With the last few weeks we’ve enjoyed the show that DC has put on in order to entice us all into checking out their rebooted titles. They’ve given us a wide spectrum of books to choose from, all at a reasonably affordable price and specifically with jumping on points for all walks of life. Of course, the one thing that has been on everyone’s mind, generally, has been: Gee, I really hope this pans out for them. As much as we tease and add snarky responses on the site, I wish nothing but the best for DC. I really do plan to pick up a large portion of these titles, and I will support the company through this risky endeavor.
That being said, while I don’t think fans have an entitlement per se, I do have a few requests that I’d like to toss out there into the ether, specifically to one Geoff Johns. Hence, as my op/ed piece into Multiversity’s big DCnU commentary week, I publish this open letter to the Chief Creative Officer of DC Entertainment, Geoff Johns.
It’s a fairly lengthy letter, and is in a way a companion piece to David’s op/ed with this week’s Multiversity 101 (which you should also read), so I’ve put it all behind the cut. So if you are Geoff Johns, or if you’re a reader curious as to what I might have to say, click past the cut to read what I have subtitled, “Why I Am Not Excited To Buy Aquaman.”
Dear Geoff Johns,
Let me start by putting a compliment out there in order to establish a friendly tone: if it weren’t for you, I would not be reading half of the DC books that I am reading today. Honestly. Green Lantern: Rebirth brought me in due to strong recommendations, and I have worked my way around the DCU in different ways and shapes since then, discovering the rich past that I have oft ignored and enjoy the various endeavors of the current creators. While these days I do tend to lean towards other DC comics than the Green Lantern books, let it not at least be said that if it weren’t for a book like Green Lantern, I wouldn’t be writing this open letter at all. So please, as much as I gripe, know that I have the utmost respect for you as a creator and I mean no disrespect in the following.
That being said, the recent output from you at DC has been rather disheartening. I fell in love with the title Green Lantern because you had re-invigorated a character who was no longer prominent: Hal Jordan. While others who read DC longer than I certainly were a tad upset that Guy, John, and Kyle were no longer top dog, for me it was just exciting to see an older character brought back to life along with his motley crue of villains to battle, including characters I had never heard of before. You brought back Mongul in a vital way, made the Black Hand an interesting character, made Hector Hammond actually seem quite villainous, and completely changed Sinestro and the mythology of the Green Lantern. That first two years where we had slow build-up towards the Sinestro Corps War is by far my favorite book by you. Reading things like that and then going back in your career and reading some of your work on Teen Titans, JSA, Hawkman, and even your run on Action Comics happening alongside Green Lantern were absolutely wonderful.
What made them so wonderful? You were writing stories about characters. You were taking a lot of time to build up emotional resonance to these fictional beings and then nailing the landing when it came to whatever pay-off you were going towards. Superboy’s eventual death in Infinite Crisis? Heartbreaking, but especially so because of the story he had in Teen Titans as he found out he was really a half-Luthor clone. The return of Hawkman that changed his history forever, followed by the crossover between Hawkman and JSA? It’s stuff like that that makes me want to read a modern Hawkman ongoing (although I admit with Tony Daniel as the writer I’ve considerably lost interest). Your modern run on JSA is a perfect example of that as you reassembled the team and eventually brought them against the machinations that created Kingdom Come, and even a tiny bit at the end there where you covered some loose ends from Infinite Crisis. And the return of Zod and death of Pa Kent in Superman, which eventually led to New Krypton? You may not be responsible for what happened after, but while you were an active participant it was pretty great. It never felt like you were just trying to get to the “next big thing” because that big thing was in the storyline. You weren’t trying to make events because everything was already quite eventful.Continued below
So what happened? Why is it that everything I see from you now is trying to be some big crazy thing that will change everything forever? Blackest Night was a disappointment on many levels, because while I can understand the reasoning of taking the story outside of the Green Lantern books, the result of doing so just ended up being quite messy. The Sinestro Corps War was an event to a degree, but it also was specifically about the characters of the Green Lantern Corps surviving against this sudden and unsurmountable threat. With Blackest Night it seemed like you had just created all of these toys with other Lantern Corps and then lost your way as you threw them all against each other to see what the biggest explosion possible was. Every emotional moment I was waiting for in Blackest Night either didn’t come or fizzled upon execution, and the fact that it wasn’t a self contained endeavor anymore was disheartening. Following that we had Brightest Day, which pales to even hold up to the masterful 52. Brightest Day was a series of uninvolved events that was essentially Character X, Y, Z: Rebirth culminating in the return of Swamp Thing for no real reason other than to bring back Swamp Thing. Where 52 was a captivating mystery of intertwined destinies, Brightest Day was just an empty and emotionless mess of teases for ongoings. I’d speak more about the War of the Green Lanterns, but honestly I’ve reviewed the story so much that I think the average reader of this site will get it. In short summation, though: I’m not very keen on it.
