Sunday Roundtable: DC Comics’ Rebirth, What are Your Thoughts?
Sundays are known for folks gathering around tables on television and pontificating about some of the hottest topics out there, offering their expertise. We bring that tradition to Graphic Policy as the team gathers to debate in our Sunday Roundtable.
On tap this week?
Now that we know what DC Comics’ “Rebirth” generally is, what do you think of the announcement and the initial comics lineup?
Alex: After looking through the line up, I’m genuinely disheartened by the number of twice monthly titles. Unless the price tags are low enough, I’ll probably be avoiding all but one, simply because I don’t want to commit to a comic that’s coming out more than once a month.
So I guess complete and utter apathy on my end.
Steven: To be honest I don’t know how to feel about a “Rebirth”, on one hand comic book fans are pretty set in their ways with characters, on the other it’s going to pull in new members to the “geek club” as I call it and to the younger generation they can fall in love with new story lines the way older readers have already. But just one man’s opinion here
Brett: I actually don’t think it’ll do that Steven. I see this as placating to the vocal older crowd who flipped their shit about the New 52 and “their characters being taken away.” Hopefully this finds a happy medium between the new and old, but if that’s the case, who is it really geared towards?
Steven: True, the new 52 did mess with a lot of folks. I think a Green Lantern “Rebirth” would be great. I think that’s a franchise with a lot of promise. I was soured on Green Lantern after the Ryan Reynolds crap fest and then reading the Star Trek/Green Lantern crossover, that didn’t help one bit! But I don’t know how the others are going to fare
But I am the newbie here and you guys would know way more than me
Brett: Steven As a newbie, this is a perfect question. Does any of this get you interested? We don’t know specifics, just titles, but going off of that, interest increased? Decreased? The same?
Steven: Brett I think Aquaman, Green Lantern, the Flash “Rebirth” has peaked my interest because there is so much you can do with them. Batman doesn’t and neither does Superman. I don’t think it’s fair to Bruce Wayne to kill his parents all over again. Wonder woman and titan have no interest to me at all.
Brett: There is something a bit perverse of retelling Batman’s origin over and over again isn’t there?
It’s like Oliver Queen being a complete cock treaded over and over and over again to Felicity up until this current season….completely perverse
Paul: Well I am THE Marvel guy (as my reviews show, it’s all I read :)) But over the years I have read DC titles. I even sampled the New 52 when it came out, but to be honest the titles I was reading didn’t really hold my interest. But I am excited to see this and a lot of characters I like coming out with this “Rebirth” and #1 issues I can start off new with. But only time will tell if this new direction holds my interest. Give me good stories and I’ll read your books.
Mr. H: I am part of that older crowd and if they can align this bombastic cluster f.. that became the New 52 as well as reverse some of the bastardizing of the lower tier characters I’m all for it. I trust Johns.
Alex: To be fair, not all of the New 52 was terrible; Snyder‘s Batman run was great, Flash has been decent enough (or at least the first 30 issues), and there’s been some other solid comic books. But you’re right; some of the lower tier characters didn’t fare too well.
Mr. H: Snyder’s run is epic. Also Johns run on Justice League is fantastic but the rest has been ehhh.
Alex: I stopped reading Justice League around Throne of Atlantis – I didn’t care for the tie in with Aquaman, and since it was only five issues in I wasn’t invested enough to keep going.
Mr. H: Forever Evil and The Amazo Virus and Darkseid War are awesome though.
Elana: How many people writing and drawing them are anything other then a white straight man? If their track record stays where it is then they haven’t learned a thing
Brett: We won’t know for another week or so. No teams have been announced.
Elana: I’m glad there’s still Cyborg so long as it’s David Walker. I see Batgirl and Birds of Prey. Gotham Academy survives thank god. Is Wondy finally free of the dysfunctional teams that have been wrecking her? What is the diversity going to look like?
And at least we know Phil Jimenez but it better not just be him.
Alex: I think Walker is leaving Cyborg with issue #9…
Elana: He’s the only person to do the character justice ever. Bummer
Alex: I never read his run, but I know there was a lot of people who were loving it, so I’m bummed out for them.
Elana: If they cancelled Midnighter which is both critically acclaimed and really important they are idiots.
Glad Hellblazer survived. So what then, 1 comic with an LGBTQA lead that the publisher acknowledges as such….?
I want Logan’s thoughts..
Brett: Midnighter wasn’t a part of the initial list. Doesn’t mean it won’t be back eventually.
Elana: Phil Jimenez on art is a good call. His art works for people who like traditional Bronze Age or modern comics but his art actually respects the women he depicts so it’s something I can show new fans who won’t recoil the way, let’s face it, most people do when they see what we’d call modern house style.
