What I’m Reading From DC as 2006 Ends

A lot less than I expected to be. I’ve always been a DC kid — I grew up reading Superman and Wonder Woman, dollar comics and tabloid-sized specials. Now, the company’s really moved away from what I’m looking for.

I’m not engaging in some kind of boycott. I object strongly to a lot of the choices they’ve made from the perspectives of both craft and morality, but boycotting implies that I’d be reading the books otherwise. I wouldn’t be, because most of them leave me apathetic. I simply no longer care about their characters or universe. I especially don’t care about their nostalgic navel-gazing, trying to put all the characters “back”.

That said, there are a few bright spots. (And do keep in mind their increasing number of reprints from happier eras, the Showcase Presents line and collections like Huntress: Dark Knight Daughter.)

Teen Titans Go! #38 cover
Teen Titans Go! #38

My favorite DC comics are those aimed at the kids, because they’re often a lot better done than the main line. They tell stories with endings. They’re enjoyable to read, and I rarely have to puzzle out what I’m supposed to be looking at or be distracted by impossible anatomy. They’re light-hearted, showing how powers can be enjoyable. (I know Marvel’s angst has always been popular, but it’s wearying to read EVERY superhero bemoaning how tough their lives are.) They have points beyond “let’s make comics more like what I read decades ago.”

Thus, it turns out that my favorite DC comic is Teen Titans Go!, especially when they tackle such fun characters as the Mad Mod, as happens in issue #38. And this issue has a special bonus: It’s drawn by one of my favorite artists, Chynna Clugston.

The issue homages A Hard Day’s Night, as the Titans are being chased by hordes of screaming fans. The Mad Mod is offering to make them into superstars, complete with magazine cover shoots and toylines. The more you know about the Beatles, the more you’ll giggle at this issue, including the press conference and a performance as a rock band.

Krypto the Superdog #4 cover
Krypto the Superdog #4

J. Torres has come up with a great way to include the retro imagery that contributes so much to my enjoyment of the character, and Chynna’s costumes and art are terrific, as always. (I love Starfire’s pink and green frilly minidress with paisley stockings.) It’s fab and ginchy! And it even has a message: karaoke is evil. No, I think it’s really don’t get distracted by fickle fame and superficial adoration. Which leaves me with something to think about.

Also very cool is Krypto the Superdog #4. Catwoman’s cat Isis is plotting with Snooky Wookums, the adorable evil kitten, to steal some orange kryptonite, which will give them superpowers. That means Krypto has to team up with Ace the Bat-Hound to stop them, with help from the Dog Star Patrol (who are really the Space Canine Patrol Agents in my head).

Jesse Leon McCann (writing) and Min S. Ku (art) do a wonderful job getting the characters right in attitude and behavior. Ace’s stodgy uprightness subtly satirizes everything that’s wrong with Batman these days. Lots of action keeps things moving. In the second story, Luthor’s iguana screws around with a time machine, resulting in Kevin gaining temporary superspeed and a guest appearance by the Flash.

In the regular DC line, I’d like to enjoy some of the female-featured titles, such as Birds of Prey or Manhunter, but the boy-focused art turns me off. Look at these covers!

Birds of Prey #101 Manhunter #26
Birds of Prey #101 Manhunter #26

I don’t even know how Wonder Woman stands up like that, perched on her toes with her butt stuck out and a broken back.

Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes is a tricky case for me… it’s not bad, but it doesn’t grip me, and there always seem to be too many characters and not enough plot to go around. Oh, I almost forgot the enjoyable All-Star Superman, but that’s running several months late.

The Spirit #1 cover
The Spirit #1

I’ll keep reading Darwyn Cooke’s Spirit for being true to the concept and the roots of its appeal while doing his own thing with the characters. So far I’m most impressed by the way he managed to reinvent Ebony for the modern age.

Vertigo’s always been too focused on horror and violence for me, but I enjoy the DC CMX manga series Emma, Gals!, and Musashi #9. And I’ll be reading WildStorm’s Welcome to Tranquility because it reminds me of Eureka.

