It’s All Changed Forever — Again: Thoughts on the New DCU 52

I just can’t do it. I can’t get excited about the new 52 DCU, or whatever it’s called. Maybe because I remember buying the first and best of these “it’s all different now” events, Crisis on Infinite Earths, off the spinner rack at the newsstand. Maybe because the death and destruction of Flashpoint made me cringe. But really, I suspect it’s because it’s the same old guys in charge now as were before, and they really don’t seem to get it.

Some evidence: Kids don’t recognize the new characters. But that’s ok, DC still doesn’t care about them as customers; their focus is teenagers. That’s a stupid choice, as Heidi points out: “[Kids are] the fastest growing segment of the comics market at this grim time — but then nothing Didio or Lee says gives any indication that they know who their audience — actual or potential — really is in more than a wadded up spitball sense.” But then, it’s clear that for all the talk about expanding readers, they’re not comfortable reaching for anyone outside the traditional adolescent male.

Still, this baby/bathwater toss got the company what it wanted: Publicity. For all that comic readers know that #1s mean next to nothing any more, the media still is fascinated by the idea of a new Superman, a new Batman, a new Justice League. Although maybe even they’ve wised up a bit; that NY Times article just linked calls it “a last-ditch plan to counteract years of declining sales”. That’s not complimentary. That, in fact, is a huge indictment that the folks in charge have no idea what they’re doing.

Look at it this way: Throwing out everything and starting again is the easy way out. We’ve all done it, but taking a troubled project, analyzing what went wrong and how to get it back on the track to success, that’s the hard — but ultimately more rewarding — solution. It’s also the more mature approach. Most of us in the adult world don’t have the excuse of ignoring everything our co-workers and companies have done in the past.

It’s also taking it easy on the creators. According to Jim Lee, “By making these kind of changes, we would restore a lot of the things that we wanted to have in the characters and also set the stage for really cool stories that we couldn’t do before. And that we could achieve by rolling back the experience on the characters, so they’re not in the prime of their careers, they haven’t battled their arch-nemeses a million times, saved the world countless times. We felt that was a richer, more fertile ground to mine for all the characters.” Well, sure, if you don’t have to pay attention to anything that’s come before, of course it’s simpler. But just what stories couldn’t be done before? The only thing I can think of is the second first time. Who’s taking bets on how quickly we start getting retellings of the first time Batman met the Joker, the Penguin, the Scarecrow, the Riddler… a reboot just means reruns.

But why shouldn’t they make it easier for their workers, since most of them are the same loyal company men and old cronies? The truly new talent, with more original visions, are doing their own things. And some of those who are participating in the revamp, well, they hate the characters they’re working on. Is that a recipe for great reading?

Sadly, DC isn’t even doing that well with this last-ditch Hail Mary. They’re bragging about 200,000 issues sold of Justice League #1, but even non-comic-readers know that that’s chicken feed. Sure, it’s a lot better than most monthly sales figures, but they undercut the entire company, playing fruit basket upset with all their creators, and that’s the best they can do? Heck, put the President in the book, and you can get almost double that. (Amazing Spider-Man #583, January 2009, more than 350,000 copies.)

Dan DiDio talks about characters created in a different age that need to “feel fresh for a new audience”, but in trying to split the baby, they’re keeping the names and some of hte histories but changing the costumes. (Some in truly ugly ways.) If you want new characters for today’s world and today’s audience, then make truly new characters. But it’s not about that; it’s about Warner looking to DC to be their new property factory and wanting these brands ready for TV shows, movies, and merchandise. There’s no other reason to, for example, force Batgirl (a character really clicking with a new audience) back to being Barbara Gordon and eliminating a creative, fresh direction in storytelling in order to have just one Batman named Bruce Wayne.

This gamble is alienating existing readers and habitual buyers who liked what they were getting. They have no reason to continue, since the promise is what they liked is gone. Will all this publicity attract new readers? Not based on the sole example we have so far. Justice League #1 doesn’t show the team in action — instead, it’s mostly a Batman/Green Lantern story. It has no female characters. And critically, it doesn’t serve as sufficient introduction. Graeme McMillan writes (link no longer available): “Where was the introduction to DC Comics? You know what I mean: A text piece for new readers who’ve been swayed by the hype into picking up their first DC comic in quite some time, the kind of thing that Marvel has become very good at including in the first issue of their event books. Considering the positioning of JL #1 as the flagship book of the relaunch, I’m surprised that there was no real attempt to say ‘Hello, new readers! This is why the Justice League is important, here are where you can find out more about each member, and here are some other books you might want to check out.'”

