DC Comics: The New 52
Whether due to use-it-or-lose-it legal concerns about trademarks, or simply to remind everyone of exactly what it owns, DC Comics has come up with a variety of ways to recycle old titles, ranging from the 1997 Tangent event to the anthologies Mystery in Space and Ghosts to the short-lived National Comics revival.
This week the company brought back Young Romance, the title of the Joe Simon/Jack Kirby-created comic that was published from 1947 to 1975, as a Valentine’s Day special featuring a half-dozen stories of romance in the New 52 DC Universe.
An interesting mix of creators are involved, an interesting enough mix to merit a look at what they might do with some of these characters and couples in eight pages. So join me for mini-reviews of every story in Young Romance: The New 52 Valentine’s Day Special.
DC Comics announced last week that its April superhero comics will be “WTF Certified,” presumably because the month kicks off with April Fool’s Day. In doing so, the publisher made itself the easiest of targets for snide remarks. Let’s take a quick sample of the ones I found in just a five-minute search:
- “[A]n all-too-apt description of the current state of the publishing company” — The AV Club’s Oliver Sava
- “I am looking forward to ‘MILF March’ featuring all the superheroes’ mothers” — Mike Sterling
- “DC has the ability to sell comics to literally anyone with an internet connection now. It’d be nice if their tenor reflected that.” — Kevin Church
- “The company announced that all 52 of its mainstream titles would have a ‘WTF Certified’ stamp on it, presumably as a wink to fans who have been wondering what the fuck has been going on at DC.” — Outhousers.com
- “This is not a hoax, not an imaginary story, but a certified edgy promotion! The covers are gatefolds, with the “What the” part on the front and the ‘fuck’ part on the inside.” — Heidi MacDonald
- “Remember how DC is having their mature and genteel ‘WTF Month,’ where the cover is supposed to fold out and make you swear in shock and exasperation … and if children still read DC comics, presumably get your mouth washed out with soap?” — Todd Allen
- “I thought every month was WTF month at DC?” — about one-fifth of everyone leaving a comment beneath an online article on the subject
It’s not that weird for DC Comics (or, to be fair, arch-rival Marve), to occasionally be metaphorically walking around with a “Kick Me” sign on its metaphorical back, but it is pretty weird for DC to affix the sign itself and make such a big, aggressive show of pointing it out to everyone.
So let’s get to kicking them, I guess. But where to start? With the name of the event, naturally.
According to recent convention scuttlebutt, DC Comics is apparently canceling its latest Hawkman series, the New 52-launched Savage Hawkman, perhaps as early as May’s Issue 20.
That is not the least bit surprising, really, given the publisher’s historical difficulty in keeping readers interested in Hawkman, and given the way in which the title and the character were served by the line-wide reboot and the accompanying creative-team chaos. It’s too bad, though, given how easily DC could have simply published the sort of Hawkman title the 21st-century super-comic audience would support, rather than The Savage Hawkman.
The series launched in September 2011 along with the other 51 new series comprising DC’s New 52 initiative, featuring a rebooted continuity for the then 71-year-old hero and a redesigned costume featuring more armor and pointed edges (most notably a set of Wolverine-like claws frequently waved in the direction of the reader on the covers). The creative team consisted of artist-turned-writer/artist Tony S. Daniel, who was just handling the writing, and Philip Tan, who was providing the art.
Over the summer I wrote about the rate of “idea generation” across decades of DC history. Essentially, I was talking about the number of new ideas (or new uses for old ideas) being produced under current superhero-comics storytelling trends. Idea generation and world-building go hand in hand, such that the more ideas you can harmonize into a reasonably coherent (and accessible) shared universe, the better.
The 2006-07 weekly miniseries 52 put DC’s shared universe to good use. Written by Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka and Mark Waid, laid out by Keith Giffen, and drawn by an array of artists, 52 had a handful of C- and D-list characters guide readers through various obscure corners of the DCU. 52’s locales included a Metropolis without Superman, Black Adam’s Khandaq, an island of mad scientists, and the farthest reaches of outer space. 52 also featured its share of new characters, like the Chinese super-team called The Great Ten, the intergalactic despot Lady Styx and the dark religion of the Crime Bible. Of course, it also debuted new versions of Batwoman, the Question, Infinity Inc. and Supernova.
