All of us have holiday traditions: some of us watch A Rugrats Chanukah each year, some can recite all the words to “The 12 Pains of Christmas,” and some 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?
Our final installment focuses on DC, our 2017 publisher of the year. What do we still find lacking from Detective Comics Comics? Keep reading to find out.
Legion of Super-Heroes and JSA when?
I know the plan is likely to launch this stuff coming out of “Doomsday Clock,” but 2+ years is an awful long time to wait for properties that were promised in the limelight of the ‘Rebirth’ banner. At this point, ‘Rebirth’ is in the rearview mirror and the DC line as a whole feels directionless, even if there are still a number of very good books being put out. I’m not a continuity minutia nut, but I do think that publishing lines are a lot stronger when it feels like the oars are all rowing in the same direction, in unison. Not only are Legion and JSA two properties that we’ve been waiting a while for, but if properly executed, could be a window into the “future” and the “past” of the DC Universe in a way that would feel unifying and additive to the post-‘Rebirth’ landscape. Coming out of “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” the Legion of Super-Heroes was somewhat used as a spiritual link to the DC universe that was lost. I could easily see both the Legion and JSA used in the same way here. We will probably never get a wholesale return to pre-‘Flashpoint’ continuity, but there is still a good deal of patchwork that could be done and I don’t see how you do that without the JSA.
Bigger books for DC Talent Workshop creators:
The DC Talent Workshop was an interesting idea that didn’t really result in that much of a talent injection into the material DC is actually regularly publishing. There are a few artists here and there (Minkyu Jung, Sonny Liew) who now get regular work at DC, and a few of the writers too (Michael Moreci, Magdalene Visaggio), but it’s mostly a smattering of fill-in work and anthology storytelling. The anthology stories from these talents tend to be some of the best ones in whichever book they appear in, but it hasn’t yet resulted in longer running work on ongoing stories or featured miniseries at DC proper. I can’t pretend to know what goes on behind the scenes, and this could very easily be chalked up to creators making pitches that don’t appeal to DC at this point, but someone like Visaggio is such a great talent that one hopes they’re keeping her name in the rolodex when they’re looking for new pitches down the road. It’s a weird time for DC, because I don’t think they’re lacking for new talent (they’ve done a good job of cycling out a lot of the creators that lead the downward trajectory of the ‘New 52’), but I also think there are characters and properties that could do with a fresh injection of young talent, and these Talent Workshop names could be just the thing they need. A new “Raven” or “Cyborg” book could benefit from younger eyes and minds instead of the same creators who perhaps made them famous at one time, but no longer have fresh ideas for them.
Unlock DC Universe for the U.K and Europe
A simple one really, but as a Brit, I don’t get to experience the new streaming service that DC has set up. I’d like to watch the new shows they’re putting on there and dive into some of the comics they’ve got, but at the moment I’ve got no chance. Speaking of comics…
Rival Marvel Unlimited with comics content
This is a moot point for me if my first wish isn’t granted, but there are so many comics in the DC vault that I’d love to read but don’t want to spend a fortune buying. I’d almost prefer a DC Unlimited style service over Marvel at this point because I grew up reading Marvel, so there are huge chunks of their Unlimited service that I’ve already read. With DC though, there are decades that are a mystery to me.Continued below
Don’t let your imprints atrophy
This sort of thing happens. An imprint will be going smoothly with multiple well-received titles, and suddenly most of the titles will have ended. We’re currently in that phase with Young Animal, Wildstorm, and New Age of Heroes. I’m not saying DC should keep all of their imprints around, but I think they should have a definite plan for what’s happening: either the imprint is definitively ending, or it’s definitively continuing on with as much support as it had in the beginning. Otherwise, what’s the point of maintaining the imprint? If you have a book remaining that doesn’t deserve to end, either give the line a few more books or integrate the one popular book into a different line. DC has a lot of imprints out there, and if one can’t afford to be healthy, it’s best to cut it off to reduce confusion.
Get that book market!!
DC already has some big plans in the works to make 2019 the year of the book market. The Ink and Zoom lines are targeting that market from the get-go, while the Black Label and Essential Edition lines are repackaging previous serialized stories so they can sell better in the book market. Honestly, all I ask here is that DC keeps with their plans and doesn’t cop out at the last minute.
