I’m not including certain things that could admittedly be corrected simply by adding the characters back in, like the fact that Stephanie Brown and Wally West are missing, among others.
Sure there are some very good books published by DC right now, but those are good thanks to the writers they put on them!
I’d like to say it wasn’t worth it, but in reality, they are selling a lot more since they did it. But here’s what bothers me.The sales are a result of two factors.
The first factor, and the biggest, is the hype of the reboot itself. No matter how they had handled it, those sales were guaranteed already.
The second? DC doesn’t seem to realize that their strong sales are not thanks to some stupid decisions but rather despite them. The new DCU is selling well because of its hype and thanks to some titles where they put the right writers and artists to do the job, like Batman, Animal Man, Aquaman and a few others. Those factors are what make fans put up with titles where they did the opposite (Liefeld & Lobdell come to mind) and stupid editorial decisions.
The part of sales that aren’t hype are those that come from good storytelling or fans sticking to a character they love no matter what. Every time DC does things like denying Stephanie Brown to fans, telling us Tim Drake was never Robin, telling us all the awesome Teen Titans stories from the past never happened… Every time, they make the real fans of the DCU disgusted and tired of that crap. Honestly, I think the best aspects of the previous DCU were built from changes and character development. Wally West replacing Barry Allen worked and didn’t need to be changed. Barbara Gordon will forever be a lot more interesting a character as Oracle than as Batgirl. And so on. For all of its claims to being the ‘new’ DCU, it sure feels like the DCU of the 70’s!
Once the hype has died down, only the real fans of the DCU that care about it will remain. Except they are pushing those fans away. The ones that are aboard DC for its current hype are easily swayed. Marvel NOW is coming and many will go to the next new shiny thing.
I myself have decided not to buy issues #0 of ‘Batgirl’, ‘Teen Titans’ and ‘Red Hood & the Outlaws’. (Let me elaborate on why those are particularly relevant to me and this article) They’re all series I gave a chance to when they first started and then dropped, but I was initially going to get issues #0 of them anyway. Because I’m a Batman fan. Because no matter what, I wanted to know the characters’ ‘new’ origins. But you know what? I’ve decided to stop doing that. It’s that kind of fan behavior that makes companies treat their fans the way they do. Do I approve of Barbara Gordon never having been Oracle? No. DC, I won’t give you money to tell me she never was Oracle. Do I like what Lobdell is doing with past Robins Tim and Jason, or how he changes the Batman continuity needlessly in the worst way possible? No. DC, I won’t give you my money for Scott Lobdell stories.
I no longer care if it’s a story that completely changes the status quo or whatever. I will skip issues of a cross-over if they have to go into titles that insult me as a fan. I will boycott stuff I don’t like even if it means no longer being the Batman connaisseur I have always been up until this point. “No, I’ve never read Lobdell’s story of how Tim Drake became Red Robin in the new DCU. Yeah, I guess I’m not a real Batman fan now since I don’t know all the details!”
This basically means that DC is behaving in such a way that I’m becoming less of a fan in certain ways, despite that I’ve been following Batman comics since I was 8 years old! And I was the guy who took pride in knowing the most useless details of Batman’s history! “Batman’s utility belt had capsules and not pouches during the oval emblem/blue-and-gray outfit era!”
I’m not naive, of course the New 52 was good for DC as a business up until now. But, despite the incredible sales… I seriously think that if they continue to do things like that to us, in the long-term they are causing more harm than good for their characters. In the long-term, which is what really matters, they might lose more people than they gained.
Or maybe I’m being petty about the loss of a fictional universe I loved so much and I’m just convincing myself that DC will be punished for their lack of respect towards their own fans and characters. I can’t really tell anymore. I just know I wish the reboot had never happened. I hate it. I hate that Batman, who at first seemed mostly unaffected by the reboot, is now having his history mauled by poor writers and stupid editorial decisions.
