Dear DC, Part 2: More Utterly Unsolicited NEW 52 Advice

<i>By the Newsarama Staff</i> <p>Newsarama never expected DC to actually follow the <a href=>unsolicited advice we offered them</a> a couple days ago about their <b>New 52</b> relaunch, coming <i>very</i> soon to a comic shop or mobile device near you. But then we can't say we saw them <a href=>embracing our naked presumptuousness</a> either... <p>Um, thanks DC...? <p>But just to prove the old rule that "no good deed goes unpunished," the cast and crew of Newsarama are back with a second round of volunteered-without-invitation ideas and proposals for the DCnU suggestion box. <p>Last time we focused on some more macro-level ideals mostly concepts that could be applied to just about any publisher looking to rethink the comic book wheel a little bit, or at least their own practices. So today in Round 2, we let our inner fanboys (and girl) out of their holding pens for a few new reboot suggestions more focused on the DC Universe in particular its unique titles, characters, and mythos. <p>So check out our newest countdown, then join us on Twitter or Facebook to tell us more of your own ideas. <p><i>Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's <a href=><b>FACEBOOK</b></a> and <a href=><b>TWITTER</b></a>!</i> <p>


The DCU, to these eyes at least, has been plagued by the status quo for years. Everyone's roles and places in the DC hierarchy seemed clearly defined. <p>To put it another way: could you <i>ever</i> envision in the DCU a second-stringer like oh I don't know, the Atom receiving the Luke Cage treatment and being elevated to A-list status in an effective and long-lasting manner? <p>Same thing with team-ups. Wouldn't it be great to see Wonder Woman and say, GL, strike up a flirty relationship? <p>Or see Nightwing work with Superman? Or Hawkman and Flash drive each other nuts? <p>We've seen Batman and Superman's opposing ideologies clash eight trillion times. Not saying you need to eliminate them, just that maybe we should see how the big boys play with others. (<i>Mike Avila</i>.)


With The New 52 looking to reinvigorate and revitalize the DC Universe for the 21st Century, DC should remember that their comics haven't stuck to just one time period. We've already got the far-flung future with <i>Legion of Super-Heroes</i> and the old west with <i>All-Star Western</i>, but more period-pieces could add an exclamation point to DC's revamp. <p>After the unbridled success of <i>Wednesday Comics</i>, couldn't a serialized story of <i>Kamandi: The Last Boy On Earth</i> give people something different, while also bringing it to the attention of parent company Warner Bros.? <p>With nostalgic war stories an ever-present hit with movie audiences, could a revamped <i>Our Fighting Forces</i> deliver the kind of story to appeal to more casual comics readers with DC's day-and-date digital releases? <p>Or maybe take <i>Detective Comics</i> back to its roots, with the title's original hero Slam Bradley in Depression-era stories of a hard-drinkin' private eye? It's crime comics at its core, with a rich history that could be played to the hilt. (<i>Chris Arrant</i>.)


Something that's always surprising to me reading reprints of the comics I grew up with the ones that made me fall in love with comics, and with a lot of the characters affected by the September relaunch is how many of the stories don't "count." Sometimes, entire issues were spent more-or-less out of costume, with characters just doing normal stuff and indulging in a little soap operatics as a breather between battles (Who <em>doesn't</em> have fond memories of <em>X-Men</em> issues where they'd play baseball and have intense heart-to-hearts with each other about relationships and the meaning of life?). And it was <em>awesome</em>. <p>That's not nostalgia talking (well, not <em>entirely</em>). Giving characters and readers! a break between big storylines gave those big storylines more impact when they happened: Superman just trying to stop Terra-Man be an ass at a rodeo put things in the proper perspective, and made his never-ending battle a little more interesting. Let's have a chance to see characters in their downtime or, at least, not always carrying the fate of the world on their shoulders and get a better idea about who they are when everything's not a disaster every two seconds. It'll make us like the characters more, honest. <p>(And you thought the small stuff was going to be about the Atom, didn't you?) (<I>Graeme McMillan</i>.)