The true problems with print superhero comics are more basic. For what you get, as a percentage of income, comics cost too much, and they have a history of treating talent horribly, so no one’s interested in contributing great, original ideas. But instead of fixing those problems, instead, we’re all getting distracted by digital. Did you know that while Comixology, the official DC Comics digital vendor, wasn’t selling Justice League #1 until 2 PM today (to avoid annoying direct market retailers), the comic was available online through the usual sharing spots before midnight (the official print release time)? They provide better service and a LOT better pricing — $4 for a double handful of digital pages? Ludicrous!

One of the bright sides I see to all this is that DC and Marvel are becoming more distinct from each other, as Marvel continues to play to the established comic reader with events and crossovers. More choices for more different readers, instead of trying to make all the titles appeal to the same small group, is a good thing.

I’m not sure why I’ve just typed over a thousand words on this subject. I’m not saying anything original or new (just like the DC event I’m talking about!). I just felt the need to capture this feeling right now, so I can look back at it in five years and see what’s happened then.

53 Responses to “It’s All Changed Forever — Again: Thoughts on the New DCU 52”

  1. Thad Says:

    Same old crap; DC in its holding pattern of Giant Reset Button Followed by Years of Everything Going Back to the Way it Was.

    I don’t really think it’s going to change my reading habits; I’m reading the creators I like: Morrison, Cornell, Williams. Names which are, of course, meaningless to the casual fans they’re trying to appeal to (with the possible exception of Morrison, who’s got a book out and has recently caught some attention in the mainstream press for it).

    Good point on how the most promising creators are doing their own thing (though DC, at least, is parlaying some of its Vertigo talent into this relaunch). I got to thinking, recently, about how many original superheroes had gotten mainstream success in the past couple of decades, and came up with Static, the Tick, Hellboy, and Spawn. (And arguably Blade and the New Teen Titans, though they first appeared decades before their mass-media spinoffs, and the Mysterymen and the Savage Dragon, whose film/TV adaptations met with modest success at best. And maybe Kick-Ass, though it’s a bit early to tell if anyone’s going to remember him in a few years.)

    Two things jump out at me as interesting: one, it’s an ethnically diverse list, and two, most of them are creator-owned (or at least were originally; does DC own Static outright now?).

    When the Big Two DO create an exciting “new” character, it’s usually a legacy version of an existing character — the new Spider-Man, Damian as Robin, and even though Cyborg was an original character, he was created for a legacy team book. (And that was 30 years ago!) DC and Marvel are nostalgia factories, trading on popular brands but not really knowing what to do with them. They’re caught between catering to a shrinking market and risking it all to try and expand their reach; it’s nice to see DC’s at least attempting the latter, but I see little indication that they know what the hell they’re doing.

  2. PCS Says:

    I’m baffled by the true aim of the new 52 initiative. The cover story is that it’s aimed at attracting new readers. But, in execution, it seems like nothing more than another Big Event focused on the existing crowd of fanboys. Justice League is the flagship title and it’s helmed by confirmed fanboy favorites — not creators with a new, bold fresh take on things. The central appeal of the relaunch seems to be that it’s a relaunch — the drama of the stories is that they are in contrast to the old status quo. They are placing familiar heroes in a new paradigm. But if that’s all there is to it (“we’re presenting something different than your used to”), how are the series and stories supposed to be appealing to readers without a history of reading comics featuring these characters? I agree with McMillan, quoted in the post: why no text intro page welcoming new readers? Seems like DC would want to do everything possible to introduce this as special and welcoming to new readers. I also think DC has missed an opportunity by not working to get these new titles, in print, in new brick-and-mortar markets. Digital is dandy, but tends to be a “pull” medium. It attracts people who are looking for something. The physical world is better for “push.” Put some comics out there where kids happen across them and get attracted to the cool covers. It sounds old fashioned, but I still believe it can work. When I was a kid, we read comics because they were around. You’d go to the store and there’d be a spinner rack. You were bored waiting for mom or dad to buy their stuff, so you browsed the racks and looked at the comics with the best covers. If you were lucky, you’d be able to bring one or two home.

  3. Lyle Says:

    Throwing out everything and starting again is the easy way out. We’ve all done it, but taking a troubled project, analyzing what went wrong and how to get it back on the track to success, that’s the hard — but ultimately more rewarding — solution

    This is really cynical of me but I have to ask, does that really work in comics nowadays? When I used to follow comics sales, it looked like sales would get a bump from any kind of newsworthy change, like a change in creators, but it’s pretty rare for a series to get a lot of good reviews and for that to translate to increased sales. Realizing that was a big reason to why I stopped reading superhero comics, I realized that there wasn’t incentive to write good comics as opposed to coming up with stuff that gives comics “news” sites reason to write about the comic.

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  5. Kelson Says:

    I particularly agree with you on the issue of creating new characters for a new generation.

