Tagged: Rebirth

Marc Alan Fishman: Comics Are Dead. Thank you, DC!

So, spoiler alert. The comic industry as we know it is going to die. Well, according to Dan DiDio and Jim Lee it is. At the San Diego Comic Con – which I clearly didn’t attend because I already knew comics were dying – the DC honchos all but shook their rain sticks at the assembled retailers to eulogize the industry before revealing how they would save it.

Forgive me. You no doubt heard the thundering cacophony of my right eyebrow arching high on my face at a speed worthy of Barry Allen. The speed at which it jutted there clearly broke the sound barrier in a reflex akin only to those meta-humans with the ability to transcend space and time.

There’s literally too much to unpack from all they blabbed on about for me to fit in a single column. And rather than present evidence how the comic industry isn’t dying at all, I’d like to specifically snark back on one particular point DiLeeDoo made.

“Comic books have become the second or third way to meet characters like Batman and Superman, and we want to change that.”

Uhh… Why?!

The statement itself is a bland platitude at best. It’s big-wigs trying fluff up their retailers – as well as comic fans – into believing their medium is purer than the first or second ways fans meet their heroes. That somehow, DC’s publishing arm will find a way to get kids into the comic shop before they see any licensed character on TV, movies, or frankly… the Internet. Of all the laughable things said at this panel – forgetting the whole part where they confirmed Dr. Manhattan made Rebirth happen – trying to pit comics against their motion picture counterparts takes the cake and crams in a pie to boot.

I am 35 years old. The first time I ever saw Batman? It was Adam West on the campy syndicated re-runs, in between episodes of Happy Days. Superman? Learned about him second-hand on any number of references dropped during episodes of Muppet Babies, or an errant episode of Challenge of the Superfriends. And while I would eventually seek the printed page for more mature and significant adventures of those (and all other) characters, the tent-pole flagship Trinity of DC Comics was met in motion long before the pulp.

Furthermore, as a Gen-X/Gen-Y/Millennial/Whatever I’m classified as these days, my generation learned and loved superheroes first via these extraneous ways, because the comics themselves were mired in the muck of massive continuities. As I’ve long detailed in this space previously, when comics peaked my interest it was because of an adaptation of an X-Men cartoon I’d seen the week prior. Investigating at the local Fiction House stressed me out when I saw an actual X-Men comic was on issue 568 (or whatever), and the shop keep made no qualms telling me he wouldn’t even know where to start me out if I was wanting to collect the book.

Times have since changed aplenty, but that doesn’t mean the same issues still exist if we are to take to heart Dan and Jim’s sentiment.

A 9-year old girl goes and sees Wonder Woman with her mom. She falls in love with Diana of Themyscira and begs her mom to learn more. They venture into the local comic shop, and what then? If the cashier is worth her salt? She’ll have a great big display of the now Eisner-Award Winning Wonder Woman: The True Amazon ready and waiting. But peer over to the rack, and where does our 9-year old go? Is the current issue of Wonder Woman ready and waiting? And where is Batgirl, and any other female-driven comics all set and ready for their newly minted fan?

And beyond that, how on Gaea’s green Earth would you ever suppose you’d find a way to get this 9-year old girl into the shop before she’d been enticed by the multi-million dollar blockbuster action film. Simply put, that’s proudly brandishing a knife in a nuclear bomb fight. It’s dumb to even think it, let alone declare it like a campaign promise.

To this point, credit where it’s due: Dan DiDio denoted the need for more evergreen books – titles that live outside any common continuity to tell great one-off stories – to specifically meet the needs of fans who come in (or come back) to comic books. The truth of the matter is no book will ever compete with a big release movie or a weekly television show. Video killed the radio star for a reason. And the Internet murdered the video star and put the snuff film on YouTube. To cling to printed fiction as some form of hipper-than-thou solution that could wage war with more ubiquitous platforms all in the name of changing the way the public meets their heroes is a dish I’ll never order, even if I’m starving.

To declare this was all in part to save the industry … well Dan: is it fair to have cultivated the problem only to turn around and say now you’ll save us from the very issues you created? That is some Luthor-level vertical integration if I ever did hear it.

Save me, Dan DiDio. You’re my only hope. Well, barring Image, Boom!, Lion Forge, Valiant, Aw Yeah, Oni Press, IDW, Dark Horse, Action Lab, and Unshaven Comics.

