Robot 6

Grumpy Old Fan | Multiverses and Marvels

All-Star Squadron #36, one of many issues Roy Thomas was destined to write

This is going to be another “we liked it the old way” type of post. I take no particular pleasure in these, because there are only so many ways to rail against change, especially changes involving decades-old characters and concepts.

Nevertheless, the latest charges of Crimes Against Tradition are against the new Earth 2 and “Shazam!” features. The original Earth-Two came to represent generations of superheroes active since the late 1930s, but the current one is apparently “five years of supers, give or take”; and the new don’t-say-the-M-word “Shazam” is apparently also something called the Third Sinner. So yes, DC, I try to be open-minded, I will give these things reasonable chances to win me over, and no one has destroyed my treasured old comics — but wow, you don’t make it easy.

Therefore, today I want to look at why the old versions might still matter, but just as importantly why they still matter to fogeys like me.

* * *

There are a few different ways to approach the idea of “Earth-Two,” and it’s worth a little history lesson to get into them. Originally, of course, there was no Earth-Two per se — there were just the superheroes published by affiliated companies which eventually came together as the DC we know today. Indeed, the foundations of DC’s shared universe were laid in no small part by the Justice Society stories in All Star Comics. It’s somewhat ironic, then, that when most of the Justice Society’s characters went away in the early 1950s, they took most of those shared adventures with them — because the characters which survived were already doing pretty well on their own. The collective staying power of Superman, Batman and Robin, and Wonder Woman made them pop-culture icons and cemented their places at the core of DC’s superhero lineup. In 1960, when the JSA was revamped as Justice League of America, the future “Trinity” was front and center. As for their old colleagues, though, the early ‘50s represented the first time the Golden Agers went away.

A year after the Justice League’s debut, “Flash of Two Worlds” formally introduced Earth-Two both as a repository for all those Golden Age characters and stories, and as a clear adjunct to the main line of superhero books. The Golden Agers weren’t really going concerns anymore, they were supporting characters relegated to living essentially in a storytelling device. Eventually, in the 1970s and ‘80s, there were regular series set on Earth-Two, but those characters never took back the spotlight from their successors.

Accordingly, the first way to think about Earth-Two is simply as that repository for Golden Age stories. There are some nitpicky problems with this, but for the most part it’s pretty easy to say that if a DC superhero story was published between 1935 and 1951, it happened that way at that time on Earth-Two. From that premise, fans and pros alike could extrapolate the future of those characters, and thereby create a timeline significantly different from the Silver/Bronze Age of Earth-One. That’s the second way to look at Earth-Two: as an alternate timeline where the Golden Agers grew old, married, had children, and in some cases, died.

Therefore, from 1961 to 1985, Earth-Two grew into a unique environment, both dependent on and separate from the Golden Age comics in which it was rooted. It was a way for DC to honor its origins while keeping its most familiar characters young (i.e., through their Earth-One counterparts). However, at the end of Crisis On Infinite Earths, Earth-Two was folded into the surviving single DC-Earth, and its course was altered irrevocably. The new DC-Earth inherited those Golden Age beginnings, and with them the idea of explicit “legacies.” Those legacies became the third way to perpetuate (the now-former) Earth-Two.

The idea of legacies informed DC’s superhero line for over twenty-five years, from the end of COIE in 1985 through the end of the old DC Universe last August. Books like Starman, Flash, Green Lantern, and Hourman explored the concept, as did miniseries like Kingdom Come and DC One Million. In this context, the JSA was relaunched as a multigenerational team, with a core of original members (Flash, Green Lantern, Wildcat, and Queen Hippolyta’s Wonder Woman — don’t ask) and a host of legacies (Black Canary, Doctor Mid-Nite, Starman, Doctor Fate, J.J. Thunder, etc.). JSA and its successor Justice Society of America ran from 1999 through last August, and inspired a couple of spinoffs (JSA Classified and the short-lived JSA All-Stars); and while it lost a lot of steam once Geoff Johns left, a lot of fans got to know the JSA as a big extended family, meaningfully distinct from the Justice League. Put another way, the JSA finally had a reason to exist which a) incorporated its Golden Age history and b) didn’t rely on being another Earth’s version of the JLA.

Meanwhile, though, the final issue of 52 (published in the spring of 2007) introduced a new-but-familiar Multiverse, composed of 52 parallel universes and including an Earth-2 which looked a lot like the pre-COIE one. In theory it was (almost literally) the best of both worlds — an “intact” Golden Age, as updated for the ‘70s and ‘80s, and brought further into the 21st Century. It also made its Justice Society another version of the Justice League, but that was beside the point. It didn’t need to justify its existence alongside the JLA, because once again it was at the top of the org chart.

While this Earth-2 got some play in Johns’ Justice Society, if it’s the same one we’re about to explore, it has probably gone through some changes since August. Now its characters — even the Golden Agers — all look fairly young, and the timeline seems to have been compressed radically. Still, there are legacies, specifically Superman/Power Girl and Batman/Huntress. It’s all superficially similar to the old Earth-Two, just without the sense that these characters go back decades.

In isolation that doesn’t sound like much of a problem, but it forces you to consider what’s so special about these characters apart from their history. Jay Garrick was a college student who dozed off during a late-night lab session and ended up a superhero. Alan Scott was an engineer who found a magic lantern and ring. Ted Knight was a physicist, Ted Grant a boxer, Kent Nelson an archaeologist’s son. As for the true alternates, their choices distinguished them: Bruce Wayne fought crime for a dozen years, then felt comfortable enough with his life to marry one of his old enemies; and Clark Kent lived for a year never realizing he’d been Superman, along the way also marrying his true love. Those details are crucial to those characters remaining vital, but at the same time those details are tied pretty strongly to their original era. Since 1986, DC has tried to find ways around that conundrum, even retiring the JSA a couple of times — and now it looks like the characters will be revamped free of that history.

