Dear DC: Our Unsolicited Advice for THE NEW 52

<i>By the Newsarama Staff</i> <p>In T-minus two weeks and a few odd hours, the rebooted DC Universe will be thrust upon the comic book world and, DC hopes, the much bigger world in general. <p>Now, most everyone expects that the so-called New 52 will do gangbusters business out of the gate, at least in the Diamond-fed direct market. But the rub in this monthly war-of-attrition industry of ours will be how DC sustains whatever momentum they build for themselves in the fall over the longer haul. <p>So with the future of the DCnU still be to written, Newsarama offers some utterly unsolicited advice to the movers and shakers at the publishing giant as to how to build a state-of-the-art comic book house for the new millennium, as they've kind of made it known that's exactly their plan. <p>Or, better yet, think of it as a wish list: A few things the staff and writers of Newsarama would like to see come out of the offices of 1700 Broadway (and/or Burbank, CA) over the next couple of years, using the New 52 as the launching pad. <p>So check out our countdown of our Top 10 wishes, then joins us on Twitter or Facebook to tell us some of your own. <p><p><i>Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's <a href=http://www.facebook.com/Newsarama><b>FACEBOOK</b></a> and <a href=http://twitter.com/newsarama><b>TWITTER</b></a>!</i> <p>

TAKE WILDSTORM SERIOUSLY

Although the Wildstorm characters have begun to be integrated into the DCU through appearances in <i>Flashpoint</i>, The New 52 will be their first real introduction to DC and its readers. Titles like <i>Stormwatch</i>, <i>Grifter</i> and <i>Voodoo</i> are good starts, but these WIldstorm characters should also be given important weight in the larger scheme of things in the DCU. The Red Circle and First Wave titles didn't work for a reason, but done right the wholly DC-owned Wildstorm characters could act as re-energizing figures for DC's Finest. <p>I'm not asking for the Authority's Carrier to show up through a door in a future issue of <i>Justice League</i> (though that would be interesting), but integrating them into classic DC titles could bring new interest to these characters. Perhaps put a member of Gen 13 in <i>Teen Titans</i>, or have the island nation of Gamorra play into <i>Batman Incorporated</i>. <p>And it wouldn't hurt to have a reprint program, strategically rolling out some of the classic Wildstorm stories from the imprint's history. (<i>Chris Arrant</i>.)

STRETCH BEYOND SPANDEX

Both Marvel and DC have evidence to suggest that digital audiences are looking for something different from their comics, whether it's Axel Alonso talking about <i>5 Ronin</i> outselling regular Marvel Universe books digitally or Bob Wayne talking about digital sales of licensed books like <i>World of Warcraft</i> and <i>Fringe</i> massively outstripping print. <p>So why not take advantage of that possibility, and open up the DCU to genres and characters that have ended up being pushed out of the direct market? <p>We've seen some signs of this already, with <i>Men of War</i> and <i>All-Star Western</i>, but why not bring back titles like <i>Amethyst</i>, <i>Sugar and Spike</i> or even something completely unexpected, like <i>Heart Throbs</i> or <i>Young Romance</i>? More than some other media, comics have such unexplored potential. With digital opening the gates to a whole new readership base, this should be the time to show off more than the limited scope that the current, shrinking, Direct Market audience wants to see. (<i>Graeme McMillan</i>.)

GIVE THE LOWER-RUNG A HIGHER CALLING

It's not always easy to be a fan of lesser-known characters at DC. They're frequently used as cannon fodder during major events Damage bought it in <i>Blackest Night</i>, and how many times has it looked like Steel might be dead? Sometimes, whole groups of characters will just disappear for long stretches of time without much in the way of explanation, like the New Gods or the Marvel Family. Ask about someone like Ambush Bug at a convention and you might get laughed off the mic. <p>Yet if DC is going to maintain 52 ongoing titles a number they seem set on they're going to have to treat characters beyond their marquee superstars with credibility and respect. Though some might have scratched their heads over the announcements of comics like <i>I, Vampire</i> and <i>Resurrection Man</i> as part of the September relaunch, a greater importance placed on these more obscure characters and titles is vital if the launch is going to be truly successful as a revitalization of their entire publishing line. <p>Launching a <i>Captain Atom</I> and <i>Animal Man</i> ongoing series in the same month represents a huge commitment to the lower-rung characters in DC's stable, and this attitude needs to continue, as those books are ultimately equally important to the New 52's success as a whole as <i>Superman</i> and <i>Batman</i>. (<i>Albert Ching</i>.)

DIVERSTY ... IN ART

Art from the Big Two, and most "superhero" art in general, has a particular look to it. Readers, whether they are long-time fans or new to the genre, know what to expect when turning the cover to a superhero comic book; lots of muscles, skin-tight costumes and perfect hair. Perhaps what the DCnU really needs is a broader spectrum of art to entice new readers. <p>It's been a long-time complaint, and not just by women, that superhero art is actually what turns them off from picking up the books. Toning down the sexualization of the characters is just one small step in the right direction. Give established readers and newcomers something fresh to look at think about how blown away we all were by J.H. Williams III's art. <p>Bring in artists with different and exciting styles that specifically <i>don't</i> look like what you've already got on the stands, and you may just see interest being piqued from a whole new segment of the population. (<i>Jill Pantozzi</i>.)