Marc Alan Fishman: The Green Lantern Rebirther    

Green Lanterns                                  

With a wavering hand, I cracked the seal on Green Lanterns: Rebirth #1 and Rebirth: Green Lanterns #1. That was not a typo. Just the crazy dumb way DC Comics wanted to release the first pair of issues concerning their emerald knights in this new and lovey-dovey DC Comics era. I read both books while my four-year-old bathed.

“What’s that dad?” He inquired. “Dat Gween Wanturn?”

“Yeah buddy.”

“No, it’s not. Why there two? There not two Gween Wanterns…” Why indeed, Bennett.

Why indeed. Well, as Geoff Johns and new scribe Sam Humphries are rebirthing the GL universe, they start with two distinct directions. Stalwart GL Hal Jordan is called off-world to deal with yet another massive threat that threatens the Corps whilst Earth is defended by a pair of rookie ring slingers: the he’s-not-a-terrorist Simon Baz, and the shut-in-Marc-never-heard-of Jessica Cruz. BazCruz get the flagship Green Lantern book, whilst Jordan will get his own series. And never shall the two meet. Or maybe they will. Who knows?

Concerning myself only with the sans-Jordan book for now, yields a rocky – if promising – start. As I myself came into reading (and loving) DC books by way of Kyle Rayner, seeing rookie ring bearers makes me nostalgic. One of the tent-poles of DC has long been their ability to create legacy in their brands that feels fresh. As the generation that grew up with Rayner, Wally West, Conner Hawk, et al, seeing Baz and Cruz under the domino masks feels like a necessary breath of fresh air. With Jordan off-world, there’s a sense of the larger scale the Lanterns hold in the DCU. And it’s hard not to like the deeply rooted buddy-cop vibe within the new series.

Like all good buddy cop pieces, Baz and Cruz play well off of one another, in spite of the dual-narration script device that forces the reader into lonely territory. Both Baz and Cruz are still light in the loafers when it comes to their characterization. In spite of whatever past exists for them both, I myself here am basically a virgin reader. I read the very first arc of Baz as GL, and frankly forgot it all by the time I cracked the spine on Rebirth. In the broad strokes, he’s the brash, violent, potentially chauvinist ring-slinger prone to hurl a construct first and bark orders at his partner… than to assess criminal situations.

This pairs well then with Jessica, whose lone trait thus far is that she was a shut-in prior to receiving her ring. Normally I’d take pains to look her up on Wikipedia, but I consider this my test of Sam Humphries’ scripting abilities to win my eyes for subsequent issues. Cruz plays the role of good cop decently. She is seemingly more cautious and more curious than Baz. The interplay between them truly feels like a police partnership. When Cruz is shot in the chest with a shotgun by a Red Lantern human puppet (more on that in a second), Baz screams for his partner, but not in that rote Oh my! I loved you all along! way. It’s a scream of concern. No surprise the ring came in handy in ensuring Cruz wasn’t immediately construct fodder. It helps to show both of them being bad at their job.

And what of that job? The big bad of the issue(s) is the Red Lantern Corp leader, Atrocitus. Seems that the New52 wasn’t so kind to his legions, as we find him choking out lead lieutenant Bleez whilst he complains of the dwindling number of red recruits. Never mind the irony of nearly killing one of your own, mind you. Seems yet another prophecy (Red Lanterns love ‘em) about the “Red Dawn” is coming. Helpful then of course that Baz develops Emerald Sight. Apparently the Oans loved Thundercats. But I digress.

Atrocitus sets in motion the erection (natch) of a Hell Tower, as well random Red Lantern recruitments of normal Earth folks, turning them into angry bile spewing meat puppets consumed with random fits of rage. Useful I suppose, as it will provide ample opportunity for Baz and Cruz to decide between using maximum force on would-be rage monsters… or attempting to break the blood curses through less violent ways. And hey, worst case scenario? Baz carries a sidearm because he don’t trust whitey. Ugh.

Ultimately, Green Lanterns: Rebirth is a promising (if a bit slow / shallow) start to a new series. Rookie heroes make mistakes, which make for good drama. Having two obvious minorities filling the role of Earth’s Green Lanterns add a ton of potential for new perspectives on old problems. The potential here is enough to sign on for more. Whether Humphries can deliver on the police procedural structure while delivering originality and depth will remain to be seen… like so much of Rebirth thus far.