    IMO Didio has it half-right: the Silver Age revamp succeeded because it re-imagined the Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, the Atom, etc. for a new generation. But here’s the thing: it REALLY re-imagined them. New characters, new costumes, new backstories, new powers, new supporting casts, new settings. Some of them were about as similar to the Golden Age characters as the Tangent heroes were to the post-Crisis versions.

    I’m mostly sitting out the “mainstream” part of the new DCU. The books I’m most interested in are all fringe titles like Frankenstein, Demon Knights, etc. But looking at the mainstream stuff, I find myself thinking: If they really wanted to create a new era in comics, I’d much rather they went all in.

  6. James Schee Says:

    Here’s my take on it, all the talk about restarting, etc is basically window dressing.

    I find it really hard to believe that at the end of the day the characters are going to be all that different from what they’ve always been. Heck I just read Justice League #1 and didn’t see anything different about Batman or Green Lantern Hal Jordan than I’d seen in any story with either of them the past 5 years or so.

    Its a way to clean the deck of things they think don’t work. Clark/Lois marriage, Barbara in a wheelchair and whatever else. I disagree with them on it, but if it gets them to do stories set in the now, not about past events I’ll be more forgiving. (though having read Flashpoint #5 I gotta wonder how in the hell they fix Barry)

    At the end of the day there will be some books that will be worth getting (Animal Man has me curious) and others that are just laughably bad. Just the same as always.

  7. Johanna Says:

    Lyle, I fear you’re right, but when I wrote that sentence, I was thinking about more rewarding for the worker/creator, in terms of personal accomplishment. I know, that doesn’t matter for the business.

    James, you’re correct, we should judge each title on their own merits. That’s unfortunate, in my case, since there are lots of cases where I like the creator(s) and refuse to read the character or vice versa.

  8. Ray Cornwall Says:

    I could spend so many words on that JLA 1 it’s not funny. It was the worst big tentpole book I’ve ever read. I have to wonder who decided the best way to start the new DCU was to show Batman and GL fighting *cops* of all things. And when you use four pages on the Cyborg “Friday Night Lights” b-story and don’t show any other members of the JLA…

    AND THE COVER WAS ORANGE! You know what other disaster had an orange cover? YOUNGBLOOD #1. Swear to the Flying Spaghetti Monster…

    Remember when Grant Morrison put out a JLA #1, and all the JLA were in it, and it was great? I miss that.

    I mean, I’m not asking for a complete retreat to the Silver Age, but if Bendis can show me enough of the Spider-Man mythos in Ultimate Spider-Man #1 so that it doesn’t feel completely decompressed, why can’t a book ten years later with the same objective (new take on old characters) do the same thing?

  9. Ahavah Says:

    This is the second time an established superhero marriage has been retconned in the last five years, and it ticks me off. I stopped reading Amazing Spider-Man after they un-married Peter and MJ, and I just don’t see how putting Clark in an old fashioned love triangle with Lois is doing the character any favors (hey, at least Peter had love interests besides MJ to explore; from the preview pages I read Clark is destined to be frustrated and jealous of all the guys around Lois…)

    None of that is the point, though. The point is that DC feels that they can’t work with the stories and characters they’ve built and are uninterested in creating new ones. I read the Static Shock compilation “Birth of the Cool” (which, to my knowledge, is the only proper Milestone Static Shock GN ever published). It was excellent. Static was portrayed as a fresh and interesting character with a fun personality and lot of potential. From what I saw of the TV show, it was a decent superhero cartoon perfect for the 7-14 year old crowd. What did DC do with his character? Why are they so afraid of developing new characters that might just attract much younger (gasp!) and ethnically diverse fans?

    On the Marvel side, I was a big fan of Runaways since it’s debut–a fresh, young, interesting group of superhero-ing kids. They didn’t even have to create a new universe for them; they just set the stories in the unexplored “Marvel Universe” West Coast. Bingo! A great title that got a lot of kids (middle schoolers and up) reading comics. Great while it lasted, anyway. Last I heard, Runaways is on “hiatus.” It’s potential movie is stuck in development muck, and the company is doing nothing with the property. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’d much rather watch a Runaways origin story movie than a Spider-Man reboot flick.

    The only thing in mainstream American comics that I’m interested in is how Brian Michael Bendis (a writer who’s work I’ve enjoyed) will develop his Miles Morales Ultimate Spider-Man variant character. If it’s done well, readers new and old will embrace it.

  10. Johanna Says:

    Yeah, the way DC completely avoided capitalizing on the media success of Static is a … I was going to say black mark on the company, but that’s probably not right. Those Milestone books worked for me because they were done by craftsmen who knew their medium who yet had a new perspective and a passion to put out something different. No one ensconced in the DC corporation now has that combination, based on what they’re releasing and planning, especially when it comes to reaching people not like them (non-white or women). They just want to sell to the kind of people they were when they were kids, apparently.

