Robot 6

Six things DC Comics is doing right

AdventuresofSuperman1DC Comics hasn’t had a particularly good run of things lately. To be frank, the publisher has done blown it a number of times over the past few years. But don’t worry, DC fans — I’m sure it’ll soon be Marvel’s turn, as the two rivals seem to trade off every five years or so.

I’ve been calling out DC for the past couple of weeks, but that doesn’t mean everything it does strikes me as wrong. It’s important to declare shenanigans, but it’s also important to recognize when a publisher does something that’s good for comics.

So here are six things DC is doing right:

1. Digital comics: Legends of the Dark Knight and Adventures of Superman are digital-first anthology series that feature some excellent creators (from Jeff Parker and Chris Samnee to J.M. DeMatteis and Jeff Lemire) producing completely accessible and entertaining stories that stand on their own; no college course on the New 52 or Crisis on Infinite Earths required. Yes, these stories are out of continuity — so for a percentage of readers, they don’t count. That’s a mistake, because there’s nothing wrong with a straight-up superhero tale that exists on its own terms. These two anthologies are the gems of DC’s digital-first line-up, but Batman ’66 and Batman: Li’l Gotham also offer fantastical takes on the iconic Caped Crusader that are bright and fun. For those exhausted by the angsty versions of serious stories, you owe it to yourself to check these out.

2. Vertigo: After the twin blows of Karen Berger’s exit and the kidnapping of the DC Universe characters, it seemed as if the producer of some of DC’s most innovative comics might just fade away. Let it be known, however, that the reports of the death of Vertigo have been great exaggerated. Fables continues unabated, even blossoming into a full-on franchise with numerous spinoffs, including the current Fairest ongoing; not since The Sandman has Vertigo had such a long-running book with such an enthusiastic following. The Unwritten and American Vampires are the imprint’s other dependable titles. Perhaps even more exciting are new and recent launches that show there’s still plenty of life left in Vertigo: Jeff Lemire followed the post-apocalyptic Sweet Tooth with the experimental time-travel love story Trillium, and Batman writer Scott Snyder teamed with Punk Rock Jesus artist Sean Murphy to deliver ocean horror in the form of The Wake, while FBP: Federal Bureau of Physics (previously Collider), Coffin Hill and Hinterkind promise to be be interesting entries into genre storytelling. If it’s superhero action you want, Vertigo has Kurt Busiek’s Astro City. And let’s not forget the October debut of The Sandman: Overture, guaranteed to be a huge seller and an intriguing trip back to the beginning.

3. We Can Be Heroes: DC’s charitable campaign to fight the hunger crisis in the Horn of Africa is a testament to the good that DC, its iconic characters and loyal fans can accomplish. After an amazingly successful launch on Indiegogo that raised more than $150,000 and the Superman Edition follow-up that generated more than $130,000, the campaign is now in the midst of the Justice League Edition, final fundraiser for the year, with a goal of $125,000. To see comics do so much good makes me proud.

4. The bright spots in the New 52: There may not be a whole lot that aesthetically jumps out at me in the New 52 but there are some notable exceptions that not only catch my eye but seem to be doing the trick for a number of people. Most of these have to do with titles handled by creators with a more unique style or flair that helps it stand out from the sameness of the retro-’90s feel. J.H. Williams III’s Batwoman has been a dazzling demonstration of ornate page design and layout (although he and co-writer W. Haden Blackman are leaving the title). Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang’s Wonder Woman stubbornly refuses to simply reiterate previous takes on the character while presenting fantastic art. Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo have confidently their marks on Batman. There are a few others, too, and a lot of these books largely exist with minimal or no crossovers or other interference from the rest of the shared universe, save for the occasional stunt like the current Villains Month.

5. MAD Magazine: If you like your comics with uninterrupted numbering, here’s one of your last bastions in North America. The 523rd issue of MAD Magazine was released last month, and there’s no relaunch in sight. OK, technically it’s a magazine and not a straight-up comic book, but why split hairs? Every issue still has crazy cartoons in the margins by Sergio Aragonés. Every issue still lampoons pop culture. Every issue will still make your junior-high self giggle uncontrollably. That doesn’t mean old Mr. Neuman is stagnant; MAD‘s blog and Facebook page have proved to be surprisingly fresh and relevant. They post meme-ready graphics cranked out as current events break. With nearly 100,000 likes on Facebook, images regularly get shared a couple of hundred times, proving that this old institution can still strike a contemporary chord.

6. Comics/video games synergy: This is a little outside my wheelhouse, but I saw people flip out about Batman: Arkham Asylum and be generally very happy with the sequel Batman: Arkham City; another sequel, Arkham Origins, is to be released next month. Injustice: Gods Among Us is also well-liked, and the accompanying digital-first comic appears to be one of DC’s bestselling digital comics. The Batman games also got digital-first comics, but the Injustice one seems to have really taken off. It’s a smart approach. Video game players are probably online more, put the crossover content where they’re apt to find it. It looks like one of those stupidly simple moves in retrospect but it’s the kind of move that considers what is most intuitive for potential readers, and it’s a move that appears to have produced a very lucrative hit.

