WLG #377: We Survived the Reboot

A column article by: Matt Spatola

...and we survived.

I'm not talking about a summer full of heat and hurricanes. I'm also not talking about a busy Labor Day weekend full of college football games, cook-outs and misty eyes over the end of summer and the beginning of another school year.

I'm talking about last week's end of the DC Comics Universe as we have known it and the launch of its shiny, new replacement. With the publication of Flashpoint #5 and Justice League #1 it was a huge week for DC and for the comics industry in general.

There was a lot of national media coverage and sellouts everywhere. It's been reported that JL had sales to stores of over 240,000 and climbing with a second and third printing coming.

I think its safe to say that since the announcement of DC's relaunch it has easily been the most talked, argued, discussed and disseminated subject in comics. Lots of opinions in both directions. And I don't really want to go into the whole subject either in a long way right here. I will mention a few things as we go through What Looks Good though.

I think that regardless of where you fall as to supporting the relaunch of the DC main publishing line- yay or nay- we all should at least be supporting the ideas behind this project. Dan Didio and Jim Lee and the rest of the managerial crew recognize that there is something 'wrong' with comic book publishing/distribution as a whole and are doing something to address that. That is a real big deal right there folks.

For as long as I can remember comic readers- especially the vocal internet/messageboard variety- have been beating the drums of disaster in the comic book industry. Sales are continually falling, prices rising, audience dropping and reader apathy growing. And until now it looked like the publishers as a whole were just ignoring it. Sure there was some lip service of acknowledgment of the issues we were facing but no real 'doing something about it'.

Well now DC has done that. And like, I wrote earlier, we have survived. The new era is here. And so with that I want to make this week's column primarily a focus on the relaunch as this week is not the official first week but is the first full publishing week with 13 new first issues.

So with that, here we go...What Looks Good in the new DCU!

Action Comics #1 $3.99 (Grant Morrison & Rags Morales)

The one and only Grant Morrison (ALL-STAR SUPERMAN) returns to Superman, joined by sensational artist Rags Morales (IDENTITY CRISIS), to bring you tales of The Man of Steel unlike any you've ever read! This extra-sized debut issue is the cornerstone of the entire DC Universe!

Next to last week's Justice League by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee this book is probably the most anticipated and most talked about, yes I'm talking the red underwear here but not only that. Superman is the character most affected by the relaunch since he is going through the most changes. While the focus of the first storyline takes place in the past a la Justice League and is GM's version of John Byrne's Man of Steel, I'm more focused on the storylines after this one and how Morrison handles the character in the present. Much like how GM has driven the approach and idea of Batman for years now he will now be doing the same for Superman.

My concern with an almost total revamp of characters and continuity is that in the desire to add readers you lose the ones you have now. Granted the Superman titles are not burning up the charts but this character obviously is extremely important to DC and they want to do it right. That's a real tough balance to accomplish. And I think DC did themselves a little bit of a disservice by locking themselves in to the 'only 5 years of superheroes' thing. It just seems so hard to think that everything in the new DC continuity can be condensed into that small a timespan.

And as to the costume I personally am fine with the new look- maybe a little less armor lines- and don't miss the underwear. I'll be buying this title regularly now- which is what DC wanted.

Batgirl #1 $2.99 (Gail Simone & Adrian Syaf)

"Yes, it's really happening! Barbara Gordon is back as Batgirl - and she's going to have to face the city's most horrifying new villains as well as the dark secrets from her past. You won't want to miss this stunning debut issue from fan-favorite BIRDS OF PREY writer Gail Simone!"

Probably the biggest character controversy to come out of the new DCU is the return of Barbara Gordon to her Batgirl identity- lots of irate readers over the loss of Barbara as Oracle. I have to say that I am not really sure about this one either. Since Alan Moore's The Killing Joke, Gordon has grew so much as a character that she actually outgrew the Batgirl label. Never in her history as Batgirl was Gordon more than just a marginal, trademark-inspired character. But through the years Oracle became one of the major players not just in the Batman family of titles but in the DCU proper. I think we and DC are really losing something here by having her 'go back' to the Batgirl identity.
Even the logistics of the timespan of the new DCU makes it hard to accommodate. How does it all fit- Batgirl, shot by Joker, Oracle, Birds of Prey, Cassandra Cain, Stephanie Brown and now back as Batgirl? Seems like too much. DC has stated that Killing Joke did happen in the new continuity though.

