DC Reboot: The "Marvel 52"

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Actually, this post really isn't about the DC Reboot/Relaunch at all, but it is inspired by it. Stealing a topic idea from Comic Book Resources, I decided to do a little creative exercise. Essentially, the question is, "What Would Be My 'Marvel 52'?" The key word here is "my." What I have detailed below is not what Marvel would do, nor should do. These are more just ideas on how I would personally handle a Marvel reboot if I were given the keys to the Marvel car. I did get a bit of input from Jeeg and PLee, but most of this is mine, for better or worse.

Currently Running Titles That I'd Keep...

Alpha Flight
Amazing Spider-Man
Astonishing X-Men
Avengers
Black Panther
Cyclops
Captain America
Daredevil
Deadpool
Fantastic Four
Hawkeye
Heroes for Hire
Incredible Hulk
Iron Man
Journey Into Mystery
Ka-Zar & Shanna
Mighty Thor
Moon Knight
Punisher
S.H.I.E.L.D.
Silver Surfer
Spectacular Spider-Man
Sub-Mariner
Thunderbolts
Uncanny X-Men
Wolverine


Old Titles/Characters That I'd Bring Back...

Cloak & Dagger
Damage Control
Doctor Strange
Excalibur
Inhumans
Ms. Marvel
She-Hulk
Spider-Woman


The Offbeat/Odd Titles That I'd Launch or Bring Back...

Brotherhood
A new team of mutants bands together working for hire, solving problems the bigger mutant teams aren't willing to solve. (Think A-Team, but they're mutants.)

D.P. 7
Reboot of the D.P. 7 comic from the New Universe. Integrated into the Marvel Universe.

Doomworlds
Banished to an alternate reality by Reed Richards, Doom begins his journey back to the reality he calls home conquering worlds along the way.

Howlers
A small team of U.S. Soldiers is assigned the tasks that no one else can do. They are The Howlers.

Killraven
A present-day ancestor of Killraven foresees the apocalyptic future and begins making efforts to prevent it from happening.

Life Model Decoy
A Life Model Decoy goes missing and turns out to have achieved sentience and is on the run. (Or this could be a Human Target-like book. Sentient LMD goes around posing as important people and saves their lives.)

Mantra
Reboot of Mantra character from Malibu Comics

Marvel Tales
Book devoted to telling stories from the past. Could feature Invaders and WWII era stuff or Marvel Year One stuff.

Models, Inc.
The mini-series returns as an ongoing. Touring models travel the world and must solve mysteries together. Occasionally guest-stars Mary Jane Watson. (In my relaunch this would replace 15 Love, but whatever...)

Monster Hunters
Relaunch of Monster Hunters concept. Youth-oriented, borrowing heavily from Buffy.

Nth Man
The Ultimate Ninja. Imagine a solo Snake Eyes book that featured a lead character who could talk. That's this book.

Psychonauts
After a horrible war, the Microverse lies in ruins. On the edge of total destruction, an unlikely hero in Psycho Man rises to unite a team who will prevent the end. Starring Princess Mari and a couple other old Micronauts. This title change gets around rights issues with Mego. It also borrows a title from an old Epic Comic, but has nothing to do with it.

Sigil
“Cosmic” book featuring new character who has received the powerful Sigil and must keep peace in space. Integrates a rebooted CrossGen set of characters into the Marvel Universe.

Strikeforce: Morituri
A scientist begins research that grants regular humans super powers. The method shortens the lifespan of the human. Set in the modern-day paving the way for the program as it becomes in the original series.

Tales of Suspense
Anthology title that is essentially a team up book between a top-tier character and a lower tier character or someone who doesn't have their own title. So, Captain America and Rogue might team up for example.

Thanos
I like Thanos so I wanted to give him a solo book. Put him on some quest for something. Make Adam Warlock a recurring character.

Ultimates
After the Avengers breaks off all dealings with the U.S. Government, a new team is formed to operate in its stead.

Wolfpack
South Bronx ninja streetgang, fighting guerilla warfare against the Nine.


