DC Comics Relaunch: Breaking It All Down (Part 5 of 5)

By Mike Maillaro & Grey Scherl

(Check out Day 1, Day 2, Day 3 and Day 4 which are now up.)

Grey’s Editorial:

Despite appearances to the contrary I never really viewed myself as a DC fanboy until about a year ago. I love Marvel, I like some stuff out of other companies, but if I could only choose one I’d wind up with DC. I’m also the kind of guy who grumbles about bad retcons of material that I’m familiar with, and who doesn’t find himself totally pleased by pandering to the silver age fan in today’s day and age. That said, I’m one of the few big DC fans that I stay in regular contact with who did not immediately start screaming about how terrible of an idea this is.

Hell, I got excited pretty much instantly. I had enough faith in the braintrust over there to not do a full scale reboot, and so far from the solicitations I’ve had no reason to second guess it. There are a lot of intriguing titles coming our way, and sure, there are some that are leaving me scratching my head, and some that have left me hesitant.

It’s a ballsy move by DC, but it’s one that seems relatively well planned out, and my gut is telling me will be well executed. It’s also one that will keep me talking for the next few months as we build to the releases in September.

Five things I love about DC’s Relaunch

1. Grant Morrison on Superman: The Man of Steel has long been in need of a major league revamp, something to bring him into the 21st century and cement him as an icon has was done so often in the 20th century. He’s the worlds greatest superhero but it’s been a long time since he’s felt like it. Enter Grant Morrison, the man with the golden touch, the man who gave us All Star Superman, Batman Incorporated, the big seven JLA, and New X-Men. I don’t think that there is any better choice of a writer to help redefine Superman for the modern age, and I absolutely can not wait for it.

2. Wildstorm’s integration into the DC Universe: When DC closed down Wildstorm in December I wasn’t completely surprised. The characters were always going to receive less focus than those in the core DCU, and creators who got hot working on titles there would surely get moved over to the DCU to write books that they expect to sell better. There were several failed relaunches and reboots, but by the time they announced that the imprint was shutting down I think the fans just sort of accepted that it had only been a matter of time. Seeing Grifter and Voodoo getting solo titles, and Stormwatch being formed with J’onn as a member, it’s clear to me that DC has plenty of faith in the characters of the imprint, just not the name itself. This is the best possible move to be made for these characters, and I can’t wait to see just how far the integration goes.

3. Relaunching instead of rebooting: Don’t get me wrong, there is a definitely a reboot taking place here, but it’s not full on. The Death of Superman happened, Stephanie Brown was Batgirl, and Jason Rusch is still half of the Firestorm Matrix. The changes being made, however, don’t seem to be the kind that really hurt the overall universe. Sure, Wonder Woman seemingly getting started from scratch will create the same Wonder Girl headaches that the original Crisis reboot did, but from the looks of it DC is ready for this. Not to mention that the method they’re using makes the influx of Vertigo and Wildstorm characters able to make sense and not be a giant multiversal headache.

4.The return of Scott Lobdell: I’m a 90’s kid, sue me. I grew up reading a lot of Scott Lobdell books, particularly Generation X, and in the years since my return to comics I’ve missed his particular voice and method of writing. The promise of him on three books, not the least of which being Teen Titans, doesn’t tell me that DC is looking backwards. Rather, it tells me that they want a veteran voice who has a knack for juggling and created differing personalities, and who doesn’t become overwhelmed with a large cast. He and Fabian Nicieza are two of my dream writers for the Titans, so seeing Lobdell penning the book inspires me with hope for a Teen Titans team that finally matters again.

5. Resurrection Man: Dan and Andy aren’t just back in the DC Universe, they’re bringing Mitch Shelley with them! One of my favorite long forgotten heroes of the DCU, the Resurrection Man should create an interesting role in the new DCU, as he was listed in the Dark section with the former Vertigo characters. Will he be entering the realm of the supernatural? Will he interact with the more mainstream heroes? This book has a guaranteed spot on my pull list, and makes for a great place for DnA to return to the DCU proper.

Five things I hate about DC’s Relaunch

1. Too much Bruce Wayne: I understand that Bruce Wayne as Batman is undeniably the biggest brand that DC has, but the sheer amount of titles starring Bruce is ridiculous. Three solo titles, a book with him and Damian, and two different Justice League teams. No other character is getting that much focus in the DC universe. I found that having Dick and Bruce share the mantle, as well as the books, made for the right level of usage for the character. Just enough exposure without force feeding him to us.