I’m optimistic for the future.

Marc Alan Fishman: A Tale of Two Flashes

Flash Rebirth

DC’s Rebirth brings with it a commitment to the tenents of the brand before things got overtly grim and gritty. No better examples crossed my desk this past week – opening up my now monthly shipped comic pack – than Titans and The Flash. Forgive me, I’m not actually sure if they are supposed to be preceded or followed by the Rebirth moniker… the shop keep explained it to me a week ago, and I honestly don’t even remember now. But no bother. Each issue was read and absorbed, and I’m here to finally say the words:

DC put out some great comics.

Titans directly follows the Rebirth one-shot reintroduction to the DCU from a few weeks back. As you’ll recall that’s where (SPOILER ALERT) we learned the Watchmen may be big baddies in this new version of the DCU, that there’s up to three Jokers running around, and the Nehru collar is slowly falling out of style. But most importantly: Wally West has returned from the void that swallowed him whole during the now-defunct New52.

For a first issue, Titans takes things aggressively slow. In antitheses to the norm of #1 issues, here we get basically just a single drawn-out scene. Wally has returned to Titans Tower – err – Apartment, to gather intel on his former team. Nightwing immediately springs forth from the dark to fight the would-be intruder. A few panels – and one big shock – later, Dick Grayson remembers his fast friend. Not long after that, a similarly paced intro-fight-shock-apology occurs with each of the remaining Titans (in this iteration we have Nightwing, Arsenal, Garth, Donna Troy, and Lilith). A couple of hugs and exposition about a potential big bad to hunt down, and the issue is donezo.

The Flash reintroduces Barry Allen to all, by way of a more rote version of his well-treaded backstory. Taking cues from the recent TV series, our definitive origin is now this: Barry witnessing the murder of his mom when he was 7, by Professor Zoom. His father is incarcerated for the murder, and Barry spends his days eventually exposing and incarcerating Zoom at Iron Heights. Barry is still CSI, under TV-guided Captain Singh. The issue pulls a bit of a wink and nod by starting us off at this familiar crime scene; a murdered mother, a father to blame, a child who watched it all. But this isn’t Barry Allen’s backstory. It’s present day, where he’s tending to a new case in Central City. And with his lab equipment churning away, Barry takes to the streets.

We’re caught up to the Rebirthening of Wally West, but this time from Barry’s perspective. After a similar explanation of the potential big bad, Barry splits from his protege to continue in his own way. He runs to the other top CSI in the DCU; Batman. From there, a quick reset of known facts (Comedian’s bloodied pin, visions of speedsters, mentions of time bandits…), a cliffhanger to chew on, and the issue ties itself up in a neat bow.

Beyond the snarky synopsis though, both of these books peel back the words of Geoff Johns not more than a few weeks back. As I’d snarked about previously, the DCU creative powerhaus incarnate took umbrage towards the cynical and cyclical nature of the brand he himself represented. He appealed to the baser instincts of the DCU: to celebrate heroism and optimism over real-world issues and the doldrum of continually modernized comic canon. At the time, I scoffed. In fact, if you go back and read my words, I vowed to continue to ban my enjoyment of their (and Marvel’s) books! But somehow, like a jilted ex, I couldn’t quit on comics. And while neither Titans or Flash were perfect… they were what was promised.

While we’re still very high above the week-to-week gestalt of what all DC is trying to prove with their Rebirth movement. But if the aforementioned issues are the spark to ignite the new wave of pulp, then I’m very much game for the future. Even with the imminent threat of further dragging down Alan Moore’s creation into the mire of pop-cannon or the threat of unknown Speed Force demons, it’s hard to finish either opening salvo and not walk away with a smile. Titans overtly celebrated friendship and the makeshift families we build for ourselves – through the lens of a formerly hokey after-school superhero club. Flash begins right where the New52 left us off – angry, depressed, embittered – before pivoting towards hope, rationality, and the teaming up of dissimilar heroes working towards a common goal.