The most egregious thing to me, though, is your run on the Flash. When you and Francis Manapul worked together on Adventure Comics, it was arguably one of the best collaborations I had seen you done. To know that you’d be working on the Flash was terrifically exciting, but as soon as the book began and you teased Flashpoint my excitement stumbled a bit. While I was certainly intrigued by the tease, I was looking forward to reading a new run by you on the Flash that was comparable to your old one. I haven’t mentioned it up until now, but your previous run on the Flash with Wally West is the first Flash comic I ever had the pleasure of reading and what turned me into such an avid fan of the character. I have since followed every adventure the Flash family has had to the best of my ability (by the time I had caught up the Flash family was “dead” from Infinite Crisis) from Bart Allen’s all too short run up through Barry Allen returning in Final Crisis. Knowing how you had made Hal Jordan work in the modern DCU made me assume that you could do the same with Barry, but the 12 issues we got were short, delayed, and rather void of the care you had given to Hal. Instead, Barry is given a promising start and an intriguing concept to work with, yet he’s immediately stunted with this Flashpoint event that fails to allow him to grow, and instead is just a tool for DC to relaunch their entire line as opposed to a thoughtful character story.
Flashpoint isn’t over and I did enjoy the first issue so I will refrain from completely lambasting the endeavor. However, I would like to reiterate that, as a fan of the Flash and the stories you are renowned for, it seems rather unfortunate that I am not able to just read a Flash comic book. That’s really all I want, at this point.
Which brings us to the here and now: with the DC Relaunch, you have three books: Justice League, Green Lantern, and Aquaman. I plan to read the Justice League title, but I can’t imagine that this isn’t just a tool for the DC relaunch in the same way that Action Comics is, enabling DC to retell it’s origin kinda sorta. I will also plan to read Green Lantern, simply because I have read everything you’ve done with the character up until now and I’m an optimist to hope that perhaps we’re going to take a break from Hal Jordan being so mixed up with the other Lanterns and maybe take some time to be himself/fight the good fight back on Earth. However, the real reason I’m writing this letter is to talk to you about Aquaman.Continued below
I have never read an Aquaman ongoing before. I have read Aquaman stories, and books with Aquaman in them, but in my time as a collector I have never actively bought an Aquaman ongoing. I will admit part of this is the stigma that the character is “lame” due to his rather dull powers, but I have read stories where he is a fantastic character (Morrison’s JLA for example, or even Cullen Bunn’s recent Superman/Batman arc). I would like to read an Aquaman ongoing, because I would like to give the character an honest shot to make me a fan and I think that you of all creators could possibly do so. But there is a condition to this: if I am to read an Aquaman ongoing, I want to read a book about Aquaman. I don’t want to read a book that is just a teasing ground for the next big event, nor do I want a book that actively tries far too hard to completely redefine the Aquaman mythos. You have redefined several characters within the DCU now and you rewrote a bit of history in Brightest Day with Mera’s past betrayal, but I think it’s time to do something a bit different, especially in the face of the relaunch. Give us a book about why Aquaman is a hero worthy to be a member of the Justice League, not a book about evil prophecy X that leads to massive battle Y. Aquaman is a character who has literally been completely unused in the DCU since I’ve been reading; I think now it’s more important to show me and fans everywhere why there should’ve always been a book starring Aquaman, and why there is more to him than just riding sea horses and chatting it up with guppies.
So in the plainest of terms I say that I plan to buy the first issue of Aquaman in stores without pre-ordering, but if I turn to the back only to find some kind of tremendous tease of things to come and another big event around the corner, I won’t stick around. I’ve been reading comics all of my life, and while I only started reading DC books while in college I’ve come to the point where I fully know what I like and don’t need to follow the big events. I do because I often find them fun, but with Blackest Night, Brightest Day, and now Flashpoint all proving to be less than I hoped they would be, and with the Flash and Green Lantern both not being allowed to function as actual characters but rather devices, I can’t really say I’m very interested in going along with it another time. You have me on Green Lantern and Justice League already, but please: you’ve been writing in a very circular and uninspired nature since the Green Lantern: Secret Origin ended and the War of Light kinda sorta began. Use Aquaman as a tool to prove why you were appointed CCO and have won Spike’s Best Writer award now two years in a row, not as a tool to just throw the DCU out of whack. Again.