, Zauriel are all crappy characters, the “Devil” characters being especially heavy handed. Spectre worked well in his own series when he was treated as a horror genre. Blue Devil and Etrigan have worked well mostly because their connection to Hell was tangential and their powers were well defined and limited.

I’d much rather see Resurrection Man as a hero and let them develop interesting stories around his abilities rather than have this whole “heaven and hell” nonsense around him. The Body Doubles, mercenary women who were his adversaries for a time in the old series are back in this one, which gives me hope that it isn’t going to be all mystical mumbo jumbo. They can do interesting things with this kind of character. One of the best things they did with him was in the Year Million event when they had a future him who wore a device on his arm, its purpose was to kill him quickly and repeatedly until he had powers that were appropriate to the immediate problem.

Weird story devices like that are reasons to have this kind of character. Fighting over his “soul” is pretty boring in comparison and is an easy way out, freeing the author from doing anything other than trite crap. They don’t have to go down that road and there’s still plenty of room to avoid it, but I worry that they’ll take the lazy way out.

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Mister Terrific #1

I’m excited that Mister Terrific has got his own series, I think he’s one of the best legacy characters in the DC universe. They frequently use him to introduce some actual science and emphasize the scientific method. They also frequently get some of the details wrong, but I can forgive that, it is usually no worse than is a lot of SF. I love that they show that he is who he is because of his brain, education and willpower. This too, they overdo from time to time, but it is better than the alternative.

They use the issue to establish a solid background and origin for him, but I’m getting a little sick of the use of the character being who he is because the woman in his life died or was killed. There are other motivations in life. I understand that these are established parts of many character’s pasts, but this is a reboot! You can make changes! That’s the whole point of a reboot!

I’m glad they brought Power Girl in with the very first issue. Power Girl was one of the best series pre-reboot and it is a shame they haven’t given her one in the post-Flashpoint universe. There were two creative teams on her book and they both did great jobs, I’m hoping she’ll be a long-term presence in this book, especially as they are teammates in the Justice Society and complement each other well. Of course, I don’t know if the Justice Society exists any more or why it would if there were no golden age, but they’re equals in many ways and have a good friendship. I’d love to see a relationship develop between the two of them.

There’s a little argument between Kara (Power Girl) and Aleeka that feels a little forced, in their words a competition for Michael’s (Mr. Terrific) affection between a “White Girl” and a “Black Woman”. There’s a ton of subtext and blatant statement in this exchange and, while heavy-handed, I’m hoping they won’t shy away from the issues this highlights and that they’ll deal with these issues well.

The writing on this book seems pretty good so far down to the incidental characters in crowd scenes. They’ve brought in a classic golden age villain to fight them and a good one for two characters that are geniuses: Brainwave. I look forward to seeing how all this develops. They manage to get a lot of characters and environment established in just the first issue. So much that parts of Mr. Teriffic’s backstory and the opening fight seem more like filler than anything that really matters.

The art seems a little inconsistent to me throughout the issue, but hopefully this will settle to more consistency and higher quality. It certainly isn’t the worst art in the reboot and is serviceable, but it could be better.

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Red Lanterns #1

I was dubious about an entire title devoted to the Red Lanterns. They’re all about rage, anger and hate and that could become disgusting quickly. So far, however, so good. The initial issue focuses more on how hard it is to control rage, appropriate uses of rage and what generates rage and hate. Like Green Lantern, this is a series that would work best if it concentrates on character development.

The issue begins with my (I like to think everyone’s) favorite Red Lantern: the cat. I hadn’t known his name is Dex-Starr, but I like it. It is a classic Lantern name. The cat’s origin is one of the saddest I’ve ever seen and it creates great sympathy for the character. I’m hoping they continue to focus on and develop the character of the cat, there’s a lot they could do with a non-traditional character like this one.

I could have done without the Butt&Boobs pose from Bleez, but it is fairly ignorable. Most of the first issue is set-up and flashback, but it works well. We get some better detail of Atrocitus’s origin and how the Manhunters destroyed an entire space sector, but they did throw in a little manipulative scene of his family being killed in front of him. His entire world being destroyed should have been enough to explain his motivation, but writers seem almost compelled to go for the cheap tug at the reader’s emotions.