What to say of Scott Lobdell on Bat-Family titles? First, he messed up big time with Jason Todd’s characterization. Judd Winnick had established the interesting notion that Jason didn’t blame Bruce for his death, he only blamed him of not having cared enough to kill the Joker afterwards. That made a lot of sense and did not make Jason come across as petty, if written well. After all, how could he blame Bruce if Jason himself was the one who had run off on his own, disobeying Bruce’s instructions? Well never mind that, in the New 52, Scott Lobdell ignored that important aspect that made Jason interesting and relatable and showed us a flashback scene with Jason blaming Bruce for ‘letting’ him die!
He also gave us a bland and unrecognizable Tim Drake in the pages of ‘Teen Titans’. I picked up the title at first if only to follow Tim, my favorite Robin, but it quickly became clear this was Tim Drake in name only so I dropped ‘Teen Titans’. And now Scott Lobdell has announced that in ‘Teen Titans #0’, he’ll explain how Tim was, in fact, never Robin. (Despite that New 52 titles have already established he used to be one, so DC once again proves they have no idea what’s going on with their continuity. Didn’t take them long to mess it up!)
It seems to me that so far, every continuity change brought to the Bat-Family that I despised other than Barbara Gordon never having been Oracle (which I think we can blame on Dan Didio, who’s always championed the notion of putting heroes from the 70’s and earlier back in the outfits they used to wear) has been done under the pen of Scott Lobdell.
It’s stuff like this that makes me no longer care about what was once a rich history and continuity I loved being knowledgeable in.
Well, my fears about Power Girl in the New 52 were half-right because there were two artists in this book and one got it wrong. You see, I recently picked up ‘Worlds’ Finest #1’, DC comics’ new title featuring Power Girl and the Huntress.
Now before I begin, this isn’t about me fixating on a specific part of the female body. Whether I’m a pervert or not is for me to know and while I will be discussing breasts in comics, it’s because it’s the most recent example of something that bothers me a lot in comic-books. I’d do a similar article if someone started drawing Dick Grayson/Nightwing as a bulky body-builder!
There’s a serious lack of different body types in comics. Few characters escape it, be they male or female. Very often all heroes will have the exact same build and will be differentiated only by their costumes and hair color if it’s shown.
When I met Marcus To to have an issue of ‘Red Robin’ signed, I congratulated him on drawing different body types for Bruce Wayne, Dick Grayson and Tim Drake/Wayne. Nightwing should be more lean than Batman because he’s more agile. Batman is supposed to be tall. Tim should look younger, but not like he’s 12. Marcus To was a great example of an artist who’s aware that not all characters should be copy/pastes of each other wearing different clothes.
Even great artists fall into that trap though. And recently, no better example of this has been as obvious as with George Perez’ work on ‘Worlds’ Finest’. Before I begin, I want to state that Perez is an awesome artist and he’s done remarkable work in the industry. A lot of modern artists could learn a lot from him. With that out of the way, let’s move to the criticism I have with this issue and his artwork in it.
So apparently this is Power Girl now:
However, this is Power Girl as I remember her:
Yes, the ‘boob window’ was a bit much and I’m actually glad it’s gone. But my point is that Power Girl was always a shining example of a different body type in comics. She was curvy, but in a way that looked natural, not in the unrealistic and gross way super-heroines were drawn during most of the 90’s.
And to clarify again, this isn’t me saying that all super-heroines should be curvy. Another good example I have for a female heroine with a different body type is Cassandra Cain/Black Bat, who was always portrayed like an athletic martial artist and not a pin-up model. If an artist suddenly drew her with lots of curves, I’d complain just as much as I am complaining now for the semi-loss of PG’s curves. (Yes, SEMI-loss, more on that in a bit!)