Suffice to say I’m timidly optimistic myself. While he didn’t pen either issue, I feel as if I owe Mr. Johns a drink the next time we cross paths. Granted it won’t ever happen… but I’ll be damned if I don’t owe it to him anyways. The future is bright once again.

And that is a Flash Fact.

Marc Alan Fishman: DC Rebirth Saved Me


Followers of this column are about to do a double take. They will question my sanity, my constitution, and whether I’m now a pod-person. But, heed my words, for they are true.

I traveled a long and hard road from my suburban home 45 minutes north to a different suburb so that I could make a transaction I’d honestly figured I wouldn’t make for years to come. After giving up mainstream comics (and weekly comic purchases) for two years, I handed over three bucks and picked up DC Universe Rebirth.

And I loved it.

Stop laughing at me.

In all the lead up to the big epic oh my Rao event I may have said a few … ahem… embittered words over the whole announcement. And to be fair, a lot of my points will remain valid in spite of my newfound like of Geoff Johns’ epic apology for the New52. It’s still a return to event-driven sales spikes, resetting books once again to #1, and making all of comic book fandom play a rousing game of WTF when it comes to figuring out what actually happened in continuity and what didn’t. But it doesn’t serve me anymore to deal in the macro. Let me crack open the book and figure out how Johns served me a plate of raw crow and I lapped it up like… oh, whatever eats a crow quickly.

Geoff Johns made his career (in my humble opinion) on harnessing emotion and sewing it into the rich tapestry of DC’s long-standing continuity. As he elevated the JSA, the Flash, Green Lantern, and other then-off-in-the-margin players through the DCU, Johns maintained a through-line of optimism… until Flashpoint. As the start of the New52 directive, Johns helped usher in the new era of DC Continuity, one meant to gel better with various other media properties, update languishing characters, and scrubbing off the dirt of one or two many crises. But in doing so, the New52 embraced the dour side of the DCU. Suddenly everything seemingly needed to carry a hipster-sheen and a splash of fuck you to it.

Rebirth acknowledges this and takes a smart step back. We’re reintroduced to the lost Wally West, and are given him as the anchor to whatever this new future holds. Across four chapters and the epilogue Wally searches for a single soul who can actually remember him. As the speed force (a penciling, inking, and coloring nightmare of a deus ex machina if ever there was one) threatens to tear Wally apart and disperse him to the next would-be speedster, we relive his complicated backstory in between scenes and snippets in the current continuity. And as Johns has relished in it before, again everything feels earned, and intelligently aligned.

Wally feels as if the world has simply forgotten emotions, states of being, and relationships. His attempt at anchoring to Batman (the clear progeny of analysis and logic) fails. A trip to visit the once-wielder of the Thunderbolt is met with confusion and fear, proving that legacy is no tether either. We’re even goaded into believing in the power of love, only to see Linda Park rebuke a waning Wally. It’s almost gut wrenching. Wally West, once a ward, then the hero… finally gives abandons hope.

And then Wally heads home for a final goodbye with the man who’d started it all. Barry Allen.

What follows between the two of them is a scene so potent I can’t do it justice in description. Johns and his cadre of astounding artists produced tears in my eyes over the bond between fictional characters I don’t even care that much about. While I do love (and own) Johns’ entire run on The Flash I’ve never claimed more than a passing fondness for the scarlet speedster(s). But here, across 60 sum pages, I’m now looking for the local chapter of the Speed Force Anonymous.

Hello, my name is Marc Alan Fishman, and I think I love the Flash. All of them.

But, even moreso, I love hope. Optimism. Love. Friendship. Kindness. Heroism. Everything I’d stopped seeing two years ago when I gave up comics. Here in Rebirth, I got it all back in spades, and I’ll be damned if I didn’t begrudgingly call the shop after finishing it to subscribe to a few books a month. More on that in future columns. Rebirth as a single stand-alone issue suffers only from the fact that it is meant as a one-and-done precursor, spinning off into 20+ books in the included checklist. This is where my review ends and the snark reemerges. Left to his own devices and narrative, Geoff Johns weaved a wonderful – dare I say masterful – tale. But in the context of the epic event, we’re still crushed under the weight of publishing profit mandates. The end of the issue is well earned, but truly to be continued. And ain’t no way I’m continuing it to the tune of that many new books.

But you see, fellow readers of Rebirth, you are likely asking… what of the 500-pound blue, naked elephant in the room – well, actually, Mars.