I have the same problem with this issue that I have with Green Lantern. They seem to be completely ignoring the reboot and I have no idea when this is all supposed to take place or how it can possibly fit with the rest of the universe. They show Kronus is still dead and violate his corpse, they talk about the long history that led up to Darkest Night, they’re clearly in a Pre-Flashpoint universe. I’m hoping it becomes clearer within the first 6 months or it’ll be hard to believe it is all part of the same universe. Without it being resolved or explicitly placed in another universe, it’ll be harder to care what happens in these series.

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Green Lantern #1

 This series had the most to lose in the reboot. DC had just spend over a year on Darkest Night and Brightest Day, reshaping the entire Lantern universe, adding new lanterns to the existing Green, Yellow and Violet (Sapphire), changing the viewpoints of the Guardians and exploring the motivations and histories of long-time characters like Sinestro. It seems like they decided to simply ignore the reboot. This series just picks up exactly where the previous storylines had left off, apparently unaffected by Flashpoint.

While Hal has been stripped of his ring, it is clear from the focus of the narrative that that won’t last long. Sinestro as a Green Lantern might. I’m hoping they use this time with Sinestro as a Green to do some character development, if he explores his belief that order outweighs everything else it could be a very interesting series. It could be much more than just more superhero antics and would be a nice way to do something different with the superhero genre.

Carol mentions that she hasn’t used the ring since they returned to Earth and that could be another good exploration. Even if you have such powers, is there real value in using them? Can living a life without powers be as satisfying as one with? Is it something in the individual that makes using powers irresistible? This series has enough characters and enough of a complex back story that there could be some incredible character development and some wonderful explorations of big questions without it feeling forced.

I have no problems with the way the reboot has been handled here, except that it feels like it has just been ignored. It’ll be interesting to see how it is all integrated with the rest of the reboot universe, especially as Justice League #1 has Hal as a new hero, naive and brash while this series has the entire pre-reboot back story. Has this series just been pushed decades into the future? As the entire story in this issue relies on the events of Blackest Night and Brightest Day, I don’t see how it can fit in the same universe as Justice League #1. Maybe it doesn’t! Maybe this has been shunted to one of the other 52 universes. I’d be delighted with that solution.

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Legion Lost #1

Legion Lost is one of the titles I was most looking forward to in the reboot. I’m a huge Legion fan and am very excited that they’ll have two books in this new universe. This book is set in the present day, at some point in the timeline of the rest of the reboots not specifically set in the distant past of future. 7 Legionnaires have come to this era chasing a fugitive and are unable to return to their own time.

They reference “penetrating the Flashpoint Breakwall” early in the issue, but I’m not entirely sure what they mean by it. Are they in the old continuum? Will this series explain somehow why the Golden Age no longer exists when the Flashpoint is so recent? Time travel still exists, which is good, but there is a lot left unexplained by Flashpoint and the Legion would be a good vehicle for helping explain what’s going on.

The team is a strong one and draws from multiple Legion eras: Timber Wolf, Gates, Dawnstar, Wildfire, Tellus, Tyroc and a new Durlan – Yera. The team is stricken with problems immediately upon arrival, Dawnstar is ill from the pollutants of the current era, Yera is ill and has difficulty controlling her powers, Gates is having some kind of trouble controlling his powers as well and the Legion rings no longer work.

They complete their primary mission easily, essentially Timber Wolf runs off on his own and captures the fugitive, Alastor. Alastor had collapsed before Timber Wolf finds him and has released a pathogen into our time, perhaps intentionally, perhaps not. As the Legionnaires try to return to their own time Alastor regains consciousness and attempts to escape. In doing so, he destroys the time bubble and kills Gates and Yera. I don’t believe they’d kill two characters so quickly and expect to find something else has happened to them because of a combination of Gate’s teleportation and trying to move through time.

