One Year Later: 10 Suggestions For the Future of THE NEW 52

by <a href=>Newsarama Staff</a> <p>One year ago this week, DC Comics announced that they were relaunching their entire line of superhero comic books as part of a publishing initiative dubbed "The New 52." <p>All this past week, we've tried to look back at the effects the move has had on DC and the comic book industry as a whole the good, the bad, the characters who really benefited, and the lingering questions that remain. <p>To wrap up our week of reviewing the results, we're moving our gaze towards the future, and some things we'd like to see from DC Comics in the <i>next</i> year of the New 52 era ... and beyond. <p>To begin our forward-looking countdown, click "start here" in the upper-left corner. And if you're looking to catch up on our coverage from this week, check out the links below: <p><a href=>One Year Later: 10 Lingering Questions About The NEW 52</a> <p><a href=>One Year Later: 10 Characters Who Should Thank DC's NEW 52</a> <p><a href=>One Year Later: The Best of DC's NEW 52</a> <p><a href=>One Year Later: The Worst of DC's NEW 52</a> <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> <p>


Although the New 52 brought some new creative talent to the ranks of DC, for the most part it's been staffed by long-time DC creators and older veteran creators coming back into the spotlight. Now there's nothing wrong with that per see, the lack of new creative blood has been a source of frustration for some fans. But we have a solution. <p><B>DC Universe Presents</B> has worked much like the bygone DC title <I>Showcase</I> to test the waters for a character (or characters) that would be on the bubble in their own title. We've seen great work here, particular Paul Jenkins and Bernard Chang's Deadman story, but imagine if you used it to showcase, or present as it were, new creators doing the same thing? <p>The comics industry is fortunate to have one of the most diverse creative communities bases in its history, and DC would do well to not only groom their current stars but also look for their next. Think of the possibilities with creators like Ben Templesmith, Max Brooks, Brandon Graham, Jamie S. Rich, Colin Lorimer, Tonci Zonjic, Nathan Fox, Jim Zubkavich and others out there waiting for the venue to present their fresh ideas for the DCnU.


We've had an Earth-1 since last September, and thanks to James Robinson and Nicola Scott, now we have an Earth-2. It's not hard to guess what's coming next... Or is it? After all, <em>Worlds' Finest</em> already gives us a quiet crossover between the two worlds that sidesteps the epic action and drama of the Silver Age JLA/JSA team-ups, while <em>Action Comics</em> has already quietly established the notion of passing between parallel earths thanks to #9's trip to Earth-23. <p>Whereas, in the past, it's taken matters of cosmic importance to bring heroes of both worlds together, this time it looks as if DC is considering taking another path altogether: One that might take a longer time to get to its destination, sure, but also one that takes into account the audience's familiarity with other Parallel Earth stories such as Fox's <em>Fringe</em> TV series. <p>There's something else that's possibly worth noting about DC's quiet re-introduction of the Multiverse. After <em>Infinite Crisis</em>, there were "only" 52 parallel earths out there. Before <em>Earth-2</em> and <em>Worlds' Finest</em> were announced, the name "The New 52" seemed to relate to the number of monthly ongoing series set in the DCU after September. But... what if it actually refers to a slow roll-out of 52 different Earths? <em>Crisis On 52 Earths</em>, anybody...?


While across town Marvel is pitting its two biggest superhero team franchises mano-a-mano in <i>Avengers vs. X-Men</i>, DC is relatively high and dry with the Justice League. <p>Sure, the franchises for their solo characters like Superman and Batman are not to be ignored, but in terms of superhero teams the Justice League is the A squad with other teams like the Legion and Teen Titans coming in a few steps below. There needs to be a counterpoint to the Justice League: for rivalry's sake at time, but also just as a balancing force. <p>In terms of candidates, the field is rather bleak unless you have a big imagination. But thankfully, that's just the kind of creators DC likes to hire. <p>From obvious choices like Batman spiraling off into a splinter group to more risky choices like the Wildstorm characters organizing behind something akin to the Authority (or the Authority itself), or maybe even a slightly revamped Legion of Super-Heroes. There's no doubt the challenge is pretty steep but not insurmountable. After all, these are superheroes we're talking about.


DC keeps trying to diversify its slate of male heroes by adding different races and portraying same-sex relationships, but somehow the legions of female fans are getting lost in the shuffle as DC overlooks what is likely the fastest growing minority among its reading audience. What those women want to see and what would make comics more palatable to new fangirls is the portrayal of interesting, well-rounded women (who aren't just interesting because of their well-rounded chests). <p>DC is already doing this in several of their comics, so readers and editors only need to look at what works and what doesn't. For example, put Buddy Baker's wife in a push up bra and a bikini for a while and see what happens to sales. Or put Wonder Woman in a thong with a sex kitten stance and see how well Brian Azzarello's story works. <p>Women can be sexy, sure, but make sure they're sexy for who they are and not just a vapid buxom body who's supposed to be sexy because of how she's drawn. That's a move toward diversity that might not get headlines, but it's one that everyone can support.


Fans have reacted with both glee and consternation in wake of The New 52, but with this new iteration of the DCU now in full swing it's time to consider a guide to keeping it all straight. <p>Back in it's day, <i>Who's Who In The DC Universe</i> was an informative guide to the publisher's characters both big and small. And fans ate it up. <p>Now with DCU aiming to get a whole new generation onboard to the stories and characters of The New 52, a modern rendition of <i>Who's Who</i> could work to both cement long-time fans understanding and attachment to these new takes on their favorite characters, but also act as simple go-to guides for the casual fan wanting to know more. <p>And instead of simply dusting off the old templates and plugging the new information in, DCU could give the format a hard look and think about other ways to get <i>Who's Who</i> in people's hands in addition to the traditional single issues and collections. Digital versions tied into the release of its regular comics? QR Codes in the back of issues for mobile phones to access the content? Free updates to the digital versions as the characters to develop? Yes, please.