Because it chronicled a year in which the Trinity of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman each disappeared from public view, and because it had that year all to itself (thanks to the other titles’ concurrent “One Year Later” time-jump), 52 gave readers a unique opportunity to poke into the dusty corners of DC’s attic. Due (mostly) to the vagaries of its truncated timeline, the New 52 apparently doesn’t have such an extensive history. However, that doesn’t mean it can’t take readers on a similar journey.
If it’s the first Grumpy Old Fan of 2013, it must be time for “Ten From the Old Year, Ten For the New.” For those who came in late, every January I evaluate 10 predictions/observations from the previous year, and present 10 for the next. Accordingly, first we have commentary on 2012′s items.
1. The Dark Knight Rises. I had three rather superficial questions about the final Christopher Nolan Batman movie. First, “[c]an it make a skillion dollars?” Not quite — while it did make over a billion dollars worldwide, it didn’t make as much as its predecessor domestically, and it came in second to The Avengers. Next was “[w]ill it have Robin?” Well … [SPOILER ALERT] it depends on your definition of “Robin,” I suppose. And finally, referring to certain issues about Bane’s elocution, “[w]ill it have subtitles?” Nope — as it turns out, they weren’t needed. Instead, Bane’s accent was perfectly suited to breaking not just Batman, but Alex Trebek as well.
Veteran creator Jim Starlin, who last month revealed he’s taking over as writer of an unnamed DC Comics series, teased the project over the weekend with a look at a potential costume design for the still-unannounced project.
“Here’s a new outfit design that may or may not be used in the on-going comic series I’m writing for DC Comics,” he wrote on Facebook. “Still can’t tell you what it is and I’m sure this posting will only confuse things even further than they already are. Aren’t guessing games terrific fun?” He added, “I’ll check this week and see if DC will let me show more teasers, maybe some of the artist’s layouts for the pages. Then everyone can guess who he is.”
Starlin, who’s best known for his Marvel cosmic stories, hinted last month that the existing DC series is one “I have never before had anything to do with.” His run is expected to begin in April.
At the end of every year Carla Hoffman and Tom Bondurant exchange emails about the fortunes of the Big Two. Look for Part 2 on Wednesday!
Carla: Here we are, heading toward the year the Mayan calendar might not have thought would ever come: 2013. The future gets closer and closer! Technology advances! Politics change! And yet, comic books are still here. How cool is that? It’s been a heck of a year, full of ups and downs, movie premieres, new #1 issues and the never-ending race to produce better, faster comics.
I have to admit, Image has been doing a really great job keeping up with the Big Two, producing award-winning books in a variety of formats and getting involved in TV to draw new readers into a wide array of comic book genres. But we’re not here to talk about them! We’re here for the greatest shows in town, the Merry Marvel Marching Society and … our Distinguished Competitors.
My first question is kind of a no-brainer: How’s the New 52 treating you these days? And, after a year, is it still the “New 52″?
Tom: Well, as a practical matter, it’s the “New 52″ for as long as DC wants it to be. Actually, I think I have stopped seeing that little blurb on the covers. I happened to look at Aquaman #15 yesterday, kind of out of the corner of my eye, and was surprised it was there. Part of me thinks that it could confuse those hypothetical new readers, but then I thought that about “Earth One,” and that doesn’t seem to have hurt those books.
Continue Reading »
“I don’t know if it’d be the same thing. I mean, of course I would do it, but I don’t know if it’d be the same thing. It’d feel strange, indeed, doing Constantine in that world. It’d feel surreal. All the guts would have to come out of him. It’d be amusing to see him wind up with all these superheroes while he’s all gnarly and scarred and carrying around a bottle of whiskey. If he was darker and practicing magic on his own, that could work, but a cleaned-up version wouldn’t work. He’s not Doctor Strange, is he? He has to be the mysterious Englishmen on the corner by himself, having a drink muttering to himself. A guy who has to sober up and get his shit together. A misfit among misfits. I’m very interested to see how they portray him, very interested.”
