DC Comics' "Rebirth" Character Designs for Batman, Wonder Woman and More
Whether you call it “Divergence” or “DC You,” November represents the sixth month of DC Comics’ line-wide retooling. In just about three months it’ll be time to start taking stock of what worked and what didn’t, but for now we’re looking at what’s new and/or shiny.
THE 800-POUND GORILLA BOSS OF GOTHAM CITY
At the head of the line is a certain Bat-sequel. The hype surrounding Dark Knight III: The Master Race is understandable considering the shelf life of The Dark Knight Returns. It and its follow-up are two of DC’s most evergreen reprints, and DK3 will no doubt join them in the Valhalla of immortal collected editions.
This month’s look at DC’s immediate future is going to be a little more concise than usual, because I am dealing with a summer cold which refuses to go away (and it has nothing to do with Comic-Con, to boot). If the Lord had visited a plague of mucous unto Pharaoh, it would have been something like this.
Anyway, in the wake of Comic-Con, DC has released its October solicits to remind us that all those ideas for movies and TV shows have to come from somewhere. Speaking of which, October is also the month when Flash and Arrow return to The CW, and when Supergirl debuts on CBS. Accordingly, I was expecting a little more tie-in product, but I guess that will have to wait.
The biggest news — at least in terms of reader commitment — comes once more from the Bat-office, in the form of the new six-month weekly miniseries Batman And Robin Eternal. Following up structurally, if not quite thematically, on 2014-15’s Batman Eternal, apparently it will deal with the repercussions of a case from the Dick-as-Robin days, and also it will bring back Cassandra Cain. The old case is advertised as “the most disturbing of their crimefighting career,” so yay for that. Presumably it’s “most disturbing to that point,” because by himself the Joker has probably committed a half-dozen fairly disturbing capers.
Every September of the New 52 featured some unifying motif. DC Comics’ line-wide relaunch kicked off in September 2011 and got “zero issues” — issues numbered zero, that is — in September 2012. The next two years promoted particular events, with September 2013’s Villains Month tying into Forever Evil, and Futures End one-shots taking over September 2014. Both times, 3D lenticular covers sweetened the deal.
This September, however, there’s no big event or other scheme to goose DC’s market share. Instead, it’s just the fourth month of the new status quo, and the only cover enhancements are some Green Lantern guest appearances.
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August is the third month of DC Comics’ revamped lineup, which has yet to begin in earnest. Although you might think that would limit what there is to discuss in the August solicitations, I found a good bit to talk about. There are some unusual marketing moves, a few good guest-star opportunities, and even some nice tchotchkes. Let’s take a look.
“Truth” rolls on throughout the four Superman titles, and with its secret revealed in DC’s Free Comic Book Day preview, there’s not much point in speculating about the details. I’m not sure what to think about DC pairing its latest linewide relaunch with a couple of massive changes to Superman and Batman. I started reading The Amazing Spider-Man after the dust had settled from “One More Day,” because I didn’t want to deal with a series of big events or their immediate ramifications. Accordingly, it makes me think that Supes will have his secret restored at some point — perhaps in time for next spring’s Issue 50, which would also be just in time for the big Batman v Superman movie — and if I were thinking about returning to Superman, I might just wait until then. (Of course, since the New 52 relaunch, Supes has gotten far more attention than Clark has, so this could just be an extension of that.)
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This week DC Comics rolled out its July solicitations. Because they mostly cover the second month of a relaunch whose first month is still six weeks away, they feel rather comment-proof. I mean, last month was the time for first impressions, so you can’t really comment further on storylines that haven’t started or creative teams whose first issues haven’t appeared. That said, July brings the first issue of the Cyborg solo series, as well as the return of Justice League United, so it’s not as if there’s nothing new.
HAIL TO THE VICTOR
As a longtime (i.e., aging) New Teen Titans fan, I’m a little torn about a Cyborg ongoing series. A spotlight on Victor Stone is long overdue, and I think the character is versatile enough to handle a wide range of adventures. (It’s also nice to note that with Starfire and Grayson, there will be three ongoing series based on ex-Titans.) However, I feel like Marv Wolfman and George Pérez established a lot of Vic’s backstory carefully and purposefully from 1980 through 1990, and then chucked it out the window when “Titans Hunt” blew up the Titans status quo. As the New 52 rebooted Vic (and since Forever Evil did it literally), he starts this ongoing with pretty much a blank slate. I’m looking forward to seeing what David Walker, Ivan Reis and Joe Prado have planned, but I hope that includes some of that forgotten history.
March is the final full month of the New 52, so appropriately enough it also brings the solicitations for the first full month of … well, whatever we end up calling these books. (The Fine 49? The Diverse Curse-Reversers? The Too Few For 52 Redo?)
Actually, this month it’s more like the Thrivin’ 45, because these solicits don’t include four ongoing series already announced as part of the post-Convergence lineup: Justice League United, Cyborg, Mystic U and Dark Universe. No doubt they’ll benefit from the extra month’s rest.