The size of the Bat line itself doesn’t really bother me, as Gotham really is far more than Batman, but the more Bat titles there are the fewer that are elsewhere. Batwing, for instance, might turn out to be a damn good book, but I’m hard pressed to see why it needs to exist as a solo title instead of a more established character of some sort. Or even if the book was used as a vehicle to put over various different Batman Inc characters during the books downtime, Cassandra Cain’s Blackbat included.

Really though, I’d be happier if there only be two or three core Batman titles instead of four.

2. Silver Age Rules: I get that DC has been returning silver age icons to their previous roles over the past few years, I read a lot of those titles. Thankfully they haven’t been completely burying all of the modern age counterparts, but it still pushes them out of the primary titles. Characters like Kyle Rayner and Dick Grayson are fortunate enough to still be in monthly secondary titles, while Wally West and Connor Hawke sit in continued limbo. Their importance is labeled simply as secondary, at best, to the silver age counter parts.

Now I know, Blue Beetle is Jaime, Damian is still Robin, and Bart is still Kid Flash. There’s definite signs of the DC youth movement still moving along strongly, they’ve never had a problem with that.  Sidekicks are a key staple of the DC Universe, always have been, and hopefully always will be. But there’s a difference between a youth movement and modern age characters. Namely that the modern age characters weren’t sidekicks, or for the most part even teens. Kyle Rayner was to Hal Jordan as Hal Jordan was to Alan Scott, the same as Wally West was to Barry Allen as Barry Allen was to Jay Garrick. They were a step into the future, a new character created to appeal to the readers of the time as opposed to those who had childhood memories.

But that’s all that the silver age revival is. Writers bringing back their childhoods, which happened to feature the Hal’s, and Barry’s, and Ollie’s of the world. Somewhere out there Alex Ross is cackling madly while salivating over a poster of the Super Friends. But what they seem blind to is that their childhoods may have had the Super Friends, but the generation that came after them didn’t. While they seek to return things to what they perceive to be a better time and place is one that readers in their twenties have never experienced in their lifetimes.

There’s a place for all of these characters, the Green Lantern line is a shining example of this. Now, adapt this lesson to the Flash line of books. Wally West deserves better.

Oh, and what about the Golden Age?

3. Whatever happened to the JSA?: Silver Age Rules! Now it rules so hard that the golden age has apparently been wiped clean out of the canon, unless they simply weren’t called super heroes. Mr. Terrific and Hawkman both have ongoing books, but both feel like they’re getting overhauled to the point where they aren’t members of the Justice Society. In fact, there is no mention of the Justice Society at all, just that Superman is the worlds first super hero. How do you rationalize the removal of DC’s first super team? What happens to characters like Alan Scott and Jay Garrick, and the legacies they left behind. If there’s no Alan, then what happens to Jade who only recently returned but is the only (heroic) Brightest Day returnee to not be mentioned for September?

Now, putting the JSA on the shelf for the time being is not a decision I’d argue with as the book hasn’t been overly good for a while now, but completely removing them while they sit there seems like such a waste.

And where does that leave Stargirl?!

4. Losing my favorite book: I imagine a lot of people are going through a similar experience with the limited list of books that aren’t shuffling creative teams. Grant Morrison is off of Batman, and Batman Inc isn’t due to return until 2012. Gail Simone won’t be writing Secret Six, hell, there won’t even be a Secret Six come September.REBELS ended a few weeks ago to make room for the Flashpoint minis and its own lacking of a place in the relaunched DCU. Personally though? I’m mourning the loss of my beloved Batgirl, because while Gail is writing Barbara, Bryan Q. Miller won’t be writing Steph in her black and purple costume in September, and that’s just a tragedy.

5. OMAC by Dan DiDio: I understand that launching 52 books by 52 creative teams is going to mean that some books are just sort of there to pad out the line, but really? This? Brian Clevinger pitched for Firestorm, and while his wasn’t the one they went with, he’s an example of a writer they could take a gamble on. Hell, even with this book. Dan DiDio is a nice guy, and I respect his love for the industry and medium, but he doesn’t need to write a book that could be handled by a young up and coming talent who needs the chance to break out. Whether it be a Brian Clevinger, or a Kelly Sue DeConnick, or really anyone. Hell, where’s Bryan Q. Miller?! They already know he can do it! There are a lot of talented writers out there who could make a name for themselves with a chance like this, while this book does nothing for DiDio’s own profile.