So, what do you think? What on this list would you keep? What would you remove? What creative teams would you want for any of these titles? "What would be your Marvel 52?"

DC Reboot: Hard Times for Sidekicks

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Now here's Exhibit A in support of the argument that DC Comics should be doing a full-scale Year One reboot: the original Teen Titans, everybody's favorite sidekicks. While the sliding timescale does tend to . . . slide around, and confuse things, the general assumption in current continuity is that these kids got started at around 14 years old, and have been in the business for about 10 years.

Maybe the whole idea of a sidekick is an anachronism, a holdover from an earlier era when typical readers were closer to Robin's age and could enjoy the fantasy of being Batman's junior partner. But look at what these characters have been dragged through, mainly because no one knows what to do with them anymore:

Speedy faded into obscurity for a decade or so, then famously came back long enough to be a heroin addict. He turned into an edgy weapons master called Arsenal, knocked up a super-villain, and ended up a single dad. When his mentor Green Arrow died, someone else replaced him. Roy later joined the JLA (the varsity!) as Red Arrow. And then a lazy writer got bored, and killed Roy's kid, and had him lose his arm, and become a relapsed junkie / cyborg / murderer.

Aqualad was sidelined for many years, until they decided to butch him up by sending him to a pocket dimension where he aged several years and developed a pretty sweet new power set. Under the new name of Tempest, and with the excellent writing of Peter David, he became sort of Lancelot to Aquaman's Arthur. He got married, he had a kid . . . and then he and his family disappeared, and Garth never found them, and pretty much no one could be bothered to give him a status quo (Aquaman himself has been a problem these past few years). And now he's dead.

Wonder Girl . . . well, where do you start with Donna Troy? She got married, had a son, got divorced, and ex-husband and son died. She lost her powers, got a job as a space cop, lost it. Her origin had been revised and rewritten so many time it's actually a formal part of status quo that she remembers all of her multiple contradictory origins. She was Wonder Woman for a little bit, and now she's in the JLA with a few of her peers . . . but Wonder Woman's origin is being overhauled, and for WW's younger self / kid sister / protege / magical duplicate, that means we'll soon be back to asking . . . who is Donna Troy?

Kid Flash was how it SHOULD be done. After his mentor Barry Allen died in the mid-80s, Wally West became the new Flash, and for twenty years, he earned it. He got married and started a family. And it was all good. In fact, even killing him off in a new Crisis (like his predecessor) was not a bad development . . . it made sense thematically, and it set up an opportunity for another runner to step into his shoes. But DC got cold feet, and the new guy wasn't working out, and so we ended up with a weird story where the new guy gets BEATEN TO DEATH, the Wests return from a stint in another one of those fast-time dimensions, and Wally has a couple of seemingly pre-teen kids as his new sidekicks. But then Barry Allen came back, and now Wally is a man without a comic book, The [Other] Flash.

Robin became Nightwing . . . and thanks to some good creative handling, he's avoided the kind of drastic character-wrecking status quo changes suffered by all his peers. He moved to his own city and developed his own rogues gallery and supporting characters, while still intersecting with Batman's world on a regular basis. Remarkably, he was slated for death in the Final Crisis reboot a few years back, but saner heads prevailed. He replaced Batman, and when Bruce Wayne got better from all that dying stuff, he remained as the Gotham City Batman, while Bruce travels the world to deputize local crimefighters as the local Bat-people. And all this has been good stuff . . . but it's hard to see where they go from here, with Bruce outing himself as Batman's financial backer and the Batman Family growing every month. Dick Grayson gets more pages than Wally, but ultimately he's The [Other] Batman, just as sure as Wally is The [Other] Flash.

Incidentally, all five of these guys have been replaced in their original sidekick roles (heck, Batman has been through four other Robins since Dick left for college), so there's no going back to a simple senior partner / junior partner dynamic.