Many people have lamented the return of '90s creators to the DCU, but their mere presence hasn't been the problem as much as the mimicking of the in-your-face, bad-ass coolness that sullied that decade. <p>Thankfully, that isn't the case with the whole New 52, and DC should take note of what's working. Animal Man and Swamp Thing are so cool, in part, because they don't try to be. And Aquaman is all the more badass because his comic embraces instead what makes the character funny. Yes, badassery was the cool thing <i>then</i>, but it's becoming obvious that the cool thing <i>now</i> and that the <i>future</i> will need to be new and innovative.


Now that we've seen solicits for the full year of The New 52, it almost seems surprising that DC managed to hold off on a massive crossover event that binds everything together in one outrageous story for an entire year. <p>Yes, we've had smaller "family" crossovers during that year, whether on the small-scale (<em>OMAC</em> and <em>Frankenstein</em> slugging it out, <em>Animal Man</em> and <em>Swamp Thing</em> telling different sides of what may be the same story) or something slightly more ambitious ("The Culling" spinning out of <em>Teen Titans</em> and <em>Superboy</em>, the Batman Family's "Night of The Owls"), but even those events have seemed both relatively organic and self-contained. <p>It's been a welcome experience, one that's allowed each series to find its own feet (for better or worse; sorry, six cancelled first wave titles) as well as given new readers a chance to try out books without feeling as if they were getting involved in an expensive, labyrinthine world that would demand too much of both their attentions and their bank balances. <p>That's not to say that readers didn't have the ability to follow Easter eggs and references to new books, or experiment with new titles, but they didn't <em>have to</em>, and that makes all the difference. <p>That's why it's a little unnerving knowing that <em>Trinity War</em> is around the corner: Is that delicate approach to world building about to be flattened by the heavy machinery of the line wide event book, with new readers finding the need to create their own definition of <a href=>Red Sky Crossover</a>? Here's hoping not but all things being equal, it'd be nice if this kind of big story was kept as the exception, and not the rule.


DC took the opportunity of The New 52's launch to go line-wide day-and-date digital with all of the DCU books, and despite the fears of many, the sky didn't fall. In fact, according to all reports, not only didn't the direct market collapse, but digital sales proved to be additive to the readership which is to say, people who weren't necessarily reading DC Comics before. <p>Since then, Vertigo has followed The New 52 to go day and date, and the publisher has created titles that serialize digitally before their print release. Digital, it seems, is definitely a large part of DC's future. So why not really push that? <p>This doesn't necessarily mean a DC version of Marvel's Infinite Comics or AR app (although both would be welcome), but perhaps it's time to take another look at digital pricing. If digital sales really <em>are</em> additive to the print sales, does that mean that digital releases can become cheaper without it affecting the digital market? Can digital titles be released earlier than print? Could there be digital "Director's Cut" editions of print titles, with more material for readers who want it? The success of The New 52 demonstrated that there was a hunger out there for innovation in this area; it'd be good to see DC go some way to try to feed that hunger.


DC is dealing with licensed properties, so it's understandable that The New 52 costume re-designs had an approval process, and that editorial had a heavy hand as they formulated the premise of each book in the relaunch. But it's also obvious that most of the more successful comics from The New 52 are those where the writer and artist were given a little breathing room to take the comic in a new, innovative direction. It saddens us to hear about editors mandating rewrites that didn't work, such as Fabian Nicieza's <i>Legion Lost</i>, or "creative differences" forcing the ouster of writers who'd previously had successful runs. <p>To put it bluntly to DC editors: Trust your writer and artist's instincts as much as possible, and if you don't, then put someone on the book who you will trust so we can enjoy a creative collaboration instead of a disjointed story-by-committee.


Putting aside for a moment the fan debate that will rage forever whether DC resetting/restarting post-Crisis continuity was a good thing, DC can advance a pretty strong argument the New 52 did a <i>lot </i> of positive things. <p>Direct Market sales are relatively stronger in 2012 than they've been in a few years and most observers credit DC's fall relaunch as a major component. <p>Flagship titles like <i>Batman</i>, <i>Wonder Women</i> and <i>Aquaman</i> are largely lauded for the current quality. On-time shipping has no doubt improved, and DC has innovated somewhat with new wrinkles like returnability for retailers and being out in front of same-day digital. <p>But now one year after the New 52 was announced, it sometimes seems like there's second shoe that we're still waiting to drop. <p>The typical cycle in contemporary comic books is to launch strong, try to stave off inevitable attrition for as long as possible, and goose with yearly events. And it kinds of feels like the New 52 (a name that could become ironically inappropriate soon enough) is already in that stage. Apparently things will get a bump in September with 52 #0 issues, and then <a href=>Third Army and Trinity War will</a> follow to buoy things some more. <p>But as we wrote about last summer, you promised to <a href=>reshape an industry we all love</A>, DC. And while it has very likely been reinvigorated, reshaped is a tougher argument to make. <p>Don't let last September be the singular tipping point of the foreseeable future. Innovate, change, create, rethink. Take risks. Do the unexpected. <p>Never stop putting the new into the New 52.

One Year Later: 10 Suggestions For the Future of THE NEW 52

Date: 02 June 2012 Time: 08:27 PM ET