Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Pre-partum look at Rebirth

Well, now, that Batman versus Superman is behind us, let's look at what's before us: Rebirth.

Before we get to any specifics let's address the overall tone of Rebirth.  DC -- more important, Dan Didio himself -- is admitting it screwed up.  Credit for that, then.  It's very rare for any company of any kind to simply say, "sorry, we made the wrong decisions and now we are going to try to fix things."  That alone is a huge change from DC's usual approach over the last twenty (thirty?) years, which has consistently been, "No, no, fans, you are mistaken and we know better than you do and you should shut up and trust us and buy whatever versions of our characters we deemed fit to dispense."  That kind of attitude is enough to make me wonder whether my friend Van Google is correct; maybe these IPs should not continue to be protected by copyright.  Maybe we would be better off if people were free to make their own versions of DC's iconic characters and let them all duke in out in the marketplace of ideas (or taste, at least). THAT would be a multiverse.

Similarly, they are not even branding it as a reboot.  They seems (finally) to realize that that well is dry.  They seem to be trying to kick their reboot addiction. Just fix stuff, DC.  Simply forget the stories that are in the way.  If you want Ted Kord back, just bring him back.  That doesn't require a universal reboot.

Dan Abnett on Aquaman is already a known awesomeness.  Putting him on Titans will make me pick that up too (and I can't imagine what else would)   Giffen on Blue Beetle(s) is a no-brainer; he created Jaime Reyes and essentially created what we now think of as Ted Kord.  Most creative assignments announced for Rebirth are neutral at worst, many are good, some are great.  Only a handful are head-slappingly stupid (e.g., letting Percy continue to write Green Arrow; slapping a goatee back on Ollie's face will NOT fix that situation, Mr. Johns).

Some people are critical of what they see as DC focusing on a handful of icons to the exclusion of edgier more outre characters.  I say those people are wrong.  Wrong, not because Icons Rule and Outliers Suck.  Wrong because what DC needs to do -- what it has ALWAYS needed to do -- is to solidify and stabilize the core characters and teams of its universe.  Having strong dynastic centerpieces as the pillars of the DCU doesn't squeeze out other characters.  Quite the contrary.  It creates a stable environment for such characters to be introduced.  If you are going to have diversity in your literary rainforest, you need a bunch of solid icons and related characters providing a canopy under which niche figures can thrive.  DC finally seems to abandoned its obsession with going against the grain of its own universe, force feeding us Black Orchid and Captain Atom and Voodoo and pretending that those characters are going to stand on their own.  Instead let them thrive in their own niches in the DCU; not all animals need to be elephants, you know.

DC has also announced that further plans for restoring their universe will come later, once they have their main lines back in order.  For example, the Legion will return (in the future, so to speak).  Many of DC's previous attempts at self-reinvention were too extreme, too much, too fast.  Editorial wasn't ready for it, individual titles evolved before an overall plan was formed, and readers would almost immediately perceive that the narrative problems solved were quickly being outmatched by the new problems being generate.  DC's approach this time seems to me much more deliberate.

The fact that they are being rather transparent about their pans is another good sign. Previous 'renewals' always seemed shrouded in mystery, almost as if DC were afraid to tell you the truth about what they were up to, because they KNEW you wouldn't like it.  This time, however, they seem...relieved.  Like they no longer have to make themselves into some they aren't just to be loved.  Perhaps the success of their characters in other media finally have given them the confidence in the in their own IPs, the confidence that many of us never lost.  They seem to be talking about the characters the same way we do, more as fans or caretakers and less as salesmen. That, of course, is the best way to wind up selling us....

Monday, March 28, 2016

Batman v Superman

I saw it.

I liked it.

Mind you, I didn't love it.  The dream sequences seemed juvenile, Lex seemed like an addlepated homeless person, Batman was way too easily influenced (and a rather poor detective), and MY Superman would be much more concerned about making a mess in the bathroom.  

But most of what I didn't care for (the gloom, the conflict, etc.) is built in to the premise of the movie: Batman VERSUS Superman is a dumb concept to begin with.  That is going to be non-fun, that is going to require them to behave stupidly and out-of-character, and that's going to feel more like a Marvel comic than a DC one.  I read DKR when it came out 30 years ago, and that's how it felt then.  I don't blame the director for that, I blame the adolescent fans who want DKR re-played 30 years after it came out and childishly wonder "Who would win in a fight of Hero 1 against Hero 2?"  And sure enough all the dumbest, hollowest, lines in the movie are ones taken directly from that story.  

After settling in to the movie a bit, my expectations adjusted immediately when I realized: this is an opera.  Just one without music.  It's big ideas and characters tromping across the scene being all symbolic and conflict-y.  If the plot needs someone to be dumb, they are (how quickly did Lois regret pointless throwing away that spear, huh?).  And you can criticize that all you want -- it deserves it -- but to pretend that comics aren't like that, haven't ALWAYS been like that, is simply naive.

I have to admit, when there was a pause in the action for a sec and I saw the Trinity standing there together, ready to fight as a team...it was breathtaking and took me by surprise.  That a film could make me feel that way is enough of a sniff test for me.

Getting the stupid conflict out of the way FIRST, clearing a path to a unified Justice League?  If it's going to happen, better than having it happen later, I say.  And interesting to me that the catalysts for ending the testosterone-laden conflict -- Lois, Martha, and Diana -- were women.  

