Will DC Comics’ Massive Reboot Help Them Stay Relevant?

Will DC Comics' Massive Reboot Help Them Stay Relevant?

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A few weeks ago DC Comics did a gigantic rebrand/reboot to their entire universe called the New 52, and well, it’s an interesting route to go. I’ve been reading comic books for over 20 years now, and I have a silly amount of comic book knowledge in my head. At heart I’m a Marvel kid, I’ve always been a fan of X-men, and in recent years, all of the Avengers stuff that Brian Michael Bendis is doing. That said, DC has always been doing some great work with Vertigo (which isn’t really DC Comics and shouldn’t be lumped together) and I love what Geoff Johns did with the Green Lantern comics in Blackest Night.

But this New 52? Ugh. I’m going to concentrate on Justice League, which is being written by Geoff Johns, who is basically their main creative, and drawn by Jim Lee, who was basically the most popular comic book artist in the 90’s. Here are some thoughts on Justice League, and I’ll wrap up with some other comics.

The Logo
DC Comics is owned by AOL Time Warner, one of the largest companies in the world, and Justice League is DC’s flagship title. So why does their logo look like it was made by a high school kid? Title design in comic books has always been lacking, and this just goes to show that there’s little to no movement in that area. I have no idea what that font is, but it couldn’t be more generic. DC Comics and The New 52 are all bright and golden, but the Justice League logo? Little to no care.

The Character Designs
Superman Redesign A big deal has been made about the redesign of the characters, all of which were done by Jim Lee. This may have been an insanely big deal… 20 years ago, but Jim Lee hasn’t changed his style in roughly that same amount of time. I know that’s why a lot of comic book readers love Jim Lee, but personally I see that as a being a really bad thing.

The costume redesigns might look different to a long-time reader, but the point of the New 52 is to get new readers on board. I can’t imagine someone unfamiliar with superman thinking that this looks at all different. Why reboot an entire universe if you don’t want to do something new and exciting? Superman’s cape now hangs magically off of his clavicles, he no longer wears red underwear, and there are now all of these weird lines all over this costume… how edgy. I guess there was a giant internal conversation over whether or not Wonder Woman should have to wear pants, which sounds completely sexist to me, and Batman has tech-y gloves. These are really the things that should considered when redefining a character?

The Story
I guess I shouldn’t comment too much on the story of just the first issue, but for $4 all I got to see was Batman and Green Lantern making stupid banter for 20 pages, 4 pages of a young Cyborg not-yet-turned-into-Cyborg, and one page of Superman. I’m sure it’s setting up everything but the entire thing felt cliched. Batman being chased by the cops (who have insane weapons) chasing a bad guy trying to get information when Green Lantern comes in and gets all Lantern-y.

When the Marvel started the Ultimate Universe they decided to take familiar characters and themes and twist it. The Ultimate Universe is now what the Marvel movies are being based on and expanding into new markets. It feels like DC is trying to be edgy, but it feels like they’re trying way to hard, like Batman calling the cops “idiots”. Batman is so bad ass.

Overall I feel bad for DC, as it’s bad for comics in general. DC seems like they’re trying really hard, but they’re not doing it right. They’re reusing tired, old comic book cliches and not coming up with any new and exciting ideas. I wish it was exciting and new, I wish they made Marvel look like chumps with an amazing story that surpasses anything they’re doing, but they aren’t, and it’s a shame.

I recently read an interview with Brian Michael Bendis, who in my mind is the smartest, most talented comic book writer out there. He was talking about how he killed off Peter Parker in the Ultimate Universe and replaced him with Miles Morales, a half-black/half-hispanic kid who happens to get powers. This is exactly why I think Marvel is doing the best work these days.

“It’s where my head’s at, man,” he says. “For this genre particularly to matter, it’s gotta feel real. People say, ‘Yeah, if I had powers, this would be my life.’ That was always the magic of Peter Parker and the Marvel era of comics when it first debuted is that if you had powers, you wouldn’t really change all that much. You’d still have the same problems — they’d probably be worse.”

There’s also big missteps like the new, gay Teen Titans character who couldn’t look more stereotypical, they’ve got Rob Liefeld (the worst comic book artist in history) drawing Hawk & Dove again, the Static Shock writer quitting and they keep making these damn Subway advertisements with their characters.

Please DC Comics, get your act together and start telling good stories again.


18 Comments Will DC Comics’ Massive Reboot Help Them Stay Relevant?

  1. Amanda September 19, 2011 at 5:15 AM

    As a comic book fan, I’m I can’t agree with you more on most of thsee points. Not only has DC failed to effectively reboot their series, but they’ve also completely alienated a good portion of their audience in doing so.

    Had the change been something mind-blowingly fantastic, there’s a good chance that their audience would’ve gotten over it… eventually (Never say we can’t hold a grudge)

    However, I am curious about one thing… Why say Rob Liefeld is the worst artist in history? Maybe I’m just showing off my ignorance but I’ve seen styles a lot worse than the examples you’ve linked to.

  2. Melissa September 19, 2011 at 5:39 AM

    I work in a comic/record shop, and we really just can not get over how bad the Justice League logo is – completely amateur and boring. I’m also really amused by the bizarrely phallic Green Lantern pose on the cover, but I guess that’s nothing new.

    We’ve sold a lot of them, but the overall customer reaction has been “meh.” Hopefully it’ll get better, but I think DC is becoming more irrelevant by the day.

