1
Aug
2011
The Watchtower
DCnU: The Good
Chris
Over the past decades, two publishers (Marvel and DC) have dominated the Comics industry. However if you examine comics sales charts of the past few years, you will see that Marvel Comics sales represents a majority of the top of the sales charts, and flat out dominates the middle region of the sales charts. If DC was to remain a viable competitor to Marvel, they needed to take drastic action, and that's exactly what they have done. Earlier this summer, DC announced an extensive business and creative plan to reinvigorate their sales and perhaps those of the industry as a whole. The plan as it has been revealed so far, is a line wide renumbering (52 new #1 issues) all set to ship in September, continuity reboots, new titles, new characters, and simultaneous digital releases for the Ipad and other tablets the same day new comics hit the stores. The DC relaunch has become the biggest comics news of the summer if not the entire year.

Every Monday, from now through September, I will be running a special edition of the Watchtower dedicated to examining this monumental event starting with a three part series entitled DCnU: The Good, The Bad, and The Strange.


THE GOOD

1.) New #1s
I think one of the smartest decisions DC made regarding the September relaunch has also been one of the most controversial as far as the fans are concerned. Many fans decry the choice to renumber such long running titles as Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman is a disservice to the history of the company and the medium itself. While I do wish that the long running Action Comics and Detective Comics would be exempt from the coming changes for that exact reason, I do believe that it would have had a lesser impact than the complete line wide relaunch we are seeing now, and confused the issue of the universe wide continuity alterations that will accompany the renumbering. 52 new #1 issues has certainly caused a stir among both hardcore comics readers and more casual mainstream audiences alike. DC needed to make a big, bold move to get the fans excited, and that's just what they've done. The intrinsic accessibility of #1 and low numbered books will help give new and lapsed readers every opportunity possible to jump on their books. And the fact that the renumbering is line wide makes the universe as a whole seem much less daunting.

2.) Continuity Reboots
We are coming up on the 70 to 80 year anniversaries for some of these characters. That's a lot of history for the dedicated fan to keep track of, let alone for the uninitiated reader to get a handle on. A number of these characters have roots in World War II and the Great Depression. Look back at some of the classic stories and see how fashion and technology has changed, the world that these characters were created in has changed dramatically, and while they themselves remain the same, not much else does. Most importantly there have been a number of poor creative decisions over the years that have led to the need for selective retconning, and while stronger franchises have come out of these retcons (the Green Lantern resurgence under Johns), continuous retconning takes away from the forward momentum of a narrative and becomes really noticeable after awhile. A straight up across the board continuity alteration due to a single factor (it would appear to be the time traveling shenanigans of Professor Zoom in this instance) is much simpler than numerous retcons each aimed at correcting specific creative missteps. Additionally, DC editorial has indicated that the heroes will be younger and less experienced once the relaunch hits. I'm very much in favor of such a decision. After so many years and countless victories, the DC heroes seem invincible. Leaving our heroes a little greener will allow the writers to ratchet up the tension in their stories. Slightly younger, slightly less experienced heroes, firmly rooted in the modern era will further help DC connect its characters to a new audience.


3.) "I Can't Believe It's Not Vertigo"
Among the 52 new titles debuting in September are seven books that DC has grouped under the Label of Dark. These titles have a supernatural/horror bent to them that once was the exclusive domain of the Vertigo imprint. Likewise, most of them feature characters that, while having debuted in the DC Universe proper, have only appeared in Vertigo titles for the past couple decades. Swamp Thing, John Constantine, Madame Xanadu, Animal Man (well he's already been back for awhile I guess), and Shade The Changing Man are among those hopping the Mature Readers fence to return to the DC Universe. I think this grouping of titles is one of the more exciting announcements to come out of the relaunch plan, as each title really looks like a passion project for a very talented creator with a very unique voice. The Dark titles remind me of what I like to refer to as Marvel's modern renaissance period (2000-2004) where creators previously unassociated with the company were given surprisingly free reign to make some very startling and exciting changes to classic characters and cornerstone titles. While these characters may not be quite as iconic as the the Marvel characters taken to new heights during the renaissance, their relative low profile will allow these creators to really run wild and take the narrative in some surprising directions. DC has assembled some of their most talented and most unconventional writers and artists on these titles, and I think their choices are really going to pay off in terms of critical reception come September. Whether or not that quality will translate into sales remains to be seen as, while beloved by many readers, especially those who eschew more mainstream super heroics, the Vertigo imprint upon which the Dark grouping is based has never been a sales juggernaut.

4.) A Justice League that Leads the charge.
For too long, the book that should be DC's flagship title has played second fiddle to the solo series starring the characters that make up this prolific team. Justice League has always been a hard team to write, because when Superman, Green Lantern, and Batman are going through major character development, its going to happen in their own titles. Writers have typically dealt with this problem in one of two ways: 1.) a heavy focus on action, or 2.) take out the big names and stack the team's ranks with less popular characters with whom the writer can do more (effective but it undercuts the prestige of the team). Some writers (Brad Meltzer) have struck a great balance of mixing big names in with less popular heroes who don't have their own books. However the Johns/Lee relaunch looks to be the best incarnation of this title yet, as Johns has proven that he can write the hell out of these iconic characters (already having a critically acclaimed run on Flash, Green Lantern, and Superman under his belt) and as one of DC's most popular writers he is already known for setting the tone and direction of the Publisher's story lines (52, Blackest Night, Brightest Day). Putting him on Justice League positions him perfectly to continue to set the direction for DCU for the next couple years worth of story lines, and to give us Justice League stories that are exciting, character driven, and carry major ramifications.

5.) Grant Morrison reinvents Superman for a new generation.
This one is a real no brainer. Comics' most prolific and visionary scribe taking on comics' most iconic and inspiring character? Count me in! Grant Morrison has already shown that he gets the Man of Steel with his classic renditions of the character in JLA, All Star Superman, and Superman Beyond. Now Morrison has been given the unenviable task of remaining Superman to connect with a new generation that has little interest in his recent titles and widely lampooned his recent feature film. Will Morrison be up to the task? I have every bit of faith that he will exceed even my wildest expectations. I am calling it now, this is my most anticipated title of the DCnU relaunch.

**Note: Do you agree? Disagree? The RTBN crew runs on comments. Let us know what you think. If you enjoyed this article, please swing back on Wednesday for my comic reviews of the week, and on Friday for a more general edition of the Watchtower. And check back on Monday for Part 2, DCnU: The Bad.
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