Regardless of your personal opinion of the quality of the DC relaunch titles (and trust us, we’ve got lots to say about that), you can’t argue that the move hasn’t made a big splash. So we’ve decided to take a look at the ten most interesting stories to spin out of this big brouhaha…
Nick Hanover: There’s been a lot of fuss over whether digital comics will kill the comic book shop, but the DC Relaunch inadvertently turned out what is arguably an even bigger threat to comic book shops: stupid retailers…
Danny Djeljosevic: If Larry’s Comics weren’t bad enough, the owner of The Comics Conspiracy in North Carolina thought that Superman’s reaction of “GD” after getting hit by a tank was some variation of “Goddamn” and proposed a boycott of Action Comics and all Grant Morrison comics. Now I’m all for standing up for your rights, but BE SMART. This guy makes Larry’s Comics look like Tate’s Comics. Too regional?
Nick: Perhaps the weirdest part of the whole thing is that DC and Grant Morrison both decided to respond, despite the fact that the cardinal rule of the internet is DO NOT FEED THE TROLLS…
Danny: I guess it makes sense. You don’t want a retailer to not sell what’s going to be one of your biggest moneymakers, especially based on a misreading. No matter how dumb or hypocritical (homeboy admitted to having no problem selling Crossed or Preacher).
Image From Reddit Comicbooks
Nick: Crossed: The Number One Choice of Christians Everywhere!
Danny: “It’s got a cross, how could it be evil?”
Nick: Early on in the relaunch, Bleeding Cool started circulating a rumor that “the Flashpoint lady” from that event’s finale would be appearing in a panel of every single one of the New 52…
Danny: Oh yeah, that woman at the end of Flashpoint #5 who said “Whoops! You’re fixing the timeline even more than you thought! How arbitrary!”
Danny: She’s appeared in a few comics since, not that I noticed. Because I am a poor reader. The comics critic has no clothes!
Nick: I don’t know that it’s a problem with your reading comprehension, most of the appearances have been pretty random and obscure and quite a few fans have pointed out the fact that she seems to be literally cut and pasted in at times. Which leads into the true weirdness here: the possibility that she’s a deus ex machina DC planted as a fail safe in case this whole relaunch thing goes bellyup.
Danny: You’d think they just keep Barry Allen in an insane asylum a la Psycho Pirate as a reminder. Either way, I find it hilarious that, while a lot of these comics are “adult” and “serious” DC is also resorting to a background game akin to “Where’s Waldo.”
Nick: Except in this case when you find Waldo, you don’t feel like you’re being rewarded for your efforts of location but reminded that the comic industry is depressingly afraid of risk.
Or so obsessed with Easter egg planting that we can’t help but discuss in minute detail the most asinine elements of a comic. I’m not sure which is sadder.
Danny: Hey now, don’t fret. DC could just be virally promoting a female reboot of Ragman.
Nick: Now that is a reboot I can get behind!
Danny: Someone told me about characters appearing in the background all over the place, and I hoped it was the Hipster Cops.
Nick: I’m beginning to suspect you’re one of the hipster cops, Danny, based on how often you bring them up.
Danny: No hipster cop would ever cop to being a hipster cop.
Nick: Unless it was a trick…
Danny: Is it too early to announce our Hipster Cops/Ragman-Girl flipbook for DC?
Nick: Damn it Danny.
Nick: We’re only on week two of the relaunch, but already DC is claiming that Justice League #1 is the “Best Selling Comic of 2011,” thanks to the massive preorder sales that have allegedly pushed it past the 200k mark. But DC’s diction has sparked a war of semantics over how true that claim really is…
Danny: What they meant to say was “Best Selling American Superhero Single Issue of 2011,” but alas, I think they jumped the gun on “Best Selling Comic of 2011.”
Nick: There is still time for Obama to appear in a Power Pack comic, I’m sure. At least this debate has forced the industry to remember that manga not only still exists but continues to outsell the Big Two by an incredible margin.
One manga in particular, One Piece, managed to sell 2.1 million copies of its 63rd volume in FOUR DAYS. Which is like eleven Justice Leagues, or a thousand Danzigs.
Danny: One Piece stars an aspiring pirate with a straw hat and fruit-powered stretchy abilities called Monkey D. Luffy. Justice League #1 promises yet another Batman vs. Superman fight. I know which horse I’m betting on.
Nick: But does One Piece have Ragwoman in the background of select panels?
Danny: Nah, just a sustained longform narrative that’s become increasingly popular and financially lucrative as it’s gone on. Nothing that American comics would be interested in.
Nick: Oh, okay then, I’m going to go back to reading Extreme Justice #1.
