Axel-In-Charge: Unmasking the "Totally Awesome Hulk"
Before we jump into 2012, I have one last bit of business to take care of: toting up my 2011 predictions, and offering a set for the new year.
1. The Green Lantern movie. Last year I predicted that GL would be “more lucrative than Captain America, not as much as Thor. It ended up making $116 million domestically ($219 million worldwide), well behind Cap’s $176 million ($368M globally) and Thor’s $181 million ($449M globally). Also, it wasn’t as good. I liked it well enough (and from what I hear I may like the Blu-Ray version more), but apparently I was in the minority.
2. Superman and Wonder Woman after JMS. I just had questions for this entry: will Roberson and Barrows stay on Superman? (No.) Will Diana keep the jacket and pants? (No jacket, pants optional.) Finally, I asked “[w]ill sales improve once ‘Grounded’ ends?” Guess that depends on how you define “ends,” because “Grounded” closed out that Superman series; and the next issue of Superman was a New-52 No. 1 which sold almost 100,000 more copies than its predecessor. We may never know what might have happened to Superman without the New 52, but probably not that.
3. Batman: Earth One. I was looking forward to the next “Earth One” release in 2011, and I’m still looking. [Edited to add: Of course, DC picked this morning, well after I’d finished this post, to preview both Batman: Earth One and Superman: Earth One Volume 2.]
4. All Star Batman/Multiversity/Teen Titans: Games. Last year I had hoped to see all three of these long-delayed projects finally published. However, only Games, started in the late ‘80s and finished over 25 years later, made it across the finish line. Of the remaining two, I suppose we’re most likely to see Multiversity, although its Earth-4 installment may have to compete with an actual Watchmen follow-up.
5. The United Colors of Batman. I was “curious to see what [Batman Incorporated] look[ed] like at the end of 2011,” and now I know: a gigundo $7.99 special issue, a brief appearance from the Batman of Moscow in Batman and Robin, and the ongoing Batwing series. That’s actually not bad for a concept which grew out of Grant Morrison’s conceit that “every Batman story counts,” considering that all those Batman stories must now fit into an arbitrary-seeming five-year history.
6. End of the Archives? Last year I thought the Archives line was being phased out in favor of the hardcover Omnibii, paperback Chronicles, and black-and-white Showcase Presents reprints. Not so fast, my friend — there are more on the way.
7. Reprint floodgates. Were the Sugar & Spike Archives and the Flex Mentallo hardcover (coming in February) really “the first crack in the dam holding back collections of Suicide Squad, Captain Carrot, Secret Society of Super-Villains, and Jonah Hex?” Hmm — kind of. Suicide Squad got one paperback (although the second is at least in limbo) and Secret Society got a Volume 1 hardcover (with Vol. 2 coming in the spring), but still no Captain Carrot or Jonah Hex Volume 2. Still, among semi-obscure ‘70s and ‘80s fare, there was that Firestorm paperback; and collections of I … Vampire! and Night Force are apparently on the way. Good news for the 300 of us on the Internet who care about such things.
8. The changing shape of Events. Last January I thought Flashpoint and the Wonder Woman storyline “Odyssey” contained the seeds of a stealth crossover, and they’d eventually intersect in some kind of big-event way. That didn’t really happen, at least not how I pictured it.
9. The spirit of ‘86. Last year I wanted to see “a behind-the-scenes look at what went into that seminal year,” especially focusing on the revamps of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman supposedly called the “Metropolis Line.” That didn’t happen either, but we did get a whole slew of revamps.
10. DC on TV. I thought things looked good for “Human Target,” “Wonder Woman,” and the proposed “Raven” series. 0-for-3.
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So, for 2012:
1. The Dark Knight Rises. Can it make a skillion dollars? Will it have Robin? Will it have subtitles?
2. The New 52, one year later. The more I think about it, the more I believe the New-52 books will each get at least twelve issues, regardless of sales. If any books are cancelled (and you have to think some of them will be), it’ll be in such a way that DC can claim they “told their stories,” not that readers grew tired of them.
3. The Next 52 (or however many). This is where I mention the promised-but-not-solicited Justice Society series and its Earth-2 setting. More to the point, here DC has a chance to expand the scope of its main line beyond that which made the New 52 a little too familiar. I got into this a little a few weeks back, but that was based on conventional wisdom and a little tea-leaf reading. Maybe a little more originality will work into the next batch of books.