This time, though, the problem is that if they’re just another alternate Justice League, they now have to compete with a revamped Justice League which itself is emblematic of the changes wrought upon the New-52-verse. With so much newness, it would have been nice for Earth 2 to go full-on retro, as both an alternative to the regular DC-Earth and a callback to Earth-That-Was. Instead, it looks like we’re getting New, But Different. (Or Different, But New — take your pick.)

* * *

Like the Golden Agers, Fawcett’s Marvel Family (and related characters) found themselves waking up in the 1970s as residents of an Earth which existed in relation to DC’s main Earth-One. This time it was Earth-S (for Shazam!, naturally), and Billy Batson and everyone he knew had been trapped agelessly in “Suspendium” for some twenty years, pretty much since their final Fawcett Comics issues had hit newsstands in the early ‘50s. They “went to sleep” in 1954 and woke up in 1973, their Fawcett history preserved and their DC adventures ready to begin.

However, as with Earth-Two, COIE’s merging necessitated a relaunch. 1987′s Shazam! A New Beginning (written by Roy Thomas, drawn by Tom Mandrake) kept the basic details, but eliminated a lot of the whimsy and wasn’t particularly influential. More faithful was Jerry Ordway’s 1994 graphic novel The Power Of Shazam!, which led into four years’ worth of an ongoing series. Nevertheless, subsequent Marvel treatments had Mary Marvel go dark-‘n’- slutty and Captain Marvel Jr. promoted to headliner and renamed Shazam. Now, it seems, we’re back to Billy Batson as the main figure, this time called Shazam and sporting a slightly-redesigned costume.

That’s a quick and dirty summary, but a couple of non-DC events bear upon Captain Marvel’s development. First is the whole “Marvel” problem, created when Marvel trademarked the name for its Kree warrior, which prevents DC from using “Captain Marvel” in a book’s title. Almost forty years of relying on “Shazam!” seem to have convinced DC it’s not worth emphasizing the distinction between exclamation and name.

Second is Alan Moore’s revamp of Marvelman, Cap’s British counterpart, in the early ‘80s. Moore postulated that young Mickey Moran actually switched places with his superheroic counterpart, such that the inactive partner “hibernated” in another dimension until called for. Among other things, this meant that Mickey would only get older and more feeble, while Marvelman was functionally immortal; and, conversely, that Kid Marvelman could spend twenty-odd years growing more powerful (and more diabolical) while Mickey forgot he had ever been a superhero. Under Moore (and artists Garry Leach and Alan Davis), Marvelman became one of the seminal “deconstructionist” books of the 1980s. Brought to the U.S. by Eclipse Comics and renamed Miracleman (again, thanks to Marvel), it soon joined Swamp Thing and Watchmen in cementing Moore’s considerable influence on superhero storytelling. As a take on the Marvel Family mythology, Miracleman was about as dark and “realistic” as anyone would ever want. It featured the birth (every bit of it) of Miracleman’s daughter (issue #9), the depraved exploitation of Miraclewoman by the series’ arch-villain (issue #12), the apocalyptic destruction of London by Kid Miracleman (featuring the Thames choked with corpses, #15), and the ultimate ascension of Miracleman and his allies as the Earth’s new gods (#16). However, legal battles over the rights to the character have kept Miracleman out of print for decades, which may be why it hasn’t been particularly influential on its inspiration.

Or, you know, it could just be that DC never got the itch to age Billy Batson, marry him off, have Captain Marvel impregnate his wife, and then have Cap break Freddy Freeman’s neck after Cap Jr. killed millions in a murderous super-powered rampage. (Moore did have some disturbing things in mind for Cap in his Twilight of the Superheroes proposal, though….) Next to Miracleman, DC’s various relaunches look rather tame.

Still, that’s not the fairest of comparisons, either. DC’s more recent treatment of the Marvel Family is constantly at odds with the characters’ historical portrayals mainly because DC has had to reconcile their lighthearted setup with a world which includes the likes of Lex Luthor and the Joker. Indeed, even in the current 52-Earth Multiverse (where Earth-S has become Earth-5), Cap himself has been recast as the Superman of his parallel universe. By implication, then, the Cap of Earth-DC must justify his existence in relation to Superman, just as the JSA had to distinguish itself from the Justice League.

This is a big part of my argument that Cap and the other Marvels should get their own Earth, like they had in the old Multiverse days: because then they could play by their own rules without having to make such justifications. Having a parallel Earth isn’t merely a license to sow carnage, it’s an opportunity to present different storytelling styles and tones. Sean Kleefeld argues perceptively that DC has aimed the new Shazam at its core Direct-Market audience — or, perhaps more accurately, at the audience DC perceives is its most loyal — but again I have to ask why the company’s focus is so narrow? “Shazam!” will run in one of DC’s highest-profile books, so I doubt seriously that anyone would drop Justice League on the odd chance that Hoppy the Marvel Bunny might show up.

Now, it may well be the case that this particular version of Captain Marvel is so different because DC is waiting on Grant Morrison to finish the Multiversity miniseries, in which Cap is supposed to feature prominently. DC may also want to relaunch the traditional Cap as an all-ages book, picking up where the Jeff Smith Monster Society miniseries and its follow-up (Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam!) left off. I have no idea what sorts of marketing moves DC could be planning.