Part of DC’s big plan with this relaunch was to offer more marketing, including television ads, historically not a venue comics advertises in. But unfortunately the tv ads leave a little to be desired…
Danny: I didn’t think the basic execution were too bad (did they get Torche to do the music?), but they were missing a certain… “what is this and why should I buy it.”
Nick: I felt like it needed to be more like this:
Danny: Those ads were on TV all the time when I was a kid. I was already one of the converted even then, so I don’t know if they helped anyone. It is, however, a bit more informative than the silent musical ad DC’s got going on now.
Nick: The problem, honestly, is that the new ad is like a display of all the things people believe to be true of comics. It doesn’t really sell you on the way comics can connect generations, or how being a comic fan doesn’t mean being a mouth breathing basement dweller. They should have taken a cue from Nintendo, who knew how to market the Wii as a crossgeneration tool.
Danny: Would that have made sense considering the comics they put out? Considering all the ’90s throwbacks and testosterone serial killer Batman stuff, I’d say they had a fairly accurate advertisement.
Nick: I don’t mean you should necessarily be sharing Detective with your six year old, but there’s no reason why, say, Action Comics couldn’t be a bonding point.
Danny: Are you saying little kids don’t like stoner metal?
Nick: Maybe I’m hanging out with the wrong kids.
Danny: While the Firestorm we’re getting this month is being written by Gail Simone and Ethan Van Sciver, news got out of a different writer working on it beforehand…
Nick: Brian Clevinger, of Atomic Robo fame, has rightfully been attempting to turn himself into the poster boy for accessible super titles these days so we’ve been fortunate to get more of a peek into this process than we otherwise might, and it hasn’t been pretty.
Danny: Turns out he pitched this entire accessible, kid-friendly Firestorm comic and DC didn’t take to it. This made a lot of fans angry when they found out.
Nick: Hell, it even made Gail Simone angry, as DC had told her that another writer was working on a pitch for the book as well but that the writer was aware he was competing for the book, even though that was not the case at all, according to Clevinger in our interview with him.
Danny: It’s such a shame that, for how awesome Gail Simone is, she’s at the center of like three controversies involving DC.
Nick: Most of which conveniently show how poor of a job DC does at making itself look like a company someone would want to be loyal to. As glad as I am that this relaunch seems to be succeeding so far, I’m also pretty concerned about the state of affairs at DC, where so much seems rushed and poorly thought out.
Danny: Hey, DC: I would have totally bought a Brian Clevinger Firestorm.
Nick: I know some kids who don’t like stoner metal who would have bought some issues, too.
Danny: Maybe they can use some Krautrock in those ads or something.
Nick: I think they should use this:
Nick: They should have hired that pug for the DC tv ad. Because pugs=money.
Danny: Maybe Brian Clevinger should do a pug-related comic.
Nick: Maybe Battlepug and Atomic Robo can have a crossover. I predict instant sell outs if they use real robo-pugs to promote it.
Nick: In many ways, this relaunch has been incredibly ’90s influenced, from the sudden resurrection of such sorely missed creators as Fabian Nicieza and Rob Liefeld to Detective Comics secretly being a Spawn issue to retailers thinking we’re back in the speculator boom…
Danny: Apparently a group of bold assholes decided to jack up the prices of some of the more sought after #1s in their shops. It’s one thing to charge a lot for a rare back issue, but Christ, these things just came out.
Nick: At a time when comics desperately needs young new fans who will come back to the medium throughout their lives, this is kind of the ultimate fuck you, a sign of how out of touch some retailers are and how uninterested they seem to be in bringing in new customers.
Danny: Why are we worried about screwing these guys over with digital again?
Nick: Probably because some of us astoundingly have memories of comic shop owners who took joy in educating us on comics and helped us learn to permanently love the medium?
Those were the days…
Danny: There are lots of great shops in the world (you know who you are, and I know who you are because I’ve been to you), but guys like this ruin it for everyone.
Nick: Between this and GD Gate, the relaunch certainly doesn’t seem to be showing retailers at their best, despite the best efforts of our own twitter feed…
Nick: Comics doesn’t haven’t too many vaporware titles to claim as its own, but other than perhaps Holy Terror, Batman!, Batwoman is the most infamous in recent memory…
Danny: Gosh, Batwoman was promised for SO long. What was expected to be a solo series ended up being a brief run in Detective Comics followed by a #0 issue for a series that ended up getting delayed until the relaunch.
Which is annoying, but I’d l
ike to think they were trying to get it just right and not cheapen the character by rushing out a series. But I’m an optimist sometimes.
Nick: I’m sure there’s some of that involved too, but it’s pretty clear that DC figured the creative team would need more of a headstart than most and this was the best way for all parties involved to save face.