– longtime Hellblazer cover artist Simon Bisley, when asked by Comic Book Resources whether he’d consider working on the new DC Universe series Constantine
The Internet hand-wringing was set to overdrive when it was announced writer Gail Simone had been summarily dismissed from Batgirl. By email, no less. Virtually every comics news site and blog chimed in, usually followed by a flurry of reader comments. However, freelance creators are let go from comics all of the time. Sure there’s usually disappointment, and it’s never good when someone loses her job. But what made this the event of the week?
There’s a history to this that adds an extra layer of emotion.
Simone is a well-liked creator with a spirited fan base, and she has described Batgirl as a dream job for her. This is the character that hooked her into comics. This is the character she’s always wanted to write. Her dream came true, and now it’s being taken away. So any human being with at least an average level of empathy is going to feel like this is an unfortunate turn of events for her. This was also largely unexpected, as the series was performing well; Batgirl #14 was No. 17 on Diamond Comic Distributors’ November sales chart with an estimated 77,468 copies, although previous issues sold in the 40,ooo to 50,000 range. That’s where some shock and indignation comes in. It seems like an unfair decision (although it is of course fully within DC Comics’ rights to hire and fire whoever it wants).
“As long as it’s not really Captain Carrot, I don’t care. If anything, I’m kinda amused by their rather lame attempt to fit an ‘edgy’ funny animal into the ‘New 52′ universe. Somehow, it reminds me of Warner Bros. Animation’s terrible LOONATICS UNLEASHED SatAM cartoon series. Where’s Ch’p, Thunderbunny, Jaxxon, Bucky O’Hare, Rocket Raccoon and Howard the Duck when we need ‘em?”
– Captain Carrot co-creator Scott Shaw, reacting to the announcement that the character will be reimagined in
DC Comics’ Threshold as “a borderline psychotic, booze swilling, whore-mongering rabbit” named Captain K’Rot
With everyone focused on who will follow Gail Simone on Batgirl and the departure of Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette from Swamp Thing, we overlooked perhaps the biggest news to arise from DC Comics’ solicitations for March: that Captain Carrot will make his New 52 debut in Threshold #3, by Keith Giffen and Tom Raney. Only now he’s re-imagined as Captain K’Rot.
Created by Roy Thomas and Scott Shaw, the anthropomorphic rabbit was introduced in 1982′s New Teen Titans #16. A series titled Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew! launched months later and continued for 20 fun-tabulous issues.
Giffen confirmed to Comic Book Resources that Captain K’Rot is indeed his take on Captain Carrot. Asked whether he was a longtime fan of the original series, Giffen quipped, “There was a series?” Ever the joker. He quickly added, “Every book needs a borderline psychotic, booze swilling, whore-mongering rabbit. I mean, c’mon!”
The comics veteran teased last month in a CBR interview about Threshold that the series’ “breakaway” star would make his debut in the second issue. This will be the one fans start buying the book,” he promised.
Safe bet that Captain K’Rot will be revealed in the final page or panel of the second issue, leading to his proper introduction in Threshold #3.
“I have just completed scripting the first two issues of an on-going series for DC Comics,” he posted Sunday on Facebook. “Can’t say what the title is until DC wants the news out. But I imagine a lot of people will be quite surprised to see me take over the writing chores on this particular property. Been having a (surprisingly) fun time with it so far.”
Starlin later added, “It’s a title I have never before had anything to do with, really from out in left field. Shouldn’t be too long before DC Comics makes the announcement. I believe my issues begin in April.”
That second comments narrows down the possibilities somewhat, as Starlin has worked on such DC titles as Action Comics, Batman, Detective Comics, The Flash, The Legion of Super-Heroes and Superman. OK, maybe that doesn’t help so much after all. However, we do know that it’s an existing series.
Starlin’s announcement comes just as DC confirmed that industry veteran J.M. DeMatteis will join Dan DiDio as co-writer of Phantom Stranger with March’s Issue 6.
Gail Simone, the writer of Batgirl since the comic was rebooted as part of DC Comics’ New 52 relaunch, said on Twitter today that she will no longer be writing the title.
“On Wednesday of last week, new Batgirl editor Brian Cunningham informed me by email that I was no longer the writer of Batgirl,” Simone said. “It is baffling and sad, I will probably have a statement later today or maybe tomorrow. But I want to give huge, huge thanks to the other creators in the bat-offices, and editors Bobbie Chase and @yourpallsmitty, champions all. And the biggest thank you of all to you guys for supporting this book so hugely and making it a commercial and critical success. I honestly don’t have the words right now to thank you all. I’m pretty choked up and it’s all gratitude, not bitterness. I am very proud of what we accomplished with Batgirl and it was an honor to get to write Barbara Gordon again. Love that dame.”
