As this week's launch of <b>Villains Month</b> proves, September remains an important month for DC Comics. Following 2011's line-wide New 52 relaunch onwards, the ninth month of the year has become the one where anything can happen for the DCU line - especially, it seems, if it's happened before. Last year's <i>Zero Month</i> was a thematic revival of a premise first seen in October 1994, and this year's <b>Villains Month</b> takes the bad guy-centric focus of 1999's <i>New Year's Evil</i> and 2009's <i>Faces of Evil</i> to even greater (or more nefarious, perhaps?) levels. <p>With that in mind, perhaps we can start thinking about September 2014's big DC event. What former DC branding could be revived for next year's third anniversary of the New 52? Here are some contenders, and what they could bring to the table.
<i>What It Was: </i> For just under a year (between April 1988 and February 1989 cover dates, in fact), one DC title each month would have an additional 16 page story in the guise of a separate comic, right in the middle of the book. These "Bonus Books" were used to try out new talent - among them, Dean Haspiel, Rob Liefeld and Peter Krause - on short stories featuring established DC characters. <p><i>What It Could Be: </i> Each New 52 title in September features an additional short starring an existing character from the DC library who hasn't appeared in the New 52 yet, as revamped and retooled by creators who don't normally work for DC. Let's get some new faces - on the page and behind the scenes - involved with the New 52.
<i>What It Was: </i> A crossover event in which the World's Greatest Superheroes were de-aged into children, and the teen heroes had to step up to keep everything together after being artificially aged to replace them. <p><i>What It Could Be: </i> Is it <i>completely</i> nuts to think that it could be fun to have a one month crossover event that just turned all of the regular characters into kids through some ridiculous McGuffin? Just one month in which the regular storylines and characterizations were set aside and readers got the chance to… well, see their heroes as bratty little snots? It probably is, isn't it? And yet, in the words of the original <i>Justice League</i> advertisements, "Just Imagine…"
<i>What It Was: </i> Alternate world takes on familiar DCU characters, either out of continuity altogether (Elseworlds) or existing in an alternate, multi-book continuity (Tangent). <p><i>What It Could Be: </i> Exactly the same idea, essentially. For one month, let the star of each New 52 title be re-imagined in a one-off story that puts no demands on the creators with the exception of one: It has to be a story that <i>couldn't</i> be told using the regular version of the character. (Okay, <i>two</i> demands: It probably shouldn't be something that'd end up with DC getting sued, either.)
<i>What It Was: </i> The original <i>DC Challenge</i> was a twelve-issue mini-series in the 1980s, in which each issue was produced by a different creative team using different characters from those who had appeared previously but attempting to tell one coherent story. If you've ever heard of the game <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exquisite_corpse">exquisite corpse</a>, it's just like that, only with Superman and Adam Strange (amongst many others). <p><i>What It Could Be: </i> Since its launch, the New 52 has been split into multiple publishing families - the Superman books, the Batman books, the Justice League, Dark and Edge books, and so on. What if each family played a miniature version of this game for one month, trying to tell one story across their individual family with little-to-no planning ahead of time? (Insert wisecracks about "I think you'll find that's how they normally do it" here.)
<i>What It Was: </i> The product of a partnership between DC and Marvel, Amalgam took ideas and characters from one universe and mixed them with ideas and characters from the other, giving us Iron Lantern (Iron Man + Green Lantern), Spider-Boy (Spider-Man + Superboy) and Thorion (Thor + Orion), amongst many others. It was the peanut butter in someone else's chocolate of comics. <p><i>What It Could Be: </i> Admittedly, the idea of a Marvel/DC mash-up doesn't seem the likeliest of ideas in today's comic book climate, but what if DC teamed with other publishers and creators to do the same thing? Isn't the world ready to see what happens when you mix Hellboy and OMAC? The correct answer, of course, "something awesome."
<i>What It Was: </i> One of DC's first "fifth week" events, which consisted of seven one-shot issues focusing on female characters from ongoing series, including Lois Lane, Donna Troy, Batgirl and, somewhat inexplicably, Tomorrow Woman, the dead android member of the JLA who'd lasted all of one issue previously. <p><i>What It Could Be: </i> First off, yes, the name isn't anything great. But wouldn't it be a great to see DC use its big September push to focus on the numerous female characters in its many books? Especially if the month was also used to reintroduce fan favorites who are still missing from the New 52 such as Donna Troy or Stephanie Brown. I admit it; this is just me trying to convince DC that the world really, really needs a <i>Lois Lane</i> series again after all these years...
<i>What It Was: </i> A branding/event that took over DC's annuals in the year 2000, <i>Planet DC</i>'s aim was remarkably simple: Each annual was to introduce a new superhero or villain who was based outside of the United States. Harder than it seemed, especially considering most of the titles involved <i>were</i> based inside the U.S…. <p><i>What It Could Be: </i> Post-New 52, we've seen a lot of the United States, and we've seen a bunch of outer space, thanks to the <I>Green Lantern</i> books and things like <i>Threshold</i>. Outside of <i>Justice League International</i> and <i>Batman Incorporated</i>, however, the rest of the world has been worryingly under-represented. Sure, we're getting <i>Justice League Canada</i> early next year, but isn't it time that we found out what was going on all over the world in the New DCU? Why not a month of one-shots teaming title characters with international counterparts?
<i>What It Was: </i> Taking advantage of the decade-to-awesome-date opportunity, 1991's <i>Armageddon 2001</i> event showcased where each of the major DCU players would be ten years from that point thanks to a time-traveling oracle called Waverider, seeking to find out which hero would turn bad and become a Doctor Doom-esque despot in the future. (Spoiler: It wasn't Captain Atom.) <p><i>What It Could Be: </i> With or without the framing gimmick of a time traveler trying to avert a terrible future, surely the idea of spending a month looking at The World That's Coming for each headliner in their own title - with all the chances to drop hints about upcoming storylines that that would offer - is worthy of a month-long event? And this time, no one is even <i>using</i> Hank Hall, so he's completely open to being the fall guy.
<i>What It Was: </i> In 2002, DC released a series of one-shots under the collective title <i>DC 1st</i>, with each issue featuring a first meeting between two characters who'd become a famous combination for some reason or another in the future (For example, Batgirl and the Joker, or Superman racing the Flash, and so on). <p><i>What It Could Be: </i> With so much of the history of the New 52 still relatively unexplored, there's certainly enough potential material for each of the regular titles to offer a flashback for one issue, filling in background information on relationships between important characters. Never mind a one-month stunt, this could even end up being a series of mini-series, depending on those involved.
<i>What It Was: </i> Used at multiple times through DC Comics' 75 year + history - including a fondly-remembered anthology series in the late 1980s - "Secret Origins" is a phrase that means exactly what it sounds like: The chance to revisit the very first days of the crime-fighting (or, in some cases, the outright-criminal) careers of some of the publishers' most well-known characters. <p><i>What It Could Be: </i> Some of the New 52 series started with origin stories, but not all - Consider <i>Batman</i>'s Zero Year, which is only just getting around to telling that story now. What better way to celebrate the anniversary of the New 52 than to offer jumping on points for each series with a retelling of how each character got started in the hero biz? Really, it's more surprising that this <i>hasn't</i> been used yet...