  11. Greg Manuel Says:

    I couldn’t begin to quantify how disappointed I am in DC’s treatment of the Milestone comics universe. Frankly, the mismanagement of this relaunch/reboot/rut-ever has me waiting for Didio, Johns or Lee to pull a Sea Captain at any moment and just blurt out: “Yaaaargh, I…don’t know what I’m doing.”

  12. William George Says:

    A big “yup” on all points.

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  14. Rich Johnston Says:

    “Amazing Spider-Man #583, January 2009, more than 350,000 copies.)” That took five prints to get there.

  15. Torsten Adair Says:

    I started collecting comics in 1984.
    I was a Marvel fan, and knew the basics of the DC Universe, so I bought John Byrne’s (and others) Superman titles. Nothing else until Sandman, and then I diversified in 1991, dropping most Marvel due to budget constraints.

    I look back at the past twenty-five years and analyze what went right and wrong.

    What was right? Letting creators take an established character (like Sandman or Starman) and rewriting it into a self-contained corner of the DC Universe. Most of the trades I recommend are self-contained volumes, or contained series (such as Sandman and Doom Patrol).

    That’s where DC has its long-term success… strong backlist titles. The New 52? That entire market is for the Wednesday crowd. Sure, it’s cool and fun, but really, what story arcs from the DCU still resonate five, ten years later? It’s disposable storytelling.

    If DC wants to get new, recreational readers, then the series need to be self-contained, or at least adhere to Shooter’s Dictum and be accessible to the first-time reader (like Secret Avengers #16).

    Let characters cross-over and guest star, but toss out the continuity, unless there’s an event, and then keep it contained to those issues. Because, really, do characters EVER refer back to Final Night? No Man’s Land? Millennium? Armageddon 2001?

    And one more thing, and it’s simple. Replicate Vertigo. For kids.
    There are currently EIGHT titles in the Johnny DC imprint. Develop that into something as strong as Vertigo (with both licensed and original titles). Since kids don’t care who writes or draws, since there’s no continuity, EVERY story is an inventory story. Or creator-owned story arcs are finished before publication. Deadlines are more flexible, and thus these comics can be used to develop new talent.

    Oh, and why isn’t there a DC comic strip?! Or a DC comic book for newspapers, designed for each specific paper?

  16. Ralf Haring Says:

    “What was right? Letting creators take an established character (like Sandman or Starman) and rewriting it into a self-contained corner of the DC Universe.”

    Absolutely. And if it doesn’t work out, don’t explain it. Just ignore it when you use the character again. No one wants to read stories explaining failed directions. That’s the worst kind of story, one about continuity.

    “Let characters cross-over and guest star, but toss out the continuity, unless there’s an event, and then keep it contained to those issues. Because, really, do characters EVER refer back to Final Night? No Man’s Land? Millennium? Armageddon 2001?”

    Just let other books use the characters in their familiar incarnations without their flavor-of-the-month changes. How are you planning to sell a story five years down the line when Superman has electricity powers? (answer: they don’t plan to ever sell it to anyone who isn’t a hardcore reader)

    “Oh, and why isn’t there a DC comic strip?! Or a DC comic book for newspapers, designed for each specific paper?”

    I don’t think trying to expand your audience through newspapers is a very good idea. Building up their digital library and pushing for sales on iPads, phones, and the web is where they should be focusing. Digital is the new newsstand. Too bad their pricing is so unrealistically high.

  17. Johanna Says:

    Torsten, self-contained comics are a rare bird in superhero universes these days. Readers love them, especially older readers, but companies appear to have chosen to eliminate them in favor of “forcing” fans to buy more of their books. You make good points about how that limits their audience, especially in the long term.

  18. Andy E Nystrom Says:

    My problem with the reboot is twofold. One, while I’d rather they not do it at all (particularly since the previous contnuity is just a few years old), if they really must, at least go all the way and make it a complete reboot. The partial reboot’s been done many times at DC before and just leads to having to explain how to reconcile the new continuity with the old. All the #1s are new, but really in any meaningful sense it’s the same dance.

    The other problem is that press releases suggest a lack of fully thought out vision. They claim that this is a chance to explore the heroes when they’re younger and more inexperienced, and yet most of the major events of the past few years still happened. I’m sorry, but if you were a hero and you participated in all or most of the events they say are still canon, you would not remain inexperienced by any sane definition of the term.

  19. Anthony Says:

    After reading that link about Morales ripping on Superman (one of my favorite characters), I have to say “ick”…and hope the writing on the series had better be *really* strong to make up for that. Why put an artist that hates Superman on his book, especially given this being a huge relaunch?!

    Agree with a lot of the above… not sure if new readers will be excited about what I saw for $4 (even for the digital “copy” that’s just a glorified rental tied to a specific app; Archie’s new digital books cost $2, versus the $3 for a paper copy).