What I see, though, are two examples of DC trying to fit a couple of familiar, fan-tested concepts into the New-52 aesthetic, apparently at the expense of what initially made them popular. Earth-Two and the Justice Society appeal naturally to longtime fans, and maybe to a lesser degree to curious readers eager to dive into a venerable, complex setting. The Marvel Family is about as reader-friendly a superhero concept as you’ll see — say a magic word and become the World’s Mightiest Mortal — so why complicate either of those things with cryptic hints about dark developments? To gin up interest in fans who’ll either be indifferent or hostile? Why not instead carve out a couple of spaces for doing things the old way? If it works, fine; if it doesn’t … well, these wouldn’t be the first New-52 books cancelled.

Look, I know there’s a good chance that “retro” simply doesn’t have the appeal I hope it does. There’s a part of any fan who sees the market’s rejection of a particular work as the failure of its patron to present it properly. What frustrates me is DC’s apparent refusal to try. The Multiverse gives DC dozens of options to do all manner of different setups, and I credit the New-52 for books like All-Star Western, Men Of War, and Demon Knights. I just wish it would do more.

++++++++++++++++++++

CREATOR CREDITS

Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created Superman. William Moulton Marston created Wonder Woman and a version of Queen Hippolyta, and John Byrne retroactively made Hippolyta the Golden Age Wonder Woman.

Batman was created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger. Robin was created by Kane, Finger, and Jerry Robinson. Finger also created Wildcat and, with Martin Nodell, co-created the Green Lantern (Alan Scott).

Gardner Fox co-created a number of Golden Age characters, including the Flash (Jay Garrick), with Harry Lampert; Hawkman (Carter Hall), with Dennis Neville; Starman (Ted Knight), with Jack Burnley; and Doctor Fate (Kent Nelson), with Howard Sherman.

The Black Canary (Dinah Drake Lance) was created by Bob Kanigher and Carmine Infantino. Doctor Mid-Nite (Charles McNider) was created by Charles Reizenstein and Stanley Josephs Aschmeir, and the third Dr. M-N (Pieter Cross) first appeared in an eponymous miniseries by Matt Wagner and John K. Snyder III. The seventh Starman (Jack Knight) was created by James Robinson and Tony Harris. J.J. Thunder was created by Grant Morrison and was based on Johnny Thunder and his Thunderbolt, who were created by John B. Wentworth and Stan Aschmeier. The android Hourman was created by Morrison and Howard Porter and was based on Hourman (Rex Tyler), who was created by Ken Fitch and Bernard Bailey. Power Girl was created by Gerry Conway, Ric Estrada, and Wally Wood. The Huntress (Helena Wayne) was created by Paul Levitz and Joe Staton.

C.C. Beck created Captain Marvel and the wizard Shazam. Captain Marvel Jr. was created by Beck, France Herron, and Mac Raboy. Mary Marvel was created by Otto Binder, Marc Swayze, and Mac Raboy.

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Comments

44 Comments

Jake Earlewine

March 8, 2012 at 3:58 pm

Tom, you wrote “In 1960, when the JSA was revamped as Justice League of America, the future “Trinity” was front and center.” I thought the original JLA was Aquaman, Martian Manhunter, Green Lantern, Flash, and Wonder Woman — and that Batman and Superman weren’t members until years later. Like issue #19 (1963) or later? Other than that, I agree wholeheartedly with everything you wrote.

DC is (unwittingly?) prejudiced against diversity. Instead of making Captain Marvel different from Superman — with a different audience, a different intended age group — they force him into the same DC Universe with all the other heroes. It’s like all their superheroes have to fit in the same pidgeon-hole. Instead of focusing on what makes the JSA special, DC appear to be making them merely a different flavor of the JLA.

DC seems to relish ignoring the what makes Captain Marvel unique (the childlike sense of wonder) and what makes the Justice Society and Earth-2 unique (it’s history). Instead of capitalizing on their differences, DC makes them more like their other “properties”.

That’s what shoe salesmen do.

Jake Earlewine

March 8, 2012 at 4:00 pm

“That’s what shoe salesmen do” refers to squeezing them all into the same size box. (excuse my poor editing)

John O'Connor

March 8, 2012 at 4:32 pm

Thanks Grumpy, Your post is absolutely spot-on. I’m glad I’m old enough to have read much of the above as reprints in the old 100 Page Super Spectaculars. Growing up reading these characters that I loved gave me a sense of history and it breaks my heart to see it all thrown away by DC themselves. This generation of comic fans don’t have any sense of history or a sense of anything, all they want is pretty pictures drawn by Jim Lee or the latest “hot” artist around a see-through piss poor story and they call it “awesome”. They don’t even know they’re alive.

RegularSyzedMike

March 8, 2012 at 4:35 pm

What’s funny is that in another generation there’ll be a grumpy old fan complaining about the changes made to his favorite characters in his favorite space comics. “What happened to Superman’s signature collar and Shazam’s gritty and angst-ridden nature that I grew up with?!”

Just kidding, there probably won’t be!

“This generation of comic fans don’t have any sense of history or a sense of anything…They don’t even know they’re alive.”

Wow, John. That’s quite a leap, to damn a generation like you have based on perceived taste in comics. Note to self, the key to self-actualization is apparently to maintain a death-grip on lost childhood. It’s a shame mine was SO EMPTY AND MEANINGLESS.

michael mah'moud

March 8, 2012 at 6:43 pm

to Jake Earlewine. Superman and Batman were members since JLA’S First appearance its only that since their were the best selling comics they were busy on other missions to help.

