New Year is a funny old thing. However good the spirit of Christmas is, New Year remains my preferred holiday. It's a time for partying like there's no tomorrow, for forgetting your troubles and giving yourself up to the spirit of optimism . It's a time for leaving all the crap that you've been carrying around behind in the old year and stepping out, pure, happy and unsulied into the new. In spite of our tendency to fill the last couple of weeks of any year with retrospectives* New Year isn't really a time for looking back – it's a time for looking forward.
Speaking as a Brit, 2012 is going to be a big year. The Olympic Games will return to London for the first time since 1948**. It's the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty the Queen, which means a festival of pomp and ceremony . Even more importantly from my point of view, it's also the sixtieth anniversary of the first flight of the Avro Vulcan, the Tin Triangle, the finest, most agile heavy bomber that ever flew.*** In the US 2012 is election year****, as it is in France and China. And of course, according to the ancient Mayan culture, there is also the small matter of the end of the world.***** But comics are more important than all that stuf, so what can we expect from them in 2012?
Well, the honest truth is that I'm not really in much of a position to make any accurate predictions – whilst I'm paying more attention to the scene these days than I have in recent years, my finger still isn't all that firmly on the pulse – there are many people, many of whom write for this very site, who are far more qualified than I am to tell you what to expect from comics in the coming year. Besides, who cares what the comics companies have planned? The question should be what do we want from comics in the next twelve months, and what are we going to do about it?
These then are some of my hopes and resolutions for 2012.
Hope One: Please DC, don't screw up the New 52
So far, the New 52 has confounded all of my negative expectations. I mean, it's not perfect – while I don't like to think of myself as puritanical or prudish, I'm not all that happy with the way some of the female characters are portrayed – pretty much all of the wrong signals being sent by some of the books.
I'm hoping that this issue might actually get sorted out. I know that goes against all experience, but isn't that what the New 52 has done since its launch? Hopefully they'll realise they're going to get further with strong female characters, like Barbara Gordon, Selina Kyle and Kate Kane than they will with characters they've turned into cheapadolescent masturbatory fantasies like Koriand'r.
Actually, while we're on the subject, I'm kinda hoping that they'll tone all of the sex down a bit. Like I said, I don't want to be prudish, and I always thought it was unlikely that a man like Bruce Wayne would live the life of a monk. But seriously, since the reboot he hardly ever seems to have his trousers on! Sex scenes have their place, and occasionally that place is is comics, but not all the time – it just gets boring!
More than anything though, I'm hoping that DC don't slip back into their pre-52 ways. I don't want to see another ten or fifteen DCU books creeping onto the shelves. I certainly don't want to see any crossovers, or anything else that will over-burden the line with the sort of un-wieldy continuity the revamp was designed to stamp out. The honest truth is that the New 52 was the thing I most expected to hate in 2011. As it turned out, it has, on balance, been the thing that has most impressed me.
Please DC, I'm deadly serious. Don't mess it up.
Hope Two: Please let the Judge Dredd movie be good!
Actually I have high hopes for this. I've been waiting for a Judge Dredd movie for a long time. I remember when I first started reading 2000AD back in the eighties there was a lot of speculation about a film featuring the future lawman, but to date nothing******. Then, a few years ago just after Rebellion took over publishing duties at the Galaxy's Greatest Comic they hosted a "2000AD goes to the movies" panel (I can't remember if that's what it was called, but that's what it was about) at the Bristol con.
They were keen impress upon the audience that as fans themselves they were very protective of Dredd and how he might be portrayed******* and their ideas sounded pretty good. Then it all went quiet again.
But the new movie is finally slated for a 2012 release, and with descriptions like a cross between "Blade Runner and Clockwork Orange" it seems that they might well have got the right sort of vibe going. Dredd has always been a dark dystopian strip – albeit one with a sense of humour – and people forget that in the backgrounds of the early stories there were Judges carrying out summary executions in the street. The gloom of Blade Runner and the violence of A clockwork Orange sounds about right…
Now that 2000AD is readily available Stateside, the exposure that a successful movie would inevitabley bring is also pretty timely. When the-movie -that-shall-not-be-acknowledged came out in '95 there were not Dredd comics to speak of in the US, and 'Tooth had no way of getting them there. This led to a deal with DC and a rather ill-advised Americanised******** version of a Dredd comic which was almost as irredeemably awful as the movie, despite the involvement of Michael Avon Oeming. Digital availability, something of a speciality for 'Tooth publishers Rebellion, must also be a bit of a help.
This could be the start of something big for 'Tooth. If this works out, could we be line for a Rogue Trooper or Strontium Dog movie? Perhaps I'll make that hope 2.1!
Hope Three: That publishers will understand that you don't need a Y chromosome to write or draw a good comic.
See, this shouldn't really be hard. In fact, this is so not hard that it actually comes under the category of "I can't believe this is still a New Year's Hope". But there you go, the world of comics is a strange one and while bits of it are right at the cutting edge of world culture, ther are bits of it that are still stuck in the dark ages – and a good example of this would be the New 52 project at DC.
