Monday, February 9, 2015

DC's Divergent Detergent

I haven't really posted anything about comic books lately but now seems like a really good time to say something with DC's recent announcement of new titles and creators coming after their Convergence event.  

First, a bit about Convergence. This is the interim event designed to carry DC through the two months it takes to set up shop in Burbank, CA after leaving New York City. A number of characters, teams and concepts from before the New 52 will get one more chance to play in the DC sandbox and maybe, just maybe give us long time fans a bit of closure. Right now, I'm looking to the Dan Jurgens written Superman project in the hopes that my Superman gets an appropriate send off. I have no illusions about the Lois and Clark I spent most of my life reading; but if they are gone for good, I hope Lois and Clark (and baby makes three?) gets a satisfying flight into the sunset.  

But after this event, it's all back to normal. Except its not. 

DC's finally cutting loose from "The New 52" branding that never made a lot of sense in the first place except in the very short term after the relaunch in 2011. And it looks like DC is also moving away from the edicts that drove that brand. Instead of a "from the top down" mentally that drove away some high profile creators and sought to homogenize the DC Universe, this new direction promotes distinctive approaches from a diverse array of new talent. Call it "DC's Divergent Detergent", designed to clean away the excesses of the New 52. 

A lot of this can be attributable to a number of factors: 
  • Marvel Comics. They've gained a considerable amount of goodwill and good press from initiatives promoting diversity in both their characters and the people who write and draw their adventures. Of particular note is the appeal towards that vast in number yet distressingly underserved audience, women. 
  • Image Comics. Make no mistake that the lion's share of the comics market still belong to Marvel and DC. But Marvel and DC have been fighting over the same part of the pie. Meanwhile, Image has been on a major run of late with successful series launched by high profile creators who used to be the darlings of Marvel and DC.  
  • Archie Comics. Yes, Archie. Now here's a brand that has been locked into a certain style of writing and art for decades. But in recent years, Archie has taken chances with their flagship character to amazing results. The future-set Life With Archie and the horror series Afterlife With Archie were two different and successful ways Archie Comics expanded the reach of their brand. 
  • Mark Doyle. When Batman line editor Mike Marts returned to Marvel, Vertigo editor Mark Doyle was brought over to take over the Bat-titles. Under Doyle, we've seen stories, art styles and concepts expanding beyond the edict of the New 52. Gotham Academy and Gotham By Midnight were two titles that caught my attention, attention that in recent years had been drifting away from DC. These were two titles that made effective and creative use of the Batman universe while not being just another title starring Batman.  And the revamp of Batgirl definitely pushed Barbara Gordon out of the New 52 envelope. And these were titles that were tapping into the interests of female readers without excluding males. Mark Doyle proved that just because you have a group of titles under one umbrella doesn't mean they don't have to all be alike. And if that is applicable to Batman titles, then it can work for the DC Universe as whole. 
So here are some of the post-Convergence projects that interest me. 
  • Black Canary Written by Brenden Fletcher who co-writes Batgirl and Gotham Academy and illustrated by the artist who drew the Kate Bishop parts of Matt Fraction's Hawkeye series, Annie Wu. Annie is a very talented artist and definitely outside the New 52 model. 
  • Dark Universe  Taking up where Justice League Dark (Goodbye, stupidest name of a comic book!) left off.  Writer James Tynion IV has been writing of some really scary stuff in the back of Scott Snyder's Endgame storyline in Batman so he should fit in real well here. But the big news is the artist, Ming Doyle. Ming's art work has popped up in various places over the last few years but sadly Ming could never find a home. The recent project for Vertigo, The Kitchen, showed just how good she can be and she'll be great here as well.
  • Bat-Mite by Dan Jurgens & Corin Howell and Bizarro by Heath Corson & Gustavo Duarte. Other than Dan Jurgens, I have no idea who these people are but these two titles represent the most bizarre additions to the Batman and Superman lines and serves as a heads up that the brakes are off. 
  • Starfire  Jimmy Palmiotti & Amanda Conner have a proven track record with strong and interesting female characters (Power Girl, Harley Quinn) and it will be interesting to see what they can do with Starfire whose time in the New 52 DC has exemplified a very sexualized and outdated paradigm for the modern comics audience.  Artist Emanuela Lupacchino is an excellent choice to have on board. And dig this Amanda Conner design of Starfire. 

A nice look, sexy but not overly sexual. It is still a super hero outfit after all but I can see a girl wanting to be Starfire and not embarrassed by her.  

Some time ago, I made peace with the idea that my lifelong following of DC Comics had come to an end. Which was OK, I think. Our tastes should evolve over time. But if DC was losing me as part of their audience, who were they gaining to replace me? The New 52 style basically zeroed in on young males when their audience needed to be far more than that. Now with recent forays into distinctive storytelling and DC's plans for the future, they just might have a chance of truly expanding and reaching a wider audience that ever before. 

And maybe get me back too. 

Everyone be good to one another. 


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