However, having Simone as writer should assuage many that Barbara's return to the cowl somehow will be handled improperly. She's proven to have the knowledge of the previous version of the character. Now let's see how well she does with this new one.

Detective Comics #1 $2.99 (Tony Daniel with Ryan Winn)

"DC's flagship title is relaunched for the first time ever, with new Batman adventures from acclaimed writer/ artist Tony S. Daniel! A killer called The Gotham Ripper is on the loose on Batman's home turf - leading The Dark Knight on a deadly game of cat and mouse."

DC basically just swaps Batman creative teams as Tony Daniel gets moved over from the main Batman comic to the book where it all started and DC gets its name, Detective Comics. I like Daniel as a Batman artist and he is really growing on me as a writer.

Scott Snyder, who had been producing an incredible run on Detective, is now on the flagship title, where DC hopes to get him even more attention as he seems to be being groomed as the new 'show runner' on the character for when GM decides he is done, most likely with the conclusion of his Batman Inc./Leviathan storyline.

One of the major complaints of the revamp of the DC publishing line has been the renumbering of DC's last two 'classic' titles, Action Comics and Detective Comics. Neither title has suffered through the countless renumberings seem to plague every title.

I've never been that hung up by the issue number of comics. I'm more into the character and story I guess. However I can agree that there is a loss of history now by starting these titles over. But I can see the reasoning that Didio shared; if they had rebooted the DCU and kept the original numbering going it somehow gives the appearance of the possibility that the old DCU, the one we have all known, is still around and could somehow come back. The relaunch needed a complete break from the past for DC to have it truly accepted by the comic buyers as the new status quo and not just something that could be temporary.

As an aside, that's what has been one of the 'problems' with Marvel's Spider-Man "One More Day"/"Brand New Day". They tried to restart the character without breaking away from the past stories/continuity. Now even years later fans are still complaining and waiting for a return of the 'real' Spider-Man.

As a second aside, I liked how Marvel used to handle renumberings in their line. They would have the new, lower issue number on the covers along with the larger legacy issue number in a lighter color; both sides happy.

Men of War #1 $3.99 (Ivan Brandon & Tom Derenick)

"On the ground and on the front lines, a young, headstrong soldier known as Joe Rock assumes command of Easy Company - a team of ex-military men turned contractors. Will they survive the battle-scarred landscape carved by the DCU's Super-Villains? Find out in this explosive new series from Ivan Brandon (Viking, DOC SAVAGE) and Tom Derenick (JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA)!"

52 new titles published in one month. The most ambitious aspect of the DC relaunch has to be the sheer number of first issues they are throwing at the market, all in the same month. With that many books all debuting at the same time it's a given that many good books, are going to get lost in the shuffle. I'm guessing that this comic is going to be one. And- as an example- with 11 Batman family ongoings debuting this month there's only so much media coverage to go around.

As part of their publishing plan in the new DCU, Didio and Lee wanted to put forth a more balanced and varied line and not just super-heroes. So among these initial 52 titles readers will find books like I, Vampire, Voodoo, All Star Western and Men of War.

But even with a plan for a more diverse line DC still has found ways to tie all the titles into something of a cohesive 'universe', like with Jonah Hex in old time Gotham City and Easy Company here in this book.

I've always felt that balanced publishing and not just focusing on superheroes was one of the ways to attract new reader to comic books. And with this initiative DC really is making its biggest move in to date to do that. I'll give them that pushing digital is also a great way of getting new readers. And as much as the direct market retailers complain for fear of losing revenue I just don't believe there will be a substantial loss. I think the people who will be buying digital comics actually want them that way much like the readers who prefer buying the actual books. I don't see that large a group of crossover between the two.

Well I could go on discussing more parts of the DC relaunch and its positives and negatives. However that'll have to keep for another time. I did still want to mention a few other titles from other companies because there will be other books out this week.

  • From Marvel I'm looking at Punisher #3 by Rucka/Chechetto. Great first storyline from Rucka even though I'm missing the Punisher War Journal narration. And 3 issues in only two months sounds good as well.
  • From Image comes Morning Glories #12 by the getting-busier-by-the-minute Nick Spencer and with beautiful art by Nick Eisma. If you haven't got this book on your pull list then now is the time.
  • And from Red 5 is tomic Robo: Ghost of Station X #1. It's hard to believe but this will be the sixth volume of this title; all by Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener

Thank you as always for coming by and checking out this week's column. Please feel free to share your thoughts and own picks right here on the message boards. I'll see you all in 3 weeks- please enjoy the next two columns by my new colleagues in column writing!

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