Totally agree.

I still don’t want to judge Earth 2 until I’ve read it, but it certainly does seem like DC is wasting a golden (get it?!) opportunity here to create a little oasis for the fans who are missing the sense of history that was lost in the reboot. I still tentatively trust Robinson to do something interesting with it, but the de-aging of Jay is testing that.

And the bit about DC having a narrow focus in aiming Shazam at their most loyal fans made me laugh, because it seems like that’s all they do anymore. Nearly every major thing they’ve done in their mainline comics for the last 7 years (New 52 included) has been insular and takes for granted some knowledge of / affection for these characters. That’s why I believe the reboot got fewer “new” fans for DC than it did curious relapsed fans who saw it as a good jumping on point.

In the meantime millions of people are seeing the pre-reboot versions of these characters in cereal box giveawy comics, toys at Sonic and on department store shelves, and the DC Nation block on Cartoon Network. If DC truly cared about expanding out their comics fanbase, they’d be coordinating the comic shop world with the rest of the world. Instead, they seem content to get a larger portion of the relatively tiny comic buyer market.

And if DC were truly committed to “Rebuild from the ground up” (their current motto reads), they would have actually, truly thrown everything out and started over, instead of giving us this half-assed version. You called it “new, but different” or “different, but new”, I call it “the same, but different enough to piss you off” or “different, but the same enough to piss you off.”

@John O’Connor

Don’t generalize too much there. I was 13-14 when Jim Lee first started on Uncanny, and his work blew my teenage mind. That was 20+ years ago, so I’ve had a lot of time to expand my appreciation of history. I’m no happier about the reboot than you seem to be (and I gave up on Justice League after #3).

@Jake,

As Michael already mentioned, while Superman and Batman weren’t as prominent as some of the other members of the JLA in the early issues, partly because their respective editors were trying to avoid having them become over-exposed, they were still very much part of the League and still made appearances in the JLA title from their very first appearance back in Brave & The Bold.

See, I have recently felt that with a Neil Gaiman type writer behind it and a push into OGNs if they expanded the “magic” world of Shazam, they could potentially grab some of the Harry Potter/YA reader crowd.

I was fully expecting the Marvel family to get their own earth when the relaunch was first announced. It’s disappointing to see that they’re still trying to shoe-horn them into the main DCU earth once more. Still, once Multiversity finally hits, we’re supposed to see more of the Earth 5 Cap, so maybe it won’t be so bad. I just feel like a big misstep was taken here by not focusing on the Marvels on their own earth.

I’m looking forward to Earth 2, but some things about the way the series is being presented do stick in my craw. (I’m young, but not too young to have a craw!) The Trinity-focused advertising is the major one. I don’t this to be just another version of the Justice League; while I love the idea of having the Earth 2 versions of the Trinity on the team, they should not be the focus. I’m hoping all the trinity-centric stuff is just the way they’re advertising to get more readers interested, and that the series will not focus on them at the expense of everything else. There is a lot of potential for a truly great series here, and I’m really hoping they don’t squander it.
As for the other Earth 2-based book, World’s Finest, I have no reservations. Love the concept, and the thought of Kevin Maguire and George Perez trading off on art duties on ANY book is enough to make me salivate.

I’ve gotta say I agree with you hear. Stripping these properties of what made them special to longtime readers in order to make them fit the company vision of what sales will only set DC up for an L in the long run. If you’re going to bring back the Multiverse than go with and give Captain Marvel his own universe. With it becoming increasingly difficult to grow future readers via all ages books why the bloody hell would you isolate that coveted audience by turning the ultimate, relatable wish fulfillment character into another needlessly “serious”, gritty one? When everybody’s Han Solo, nobody’s Han Solo, folk. DC still making the same mistake of trying to fit square pegs into round holes. Sometimes I truly think that in their heart of hearts they believe that what made works like Watchmen/Dark Knight Returns/Swamp Thing/Marvel/Miracleman/Captain Britain/etc. success is their “serious, adult” aesthetic and not the subtext and thought provoking deconstructionism. I love gritty, dark books but when the majority of your line is singing the same toon I just stop listening because nothing stands out. I love the Dark line of DC books, if I can’t get these characters @ Vertigo then hell, this is certainly the next best thing. But come on, even Frankenstein: AOS/Demon Knights are fun, lighthearted even. Stories that need to be serious and dark (for lack of a better word) I’m all for being so, but making most characters like that breaks them. I know we don’t know much about the new Captain Marvel, but from what I’ve seen It just conjures up all my worst memories from Countdown. It’s like DC both loves and hates its rich history. It always once to throw it out there but also has a neurotic need to justify it by proving that it really wasn’t silly at all. I.E. Dr Light was a rapist and was unethically brainwashed into being a buffoon. Mr. Mind is a very serious, very adult demonic, batworm monster and plenty other examples.

I realized that I railed on the SHAZAM thing for most of this post. So as far as Earth 2 goes I’ll say this. Shade has shown me that when he wants and when he’s passionate about something, he’s as good as he’s ever been. I’ll give it a chance, but not having these characters rooted in their original premise is going to be a hard sale. Having Nicola Scott on board makes things a bit more appealing to me.

Jake Earlewine

March 9, 2012 at 7:08 am

@Michael and Jase,

Tom wrote that when the JLA was formed, the “trinity” of Batman/Superman/Wonder Woman was “front and center”. You both are confusing their few tiny cameo appearances as being “front and center”. But cameos don’t count. Tell me when Batman and Superman actually began participating in JLA stories. (When Liebowitz told Schwartz it was okay to use Superman — that Weisinger didn’t own him)

I’m sure it wasn’t until years after the JLA was first published.