It gets even worse a bit later when this happens:
O.k, I’m sorry but those look like they’re made of silicone, perfectly round and ignoring gravity. It seems Mr. Perez had an issue with drawing large breasts on a woman (because busty women can’t be taken seriously, apparently) but he still gave her perfectly round ovals that no woman on Earth would have naturally. And no, I am not attacking women who choose to get implants, I’m just saying that PG is not supposed to have those, so why draw them like that?
Thankfully, the other artist on the book, Kevin Maguire, does it right:
See? That wasn’t so hard. It’s not exploitative, the whole picture isn’t centered around that aspect, but she IS curvy. It’s how she’s meant to look. And here’s what she looks like in her civilian clothes:
Again, not exploitative, just natural and realistic. She’s shapely and she does have a bit of natural sag. They’re not two unnatural round objects.
I feel bad saying this because I do enjoy George Perez’ art usually… But I seriously don’t know if I’ll be able to stick with this title if George Perez remains as the main artist. I guess I can put up with Perez’ art as long as Maguire is still on board.
Seriously, what did the New 52 that rebooted the continuity of the DC universe really bring us? (Yes DC, rebooted, not relaunched!)
- The Teen Titans were cooler pre-New 52.
- The chronology for the Bat-Family in the New 52 makes no sense and has been altered for the worst. (Jason Todd blaming Bruce for ‘letting the Joker kill him’ when in the previous continuity he actually didn’t blame him for that but rather for not having killed the Joker after. The fact that there are too many Robins for a five-year span. Even if you consider that Batman has been around a bit longer, then you’d have to make Batman older than the other heroes. And while I’m fine with an older Batman [I even prefer Batman to be in his thirties], I’m less fine with the idea that Superman is younger than him. Either way…)
- The heroes are acting like they used to anyway for the most part. There was no point. Batman or Superman don’t act like they’re in their early to mid twenties anyway, nor do the writers write them as such. Except for Nightwing/Dick Grayson, who is acting and looking much older than he should be now. Might as well have kept guys like Batman, Superman, Hal Jordan and others of that generation in their early to mid-thirties! (I’m just happy they messed with Batman very minimally)
- The Flash lost just about ALL of his extended cast!
- Barbara Gordon was so much better as Oracle. And just to clarify, it’s not about the wheelchair. I just thought she was more useful to the DC universe as Oracle, and different from all the other heroes out there.
- The integration of the Wildstorm characters wasn’t a bad thing, I think Stormwatch is a cool addition to the DCU. That’s one thing.
- A lot of the good stuff that happened in the New 52 happened despite it, not thanks to it. Scott Snyder was already doing a great job with Batman in ‘Detective Comics’. ‘Swamp Thing’, ‘Animal Man’, ‘Demon Knights’, etc… They could all have gotten made in the old continuity with very few changes, if any. (And if some changes needed to be made, there’s always the soft retcon that happens more discreetly rather than re-starting everything, like they did with Superman in the past few years before Flashpoint) I think the only series where I can see a full retcon was needed for the current approach was ‘Aquaman’. That’s the one place where I’d agree, because previously he was respected in the DC universe and to have him become laughing stock out of nowhere would have been odd.
- Superman. He lost his wife and red undies and gained a hard to pinpoint characterization. At least I used to know who he was… In fact, I still know who he is. He’s Superman. This retcon shall pass… Not in the sense that they’ll officially undo it, but a few years from now writers will make him more and more like he used to be.
My final opinion? If they wanted to restart all their series with new creative teams, they didn’t need such a drastic rework of their continuity to do it. I honestly cannot think of any changes I’ve liked other than for Aquaman and Stormwatch, which do not make up for all the good that was lost.
DC has released an image revealing the new look of Power girl in the New 52, DC’s relaunched continuity:
Here we see her on the left side, with Huntress on the right.
