The past two weeks have been a period of rarely matched excitement for comics newshounds, as word of the creative teams and titles included in DC Comics’ September relaunch have come rolling down like a waterfall from the lofty cliffs of Mount DiDio. Thanks to a gradual release of information (as well as a steady stream of educated speculation and leaks), DC has dominated the media cycle to get everyone in our little geeky corner of the world (and maybe a few outside of it) talking about their books. I, for one, have been locked onto my RSS feeds with a greater-than-healthy fervor.
Now that the names and faces behind all 52 number one issues are known, however, the big picture strikes me as looking frighteningly anticlimactic. Not that there’s anything wrong with the list of folks who’ll be shaping the face of the New DCU (nearly all of them are accomplished creators in their own right), but the whole thing reeks of comfort and security. This is potentially the biggest risk taken by a major publisher in comics history, and yet the people involved look like the same familiar bunch who’ve been making DC books for a decade.
To really make a play for the snipe-like new reader, DC should have done more than merely reallocating their existing resources. An infusion of new talent, along with a recommitment to some particularly innovative mainstays, could have turned this line of books into something to really sing about. Though it’s simply wishful thinking at this point, the following are the top ten creators who DC should have found some way to make part of its upcoming relaunch.
10. Alex de Campi
Even if you’re the type that rolls your eyes every time DC starts to talk the diversity talk, it can’t be denied that the publisher looks a little hypocritical in announcing a near exclusively male roster of writers and artists. Alex de Campi is a brilliant female talent who could have gone a long way towards helping DC practice what it preaches, but her inclusion in this list goes beyond suggesting a mere affirmative action hire.
Nominated for an Eisner in 2006 for the mini-series Smoke, de Campi currently writes the “mobile comic” Valentine, a historical fantasy available for free download via Comixology. Not only has her excellent work on this series earned her some serious non-superhero cred, it also proves she can hold her own in the digital comic waters through which DC is hoping to navigate. Though print comics won’t be disappearing any time soon, it couldn’t hurt to have someone in the fold who knows how to write for the screen.
9. Bryan Q. Miller
While not exactly a new face among DC’s current stable of writers, Bryan Q. Miller was certainly one of its freshest voices over the past two years. The Stephanie Brown Batgirl series could have easily been a Gotham City afterthought had it not been for Miller’s skills in characterization and establishing a uniquely fun tone. While I would argue that he was still working in Batgirl to figure out the best balance between humor and story, there’s no reason that DC shouldn’t have given him a chance to further develop his talents.
Where Miller fits into this exercise in second guessing lies in his mastery at crafting short, accessible tales. Rarely did his Batgirl arcs last longer than three issues, and each new storyline was a perfectly valid place to start following the book. DC has obviously identified the difficulty imposed by the burden of continuity, and I can think of no one better than Miller to make sure that the products of DC’s new era remain open and inviting.
8. Ryan Sook
To be perfectly honest, this one’s a bit of a cheat. Ryan Sook is, in fact, playing a role in the DC relaunch, drawing the covers to DC Universe Presents and Justice League Dark. That kind of inclusion, however, simply isn’t enough. Sook is a phenomenal artist who has absolutely killed it in the past for DC, nowhere more notably than in the Kamandi feature in Wednesday Comics.
I’ll refrain from mentioning any specific artists that Sook should have replaced, but the reality is that there are a number of slots suitable for him. Sook is equally talented within any the many superhero sub-genres, suitable for sci-fi driven books just as well as he is the more down-to-earth stuff.
7. Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci
In the name of attracting those who haven’t already pitched a tent inside the comics reading camp, DC could have used some names with a heavier dose of “mainstream” recognition. My (overly?) optimistic picks to fulfill that role are Kurtzman and Orci, the minds behind television’s Fringe and the screenwriters of J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek reboot.
Though Fringe has been the source of some truly awful comics, neither Kurtzman nor Orci wrote any of those. The show itself, on the other hand, is rife with elements traditionally associated with superhero comics, namely the existence of a parallel universe around which the show revolves. Honestly, does it get any more DC Comics than that?
Add to that their role in rebooting the Star Trek franchise, and it’s hard to think of a Hollywood import who would be more fit to enter the world of comic books. At the very least, an opening stint on an anthology book like DC Universe Presents could have added some much needed juice to last week’s announcements.
6. Roger Langridge
After having Thor: The Mighty Avenger brought to an untimely end at Marvel, how sweet would it have been for Rodger Langridge to make his superhero comeback by joining the DC ranks? Though his role on BOOM! Studios’ The Muppet Show would preclude him from working as an artist, his clever, straightforward writing alone more than qualifies him as one of the industry’s best.