I don’t know exactly when their respective editors loosened the reins for Bats and Supes appearance, but Batman became extremely front and center when the TV show started. You can mark the time of Bat-Mania simply from the covers of JLA from 1966 to late1967, which is also when sound effects began appearing with regularity on the covers. BAM!

That includes the awful first adult-Earth-2 Robin costume, which looked just like Batman’s except for the mask and collar/cape.

Also — I agree. I thought that Earth 2/Worlds’ Finest might be my first New 52 purchases. But the more I read/see about them, the less inclined i am for that to be the case.

I might, however, sample them digitally, when the price drops a month after relase. Depending on reviews.

But channelling “Young Justice”‘s Robin, I’m “whelmed.”

Never a big Shaaam fan, but not giving them their own Earth with their own, less serious approach seems like a mistake as well.

I think this hits one of the few problems with any re-launch of a character, or line, that arise all too often. This “One-Size-Fits-All” mentally that makes what works for character A must also work for character B. This happened Post-Crisis, (e.g: Shazam, Young All-Stars, Hawkworld to name a few) and maybe a trap DC could fall into again with both Earth-Two & Curse of Shazam.
I do understand that if the re-boot works once, it seems like it can work again, but that is not always the case. Re-Booting Earth-Two I don’t see as much a problem as much as the letdown it has given a small group of fans that had their hopes dashed by news of the de-aging of it’s Golden-Age heroes.
My one hope is that DC has bigger plans for the new DC Multiverse then we know yet. We do know that even if the new 52 Shazam falls flat, we will still have Multiversity down the line with a more traditional approach to Captain Marvel. The question is, can we expect the same treatment for the Golden-Age heroes down the line as well?

What DC editorial doesn’t seem to get is that the concept of canon is very important to fans, and every time they do large reboots that invalidate mass chunks of canon, it is perceived as a slap in the face to long-time fans. You don’t have to throw the baby out with the bathwater every few years to attract new readers, there’s ways to do that without firing up the proverbial time machine and altering history to suit the current crop of creators. They’ve established a track record that even if you do latch onto some thing you really enjoy, it doesn’t pay to get to comfortable with it, because it’ll change as soon as sales start to droop or some ‘hot’ writer decides to convince editorial they know better and can rewrite history.

How long is the New 52 really going to last before they toss it, if they don’t already have plans in the works to do that? I find it highly skeptical to believe there’s some grand master plan in the works, it seems more realistic to think there’s contigencies to jam a thumb on the reset button yet again if the New 52 starts to sag or flop.

That’s why Marvel continually has an edge on them, because their take on continuity is that every story counts toward building this fictional reality that you’re investing in as a fan. There are tweaks and fixes, sure, but nothing on a mass wipe-the-slate-clean scale, and the fans respond to that. That’s part of the draw for a shared universe and continuty in the first place, the idea that things happen to these characters and the ramifications carry forward.

In a business sense, that take works, too, because not mucking with canon can create demand for reprints of older material that have some ‘value’ beyond either simple nostalgia, or collectors looking to get material from a specific writer or artist without digging through back issue bins. With Marvel, trades of older material are essentially history books, representing stories that have influenced or dictated what’s currently going on in the monthly books.

With DC, depending on whatever the current take on their continuity is, trades are more nostalgia than anything, and possibly even a reminder that older takes on these characters were more fun or better handled in the past. I think they mistake the fact that there have been multiple successful interpetations of the DCU in other media – the various animated series, films, and Smallville – so it’s okay to treat the comics with that ‘it only needs to work for a certain time’ mentality. Just because Chris Nolan did a fantastic job in rebooting the Batman films doesn’t mean every new creative team should get to undo everything the previous teams did in the actual comics.

Jake Earlewine

March 9, 2012 at 1:48 pm

Wow, Mike Leonard, that was heavy thinking — and expressed well! Your explanation now helps me understand why DC is so careless in throwing away their continuity.

But DC! Every good businessman knows it’s easier and more profitable to hold on to your existing customers than it is to hook new ones. DC shot themselves in the foot with this reboot — they just don’t know it yet. They’ve lost many of the customers that supported them the last few decades (they’ve lost approximately $1500 a year from me alone).

And they did it for short term sales. Their sales are high now, sure! — but how many of these present buyers are going to be around when the series hit issue 20? Does DC believe the customers that are buying their current comic books will be hooked for life, like my generation was? That these “new” or “younger” customers are going to support them for the next few decades? Or is the plan to reboot every few years in attempt to hook a new generation? Is there any longterm plan at all?

Thinking about this change (and some of the storytelling choices over at Marvel) and I have come to realize that all of us seem to cherish the comic books we encountered when we were “12″ (give or take).

Some of us do grow beyond those boundaries and enjoy stuff from a previous or later run . (I love the Golden Age Batman and Grant Morrison’s Xmen even though neither were encountered in that “sweet spot”.)

Nevertheless,

Then it hit me that Image is celebrating 20 years, and so the majority of the creators were forming their comic book aesthetics at that time (or were beginning their careers…Jim Lee) .

Also the 90s saw incredible sales, so when the creators want to craft stories that reflect that era they can say to the suits “Look how well the books sold back then”, and so the elements are all there for the”grim,gritty,sexy and violent” tone of the new 52.

