All of us have holiday traditions: some of us watch A Charlie Brown Christmas each year, some of politely ask the three major shared comics universes (Marvel, DC, Valiant) to make some changes to their comic lines to please our interests. Wanna guess which one we are doing today?
We turn our sights to Burbank today, and give DC some of our thoughts about the direction their company is going. If you have any further suggestions, leave them in the comments!
So, without any further ado:
Stjepan Sejic and Riley Rossmo – Put Them on Anything, Everything
Stjepan Sejic’s run on Aquaman was all too brief, but it left behind probably the most essential arc of the last decade. And Riley Rossmo’s brief stints with Batman over the past year – the “Batman/The Shadow” crossover, and “The Batman Who Laughs” – were both jaw dropping. Sejic and Rossmo need to helm some on-goings in 2018. If he’s not diving back into Atlantis, then Sejic’s ethereal majesty could go a long to course correct what’s happening in the Green Lantern sector. And Rossmo, seriously what does the guy have to do the get on a Bat-book full time. I’ve got a pet theory to explain the piecemeal work they’ve had over the past year. Maybe DC has been giving them just enough to keep busy so they’ll be around as the artistic tent pegs whenever the Vertigo revamp – relaunch? rebirth? – happens.
Shade the Changing Man
Speaking of Vertigo, DC’s reprint game from the vintage era has been really strong when it comes to deluxe editions. But the lengthy “Shade the Changing Man” run from Peter Milligan and Chris Bachalo remains a glaring omission.”Shade the Changing Girl” is one of the high water marks for the Young Animal line, so you’d think there’d be a built in appetite for these goings-on. I mean, they’re collecting “Sandman Mystery Theater” – which is awesome, kudos – and it doesn’t even have a recent critical darling that should theoretically be drumming up interest. Come on, DC – this should be an easy win.
No more double shipping, please.
Double shipping stinks. It’s hard to produce high quality books with any level of consistency when everything is rushed. This is especially true for the art. Most artists can barely keep up with a monthly book, let alone bi-monthly. DC has tried to alternate artists with each new storyline, but even then, a bunch of fill-in artists are needed in a lot of cases. Even if all the artists involved are great, it still hurts the book when there’s inconsistency like that. And in general, books that have the same creative team for the whole run are consistently better than ones that shift the team around.
I get that publishers only see a bottom line, and double shipping is good for that, but there’s a better way to squeeze every last dollar from readers. Now that Brian Michael Bendis is on the payroll, maybe use his previous work as an example. During his runs with The Avengers, X-Men, and Iron Man, he always had two simultaneous books going. They wouldn’t always be telling the same story, but always complemented each other. This is a great way to crank out more books with the same characters, but not have everything feel rushed. Greg Rucka basically did this with his most recent “Wonder Woman” run, and it was one of the highlights of DC’s Rebirth. Letting creative teams actually split it out into separate titles would be much better for readers, while still giving DC the same amount of releases to make money from.
In the words of Han Solo “Don’t Get Cocky, Kid”
Look DC, you’re in a really good place 18 months into Rebirth. You’re publishing a successful Event(“Metal”) and have begun a major maxi-series, and your sales are largely stable if not spectacular. Like I said a good place. Which means by the law of comics, you are about to trip over your feet and blow it. Please don’t.
Use Your Stability for More Experimentation
The good thing about your core comics line (Rebirth) being pretty much stable is it opens up rooms for experimentation. This has largely resulted in imprints like Young Animal, Wild Storm, the upcoming Milestone relaunch, and Dark Matter New Age of Heroes. They all largely operate as traditional comics publishing houses. Why do they all have to act the same? With the market changing use these imprints to tell stories the mainstream DC traditionally wouldn’t and find business strategies that fit what you’re publishing. If a book is doing well in trade and not so well in single issue, just put out trades.Continued below
Ship Trades Quicker
While this has improved over the years, it still isn’t matching the pace that Image puts out their trades. What’s the point of trying to flip trade readers into monthly ones if the next arc is already 2-3 issues in by the time the previous arc is collected?
