The Watchtower 1.22.03: What If Ben Ran The Comic Book Industry? Pt.2

Just Imagine Ben Morse Creating The DC Universe…

Ok, so last week was all well and good, me running Marvel and all…but the fact is, I read way more DC. I like Marvel, but DC is my bread and butter, from my trade paperback collection to my comic bins. I’m not exactly Jim “Mr. Marvel” Trabold’s DC equivalent, but it is getting to the point where if you locked me in a room for two hours I may be able to put on paper a fairly detailed synopsis of Crisis and even explain the multiverse. That having been said, creating my version of the DC Universe is a labor of love. A quick review of the rules…

1. No writer could write more than three titles (not even Geoff Johns)

2. No penciller can pencil more than one title

3. If I want to launch a new title, I need to cancel an existing one

And that takes into account the Marvel picks I made last week…Alan Davis will not be penciling a DC title, because he pencils Thor, and as the writer of Avengers, the esteemed Mr. Johns can only get two more titles max…and with that, we’re off!

Superman Titles

The Goal: He’s the greatest hero of all time, but he’s got more sides to him than some people think. Recent writers have tried to cover the various aspects of the man and the super, and I’d keep pushing for that. We’ve got three titles, so let’s get three unique takes on the Man of Steel…and I’ve got three of the best writers (and some darn good artists) in the industry to do that (nothing less for the first and the best)

ACTION COMICS

Writer: Joe Kelly

Penciller: Tom Raney

Direction/Notes: The title says it all: action. Joe Kelly has written some great stories about who Superman is and what he does, and I see no reason to derail him. I think Kelly sees less distinction between Superman and Clark Kent, so this is the comic that will see him in costume the most. To that end, I’d bring in Tom Raney, a guy who excels when it comes to drawing buff guys and big fight scenes, and giving Kelly an artist who can keep up with him (no easy task).

ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN

Writer: Grant Morrison

Penciller: Howard Porter

Direction/Notes: He had a limited degree of control over him during his JLA stint, but Grant Morrison has been waiting to sink his teeth into the Man of Steel (which…sounds painful…) for years, and I think now is the time. He wrote big screen action in JLA, but he’s also shown on New X-Men and in his past Vertigo work that he can do character examination and interaction. AOS will be about Superman and Clark Kent, as well as his supporting cast; this doesn’t make it any less of an “adventure,” just one of a different sort. And as Grant’s creative partner, who better than his longtime JLA collaborator the long-absent Howard Porter?

SUPERMAN

Writer: Steve Seagle

Penciller: Scott McDaniel

Direction/Notes: The 10 cent adventure got me excited, and I’m ready for more. I like Seagle’s idea of bringing the awe back to Superman and taking it from “oh, hey Superman,” to “Holy $hit! It’s f*cking Superman!” again. Good creative team to restore an icon.

Batman Titles

The Goal: First off: he himself only needs two titles. Which satellite books to keep and shelve will be tough. Batman has two sides: action hero and detective. Two books, two sides to showcase (and truth be told, the creative teams in place don’t need much tweaking); meanwhile, it’s put up or shut up for the satellite books, which need to balance the two and keep pace with the big guy.

DETECTIVE COMICS

Writer: Ed Brubaker

Penciller: Tim Sale

Direction/Notes: Brubaker writes great, down-to-earth detective stories better than anybody. Sale is too good an artist to limit to covers, and he’s got the gritty, accentuated style to make ‘Tec interesting.

LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT

Creative team: rotating

Direction/Notes: I’m a sucker for anthology series, but if they can’t do this one well, it goes on the chopping block. This series should be something special, not just something I skim over every month in solicitations. In my view, they’ve got a zillion Batman Elseworlds out there done by some fairly big names…those should get folded back into here. Ditto for Year One, Year Two, whatever stories. LOTDK should be the place where talented creators with their own unique take on Batman or the Bat-mythos come to strut their stuff.

ROBIN

Writer: Jon Lewis

Penciller: Humberto Ramos

Direction/Notes: This series is probably more on the fence than any of the others. Tim Drake is a great character, but he could potentially be getting more than enough exposure in Young Justice and could be folded back into the core Batman titles (where he rarely appears anymore). On the other hand, a good cast has been created here, and Lewis’ enthusiasm has won me over in interviews. I’d put fan-favorite artist Ramos here and tell Lewis to really let loose and tap into the Robin mythos, but unfortunately, this title is definitely on a sort of probation and has to prove itself quick.