Looking back at DC this year, I realize I’ve become a Marvel reader. Who knew? I think it’s because they have a lot more superhero titles that don’t leave me feeling queasy after I read them.

I am looking forward to trying some books after upcoming creative team changes. Dwayne McDuffie and Dan Jurgens will be taking Firestorm with issue #33 in February, while March’s Wonder Woman #6 will finally have a female writer, novelist Jodi Picoult.


21 Responses to “What I’m Reading From DC as 2006 Ends”

  1. Justin Says:

    I agree with you, there is not much too latch on to at DC. I have never been a DC guy, but I am a story first reader. And DC lost me. I have never understood their thinking in dragging everything a year later. While this might have allowed others to try more things, as an outsider the solicitations alone seemed like, “You don’t know what’s going on? Neither do we, but sit it out.” It is odd because they really did pull me in with Identity Crisis, I want to be connected to that it just doesn’t feel inviting. I am going to give Brave and the Bold a try, something to latch onto for the New Year.

  2. Johanna Says:

    That is something to be said for DC, I think — they do keep trying new things, and with side projects and imprints, there are still books from them I find worth reading.

  3. Don MacPherson Says:

    I agree completely about the Arthur Adams cover for Manhunter. It’s laughable, which is too bad, because the story within is pretty good, and writer Marc Andreyko is playing around with ideas that Dan Curtis Johnson first established in Chase years ago.

  4. david brothers Says:

    For what it’s worth, I’m now reading more DC books than ever before, due in no small part to their midlist. Blue Beetle and Firestorm are two of my favorite titles and ones I look forward to greatly.

    A case could be made for them being “Marvel”-style books in the DCU, however.

    Marvel zombie 4 life, and so on.

  5. Rob Barrett Says:

    Like David Brothers, I’m reading more DC now as well: 52, Action Comics, All-New Atom, All Star Superman, Birds of Prey, Checkmate, Detective Comics, Fables, Green Lantern, JSA Classified, Justice Society of America, Manhunter, and Superman.

    And I was always a Marvel fan. Somehow I’m reading more DC than Marvel now.

    From my point of view, One Year Later has been a big success–but then I’m not reading the most reviled books of the relaunch.

  6. Anun Says:

    In fairness, I believe that cover to Manhunter was done by Art Adams, probably as some sort of promotional thing. The actual art in Manhunter is really terrific. It’s realistic and even when it seems like the artist is attempting a cheesecake shot, it just doesn’t hit the offensive buttons the way Ed Benes’s art does.

    In short, one promo cover is actually not representative of Manhunter. The lead is the best new character I’ve seen in a long time, and she has a great supporting cast that’s fleshed out but doesn’t upstage her.

  7. Anthony D. Says:

    My DC reading these days is pretty much down to All Star Superman (despite the heavy delays between issues), reprints such as the Showcase Presents line, and Kurt Busiek’s run on Superman. Otherwise, pretty much turned off for the reasons Johanna listed (didn’t think much of the Joker Christmas story in the last issue of Detective Comics, a title I only read because Paul Dini was writing it—the Joker in the story seemed more to me in line with the stupid, boring and nihilistic “Hannibal Lecter with a joybuzzer” mass-murderer-who-doesn’t-do-anything-else Joker they’ve latched onto in the 90’s than being anything like the Joker from the Animated Series). Oh, well; guess it leaves more money to spare on other stuff (like Uncle Scrooge or comic strip compilations)…

  8. Anthony D. Says:

    Guess I forgot to add to my comment that I also have been reading the Krypto miniseries, plus that I’ve always been a DC reader—but apparently a disillusioned one these days…

  9. Kef Says:

    “I especially don’t care about their nostalgic navel-gazing…”

    “Thus, it turns out that my favorite DC comic is Teen Titans Go!, especially when they tackle such fun characters as the Mad Mod…”

    [Head explodes]

  10. Johanna Says:

    I’m afraid you’ve missed the point of the Mad Mod — he’s always defeated, showing that you can’t go back to your youth (he’s young when he’s a bad guy, when defeated he returns to his old age) and it’s the wrong thing to do to try.