  20. Steelbolt Says:

    I’ve seen many bit-by-bit critiques of this initiative, and I like yours a lot; it’s more direct, has feeling, and provides good counterarguments. Half of me would say “good luck, DC; you’ll need it”, while the other half would go “eh, let the industry suffer; if they couldn’t get it right all those other times, the comic industry is better off dead”.

  21. Ed Catto Says:

    I’ve been impressed by the PR push, but disappointed I’m not seeing the marketing efforts aimed at driving new readers to comics shops. (Of course, I’m not that demographic, so maybe it’s invisible to me.)
    And Torsten – you’re not serious about a newspaper strip, are you? That medium is in dire straights too.
    I’m looking forward to several of these series by talented creators (Azzarello, Jimmy Palmiotti, Fabian, etc.)

  22. Grant Says:

    From what I’ve read of Diamonds sales, pre teen comics do notoriously bad in sales. DC can target the pre teens through toys, animation and other merchandising more traditionally popular with that demographic. Comic books aren’t the only product that DC makes.

    “And some of those who are participating in the revamp, well, they hate the characters they’re working on. Is that a recipe for great reading?”

    Um…did you read his comment? I particularly liked this part…

    “When I got the script and saw that Grant wanted to harken to the Shuster image of Kal-el, it completely clicked for me. Max Fleisher here I come! And what, he’s not omnipotent? All right! And he’s not married? Get out of my fucking way and let me draw!!”

    Yup. Rags sure hates Superman all right. I mean…seriously Johanna?

    Incidentally, his analysis of Superman and what the character has become is spot on and intelligent.

    Your misrepresenting his feelings about Superman to make your point? Not so much.

  23. Johanna Says:

    Andy, I agree — they’re trying to keep their successes intact, which muddies the idea of the entire fresh start. Complicated and confusing.

    Steelbolt, thank you. I have a similar response to yours: optimistic good wishes mixed with apathetic fatalism. :)

    Ed, excellent question, about outreach and how it’s going. Traditionally, comic marketing has done a better job of grabbing the “other guy’s” fans — getting Marvel customers to buy DC or vice versa — than bringing in truly new buyers. I hope this time is different, but I’m not seeing how.

  24. Anthony Says:

    Grant: Isn’t targeting kids/preteens important to build future *new* readership, though? They can’t rely on just currently-existing readers (who’re dwindling) forever…

    That and I don’t get the antipathy toward his marriage (or Supes being more powerful than his early Golden Age version/having any of his usual familiar trappings that weren’t present then)… why not write/draw someone else?

  25. Grant Says:


    “Isn’t targeting kids/preteens important to build future *new* readership, though?”

    No. I watched the 60s SpiderMan cartoons and the George Reeves Superman show before I knew what a comic book was and I’ve been a die hard comic book fan for over 40 years now. I can’t be the only one that came to know about comic book characters in such a way.

    And I’m not saying not to target them. I’m just saying what history and sales charts point out. The DM isn’t reaching pre teens and neither are book stores. At least when it comes to comics. What I’m suggesting is that it’s not important that DC reach pre teens when it comes to monthly comics. They can reach them in a variety of other ways.

    Rags is clearly a fan of a different interpretation of Superman. An interpretation that many other Superman fans would like to see. Including me.

    I don’t see what’s wrong with a creator wanting to work on a version of a character that he has more of a connection with. Just because it’s not the interpretation that you specifically would like to see doesn’t mean he “hates” the character. In fact, his comment proves the exact opposite.

    It’s like Jim Starlin announcing he is going to return to writing Captain Marvel and having him say that he wants to go back to writing the character as he used to be because recent interpretations of the character suck. Which they have. Would that mean that Starlin “hates” Captain Marvel? Hardly.

  26. Johanna Says:

    I think I would be more interested in bringing back the Superman love triangle if they hadn’t destroyed every other superhero marriage over the last few years. What do these guys have against happy committed couples?

  27. James Schee Says:

    Yeah I was trying to think of a married couple in the new DC, heck even Barry & Iris aren’t married, and the only one I could come up with is Animal Man.

  28. Dave Says:

    While I agree with the vast majority of this, I take issue with two statements, both about Marvel.

    You say “Marvel continues to play to the established comic reader with events and crossovers. More choices for more different readers, instead of trying to make all the titles appeal to the same small group, is a good thing.”

    In the first case, I don’t see Marvel as appealing to anyone but Marvel readers (not that DC is much better). I look at their endless events and endlessly confusing continuity as an outsider and see nothing either welcoming or interesting. (“Spider Island?” Really?) Other than “Mystery Men” and Waid’s “Daredevil,” I see nothing appealing or that doesn’t need a master’s in Marvel Universe history to catch up on.