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Along with Scott Snyder’s Batman and Brian Azzarello’s Wonder Woman, DC also has a few other things I’m looking forward to like:

The suddenly re-energized Green Lantern line, particularly Venditti and Jensen’s work
Greg Pak’s run on Action with the incredible Aaron Kuder
Jeff Lemire’s underrated run on Green Arrow
Jeff Parker’s upcoming Aquaman work
Marc Andreyko taking over Batwoman (a really underappreciated talent)
Charles Soule’s Superman/Wonder Woman has potential
and perhaps a full blown Suicide Squad run by Matt Kindt

Seconded on Lemire and Sorrentino’s Green Arrow. Also gotta show some love to All-Star Western. One of the most consistently entertaining books in the line.

Suicide Squad is pretty awesome and Teen Titans is surprisingly good. And, despite the problems with the initial mini-series, I’ve heard very good things about the Masters of The Universe stuff, especially the Skelator and Hordak minis

Funny how Greg Capullo is not considered “sameness of the retro 90s” when his heyday on X-force and then Spawn were totally 90s, and his style really hasn’t changed much since then.

Meanwhile, revelations like Kenneth Rocafort and Francis Manapul have demolished long-standing paradigms of what comic art and layout are “supposed” to look like, and they get no mention.

I agree with wilyjeff, both Rocafort and Manapaul have done amazing work for the New 52, and have styles every bit as groundbreaking as JH Williams III.
I reckon I am one of the few that is not blown away by Capullo’s Batman. For me it is a pretty standard Jim Lee-clone type of illustration, with slightly larger figures and slightly fewer lines. Not to say it is terrible, but I am not as impressed with it as I was Norm Breyfogle’s take on Batman back in the 80s, which was also quite groundbreaking.

I am also loving DC’s digital offerings. Injustice and Legends of the Dark Knight in particular have been a great read, and Batman ’66 is pure fun. Ame-Como Girls was surprisingly good too, with more characterisation than I was expecting in a toy tie-in comic. Kudos to Palmiotti and Gray !

Superman is also becoming one of the gems of the New 52. Grant Morrison, with an assist from Sholly Fisch, redefined Superman for the New 52 in Action Comics, while respecting the long history of the character. That’s so different from what happened in 1986, it is quite refreshing. Superman is back to being a character of Golden Age Science Fiction, with a strong modern twist.

In the last few months, we’ve seen Superman Unchained, with Scott Snyder and Jim Lee portraying a powerful, intelligent and thoughtful Superman; and Batman/Superman, with Greg Pak and Jae Lee, another wonderful comic. Greg Pak is moving to Action Comics, and we have Charles Soule and Tony Daniel doing Superman/Wonder Woman, with what promises to be an almost epic take on those two characters.

Even Scott Lobdell on Superman is revisiting Superman’s Kryptonian roots, and expanding the mythos of the character. I’m more interested in Superman and his world than I’ve been in years, even though I’d still rather that DC had stuck with upgrading Superman’s line in the existing continuity, rather than rebooting his history.

Six things right, and six hundred things wrong.

If you’d written a column of everything DC is doing wrong, the file would be so large I’d still be waiting for it to download.

I still really like:

- Batman
- Batman and Robin
- Wonder Woman
- Batman/Superman
- Animal Man
- Green Arrow
- GL, Red lanterns
- Action Comics under Pak

and a few others.

I can not believe you forgot to mention Sean and Scott’s Vertigo title The Wake. Shame on you.

“I can not believe you forgot to mention Sean and Scott’s Vertigo title The Wake. Shame on you.”

Ahem. And I quote: “… and Batman writer Scott Snyder teamed with Punk Rock Jesus artist Sean Murphy to deliver ocean horror in the form of The Wake.”

Six (very soft, very slight) things DC is doing right, fifty things DC is doing wrong.

lol Jake

5 Things I think you mean

DC Comics saving the horn of Africa? No thanks, White Saviour Industrial Complex.

This begs the question–could these six things have happened IF the New 52 had NOT?

I really think JHWIII is overpraised. His art is, admittedly, gorgeous, but his LAYOUTS? The majority of the time they are – as stated here – ornate, and as a result NOT functional. Putting 16 triangular panels in the shape of a bat may look pretty, but it doesn’t serve the script. It’s too intrusive (at times) for me.

Marcos Martin is layouts god atm.

Oh, and I agree with @wilyjeff – FRANCIS MANAPUL on the Flash, beautiful stuff!

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