I’m going to leave you here, and politely toss the gauntlet of coverage to my ComicMix cohort, the magnificent Mindy Newell. Until next time, I’m your humbled and humiliated comic reader once again.

Marc Alan Fishman: The Rebirther Movement

Ross DC

So, DC Comics is vowing – once again – to reset-ish their universe via the “Rebirth” event coming soon to a comics shoppe near you. And DC’s CCO Geoff Johns posted a heartfelt mission statement into the back of the current crop of DC comics to reannounce it, since Dan DiDio announcing it doesn’t count or something. Well, knowing that some of us snarky malcontents have long abandoned the ship, Newsarama was happy enough to reprint his plea. Let me paraphrase:

Dear Fans, remember when I wrote great books, and you loved DC? Well, pretend the New 52 never happened, and come back. We totally get that some of you got mad and left, but because of reasons… we’re making good books again. Because our creators have passion. And I wrote those ‘Rebirth’ books about Green Lantern and The Flash… so that name is synonymous with not sucking. You know, unlike ‘Crisis’ or ‘One Year Later’, or ‘Trinity’, or ‘Flashpoint’. So, come back. I swear it’s worth it this time, you cynical pricks. Love, Geoff Johns.

All my snark aside, Johns hits on some of the major cornerstones of what did make DC great for me as a fan not that long ago; legacy, a singular and understandable continuity, and solid stories that pit heroes against villains in new and interesting lights. The pre-New52 DCU was good. Maybe even great. The Flash had a veritable family. As did the Bats, and the Supes, and the multi-colored Lantern brigades. But as with all good things, the boardroom saw potential sales stagnation and slammed on the brakes. Then came “Flashpoint,” and a new universe was made. But you knew all this. And you knew/know that the entire purpose of the system shock was to place new #1s on the shelves; because that makes for temporary sales spikes. And new merch. And new opportunities for newness. Newness begets money. And so on.

Plus, Marvel kinda sorta did it too, and their movies are minting billions.

But forgive me Geoff. It’s all a bit “too little, too late”, isn’t it? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times? Well, I don’t know how the saying goes anyways. I just can’t shake the feeling that we’re doing the same dance again, and somehow expecting different results. As I stated previously, with Rebirth comes the same damned shit in new packaging. It’s enough to make me declare – ahem (and please excuse this harsh-but-necessary-language) fucking stop it.

Once again Johns, DiDio, Lee, and the lot of DC execs are cramming specials, new #1s, and semi-monthly comic drops on us under the guise of “the continuing pursuit of giving our fans what they love.” And, sure, they changed the price point (a dollar less per issue, for an undisclosed page count per book), but that won’t matter when fans of a character are asked once again to invest more money per month to enjoy the adventures of a given character! And DC knows this. Because if you are a true fan, you likely would give a chance to all the new creative teams surrounding a character you like; sort of what DC hoped fans would give nearly every New 52 title at least a starting arc to pique their interest.

Rebirth? Hardly. Consider it just another rebranding. And as always: it’s a game of Darwinian survival; those books that don’t sell X copies will fall by the wayside, lest they be an upcoming movie or animated feature.

Deadpool 13And don’t paint me a complete malcontent here, folks. I loved DC comics from the moment I purchased my first back issue of Shadow of the Bat when I was 13. I followed the entirety of Kyle Rayner’s career until Hal Jordan rebirthed himself. I purchased coffee table books of Alex Ross art, and read the DC Encyclopedia until the spine broke. But a decade worth of decline beginning in my college years through my “spendy twenties” right up until I had a new mouth to feed and a mortgage to pay left me embittered to the cheap tactics of comics-by-committee.

A part of me doesn’t even blame a true fan like Geoff Johns for winding up in this place. He wrote (and still writes) amazing stories. His heart is seemingly pure. In his lament, he mentions terms like legacy, epic storytelling, and my favorite: honoring what’s come before while looking to what will come tomorrow. It’s everything I want to hear as a fan.

But, Mr. Johns, what comes tomorrow is more of the same: a litany of new series I’m supposed to drop coin for, full well knowing we’ll be right back to retcon city long before my son is practicing for his Bar Mitzvah. You know it. I know it.