He’s house style but really good.
His design on Sera for Marvel was fantastic.
Logan: The sales on Midnighter have been super low so I wasn’t surprised by its cancellation. Hopefully, he shows up in a supporting role somewhere else. (Nightwing??) I really don’t want to super pass judgment until we get creative teams, but I’m happy Batgirl has two books now. (Sorry, meat and potatoes.) If Blue Beetle isn’t Jaime Reyes, I will feel very betrayed.
Elana: If it’s not Jaime they are idiots. And I say that as a Ted Kord fan
Logan: I would love for Ted Kord to be a supporting character in the book kind of like a lighter version of Bruce Wayne in Batman Beyond.
Elana: That would be adorable
Logan: And a random thought: I hope Earth 2 mixes some of the potentially great characters of the previous run (Val Zod, Alan Scott) with the retrofuturist aesthetic of Earth 2 on The Flash TV show. Loved that two-parter.
Elana: I’m so over Johns. He’s like a lazy version of Bronze Age comics. I don’t understand his appeal. If you want his sort of stories pull out the old collected editions of Early Bronze Age comics– the work he’s inspired by is better then his own.
Logan: Honestly, his best work has been on The Flash TV show.
Logan: I’ve heard good things about his JSA run too?
Ashley: I’m mostly bitter as hell that Black Canary got cancelled.
Elana: She’ll be the center of Birds of Prey.
Ashley: Oh yeah, I figure that, but I loved that trippy rock and roll superhero comic. That’s like my thing.
Elana: I really like Black Canary. If you like trippy comics I can make some suggestions by the way.
Logan: Ugh, yeah. Hope Annie Wu goes over to Birds of Prey, or better yet, gets an Image title at the Expo.
Ashley: I’m fine with either of these options.
Madison: I’d love to see Annie Wu on something creator-owned.
There are a few things I’m not super thrilled about with this. One, there’s only one female-led title in the first wave of comics being released, which could change, but also might not. Two, having to wait so long for Batgirl to be re-released.
Lastly, how does this affect the accessibility of DC? On one hand, it could make it easier for new fans to pick up a comic that says “#1,” but on the other, it strikes me as kind of a gatekeeper move.
Steven: I will agree that there aren’t enough female-lead titles out there, but I don’t think it’s because DC or Marvel or any of them out there have a huge calling for it. I think these companies in general have tried to put issues out but maybe haven’t sold well and at the end of the day it is a business and they have to profitable. Do I think it’s worth the shot yes. There are so many story lines that could be used and built upon.
Madison: Counting all of the #1s coming out, there are six with title female characters. Out of thirty-two new releases. I wouldn’t really call that variety, I’d call it the bare minimum. Again, it could change, but I don’t think there isn’t a market for it. There are a lot of great characters out there, and the answer to the call for more women isn’t necessarily to lump them all together in one book.
Steven: I think DC in general needs to do a better job in general introducing their female characters. That’s one thing I think Marvel has done very well. I went to Boston Comic Con this past summer, besides the usual Harley Quinn, there were tons of girls dressed as Black Widow (and a majority of them weren’t slut type versions which was impressive) and Agent Carter it was amazing to see.
Heck I even took a picture with cosplay artist Belle Chere who was dressed as Squirrel Girl, you never see that……
Madison: I think part of this is the presence of those characters in film. I’ve seen a couple of Squirrel Girls and they always look awesome. I don’t know if I’d say Marvel does a great job of introducing female characters. Obviously they’re trying, to an extent, but I have mixed feelings about it. Characters in excessively revealing outfits (yes, like Black Widow, sometimes) is a rant for another post.
Steven: But its not just film…… Black Widow, Squirrel Girl, She-Hulk, female Thor, Ms. Marvel, Captain Marvel, A-Force (which is an all female Avengers) hell now Storm leads the X-Men. I think it’s there, but like I said DC does a poor job with women characters. And you want to talk about revealing ummm Wonder Woman looks like a bedazzled stripper and Poison Ivy straddles the line between comics and porn. I work with quite of few girls who are comic book lovers and even they don’t care about female characters. One girl wears a Wonder Woman necklace but that’s about it. They care about Batman, Iron Man, Captain America, Superman. Never have I ever heard how great Wonder Woman is. Like I said if there was more of a market for it there would be more female led titles out there. The comic book companies do studies and research and polls reaching out to see what people want.
Madison: I was saying that the popularity of those characters as cosplays is in part due to film. I don’t really want to talk about revealing costumes, because as I said, that’s a discussion for a different post.