Where’s the Mystery? Where’s the Magic? And Other Rebirth Gripes
Ok, so, I have a bone to pick with the current state of Rebirth. I haven’t been loving Rebirth as much as everyone else has. Don’t get me wrong, for all the titles they’ve brought back, it’s been great; most of the books have been very solid (save for a couple…looking at you “Justice League”), even if a few are controversial (I like both “Batman” and “All-Star Batman” but that is an unpopular opinion). There have even been some character defining runs so far (Rucka, Sharp and Scott on “Wonder Woman,” King and Gerard on “Mister Miracle,” Tynion and all the artists on “Detective Comics”) but all these books are big names (yes, Mister Miracle is a smaller name compared but Jack Kirby is not).
The strange corners of the DC Universe aren’t being explored and I feel like the universe is suffering for it. It all feels too small, too focused around the heavy Justice League hitters and their casts. The literal place, which once felt large and vibrant, feel empty, while we focus on a constant stream of villains and long, poorly split up arcs. We stay in familiar locations with our big heroes, alone, instead of venturing out with the lesser known heroes in tow.
There is a wealth of characters that are either not being explored or are being hidden within the pages of these titles: Swamp Thing, Animal Man, Booster Gold (yes, he’s back but after “Convergence” shafted him, he really should’ve been back earlier), The Question (either one!), the people at the GCPD, the Secret Six, Ralph and Sue Dibny, SHAZAM, any of the magic people, any of the space people, etc.
Sure, Deadman had and Etrigan has a mini-series but those stories feel disconnected from the rest of the DC universe. “Ragman” is starting to fill this niche but again, it’s a mini-series.
Give these characters more to do, give them an ongoing. Get some good creators and make a new “Justice League Dark.” I’d love to see Shade, the Changing Girl in that. I also want to know what actually happened to Rac Shade since he’s been gone since “Justice League Dark” #6 or so but that’s for another time. Make another crime drama, do some strange books that feel fresh and new and interesting. Don’t just rest on the laurels of these big names.
Maybe a lot of the names I mentioned earlier are sandwiched into “The Hellblazer” or “Action Comics” or “Justice League of America” but I do not have the time or the money to be able to keep up with all the Rebirth titles (especially due to most of them being twice monthly) and thus, if there are smaller characters I love, I never know which book they’re in. I want to get back into DC, I really do, but my favorite characters are a part of the smaller, stranger corners of the DC universe and I’m not seeing them in any titles. And if they are there, they’re nothing but addendums, flitting in and out. I want to feel like I’m in a universe, not in a series of stories that revolve around Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman as well as the “DC Universe: Rebirth” special.
Bring Back J. H. Williams III and W. Hayden Blackman
Ok, this is an odd one for sure. Why these two, who DC burnt bridges with many years ago? Why do I want these creators back? Well, simply put, I want an end to their “Batwoman” run. I know it won’t be canon and I know that it probably won’t be as good as I’d hoped but man alive do I need resolution to that. “Batwoman” was one of the first (if not, the, first) non-Batman/Superman DC comic I read, although I had previously read the novelization of 52 but that is a story for another time.Continued below
“Batwoman” hooked me with its gorgeous art and compelling narrative, crafting a story soaked in the supernatural and the familial and also featured an interlude story about Waylon Jones aka Killer Croc that was a heartbreaking new origin for the villain. There was a feel to the comic that stuck with me well after I had returned each volume to my library. But then, around issue #22, as many people know the story, DC pulled the plug on almost every plot point they’d been setting up since issue one, including the Killer Croc backup.
The creators said, fine, if we can’t do that, then we’ll finish this arc and be done. DC didn’t even let them do that, putting in a zero year tie-in issue instead of the final issue of the arc (or two? It’s unclear how many were left) and leaving us dangling. There never was any conclusion to Killer Croc but the new creative team did complete the plot line…in an annual that rushed the ending, didn’t understand any of the characters, turned them into one-dimensional versions of themselves, and had terrible pacing and then they proceeded to drive the title into the ground.
I’m not bitter, not in the slightest.
I say all this because I know we’ll never get a true ending to the original storyline or answers to all the questions they were posing. But, if I can wish, then maybe we could get it as an elseworlds story. Complete the run they started, the way they wanted to. It would give us some more of J. H. Williams III’s art (which I haven’t seen in ages) and be a good counterpoint to Bennett’s “Batwoman” run.
Her run, while good, feels like it is missing something. It focuses too much on the militaristic parts of her past, having us read about soldier Batwoman instead of Kate Kane, the person. A lot of what made Batwoman work was her ties to the mystical and the supernatural, even going as far back as “52,” as well as the quiet moments as Kate Kane.