Don’t downplay your artists in the book market
The early covers of the Ink and Zoom books are concerning to me. They all have the writer’s name in huge letters in a conspicuous place, while the artist is reduced to a tiny credit hidden off to the side. I get that the book market is used to one author at a time and that those consumers are more likely to care about the writer, but these are comics! Comics are a collaborative medium. The artist is equally as important as the writer, and they deserve to be recognized as such. If DC is trying to hide the fact that these are comics, well, the people looking at these books are going to realize that eventually. There should be no shame in celebrating this unique aspect of the medium upfront.
Keep your Frick-Frackin Artists On Your Fucking Books
This might seem like an Big Two issue but I feel it more acutely with DC’s books, probably because they had that imprint DEDICATED to highlighting artists that couldn’t keep any of the original artists on board for more than an issue or two. Let’s run down the list: John Romita Jr. on “Silencer” gone after three issues, Phillip Tan on “Curse of Brimstone” gone after three, returned for 5 pages in issue 5 and was gone again, Andy Kubert on “New Challengers” gone after issue three, Ryan Sook on “The Unexpected” gone after one, Ivan Reis on “The Terrifics” gone after issue two, and Jim Lee on “Immortal Men” gone after one.
The only ones that seemed to survive were Kenneth Rocafort on “Sideways,” who took a three issue break, and some of the artists that replaced the above, such as Victor Bogdanovic on “The Silencer.” This isn’t to knock the quality of the books, of which they all varied, or of the artists themselves. What I’m getting at is that despite all its lip service, DC really doesn’t value it’s interior artists. If not even the imprint that is expressly marketed as artist first can keep its flagship artists on their books for more than four straight issues, then there is certainly a problem.
I say interior because the variant cover initiative, with the minimalistic cover dressing so as to show off the art, has been one of my favorite parts of this past year. The artistry on display is wide-ranging and is the kind of elegance I want from my variant covers.
They need to fix this, even more so with their regular titles. Artists inform the tone of a story so much and while changing artists can be used to great effect, or to help give a regular artist a break, it must be done with intent instead of happening mid-arc. This will probably never change but I can dream.Continued below
Do More of What Bendis is Doing
Bran Michael Bendis at DC has been a breath of fresh air that I didn’t even think was possible. His stuff may not be #1 all the time in my book but it’s felt different and new and still in the spirit of DC in a way that I haven’t felt in most of the ‘Rebirth’ titles. His “Action Comics” in particular has been stellar, while “Superman” has been bogged down by Rogol Zarr. But I’m not here to gush about realistic, humanistic dialogue done right, I’m here to ask DC to do one, simple thing: emulate this man’s approach to “Action Comics.”
There are two aspects to this. One is the literal approach to the world building and storytelling. He is building a cast of supporting characters that feel fully realized, set in a location that is REAL and not just a cardboard set, and clear references to the rest of the universe. ‘Drowned Earth’ may not have interrupted “Action Comics” but it is referenced, addressed, and made an explicit part of the story, even if it is just for a throw-away line. That is the kind of interconnectivity we need in these other books to make the DC universe feel full again.
The ‘New 52’ stripped the DCU of its history; it did what Seattle did and built a brand new city atop the burned ruins, hiding it from view. ‘Rebirth’ unearthed that city but the two cannot be reconciled easily, nor do they have to be. But what is necessary is that the life that was present before be present again. We have enough titles where the heroes are solo-acts, with poorly introduced side-characters that never show up again or don’t seem to have any role other than to provide exposition.
The second is that if there will ever be another double-shipping set of titles, by this point most have gone back to monthly, instead, consider making them two titles that run concurrently and tell two separate but intertwined titles. It’ll be hard but it’ll save the people purchasing books a lot of grief and if you have to use the space to tell a larger story, it’s already built into the titles.
Make Detective Comics a Detective Comic Again
“Detective Comics” had a phenomenal run under James Tynion IV’s watchful eye at the start of ‘Rebirth’ and has seen a few good but not great fill-in runs since. I want to posit the reason for this is that the intervening issues have put too much focus on standard Batman. Yes, I know the name is now “Batman: Detective Comics” but that title was always at its best when it either focused on supporting Bat characters (Batwoman, Gordon, Renee Montoya Question, Dick Grayson Batman doing detective work) or on the weird, genre-tastic world of the city.