I have to put a health warning on my figures because I haven't personally done the maths. I'm an english teacher, and frankly the maths are beyond me, but it is claimed by people who can count, and not denied by DC, that when the New 52 launched, the number of creators who were of a female persuasion fell from 12% to 1%.
Now. My first reaction to that statistic is "12%?!" I mean really. The population of the world is something like 51% female, but only 12% of the creators for one of the largest comic book publishers in the English speaking world were women? Really? And then, in a bid for more relevance they got rid of almost all of them?
As the young people would have it, "FFS! WTF?!"
Now, experience tells me that there is a disproportionate numbeer of male type peopel who read comics. It is not, therefore surprising that there are more men in the comics business than women and that as a proportion of the population that women are under-represented. But 12%?!
That is all kinds of fucked up.
And then it falls to a mere 1%?
That franlkly is a disgrace, although it does explain to a degree the way that women have been portrayed in the DCU of late.
I'm not saying that a woman wouldn't have written Starfire as a varacious sexual predator, I'm just saying that she'd have been less of a 14 year old boy's wet dream, that's all.
Women make good comics. This surely is not a controversial statement. If you're not sure, then I have some names for you. Jill Thompson. Cala Speed McNiel. Laura DePuy. Emma Vicelli. I'm not saying that men can't write good female characters. That would be as abusrd as saying taht women can't write good male characters. I'm just saying that woman have a slightly different way of looking at the world than men do********* and it benefits everyone if that world view gets a bit of representation.
On the up side, there are some senior (and even better, good) female editors working in mainstream comics, so it's not a total masculine whitewash, but even so I can only imagine that this is a subject I'll be coing back to…
Hope Four: Still watching for the Watchmen…
It's probably a heresy to say this, but while I loved – and still love – Watchmen, and regard it as a cracking good comic, I really don't think it's as good as everyone says it is. That's not to say that it isn't great – it really is, but to hear some people talk you'd think it had been written by the hand of God Himself, using angel blood for ink.
Mind you, I should say that I started reading comics in a post-Watchmen world, so I can't say how ground-breaking it was – by the time I got there I ground had already been broken. I'm told by people who do remember a pre-Watchmen world that it changed everything, and in all honesty, you really can't ask much more of a work than that. It also had a pretty final ending – although I can't help thinking that the ending of the film is actually better.
Anyway. My point is that Watchmen was a fantastic comic. I was left wanting more, but the ending sort of precluded a real sequel, and I'm glad that DC showed uncharacteristic restraint at the time and resisted the temptation. However, as I'm sure you know that rumours continue to persist about a sequel, and several high profile names have – unofficially of course – been attached to it. To date, none of those names have been Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. While I've often got the impression that Gibbons might well be up for it if the script was good enough, I think we all know htat hthere is absolutely zero chance that Moore would want to do it, and I suspect that Gibbons wouldn't do it without him.
Now, I'm not normally one to say that only one writer can write any particular character, but there are exceptions., and I'm not sure that I'd want to read a Watchmen comic that wasn't by Moore and Gibbons. The rumours are always intrigueing, but my hope for 2012 would be that they remain just that – unsubstantiated rumours. Mysubsidiary hope would be that if the rumours turn out to be true, that they make a bloody good job of it!
Damn – is that the time? Look, there's a glass of champagne with my name on it over there, it's New Year's Eve, and neither of us should be sitting at a computer right now. Let's go and party, and I'll see you back here in the morning for a nice glass of Alka Seltzer, a couple of hangover busting ibuprofen tablets, and a few more hopes and resolutions for the incipient year.
See you on the other side of the bells!
*Something that I've done in this very column on many occasions…
**It's a funny thing that. Most countries have chosen to host the greatest sporting show on Earth when they're feeling a bit flush. In Britain we only ever seem to choose to do it when we're basically skint.
***In another life, I'm a massive plane geek. If I'm obsessive about comics, I'm utterly insane about planes, and the Vulcan is, without question, my absolute favourite. I once drove over a thousand miles in a weekend just so that I could see the last one fly. It was worth it. If you've ever seen one, you know that there is nothing like it. If you haven't, go to Youtube and type in "XH558" or "Vulcan Howl". It's a poor substitute, but it'll give you an idea of the awesome might of the world's only four engined delta bomber. I'm going on a bit, aren't I. Sorry…
****About which I absolutely will not comment. I'm not American and it's not my business. But please, America, just remember that your President is still the most powerful man on Earth, and don't elect anyone who is likely to get me killed.
*****Which of course would make me worry less about the point above – except of course the world isn't going to end in 2012, so I'd still like you to take some care…
******Oh all right, so there was that turkey in 1995 – Stallone's worst ever movie, which is a shame because I understand he's a fan. It was, however, unutterable bollocks and I choose to pretend it didn't happen.
*******Not that we should read too much into that, as I said Stallone was also a fan…
********It seems odd to talk about "Americanising" Dredd, but it's important to remember that while the strip is set in America the censibilities of the strip is very definately British.
*********They certainly spend less time looking at its tits…