(I am not against this in little bits. But it does seems that we have 52 books almost all with the same flavor)

I will try to word this delicately–try. I think there is a pretty large divide in the fan-base, clearly. I am 33, started reading DC as a child, picked up from ages 8-15 and then again when I was in my late 20′s with a big lapse in between. I enjoy wading through the Golden Age and Silver Age for Canon, but I do not see “canon” as permanent. Canon shifts and changes for all bodies of literature. I have never been hung up on DC history because I think it , more often than not, gets in the way of telling a story. At the same time, some of my favourite superhero comics are the ones that find something in canon and play with it.

I get why you would be pissed if you were a long time fan–all that reading feels lost in some way. The trouble is, the fan who is pissed is probably older than me (over 33) and is hardly a “new” reader. Older fans won’t be around forever, there has to be a generational shift at some point, otherwise our beloved stories will begin to resemble religious dogma.

What I find interesting is how the arguments have changed.

Pre-New 52 there was a lot of talk about how superhero publishers only ever do the same old thing and nothing changes, that they should try and get new readers instead of pandering to nostalgia and long continuity the older fans want if the industry wants to survive.

Post-New 52, older fans whant their old universe back and resent any attempt at newer fans coming on board if it changes the the things they grew up with.

Of course, not everyone argued that way and I way over-simplified it, but I have noticed the shift in tone.

Anyway, I guess it doesn’t matter, today’s newer fans will be tomorow’s older fans and they will in turn long for the days of the new 52 instead of whatever relaunch DC does in the future however many years from now.

I guess my brain just works differently but I don’t see a problem with a reboot so much. DCNU is a way to update characters to a modern setting that allows for new and unique stories. I’ve been collecting for over 30 years and have some very fond memories of stories I’ve read but those stories still exist and I remember them. These new books just have so much potential and I’m more excited about comics than I have been in years. DC has reinvigorated themselves in the market regardless of the belly-aching of “long-time” fans. I don’t see DC’s lack of competitive edge with Marvel being because of continuity so much as telling stories that today’s market wants to buy. So I hope once things have levelled out, that DC is more capable of sharing the top spots with Marvel because DC has always been my preference, unless it’s Alan Davis on Excalibur.

And yeah, the silliness of the old Captain Marvel and Tawky Tawny and crap like that does not appeal to me. Comics are fully capable of having humor without being childish. It didn’t appeal to me when I was 10 and it certainly doesn’t now. So if I’m an old guy enjoying (what many consider to be) a childish medium like comics and super-heroes, then yes, I would like them to be somewhat serious and not campy.

@Matt

Did I strike a nerve? Good. It means you’re alive at least.

Not only are some of this generation lacking a sense of history, they’re also lacking a sense of good manners, and your reply to me proves that. First you quote my words, so as to throw them back at me. Then you stick in a sarcastic insult about a lost childhood. Finally, you SHOUT AT ME LIKE THIS TO GET YOUR POINT ACROSS! Now that’s weak. You’ve lost your argument before you even start.

I strongly advise to you that you DO keep a death grip on your childhood and the memories that go with it, because, when you hit your forties or older, and I hope that you do, and if DC and Marvel keep going the way they are, the only place that you or your children are likely to find comics won’t be at your local comic book store or on digital. It’ll be in a museum. Then you’ll be glad of those memories and the history that goes with them.

And if you still don’t like what I’m saying, tough.

@Paul Allen

I dropped Justice League after #6. Believe me, you didn’t miss anything.

They are just comics. Lighten up.

Yeah, youve gotta wonder whats the point. the images of jay garrett in modern designs that reference aspects of the WWII designs a) don’t make sense if he’s active for 5 years b) don’t makes sense in terms of differentation. Why bother with Jay garrett if he is not golden age.

Its almost like Didio belligerently stated “5 years” and now needs to erase anything in any property that contradicts this.

whats strange is that in Aquaman a new history of heroes is being created with new characters. and its by Johns. Now johns was the one who wrote a secret history of heroes in Smallville that introduced a JSA concept into that world which then inspired Superman/Clark.
They could have just done that – even if it was just garrett/flash, Lantern and dr Fate who were shut down by the govenmrnt (or even stormwatch) – then they would not be screwing up what makes these characters interesting… at least not quite so much.

The mystery of Pandora is not why or how she compressed three universes, its why does that act mean that everythuing happend in 5 years despite the constant inconsitencies and flaws it creates.

I almost hate to admit it, but I LOVE all this “New 52″ crap DC i shoving down our throats!
I know it was completely unnecessary or unwarranted at the time, but it rocks nonetheless. i grew up with the mulitverse and by Zeus, I miss it!

I was curious about Earth 2 and the Power Girl/Huntress Worlds’ Finest. I expected there to be changes to how that world worked, but I naively thought, “here’s where they’ll do stories with old characters that maybe have a lighter feel than what the New 52 seems to have.” Really, I expected changes, I expected the timeline to start later than WWII, and I was okay with that.

But instead of using the term “Earth 2″ in any way close to its historical usage, they’ve decided that it will be an even *darker* earth, will have all young heroes and have none of the charm or nostalgia the older Earth 2 was all about.

In short, they’re using old titles with absolutely no nod to what made the titles exciting to a couple of generations.

In so many ways, this simply doesn’t matter to me. I haven’t followed a comics series in nearly a decade, other than picking up a tpb now and then. I still have great feeling for many of the characters and so I keep up with them via websites like this, but I long ago decided I was no longer in the target market and I was no longer reading about the characters I cared about. Fine, there’s endless amounts of literature out there that needs to be read. I’m not lacking for reading material.

