The Forgotten: My Thoughts on DC Rebirth.

First and foremost, Major Spoiler warning, I tried doing this without spoilers but even the first 5 pages are full of moments that will have massive repercussions over the next few months.

 

 

Still here? Alright good…but just to be sure…

 

So yesterday saw the release of DC Rebirth #1 and I’m sorry I took forever in writing this article but I had to process the issue and really approach this with a level head. For those of you that don’t know then this is the ultimate DC event that’s going to be a soft reboot of all of their comics. This is also the last comic that Geoff Johns is going to write for the foreseeable future. As I previously wrote about, he is going to go and head up the new DC Films and is focusing the majority of his time on that. I’m okay with Johns taking a break but not the way that they’re going about it. Rebirth doesn’t answer all of the questions that we have and I’m worried about other people carrying the story after Johns is gone. This is a story that could easily go off the rails quickly. Johns as a writer knows and loves these characters, he wants them to succeed and be as great to us as they are to him. His writing in this issue is some of the best he’s done since his Green Lantern finale but that’s exactly why it’s sad to lose him right here. He and the company used this issue to “fix” the DC universe and the “problems” of the New 52 and he did so in a way that only a certain group of people could be upset with, the only problem is that that group of people are the people who were helping to keep the lights on.

DC Rebirth #1 is narrated by Wally West, a character who’s original incarnation has been missing since the start of The New 52. Many fans wanted his return to DC and I did too. They brought us a new Wally West and although he was good, he was vastly different from who we were used to, the new Wally was a kid who was troubled and hung out with the wrong crowds and he had to be coached into becoming the hero we needed. The original Wally was the heart of The Teen Titans, he was the Flash that my generation grew up with and he deserved better than to just be “Forgotten”

That word takes on a new meaning in this issue because instead of dying, Wally has been flung through the speed force since The New 52 started. He wasn’t dead, he was just “Forgotten” It’s a very miserable existence and what’s worse is that he sees this darkness growing and can do nothing to stop it. He keeps trying to return to our world and while he’s trying when he finally does get back he tells us that our heroes have been weakened since The New 52 started. The villains of this time theft have been revealed as none other than Dr. Manhattan and Ozymandias from Watchmen. I actually really like bringing them in because Johns has spoken multiple times about a return of Hope and Optimism in the comics and films and there’s no greater villain for that then the cynicism of The Watchmen.  So now that Wally is back and he remembers everything that happened before The New 52 he can tell all of our new heroes about the people that they could be and once were which I guess I’m ok with that but I liked the characters in The New 52. One of the other things that Johns spoken about was a return to the legacy of DC. Which is great…but don’t forget the legacy of The New 52.

Chris Sims once wrote about “The Problem” and this issue coupled with the release of Batman V. Superman : Dawn of Justice solidifies it. The basic premise of “The Problem” is that DC has chased the popularity of Marvel for the past 50 years and they just can’t reach it.(Seriously, the entire article is worth your time. Go check it out.) He’s right about the idea and I do believe that it is a factor but the real problem in this instance is that DC hasn’t believed in the New 52 for the last two years. Batman was the only consistent run throughout the entirety of 2011-2016 and that was only because of Snyder, Capullo and Miki just all being exceptional creators. Everything else just sort of faded out and it seemed like DC didn’t care. Scott Lobdell still has a job as a writer even though he has put forth almost no effort to better his writing. They let Pak, Bunn, Lemire and Fialkov slip through their fingers even though they were fantastic and you know what the worst problem was? They listened to the whinier fans instead of the ones that were actually buying the books. So instead of adapting the story to be both a fan service and an exceptional creative opportunity DC just told us that we were wrong for buying all of those comics for the past 5 years and that these characters were weakened versions of our favorite heroes. Phenomenal Stories like “Goddess Of War”, “Throne Of Atlantis”, “Zero Year”, “Endgame”, “The Red and The Green”, “Forever Evil” and many others may never matter again. I’m hoping that they don’t do away with them but there is a good chance that it could happen.

I will hang onto my optimism for DC for as long as I can but currently the truth is that for those of us who fell in love with The New 52, the ones who spent time and money buying these books and following these characters we are the ones who will still read DC, we are the ones who will still love the Hope that they have shown us but, sadly, we are the ones who have been Forgotten.

DC Rebirth: Cautious Optimism

For months we in the comic book world have been hearing about DC Rebirth.  This company-wide initiative is designed to reinvigorate the creative juices at DC and inspire a new direction that will allow for innovation in comics, and… Synergy? Unity? (I’m running out of buzzwords…)

You know what, lets just say it: Rebirth is about making money.  Plain and simple.  And please, let us not pretend to be offended by that fact.  In all honesty, DC has to do something.  Ever since “DC You,” they have been getting crushed by Marvel in the sales column, and it is not as if the sales are an aberration.  Marvel’s creative output has been close to flawless, and, unlike DC, their ventures into the mainstream have been extremely well-received, particularly on the cinematic front.  So what is DC to do?  Well, apparently you turn to Geoff Johns, and you have him write a Rebirth story.  It has worked in the past, so it will work again, right?  Personally, I am cautiously optimistic about this whole thing.  However, there are some warning bells that I believe we should be aware of.  Therefore, before next weeks giant 80 page spectacular, I believe it would be prudent to examine some of the things that make me more “cautious” than “optimistic.

