Friday, May 13, 2016

DC Comics Rebirth: Do I Care?

Hi there! Welcome to I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You, your friendly neighborhood provider of  hand crafted artisan utility belts. I'm Dave-El, an auxiliary member of the Guardians of the Universe

As I have noted in the past, since my earliest days as a comic book fan, I was a DC Comics guy. Some of that was practical. As a kid with limited budget (even with comics only at 25 cents) and in a small town with questionable comic distribution, the frequently more or less self contained stories of DC were more appealing to me than the never ending narratives of Marvel Comics. 

 And yes, you read that right: when I started reading comic books, they were priced at $25 cents. $1.00 could get you 4 comics. Today, $4.00 gets you 1 comic.

But practical considerations aside, DC’s characters were more appealing to me. DC had the instantly recognizable big guns: Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, Flash, Green Lantern. These were heroes involved in classic adventures of good vs. evil. At that stage of my life, I responded more to seeing characters actually coping with their extraordinary lives than the more complex perspectives of Marvel’s characters.  Yes, I know Marvel’s complexity and continuity are considered its greatest strengths and these were strengths that I would come to appreciate more as I got older. But as a young boy in a poor family in a small southern town, the brighter lights of DC super heroes appealed to me more and formed the foundation of my lifetime love of comics.

42 years later, I’m trying to decide if DC Comics is still relevant to me.

To be fair, some of the distance between DC and me comes simply from age. I am not a kid anymore and haven’t been for a long time. Times change and my tastes in what entertains me have changed. But whatever remained of that relationship, DC did it no favors when it unveiled its big relaunch, The New 52. All titles were restarted at #1 with a brand new slate of continuity. These were not the characters we knew before. Superman was literally not the Superman we knew. And so forth and so on. In a bid to appeal to a new, wider audience, DC wiped out the most important thing that gave its characters any value, legacy.

The New 52 did have an immediate and positive impact for DC Comics in the early going. But it soon became obvious those gains were temporary. Sales declined precipitously. DC’s rep was not helped by stories of constantly re-worked scripts and re-drawn artwork. Writers and artists were walking away, some before even a single issue saw print, due to excessive and contradictory editorial interference. Such turmoil did not reflect well in the comics produced. It’s telling that 2 of the better received series that came out of the New 52, Batman and Justice League, were the only series to have the same writers throughout and both were big enough names not to be messed with.

Newer readers enticed by an ALL NEW DC weren’t impressed to stay. Older readers saw a Superman they did not recognize and walked on by. DC sold off yesterday to buy a tomorrow that never arrived.

A relaunch last year saw the New 52 branding replaced with DC You but the damage was done. New titles did not catch on and existing titles continued to flounder with the exception of Batman and Justice League. Some serious work needed to be done to make DC relevant again. So for the third time in 5 years, DC is doing another relaunch: Rebirth.

There are some projects that I'm considering following.

Batman. The writer on this is Tim King who wrote one of the stronger entries in the DC You relaunch last spring, Omega Men, plus he was a co-writer on the surprisingly good Grayson series. I don't follow it but King's work on Marvel's The Vision has been well praised and I may need to look into getting a trade collection of that. If anyone has the chops to follow Scott Snyder, it would be Tim King. DC's hedging its bets by having David Finch as the artist on King's opening arc. Finch is a good fit for the Darknight Detective; I just hope he gets better inker than Richard Friend

Wonder Woman. This series marks the surprising return of Greg Rucka to DC Comics. And Rucka's previous take on the Amazon Princess is considered by many the be the pinnacle of strong storytelling for the character. Rucka will be joined on alternating issues by artists Liam Sharp and Nicola Scott, both extraordinarily perfect artists for this book. Like Rucka, this is Scott 2nd go around, having previous drawn Wonder Woman for writer Gail Simone

Superman. This is the big one for me. I gave up on Superman shortly after the debacle of J. Michael Strazynski's Grounded storyline. I came back for Grant Morrison's run in Action Comics in the New 52 but dropped Action soon after replacement writer Andy Diggle himself dropped the book after only 1 issue. Despite being a nearly life long Superman fan, I have felt little or no connection to the character since the New 52 era began. Even Morrison's work could not make me fully embrace this version of the Man of Steel. Even in Justice League, this Superman just did not seem real to me. But this title to be written by Peter Tomasis  is bringing back the version I followed nearly every week for over 20 years, the post Crisis/pre-52 Superman, the one married to Lois Lane. Paired with a very strong artist, Patrick Gleason, can Peter Tomasis renew my love for this version of Superman once more? 

While these titles will be $2.99 an issue and not $3.99, they will be published twice a month which means an investment of 6 dollars a month per title. Still, that is a modest investment compared to all the other titles that DC is rolling out that I will not be buying. Not really having anything set my interest on fire. To be honest, my interest in Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman is born more from a consideration that these are solid comic book selections as opposed to being really, really anxious to get these. Particularly when it comes to Superman, I can be described at best as being cautiously optimistic.  

I hope this goes well for DC. No one wants to see DC rolling out in a year or two Rebirth II: Electric Rebirthaloo.


And that's that for Comic Book Theme Week here on the ol' blog thing.  Hey, what's been going on in the real world this week? I'll catch up with some of that in tomorrow's post.

And Sunday is Episode Three of Lifetime Companion, my new Doctor Who fan fiction.

Until next time, remember to be good to one another. And do yourself a favor, go read some comic books. They can be quite entertaining and are an excellent source of fiber. 

Action Comics#1000

Shhhhhh! I'm reading Superman in Action Comics#1000!   And it.... is.... AWESOME!!!