Simone has a long history with the character. In addition to writing the New 52 relaunch title that saw Barbara Gordon back in the familiar tights, Simone also wrote the character for years in Birds of Prey before the relaunch, back when Gordon was the wheelchair-bound Oracle. No word yet on what issue will be Simone’s last; presumably it will be issue #17, which was solicited for February. March solicitations I believe are due to be released tomorrow.
This also leaves Simone without a project in the DCU; she was the co-writer of Fury of Firestorm until issue #7, when Joe Harris replaced her on the title. She and her Secret Six collaborator Jim Calafiore are working together on a creator-owned project called Leaving Megalopolis, which had a successful Kickstarter campaign earlier this year.
The Hollywood Reporter continues its industry power surveys with a list of the 100 most powerful women in entertainment that includes DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson at No. 49.
No stranger to Hollywood, Nelson was president of Warner Premiere and shepherd of Warner Bros.’ blockbuster Harry Potter franchise before being appointed in September 2009 as head of the studio’s newly formed DC Entertainment division, designed to better exploit the comic-book properties across all media. Five months later, Nelson named Dan DiDio and Jim Lee as co-publishers and Geoff Johns as chief creative officer; in September 2010, the company announced a “bi-coastal realignment strategy” that saw the closing of WildStorm and the move of business/administration and digital-content operations to a new office tower in Burbank, California, less than a mile from Warner Bros. Studios. It was under Nelson that DC launched its New 52 initiative and expanded its digital reach.
“She’s the gatekeeper for the entire DC brand, which includes films like The Dark Knight Rises ($1.08 billion in worldwide grosses) and such TV series as The CW’s new high-performing drama Arrow and various shows on Cartoon Network,” The Hollywood Reporter writes in its brief profile of Nelson. “Simply put, if you are a producer and you want to develop one of DC’s characters, you have to go through Nelson, 45. She also oversaw the relaunch of the entire line of DC Comics and created a plan for same-day digital comics on all platforms and partnering with Warner Bros. to develop new projects.”
Last week the trade paper named Robert Kirkman and Neil Gaiman among the 25 most powerful authors in Hollywood.
Seemingly in response to blowback from Thursday’s surprise announcement that one-time Vertigo flagship Hellblazer will be canceled and resurrected in the New 52 as Constantine, DC Comics has released a statement from Co-Publisher Dan DiDio expressing pride in the nearly 25-year-old series.
“We’re supremely proud of Vertigo’s Hellblazer, one of the most critically-acclaimed series we’ve published,” DiDio said. “Issue #300 concludes this chapter of Constantine’s epic, smoke-filled story in style and with the energy, talent and creativity fans have come to expect from Peter Milligan, Giuseppe Camuncoli and Stefano Landini. And no one should worry that John is going to hang-up his trenchcoat — he lives on in March, in the pages of the all-new DC Comics New 52 ongoing series, Constantine, by writer Robert Venditti and artist Renato Guedes.”
If the statement was meant to soothe fans of Hellblazer, the only remaining title from Vertigo’s 1993 launch, it didn’t work. One commenter on the DC Comics blog insisted that, without the comic’s trademark vulgarity, nudity and adult themes, “it cannot possibly be the same.” Another referred to the upcoming Constantine as “basically Hellblazer-lite.” Still another fan offered his take on DiDio’s comments, summarizing, “We are very proud of Hellblazer so we are cancelling it. This logic is perfectly sound!” (At our sibling blog Comics Should Be Good, Sonia Harris offers her own thoughts on the announcement, and ideas for making Constantine for financially lucrative.)
However, Venditti, best known for his work on The Surrogates and the newly revived X-O Manowar, assured his Twitter followers that, “I have a TREMENDOUS amount of respect for Constantine and the creators who made him who he is. I’m taking this very seriously.” Asked whether the New 52 version of John Constantine will still be bisexual, he replied, “Keeping everything under wraps right now, but the goal is to keep Constantine recognizable. Don’t fix what ain’t broke! “