  11. Guy LeCharles Gonzalez Says:

    I think you’d like the new Blue Beetle, one of only a handful of DC titles to survive my post-Infinite Crisis purge. Young reluctant hero, solid supporting cast (including three strong females), an underlying sense of humor and, most importantly, only a peripheral connection to the main DCU. The TPB of the first 6 issues came out this week and I highly recommend it.

  12. Evan Waters Says:

    I don’t think nostalgia itself is so much the problem, but how it’s handled. A lot of these writers AREN’T just going ahead and writing comics like they were back in the day- instead they have the characters lament the loss of a grand golden age and tell very existential middle-aged stories about how things aren’t as good as they once were but we fight on nonetheless. They use the characters they remember and love, but the tone is very postmodern.

  13. Johanna Says:

    I’ve tried Blue Beetle, Guy, but it didn’t have enough to set it apart, to keep it sticking in my head from month to month.

    Evan, excellent point, although I’d quibble that they’re not using the same characters they remember. They’re rewriting them in ways that don’t match.

  14. Jason Says:

    On the Vertigo front, I’m surprised you don’t mention Fables. Not horror at all and very enjoyable. Perhaps another library pickup. Definitely better in book format.

  15. invisible_hand Says:

    i mourn the absence of a regular dose of all-star superman, which simply kicks out the crazy jams in the best morrisonian mode. perhaps vertigo books are too focused on horror and violence, but i hold that they are putting out some of the best books on the stands. i cannot recomment FABLES enough. it’s great, complex, involved storytelling with crackerjack characters and fabulous plots. wonderful comic.

  16. Johanna Says:

    I don’t read Willingham’s work, because his treatment of female characters strikes me as very regressive and, well, creepy. (And if I recall correctly, the first Fables storyline dealt with a blood-soaked murder, so definitely some horrific elements there.)

  17. Gail Says:

    I agree that bop cover has Manhunter way too busty, but I think it’s otherwise quite lovely and beautifully designed. Sorry you didn’t like it!

    Gail

  18. Rob Barrett Says:

    It is a great cover, Gail. And it’s anatomically accurate (as opposed to poor Wonder Woman’s stance on the Manhunter cover).

    (BTW, Johanna, have you seen Nona Jaffe’s Festival Reader Wonder Woman books? Ben Crandell’s redesign of Diana’s costume is quite lovely and non-objectifying to boot. I’ve ordered two of the books for my 2 year old daughter, who is obsessed with “Wuh Woman.”)

  19. Johanna Says:

    Oooh, no, I hadn’t. I like the tank top/skirt look — it seems a lot more like a young girl’s outfit. Amazing what just adding spaghetti straps to WW’s bustier does for the look of the costume.

  20. Rob Barrett Says:

    Er, that’s Nina Jaffe. To make things easier for anyone looking for the books.

    Re Crandell’s costume redesign: I also like the return of the eagle emblem (to replace the stylized WW).

  21. notintheface Says:

    Re: Birds of Prey & Manhunter –

    Johanna, Johanna, Johanna!! Haven’t you learned NEVER to judge a book by its…well, you know.

    But seriously, in this case, it’s true. In the words of Kiefer Sutherland on “24”, you’re going to have to trust me on this one. You’ll be missing out on two very well-written, well-drawn, and yes, girl-friendly books. Besides, that Manhunter cover was an anomaly by this book’s standards. To show you what I mean, here’s an upcoming Manhunter cover with the one of the best-looking Diana pictures I’ve ever seen, and I mean that in a completely non-sexist way. Everything awesome about Diana is captured in this one cover.

    http://pics.livejournal.com/kphoebe/pic/00041t2y

    Plus, BOP has a female writer/penciller team now, one of whom is the great Gail Simone.

    Also, I highly recommend EX MACHINA from Wildstorm.

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