None of the new DC books appear to be particularly aimed at younger readers, a void that Langridge could certainly fill. Without giving up the ability to appeal to adults, his track record is impeccable at creating stories that all ages can enjoy (I’m guessing that Justice League Dark won’t exactly fit the bill.). At the risk of pigeonholing Langridge as the guy who writes about magical lightning, it seems like he’d be the perfect selection to man the helm in a Shazam! Series, which was also conspicuously absent from the DC press releases.
5. Brian Wood
For a few months, Vertigo wunderkind Brian Wood was expected to become the writer of Supergirl, a rumor that was finally squashed this past week when DC’s creative teams were announced and Wood’s name was nowhere to be found. Whether or not the Girl of Steel was the right character for Wood to take on, his versatile output suggest that he would have been able to
come up with a winning take on any of the publisher’s characters. The fact that he already writes a number of titles for DC’s mature readers imprint made his exclusion an even bigger surprise.
Wood’s body of work includes stories about Vikings, college students, and a modern day US Civil War, and that’s just what the prolific writer currently has on the stands. So basically, DC could have picked any one of their books to assign to Wood and watched the critical acclaim roll in. Their missed opportunity is our loss as well.
There’s a pretty incredible Joker image drawn by Jock that’s been floating around the Internet lately, and all signs pointed to the notion that it would be appearing on the cover of one of DC’s September number ones. At present, that bit of speculation doesn’t seem to have panned out. Neither the image nor Jock himself have been employed by DC to usher in their new line, and the world is all the worse for it.
As much as it was Scott Snyder who was responsible for making the last six months of Detective Comics a must-read, the issues drawn by Jock were extra special. With an efficient, minimalist style that makes prime use of mood and shadow, Jock was born to illustrate the Dark Knight. I suspect that we’ll continue to see him pop up from time to time on DC covers, but it seems like it would have been a no-brainer to keep him doing interior art.
3. Joe Hill
Joe Hill was the writer of two separate titles published by IDW in 2010, and both could end up winning Eisner Awards this July. In other words, DC should have called him up even if it weren’t planning a line-wide relaunch. Between The Cape one-shot and the Locke and Key ongoing, Hill looks like he has what it takes to be a star in this industry for a long time. The dark, paranormal nature of the latter seems like it would have been a great segue into a number of the supernaturally themed books DC is set to debut.
Not only that, but Hill’s parentage (his dad is a moderately successful author named Stephen King) would have made for quite the striking press release. Not to take anything away from the name Hill has made for himself, DC would have been nuts not to capitalize. Winning the media war and producing quality comics will be the keys to DC’s success, and Joe Hill could have gone a long way in helping the company to do both.
2. Cameron Stewart
As big a fan of letting artists write their own books as DC is these days, you’d think they’d have gone after a guy who has proven himself to be an absolute master at it. Cameron Stewart has been one of the company’s top artists in the past five years, generally on books written by Grant Morrison (Seaguy, Batman and Robin). Even when he isn’t illustrating someone else’s scripts, however, Stewart is capable of creating genuine comics magic.
No doubt about it, his ongoing web series Sin Titulo is presently the best comic you can read on an electronic screen. Its only downside is that it often goes on hiatus, keeping fans in suspense while Stewart works on more profitable jobs. While I can’t say I’d personally celebrate over Sin Titulo’s disappearance if Stewart were to become a fulltime DC writer/artist, I’d be willing to sacrifice that particular pleasure for the good of my fellow man.
1. Brian Clevinger
When Bleeding Cool reported that a Brian Clevinger Firestorm pitch had been made to DC and rejected, my heart wept. And also, maybe just a little bit, so did my eyes. Pound for pound, Clevinger’s Atomic Robo is the most consistently great series being published today, and thoughts of bringing even a taste of its glory to the DCU were almost too much for my feeble constitution to bear.
Combining adventure, humor, and characterization in a way that only the best can manage, Clevinger is a singular talent in the industry. It will only be a matter of time before we see his name pop up regularly in solicitations for the Big Two, but the DC relaunch would have been the perfect opportunity to introduce his abilities to the masses.
As I write, it wouldn’t surprise me if Clevinger is already cooking up a killer concept for DC’s marvelous rivals, one that stands a chance at topping sales charts before the end of the Mayan calendar. It would only be poetic justice for whichever fool decided to turn him down.