    DC may have no idea what it’s doing, but at least there are a few books that aren’t strictly superhero-oriented — or at least aren’t guys in their underwear. I don’t plan on buying much — that preview of “Action” today left me surprisingly cold — but at least there’s some stuff that’s slightly different.

    Until DC wises up and fires the guys (Didio, Lee, and Johns) who got them into this mess, they’re doomed to failure.

  29. Ralf Haring Says:

    I picked up the first Justice League issue from the store out of curiosity. I thought it was an odd choice to not make it a done-in-one issue with all the League members. my gut reaction upon finishing it was that it was written *very* simply. Short sentences, straightforward action, nothing particularly exciting or unexpected. My curiosity has been sated.

    I had preordered Action Comics for Morrison, Batwoman for Williams’ art, and Wonder Woman for Chiang’s art and the oddness of putting Azzarello on the book.

    I agree with Dave that Marvel is only playing to *some* established comic readers. I’ve certainly cut way back on the amount I buy given what they were publishing even just 5-10 years ago. A single writer being given a title and being able to execute a long term vision (a la Morrison’s X-Men or Straczynski’s Spider-Man) seems to be out of favor.

    I also picked up Waid’s first Daredevil issue after hearing pretty good word of mouth and was quite pleased. The art by Paolo Rivera is right in my wheelhouse, similar to Marcos Martin (also on the book), Javier Pulido, and Cliff Chiang. The story was engaging and seems to actually follow through on the promise of being a break from the gloom and doom that suffused the book since Frank Miller put his stamp on it. I decided to make an exception and reward them with some single issue sales by adding it to my next preorder.

    The only other single issues I buy from Marvel are Ellis’ just-started Secret Avengers, which has promised to be all done-in-ones, Hickman’s SHIELD which echoes the best off-the-wall elements of his Image work, and the Young Avengers miniseries because I liked it when it first came out five years ago.

  30. Dave Says:

    I had to give up on SHIELD after about three issues. I just found it confusing, with too many references to things I knew nothing about and had no interest in following up on.

    I hear great things about Hickman’s FF, but when I’ve looked through it in my LCS, I’ve seen nothing to make me want to plunk down my three or four bucks.

  31. Johanna Says:

    Dave, I agree it could be a lot better, but you mention two of the Marvel titles you can read without having (so far) to keep up with anything else. But I was really trying to say (badly) that it’s a good thing that DC and Marvel are taking different approaches — so a reader has a choice among the publications of the two taken together. The second sentence you quote is more of a principle, too, that I’d like to see more of.

    I too would like to like Hickman more than I do.

  32. Ralf Haring Says:

    Getting totally off-topic … to give Hickman a shot I’d always steer people to his Image work first – Nightly News and Pax Romana.

  33. Steelbolt Says:

    Truth be told, I never got into comics till very late in the game (as in 2008), and I was born during the whole speculator mess of the 90’s (1991). How did I get there? Transformers and GI Joe comics. But the fact of the matter is I really dislike modern comics, since they’re almost all doom and gloom. I do make a few exceptions (the Robinson/Bagley run on JLA beginning in #49, the recent Thunderstrike miniseries, and Godzilla: Kingdom of Monsters, among others), but I really dislike how so little of a resemblance the real comic book industry has to its various exaggerations on cartoons and other tv shows. On those, it’s depicted as an entity that constantly creates new characters (both good and bad) and that both kids and adults read the books. The only exception I can think of? Comic Book Guy on The Simpsons. I’m really disappointed at how the comic book industry fails to live up to that exaggeration (the one before my Comic Book Guy mention).

  34. Ed Catto Says:

    To Ralf, Dave and some of the others commenting on Marvel’s output:
    I find Marvel has several compelling,fresh books that I can enjoy without buying the whole line or being overly burdened by continuity.

    Some examples:
    Waid’s new Daredevil and Hickman’s FF are great fun. (I missed a couple of FF’s but the recent issue got me up to speed nicely.) Bendis has made characters like Luke Cage and Jessica Jones (as essentially Marvel’s premiere married couple) come to life in the innovative New Avengers. Captain America’s been spectacular and the new Capt. America and Bucky is a hoot. This Wednesday, I just picked up X-Men Schism #3 for the wonderful Acuna art, and found it very accessible. Fun story, creepy new villians and the gorgeous art – and I didn’t feel lost having not bought issues 1 and 2, or even really been keeping up with the X-men continuity.

    And I dunno if it “counts” as Marvel, but Brubaker and Phillips Criminal (from the Icon imprint) is masterful. The current arc hit its outta the park.

  35. Andy E Nystrom Says:

    Between the points above about all the superhero marriages being destroyed and the CBR post on the Barry-Iris retcon, I was inspired to write a post on my blog about story ideas for superhero marriages. I tried to come up with ten ideas and actually came up with 25. If I can come up with 25 ideas in one night and one morning, surely people who get paid to write superhero stories ought to come up with as good or better ideas?