Among all the new and returning series are a number of associated changes and comebacks. There’s Tight-Shirt Superman, Mecha Batman, Pointy-Wristed Wonder Woman, Hoodie Green Lantern, the reintroductions of Reneé Montoya and Kate Spencer, and Selina Kyle back in the Cat-suit. Even with all that, though, there’s So! Much! More!
Let’s get started, shall we?
If you liked the first half of Convergence in the April solicitations, you’ll probably enjoy the other set of shoes dropping in May. In fact, the second issues are all extra-sized (but not more expensive), filled out with previews of June’s coming attractions.
However, it’s not all anticlimaxes or “second verse, same as the first.” There are a couple of twists: Not only will the New 52 characters be participating, but the solicitation for Convergence #8 makes it clear this is for all the cosmic marbles. “There can be only one reality” after these two months of nostalgia — and we may have to read the books themselves (gasp!) to see what that looks like.
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In our current age of instant accessibility to an unimaginable library of entertainment, it’s difficult to imagine the hold that broadcast television once had on the culture. In the 1970s, people stayed home on Saturday nights to watch the CBS comedy lineup of Mary Tyler Moore, Bob Newhart, and Carol Burnett. On Tuesdays, ABC had Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley. Of course, NBC owned Thursday nights for decades, from The Cosby Show, Cheers and L.A. Law in the ‘80s to Seinfeld, Mad About You, Friends, ER and The Office in the ‘90s and ‘00s.
Now imagine that NBC — which has since conceded Thursday to ABC’s now-dominant block of “Shondaland” dramas — will be replacing two months’ worth of regular Thursday programming with new episodes of the shows that typified “Must See TV.” Would you want to check in on Sam Malone, George Costanza, Ross & Rachel, or the doctors of Chicago General after all this time? Maybe, maybe not.
Well, for good or ill, that’s the bet DC Comics is making with the comics marketplace in April and May, by bringing back characters (and versions of characters) that haven’t been seen in anywhere from three to 30 years. Will readers want to check in with those characters, even if they’re the only DC game in town? Maybe, maybe not. It depends, I suspect, on some unquantifiable combination of character, creative team, and reader attachment to either or both. At long last, the first batch of Convergence solicitations is here, and today we’ll run through them.
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A while back I wrote that DC Comics could stand to cancel some books, but this isn’t exactly what I had in mind. DC’s March solicitations are among the most significant of the New 52. The August 2011 solicits, which were the last of their particular era, were relatively routine; back then, every superhero title was either being canceled or relaunched. By contrast, March 2015 looks like the start of another line-wide makeover. It will see the end of several series, including some charter members of the New 52.
The solicits actually extend to the week of April 1, which will feature a slew of annuals, the final issues of the three weekly series, and Convergence #0. (All that will cost you $54.89 retail.) With Convergence then taking over April and May, readers will have to wait until June’s solicits (coming in February, of course) for the first full picture of the New However-Many. Although the nature of Convergence still suggests that some old, familiar elements will be reintroduced into the New 52 — because why say “every story matters” if you’re not going to use at least some of them going forward? — these solicits are arguably the strongest indication to date that the New 52 isn’t going away.
In April, DC Comics released solicitations for its July titles alongside an extra batch of advance listings for the September Futures End-related one-shots. This week, in a move that’s perhaps unintentionally similar, the publisher’s February solicits arrive amid advance info about the spring’s Convergence tie-ins.
The scheduling gap isn’t quite as great — only a couple of months here, as opposed to five months last time — and I can understand why DC would want to avoid a lot of negative fan speculation about Convergence. Still, it steals some thunder from the current batch of solicitations, which try to compensate with a raft of Harley Quinn variant covers (including, strangely enough, one for Harley Quinn itself). In addition to her own series and Suicide Squad, Harl also gets a Valentine’s Day Special, another hardcover collection, a statue, an action figure, and a guest-shot in Deathstroke. At this rate I’m expecting her to be Wonder Woman’s new Amazon queen.
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Although the first issues of Who’s Who and Crisis \on Infinite Earths got a headstart in the closing months of 1984, January 1985 kicked off DC Comics’ 50th anniversary in earnest. No doubt real life — i.e., the DC offices’ upcoming westward move — is preventing the publisher from starting the 80th anniversary celebrations this January, and the solicitations certainly don’t have much in the way of commemoration.
(To be sure, the month’s variant-cover scheme involves the 75th anniversary of The Flash, which Robot 6 contributor J. Caleb Mozzocco has already covered extensively on his own blog.)
Therefore, while the real fireworks will probably have to wait another couple of months, the January solicitation tease the return of Robin, changes in the Super-status quo, and other various and sundry plot churning.
One thing that jumps out at me from these solicits has to do with numbering. Now, we all love numbering — big versus small, gimmicks versus straightforward integer progression — but the January books are soliciting the 38th issues of the remaining original New 52 titles. That puts the 50th issues of those series on track for January 2016; or, more likely, February 2016, if next September is another “take a break for a set of specials” month. If I were DC and wanted to relaunch my various titles, and I were a year away from a set of 50th issues, I’d probably wait a year.
