DC Comics Relaunch: Top 5 Pitfalls With Flash, Green Lantern, Batman & Superman

Over the weekend, I shared my Top 19 picks from the DC Comics Relaunch of 52 #1’s in August & September 2011.

However, there are a few missteps I think in their plan too. Here are the Top 5 risks or potential pitfalls for DC Comics in their march to September.

Potential Pitfall #1: Flash

Now, if there was any book that we would think would get the “Flashpoint” or “event” bounce it would be Flash. Flash #1 (ships September 2011)I mean, Flashpoint, which leads into this new DC universe, is a Flash-centric event. Yes, Barry will be in 2 books monthly, Flash and Justice League, but where is the companion book, at least one, to the main Flash book?

While many may point to the mediocre review of the Flash series leading up to Flashpoint, there still was an opportunity to ignite the franchise in this new DC universe.

I have a lot of respect for Francis Manapul who has an energetic art style that suits the Flash. However, as a writer he and his writing partner and colorist Buccellato do not have the gravitas (yet) to inspire confidence on that side of the creative efforts.

HOWEVER, what I am pleased about in the Flash #1 solicit is that it sounds like there will be some newness infused into the series with a new rogue. That is exactly what the books needs…. “new” characters and concepts.

I wish the creative team the best, but even though they wrote at Top Cow years ago, they have uphill hill to climb on the writing side.

Potential Pitfall #2: Green Lantern

No one can deny that Geoff Johns has done amazing things to make the Green Lantern and its mythos a model franchise for DC Entertainment’s cross-platform profit plan.

Green Lantern #1 (ships September 2011)Adding a Red Lanterns book is good, as is an all-new all-different New Guardians with Kyle Rayner as leaders. Even having Guy Gardner and John Stewart anchoring a Green Lantern Corps title makes sense. The question is what do you do with Hal?

The Green Lantern book has been about advancing the next storyline or setting up the next event and then BEING an event, that the smaller stories that started off Johns’ run have been sorely missing.

I’m hoping that the absence of any picture or cover of Hal as Green Lantern, just that gloved Green Lantern hand, is an indication that perhaps Sinestro is the co-lead of the book or returns to being a Green Lantern at least as we have speculated. DC has done a lot to raise Sinestro’s profile: from the last 2 animated DVDs, to his profile in the new Green Lantern movie, to being an integral part of comic book storylines for the last several years, the time is now for him to reach his true potential…. and perhaps eventual star of his own book (a la Deathstroke).

Anything less than smaller more dramatic interpersonal stories, perhaps involving Sinestro and Hal, starting in Green Lantern #1 has the potential to reinforce the stigma of the book as being an editorial event engine rather than a true creative outlet for creative talents.

Potential Pitfall #3: Batman

When I type Batman, I mean Bruce Wayne, not the ancillary titles that are not lead by him, e.g. Red Hood & the Outlaws, Nightwing, etc.

Green Lantern #1 (ships September 2011)There will be 4 Batman-centred books in the new DC: Detective Comics, Batman, Batman: The Dark Knight, and Batman & Robin.

It also appears that much of the previous storylines will continue. My hope is that there will be some changes so that all the new #1’s DC issues in September have a new direction to go. However, it seems that the Batman and Green Lantern franchises are the most immune from deviating from the previous courses as they have been two of the most successful franchises DC has had in the last several years.

That said, in an effort to make the heroes of the DCU more accessible, DC is making them a bit younger. That likely means Superman will be unmarried, but for Batman that means….. no change? It appears that all his previous Robins are in the new DC: Dick Grayson in Nightwing, Jason Todd in Red Hood & the Outlaws, and Tim Drake in Teen Titans. Not sure where Stephanie Brown ends up, as she was Robin for a cup of tea, but they are all there.

That brings us to the current Robin, Bruce Wayne’s son Damian. How exactly does Batman having a son and at least 3 former Robins running around the DC universe make Bruce seem younger? If anything it makes him probably the oldest member of the Justice League (perhaps early 30’s – 31/32?). Now, having a kid out of wedlock plays to the playboy image of the Bruce Wayne persona, but it does nothing to make him seem relatable and young. Now, I really hope that DC does NOT go the “16 and Pregnant” (despite its relative popularity as a TV show) route and indicate he fathered Damian when he himself as a teen.

That said, the Batman formula over the last few years has been far from broken, so perhaps despite the intellectual and thematic disconnect of the new Batman books with the rest of the new DC universe, it might still work.

Potential Pitfall #4: Superman

Ok, have you seen the new Superman costume on the cover of Superman #1 by George Perez? It is absolutely horrible.

Superman #1 (ships September 2011)The ancillary books look “ok”, Superboy more so than Supergirl who appears to be become a dispassionate elitist in the new DCU seeing humans as lower life forms.

Action Comics “may” be the most promising title here by Grant Morrison likely set in the past. It appears to set up Superman as this new DC’s first super-hero and seemingly relegates the Justice Society of America (JSA) to the recesses of our minds and the dustbin of history.

However, all that said, I can’t get past that “modern” Superman costume on the cover of Superman #1. It really is a barrier to admission despite me being glad the underwear-outside-of-the-spandex look is gone. The more armour and metallic feel to the costume seems to be so unnecessary and un-Superman that I wonder if DC is trying to irritate fans and perhaps intrigue them to check out Superman #1. George Perez is a huge draw as a cover artist, and those of us who read his Wonder Woman in the past know he is a capable writer, but it is clear that so much of what’s happening with Superman is driven by editorial in a desperate attempt to make the character relevant and cool, that the new costume shows how out of touch the middle aged creative people at DC are. This new Superman hardly seems relevant or modern day cool. In fact, that costume exemplifies the worst of 1990s Image Comics (minus over-sized shoulder pads).

Potential Pitfall #5: Keeping the Momentum Going

DC Comics has really dominated the comics news and internet for the last few weeks with talk of their 52 #1’s in August and September 2011.

However, we are 11 weeks away from Flashpoint #5 and Justice League #1. That is a lot of time to either kill or sustain their momentum. Justice League #1 (ships August 31, 2011)The new Green Lantern movie may help as well, but again, it will be out months before the new DC’s debut.

Now, convention season will help as will the solicits for issues #2 and #3 (October and November 2011) that will come out between now and then, but DC better have a good communications strategy in place to (a) bring in new readers, which is the whole gist of this DC Comics Relaunch, as well as (b) somehow showing respect for veteran readers as alienating your core fan base is done at any company’s own peril.

While there are rumours of a TV campaign by Warner Brothers / DC Entertainment to support the DC Comics Relaunch, and there are confirmed plans for retailer outreach by senior execs at the comic company, DC needs to figure out where the new and/or causual readers might be. And, is it a younger demographic you’re trying to get into the medium so that you can renew your fan base so that you have the next generation growing up with DC the way many of us at Comics Nexus did? While I do it, watching TV is a bit passé. These new readers are on the internet, social media, and other online sources, as well as playing video games, etc. Now, that is educated guess by someone far away from being a teenager. My hope is that people a lot smarter than I, and perhaps younger and more in touch with today’s youth, is advising DC where the new readers might be. Perhaps DC’s digital comic plan will help with that.

There is a huge risk that with 11 weeks until the launch of the new DCU that the company’s momentum may fizzle.

Time will tell, but I am rooting for DC. A healthy and competitive DC Comics is good for the entire comics industry.

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