By Glenn Walker
"It's like déjà vu all over again." This amusing Yogi Berra quote approximates one of my biggest problems with DC Comics' New 52. The idea of the restart, the blank slate for some of these characters bothers me quite a bit.
One of the reasons is I don't like origin stories. No, scratch that, I do like origin stories, I just don't like them when they're not needed, or when they are told over and over again. I hate them in superhero movies. It seems like when a hero gets a movie the origin has to be done, whether we like it or not. Just think, next year we'll have Spider-Man's origin told in the movie theater twice in less than ten years.
Why can't they just tell a good story? Just do that, and we as viewers will accept that the hero is who he is and can do what he does. That's how they did it back in the Golden Age, the Silver Age, and especially in the old movie serials. Heck, back in the Bronze Age, in the late 1970s, DC Comics themselves did it one better. Every story opened with an introductory paragraph that told you who the hero was, where he came from, and what he could do.
Here's an example: Rocketed as a baby from the exploding planet Krypton, Kal-El grew to manhood on Earth - whose yellow sun and lighter gravity gave him fantastic super-powers! In the city of Metropolis, he poses as mild-mannered TV newsman Clark Kent - but battles evil all over the Earth - and beyond - as… Superman!
DC should probably implement that again; as a matter of fact, I think most superhero comics should. If you can't tell me the origin in one paragraph, it might just be too complex. Yes, I'm looking at you, Miles Morales.
The starting from scratch idea has actually ruined a few of the New 52 for me. Case in point - The Flash #1. It's a great comic, good story, great new costume, and a terrific new foe in the style of the Silver Age rogues. My problem is that they have turned back the clock. Barry Allen is no longer married to Iris, and on page one, is on a pseudo date with Patty (our Bronze Age preemptive Ms. Flash) Spivot. This just isn't right.
Even as a kid (not yet a married adult, so screw your relation theories), I preferred loving married Iris Allen over mean single Iris West. Barry and Iris had a love that spanned millennia and the multiverse, and survived both their however-temporary deaths. They are soul mates, just as much as Hawkman and Hawkgirl/woman, and they belong together.
I love Barry Allen, and the Silver Age Flash is one of my all-time favorite characters, but do you know when I didn't like him? After Iris' death, when he was dating Fiona Webb and flirting with Zatanna, that's when he was a jerk. I didn't want to read about him. Notably I kept reading even when he was a widowed angeldust addict, but not as a jerk.
Speaking of jerks, we are also back to square one with Superman. The Clark/Lois/Superman triangle is back. I thought we were done with this kind of deceit. If Superman was as true blue as he's always pretended to be, this cruelty would have ended decades earlier than it did. I'm telling you, if Lois shot Clark to death with kryptonite bullets after finding out he'd been yanking her chain with the whole double identity thing for so long – even Judge Judy would acquit her. I don't want to go back to those dark days, but I think I've written enough about that already in these blogs.
Getting back on track, when Superman was rebooted in 1986, the one thing that turned me off was that everything was erased, it was a blank slate. While that was not a bad thing in itself, I then had to read certain stories over again as they were retold. I remember being bored to tears by all the Cadmus Project stories as I had already read them all before, back when they were called the DNA Project as written by Jack Kirby.
Dan Jurgens is a great comic book writer – when he's not retelling Kirby Superman stories over and over again. I certainly hope that won't be the case with Grant Morrison's new Superman. Unfortunately for me, I think we will be getting the Cadmus/DNA Project stories again anyway in the new Superboy and Teen Titans. I certainly hope not. As much as I liked Morrison's take on the early Superman days in Action Comics, I hope we won't be getting too many repeats. It's dangerous territory, as his origin has been retold at least three times in the past decade, and will also appear again in the Man of Steel film – not to mention almost fifty years of Superboy stories – as if we could all forget Superman's origin…
The best #1 issue of DC's New 52, in my opinion, is Aquaman #1. You know why I think a big part of that is? Because the story accepts what has gone before (and Aquaman's marriage to Mera is still intact, unlike other DC Comics marriages) and works with it. Why couldn't all the DC titles have done that? Writer Geoff Johns has fun with Aquaman's history and perception, and fun is something lacking in many of the New 52 as well.