Sorry, Geoff. Your words were hollow. And much like Rebirth to come? I’m not buying it.

Stay tuned next week, when I tell everyone what I am buying in place of “The Big Two.”

Joe Corallo: Don’t Call It A Comeback!


I’m sure many of you are aware of the upcoming DC Rebirth. I’ve been following it along since the first bits of news surfaced, and I almost wrote about it last week. Now I feel enough is out there where I can start forming some level of opinion on it. And try as I might, it’s not a particularly positive opinion. However, that’s strictly regarding Rebirth. I do think DC may have a couple of good ideas here. Just not with diversity in mind.

Hear me out on this one.

Rebirth shouldn’t shock anybody. As far back as last August, we heard that DC was going to “Stop Batgirling” and get back to “meat and potatoes.” Many people wrote about this and how problematic it was since “meat and potatoes” came off as “more straight cis white guy stories.” Back in August, that was just an opinion on what might happen. Granted, a well informed opinion, but still an opinion. Based on the titles being offered starting in June, it’s hard to argue that this isn’t now a fact. At least it took almost a year for this all to happen, which gave us time to enjoy comics like Doctor Fate and Midnighter. They will be sorely missed by me and quite a few people I know. Not enough people, apparently, but still quite a few.

In lieu of diversity, DC is doubling down on its core characters. It may come of as a sound conservative move to retreat back, reassess, and plan accordingly to expand after. Looking at the line-up DC has presented certainly shows that they are taking far fewer risks than they did back with the New 52. Outside of arguably Gotham Academy: Next Semester, every single title is a superhero one. At a time of where publishers like Image are encroaching on the big two with its wider variety of genres, this seems like more than just one step back for DC Comics.

Why would DC think this is such a good idea?

The short answer may very well be DC’s Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns. He’s a talented writer that has helped DC a great deal in the past. However, he’s also constantly looking backward when it comes to important aspects of the stories he’s telling. This is the guy that orchestrated the biggest reboot of Green Lantern which involved bringing back straight cis white Hal Jordan as its torchbearer. Similar strategies were used in his runs on comics like The Flash and Teen Titans. His comments that he made regarding Rebirth are troubling. A lot of looking backward and keeping the fan base small, isolated, and nearly impenetrable is what I and many others got out of it.

As a queer reader, canceling the only gay male superhero comic alone hits a bit hard, especially after a fairly short run. Cancelling Catwoman as well seems a bit excessive. In addition to Batwoman staying gone, Poison Ivy not continuing to have a series (I know it was just meant to be a mini-series, but still), that just leaves Harley Quinn and Hellblazer. The only queer characters worth having in their line are only the ones who have been in movies and TV shows I suppose. It’s rough enough that the queer representation lately has been almost exclusively cis and white (at least in headlining a book), but this step back makes it seem like it may be a long time before we can even move past that. It looks like it could be a long time before Alysia Yeoh becomes a kickass vigilante (if she ever does) and don’t even get me started on when we’ll see Rene Montoya as The Question or Kate Godwin as Coagula again.

At this point you may be curious as to what I was getting at before when I said that DC may have some good ideas here. They might. Not with Rebirth, but with Vertigo and their Hanna-Barbera titles. Not too long ago, DC’s New 52 did have quite a few risky books coming out. While doing that, they neglected the Vertigo line. Saying Vertigo as an imprint was anemic at the time would have been a nice way to put it. Part of that was DC bringing back characters like Animal Man, Swamp Thing, Constantine, and Doom Patrol into the main continuity. They also just weren’t pumping out the same number of titles, and books like Fables were coming to an end. Now, Vertigo appears to be thriving. It seems pretty clear to me that DC’s approach now is to keep it’s main line more conservative and less risky and using Vertigo to take chances and experiment again. When framed in this context, it doesn’t sound quite as bad. I haven’t really seen it framed this way yet, but maybe as the new Vertigo titles get further along and Rebirth begins, we’ll see commentators putting this all in a slightly different context.

With the Hanna-Barbera titles, DC can address the problem with the lack of comic offerings they have for kids. That’s a good thing. We need more kids reading comics if we’re going to keep expanding the readership. And the way Jim Lee is apparently looking into making Hanna-Barbera comics a shared universe, it allows the kind of story telling that’s used in most DC comics while having it for a younger audience. Hey, it works for Archie.

