DC's "Rebirth" Roster Could Look Very Familiar
Although the five-years-later setup of Futures End won’t be here until May, it got me thinking about a not-so-new New 52. The current comics take place some five years after Superman and company debuted — plus, apparently, a year for the face-free Joker to recuperate — so if you add five more years, it’s like double the amount of history! Well, double the amount of history that “matters,” I guess.
As I have been pretty critical of the present timeline, I’ll be curious to see how Futures End treats those additional five years. I suspect that, for the most part, they’ll be five years of “filler,” in the sense that mostly bad, Futures End-specific things happened during that time to bring DC-Earth to whatever sorry state we see in FE #1. I’ve heard that when all the New 52 books jump ahead five years (in September, naturally), they’ll reflect where their creative teams would like to take the characters in five years — but those will only be single issues, as opposed to the year-long weekly installments of Futures End. Besides, my bitter, resentful impulses remind me that it might well have been simpler just to start off with a 10-year timeline that would only have tweaked the old pre-relaunch status quo, not thrown out huge chunks of it.
Apparently we misunderstood: The New 52 doesn’t refer to the number of titles DC Comics publishes each month but rather the number of times each title changes creative hands. That’s what it seems like sometimes, what with firings by email, quitting on Twitter, rehirings and more. The general impression from behind-the-scenes tales is that the New 52 is in chaos. However, the end product might suggest DC is actually somewhat holding it together.
Creative changes are nothing new; turnover is inevitable. The key is how that turnover is managed. The ideal is to have a long and satisfying run by a cohesive team smoothly transitioning to a new team. Lord knows that doesn’t always happen, and we’ve certainly been hearing about it not happening recently.
With all of the news of creators coming and going, or going before they even get there, it’s easy to get distracted from the results of the finished product. So, I decided to take a look at a sampling of DC’s New 52, from its launch in late summer 2011 to today, and see how the stability of various titles was affected by creative changes. For my survey, I looked at the Justice League family of books, which includes the flagship Justice League, as well as Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Green Arrow and others generally associated with the JLA that haven’t had a big Hollywood movie.
The more I thought about it, the more pleased I was that DC will be publishing an ongoing Batman Beyond book. Sure, the series ended over eight years ago; and sure, the episode of “Justice League Unlimited” which served as an epilogue (helpfully called “Epilogue”) is also fading into the mists of history.
To me, though, a new commitment to Terry McGinniss’ alternate future signals — whether DC realizes it or not — a renewed commitment to the Multiverse. Remember, the “Beyond” future (or something remarkably similar) was officially made part of the post-52 Multiverse as Earth-12, and barring a radical departure from DC, Earth-12 is where I expect Terry’s adventures to remain. Put simply, the BB mythology is based on the continuity of DC’s various animated series, from “Batman” through “Justice League Unlimited”; and while that continuity isn’t radically different from the comics’, it’s different enough. Bruce Wayne’s caped career ends rather ignominiously, for one thing. (Also, no Jason Todd; maybe no Golden Age superheroes; and the histories of the Flash, Earth’s Green Lanterns, Hawkgirl and Hawkman, and Wonder Woman each diverge in significant ways.) Besides, if DC really wants to drop hints about how its modern-day characters ended up, it can always use the farther future of the Legion of Super-Heroes.
By the time this post goes live, you may be quite sick of hearing about Justice League: Cry For Justice #1. Back on Sunday, I said I didn’t hate it; and I suspect mine was one of the more positive comments. Yes, the script has many questionable moments, including an apparent lack of irony where Hal Jordan and Ray Palmer are concerned. I complained more about the staging of the first scene, which I felt sacrificed common sense for capital-D Drama!. And yes, the idea behind this series was a bit tired fifteen years ago when it was called Extreme Justice.
And yet … it’s movement, you know? It’s light at the end of the tunnel — the hope that almost three years into Justice League of America Volume 2, the book will at last gain its own direction and its own identity, free from crossover intrusions and editorial dictates….
… well, as free as any corporate superhero title could be; especially one designed specifically to use characters who already appear in other books. To me, writing Justice League is sort of like competing on “Iron Chef” — you don’t have total control over all the ingredients; and more likely than not you’ll have to bring new life to old standbys like salmon or Hawkgirl. Accordingly, as Rich Johnston pointed out last week, this has produced a particular cycle of retooling and rebuilding, such that it takes just the right combination of characters and circumstances to keep the League stable.
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