4. Pandora’s playlist. Part of the reason I think the initial New-52 books will all get their twelve issues is this notion that they’re all building to some line-wide event involving the Hooded Woman from the No. 1 issues. DC says to call her Pandora, and she dresses like the Phantom Stranger’s aunt. From her I’m expecting some insight on the fate of the pre-relaunch timeline. Not that I care, of course.
5. More Watchmen. Really, what more is there to say? If the prequel rumors turn out to be true, whatever merits the stories themselves may have will surely be outweighed by the project’s inherent irrelevance. Also, the phrase “naked cash grab” won’t stop popping into my head. Still, there’s time for DC to repurpose the art which has been leaked thus far, and claim it’s all part of some commemorative portfolio. A big part of Watchmen deals with the nature of superhero comics themselves, so naturally it continually risks further exploitation. For characters reworked from their Charlton beginnings, so that DC could subsequently put out Blue Beetle, Captain Atom, The Question, et al., this is somehow ironic, sad, and inevitable, all at once.
6. More multimedia expansion. For various reasons, I haven’t owned a videogame system since my faithful Super Nintendo (almost twenty years ago — yikes!), and haven’t played a game-system kind of game regularly since X-Wing Alliance. Nevertheless, last year I heard nothing but accolades for Batman: Arkham City, which followed the similarly-praised Batman: Arkham Asylum, and which helped cement the Dark Knight’s insertion into another non-comics entertainment area. Although the DC Universe Online game doesn’t seem to have captured the gaming world’s collective heart, it’s still out there too, now free to play. Even if DCUO fades away, surely more Arkham-style games are in development. As for TV, “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” ended its Cartoon Network run, but “Young Justice” and “Green Lantern” will anchor CN’s DC Nation block of … well, a whole lot of different things, perhaps enough to warrant another new show just through the law of averages. Oh, and there have been announcements about new live-action TV series featuring Deadman and The Spectre. I got burned last year on DC’s TV prospects, so I’m not predicting anything about them. One thing’s for sure, though — DC is trying its darnedest to establish footholds in non-comics venues, even if that doesn’t translate into more comics sales.
7. Man of Steel and Green Lantern 2. Carla and I talked about these over the weekend, but I think we’ll learn a lot about the prospects of each by the end of 2012. Specifically, we should know more about whether either of those can replace the Batman (and/or Harry Potter) series as Warner Brothers’ go-to movie franchises. Now, this isn’t quite fair, because there will be another set of Batman movies after Christian Bale takes off his cape. Still, 2013’s Man of Steel is yet another chance for Warners to prove that Superman can be successful without either Christopher Reeve or the particular charms of “Smallville.” From what I have seen, I am hopeful but not optimistic. In fact, if the animated GL series does well enough, it could boost the chances of a live-action sequel, and it’s easier to replace a Green Lantern than it is a Superman.
8. Market share. December’s sales numbers show Marvel reclaiming the largest share of the Direct Market, after four months of coming in second to DC’s superhero titles. This doesn’t shock me, because Marvel just publishes more titles than DC does, and as the initial enthusiasm for the New-52 fades, the numbers tend not to be in DC’s favor. Still, now that DC has had a taste of the top spot, I wonder whether the publisher will start chasing it. Maybe it has started already.
9. Digital effects. Barring some unforeseen collapse, 2012 should provide a year’s worth of insight into DC’s day-and-date digital sales. Whether DC decides to share that with the public at large is another matter. If nothing else, though, digital sales help enforce a stricter shipping schedule for the print books. That could mean more changes in creative teams, whether temporary or permanent, but it could also help foster some every-Wednesday comics-shop habits in those coveted new readers. Of course, digital comics don’t need to conform to standard pamphlet lengths, and if DC decides to offer more digital-only (or at least digital-first) stories, it might open up new avenues for both readers and creators.
And that brings us to …
10. A return to storytelling. I have complained to various degrees about the problems the New-52 relaunch created for us longtime fans. I have also tried hard to be understanding, and to embrace the spirit of freedom and creativity a relaunch encourages. Accordingly, to the extent the New-52 books haven’t themselves embraced that spirit, I’ve been disappointed. If you have the chance to do what you want, you probably need to justify why you do the same old things. Here’s hoping that in 2012, the superhero line uses its still-new freedom wisely, as books like Animal Man, Wonder Woman, Swamp Thing, and Batwoman have, and that it cultivates an atmosphere of experimentation. If the DC of 2012 is built on solid fundamentals and good comics, that’ll be the best news I get all year.