We're all used to the idea that characters exist in shared universes and cross over for earth-shaking events every summer like particularly bloody, murderous clockwork, but what I want to see from the new DCU is a sense of a shared world. By that, I mean: I want to see characters in books that aren't <em>Superman</em>-related read the Daily Planet. I want to see Blue Beetle use products manufactured by Waynetech. If Mr. Terrific's Michael Holt is one of the most intelligent men on the planet, I want to see him being cited by scientists in <em>O.M.A.C.</em> or looked up to as an inspiration by <em>Teen Titans</em>' newly geeky Tim Drake. If Grifter is killing off aliens and people think he's really just a serial killer, why shouldn't we get references to a mysterious unstoppable serial killer popping up in the <em>Batman</em> books? <p>It doesn't even have to be bits from one specific book bleeding into another; ideas that don't "belong" to any particular character could be shared between titles. Can multiple superheroes go to a new STAR Labs when they need scientific help? <p>I'm not suggesting we have full-on crossovers between series just yet. What I'd like to see is an idea that all of these different series exist in the same world every single day. Don't force readers to pick up other books, but give those who are already doing it some little payoffs for doing so that help the world they're reading about feel just that little bit more real. (<I>Graeme McMillan</i>.)


In 1994, DC had "Zero Month," a jumping-on point of all #0 issues, including a few new titles. Want to know what the one new title was that lasted? <i>Starman</i>. <p>And the thing is this: <i>Starman</i> wasn't like any other book DC was putting out, or most superhero books of the 1990s. You had a lead character whose "costume" was a jacket, a pair of goggles and a big stick, who spent most of his time going on about antiques. <p>There were a lot of books like that at DC in the late 1990s, a good number of them shepherded by the late, great Archie Goodwin. Problem is, a lot of them didn't last. But even those that didn't blazed a trail, like <I>Aztek</i> and <i>Chase</i>. <p>It's a hard thing to get a book to fit into a preexisting universe full of well-known characters. But sometimes, the best way to make something fit is to have it <i>not</i> fit. When a book has a unique narrative voice, characters, storylines and/or art, it not only attracts readers, it attracts readers who aren't already reading comic books, particularly the long-established heroes whose history can sometimes seem just a wee bit intimidating. <p>Dare to be weird. Dare to be wonderful. And dare to give a quality product time to tell its stories and find its audience, even if monthly sales are far from the top. (<i>Zack Smith</i>.)


Batman has been a lot of things in his 72-year existence, from Adam West's shark repellant-spraying goofball in the '60s TV show to Frank Miller's middle-aged ass-kicker in <i>The Dark Knight Returns</i>. <p>For much of the '90s and early 2000s, Batman was pretty grim. Not that anyone could blame him, thanks to events like "Knightfall," "Cataclysm," "No Man's Land" and" "Bruce Wayne: Murderer?" upheaving his life in various unpleasant ways every few months. Grant Morrison has put the character through a lot lately including driving him insane and teleporting him to prehistoric times but he's also restored a sense of fun, from having the consistently more lighthearted Dick Grayson take on the cowl, to Bruce Wayne's current globetrotting adventures in <i>Batman Incorporated</i>. <p>Given that the Batman starring in September's books has only been at it for about five years, it seems natural to show him enjoying himself a little while cleaning up Gotham City. No one's looking for Bruce Wayne to pull out a Bat-credit card like in 1997's <i>Batman & Robin</i>, but a balanced, good-natured yet gritty approach to the character seems to be the one that traditionally registers with the highest amount of people. And isn't that type of outreach what The New 52 is all about? (<i>Albert Ching</i>.)