  36. James Schee Says:

    My main problem with Marvel is just their prices. I was wanting to try the new X-Men Schism and Spider-Island stories, but the first part of each was priced at $4 to $5 a piece, for just a small part of the storyline.

    I was wondering what the price of a comic would be to turn me off, that sort of hit it for me. To be fair DC isn’t much better, but at least with them their prices come down some what if I wait a bit online. I don’t know how in this economy, one can afford to follow very many series long term every week.

    Now I still love their collections, Brubaker’s Captain America have been wonderful reads as I pick them in from Amazon (at significantly better prices) and I wan to read more of Hickman’s FF in TPB eventually. I’ll check Waid’s DD out too when it gets collected as well.

  37. Byron Says:


    “What do these guys have against happy committed couples?”

    I know I risk being called a misogynist frat boy and a variety of other things but I agree with Morales comments linked to in the above article. I find “marriage” in comics a complete bore. Maybe it’s because it hasn’t been done right yet. Maybe it’s the inability of writers to portray marriage in a way that’s entertaining to me as a married man. It’s not marriage itself but how it comes off in the comics. There is nothing inherent to the institution of marriage that makes it boring to me as it reads in comics, but it doesn’t work for me at all. It didn’t work with Pete and MJ, it didn’t’ work with Barry and Iris and it didn’t work with Clark and Lois. The only time it has worked is Reed and Sue. For some reason that works for me. But the others? Snoozeville.

    I do enjoy reading about committed couples. I loved the relationship between Pete and Betty Brant back in the day and I grew up on Pete and Gwen. I always wanted them to be married (never been a MJ fan) and hated when Flash or Pete’s alter ego came between them. I also think that the concept of the “on again off again” formula is more popular with writers than marriage. Things like Cheers and Moonlighting come to mind. As someone who is married, the idea of conflict in a “marriage” is less palatable to me as entertainment as is conflict between a non married couple.

    And the idea of a perpetually happy, problem free marriage is boring and unrealistic to me and that‘s where Lois and Clark had ended up. When characters that are girlfriend and boyfriend get in an argument and things get heated you can just have them break up. You can introduce a third person for a “triangle” and it’s entertaining. But with a married couple you have to consider the whole divorce thing and I sure don‘t want to read about divorce in comics. Introducing a love triangle when two of the points of that triangle are supposed to be happily married is creepy to me. The notion that one member of the “couple” might be unfaithful is creepy to me. I still remember in Byrnes FF when the Thing discovered Johnny was sleeping with Alica. That really put me off. I did not find that remotely entertaining.

    A married couple having a fight and hashing out their problems is an ordeal. Being married I know. Yes, it’s rewarding when you overcome problems with someone you love, but while it makes me happy making up with my wife and resolving problems and knowing she‘s there facing life with me, I sure don’t want to read about it for entertainment. It may be a guy thing, but I don’t think it’s about “guys hating marriage” or a frat boy mentality. I think it’s about marriage being a serious thing and how I don’t want my comics to be too serious. When a writer writes about marriage they run the risk of writing it in a way that alienates someone who is married and knows what it’s all about. I’ve been married over 12 years now. Lots of highs and lows, good times and stressful times and amazing times. But, with the exception of Reed and Sue, I’ve never seen it portrayed in comics in a way that I found entertaining.

    And framing the discussion by saying that if your not for a particular marriage between fictional characters then your against marriage, or against commitment or whatever seems counterproductive and arbitrary. I’m not saying this site has done that (although I’m new here so for all I know it has) but saying things like “what’s wrong with these guys” because they have a different view about what works better on the page than you seems unnecessarily accusatory. IMO.

  38. Dave Says:

    Johanna: Thanks for the clarification. I agree that there seems to be a variety of approaches between the big two; unfortunately, most of those approaches are uninteresting and repetitive.

    As to the greater issue of marriage in superhero comics, I have no idea why writers can’t make them interesting. It can’t be for lack of being married or in relationships themselves. I guess it’s just domestic life is antithetical to pulse-pounding fistfights and cosmic action … Of course, if that were the case, Superman is the guy who should be married, since he’s long been the flagship character for normality — which I guess they’re getting away from. (And even that said, “The Incredibles” made it work fine.)

    Ironically — or perhaps tellingly — the one couple it really could have worked for was Ralph and Sue Dibny. A “Thin Man”-type series of the two of them traveling the world solving mysteries could have been tremendous fun — but we saw how the Dibnys ended up …

  39. Steelbolt Says:

    I feel the same way about the Dibnys. Why is it they decided to make them the victims in 2004? Perhaps back then they should have started putting their titles under genres, with the Dibny thing you were thinking of under Mystery.