The storytellers of the DC Universe should be guided by the work of Grant Morrison's Batman, Steve Englehart's Justice League of America and Detective Comics, and James Robinson's Starman. Just write good stories – and assume everything that came before did happen, but just don't reference it unless it's important to the story you're telling. It's pick and choose continuity, but it's continuity that works.
Keep it simple, keep it entertaining, and just tell good stories – and not re-tell them. Please.
By Allison Eckel
Three weeks of new DC Comics titles, and Batwoman appears in the top five of nearly all reviewer lists as the best of the crop. Keeping her company are Animal Man, Swamp Thing, and Batman. The fifth spot on the leader board seems to be the wild card slot, chosen depending on the reviewer’s particular tastes. I have to agree that those four titles are compellingly written with art that takes typical comics storytelling to new levels. However, I don’t really like them.
I set out to say that I don’t really like Batwoman specifically, but realized that the others didn’t really excite me either. I have been dragging my feet trying to complete this article because I can’t quite explain my statement – like that “Ollie-ness” so missing from J.T. Krul’s new version of Green Arrow. Elusive, undefinable, and really kind of important.
But, I don’t really have to like these particular books because the 48 other choices are designed to offer something compelling for almost every type of reader. While they don’t quite go that far, they come close. Pre-DCnU, readers had simple choices. You want a strong hero-led book? Batman, Superman, or Wonder Woman. You want an ensemble cast? Justice League, Justice Society, or Legion. There were a few others on the fringes, but they were not the central tent pole titles.
We are still in early days, but in the DCnU, I don’t see a clear core of books that all must read. Perhaps because in rolling out the new universe, the company is giving almost equal weight to every title. Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. seems almost as important in the grand scheme as Wonder Woman. Could this be due to the dual layer of storytelling presented in each book? We have the creative team’s story and then we have the way it all fits in with the bigger picture of post-Flashpoint and that glowing Mystery Lady that only Superboy seems to sense. By inserting her into every #1, DC is telling readers that even I, Vampire will somehow be important.
That should free readers to sample all of the books and commit to the ones they truly like. We all like different things for different reasons, so I am a little surprised that the group of Batwoman, Animal Man, Swamp Thing, and Batman so consistently land at the top of every list. I suspect mob mentality or a feeling of, “Well, So-and-so said it’s really great so it must be.” And as I said, they are all well-done. But so are a lot of other books. So, I am breaking from my pundit colleagues, going out on a limb, and saying that I really didn’t enjoy Batwoman.
Now, because I am a comics reviewer who focuses on DC Comics, it is in my (non-existent) contract to compile my own list of top DCnU books so far. In case you have the patience to read yet another list, mine is below. These are the books I am really excited to read regularly. I would like to read your list, but only if you choose the books you sincerely enjoyed, not just the ones everyone is lauding.
Allison’s Favorite DCnU Titles (So Far):
#1: Justice League
#2: Demon Knights
#3: Wonder Woman
#4: Green Lantern
Now, I have yet to read quite a few books. I am most excited to read: Flash, Firestorm, Aquaman, Superman, and all the books released while I was trying to write this, including Supergirl, Captain Atom, Birds of Prey, and the very sexy Catwoman. My leader board is likely to change.
For now, the comments section is open (here and on our Facebook page: All Things Fun! Comics). Share your pics for the DCnU titles that excite you so far. And if it’s Batwoman, tell me why.
By Glenn Walker
More than a few times on the All Things Fun! New Comics Vidcast when we've talked about Flashpoint I have referenced an old JLA/JSA crossover whose story is similar. The story appeared in the summer of 1965 in Justice League of America #37 and 38. With last week's conclusion to Flashpoint, I thought it now would be a good time to take a closer look at this classic story.