Listen, if you’re a woman, there’s not a super secret mandate that you only have to give a crap about characters of your gender. I care a lot about female characters. I adore Wonder Woman. But have you considered that the reason so many girls care about male characters is because that’s what has saturated the market?
Steven: Yes I have Madison, there are a ton of male led books out there because that’s how it started out. And there are now more female readers and artists than ever before and I think over time you will see me and more female led titles. But it something has has to come naturally and not forced to do it because if that’s the case the story lines won’t have the justice it deserves. Don’t rush story lines and development if it doesn’t need to be. There will be more in the near future
And I think the cinematic and television universe is going to help the cause, especially with Wonder Woman in Dawn of Justice as well the up coming Captain Marvel movie.
And just for the record I am a Wonder Woman fan.
I bought that from a wonderful female artist. I don’t remember her name unfortunately, at Boston Comic Con.
What is funny is that of all the things my fiance cloud have bought at comic con, she geeked out about a Jem comic
Madison: I’m truly all for forcing things if it gets more titles. As you said, there are a lot of great female artists and writers out there. I’d love to see them writing some of my favorites.
Steven: Maybe I should do a study of consisting of what women think about this topic and then do a post about it.
Elana: It would be good to not use dismissive terms like “slut” when discussing even costumes we’re not crazy about.
If DC let women know there were comics featuring women then women would by them. Look at the success marvel is having with a minimal press push even
Steven: I apologize for using that term. I’m not here to offend anyone.
Brett: For the new series I’m counting 6 that are series that feature women, 5 of which are solo. Going by titles there’s 18 solo series. A little worse than than Marvel’s All-New All-Different. 27.77% versus about 37% (though I stopped updating my Marvel stats a bit ago, so I think that’s dipped a bit).
Elana: People don’t read Wondy because there hasn’t been a Wondy worth reading since Gail Simone. But I hear the digital only legend of Wonder Woman title is great.
Maybe DC could tell people about it
Brett: The digital Wonder Woman is great, and DC is actually promoting it as is the creator behind it.
Elana: That’s great news. Would love to see how
Brett: Renae De Liz promotes the crap out of it online, and doing it in a great positive way that promotes community. I’ve also see ads for it floating around as well as promotion on the official Wonder Woman page.
Elana: There should be a Lois Lane: Worlds Finest Reporter sort of comic that’s focused on being a journalist and only has cape stuff in the background. She could be doing All the Presidents Men stuff on Lex Luthor.
Mr. H: I would buy this in a second. Even the title is great!
Alex: I’d be interested in that, too.
Perhaps the question nobody cares about: will the red underwear return?
Mr. H: Nooooooooo *Darth Vader voice
Elana: The final word on Johns vs growing the comics readership and serving diverse audiences– including long time readers like me who aren’t cishet white dudes.
The metaphor that comes to mind is that Johns is like the Politicians who say we can’t move to green energy and need to pump fossil fuels till they’re gone. Shortsighted. Will kill long term healthy growth for short time profits
Mr. H: Johns is the only man who made Green Lantern a top tier comic book. I hate when comics have to conform to trendy gimmicks or fads. All these mega level events kill the momentum however I’m optimistic he can bring some legacy back to DC Universe. Which it needs.
Elana: I’m totally with you in the events being destructive the way they are done now. I think that events are the fad.
Mr. H: Well that’s just my opinion as a Caucasian American lol. We still count here.
Elana: But you agree that the trend is towards shoe horning in events only that on make-sense to people have been following all of these books across the line very closely. I.e. they don’t make sense to most people and that they disrupt the flow of actual stories that are being told, right?
Johns has been a huge proponent of that model and it’s like and endless spiraling loop towards irrelevance.
Mr. H: Well I think it’s more a Dan DiDio thing than a Geoff Johns, who has obvious respect for these characters and their lineage. There needs to be streamlining for sure. Poor Wonder Woman has been going through an identity crisis for decades now, and Johns…See More
I am not a fan of Dan DiDio at all. He’s as out of touch with comics as Vince McMahon with the WWE.
Elana: Diversification will never happen without a deliberate effort that will feel forced to some. It’s better when it comes from good storytelling but the resistance to change among certain audiences is so strong it will never matter
Steven: Couldn’t have said it better myself Mr. H, diversification has to be natural not forced.
Elana: So what’s your example of doing it right?
Mr. H: Well they are trying to appeal to every fantasy which is impossible. I get that these legacy characters have enormous appeal and clout but don’t just to your term “shoe horn” stuff in. Let it ebb and flow naturally. You want the Flash to be black? Great, introduce a new character who takes the mantle. I.E. Miles Morales with Spider-Man. Don’t just change the color of someone’s skin for new readers. Put care into it. Let it grow. The Milestone imprint had great characters and DC chucked them away. Don’t get me started on how women are written in DC universe. Aside from Batgirl it’s deplorable. No heart. You don’t need an epic restart event. Just true creative teams that want to accomplish making good reading for fans.