A Dearth of Big Name Creators

Let us travel back in time to the launch of the New 52.  When the reboot was announced, most of us marveled at the veritable murderer’s row that DC was rolling out.  You had Geoff Johns on Justice League, Aquaman, and Green Lantern.  Scott Snyder, as the number one up and coming writer in the business, took over the Batman title.  Grant Morrison was on Action Comics.  Gail Simone was on Batgirl.  Brian Azzarello was given Wonder Woman, a fact which surprised many people, due to his typically dark subject matter.  Granted, there were some missteps, but for the most part DC was actively trying to get the nest possible creators for their New 52 lineup.

Flash forward now to the end of March 2016.  The titles have been announced, but we are waiting to hear who the creative teams will be.  After all, they are having a massive presentation to tell us who will be doing what, so surely they have some big names lined up for this massive Rebirth.  Vance and I were literally drooling over the possibilities.  Would Morrison be given a title?  What is Scott Snyder going to do?  Would there be any surprises?  And so we huddled around our phone and waited for the bombshells.  And the sad fact is… we are still waiting.  Here is what we got:

Peter J. Tomasi on Superman

Dan Jurgens on Action Comics

Scott Lobdell (danger Will Robinson) on Red Hood and the Outlaws.

No Greg Pak.  No Cullen Bunn.  No Babs Tarr, which is really strange considering how successful her Batgirl has been.  It is almost as if every creator who wrote strong titles for the New 52 has been excised from Rebirth.  And understand, with the exception of Lobdell (who has already had one much maligned run on Red Hood and the Outlaws), I do not have any problems with any of their creative choices.  Jurgens and Tomasi are seasoned vets at this point.  But where have all the up and coming creators gone?  Babs Tarr, Cameron Stewart, and Brendan Fletcher redefined Batgirl.  Cullen Bunn wrote a fantastic Sinestro comic.  Remember all the hype David Walker was getting for his Cyborg comic?  Where did he go?  And why did DC stick Gene Luen Yang on a comic no one is going to read? Also, remember how Jason Fabok was going to be the next big artist?  Where is he at?  Granted, Tom King is taking Batman, which should be great.  Tim Seeley on Nightwing and Joshua Williamson on Flash both have a lot of potential.  And of course, there is Greg Rucka on Wonder Woman.  But even with Rucka’s announcement I found myself excited and at the same time thinking, “We have seen this before.”

And before I get accused of being pessimistic, then compare Rebirth’s strategy to what Marvel has done with Black Panther.  When Marvel needed a knockout writer to create the Black Panther mythos for a new generation of readers they went out and got Ta-Nehisi Coates (New York Times writer and winner of the MacArthur Genius Grant).  When DC needed a writer for their new Superman comics, which are each supposed to launch a new direction for Superman, they let their best Superman writer walk (Greg Pak), stuck their closest equivalent to a Ta-Nehisi Coates (Gene Luen Yang) on a comic that will be cancelled in 6 months, and went with two guys who haven’t written a best selling comic in at least 10 years in Dan Jurgens and Peter J. Tomasi.  I cannot help but find this troubling.

Rebirth is a Completely Reactionary Event

Here is an actual quote from the DC Comics Preview Guide for April, regarding the new Green Arrow title.  “Readers are aching for the reunion of Green Arrow and Black Canary, and we’re finally going to give it to them.  Also returning?  Green Arrow’s goatee.”  Sign me up!  I was iffy, and then they mentioned facial hair.

In all seriousness, within that quote from Ben Percy (who I actually think will do a bang up job on Green Arrow) lies one of the major problems with Rebirth, namely, that the entire endeavor seems to be a reaction to the whining of the old guard DC fans.  I am actually shocked that they  haven’t killed off the new Wally West and brought back the pre-new 52 Wally.  My least favorite aspect of this is what they are doing with Superman.  From what I can gather, the New-52 version of Superman is going to die and the pre-Crisis version of Superman is returning.  Which, in my opinion, negates everything that has happened in the New 52 with the character.  And make no mistake, they did a lot with the Superman character.  They gave him a new love interest in Wonder Woman.  They gave him a new power in the “solar flare.”  Now, apparently all that is going away.  Does this mean that 2011-2016 will be remembered as this time when we had a fake Superman, and the rest of his 75-plus years we had the right Superman?  I know the argument will be, “Well actually they are both the real Superman, because they are from different universes/timelines.”  All that is fine, but it still means that 2011-2016 will have an asterisk next to it, when it comes to Superman, because that Superman was replaced.  Hey remember when Marvel tried to tell its customers that Ben Reilly was the actual Spider-Man, and Peter Parker was a clone?  How is this any different?