But this was a concept I was actually sort of interested in. The return of a Helena Wayne Huntress got me excited. I began to think, yeah, I could maybe follow two series again, revisit old childhood friends.

But nothing about this looks anything like those friends. So my comics series abstinence will continue a bit longer.

I could say something rueful like, “DC could have had an older reader return but they blew it!” But they simply don’t need me. They seem to be doing okay doing what they’re doing. I’m doing okay, too.

-Neil

Robert A. Heinlein used to say something to the effect ‘If a fan likes what I write, he’ll spend his beer money on my stories. When he stops liking what I write, he’ll go back to buying beer.’

The only money DC gets from me right now is on Showcase Presents trades of 60s and 70s stories in black and white. I stopped buying roughly 10 titles a month from them. When they stop publishing them, bye bye DC.

Not wanting my local comic book shoppe guy to lose too much money, I’ve been buying back issue reading copies of the numerous 60s/70s/80s DCs I sold years ago.

On the flip side, Dynamite has been publishing some pretty good Edgar Rice Burroughs-based John Carter, Warlord of Mars, Dejah Thoris of Mars, and Kevin Smith’s Bionic Man lately.

Was it true, that I heard DC mucky-muck got glitter sprinkled all over him in a form of JSA protest?

Grem-

How many of these nuDC comics are going to last until issue 30?

Is anybody taking bets on when the next reboot will be?

Now that they have been written out of continuity, are DC archives and other collected editions from DC’s glorious past beginning to take a nosedive in sales yet?

I tend to agree with the sentiments here; What is the point of the multiverse if you’re just going to do “more of the same.” I swear, this is like 90s Image all over again. A bunch of slick, casual heroes each trying to outdo each other to be more socially inept and brooding.

I also tend to agree that DC is half-assing its reboot. They either needed to cut all ties and start fresh or they needed to not do it at all. What we have now is a tangled mess of continuity that makes no sense amongst the CURRENT books, much less taking the history (“As far as I’m concerned, it ALL still happened, indeed) into account. They should not be involving any multiversal happenings at all until they straighten out what they have.

As far as Earth-2 and World’s Finest … I’ll give it a few issues, but I suspect it will not be to my liking. I was hoping for Golden-Age (or at least modern-age) JSA … all it is is an alternate universe JLA it seems. Nastier and more violent, which is par for the course in 90s DC / Current DC.

And Shazam? Urrrrgh. Why does every book about magic have to be “Dark” …? I guess we’re looking at “INFAMOUS” version Captain Marvel, err, I mean SHAZAM. I guess he won’t be able to introduce himself any more, leading to the standard Superhero fight.

I swear, I think they’re TRYING to screw this up so they have an excuse to reboot back to an earlier format.

its funny captain marvel is getting pretty popular on the young justice cartoons he is ten year old billy batson living with his uncle dudley and likes trick or treating and hanging out with the teenagers more then the jla
i love him on the show
and dc think he needs a revamp for the comics

he would make a great cartoon for the ben 10 crowd btw

In Grant Morrison’s “JLA: Earth 2″ (formerly Earth-3) *ow, my head* the idea was brought up that things worked different there. Good couldn’t win in that universe. I was hoping that each of these new earths might have their own spin on things.
Earth -5, morality is black an white similar to the Justice Alliance of America on Earth-D. No major tragedies in their lives.
Earth -2, Legacy character earth. Similar to John Byrne’s Generations storyline. A world where things change and grow.

I’m sure there are other examples. But my point is the same others have made. Give me a twist on that new parallel world. Wouldn’t it be more interesting to have a world with just the Charlton characters? Without the the Trinity? Maybe Steve Ditko’s philosophy is the backdrop to the reality on that earth. Look, Blue beetle is still alive. Sneak some Watchman stuff in there. That will get peoples attention.

I was 12 yrs old when All Star Squadron #36 came out. Just look at that cover. How could it not grab your attention? I had already read the old black and white reprints of the Golden Age Superman, Batman and Shazam. Seeing all of them together in a new comic book set in WW2 was amazing. Earth 2 always felt like a more interesting place.

The Freedom Fighters migration to Earth X from Earth 2 was an enthralling storyline. Yeah it was a retcon, but an interesting one for sure. The Nazis just couldn’t be stopped on that Earth.

Sorry, rant got out of control. They (DC, Marvel) just don’t experiment or take chances anymore. The stories suffer.

@ LL

I have to agree. Love or hate Marvel’s Ultimates line, they *have* gone in new directions than the 616 Marvel.

I still think there is hope out there for the Golden-Age heroes. I like to think since we know so little so far about the DCnU Multiverse so far, it is premature to say DC has dumped them completely. There could be several worlds that have a JSA active during WWII that we just haven’t seen yet.

I’m not slamming the New 52 either. I happen to like it so far, and see no reason to stop it.

I also don’t want to speculate on if the new fans will be here 20 years from not. that’s not speculate as it seems the behavior of a jilted lover. If you can tell me where comics fans, or anyone, in 20 years will be, you need to get off these message boards and get your own psychic hotline.

What I am saying is DC consider how they are perceived by there older fans, and give them a little something in return. An Earth (or more) in the new Multiverse would seem like a nice gesture. A place to visit from time to time in a mini-series or special (like the RETROACTIVE one-shots from last year). The idea of it being a Fifth Week event would be great, since DC seems to be having trouble with that as of late.

The only problems I can see is that this may cause the effect of having the older fans becoming more enraged by only getting to see these characters every so often, and the marginal sale of last years RETROACTIVE one-shots.