In the mid-90s, DC was onto something interesting . . . earlier heroes like Green Lantern, Flash, and Green Arrow were killed off and replaced, and the new guys took over. That's when I started reading DC Comics, and I liked that feeling that there were real changes in this universe, a real progression, a passing of the torch. What happened? Aging nerds, daddio. Aging nerds insisted that the older characters return from the dead, get de-aged, and knock their replacements back to sidekick status.

And the same things have already started to happen to some of their replacement sidekicks --- poor Tim Drake, who was a terrific Robin for 20 years, has been replaced; Stephanie Brown is seemingly not needed as either Robin or Batgirl; Cassandra Cain went from new Batgirl to bad guy to limbo; Bart Allen was artificially aged, became the new Flash, got beaten to death 12 issues later, and then the Cosmic Reset Button was pressed.

So this is why DC needs a full reboot: if these kids are never going to be allowed to become the grownups, then they will mostly be sidelined until something horrible happens to them, just so the REAL heroes can react. Don't do that anymore. Let them be fourteen again.

DC Reboot: I think I have the JSA figured out . . .

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Well, that bit about DC being better off with a clean slate, Year One approach? To clarify, I think they need to say, Superman and Batman are brand new, it's 2011, and here are their first adventures. But I love the whole history of comic book superheroes, and so I'd like to see the DC Universe preserve that through the Justice Society of America.

I've written before about the strange effects of the sliding timescale on comic book universes. In summary, certain characters are tied to certain eras --- especially WW2 --- and that's getting more distant every day. Meanwhile, the "Modern Age" always starts a vague 10-12 years prior to "present day." So there's this growing gap, and in particular this causes trouble not just for the Golden Age heroes, but for their various replacements, offspring, and protegees.

Sooooo . . . the following is a little sketch of how DC could shuffle a few characters around to fill 70 years of superherodom.

The Golden Age JSA is pretty much the classic 1940s team. Now there's some room for tweaking here --- is Hippolyta the first Wonder Woman? Is there a Golden Age Hawkman? But most of the early heroes are here, and most of them retired in the 50s, led good long lives, and either faded away or had their blaze of glory.

The Silver Age JSA evolves in the late 50s and is the dominant super-team of the 1960s. Some of the originals are still active from time to time, but the new blood includes several Golden Age sidekicks, all grown up. Sylvester Pemberton, formerly the Star-Spangled Kid, is now Starman. Sanderson Hawkins is the new Sandman (a millionaire playboy / two-fisted masked detective). The Crimson Avenger's sidekick Wing (a Kato knockoff) is the Golden Avenger (sort of a Bruce Lee Kato without the useless white guy). Black Canary debuts. This team should actually look a lot like the early Justice League, fighting weird aliens and mad scientists and other old-school staples.

Infinity, Inc. was a spinoff book that started in the early 1980s, mostly the offspring of the Golden Age JSA, along with the first wave of "ethnic replacements" --- female Hispanic Wildcat, female black Dr. Mid-Nite, etc. Problem is, while the math worked reasonably well in 1983, it doesn't work in 2011 --- most of the Golden Agers end up around 70 before they start having kids or training replacements. So I say, keep them in the 1980s. And you know what? Many of these characters have not aged well. I mean, Nuklon, with his red mohawk? Embarrassing. But think about these guys in the modern day --- in their forties, most of them married and raising kids, still ready to squeeze into the old uniform when the world needs them, even though those twentysomething kids in the JSA get all the press.

The Young All-Stars are the teenage legacy heroes --- Stargirl, Jakeem Thunder, and Damage, for starters, along with the kids of various Infinitors. In addition to providing some continuity, they could serve as friendly rivals to the Teen Titans or Young Justice or whatever the classic sidekicks like Robin and Kid Flash are calling themselves.

DC Reboot: Rearranging Deck Chairs on Planet Krypton

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CT has more of a dog in this fight than I do. He was mainly a DC Comics fan growing up, while I was strictly into Marvel Comics. But around the time we started hanging out, post-college, I started reading DC and quickly came to realize there was some great stuff. In particular, I appreciate just how incredibly convoluted the whole universe is, with your Pre-Crisis and Post-Crisis and Earth-2s and such.