Maybe I just hold that first run in too high esteem but, going to my other point, it’s an aspect of the DC universe that we’re just not seeing right now. It’s the impressionistic, the creepy, the slow mysteries, the tight, short and long term plotting as well as the unity of artist and writer. The New 52 “Batwoman” was a great way to start that ill-fated initiative, let’s at least give it the chance to close off that chapter on its own terms.
Keep the miniseries coming
The miniseries has, more or less, lost its luster at the Big 2 unless it is a major event book. Well, that was until this past year or so. In 2017, all or part of these exceptional miniseries came out: “Deadman: Mansion of Forbidden Love,” “Supergirl: Being Super,” “Batman/The Shadow,” “Justice League/Mighty Mophin’ Power Rangers,” “Batman: Creature of the Night,” “Mystik U,” “Mister Miracle,” and “Demon: Hell is Earth.” For a number of reasons, any of those series could’ve flopped, but DC put the right creators on them and gave them the room to tell their stories, whether or not they fit in with the overall DC landscape.
Now, not all the minis were quite this good: “Deadman” is a mess, “Bane: Conquest” just exists to give Dixon/Nolan something to do, “Ragman” hasn’t done a thing in its first two issues, “Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands” looks promising, but so far is a little boring, and “Wonder Woman/Conan” is a big ball of nothing. But that’s thirteen minis released in 2017, which seems almost absurd in 2017, and I’m sure I’m forgetting a couple. The fact that DC is publishing a dozen-ish minis a year is a good thing – as long as the quality keeps at this level.
Be smart with your Bendis assignments
Make no mistake: landing Brian Michael Bendis was a huge get for DC. And while I am far from a Bendis superfan, I think he can do some really interesting stuff for DC – if they give him the right books. I think Bendis taking over the Green Lantern books could be really interesting. Giving him a “New Avengers” or “Secret Avengers”-style ancillary Justice League title could also work pretty well. Just don’t give him “Detective Comics” and trash all the hard work that James Tynion IV has been doing. Don’t let his reputation as a great writer of young characters pull Peter Tomasi off of “Super Sons” or Ben Percy off of “Teen Titans.”Continued below
Make this the last year I have to beg for a Shazam book
Every fucking year, DC. C’mon.
Out with the old guard
It’s clear DC has had problems in the past, and even though the comics are the strongest they’ve been in years, they largely lean on established creators. Getting rid of Eddie Berganza was a long time coming, and should symbolize the first step in clearing out what has been reported to be a toxic work environment. The same executives and editors have been making the same mistakes for over a decade. A big editorial shakeup is just what they need. When your fresh new idea is hiring Brian Michael Bendis, it’s time for some new people with some new ideas.
Show us some other cities
The DC universe is chock full of unique locations with lots of character, but lately it feels like most of their books take place in Gotham, and the ones that don’t take place in real cities like Washington D.C. And New York. Give us an ongoing set in Fawcett City, Ivy Town, Opal City, or St. Roch. Take us international and make up so new ones. Bring back Sub Diego! With so many books in Gotham, the city is losing some of its mysterious appeal.
Make sure every series has a clear premise
Recently announced titles have exciting premises, like “The Terrifics” or “Mystik U.” It’s great to see beloved and classic characters like Superman making a strong comeback, but it’s a little hard to understand the differences between the various books. The different “Green Lantern” books focus on different characters. “Detective Comics” is mostly about the less famous members of the Bat-family. “Action Comics” and “Superman” are… both about Clark Kent and his immediate family. It’s great that we’re getting books about the supporting casts of some of our favorite characters, but when a book doesn’t have a clear premise, it’s hard to sell it. Make sure every book can be explained in just a few sentences.
Integration is vital for new characters.
I’m really excited for Sideways, who could genuinely be DC’s answer to Spider-Man, but thus far all the titles seem very self-contained, with no indication of how they’ll play with the larger DC Universe. I think it’s vital to their reception if we know they’re actually diversifying the world, instead of feeling separate. Likewise, it’s important the new Earth M titles have some relevance, because it feels wrong to revive a whole line of black superheroes if they’re literally going into an interdimensional ghetto.
Make the Joker funny again.
I think I can count the number of Joker stories this decade on both hands, which is admirable given how overexposed the character felt in the previous decade. Yet he only grew tedious because he felt one-note: he had become such a monstrous character that his appearances could no longer be fun. It’s time writers remembered that the character is able to wake one day and become a harmless prankster: let’s see that Joker again.