At the end of the issue, the five “surviving” Legionnaires are stranded in our time and have to deal with the outbreak of the pathogen as well. Alastor has also vanished with Gates and Vera, so at least they won’t have to deal with him. This has the potential for being another good entry in the Legion universe and I’m looking forward to seeing it develop.

Only one of the characters has a major redesign, but it is big enough that I didn’t recognize him until he started to use his powers. I thought he was the second Invisible Kid at first. I like the redesign, one of the few I’ve liked in the reboot.

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Suicide Squad #1

Wow, this comic is a disaster. The idiocy of Harley’s new costume has been widely discussed, but I hadn’t seen it until now and it is worse than I thought it’d be. The hair is fine and could have been a nice touch with much of the old costume, but DC has apparently decided to go toe to toe with Image on ridiculous costumes that try to see how much female skin they can show 20 years too late. I don’t really get why they made this change, Harley had a really good, identifiable, almost iconic costume. It is like they let Rob Liefled become the art director and I can’t think of anyone who would be worse at that job.

There’s also a small re-design of King Shark, a character that had been pretty pointless until Gail Simone got a hold of him in Secret Six. For some reason, they’ve decided to make him a hammerhead shark. I don’t like it, it makes him more fragile or at least fragile-seeming and there’s no point to it.

As far as the “plot” goes, this first issue is little but torture-porn. You’re led to believe that the Suicide Squad’s first mission has gone horribly wrong and they’re all about to be killed after being brutally tortured. Deadshot has rats tearing at his chest, Harley has jumper cables applied to her face, they’re pouring sacks of salt into people’s wounds, covering others in insects, doing all kinds of horrible things to people. Turns out it was all a test to see if any of the villains would say who had sent them, a test done by the government, the very people that are about to send them on a mission. It is implied that Amanda Waller herself is one of the torturers.

Not only is this sick, it is stupid. First, every one of these villains is the type to seek vengeance for this kind of thing, even if it kills them. Second, they give the villains 8 hours rest, put them back in costume, tie them into chairs and dump them out of a plane into their first mission, still bound to their chairs, no briefing, no plan, no idea what to expect, not even a reassurance about how they’ll get to the ground without splatting or how they’ll get out of the chairs. Unless they were lying about the 8 hours, this is about as stupid as it gets, they’ve all just spent time being brutally tortured. Deadshot and El Diablo have had open, ragged wounds in their chests, they’ve all listened to another prisoner, one they thought was one of them screaming for help as he thinks he’s being dragged off to his death. None of them are in any shape to be out of a hospital, much less air-dropped into a mission.

The mission itself gets only a brief description at the end, it is all they’re told of it, as they’re falling from the plane, they hear Amanda Waller tell them they’re being dropped into the “Megadome” in Mississippi and she ends up with “Your mission is to wipe out the entire stadium. Sixty thousand people. You have six hours.” What possibly purpose could this have? Is Amanda Waller a terrorist this time around? How did she get access to the prison system? Not only is this “mission” impossible for the villains sent on this mission even if they were healthy, but it makes no sense.

The teaser for the next issue says “Six vs. sixty thousand! The first squad casualty!” Oh good, the next issue promises to be nothing but an orgy of murder and one of the new characters they’ve thrown in here is nothing but fodder. Apparently this writer has no idea of what to do with this title. These are all cheap stunts with no redeeming value. It is a shame too, I liked previous incarnations of the Suicide Squad, but if this title keeps going like this I won’t just drop it from my pull after issue #2, I’ll be rooting for it to be cancelled.

There’s one other character redesign and I don’t like this one either. They’ve changed Amanda Waller. They’ve made her younger, thin and “sexy”. Her pose in the one panel where she’s shown gives me an idea of why. Someone’s been reading Marvel’s Heroes for Hire and thinks Waller should look more like Misty Knight, the other black woman that sends supers of questionable moral standing out on missions. I liked Waller the way she was: middle aged, experienced, in good shape, but not hero-level, heavy, but not fat and tough as hell. What’s wrong with having a more normal-looking character in comics? The change was probably made by the same moron that changed Harley’s look.

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