So when I read about the upcoming relaunch --- 52 first issues in one month! --- at first I understood that this was a clean slate, Year One, Ground Zero approach. And I loved the idea, because it's just the kind of thing to force creators to write something different, something that isn't aimed at a reader who is obsessive about 70 years of back story. Because as CT pointed out . . . not too many people are buying comics anymore. So as I see it, DC / Warner Brothers should be trying to (1) storyboard some movie franchises and (2) sell some Underoos.

But it turns out that's not what they're doing at all. The Batman and Green Lantern franchises are perceived as being in very good shape right now, so they get to continue without any retcons. Everything else is up for grabs, but while a couple of comics will kick off with "Year One" stories (Action Comics and Justice League), everything else starts somewhere around . . . what, Year Ten? Year Twelve? Long enough that Dick Grayson is a grown man and Batman is on his fourth or fifth Robin, anyway.

Much better approach: Year One, straight up reboot. Put your best creators on your core properties --- Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Flash, Wonder Woman, the Justice League. Do something with the sidekicks similar to the "Young Justice" cartoon. Take those second-tier characters --- Captain Marvel, Atom, Firestorm, Blue Beetle --- and introduce some diversity into the universe while building up that universe. As long as that stuff continues to flourish, DC can experiment more on the fringes . . . cowboy books, war books, hard sci-fi, whatever.

DC Reboot: It's Not About Me

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It's been a few days since the big DC Comics announcement that they would be rebooting their line in September. Giving it time to digest and get the full scope of their initial plans for the reboot, I want to finally throw my two cents in about this whole thing.

To those who don't know, here's a bit of background about me (and I've gone over some of this before here and here). I feel it's important to start there since, as the title says, this isn't about me. I'm 34 years old. I am a LONG time fan of DC Comics characters. My first exposure to them that I can remember was the 1978 Superman movie and the Superfriends cartoons. I began regularly collecting comic books when I was about 8 years old. That was in 1984. I started with Justice League of America. Then came Crisis on Infinite Earths and I jumped on board the Superman reboot by John Byrne. The mid to late 80s were a time of major change in the DC universe. Sidekicks grew up to become heroes of their own. Other sidekicks were killed. Characters were rebooted. Status quos were changed. The comics got a bit darker. And I loved it all for the most part.

My collecting snowballed from just getting Superman titles to getting Batman, Flash, Justice League, and eventually several other spin-offs and titles. This was MY DC. When Tim Drake came along, he was MY Robin. The rebooted Superman was MY Superman. Wally West taking up the mantle of the Flash was MY Flash. And even in the mid-90s, these changes would continue and I would be very accepting of things like Kyle Rayner taking over the Green Lantern title. All the while, I would hear complaints from older fans about how things weren't right and they wish it would go back to the way it was. The changes that Crisis began left a DC Universe that older fans felt a bit shunned from.

I say all that to make the point that it's happening again. And it has to.

Setting aside the reboot for a moment, the biggest part of this whole thing is the digital comics aspect. I don't think print will ever completely go away, but it has greatly diminished over the past several years (which has negatively affected me and people I know personally) and will continue to. I speak as someone who worked in the print industry for several years, if you publish a magazine or other periodical and are not looking to switch to a method of distribution that is primarily digital, you are acting foolish.

Several, several years ago, the comics industry did one of the stupidest things they could possibly do and that was begin catering to the direct market exclusively. I don't know whose genius idea it was to limit where consumers could buy their product. Or who thought that comic shops were the place to do it. I don't mean this as a slight to every comic shop, but in general, comic shops are not attractive places to go. They don't make a lot of money so they tend to be run down. They aren't usually in high profile areas. And let's face it, their clientele is comic book fans which, unjustly, have typically been shunned by society for years.