Grey’s final dropping of knowledge:

Maybe it’s the fanboy in me, but I think this whole situation is going to help improve the quality of the line overall. Sure, same creators, same basic characters, slightly tweaked canon…that doesn’t scream massive improvement. Hell, new number ones say anything but that generally, but for some reason this is giving me a good gut instinct. It’s an overall risky move, relaunching every book at number one, but there’s honestly no perfect way to do such a thing. The ripping off of the band-aid, just doing it all all at once, it’s the best option that you’re really going to come across. The creative shuffle is going to help breath new life into books that need it, maintain the flow of books that are steady as is, and give some talents a chance to shine in places they wouldn’t before.

Not to mention that the last time the core DCU got an influx of established characters this size we were facing the original Crisis. Vertigo, Wildstorm, and that the Milestone characters are still around to be utilized.

Sure, favorite titles will be lost, beloved creative teams will be split up, but new ones will be created. It’s a new beginning, a new universe, and it’s one full of possibilities.

I can’t wait for September.

Skitch’s Commentary:

Considering right now I am buying no DC books on a monthly basis, I would say this Relaunch was a great success in terms of luring me back as a customer. Based on the initial announcements, I will basically be definitely buying 30 of the 52, with an additional 12 titles on my maybe list. And to be honest, the only real “hard no” is OMAC. If it wasn’t for limited budget, there is no reason I wouldn’t check out most of these books.

Because of a serious lack of comic shops around here as well as a lack of space for comics, for the most part I will likely be waiting a month after release to get most of these books a dollar cheaper through DC’s Digital Distribution. The only exceptions are Justice League, Stormwatch, Teen Titans, and Resurrection Man which I will likely pay a dollar extra to get on the day of release. I do think this is one of DC’s biggest mistakes on the Relaunch, but more on that a little later in this column.

Five things I love about DC’s Relaunch

1. Same day digital distribution: It really is about time that one of the major comic companies started making their comics available in a digital format on the same day of release. Digital Comics have been around a long time. Crossgen was actually the first company that put every put they published on the web, though they were not put up the same day as release. When DC announced same day digital distribution, they immediately had my attention.

With the cost of printing, it just makes sense to move in this direction. I am an avid reader and I love books. When I got a Kindle as a gift a few years ago, I was skeptical about it replacing print. Since then, I have read well over 150 books on it. These days, when a book I want to read is only available in print, I am hesitant to buy it. Print books take up way too much space, they are no where near as convenient to carry, and digital books are MUCH cheaper than hardcovers. When Stephen King’s “Under the Dome” came out, I got the digital version for 8 bucks, as opposed to the $35 cover price on the hardcover. And it is no fun trying to read a 1074 page hardcover book on the bus, which is where I do much of my reading.

With tablets, Ipads, laptops, etc, it just makes sense for the comic industry to start making similar moves. Also, some of the new e-readers out there are available in color. I would love to see DC release an e-reader of their own designed for reading comics on. I would buy it immediately. I am already trying to convince my wife that I NEED a tablet in order to keep up with DC. So far, that arguement has been unsuccessful…

In addition to the storage and price issues, digital comics are also much more convenient. There really are no longer any decent comic shops near my house anymore. Even when I was still a heavy comic reader a few years back, I ended up doing subscriptions through Mailordercomics.com. It was the only way I could regularly keep up with the comics I wanted to read.

I know some people are stuck in the mindset of “they must have a print copy” of comics, but I am definite in favor of moving in this direction. I suspect that in the not too far future, we will see a lot of comic series moving more to a purely digital format, and I applaud that decision.

2. Interconnected without blatant crossovers: I love an interconnected comic universe. Reading old Marvel comics, I always smiled when you read an issue of Amazing Spider-Man and saw a quick comment of what the Fantastic Four were doing over in their comic. So when I saw the solicitations for Superman and Stormwatch were so tightly connected, it seems like DC is going exactly that route:



Art and cover by MIGUEL SEPULVEDA

On sale SEPTEMBER 7 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T+

They are Stormwatch, a dangerous super human police force whose existence is kept secret from the world Directly following the ominous events of SUPERMAN #1, Adam One leads half the Stormwatch team to recover the [INFORMATION REDACTED] from deep in the Himalayas. Meanwhile, Jack Hawksmoor and the rest of the Stormwatch crew look to recruit two of the deadliest super humans on the planet: Midnighter and Apollo! And if they say no? Perhaps the Martian Manhunter can change their minds…



Breakdowns and cover by GEORGE PEREZ


On sale SEPTEMBER 28 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

The new adventures of Superman begin here! What is The Man of Steel’s startling new status quo? How does it affect Lois Lane and The Daily Planet? There’s no time for answers now, because Superman must stop a monstrous threat to Metropolis – one that he somehow is the cause of!