There’s a lot to like in DC Comics’ December solicitations, most of it due to the return of some old friends and the uber-nostalgic glimpses at a traditional status quo. It’s not like the New 52’s changes are being rolled back — I have no illusions about that, and I’m not sure how it would work if it did happen — but DC is always best served when it can channel the familiar aspects of its past in vibrant new forms.
THERE YOU GO AGAIN
I am starting to think Secret Six is the comic Gail Simone was born to write, even more so than Birds of Prey. There’s always been a dark undercurrent running through her DC work, from BOP to Batgirl to The Movement, but only with the Sixers could she really cut loose. Indeed, as much as I enjoyed Scandal, Bane, Deadshot and the rest, I’m eager to see what she can do with six cryptically united strangers, most of whom will probably be new to us.
Those who believe the traditional, pre-New 52 DC Universe is still out there, somewhere in the Multiverse, can reasonably hang their collective hat on the return of the Keith Giffen/J.M. DeMatteis Blue Beetle and Booster Gold in Justice League 3000 #12. I’d go even further, and say this version of Beetle and Booster probably follows directly from the two “Super Buddies” arcs that Giffen, DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire produced in the mid-2000s. The second one, I Can’t Believe It’s Not the Justice League, ended rather pointedly with Beetle and Max Lord sharing a happy moment. That, of course, stood in stark contrast to the Countdown to Infinite Crisis special, in which Max shot Beetle in the head, and then (a few months later) successfully dared Wonder Woman to execute him. Therefore, the Beetle and Booster of JL3K hail from an Earth where things turned out quite differently — but ironically, they’ve been awakened in a dystopian future where the Justice Leaguers are darkly twisted versions of their old selves. Not that Giffen and DeMatteis can’t find some comedy there, but I’m having trouble summoning up a bwah-hah-hah.
Following DC Comics’ solicitations over the past few months has been fairly intriguing. The company’s West Coast move in early 2015 looms over all its actions, and makes it hard to gauge whether a new series or new creative team is a long-term commitment or a brief burst of experimentation. Moreover, that makes it tempting to say that anything you don’t like — or, for that matter, anything you do like — might be gone by April.
Oh, well. A little paranoia can’t hurt, but we’re not here to talk about that. Open a window to the November solicits and read along!
November brings new creative teams for Wonder Woman (the Finches and Richard Friend), Superman/Wonder Woman (Peter Tomasi and Doug Mahnke) and Supergirl (Mike Johnson, Kate Perkins and Emanuela Lupacchino). I’m still in wait-and-see mode on the Finches. However, after several years of reading Tomasi and Mahnke’s work, I feel like I know what’s coming from them. S/WW should look great, as Mahnke is no stranger to either Superman or Wonder Woman, having drawn JLA and various issues of the New 52 Justice League. I suppose I’m cautiously optimistic about Tomasi, because this is the sort of book that plays to his strengths. He’s good at reconciling and unifying different perspectives on characters, and that’s pretty much what S/WW has always had to overcome. Ironically, it’ll probably be less of a concern in the absence of Azzarello and Chiang, but I suspect Tomasi will keep those elements around.
Some months the solicitations don’t inspire much in the way of analysis. The superhero serials just sort of chug along, and maybe there’ll be an unusual creative team or an idiosyncratic collection to enliven things. Not so with DC’s October solicitations, which include a number of new series, storylines, and creative changes.
This next bit will sound conspiratorial, but I don’t think it’s an unreasonable supposition. I believe — or at least I would not be surprised to learn — that all these debuts and changes are starting in October because that will give them at least six issues to resolve themselves before the big springtime move to the West Coast. For example, six issues is pretty much the minimum for a collection, so if any of the new series just drop immediately into the sales cellar (I’m looking at you, Klarion; say hi to GI Zombie), DC can still have enough for a trade paperback. That’s not to say a reboot is inevitable next spring — notwithstanding one panel in Robin Rising that should jump-start such talk — but I could see a good bit of the superhero line taking a potential victory lap over the fall and winter. (Apparently I am not alone in thinking this.)
What’s more, “all the same” isn’t much of an exaggeration. The 41 New 52 titles that are getting Futures End one-off tie-ins bear the same prices, release dates and copy as they did in the July solicits. The September listings do add cover art and credits, which are important details; but they don’t change the gist or tone of the previewed plots. More on this later.
Otherwise, these solicits contain only a handful of additional main-line superhero titles. These include the second Multiversity issue (with the awesomely alliterative subtitle Society of Super-Heroes: Conquerors of the Counter-World), the final issue of Superman Unchained, four issues each of Futures End and Batman Eternal, and the first Teen Titans: Earth One hardcover.
Therefore, this month’s solicitation roundup might get a little weird.
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