East of Gotham: DC’s New 52 is 1990s Comics Again

I straight up do not understand comic book fans.  DC’s New 52 initiative is absolutely destroying Marvel and topping all the sales charts.  I get that this is a successful gimmick and some of the comics are fun, but this is a full-on run back to the dreaded 1990s style storytelling.  Somehow, no one seems to be making much of a fuss about this, but if there is a boom with this style, history tells us what will happen next – an utter industry collapse.

DC has the top 10 selling books in January of 2012.  They are, in order Justice League, Batman, Action Comics, Detective Comics, Green Lantern, Batman the Dark Knight, Superman, Flash, Batman & Robin and Aquaman.  That’s essentially the entire Justice League line (yes, they’re nominally individual lines, but it’s the core titles of the core members of the new Justice League), minus Wonder Woman, which is the next DC book, at #16.  The Justice League relaunch has clearly been a gigantic success for DC, but what exactly are they pushing?  JL has a huge creator, but hearkens back to the 90s with the biggest artist of that era, Jim Lee.  Batman is an excellent book… that uses Spawn artist Greg Capullo.  Action Comics avoids the 90s entirely, the only top 10 book that does, but features Grant Morrison doing arguably the safest, most plain work of his career.  Detective Comics is old Image styled artist driven and light story pap, as is the Dark Knight, a book that also uses Marvel stalwart Paul Jenkins.  Green Lantern’s renaissance with Hal Jordan in costume, of course, likely inspired much of this to begin with, and Superman goes back beyond even the 90s with the legendary George Perez (see also all the books Paul Levitz is in charge of, beginning with, of course, the Legion of Superheroes).  From here we have the Flash, another artist driven book, but this one, at the very least, got the right artist and is absolutely inventive and gorgeous.  Batman & Robin is written by Peter Tomasi, an editor at DC since 1993, and, we wrap up with another Geoff Johns book, where Aquaman fights pirhanna people in a book that would be easily at home in 1996 thanks to the dialogue and violence.  Even Wonder Woman, with the excellent (if not to my taste) Brian Azzarello on board, falls into the trap of, again like the 1990s comics, overtly sexing up the female protagonist.

And DC has noted their success with 90s stalwarts!  Scott Lobdell, the 1990s X-Men writer, is given Teen Titans, Red Hood & the Outlaws, and Superboy to some success.  Judd Winnick, famous for the 90s MTV show The Real World gets to write both Batwing and Catwoman, though he, like Jenkins, ended up making a name in comics more in the 2000s.  Fabian Nicieza, famed for X-Force, hands Legion: Lost over to Tom Defalco, 1990s Spider-Man Editor.  Joe Harras, another former Marvel writer in the 1990s gets The Fury of Firestorm.  Canceled are books with new writers like Men of War, Blackhawks, Mr. Terrific, Static Shock, and, two with older writers OMAC (of Dan Didio and Keith Giffen) and Rob Liefeld’s Hawk and Dove.  Don’t feel bad for those older writers though, as Liefeld gets a whole line of books to take over, starting with  Grifter, Hawkman, and Deathstroke, saying sayonarra to young writers on two of the three for 90s Marvel veterans Frank Tieri, of Wolverine fame, and taking over Deathstroke himself.  Dan Didio, of course, remains DC big boss, while Giffen gets to move on to Superman, replacing high selling George Perez (who is ready to go, but could easily be replaced by someone who didn’t actually, you know, write Superman in the 90s!) with he and Dan Jurgens, in yet another move that puts more 90s minded writers on a book.

To replace those books with new writers that were canceled, DC has wheeled out James Robinson (of 1990s Starman fame) Earth 2, Paul Levitz, already mentioned above with Legion, getting World’s Finest, while Howard Mackie, another former Spider-Man and X-Writer, gets a Ravagers book.  JT Krul gets a new GI Combat book, but only after he was pushed aside for yet another 80s writer on Green Arrow, Ann Nocenti. The only Second Wave title that isn’t being handled by someone from the from the past, or directly influenced as such, is Dial H, which is being handled by someone from outside the medium entirely, novelist China Miéville.  Matt Kindt taking over Frankenstein: Agent of Shade is the absolute only relatively new voice being given a chance on any New 52 title with all these creative changes that isn’t just a trade of books.

And, here’s the thing. I don’t blame DC.  I’d wager 95% of comic fans use the internet at this point.  Everyone has heard how good books like Animal Man and Swamp Thing are, yet they lag behind the 90s retreads in sales.  Demon Knights likewise lags far down the sales charts.  Indeed, the only critical darlings near the top of the charts are Bat-Books.  Comics fans apparently just wanted a jumping on point to read more of the same stuff they were getting pre-relaunch!

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