Elana: Johns is the reason John Stewart isn’t Green Lantern though. These guys always want to drag it back to whoever the character was when they were a kid. That’s the danger with just having the mantle go to someone new.
Miles is an example of doing it right though.
Madison: I don’t think that Marvel is very accessible at the moment, though. Reboots don’t necessarily equate to an easy, fresh start. I liked the books that I was reading and Secret Wars, to me, felt drawn out and too expensive for me to read. In that time, I found a lot of other comics and I don’t really miss the Marvel titles I was reading pre-Secret Wars. Events like this seem, to me at least, like a way to cater to the audience comics has always had (cishet white dudes) even if it’s being marketed as something different.
Elana: Agreed Madison. It’s super short sighted.
Mr. H: I just think there are so many options out there that constantly retooling current ones are so damning to the current monthly books. Again I want to read a John Stewart book but not because it’s the ethnically sensitive reason, no I want to read about a kick ass marine as a GL and delve into some social commentary on war and as well as some action adventure with a different twist. TV get the spirit of these characters. Why can’t the publisher?
Elana: I have my qualms about Image Comics EoC but I think much of his formal address nails it in terms of how do you save comics:
“If you – if any of us – are putting short-term needs ahead of long-term thinking: Stop.
Stop stunting your own growth by doing things the way they’ve always been done.
Stop being so beholden to the past – to past victories, past mistakes.
Stop reveling in nostalgia for a time long gone by. Creatively, the golden age of comics is now – let’s save our nostalgia for today.
If you are a retailer ordering more copies of a comic than you can sell simply to qualify for a variant incentive: Stop.”
Brett: He says the same shit over and over when all his company is is a confederacy of creators and brand. When they market their comics I’ll listen. The industry’s issue isn’t ideas it’s not marketing their product to people who might be interested. They’re focused in the same dwindling universe of fans who resist change as opposed to expanding the market and finding new readers which is what’s needed for long term viability.
Elana: Here’s his full speech. DC would do well to.
Alex: His point abut selling more than one issue of a title a month is a big turn off for me from series. I don’t mind if it’s a mini series (Death Of Wolverine), but a long running series… I fucking hate the idea of DC’s reboot/Rebirth having bi weekly titles.
Mr. H: I would agree with that. Create new books. New characters. New ideas. It can be done. It’s why Hollywood sucks. All the remakes. The golden age is now. Start from scratch. If you have sucky writers, assemble good ones.
Elana: The thing people like Johns forget is that all of their favorite silver age and Bronze Age comics are still here, they’re still real and they can go back and read them anytime they want. There’s no need to continually reproduce them.
Alex: Trying to reproduce the past successes will only result in comics that aren’t quite as good (or as loved) as those from the past, I feel.
Mr. H: Well again. It gets tricky with some of those original legacy characters. The beauty of them are they are mostly mantles that can be passed on. In the case of Green Lantern though, so many people can be a member of the Green Lantern Core simultaneously, so you can read them all. The key is finding creative teams with the voice who will do each iteration justice. Marvel is doing so well with this. Thor and Spider-Man are fantastic in their new titles. It’s DC that fumbles. They are too chained to the past. It’s sad. I think a few of us here GP could write far better monthly books for these secondary characters.
Brett: I think legacy only focuses on collectors of the past, not a new audience. To me this is the opposite of what needs to be done.
Steven: I feel like Marvel is on the right track of bringing diversity and introducing characters who were in the background to the major stars especially diverse characters. DC should take a page out of Marvel’s playbook. It could help them
Brett: They kind of tried that post Convergence. A lot were critically praised but sold horribly.
Alex: And it is, at the end of the day a business.
Brett: I don’t disagree. But most businesses don’t operate like comics. It’s backwards in how things are done from top to bottom. The entire system needs to be shaken up. Stephenson’s praising the direct market baffles me. The industry is shackled directly due to the direct market. They’re too afraid to piss them off.
Alex: I don’t disagree. I think they’re too afraid to run with the short term sales loss to build a long term gain.
To use a hockey analogy, look at the Maple Leafs. They’ve been too worried about making the playoffs for ten plus years that they’ve been getting nowhere fast. After the next few years of maximum suckage they’ll be in a position to compete.
Brett: Exactly. And as an IP generator, a loss in comics isn’t bad if there’s profits elsewhere.