NIGHTWING

Writer: Devin Grayson

Penciller: Barry Kitson

Direction/Notes: From what I hear (I don’t read the series), Grayson is doing a great job with a great character, and I’d want her to keep it up. However, I read Grayson’s JLA/Titans and subsequent Titans run, and I am well aware that she can start strong and then burn out quick. Enter Barry Kitson, artist extraordinaire, a co-plotter who can light a fire under Grayson if necessary, a guy who can draw Nightwing, and a gent who happens to be without a regular gig as of next month.

CATWOMAN

Writer: Ed Brubaker

Penciller: Darwyn Cooke

Direction/Notes: Same direction…and no offense to Cameron Scott, but with Brubaker doing the max three books, I want another quality co-plotter on board here (I’m a diehard Wolfman/Perez Titans fan, so I strongly believe in the co-plotters idea, as is obvious by many of my choices).

BIRDS OF PREY

Writer: Terry Moore

Penciller: Terry Dodson

Direction/Notes: No offense to Gail Simone, but I love her work for its humor, and while Black Canary & Oracle can be funny, I don’t think humor should be the focus of this book, rather a campy fun and action buffeted by interpersonal drama should be, making Terry Moore perfect as the regular writer. And as Terry Dodson doesn’t have a gig at the moment, putting him on a book featuring beautiful women seems to make a lot of sense. The Birds would be getting a new regular cast member, as the cancellation of Batgirl (explained later) would make Cassandra Cain a far more frequent featured player.

GOTHAM CENTRAL

Writers: Ed Brubaker/Greg Rucka

Penciller: Michael Lark

Direction/Notes: Not my bag, but I’ve heard nothing but good things. Won’t change a thing, except one: more Jim Gordon!

Since pretty much all the cancellations I’ll be making are bat-titles, I may as well explain them here.

-GOTHAM KNIGHTS: There are certainly plenty of areas of the Bat Family to touch on, but I feel they can be dealt with both in the regular titles and in L.O.T.D.K. Having this book around makes appearances by “Family” members in the other titles less special, or gives the writers an excuse not to use them, plus I think another anthology title of a sort dilutes L.O.T.D.K., which I want to bring back to greatness.

-BATGIRL: This is a character that I believe has gained a cult following over time, but the series itself has never gained that much support. The number of Bat-titles needs to be trimmed down, and as I think that the Batgirl character can work better as a cast member in Birds of Prey and a supporting character in other books, this was my major cut (though I did debate canceling Robin over this, but I feel Robin has more potential).

-HARLEY QUINN: Love the character, don’t think she’s a concept that works in a regular series. Harley should be a cool villainous character whose appearances are special because they don’t occur every month, in my opinion.

DC Universe Titles

JLA

Writer: Joe Kelly

Penciller: Joe Madureira

Cast: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern (rotating), The Martian Manhunter, The Atom, Major Disaster, Faith, Manitou Raven, Firehawk

Direction/Notes: I’ve left Joe Kelly in charge of the writing because I’ve dug his stuff so far (and it’s selling) and left the cast primarily the same (only differences being I’ve made the GL rotating, left J’onn on the team, and added Firehawk for another female/a new face)…but how ‘bout that art choice…not what you were expecting? I think, while a somewhat odd choice, Madureira would bring an exciting change of pace to JLA. I think his colorful, fun, action-packed style would be perfect for the World’s Greatest Super-Heroes. Just think about it…

WONDER WOMAN

Writer: Walt Simonson

Penciller: Drew Johnson

Direction/Notes: I think this is a book Walt was born to write and should stick with, and I’m impressed with Johnson’s preview sketches…’nuff said (oops, wrong company).

THE FLASH

Writer: Geoff Johns

Penciller: Scott Kollins

Direction/Notes: Nothing wrong here…next…

GREEN LANTERN CORPS

Writer: Marv Wolfman

Penciller: Dale Eaglesham

Direction/Notes: I say DC should go ahead and make it official, making this a rotating focus book dealing with Kyle Rayner, John Stewart, and a whole new GL Corps (I think Hal should be left as The Spectre, but should be a regular supporting character in this book and also have plenty of flashback stories). Marv Wolfman is a master at both interstellar space drama (Kyle) and down-to-Earth “real” stories (John)…plus, he’s my favorite writer of all time, so you knew he’d be in here somewhere…and Dale should never have been allowed to sneak away to CrossGen.