If anything the end of movie kind of emphasized, "Wow, that was stupid that we were fighting, wasn't it?"  And that's a good place to be going forward.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

And in the Third Act, he rose from the dead...

In this interview with Newsarama, Superman writer Greg Pak explains how Superman just got his super-groove back in Action #50:

Nrama: It's interesting that Superman has to hurt himself with Kryptonite before he can heal.
Pak: Yeah, it's this sacrifice that Superman made. He basically let himself be killed off in order to try to save the day.

In this article from just last month, its writer explains that Bruce Wayne has to let himself be killed off in Batman #49 in order to become Batman again to try to save the day.

Initially, Bruce says that by regaining the memories, he could be a Batman without the trauma. Yet when they learn that Bruce would have to go brain dead before being able to receive the memories, the truth comes out. He could never be both. He could never be the happy, well adjusted man that he was during his amnesia and the same watchful protector of Gotham that the city needs him to be. And so he willingly traded his happiness for obsession to once again save his city.  

What's next? Sacrificing the entire DCU so that it can have rebirth as new hero...?!

Monday, March 07, 2016

At Sixes and Sevens

As we approach our landing in the strange new (?) country of the DCU's Rebirth, the contours of its coast are acquiring finest details.  Every week brings more news of who's going to be doing what on which titles.

But on thing remains tantalizing unclear, at least to me:

Who will be in the Justice League.

This has always been a problem in the Justice League. Iconically, the JLA has seven member (or "core members" when it's larger).  The problem is: DC only has six iconic characters.

That's really a misnomer;  DC has LOTS of iconic characters.  Sure, Cave Carson and Oddman don't have a lot of ancillary merchandise.  But Plastic Man, Shazam, Batgirl, heck, Krypto; DC is tripping over iconic characters.  But they are overshadowed by the fact that DC has six, well...'super-iconic' characters.  Ugh, there's really no other way to say that, is there? You win again, Kal.

You know who they are; DC knows who they are; heck, everyone knows who they are: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, The Flash, and Green Lantern.  

Those were the characters DC chose to include in its modern update of the Justice Society, the new "Justice League", at the start of the Silver Age and its 'rebirth' of DC's superhero lines of comics.  Truth be told, the Justice League, as I have pointed out before, isn't a mere 'update' of the Justice Society. It's exactly the opposite of the Justice Society.  As a publishing concept, the purpose of Justice Society was as a proving ground for superhero characters that didn't have yet enough popularity to carry their own titles.  This is why Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman were members of the JSA in name only and appear only in passing.  This is why when the (Jay Garrick) Flash become popular enough to get his own title, he left the JSA.  Active membership in the JSA meant you weren't enough of an icon to have your own comic.

"Of course, in my case 'raised' means 'wrote a cashier's check'.  It's in my utility belt."

Membership in the JLA, however, mean the opposite.  Only those heroes who were strong enough to have survived the 1950s' "lean years" for superheroes, who still had their own titles (or had found shelter in back-up stories, as did Aquaman), or the revamped ones meant to usher in the new era of superheroes   Only Icons Need Apply.

Oh...and the Martian Manhunter, of course.  The poor Martian Manhunter, who , as previously discussed, never got to do anything but suck or blow in JLA stories, because that wasn't something the others generally did. They could, of course; Superman can do anything.  But they were polite enough not to.  "Oh, thank goodness YOU were here, J'onn; I don't know WHAT we would have done without you! <insert patented Batman Eyeroll> "

Well, it's pretty clear Martian Manhunter's not on deck or even in the bullpen for JLA this time.  His title is cancelled and there's no sign of him lurking in any of the 'new 32' titles that are part of DC's streamlined offerings.  

Rebirth Specials:

New #1 Issues (Shipping twice monthly):
• AQUAMAN #1 (with J'onn Jonzz as Topo!)
• BATMAN #1 (with J'onn Jonzz as Detective Jones!)
• THE FLASH #1  (with J'onn Jonzz as Harrison Wells!)
• GREEN ARROW #1 (with J'onn Jonzz as Diggle!)
• GREEN LANTERNS #1 (with J'onn Jonzz as All the Stewardesses!)
• SUPERMAN #1 (with J'onn Jonzz as Joan Jonas the WGBS Weathergirl!)
(with J'onn Jonzz as Mars!)

Cyborg -- the new 52 replacement for MM  and a character DC has been trying to force feed us for decades -- fares a little better.  He at least is in there somewhere, and with his own title:

Rebirth Specials:
• SUPERGIRL REBIRTH #1 (with J'onn J'onzz as DEO Director Hank Henshaw! Nah; that would never work...)

New #1 Issues (Shipping twice monthly):

He's being relaunched AFTER "Red Hood & the Outlaws", by the way.  It's pretty clear where that places him in the hierarchy of things.  Higher than MM, but nowhere near the Super-Icons.  Unless Harley Quinn's going to be in the JLA, too. Which, frankly, wouldn't surprise me at this point, given how addicted to her DC has become.

Sigh.  I KNEW the internet would have a picture like this.

So, I'm thinking neither Cyborg nor MM will be in the 'core' of the JLA.  But then who...

oh, no.

No, no, no.



And he even has his own TV show. And was the FIRST hero after the original seven to join the Justice League in the Silver Age.

Oh, this is going to be FUN.