This all stems from the fact that there is a contingence of fans who have complained about everything the New 52 has done.  They hated Superman’s armor, they hated the collar on his costume, they hated his relationship with Wonder Woman, and they want their old comics back.  However, say what you will about the New 52, but it was anything but reactionary.  In fact, the only thing it was reacting to was the fact that DC had literally told every story they could.  I mean, they had the Infinite Crisis, they had Rebirths of both Hal Jordan and Barry Allen, they had the Sinestro Corps war, they had the Final Crisis, both Blackest Night and Brightest Day… what else was there to do?  By resetting the timeline, what they essentially did was allow everyone to jump into comics without having 30 years (or more) backstory explained.  Contrast this with Rebirth, which seems to want to add everything back, so that we can have things like 2 Clark Kents.  It could work, but I am a little skeptical.  I’m not sure this will please longtime fans, and I do not see how it can bring in new fans.

The Last Stand of Geoff Johns

When Geoff Johns came on stage during the Rebirth presentation at WonderCon, he was introduced as if he is the Michael Jordan of comic books.  This really isn’t too far from the truth.  In the 21st Century only Brian Michael Bendis has wielded anywhere near the power or has had a hand in as many epic events.  His influence is evident all through the comic world.  And, when Johns wants to be, he is, arguably, the best comic book writer in the world.  And yet, if Rebirth is his baby, then where is he in all this?  He is writing the giant Rebirth Special, and is helping Abnett on a future Aquaman story, but other than that he is not writing anything for Rebirth.  This troubles me, because if DC has two assets in their pocket, they have Scott Snyder and they have Geoff Johns, and yet Johns seems to be taking on an overseer’s role.  Will this work?  I’m not sure.

Here is what I know: 95% percent of the time Geoff Johns has delivered for DC in a big way.  It appears that his hands are all over this initiative, and that is, ultimately, a good thing.  When you strip everything else away, Geoff Johns is just a guy who loves comic books.  And that is what gives me hope.  Even within my reticence, I am willing to give this Rebirth a shot, because it is rare that Geoff Johns lets the comic book community down.

All that being said, who do we think is getting their arm cut off in the Rebirth Special?

 

Speeding Bullets #4

As always, the “Speeding Bullet” articles are focused on talking about the latest news in the world of fandoms. Typically if I talk about breaking news then I do it on the Facebook page but sometimes, certain subjects require a few more words…this is one of those times.

The State of DC Films: Can Geoff Johns save them?

Geoff Johns is one of my favorite writers. His work is full of hopeful messages, strong heroes and brilliant villains. Johns has, throughout his entire career, thrived on reviving properties that were either forgotten or weren’t selling very well. (“Green Lantern”, “Teen Titans”, “Justice Society of America”, ETC.) Now he has to revitalize something that has taken a turn for the worst: The DC Cinematic Universe. They’ve chosen him (as Chief Creative Officer) and Jon Berg (as Executive VP) to head up production of the newly created DC Films. Furthering themselves away from Warner Brothers and becoming their own entity is something that I have wanted ever since they announced a shared universe. I think on paper it is a brilliant move and I’m hoping they can stick the landing with it. Obviously some changes have needed to happen because no matter who you are, whether you hated or kinda liked it, you have to say that Batman V. Superman had it’s fair share of problems. I’m not doing this article to bash the film, I don’t want this site to become that, but it’s so clearly the reasoning behind this shake-up that it has to be referenced.

Considering that Johns is one of my favorite writers I want to enjoy this but I have to do this with a slight bit of reticence. I always try to look at the big picture and understand what decisions have to be made before we, the public, see anything. Johns is a great choice for leading the films but as WiseSage said to me, “It’s too reactive.” I agree with him to an extent because I, too, would have preferred DC to make this decision from the beginning but obviously that wasn’t the case. Instead we have to remedy the situation that has been placed before us. Naturally, WB/DC has seen the varying reactions to their film and Marvel’s “Civil War” and saw the stark contrast between their film being heralded as an apocalyptic force to the superhero genre and Marvel’s single-handedly making everyone believe in it again.

So, the question is: What can DC do to save themselves? Johns is a good start but this could create problems for their comics. Over the past few years Johns has been spread very thin over the Comics, Shows and Films and many people have deemed this to be a major issue with DC considering how certain issues with the comics or shows have only gotten worse or haven’t been fixed at all. This summer marks the premiere of “Rebirth” which is going to be a comic book event that could make or break them. Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited for it but the more I consider it the more I see the chinks in their armor.(Be on the Lookout for WiseSage’s new article on the issues with “Rebirth” in the next few days) They have a limited number of A-List creators in their upcoming line-up and it worries me that their stories might be focused more on fixing the problems that people are complaining about and not about trying to create great stories in the first place.

I hear you already, “But Vance, isn’t fan outcry exactly what this entire article is about?” Yes, but not just for the sake of trying to please everyone. Comics, and their subsequent adaptations, are in their very nature something that is 50% based on fan appreciation and 50% on creative quality. If either one is compromised then something needs to be fixed.

In conclusion, Johns is someone that can easily turn DC around for the better. Less than 3 years ago, DC was at a new height of financial and creative power that I think they can easily return to with the right leadership.