The last few years, a lot of those “connections” have been because of sweeping crossovers and not done subtly. I really am hoping that the relaunch stays away from so many blatant crossovers and stick to building a solid, interconnected universe where events in one book has a dramatic effect on others. I also think it could be a great sales technique to have hyperlinks in the digital books when a connection is made. If you are reading Stormwatch and they mention an event in Superman 1, they should have a link so if the reader wants, they can buy it immediately. I used to love the editorial boxes in comics that pointed you to other comics, and this is the perfect way to update that tradition for the 21st century.

3. A reboot without throwing everything away: This relaunch seems like the definition of a soft reboot. A lot of stories seem to just be picking up where they left off: Hawk and Dove mentions Brightest Day, Nightwing definitely sees to have been Batman not that long ago, and the Green Lantern titles seems to be continuing, pretty much with the same creative teams that have been on Green Lantern the last few years. Yes, there does seem to be some changes to origins, and some time line smoothing (like character de-aging), and Wildstorm is now part of the DC Universe, but for the most part, it seems like the same DC Universe.

I am really curious what happened to the JSA, but I will point out that Superman was DC’s first hero…this is putting things back to how they were originally.

A lot of people have concerns about DC doing any kind of reboot. A poster named Master X on GameFAQ’s commented:

Let me get this straight; why do you read a story? Basically; stuff happens, you form a bond to the story/character, you want to know what happenes NEXT,l then that sets up a evolving world/characters that you want to see what’s next. Imagine reading a ten chapter book and just finishing the fifth chapter. Looking forward to the next chapter? what if from chapter six onwards, instead of continuing with everything you love about the story, chapters six to ten were now “new” version of chapter one to five with the characters re-written and were simply the characters in name only with entirely different pasts with different stories. You’d be pissed.

I honestly don’t see that as comparable to comics. Unlike comics, a book is a closed work usually by one writer, not an ongoing monthly series that has been going on for decades under many different writers, editors, and written for many different audiences. I actually prefer a constantly changing dynamic comic universe, where the comic companies are not afraid to try something new just because it might contradict another comic story written by someone else for a different purpose.

4. Thinking outside the box: War comics, horror comics, Demon in a period piece, Wildstorm as part of the DC Universe, Animal Man has a kid now. Even characters I would never have expected to get their own books like Batwing and Mister Terrific are getting their chance to take center stage. So much of what I love about this Relaunch is that DC seems willing to experiment. I suspect a big part of this is that they will have the digital market to help keep down costs. If a book like Mister Terrific is not selling, they can still distribute it without having to worry about printing and distribution costs by just keeping the digital version going. I really hope that DC takes advantage of this strategy.

Over the years, I have always had the perception that DC was a little hesitant to try new things with their core line, or at least to support new ideas long term. I remember when they launched DC Focus, with books like Hard Times, Kinetic, and Touch, and pretty much none of the books lasted more than a year. DC Relaunch seems committed to trying new things. Even familiar titles like Stormwatch and Teen Titans have gotten drastic remodels.

5. Some desperately needed costume revamps: I really like a lot of the costume redesigns we’ve seen so far. Mister Terrific, Donna Troy, Red Robin, Kid Flash, Wonder Girl, and Harley Quinn in particular caught my eye. There are a few I don’t like, like Superboy in Teen Titans and Deathstroke. And I just can’t quite get behind Superman’s new look, they really need to break up all that blue a little more. But I still think there were a lot more cool ideas than bad ones here.

Five things I hate about DC’s Relaunch

1. Pandering to retailers: One thing that really surprised me was that DC will be charging full price for digital downloads until a month after release. Clearly this is an attempt to reach out to comic shops and show that they are still committed to helping them do well in this changing industry. But, in their attempts to help the comic shops, to me, it seems like the end result is screwing over the customer. I think comic shops need to change with the times. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think brick and mortar need to go, but they definitely need to evolve, of they will become the comic equivalent of Blockbuster. An outdated business model that was pretty much destroyed by Netflix.