If your head is currently exploding because I haven’t taken the time to acknowledge how much I hate the new hipster looking Scooby Doo character designs, it’s because I don’t. If you have a non exploded head on your shoulders you’ll be able to find out why. It’s because the new Scooby Doo isn’t supposed to be for me. It’s supposed to be for kids. Some of which might not even be aware of Scooby Doo. This could be their first look at these characters. Maybe the kids will hate it. I don’t know. What I do know is hating character designs for kids’ comics clearly not made for me is a waste of my own time and energy. I have plenty of other things to get angry about. This is an election year after all.

My qualms with the Hanna-Barbera line of comics lie in diversity. They are white. Very very white. And straight. And cis. That’s the downside of going back to older properties like this. It’s a point I’ve brought up before, and this is just another example of the problems of resurrecting much older properties that didn’t have diversity in mind. I’m not angry that Scooby and the gang look like they’re living in Williamsburg or Bushwick now, but if you don’t mind updating the designs, why do they all still have to be straight cis white people? If it’s not at all important that Shaggy stays clean shaven and is allowed to be drawn with crazy facial hair, then why is it so important that he has to be portrayed as white?

The Vertigo line seems to have more stories involving women than the main DC line. That’s great. We definitely need more of that. However, Vertigo does seem very white. They have some great titles, but between DC’s main line, the Hanna-Barbera offerings, and Vertigo, I can’t help but feel we’ve taken a few steps back in queer and minority representation. Maybe this is temporary, since comics focusing on diversity seemed temporary at DC, but we’ll have to wait and see.

In other news, I’ve caught up on Image Comics’ The Wicked + The Divine. Now that is a great inclusive comic.

Martha Thomases: Comic Books For Everyone!

Silvestri Batman

There was a disturbance in the Force this weekend as DC announced that they were, once again, relaunching their entire line … sort of.

On the one hand, I’m sick of this. It might work as a publicity stunt for a few months, but, in and of itself it doesn’t necessarily attract new readers. On the other hand, what else can they do?

Just a few days before, my pal Val D’Orazio posted some interesting opinions about the comic book market. She looks at distribution and promotion and demographics and all the other elements that have been part of our discussions about comics since at least the 1970s.

In case you’re new to this, let me try to sum it up (which will, by necessity, over-simplify things). The emergence of the direct market allowed comics to go from a mass medium to a more sharply focused (and therefore, more profitable) business. There were risks (for example, speculation) but there were benefits (cheaper cost of entry allowed more experimentation). For a glorious few years, all kinds of books were offered from all kinds of new publishers, although Marvel and DC continued to dominate. The market grew to include graphic novels, thus entering the mass market again via bookstores. Recently, digital distribution makes it easier for new demographic segments to inexpensively sample titles without having to go to comic book specialty stores.

Or, to quote Val, “In particular, there is going to be a big market for diverse, relevant, young adult serialized content; that is where a lot of the best “new ideas” in comics will be coming from, the sorts of ideas that get optioned for movies and TV.”

Please note: When she says “young adult,” she is referring to that segment of the book publishing business that includes Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Divergent and the like. It’s a marketing term, not a judgment call. In other words, what is currently one of the most profitable areas.

How does the current publishing model fit with future? Not very well.

I love going to the comic book store on Wednesday. Really. Even in the snow. I like to pick up a pile of overpriced (in terms of cost per minute of entertainment) paper pamphlets and read them over lunch, or over an afternoon. However, I’m someone who has been doing this for nearly 60 years. I’m certainly not the cool, young market that advertisers and publishers want.

And even though I’ve been reading comics for such a long time, I have trouble keeping continuity together. If I was a young person today, I would find the whole thing to convoluted to bother.

DC seems to think the solution is to start from scratch so everyone has a chance to get in on the ground floor. I get it. The New 52 worked pretty well for them, at least commercially.

Unfortunately, they seem to miss what I consider to be the point: they bog down their new continuity with old continuity. And they seem to think that on talent that might be well known within the comics industry will be a selling point to new readers from outside the market.

I like Scott Snyder’s writing very much, and those Marc Silvestri pages are gorgeous. I don’t mean to say those men are not talented, but that they are not known to people who don’t already read comics.