AQUAMAN

Writer: Rick Veitch

Penciller: Greg Land

Direction/Notes: Veitch has big plans, and I want him to at least get a chance to see some of them through, but give me Land’s majestic artwork and I’m a happier camper.

GREEN ARROW

Writer: Brad Meltzer

Penciller: Phil Hester

Direction/Notes: The temptation to revert the book to Kevin Smith was there…but 1)he’s unreliable and 2)Meltzer writes Ollie with much more depth (even if he’s not quite as funny).

JSA

Writer: Geoff Johns

Penciller: Leonard Kirk

Cast: The Flash, Sentinel, Wildcat, Power Girl, Sand, Hourman, Dr. Fate, The Star-Spangled Kid, Hawkgirl, Mr. Terrific, Dr. Mid-Nite, Captain Marvel

Direction/Notes: A slightly pared down cast (getting rid of Hawkman, who will fly solo, and Atom-Smasher, who would become a supporting character and member of a new Black Adam-led Infinity Inc.) would help with some of the overcrowding problems here. Johns becomes sole writer so Goyer can concentrate on Blade over at Marvel while still working his day job (writing movies).

HAWKMAN

Writer: James Robinson

Penciller: Rags Morales

Direction/Notes: With Geoff Johns focusing on other books, the ball is now in Robinson’s court to create his next opus with Hawkman.

THE TITANS

Writer: Kurt Busiek

Penciller: George Perez

Cast: Troia, Arsenal, Cyborg, Changeling, Raven, Starfire, Damage, Jesse Quick

Direction/Notes: How do we revive the once flagship franchise of the DCU? How about reuniting the kick-ass award-winning Avengers creative team of old? Perez alone back on Titans should be enough to get fans psyched, but Busiek bringing a wealth of new enthusiasm to these great characters (much as I love Marv, he got burnt out) is gold. And a major stipulation: Nightwing does NOT star out on the team. He’s got his own book, so let’s build these characters, with no outside influences from solo titles, for a bit…then bring Dick in and watch the conflicts fly.

YOUNG JUSTICE

Writer: Peter David

Penciller: Todd Nauck

Direction/Notes: This book should never have been touched. It is hands down the funniest thing on the market today.

POWER COMPANY

Writer: Kurt Busiek

Penciller: Tom Grummett

Direction/Notes: The series has been gaining steam and fans, so we let it keep going (and Busiek can handle two team books at once…he did it superbly with Avengers and Thunderbolts…)

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES

Writers: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning

Penciller: Olivier Coipel

Direction/Notes: Title change and Olivier stays where he belongs…otherwise, don’t change a thing.

New Titles

STEEL

Writer: Mark Schultz

Penciller: Kev Walker

Direction/Notes: I think the time is right for a new series for an extremely popular character who has grown leaps and bounds since his last series. Plus, it gives the talented Schultz something to do (on a character he loves) and Walker’s rough style is perfect for a sci-fi/urban action book.

ZATANNA

Writer: Paul Dini

Penciller: Brian Bolland

Direction/Notes: Fans are clamoring for this series and it will appeal to lots of audiences, from the ever-elusive female fanbase to the Vertigo crowd, if done right. With two consummate pros like Dini (who is already doing a Zatanna one shot) and Bolland, this will be the next Green Arrow or Hawkman.

JUSTICE INC.

Writers: Keith Giffen & J.M. DeMatteis

Penciller: Kevin Maguire

Cast: Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, Captain Atom, Fire, Elongated Man, Warrior, Mary Marvel, Vixen

Direction/Notes: Capitalizing on the 80s/early 90s revival fever with an entertaining relaunch growing out of the “Formerly Known As…” mini. This is a fan-favorite combo of characters and creators and an easy sell. Could be a maxi-series or a regular, depending on how long the creators want to commit.

