DCnU: The Strange
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.
Alright, so we've discussed what I like, we've discussed what I dislike, now it's time to take a look at what just plain baffles, confuses, and maybe intrigues me.
1.) A new Green Lantern
This announcement came late in the game, but come September DC's greatest success story of recent years and currently, probably the company's second most popular character will not be headlining his own book. Hal Jordan had his ring stripped from him at the end of the War of The Green Lanterns storyline and now faces an uncertain future. Taking his place will be Hal's arch enemy Sinestro. A bold and exciting move, sure, but at a time when DC is taking a lot of chances, you'd think that they would want to keep the Bat and GL franchises as stable as possible (given that they were the only two franchises consistently moving books) in order to have at least a couple safe bets come September. Now Geoff Johns and Doug Mahnke are still on the book, and everybody loves a good villain so this probably won't hurt sales too much. It just seems odd that when offering a new #1 of GL right after the summer when the movie hit theaters (even though it kinda blew) DC wouldn't want to have Hal front and center. I for one am actually very excited about this move, but looking at it from a business perspective, it puzzles me that DC would take away one of their cash cow characters at a time where pretty much everything at the company is up in the air.
2.) Can you draw, start writing!
9 of the DCnU relaunch titles are being written or co-written by artists, in many cases artists writing the same book that they are drawing. In my previous column I mentioned that one of the biggest mistakes I can identify in the DC relaunch plan is not hiring new writers, however in the relaunch, we do see several artists joining the ranks of the established house writers. Some of the artists have had vast prior experience at writing, but some are taking their first stab at scripting a mainstream monthly comic book. What does this have to say about the new DC? Not really sure to be honest with you. If I were to make a few educated guesses, I'd say that Jim Lee's position as co-publisher (a well renowned artist in his own right) might mean that the company is putting a stronger emphasis on visual storytelling and thus the greater synergy that comes from writer and artist being one in the same might be something Lee was actively trying to establish. Personally, story has always mattered to me more than art in comics. I'm an aspiring writer myself so perhaps that's just personal bias, but I really do believe that if the script of a book isn't good, if the foundation is flawed, than no amount of pretty artwork is going to be able to save the final product. Maybe concessions were made to keep certain artists in house (cough David Finch cough), or maybe these artist just made really compelling pitches. I'm not opposed to this practice and I think it could yield some really cool results, I just think that, like comic writers, these artists should have to prove themselves as writers on miniseries, fill in arcs, and low profile titles before being handed big assignments like The Flash, Batman: The Dark Knight, and The Savage Hawkman.
3.) Cyborg's move to the majors.
When the new big seven line up of the Justice League was revealed, readers were surprised to see that former Teen Titans Cyborg stood shoulder to shoulder with Superman, Batman, The Flash etc. This is an interesting move because Cyborg seems to have usurped Martian Manhunter's role as a founder of the Justice League in the new continuity. This leaves many questions about how the New Teen Titans, one of DC's most beloved runs of comics fits into this new continuity if it does at all. Either Cyborg is much younger than his teammates and served on two teams or he was never a Teen Titan or that team as we knew it never existed. I kind've understand why Cyborg was chosen. First of all Geoff Johns really likes the character, he has a bit of recognizability from the Teen Titans cartoon, DC wants to diversify the core of the Justice League a bit (Cyborg is African American), and Cyborg's powers and skills bring something to the lineup that was lacking. When looking at the core group of the Justice League, both in powers, skill sets, and origins, there is specialization. Now Martian Manhunter and Superman are actually pretty similar, and aside from just a want for raw power, it's kinda hard to identify what J'onn brings to the table that Superman doesn't (except the telepathy, useful, useful telepathy). Now Cyborg on the other hand is firmly rooted in technology and science making his area of expertise as specialized and unique as Batman or Aquaman. It makes sense, I just wonder why Mr. Terrific wasn't considered instead. Mr. Terrific is also an African American super hero and happens to have a great deal of technological expertise. Heck he's the third smartest man in the world, so he could fill the void of tech guy and resident go to scientist. Mr. Terrific is already getting a big push with his own solo series, (curiously Cyborg is the only member of the big seven of the Justice League that won't have his own solo series come September). Sure Mr. Terrific does not bring the same things to the table that Cyborg does, and personality wise it would make for a very different dynamic. But in terms of similar and in some respects superior, skill sets, being the right age already, an existing effort to raise the profile of the character and the opportunity to avoid a massive continuity rewrite, it seems odd that Mr. Terrific was passed over in favor of Cyborg.
4.) Double standards or Apparently He Is The Hero We Need...
There are 11 bat titles in the New 52. 11. That's a little over 21% of the DC relaunch. 11. I know that Batman titles always sell and always sell well. But 11 seems like overkill to me. If DC wants to have a viable catalogue across the board, they should trim the number of Bat Titles they sell, and focus some of the amazing talent they have on those books on some of their other families and properties. Using their resources to elevate the standing of other heroes and titles will increase the health and viability of the line as a whole. Yes the bat titles are the best sellers now, but DC should be looking at the long game. If sales trends keep going as they have been, Batman alone will not be able to keep the company afloat.
5.) The curious case of Scott Lobdell
I mentioned several times before that DC didn't hire that many new writers. Well they hired a few. And the most notable of those hired was Scott Lobdell. In the 90s Scott Lobdell was Mr. X-Men, helming the flagship Uncanny X-Men, and launching the fan-favorite Generation X. In recent years he hasn't really done much mainstream comics work. Then the DC relaunch announcements hit. And Scott Lobdell is slated to write three titles. The only other person writing three titles in the relaunch is DC Chief Creative Officer and golden boy Geoff Johns. Nobody is writing more titles in the relaunch than these two. What does editorial see in Scott Lobdell that made him the one major get when they were trying to shape the direction of their new universe? Like many of their recent decisions, I worry that it's the same sort of "well this worked in the 90s" mentality that has led to the resurgence of Wildstorm, artists as writers, and darker/edgier interpretations of super heroes. Or maybe it's something else. I admit to not being terribly familiar with Mr. Lobdell's work. But those of you who are might see why he was tapped when so many others were passed over. Bottom line, the fact that he's writing three titles means something. It means DC has a great deal of confidence in his talents and voice, and that what he brings to the table is something they are looking for in their new creative plan. I'm interested to see what he does with this comeback, and will be picking up his Teen Titans come September.
**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 10 DCnU titles to watch out for!