At the same time, a lot of current readers are turned off to buying current comics book series because they don’t like stories that are “written for the trade,” that is, stories that are planned for collections, not for individual issues. This is understandable. If one spends three or four dollars (or more) on a comic book, one would like to get a story.

And a lot of people who like comic book characters (like the Flash, or Agent Carter, or Lucifer, or Batman or the Avengers or Your Favorite Here) are intimidated by comic book stores. All they know is what they see on The Simpsons or The Big Bang Theory. They might enjoy comics, but they need a safe way to sample them.

Even though I’m not a huge fan of reading comics online (I think I’ll like it better if I get the bigger iPad), I think the Interwebs offer a solution. A lot of the expense of publishing comics comes from buying paper, printing, and shipping. By promoting and publishing all kinds of comics online, publishers can attract new readers more inexpensively than with paper, and save hard-copy publishing for the more popular titles.

For example, I’m an old fart who would very much enjoy reading the occasional adventures of the Legion of Super-Pets and their romps through space. I would also like more “realistic” stories, like the procedurals in Gotham Central and Resident Alien. I’d gladly pay a few bucks for the chance, especially if, as Val suggests, there is some kind of Netflix like structure that lets me binge at will.

I haven’t figured out the economics yet, but everyone involved should get paid at least a living wage – not just the creative talent but editors, lawyers, and so on.

If you want to see comics that feature people of color, or queer people, or more women, there can be comics for you. If you want to see the (mostly) all-white comics of the past, there can be comics for you.

Just as having more channels on television has brought more good shows, having more channels for comics should bring more good comics.

Molly Jackson: Create or Die

create or die

In the past, many writers on this site, myself included, have written columns shining a light on the abused state of minority characters at the Big Two. While I agree with everything said, I think that we have left out the very important point of creating new characters. For the past decade or so, it’s felt like more of a rehashing of characters than creating. C’mon, when was the last time you thought of Marvel as the “House of Ideas” without being sarcastic?

In the last couple of weeks we’ve seen aggravating comic announcement from the Big Two. DC Comics is doing what seems like another reboot called Rebirth. This is rumored to bring the comics in sync with the movies and TV shows. Marvel revealed that they are doing another repeat event with Civil War II. All I can do is sigh.

If we want to see more diverse characters in comics, they will need to be created. New heroes and new villains to fill the diversity void. Yes, I want diverse villains. I need someone like me to be evil.

In fairness, Marvel has done some of that with the creation of Kamila Khan, a.k.a. the new Ms. Marvel. She is a great addition to their universe and her creation proves the whole argument about diverse comic company staffs. That series was heralded as a great change for Marvel but it seems to start and end there. Even in Battleworld, their latest event, Ms. Marvel does not fare well.

I understand the desire to use a large stable of artists rather than create. It means that they can avoid the trap of paying royalties to the creators while still swapping in and out lesser used characters. However, the comics are suffering in a major way. Stories are being retold over and over, rather than creating new ones. Creators are saving their very best for their creator-owned titles, but those are not getting the notice like books from DC and Marvel. Rather than innovate, they have chosen to focus on their entertainment properties because they represent a bigger financial growth. However, this will just hurt them in the long-term.

At this point, I feel obligated to point out that today Faith #1 is coming out from Valiant. Faith is an overweight female superhero, which is a unique change in a few ways. While Valiant has driven us all mad with the almost 12 months of promoting the limited series event, it is about an overweight female superhero. While most of you might be shaking your heads that this isn’t needed, there are plenty of overweight women (myself included) that are excited about it. But even more, I’m hoping that this book is encouraging to that comic reading high school girl who has body image issues. Seeing anyone overweight taken seriously, especially at that age, can make a real and positive impact. I haven’t read it yet (because I am speaking to you from the past! Ooooh, Time Travel!), but I am excited and hopeful that Valiant made a great stride here.

There are some great characters at the Big Two. Characters that I love and respect with all my heart. But the world is a changing and growing place, and the heroes we have are not necessarily the heroes we need. We need new heroes to represent the new world we live in: where racial and religious divides still threaten our communities; where gender and sexual orientation are still judged too harshly; and where we, as a global community, have started standing up against the hate to make these changes happen.

When anything fails to create, innovate and change, it begins to die. Hopefully Marvel and DC realize this before it is too late.