Alex: And there’s more than enough profits elsewhere…
Steven: Look at Captain America: Civil War Falcon and Black Panther are going to have huge roles……its gonna be great for Marvel. DC has to find a way to get more diverse……..introduce more characters if need be
Brett: Also Marvel’s sales are slumping too. Their market share is inflated due to Star Wars. When that’s taken out of the equation most of their series are doing worse than pre-Secret Wars.
Ryan: DC and Marvel are both stuck in the same dead-end business model, which amounts to figuring out ways to milk more money out of fewer fans. A reboot /re-numbering every few years — or every year in Marvel’s case — starts to run out of gas after awhile, as does one pointless fucking crossover after another. The answer to all of these problems is simple, of course — just produce good comics, keep the editorial interference to a minimum, and give them time to find an audience. Frank Miller‘s Daredevil was a bottom-tier book when he took it over and rose nearly to the level of X-Men in sales toward the end of his run. Swamp Thing was one of DC’s absolute lowest-selling books when Alan Moore, Steve Bissette, and John Totleben were brought onboard, and lo and behold we’re still talking about it today. If the Big Two do, in fact, end up going under at some point, don’t feel sorry for them in the least — their horseshit product, short-sighted business practices, lousy treatment of creators, and disrespect for their readership will have brought on their demise, mush as all those factors came into play in the death of the music industry. Marvel and DC are cranking out more product than ever, but how many of their books really deserve to survive? Maybe 5 or 10 per publisher? And how many of those are actually good? Leave all your fan loyalties aside and approach their stuff as a new consumer would, and I think you’d have to admit that, at most, Marvel and DC maybe each put out 3 or 4 good books per month. The rest is crap — it might be crap that you, as a reader find enjoyable, and there’s no shame in that — but it’s still crap. And eventually that’s going to kill them. They could be producing quality product that grows their fan base, but they seem to not even know how to do that. Ms. Marvel was the one solid example of a well-written, well-drawn book that can actually appeal to new, and even non-superhero, readers that I can think of, but my understanding is that even that book is down significantly in sales in comparison to its pre-“Secret Wars” incarnation. Don’t despair, though — the downfall of the “Big Two” certainly doesn’t mean the end of comics, and in fact it might well turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to the medium.
Mr. H: But keep Frank Miller away from core titles these days. I’m not PC and abhore it but the world doesn’t need to be exposed to his brand of crazy anymore. Daredevil run and Sin City and The Dark Knight Returns was genius but poor Frank’s lost a lot of screws
Ryan: Frank Miller is in such poor health that I don’t think he could do a “solo” comic book at this point. His involvement with Dark Knight III is minimal by even his own admission.
Mr. H: Well read issue two. It reeks of Miller’s anti Superman characterization. I feel bad Azzarello is lumped in on this one.
Ryan: I read it, but it doesn’t prove Miller’s involvement, just that there are editorial dictates coming down from DC “brass” to produce a book that hews as closely to the first Dark Knight series as possible. You can put a piece of tracing paper over the Mona Lisa and come up with something that looks pretty similar — it doesn’t mean Da Vinci was actually involved in the process.
Mr. H: Fair point. Issue one was stellar. Then it dipped so big.
Ryan: As for feeling “bad” for Azzarello — look, he’s a grown man doing a job for a paycheck. I was as big a fan of 100 Bullets as anyone, but frankly any creator involved in Before Watchmen lost a lot of respect in my eyes and is never going to get it back. He’s clearly in the “anything for a buck” phase of his career.
Mr. H: Ugh Before Watchmen what a travesty.
I just think the titles need to move forward in a respectable and natural way. Not the constant retooling every few years. I would love a John Stewart comic book, but it needs to be authentic and written with care, not a cheap short term sales shock marketing ploy. As a whole DC television is far superior to their comics in every single way right now. Supergirl is the best Superman show to ever hit the air and it doesn’t even have Superman as the main character.
Alex: I agree with everything you said aside from the Supergirl statement, and that’s only because I don’t watch it. Both Marvel an DC need to go back to basics; start building their universes in a cohesive and respectful way, keep the reboots to an absolute zero, and the massive events to a rare once a decade thing. Have the odd crossover between titles, but avoid the events.
For the people who only read a few titles from each publisher the big events that refer to every other title are a confusing waste of time. I’ve already decided to avoid Rebirth and just start Detective Comics when that comes out.
Mr. H: I agree with everything you just said sir.
Alex: You know what they say about great minds, Mr H.
Mr. H: Yes get out of my head it’s all mine!
Brett: Alright, the wraps up this week’s discussion! What do you think readers? Sound off in the comments below!