At Comic-Con this past weekend, DC Comics made a clear effort to reassure its fan base that their upcoming relaunch of 52 new titles would be a positive thing. Panels were held each day that were tailored to discuss and explain the new status quo that was coming and how this was not something older fans needed to fear or hate. The panelists certainly answered many questions about continuity: Barry Allen and Iris West dated but never got married, Barbara Gordon experienced being paralyzed and now can walk again, aliens such as Superman are not particularly trusted by major world governments, Lois Lane is an editor at The Daily Planet...
But at each DC panel, it was clear that the mood of readers was mixed. Fans, both old and new, could not reach a consensus on how to feel about the new status quo, sometimes not even with themselves. Curiosity seemed to rule the day, with noticeably more attendees lining up to ask questions than in previous years. Fans seemed to have more questions than judgments at this stage.
One major topic of discussion that seemed to come up at each panel was on the role of women in the relaunch. Not only female characters within the DCnU, but the status of female creators and their involvement in DC's future.
During one Q&A session, a fan told co-publisher Dan DiDio that she had examined the solicits for the new 52 titles and that out of the 28 solo character books, only 6 focused on women and, out of those 6, only 2 were not somehow female versions of older male superheroes (such as Supergirl's connection to Superman and Batgirl and Batwoman's both being inspired by Batman). Pointing out that there were several DC female heroes who had distinct identities and legacies that did not spin off from male characters, she asked, “How do you justify calling that diversity?”
DiDio answered that this was a product of the industry and not a deliberate move by DC.A few fans asked if giving Barbara Gordon the use of her legs again wasn't actively going in the opposite direction of creating diversity. DiDio answered that Barbara Gordon was returning to her old identity in order to bring more readers to a Batgirl title, since people who watched the various cartoon shows of the past decade would only know her and not Stephanie Brown. "We're returning the characters to their most accessible version." He also added that the launch of a new Batwoman title, featuring a hero who was not only female but openly gay, is a sign that DC is actively reaching out to today's wider, more diverse audience.
Adding to the concern of diversity, Paul Cornell stated, "You cannot simply replace Oracle with another disabled character... But I do understand the concern and in my book Demon Knights I am introducing a character called the Horse Woman. She's my Clint Eastwood, just this dangerous woman on a horse and she never gets off the horse because she can't use her legs."
Another fan asked why on all the team books, the women were, in her opinion, shoved to the sides of the covers or "treated as background" (with Birds of Prey standing as an exception). She asked why women didn't seem to be front and center in the new DC Universe. The panel remarked that Wonder Woman was displayed prominently on the Justice League cover and that women were a major part of their universe even if they were not "dead-center" on the cover. This led to a tense exchange for almost a full minute before the fan decided to return to the audience. Afterward, the DC panel joked that a new female character would be introduced called "Dead-Center Girl."
Scott Lobdell weighed in on this as well on multiple panels, explaining that the new Teen Titans would be equally split between male and female characters and that there would be new minority members introduced.
When DiDio asked the audience what DC could do to make readers more comfortable about the relaunch, a male fan shouted "Hire more women!" This caused loud applause throughout the room. DiDio then looked to the fan and asked, "Who should we have hired?" When the fan didn't seem to have a ready answer, DiDio pressed on, "We want the best creators on our books, who should we have hired?" He then turned to the audience and invited them to shout out names. After a few were called out, the fan that'd initially asked the question remarked, "On your books you went from 12% women to 1% women."
"What do those numbers mean to you?" DiDio asked. The fan didn't seem to have an answer and the panel moved on.
Writer Grant Morrison encouraged women in the audience to submit and write to DC Comics and not to think it wasn't worth it because they wouldn't be heard or acknowledged. Gail Simone also assured the audience that Barbara Gordon would not become a weaker character by becoming Batgirl again, that she would actually be depicted as the smartest woman in Gotham.DC's panels also created a buzz during a discussion of Superman's new status. In discussing that Superman would now be single and that his heroic identity would not be trusted, editor Matt Idelson said that this made the character easier to relate to since he would no longer be a celebrity superhero and an award winning journalist who was also married to a "trophy wife." While many in the audience nodded in agreement with this, other fans, male and female, immediately took offense to the description of Lois Lane as a trophy wife.
"Where did they get that idea?" asked a male fan in the hallway. "Lois is a great writer and gets into danger all the time and sometimes she's the one to tell Superman what he needs to hear. She's a partner. If you wanna change it, okay, but there was never anything trophy wife about her, she always had guts and a brain."
But while many criticized DC's new status for many reasons, there were also several fans that said that they embraced the new changes.
"Comics are always evolving, always changing," one fan commented. "If they're doing great new stories, I'm happy. We had the Crisis and it didn't end things, it just changed some stuff."
"If Batgirl were having her history changed so that she had never been crippled, I'd be angrier," another fan stated. "But they say that it still happened and now something's happened to let her walk again and that she'll be dealing with her life suddenly changing again. So, I'll read it because that sounds interesting."
"I don't get why Superman and some of the others have collars like they're on Star Trek," a fan dressed as Superman remarked. "But costumes change all the time and if the stories are good then I can wait two years for the outfits to change again."
"I was a big Wildstorm fan," said a mother who was accompanied by her child dressed as Spider-Man. "And after a while, it seemed like those stories were all the same. But now that you've got Stormwatch on the same planet as the Justice League, that could be really interesting. And I love Grifter. I want him and Batman to team-up soon."
A few people at the DC panels even publicly pledged to buy all 52 new issues to support their favorite publisher. On fan proclaimed he would be buying many of the new issues to send to friends who had previously been too scared to pick up comics due to the daunting history and continuity. Some remarked that certain characters they had not been interested previously now sounded as if they would be more interesting in the new version of things.
"I've never really cared about Superman before because he's got the whole boy scout thing," a fan remarked. "But Grant Morrison saying he's going to be more of a rebel now and more about what's right instead of what's legal, that sounds really cool."
"I really want to get into DC Comics and now I feel like I can since it's starting over fresh," said a young fan. "But the characters I really wanted to get into are Batman and Green Lantern and they're the only ones who are keeping all this history and I still feel like it's intimidating."Some fans said they were excited about the new stories but couldn't support the new costumes and designs. On fan dressed as Supergirl dismissed Kara Zor-El's costume as having "ridiculous boots and shorts" and then remarked, "I can't think of any character who needs body armor less than Superman. He's Superman! And the armor doesn't even look futuristic or alien. At least that would've made sense. I realize it's only a comic and it's a guy who wears glasses to hide and it works, but it still bothers me."
Whatever the opinion, emotions are high and the new 52 fast approaches.FACEBOOK and TWITTER!