To compare, here’s an image of her in the previous continuity:
Some things come to mind when I compare the two versions…
- The Good: They got rid of the ‘cleavage window’ on her outfit. As much as it’s fun to look at it, there was just no good in-story reason for her to intentionally flash her cleavage while fighting super-villains. Also, I like that she wears pants now, the general look of the new outfit feels more ‘warrior’ than the previous one, with the bracers and all. Another plus is that she has a symbol on her costume now, which calls back to Superman but it’s her own, making her seem more confident all-around. Having a symbol on your chest instead of a cleavage window will go a long way to having people taking you more seriously as a competent superheroine.
- The Bad: I might get some crap for this from people who will misunderstand me, but hear me out first. I hate that they have reduced her chest size, and not for the reasons you might think. First of all, this is just one cover image and perhaps generally speaking, Power Girl will be as busty as she was. But with this as the only indicator of her new look, we have to assume she won’t be. Now many of you might think I’m just being a gross male stereotype for stating this, but I’m really not, in fact it’s quite the opposite. I’m somewhat offended that along the road to make Power Girl seem more believable and competent, they decided that reducing her breast size would make her be taken more seriously. Does that mean busty women in general should not be taken seriously then, is that what DC is trying to say? The same thing has been done to Lara Croft recently, and very often I’ve heard people outright state it; they take this character more seriously now that she doesn’t have large breasts. Does that mean we shouldn’t take Christina Hendricks or Monica Belucci seriously as actors and that they should only have roles as bimbos and airheads? If we follow that logic, the fact that they are busty makes them impossible to take seriously, right? Busty women should not have careers related to their particular skills, only their chest size defines them, right?
Listen, I’m the first guy to dislike it when an artist gets carried away with a character’s body type. When Cassandra Cain/Batgirl was drawn with large breasts on the cover of a Batman special a few years ago, I geek-raged over it, because that character is supposed to be lean, athletic and not curvy. When they draw Nightwing too bulky to do acrobatics, it annoys me. When Tim Drake/Red Robin was drawn like a body builder in an issue of ‘The Return of Bruce Wayne’, I complained. When anyone draws Damian/Robin way taller than a 10-year old should be… Guess what, I complain! I understand that each artist has their style, but at some point it’s also an artist’s job to portray these characters the way they’re meant to be. And Power Girl IS supposed to be busty! It’s not just how artists have drawn her over the years, it’s genuinely been referenced many times in stories she appeared in. It IS part of her character and who she is. To ‘back-pedal’ her chest size is an insult to curvy women everywhere and just as sexist and intolerant as making every single superheroine extra busty. One extreme is not better than the other.
I think that superheroes and superheroines should come in all shapes and sizes. It annoys the hell out of me when only hair style/color and the outfits differentiate one character from another. I think every character should be different. That includes leaving the bustiest superheroine of them all with her cup size intact in the new continuity. And maybe they will, after all I’m basing this on only one image, but I still believe everything I’ve stated.
That is all.
As a long-time reader and fanboy of super-hero comic-books, especially when it comes to Batman, I was more than a little nervous when I started hearing about DC’s relaunch of all its titles and planned changes to continuity when it was announced months ago. Looking back now, not even two full months in, I’ve got to say it was the best thing that could have happened to comics in recent years. To use a somewhat personal example, the comic-book store where I buy my comics has had a steady addition of newcomers or old fans who were coming back to the characters they had loved years ago.
By the way said store is in Montreal, if you live there go check out their web site! http://astrolib.com/
Now, I’ll be honest here and admit right away that since Batman’s continuity was left mostly untouched and since I’m less fanboyish when it comes to other characters, maybe I’m biased here. My main man Bats is pretty much the same way I last saw him before September’s relaunch so it’s easy for me to take this in stride. I imagine fans of other characters who were left more radically changed might be a bit more sour about this whole thing.
Anyway, here are, in no specific order of importance, some of the reasons why I think the relaunch was good for comic-books. Also be warned, there are some minor SPOILERS ahead.
1- Superman has regained a lot of respect lost over the years.