I say this because, despite focusing on Black Lightning in Bryan Hill’s run or Two-Face in James Robinson’s, these arcs all have Batman as the lynchpin of the narratives. It’s boring and, with Batman the way he is in King’s book, inconsistent. By shifting the focus away from him, such as back to the ground level or with other supporting Bat characters, or by operating in a vastly different mode than the action heavy main “Batman” title, we could turn the title into a fantastic companion piece. Infuse the book with horror. Do shorter arcs, like that single issue by Sebastian Fiumara. Involve the CITY. I know I’m beating a dead horse but these are worlds, not just action set-pieces. Experiment, this is the place to do it and with issue #1000 coming up, what better way to honor the title’s history than by turning it into a title that embodies more than just Batman.
Sensa-tion Co-mics [clap clap clapclapclap]
We’ve been beating this drum for a long time, but there is simply no good reason for there not being a second ongoing Wonder Woman title. Elevate her to her proper place in the Trinity with a second book, and there’s one right there waiting for you. Wonder Woman is the DC character that has been raised in the public eye over the past 5 years, due in no small part to the one truly good DCEU film which bears her name.Continued below
I would also suggest that, if this happens, DC makes sure that there is prominent female representation on both titles. Having two dudes pen Wonder Woman stories when you’ve got an incredible bench of female/non-binary writers at your disposal is just dumb. And don’t go digital first again with this, either. Print or bust.
Bring back back-ups
Remember when DC was ‘holding the line at $2.99?’ Well, they’re not anymore, and most of the books published monthly are $3.99. I don’t think we are going back to $2.99 anytime soon, but make the price bump mean something, and give us some back-up features again.
“Shazam #1, which just dropped yesterday, has an incredible back-up from Geoff Johns and Sen, a Japanese fan-artist who got noticed on Twitter. It is an amazing addition to the story, as it builds on what happens in the main issue, but approaches it totally differently, in a unique, manga-infused style, and sets up a fun piece of the Shazam mythos.
That is the model that DC should be taking with, let’s call it, 10-15 titles. One Super book, one Bat book, “Wonder Woman,” a Lantern title, “The Flash,” etc. Give some new creators, or returning favorites, a chance to tell a smaller, weirder, less immediate story.
Embrace longer runs
I know that things don’t always work out, and sometimes a creator’s vision isn’t as successful in execution as it is in theory, but give creators a chance to tell their epics. DC hasn’t been terrible at this as of late, as creators like Tom King, Joshua Williamson, and Christopher Priest have been shepherding their books since the start of ‘Rebirth,’ but it should be the rule, not the exception.
There’s, of course, an argument to be made about accessibility in a longer run, but I think we all know that’s horseshit. If handled properly, it can be pretty simple to give entry points into just about anything. Good trade dress, properly labeled collections, and the occasional title page can do wonders for bringing new readers into a run.
The downside of this is that sometimes a long run just doesn’t resonate with you. [See King, Tom.] But that’s the price you pay for crafting something really special. I really believe that Williamson’s run on “The Flash” will be one of the defining Barry Allen stories of all time because it appears like he’s getting a chance to tell a big, sprawling story that lets threads gestate and take root before being addressed.
When they eventually launch new Justice Society, Legion of Super-Heroes, and New Gods series, really vet the creators coming in for their long term plans, and help them craft a story that can (potentially) stand the test of time.
I know large companies are risk averse, but DC has lots of areas where they can be more ambitious, weird, creative, and experimental without risking a hit to their bottom line. Back-ups, digital first comics, anthologies, and miniseries are places to try out some shit. DC has been using a lot of their miniseries as a haven for creators of a certain age to come in and tell a story with one of their classic characters (Neal Adams had a few of these, Marv Wolfman on “Raven: Daughter of Darkness,” Kelley Jones on “Batman: Kings of Fear,” “Bane Conquest”). And that’s fine, and probably a pretty safe bet, financially, but maybe do those as two-fers. Let Jones do a Bat-story, but pair it with a book in the style of Batman: Ninja.
When those experiments pay off, you’ve got new talent to inject elsewhere. Embrace the margins, and not just in your imprints.