  40. Johanna Says:

    Andy, neat listing, and a creative way to argue the point. I noticed that several of your plot ideas have been done in Love & Capes, which is one of the many reasons I like it so much.

    The real reason comic creators hate marriage is that it makes the characters seem older, which damages their wish fulfillment. I think, anyway. Then again, Byron makes a good presentation of the counterpoint. Although, Byron, I wasn’t talking about a particular marriage — I was talking about the fact that they have ALL disappeared. I don’t want everyone to be coupled up, but it would be nice to have at least one example, if I want to read those “more serious” stories, as you put it.

    James, good point, and one similar to one Tom Spurgeon has made, about the prices not mattering so much issue-by-issue, but in total, as fans want to buy lumps of storyline and events. That is, I may not care that this issue is $4 instead of $3, but when my weekly buying goes from $20 to $40, then that’s a bigger stumbling block.

    Now I’m missing the Dibnys even more. Sniff.

  41. James Schee Says:

    Yes on Tom’s point about pricing. When I was a regular shop customer there were weeks I’d spend 40 but they were rare and I came home with a big stack of books. These days if I’d be lucky to get 4 comics for under $20.

    I keep holding out hope for the Dibnys. I’d love to see them as government agents/liasons for either JLI or Stormwatch. I know they can’t carry a series or even have starring roles. Yet it’d be nice to see them in a supporting role somewhere.

  42. Chris G Says:

    I liked James Robinson’s idea from Starman — Ralph and Sue setting up shop in Opal City where they could hang out until another writer had a good idea for them. Sadly, that didn’t happen. (And to think of the heck some readers gave Robinson for repeatedly getting the Dibnys’ last name wrong! If only that had been the worst indignity the characters ever suffered…)

  43. Andy E Nystrom Says:

    Johanna: Will definitely have to check out Love & Capes since it sounds like it would be of interest to me. I haven’t read it so any parallels are a happy coincidence, or least due to certain plot points being pretty logical for married superheroes. I did consciously use a few points from the Lois-Clark marriage though.

    The interesting thing about character aging is that there’s inconsistency on who’s allowed to age how much. Cassie Lang and Alex Power seem to have experienced dramatic growth spurts in recent years, while Franklin Richards, a former teammate of Alex’s seems if anything to have shaved off a couple years (and most Marvel and, until recently, DC adults were pretty frozen in their ages). And Kitty Pryde is usually drawn as older than her intended age. I think we’re not supposed to peer behind the curtain in cases like these, but it’s too much fun not to. :)

  44. Steelbolt Says:

    I need to ask: outside the Big Two and the usual Indie suspects, has anyone here read any of the good GI Joe or Transformers stories? I may sound biased, but it seems like those comic (back in their Marvel run) put out some of the best stories I’ve read. In Transformers, under Simon Furman’s pen (and earlier with Bob Budiansky’s), we got the Underbase saga, the Matrix Quest storyline, and the entire Generation 2 series. In GI Joe, Larry Hama made sure to develop nearly EVERY character in the book, male and female, toy and non-toy. We got stories like the Battle of Springfield and the Cobra Island Civil War because of him–even the stuff in their spinoff (GI Joe: Special Missions) was gold, and it was almost all done-in-one stories.

  45. James Schee Says:

    I read those Steelboat, the Hama Joes were what got me into comics in the first place. I keep meaning to look for IDW series that started a while back with Hama picking up where he left off from the Marvel series.

    Furman’s supposed to be getting the same chance with Transformers as well from what I heard.

  46. Steelbolt Says:

    @James Schee
    I really want to get into those too, it seems less confusing than their main series. I’ll have to pick up the first two TPB’s of the Hama Joe series, and anxiously await Transformers #81.

  47. Ed Catto Says:

    Boy, that Yanick Paquette art on the new Swamp Thing is lovely. It’s been on my desk all day – I’ll read it on the way home.

  48. James Schee Says:

    Yeah I was excited when Devil’s Due first brought them back, but it didn’t hit for me. Then I was curious about IDW but their “lets make it real and adult” approach didn’t work for me either.

    I think Hama could make it work though, maybe eventually I’ll get a chance to try the new stuff. I’ve been reading the original series in Marvel tpbs I got cheap off eBay, and they hold up surprisingly well.

  49. Jason Says:

    So are you going to review any of the 52 or are you just going to have KC do it for you? I mean, it is your job. Slacker. ;)

  50. Johanna Says:

    He was the first to claim them (and I’ve just posted his thoughts), so he got to do them. Actually, I haven’t even had a chance to READ them yet. If I do, and I have opinions worth sharing, I might do a few of my own writeups. But likely only if I really like something he was ambivalent on. Since he’s a smart guy, I expect to share many of his opinions.

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