Danny: I think we can assume that the reboot was decided sometime after Batwoman #0, which came out in November 2010. So at some point after that they were like, “screw it, let’s delay it until September.”
Nick: At least it may help Batwoman’s sales?
Danny: I’m certain it will. This might be the most high profile launch Batwoman could get, especially if Comics Conspiracy tries to boycott it.
Nick: “Did she just say ‘Go?’ Clearly they are taking the Lord’s name in vain!”
Danny: A few months ago DC released an ultimatum to their freelancers: have three issues in the can by August 31st or you’ll be replaced. And we all imagined David Finch dripping with worried sweat like a Joe Matt drawing.
Nick: DC basically took what is commonly known as the “angry parent” approach, something my family has used on my brother numerous times. Except my brother is not a major comic artist who has a tendency to miss deadlines, he’s just a slacker who hasn’t met a job he can’t quit.
Danny: Did they threaten to replace him with you should he not deliver in time?
Nick: I believe the idea has been floated around.
Danny: I’m pretty sure 20 years ago this kind of message would never go out, because a regular monthly comic book never went off-schedule, did it? Granted, there was a year between Watchmen #11 and #12, but you could always expect fucking Batman on time.
Nick: True, but back then there was a pretty well-established fill-in stable, with editors often taking on writing duties (o hai Tom DeFalco) where needed and any number of starving young artists huddled outside of the Big Two offices were willing and able to step in.
Danny: Not to mention inventory issues sitting in editors’ desks, just waiting to be pulled out when somebody can’t deliver.
Nick: Like that Kurt Busiek Krypto issue? Oh yeah, I went there.
Danny: Going back to the parent thing, though, the letter sounds like somebody’s dad giving you a hushed, angry talking to before some major social event. “You will NOT embarrass me in there, young man.”
Nick: I just liken the whole thing to a kid getting told to show up for work on time or else move out. Just kidding bro, I love you. Except seriously, you should probably start going to work on time and move out.
And on a similar note, DC is already shuffling the creative teams on certain titles, bring us to…
Danny: David Finch needs a little help getting his rebooted-after-a-handful-of-issues Batman: The Dark Knight, so #2 will have Paul Jenkins co-scripting. And that’s just for starters.
Nick: The craziest swapping has been happening on Mister Terrific, which has had as many art team changes as it has had solicited issues.
Three seems to be the magic number as well, as quite a few of the new titles will see additions to their art line-ups come issue three, mostly in the inking department. Swamp Thing, Action Comics, Green Lantern Corps and Voodoo all undergo changes in their third issues.
Danny: This is how you know they’re rushing like crazy to get these issues done.
Nick: It could wreak havoc on the numbers of new readers, as newcomers are more likely to just want some damn consistency. Figuring out continuity is one thing, figuring out why the hell art keeps changing is another.
Danny: Inconsistent art isn’t good for any reader, new or old.
Nick: True, but us old vets are a little more used to it.
Nick: What might be the biggest story to come out of this relaunch is the ongoing debate over the lack of female creators involved on titles that are at least in part cited as efforts to make a more diverse DC…
Danny: While the topic was fare for blogs and editorials, it became major news when a woman dressed as Batgirl attended a bunch of SDCC 2011 DC Comics panels and started asking the hard questions, drawing equal amounts of praise and hatred from fans.
Nick: Kyrax2, the Batgirl of SDCC, swiftly became the focal point of a debate that had been raging for some time. But what really drew fans to her was her bravery in standing up and asking questions that they were afraid or unwilling to. That the questions weren’t answered in a satisfying fashion was almost secondary to the fact that she forced some kind of answer to be given to them in a very public setting.
Danny: It was well-timed, too. With a lot of bad press on the eve of their reboot, what could DC do but send out an official press release saying they’re going to try to change things? Lip service or not, Kyrax2 certainly made a splash.
But seriously, with DC’s relaunch now seemingly a success, there’s even more pressure on the company to make true on their word and increase the diversity of their creative line-up and titles, making this the story that’s still the most unresolved.
Danny: I hope it ends well. Then again, if not we’ll probably get three more lists out of it.
Nick: Or 52.
Danny Djeljosevic is a comic book creator, award-winning filmmaker (assuming you have absolutely no follow-up questions), film/music critic for Spectrum Culture and Co-Managing Editor of Comics Bulletin. Follow him on Twitter as @djeljosevic or find him somewhere in San Diego, often wearing a hat. Read his newest comic, “Sgt. Death and his Metachromatic Men,” over at Champion City Comics.
When he’s not writing about the cape and spandex set, Nick Hanov
er is a book, film and music critic for Spectrum Culture and a staff writer for No Tofu Magazine. He also translates for “Partytime” Lukash’s Panel Panopticon.