The comic book industry continues to cater to the direct market and has been sort of forced to since there has been limited mainstream distribution since the early 90s. Their biggest push since 2002 has been the annual "Free Comic Book Day" in which all the major companies offer some sort of cheap comic that stores can purchase and then give away for free to their patrons. This has grown over the years, but I don't see any tangible results from it. The other thing that comic companies do is make drastic changes to the characters and then try to get news coverage out of it. I've commented on my thoughts about this before, too. Do "commoners" return to comic shops every week once they've "discovered" all that is offered at a comic book store? I imagine not. It's pretty niche. And even music stores, which isn't as niche, have declined and disappeared over the past few years. Unless you are REALLY into that market, you're not going to go out of your way to revisit those stores.

With the advent of mobile apps, in particular the one from Comixology, the comics industry is no longer at the mercy of comic book stores. And this is such a good thing.* And with this most recent announcement from DC, they're taking a major step to prove that.

To me, DC's announcement was less about the reboot and more about them saying that they are going to be a Digital Comics company. My guess is that in five years, DC and Marvel will not be publishing the 22-page comics. They may possibly go to some sort of print-on-demand service and still will continue to publish collections, but the product that they will offer will be digital comics that you can download on mobile devices and tablets.

They HAVE to do this in order to survive. If they don't make this jump, the comic industry will dry up and there will be nothing offered at all except indies and underground comics. The properties would still survive. Warner would still own Superman and Batman and Disney would still own Spider-Man and Iron Man. We'd still see cartoons and movies. But comics as we know them are inevitably going to disappear. In order to go on in some way, the transition to digital must happen. They have to reach a new audience. They have to find new readers who are younger than 35. They have to make them easily accessible and build no barriers to them in any way.

That's what the reboot is about (reminiscent of the Star Trek reboot). It's about saying to anyone who isn't reading comics that now is the time to jump on and find YOUR Superman, Flash or Robin. Take or leave the 70 years of history. Start downloading now and be on the ground floor of something exciting that you can call your own. At least for the next 20-30 years until they decide to reboot again.

And I can critique the way they're doing the reboot, why I don't like it,** how I hate the costumes, and the ways I'd do it different. But again...this isn't about me.




* And I know people probably don't want to hear this. People love their comic book shops. I get that to some degree. I used to work at one and have had my favorite spots over the years. Comic book stores are sort of a "nerd's bar." It's the place you can go, hang out, talk about the latest crazy storylines, and everybody knows your name. It's a place where you can get away from the non-nerds and find others to talk to about your interests. However, this environment is not needed as much anymore. I fill that same need by hanging out on this blog, Twitter, and Facebook. And look, I'm a strong proponent of being able to communicate face-to-face. I'd love to be able to hang out with Jeeg and PLee for extended periods of time catching up on nerd talk. But since I'm not able to do that in person, I can will my nerdy social needs by getting on the internet.


** Even though I realize this isn't about me, that doesn't mean that there won't eventually be some commentary on this blog about the execution of the reboot. PLee and I have had several off-the-blog conversations about this and I hope that he posts his thoughts about it either in the comments or as a whole separate blog entry.

My Atomic Picks II

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I recently had the opportunity to join The Atomic Geeks (check them out, they are really good!) again on their podcast. Once again, I had some "Atomic Picks" and have decided to share them here with a bit of elaboration.

The first one is a "Atomic Pan" actually. I recently picked up a couple of figures from the new Captain America: The First Avenger toy line. I have liked these Marvel figures that Hasbro has done with the G.I. Joe-level articulation. However, these Cap figures that I got were very disappointing. The plastic on the figures is really soft, the color schemes seem off, they don't come with stands, and the shields aren't staying on my figures. These were priced the same or higher than the better quality Marvel figures and yet, they are all around worse.

And secondly, I have recently finished watching the 2002 He-Man cartoon. Amazon had the complete series for $7 (although it might be $9 now) and I thought, why not? For this price, I highly recommend everyone picking it up. It's very good and maintains a respect for the original filmation series yet filters out some of the silliness. Trapjaw and Beastman are actually cool. There is an awesome episode that fills in the back story of "the power of Grayskull." Overall a really great series. I wish it had continued into a third season. Most of the stuff that is introduced is wrapped up as long as you don't read the script for episode 40 included on the discs.
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