There actually is a good way for brick and mortar to work in conjunction with the digital versions. Some people don’t have credit cards, or don’t feel comfortable putting that information online. If you go to Gamestop, they sell game cards where you can purchase a game code to use to download a game for Xbox Live or Playstation Network. You can do the same concept at a comic shop. Small collectible art cards with codes to download comics. You can even do digital trades that way. Go to the store, and pay 6-10 bucks for a digital 6 comic arc that has some new art on the card.

By charging full price, DC is really ripping off the comic buyers. Lot at it this way, right now, DC sells their comics to comic shops at 35% to 57% off of cover price (and DC will be changing that to 50% to 72% off certain titles during the relaunch). Plus, DC is not paying printing costs, which have gotten out of control (in part because of the rising fuel coasts). Add in the fact they don’t have to pay Diamond for distribution of these digital comics. Yes, they have to pay some for digital storage, but that’s pretty minimal. DC is pretty much making pure income on these digital books.

2. Too many Bat titles: So Superman is supposed to be the “first” superhero in this new DC Universe. But he only has two titles and appears in three (counting Justice League). Batman has 4 titles of his own and appears in six total (counting Justice League and Justice League International). And it’s not just Batman himself, Batfamily titles make up 11 of the 52 books being launched (12 if you count Tim Drake in Teen Titans). I really think this is way too many.

They could have easily cut out 3 or 4 of these titles (I would suggest Batgirl, Batman and Robin, Batwing, and The Dark Knight). At the very least, they could have combined some of these books into a Gotham Knights series instead of giving them all their own book. This way they could have spotlighted even more Batman characters but still not had to take up a fifth of the 52 books.

I actually like Bruce Wayne, and would have liked to see them do something like “Oracle” him. Keep Dick Grayson as Batman, and find a new role for Bruce Wayne to take on. But I guess it’s a tough sell. Batman has always been the big bread winner for DC, and for comfort sake, you always need to have him under the cowl.

3. OMAC: Why? This is the one series I just see no use for. And I’m not even a Dan DiDio hater, I just don’t see a need for this book. Even the character design doesn’t appeal to me. I think I’d rather the old goofy One Man Army Corps with the mohawk…okay, maybe that is pushing it.

4. Barbara Gordon as Batgirl: To me, this is such a huge step backwards for the character. I loved when Barbara became Oracle. It made her a very unique and vital part of the DC Universe. Batgirl is a much more limiting, generic role. I know it’s more iconic, but that doesn’t really make it better. Much like Dick Grayson no longer being Batman, I am just not a fan of moving backwards. Especially since so much of this relaunch seems to be about trying new things.

I especially am not sure if we even need a Birds of Prey series without Oracle.  She’s always been the most interesting part of that book to me, and without her, I am not sure I have all that much interest in it.

5. Superboy’s costume I’m talking about the one from Teen Titans (see left),

the one from his own series (on right) looks fine. I just don’t know what they are going for with the tattoos and the…is that a cape…duct taped to his back. I actually would have liked for them to go with his look from the Young Justice cartoon.  Yeah, a hero in T-Shirt and Jeans is ridiculous, but I’ve always been fond of the look for Superboy.

I also wonder if the two Superboys are the same character? I would think yes with Lobdell writing both, but it seems strange that he looks so different between the two books.

Skitch’s Final thoughts:

I really hope Marvel takes the same day digital distribution to heart. On a purely personal level, I am sick of paying 10 bucks a month for two comics (Ruse and Sigil, plus shipping costs) because of the lack of decent comic shops near my house.

Before I wrap this up, I wanna thank Grey for listening to me ramble endlessly about the Relaunch for just about two weeks non-stop. I think it’s a very exciting time to be a DC fan, and while I don’t think this Relaunch is perfect, I think it really has potential to shake up the industry. Personally, DC seems to be moving back in a direction I want to read again, and I suspect I am not alone in that. Hopefully they can promote this in a way to reach out to alienated readers and new readers. A lot of people seem skeptical that there is a market for new readers, but I think if this is done right, this could be exactly the boost DC and the comic industry needs.

BTW, while I was typing this, my friend Amy Madison sent me a picture of Liefeld’s Hawk and Dove, so I figured I would end with sharing that. If this is any indication on how this book will look, it will pretty much be a must buy for me.