And the breakdown…

-STEEL replaces GOTHAM KNIGHTS

-ZATANNA replaces BATGIRL

-JUSTICE INC. replaces HARLEY QUINN

Well, that was a kick…between this column and the last one you’ve got my whole “dream team” industry now…drop me an e-mail and let me know what you think…

In Defense of Matt Morrison

Honestly, while I see The Ultimates as being a very technically proficient book, no comic depresses me so much when I read it. And until recently, I haven’t been able to put my finger on why. It’s because in their effort to recreate the success they had on The Authority, Millar and Hitch have turned The Avengers into The Authority. And that just doesn’t work on so many levels.

That’s from the latest Looking To The Stars. According to my esteemed colleague, Mr. Morrison, he’s received no lack of negative response to his view that everybody’s favorite perennially late “wide screen adventure” may be less than perfect…well, he can share those e-mails with me, kidz, ‘cause I’m not so hot on The Ultimates myself.

I don’t have much to add to Matt’s take, ‘cause I think he pretty much nailed it, so forgive me if I sound repetitive. I tried to collect the book, read it as a dot comic, whatever, and it just didn’t take. Not because of any problem with the writing, I like Millar a helluva a lot more here than on Ultimate X-Men (while I’m on that, is there anybody particular reason that everybody in that book refers to each other as Mr. And Ms. Fill-in-the-black rather than by first name? Did formality become cool when I wasn’t looking?). No problem with the art either, Hitch is great. The problem I have with The Ultimates is the same one I’ve got with Grant Morrison’s New X-Men: there are strangers walking around with the names of people I know…if this were real life, I’d call the cops.

Making Hank Pym a wife-beater or Tony Stark an alcoholic…nothing new, but these stories have already been told. All Millar is doing with these character changes is taking other people’s ideas, and running with them. Millar is a brilliant writer; he’s capable of better than rehashing stories that ran their course, and doing so cheapens the originals.

But of course, that’s just the tip of the iceberg…I do not need to see Captain America kicking some guy when he’s down. Yeah, I accept that there are fans out there that consider old-school superheroes “lame,” but I’m not one of them. There are a million and three “bad ass” or “realistic” characters out there…in a perfect world, I’d like more than few heroes who are just flat out heroic for the sake of being heroic, but at the very least, give me Superman & Cap.

I’m sure The Ultimates is a great read (I’ve enjoyed the few issues I’ve picked up), but it’s not for me. I won’t say that it’s wrong to do “new takes on old favorites,” but to me, The Avengers are The Avengers, and The Ultimates ain’t for me. I’ll respond to inevitable backlash next week.

Tsunami: Tidal Wave or Wipeout?

For the 411, check out the latest Marvel News & Views…now, here’s my take.

NAMOR: This is the flagship of the new line it would seem. Good character to base a line around, concept seems good (young Namor means he can be as tempermental and charming as he wants without years of continuity bogging him down), art seems very appropriate, don’t know anything about the writer…but then there’s that name: Jemas. I will definitely give this one a chance, because it has got worlds of potential, but if Jemas turns it into another unfunny juvenile gag-fest…not only is the title a loss, the line is doomed.

VENOM: I truly don’t believe that many villains can sustain an ongoing series, and Venom’s one that’s already tried and failed. I have heard good things about Daniel Way, so maybe this will work, but I think it would be better as a mini-series.

SENTINEL: The idea seems absurd to me…I wish the creative team good luck, but I don’t see how this one can be sustained.

THE HUMAN TORCH: This one I’m excited about! Great character and one of my favorite writers in Karl Kesel, formerly of Superboy, plus a great artist to boot. My only caveat: once again, it seems more like mini-series fodder, something Quesada promised was being folded into team books…

MYSTIQUE: Again, seems more like a mini (sorry to sound like a broken record), but this to me has potential to be more, based solely on the strength of the writer, Brian K. Vaughan. Mystique is literally a character with endless possibilities, so if Vaughan stays on and rolls with this, I could see this one lasting.

RUNAWAYS: More stuff by Vaughan and the one series I don’t really have much of an opinion on…I just hope they don’t burn Vaughan out.

I realize this column is getting pretty long, so I’m going to stop there. I’ll give more of my take on Tsunami as a whole after a week to let it sink in and see what news is added. Take care folks…hmm, I need a tagline…make mine 411? Later…