I picked up #37 first, not when it came out -- I''m not that old. As a widdle keed, I bought it for like a dime at a giant yard sale at Atsion Lake. Inside the box I plucked it from were comics with names and titles that I didn't even know yet, like the Losers, Capt. Storm, the Doom Patrol, Plastic Man, and House of Mystery. It was a veritable Silver Age goldmine, and I was yet to be a Vast Storehouse of Useless Knowledge, darn shame. I finally snagged JLoA #38, and the conclusion to the story, for much much more than a dime, at a comic book convention in the early 1980s. The fact that it was my first 'old' comic makes it extra memorable to me. We always remember our first.
Back in the early days of the DC Multiverse, this third JLA/JSA team-up actually formally introduced Earth-A, the fourth such parallel Earth. But, for those scientists, and DCU veterans out there, Earth-A wasn't a proper parallel Earth, it was in fact an 'alternate' Earth-One, one that was altered by tampering with events in its timeline. Someone time-travelled into the past and eliminated the Justice League. Starting to sound familiar, folks?
In "Earth -- Without a Justice League" and "Crisis on Earth-A," the classic original creative team of Gardner Fox and Mike Sekowsky presented a twisted tale of time travel and treachery. The Johnny Thunder of Earth-One, a petty con man and small-time criminal, upon learning the good fortune of his Earth-Two counterpart, wrested control of the Thunderbolt from him. Seeing the Justice League as a threat to his evil plans, he commanded the Thunderbolt to prevent the Justice League from ever becoming super-heroes. Yeah, it's what happens when the bad guy gets the genie.
Jetting back through time, the Thunderbolt went to work interfering in the various members' origins. He protected Barry Allen from the fateful lightning bolt, saved Krypton from destruction, prevented Abin Sur from crashing on Earth, destroyed the white dwarf star fragment that changed Ray Palmer into the Atom, short-circuited Dr. Erdel's experiment, and beat the crap outta Batman on his first case. As a kid, two things stuck in my mind. One, I was awed by the sheer power of the Thunderbolt. That he could save Krypton was no easy feat. And two, I got to see the Sekowsky-rendered original costume of the Batman. It's the rarely seen variation for his first appearance in Detective Comics #27, and was new to me. With no more JLA to stop them, Thunder and his gang proceed to raise hell.
Luckily, in typical Silver Age fashion, the JSA is paying attention to the doings on the altered Earth-One and go, disguised as the Justice League, to stop the evil Johnny Thunder's crime spree. Even awkwardly disguised, the JSA made short work of the Thunder gang. With the very powerful Thunderbolt at his disposal, however, bad Johnny makes him turn his gang into his very own Justice League by replacing them with the JLA members. He throws thug Race Morrison into the Flash's lightning bolt, and irradiates henchman Barney Judson with white dwarf material.
With Superman, Batman, and the Martian Manhunter… it gets iffy as to how they were replaced. Like I can sorta see Hawkman as J'Onn J'Onzz, but this is getting ridiculous. Yeah, I know, it really doesn't work if you think too hard about it, but let's be guided by the Marvel Comics "One More Day" philosophy - "It's magic, we don't have to explain it."
Anyway, presto change-o, and Johnny's gang becomes the Lawless League of Earth-A, and they do battle with the Justice Society. The conflict escalates as these things do, and finally the evil Johnny Thunder starts getting his butt kicked in the midst of combat, so he makes a final wish: none of this ever happens. Poof! Everything goes back to the way it was. No harm, no foul, except that bad Johnny ends up in jail. Perfect Silver Age ending: Almost everyone lives happily ever after. The evil Johnny Thunder does return decades later, but the less said about the 'new' origin of Black Canary, the better, as far as I'm concerned. It's rather disturbing, and best forgotten.
And there you have it, a lightning bolt-themed character changing the time stream to eliminate the Justice League - Silver Age version. And it happened before, and it will happen again. It just happened in Flashpoint. The Reverse-Flash, or maybe even the Flash, has been mucking with the time stream and has created a new continuity -- one where the Justice League never existed, where Aquaman and Wonder Woman have led their nations to war, and where the world stands in the balance.
Something tells me, based on the solicitation for the DCnU comics now beginning the New 52, that no one is going to make a wish and everything will be going back to status quo -- at least not in a good way. Let's just hold our breath, and hope for the best. This is a brave new world…