One Fan’s Trials: My Pain in Pixels on the State of DC Comics

A new column is born

It took me a while to come up with an appropriate title for my new opinion column here at the Nexus. Many of you already know that I’m a long-time DC reader, but do dabble in the offerings of other companies. I’m a big fan of the Justice Society of America (JSA), Suicide Squad, Hawk and Dove, Teen Titans, Deathstroke, Green Arrow and the Marvel Family. Clearly looking at that list, you can also tell that my years of reading have had many ups and downs…. with many downs in recent years. However, despite those moments there is one property among them that requires the most work to revitalize… the Marvel Family. DC has done some interesting work on Teth (Black) Adam, Isis and Osiris in recent years as the “Black Marvel Family”, but its the original Marvel Family with Billy, Mary and Freddy that have been decimated and don’t even resemble anything close to their “iconic” versions (quoting DC’s co-publisher Dan Didio’s recent mantra about getting back to the “core” interpretations of their properties). 2006’s Trials of Shazam 12-issue maxi-series was DC’s attempt to reimagine the franchise with disastrous results; the less that is said about this series, the better. But, because I’m a glutton for punishment, this horrible series was my inspiration for my column’s title and associated logo image. You are reading the inaugural edition of One Fan’s Trials, a column that will allow me to vent, um, I meant to type the word “comment”, on recent comic events and news. In some editions, I may even look back at older series or defining fandom moments from my youth. You’ll notice that I’ve also got Billy Batson in my logo. Not sure if he goes by Shazam, Marvel, Captain Marvel, Captain Thunder, Miracle Man, Superman, Valor or something else now, but that logo is a key reminder of my most painful fandom trial in recent years. Ok, welcome. Onto the rest of this inaugural column! Hope you enjoy it.

Today’s DC

Pulse Glazer’s recent East of Gotham column chronicling why he hates DC Comics and Mathan Erhardt’s recent Wednesday Comments columns particularly the ones spotlighting the Atom and The Great Ten are great reads that challenged me in some ways and spoke to my own feelings in others.

It is no secret that DC is boldly going backwards (or forwards thematically?) to the iconic interpretations of its core characters. That translates into the Silver Ageization of many DC characters. Many readers would see that as stagnation or regression while others see it was a promise of the glory days returning with the darkened DC Universe (DCU) becoming a bit brighter.

Now, not all characters have been “away” for the same amount of time…

Ryan Choi was THE Atom for 2 years (2006 to 2008) with Ray Palmer still flitting about and then resuming as the top Atom in the DCU.

Conner Hawke was THE Green Arrow for 6 years (1995 to 2001) until Oliver Queen returned.

Jason Rusch was THE Firestorm for about 6 years (2004 to 2010) until Ronnie Raymond reasserted himself.

Kyle Rayner was THE Green Lantern for a decade (1994 to 2004) until Hal Jordan returned.

Wally West was THE Flash for almost a quarter of a century (1985 to 2008) until Barry Allen returned (for good).

I’m sure there are other examples, but I think the above are the most prominent and illustrative.

One of these five is dead. One is part of a larger Corps. One is a thought balloon. And two are in limbo. What do they all have in common? Well, that its the fans who embraced them in their roles and miss them dearly today. Every generation has their “own” characters despite how long they’ve been around (or not) in real terms. Not every character above lends themselves to a Corps of like-named heroes, and most will end up dead or as window dressing in team books. It is a shame that their potential is not tapped in prominent ways.

Oh, btw, the “iconic” version of the Question is not Vic Sage who was the Question for almost half a century (from 1967 to 2007), but its Renee Montoya a more modern socially-representative character in the DCU. I like both characters, but DC seems to be talking out of both sides of its collective mouth on the creative vision for its characters.

Editorially consistency? Not at DCU.

My Faves

I’ve listed them earlier and now let me run through them one-by-one.