DIGITAL EXCLUSIVES

Hey DC, need a place to give smaller or lesser-known characters their shot at a headline? Or maybe you want to give some new writers and artists a start, and see if they can hone their craft! Well with this glorious new digital delivery model, why not give some of those things a try online before they ever see the printed page? <p>The digital arena is where you could try a <b>Lois Lane</b> series. Heck, you could even have it done by Dean Trippe, who publicly showed his pitch for such a thing and knows how to work digitally. Or you could take those fun 80-page Giants you've been putting out a few times a year and make them into a regular digital showcase for new talent. Let indie creators or up-and-comers take a chance at 8-10 page stories in digital 80-page Giants. Sell those for $2, and your regular digital exclusives for $1, and you just may find some of those fabled new readers. (<i>Lucas Siegel</i>.)

INTERCONNECTED, NOT INTERDEPENDENT

One of the cool things about a sustained universe of characters is that they <i>do</i> in fact live in the same world and occasionally interact. One of the uncool things is how often in both major American sustained universes you've had pick up an issue of a book you don't normally read in order to get a full story. <p>With this fresh start, now is the time to give the idea of interconnected but still independent its fair shot. Sure, Nightwing can show up in <b>Batgirl #3</b>, but if I have to read <b>Nightwing #4</b> to get the rest of the story right away, that will not be the right move. [<i>Note: Not saying that's the case, just as a hypothetical</i>]. <p>Let's see a thriving world of heroes and villains that sometimes cross into each others' lives without necessarily crossing over each others' books. Crossovers and events can be fun, and they can sell quite well, but to keep the universe sustained, you need to keep it sustain<i>able</i>, and more independent stories should do just that. (<i>Lucas Siegel</i>.)

YOU KNOW, FOR KIDS

We've all heard the argument before that the comic book audience is aging, which doesn't bode well for the long-term future of the business. <p>While those fears may often be overstated, the truth is that any publishing business has to keep in mind the future of their market by attracting a new batch of younger readers. <p>With the relaunch, DC has the opportunity to attract younger readers with their new, fresh stories. But so far, we haven't seen much marketing or any specific titles outside the existing young kid books targeted specifically at young people. <p>Sure, publishers have tried this before, with less than stellar results. Marvel was successful for a while with titles like <i>Runaways</i>, while DC's Minx project didn't work so well. But a lot of the failure on these titles is because teens either never heard about the comics, or they couldn't get to the shop to buy them. <p>That all changes in September as DC moves to same-day digital release across their publishing line, which puts a spinner rack into the hand of every teen with an iPod Touch. And as long as DC is putting its marketing money behind the initiative, reaching out to a new audience, why not market to some of this younger audience? If there's any time to try something new that will be appealing to young people, now is the time. (<i>Vaneta Rogers</i>.)

CRAFT SINGLES

Let's see single issues become single issues again, instead of previews of what to expect in the inevitable collection. Think about the music single, and aim to give the reader a slice of completeness for their $2.99/$1.99 a couple weeks later: Make sure that every issue has an arc in and of itself, regardless of whether or not it's part of a larger storyline. Give each and every issue an easy jumping-on point for new readers, even if it's just a recap page (although a recap page every issue would be great start with a quick, "This is who your characters are," and then a super-fast plot summary of the story so far. Simple). <p>Encourage writers to give every issue a killer ending, whether it's a cliffhanger to the next issue or a satisfying climax to whatever plot was in progress. <P>Get rid of the idea that there's such a thing as a "Part 4 of 6," or that "It'll read better in the trade." (Although, that's not to say that it's worth ignoring the fact that these things will inevitably be collected at some point.) <p>In short, make each and every issue count. (<i>Graeme McMillan</i>.)

INCREASE THE ESTROGEN

If there's one segment of the comic book readership that's growing, it's women. Virtually every creator will remark about the change in the last 10 years at conventions, with more and more female fans showing up to support their favorite comics and characters. <p>While DC is better at recruiting female creators than some of its competitors, this new relaunch is an ideal opportunity to get in some new voices. And why not make more of those female voices? <p>And as long as we're wishing for more <i>real</i> women in the ranks at DC, we'd be remiss if we didn't point out there are far too few <i>fictional</i> women starring in their new titles. Yes, there are some great new lineups that include women, but it's time for someone to take a risk and introduce a slate of truly new and innovative titles that feature realistically empowered women. (<i>Vaneta Rogers</i>.)

RESPECT THE REBOOT

"Hard," "soft," or over-easy, it doesn't matter. Nor does the debate of whether or not there should be a reboot at all. What's done is done, and DC has to make the best of that. <p>If <b>Flashpoint #5</b> is indeed the impetus for a brand-<i>new</i> DC Universe, whether it's strange and different "new" or eerily familiar "new," DC should always keep that fact that it is <i>new</i> at the forefront of their execution from here on forward, and not just for the first three or so months. <p>Writers and editors are fans of classic DC mythology as much as readers are, and it has to be difficult to not want to reference or homage that old story beat or relationship that meant a lot to us all in our formative years of fandom. But if I had a wish, I'd urge DC writers to resist that temptation and ask DC to be very vigilant to not let the new ground rules soften over time. <p>An occasional Easter egg or wink-and-a-nudge are fine, but whether I'm reading the utterly redefined Superman or the mostly-status quo Batman, all titles should be written as if there has <b>never</b> been a DC comic book before August 31, 2011, and that has to be true of the <i>all</i> titles. If <b>Killing Joke</b> still happened, then recap everything that a reader needs to know in <b>Batgirl</b>, as if telling back-story in a novel. <p>You took the bold step DC, now own it. (<i>Michael Doran</i>.)

Dear DC: Our Unsolicited Advice for THE NEW 52

Date: 16 August 2011 Time: 08:19 PM ET