Fans have done everything short of renting a plane and skywriting it: There's a huge group of us that like Wally West and a huge group of us that like Stephanie Brown, and we want to read new stories featuring those characters. <p>Wally West might not be your favorite Flash. Wally, you say, might confuse new readers. If you have to give him a different codename? Cool. All we want is Wally. <p>We want the mythology of the speed force, we want a sidekick that has grown up and surpassed his mentor's legacy. You still have Dick Grayson, you still have Roy Harper, so there's really no reason we can think of, no <i>story</i> reason to not have Wally West. <p>And that brings us to Stephanie Brown. Yeah, she's a troublesome character, and yes, in the scheme of a "five years old" DC superhero landscape, that means she was Robin for about 12 minutes. But darn it, Stephanie sure as hell <i>is</i> Batgirl. Stephanie Brown brought back some of the wonder and awe to being a superhero without superpowers. She wasn't invulnerable, and you actually knew it (which is sometimes lost in Batman stories). She wasn't perfect at her job, but she was trying her hardest and getting better all the time. <p>Barbara's back as Batgirl? Awesome! So give Steph a new identity, or just let her continue her training under Babs. Heck, you even had the option from Grant Morrison of simply sending Steph to another city, setting her up somewhere in England. <p>Please DC, hear our cries: Find a place for Wally and Steph. (<i>Lucas Siegel</i>.)


I'll admit it: I love Hal Jordan as a Green Lantern as much as the next man assuming that the next man isn't Geoff Johns, of course. But there's little denying that he's a bit of a glory hog, and that's seeped into the books themselves: Every big <em>Green Lantern</em> story has somehow ended up being about Hal in one way or another. <p>No more. <p>Now that Hal has been kicked out of the Corps, let's keep him out for a while, and give Guy, John and Kyle a chance to shine not to mention all of the non-human GLs. There's no doubt that Sinestro-as-star-of-the-monthly-<em>Green-Lantern</em>-comic is a limited time deal, and that Hal will inevitably return to the role, but there's absolutely no need to rush to resolving that storyline. What if Sinestro was replaced as <em>GL</em> lead by John Stewart, who hasn't really had a chance to shine (no pun intended) for way too long? What if an all-new character took over the role of Earth's Lantern for a while? <p>What the New 52 needs to get jaded fans picking up the books again is the feeling that anything can happen. Keeping Hal away from ring-slinging for as long as possible and seeing what stories can be told with other characters would be a nice way to start demonstrating that. (<I>Graeme McMillan</i>.)


No DC (and Newsarama readers), I'm <i>not</i> kidding. <p><i>Really</i>... <p>To be fair up front, I'm much more sold on the Kryptonian armor than I was with that first look at George Perez's Superman #1 cover. The high collar and plated look I've grown cool with, but something still keeps nagging me about the loss of the red trunks. Yes, they're silly and of another era. No, they don't translate well to the real world in the year 2011. <p>What keeps nagging at me, however, is that what the new suit lacks (besides the trunks) is an air of permanence. <p>Maybe it'll just take some getting used to. Perhaps in a few months or years it'll seem as natural as the changes made to Batman's no-less iconic visage over the decades. But at the moment the new suit just looks temporary. Of the ilk of an Elseworlds or time-travel story arc. And I would suspect temporary or transitory is the last impression you want to leave readers with at this crucial moment in your publishing history, <i>particularly</i> with the new readers you're seeking that are as familiar and accustomed to the iconic elements of Superman's costume as I am... and perhaps even more. (<i>Michael Doran</i>.)


Geoff Johns announced at Comic-Con that his new Aquaman title would acknowledge the fact that the ocean-dwelling superhero is the butt of many jokes. In fact, Johns said people's perception of Aquaman as "silly" becomes one of the inspirations for the new comic. <p>That sounds... dare I say it... <i>fun</i>. <p>There was a time when a comic being described as "fun" was detrimental to comics, and we've seen recently just how dark comics can get to avoid it. But if DC really wants to attract and retain new readers, this relaunch is going to have to give people more than just cool, dark art with surprise endings. They've got to embrace the fun. <p>No, that doesn't necessarily mean fun<i>ny</i>. Sure, it can be humorous fun. But it could also be dark fun. Or self-deprecating fun. Or that Grant Morrison type of wacky-yet-creative fun we're all hoping <i>Action Comics</i> delivers. <p>That isn't to say the stories shouldn't still be dramatic and hard-hitting. But DC has to realize that, in order to survive, comics have to offer the mainstream public a type of compelling -- and <i>fun</i> -- experience they can't get in other entertainment. And this is the time to go for it. (<i>Vaneta Rogers</i>.)

Dear DC, Part 2: More Utterly Unsolicited NEW 52 Advice

Date: 18 August 2011 Time: 08:58 PM ET