The JSA has spawned companion books in JSA: All Stars and sorta with the recently cancelled Gog and Power Girl. However, in doing so the main book feels like it’s been diluted. That said, the new creative team is closing off its second full arc and they haven’t hit it out of the park yet. JSA: All Stars for me has had more of the excitement and frenetic creativity behind it. And I haven’t read Gog or Power Girl regularly at all. I’m glad DC is pushing the JSA, but I’d be happy with only one focused, creative, and exciting JSA book.

The Suicide Squad has sputtered, resurfaced, and was reburied in terms of prominence over the last few years. However, the Secret Six has inherited the tone and tenor of John Ostrander’s classic Squad. Gail Simone weaves an intricate and engaging yarn with complex yet relatable misfits in Secret Six. Solid smaller human moments with great big action and subtle humour (Giffen/J.M. DeMatteis/Winick… are you listening…. s-u-b-t-l-e).

Hawk and Dove are back as part of Gail Simone’s Birds of Prey (BoP). It is still early days, but in Gail-I-Trust. Hank (Hawk) Hall’s characterization seemed off in BoP #1, but we didn’t see a lot of him. I loved that Dawn (Dove) Granger also played a largish role in DC’s Blackest Night and am interested where DC takes these two in the “new” Earth DCU from their old Lords of Order and Chaos personas.

Teen Titans. Well, not much to say. It hasn’t been any good since Geoff Johns and McKone stopped being the creative team together. That was almost a lifetime ago. DC do something! Get this book and team back to its New Teen Titans successful roots… stat! This book is dying if not dead on the vine.

Deathstroke the Terminator was a mercenary who wasn’t pure evil when I read his book in the 1990s. He’s undergone changes since then. Hero. Anti-hero. Villain. And then ping-ponging between the last two… confusing readers… for the entire Didio era at DC. And now with Titans he is back to being an… um, a question mark. Like with BoP, we’re still in the early days of Deathstroke’s Titans run so we’ll see where this goes. I’m not a fan of Ryan Choi’s death in the recent Titans: Villains for Hire one-shot. It wasn’t a racially motivated offing like many have suggested. It was creative bankrupt and easy-to-predict offing knowing that DC wanted to go back to the “icon” Ray Palmer as THE Atom. Should Deathstroke be tarnished by that poor editorial decision? Time will tell. I’ll check out the new-old Titans book first arc anyway.

Green Arrow. Ah, Ollie. DC mishandled you too. See my recent comments here. Not much more to add even seeing the Rise and Fall storylines play out. I’m 50-50 on whether I’ll pick up the new Green Arrow #1. We’ll see if it’s a slow week when it comes out. Actions MUST have consequences. DC’s handling of Green Arrow in recent months sends a very poor message to readers of all ages, but particularly younger ones.

I’ll have more to say on the Marvel Family in a future column, but if you read the opening portion of this edition, it’s not hard to guess where I stand.

I read other books too, but I am pleased to read so many of my faves monthly at DCU. I don’t remember so many being on the shelves at the same time. Cool…. well sometimes its cool.

Next Time…

…More on my love-hate relationship with DC in my next column with the Great Ten and other efforts DC has made to be innovative and why that may not be successful for mainstream superhero comics. And it’s all OUR faults!

Another column will feature my new-found, yes you read that right, admiration for the Legion of Super-Heroes (a team I NEVER really knew or appreciated).

Also, in the cards is my long overdue follow-up to my April Firsts column with my first encounters with many second tier lesser known DC characters and titles that defined my post-Crisis reading “firsts” in the mid to late 1980s. These include the Legends mini-series, the Suicide Squad, Hawk and Dove and a few others.

There’s a Marvel Family piece coming too.

Marvel, Image, Dynamite, IDW… don’t think you’re off the hook. I’ve got something cooking for you all too!

And, I’ll also consider reader thoughts and suggestions for future columns.

Cheers and thanks for reading.

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