As for Captain Marvel/Shazam, if I don’t like CURSE OF SHAZAM, there is always THUNDERWORLD coming down the line in MULTIVERSITY.

So far, from the preview art and interviews, it looks like “Curse Of Shazam” is little more than a rerun of the failed “Trials of Shazam”, with Geoff Johns trying to fix it up. I don’t have much faith in Johns, considering, in JSA, he always gave the spotlight to Black Adam and when he finally gave Capt Marvel a storyline, it was to make him look like a pedophile interested in Stargirl.

I am much more interested in Morrison’s upcoming “Thunderworld” Captain Marvel. My gut reaction is it will be more succesful, and lead to an ongoing Earth-5 Captain Marvel series, while the DCnU Shazam just sort of fizzles out.

But if DC were really interested in making Captain Marvel popular again, there would be only one sure way: Alex Ross. His take of Capt Marvel in “Justice” is as close to perfect as DC ever got it, along with E Nelson Bridwell’s “World’s Finest” run.

Have pretty much dropped the DC books, and I was a fan since 1953 Flushpoint did it for me. To throw out the legacy is to throw out the older fans.

Herb Clerecidge

March 12, 2012 at 12:10 pm

“But if DC were really interested in making Captain Marvel popular again, there would be only one sure way: Alex Ross. His take of Capt Marvel in “Justice” is as close to perfect as DC ever got it, along with E Nelson Bridwell’s “World’s Finest” run.”

Alex Ross *and* Paul Dini, if you don’t mind (that oversized Captain Marvel book they did was *fantastic*) – but definitely agreed. I’d also argue that Jerry Ordway’s POWER OF SHAZAM was really good as well. Still, these things are cyclical, and one of these days the real Captain Marvel will come back…

I do think that it’s good to try new things, without doing that a lot of the history that you like would not have happened and the trappings of decades of continuity has always proven to be a limiting factor in getting new fans. So I think it’s okay to try to see if you can balance it. Captain Marvel as Shazam will still have many of the things that make Cap, Cap (sans the name of course) they aren’t trying to take a commodity and make it unrecognizable, but at the same time this does enable them (much as giving them the retro-universe would) to tell stories they otherwise wouldn’t have.

Ultimately, the stories will be what makes or breaks. I love a lot of the old versions of characters (I sort of like the Justice League Unlimited analogues as being a nice encapsulation of the spirits of many characters) but you can only see Spider-man panic because his webshooters have run out of fluid so many times–is that the important part of the character? Must Captain Marvel be campy? Or is it important as a fantasy of a child gone superhero? I think different stories can help them explore all aspects.

As long as the character shares the same themes, I don’t mind if they explore them in a new way. Besides, because they *are* legacy characters they’ll write them a certain way for a few years and revert to something else anyway. We all know characters don’t stay dead, but wouldn’t fight having a story in a world without Supes for awhile (which has happened a few times, and I may be the only person that enjoyed 52).

@Candy Man

For many of us, I think the tone changed because now we’ve had time to see what the reboot is all about, and are not liking what we’ve seen. I was totally behind the idea of a clean slate for the DCU, but this hasn’t been it. The fact that some things are seeming identical to before (Batman, Green Lantern) and others are radically different (Cyborg as a founding JLA member, Wally and Donna wiped away, etc.) is not working for me.

If you characterize the argument against the New 52 as being the older fans are resentful of change misses the nuances of what the article and what most of us commenters are saying. I think for a lot of us, this wasn’t the kind of change we wanted.

As I wrote early, If anything I think DC didn’t go far enough. They should have tried to replicate what they did in the silver age, i.e. throwing everything but the concepts out the window and created brand new heroes and a brand new universe.They’ve done that in small pockets, but not radically enough.

This soft reboot stuff is kind of like when a girl dumps you but wants to stay friends. You agree because you still like her so much, but in the end it just postpones you being able to get over her and move on, and feels icky and confusing. In retrospect, you realize it would have just been better to cut things off completely.

I think Tom’s point was that since we have the New 52 that we have, it would have been nice to have a place or two where DC’s pre-boot past was honored.

I just don’t get it. JSA under GJ became one of DC’s best-selling titles. Why throw that away for a JLA variation? It just makes no sense. But I suppose we should really hold the screaming until we have the actual product in our hands.

I think that one earth should have golden age continuity, one for silver age, one for Fawcett, etc. Then DC can run miniseries on each and if they are popular enough expand them into ongoing. I think they are afraid that the alternates might become too popular and make the DcNu look bad.

Some good Capt Marvel articles and op-eds can be found here:
http://shazamaholic.blogspot.com

IF THE NEW TAKE ON THE JSA AND SHAZAM IS DONE IN THE RIGHT WAY IM ALL FOR IT 100% BUT IF THE TAKE IS DONE IN A VERY DISRESPECTFUL MANOR THERES NO DELIGHT IN THAT AT ALL . THEY WERE ON THE RIGHT TRACK WHEN THEY DID THE JSA ANNUAL 1 2008 RETURN TO EARTH 2 READING THAT BOOK TOOK ME BACK TO THE DAYS OF THE JSA AND INFINITY INC IT ALSO GAVE YOU A LOOK AT A WORLD WERE ANY AND ALL THINGS CAN HAPPEN IT MADE ME FEEL LIKE I WAS AT HOME THE ONE FROM THE PAST. WHAT I CAN’T UNDERSTAND IS WHY THEY DIDNT PLAY ON THE IDEAL OF THE ANNUAL AND GIVE US BACK THE REAL EARTH 2 BACK AND NOT THIS FAKE EARTH 2

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