It might not be fair, but for many years Superman has been considered by a lot of fans to be less cool than darker and/or more ‘modern’ characters (whatever that’s supposed to mean) Writer Grant Morrison, while writing his critically acclaimed series All-Star Superman, said something along the lines that everyone already loves Superman, they just need to be reminded why.
It’s all the more relevant since Morrison is the one writing Superman’s new origin in the recently relaunched Action Comics. This is still Superman, but a more confident Supes, one less filled with self-doubt. I think a super-hero who constantly doubts himself has its place in comics, variety is the spice of life, but I agree that Superman should be THE super-hero. He should be confident and the one other heroes look up to.
In more than one way, Superman represents DC, and for years countless fans have used the fact that Superman is a ‘boring boy-scout’ to belittle DC’s storytelling. In my opinion it was an unfair judgment on the character… But not by much. It was a trend for other characters to talk down to Supes whenever there was an argument, or to portray Superman’s moral code as something that could limit him instead of representing it as a virtue of the character. But now we have a confident Superman who, in Justice League #1 when confronted by a reckless and violent Green Lantern, punches him away and confidently states “I don’t handle easily.” And with that page, Superman is re-introduced to us in this shiny new universe. And this Superman is confident and won’t be pushed around. And if Superman represents DC, maybe it also means that DC has also become more confident and won’t be pushed around by Marvel anymore. (And hey, I love Marvel characters, but don’t get me started on how the company has been behaving these past few years… But that’s an article for another time)
2- DC has made comics accessible
I remember being at a bar before the relaunch happened, chatting with someone in the entertainment industry. Given the person’s job, our conversation quickly moved to movies, then super-hero movies, and finally I was talking about DC’s relaunch. Now, this was someone who was really enjoying super-hero movies but didn’t read comics. However, as soon as I mentioned the relaunch, his eyes sparkled a little and he started to ask me details about it. And I told him that yes, all the series were re-starting with #1s. No, you didn’t need to have read anything that has come before to pick these stories up. And so on. And it was at that moment that I realized that a lot of people wanted to get into these stories and characters, but they felt intimidated by how unaccessible it all seemed. Whenever they would take a glance at comics, it was to see things like ‘issue #600’ on the cover or hearing long-time fans talking about decades of continuity and creative teams. The door wasn’t open to them, the world of comics was the equivalent of a VIP section where not everyone was invited in on the fun. And yes, as much as it hurts me as a long-time fan to admit it, it is a good thing that they renumbered Action Comics and Detective Comics too.
It goes without saying that having the comics come out digitally the same day as they come out in print also helps a lot for more casual fans, those who only care about reading the story and not about the collector’s side of things. And I think that is the right approach. In the past, comics have used lots of gimmicks to inflate sales, such as variant covers that only hardcore collectors will pick up but that leave the casual reader completely indifferent. And the secret for any fictional universe to succeed, be it in books, movie, t.v or comics, is a mix of having a hardcore base of fans… AND being accessible to the more casual fan, because in the end they might very well outnumber the hardcore ones.
3- Marketing can finally be called that at DC
How to put this… Before recently, I’ve always thought that whoever worked for the marketing departments at Marvel and DC have been doing a poor job at best. Announcing your new stuff inside the pages of your comic-books is a logical move… But you’re announcing it to people who are already likely to pick it up. You’re preaching to the choir, you’re not going door to door to convert new people. (This metaphor is making comics sound like some cult now, so moving on…) Now, putting ads on T.V? Makes a lot of sense! It should have been done a long time ago. Hell, in the 90’s a smaller company did it, so there was a precedent. And when you consider that DC is owned by Warner Bros and Marvel by Disney, there’s just no excuse for not spreading the product advertisement outside its usual ‘comfort zone’.
So that’s all for now. I could keep writing forever but I think these are the three main points to make about the relaunch. If anyone wants to know my opinion on other aspects of the relaunch, feel free to send me a question! :)