  3. Joe September 19, 2011 at 6:38 AM

    Until they starting writing relatable characters instead of movie franchises I’m not buying.

    Did you read Identity Crisis Bobby? I feel that was the last engaging DC book I’ve read.

  4. Bobby Solomon September 19, 2011 at 7:53 AM

    @Amanda – The Rob Liefeld comment was in relation to this 40 Worst Rob Liefeld Drawings post that’s been around for years. Basically the guy had/has little to no idea how the human boy works. And he hates drawing feet.

    @Joe – I haven’t read Identity Crisis, I’ll have to check out the TPB.

  5. Laurent September 19, 2011 at 8:18 AM

    I read Action Comics & Detective Comics #1. It was so awful I want to kill myself. Gratuitous Violence and no humour whatsoever, a pity.

  6. 153351 September 19, 2011 at 9:37 AM

    It’s not like Marvel is doing any better. Just because they made Spiderman hispanic doesn’t mean it will be any good. Did you forget all the crazy retconning they did to Peter Parker?

    If you want to read good comics, stick to the indies.

  7. Will September 19, 2011 at 10:21 AM

    Hmm, yeah, still not sure what to think. I agree with you that their attempts at being edgy are too little too late and I think nothing illustrates that more than the fact that they’ve got Grant Morrison on board to do Action Comics. The guy can’t do anything other than throw in stupid changes for the sake of getting publicity and if the best he can do is stick Super Man in jeans and a t-shirt in order to get more attention then I wish DC good luck, because the novelty is going to wear off very fast when people realise that he can’t tell a story.

  8. Hayden September 19, 2011 at 11:10 AM

    Yeah i think its too flashy and they’re trying to make it to perfect. I think they should go with a more simple gritty style with the fighting scenes like cowboy bebop. But that wouldn’t really be “American”. At least get some new artists DC. Ill be sticking to graphic novels for now.

  9. Mark September 19, 2011 at 11:36 AM

    I agree! I’ve picked up several new issues out of curiosity, but nothing has stood out as really being so new to warrant a reboot. I agree Jim Lee seems stuck in the 90s, and while I do think sometimes his art can be good, his costume designs are horribly dated. Jim Lee was responsible for WW’s horrible 90s street walker look last year, and all the redesigned costumes seem similarly tacky or unnecessarily fussy. The best current costume designs have clean lines and simplicity! And there clearly needs to be a woman or someone with a clue reviewing some of this stuff…Harley Quinn’s new costume is ridiculous, Catwoman can’t seems to keep both breasts in her costume, Supergirl’s costume has a big red spot on the crotch…
    There seems to be a clueless-ness about the 90s. Yes, books sold, but they quickly became known as overdone style without substance and drove longtime readers away.
    That said I think there are a few bright spots: Animal Man was good, Batwoman was amazing (begun before the reboot I know), the writing in Batgirl was good though the art wasn’t really stand out and the costume was too fussy. I’m looking forward to Wonder Woman because of the art I’ve seen, I hope the writing matches. And I think Green Lantern’s maintained it’s appeal and I only started reading it with Blackest Night.

  10. rek September 19, 2011 at 1:10 PM

    The reason DC – and Marvel – struggle to remain relevant is because they constantly reboot their franchises! There are no new stories, just retellings of the same stories that were in the pages of the issues from the 70s and 80s, with a bit of the furniture moved around. Every 5-10 years now they scrap everything and start again with new #1s, and invariably retell the origin stories, pit the same characters against each other, again and again.

    Yes, obviously something has to change if they want to recapture the market share and demographic they once enjoyed, but trying the same thing that failed last time isn’t the right approach.

  11. Jeremy September 19, 2011 at 4:40 PM

    comics have ALWAYS failed when they try to be relevant. what comics need to do is be less serious and “real world” and focus on telling stories that can’t be done in any other medium. good storytelling will make them relevant as opposed to gimmickery.

    i think it’s a pretty shallow move to review all 52 titles based on this one. Johns hasn’t been on the top of his game since sometime before Identity Crisis, and Jim Lee is about as stagnant an artist as they have in stock, he just happens to be popular with fanboys which means sales.

    why not read the Morrison Action Comics? what about the Cliff Chiang art on Wonder Woman?

  12. steph September 19, 2011 at 6:39 PM

    I can understand the head-shaking most people have over the reboot but for what it’s worth, I think some of them are ok! The first issue of Swamp Thing had nice dark artwork and flying dinosaur bones- honestly, that’s what I was after.

    The blanket comment, “comics have ALWAYS failed when they try to be relevant,” is really depressing. I don’t think that’s true- certainly not for comics outside of the mainstream.

  13. TK September 19, 2011 at 8:05 PM

    I think DC is trying to have it both ways by beng both “edgy” and “iconic.” They’ve noted several times that one of their biggest influences is Marvel’s “Ultimate Comics” line, but one of the reason that line works so well precisely because it’s NOT the main universe. You can kill off Peter Parker, make Captain America a little racist, and turn Reed Richards into a villain in the Ultimate Universe because you still have the other publishing line where people can find the versions they recognize.
    I agree some of the stuff has been middling to worse, but Animal Man was fantastic, and the long-awaited Batwoman was beautiful. As a self-professed Morrison fan, I’m excited about Action Comics, but plan on dropping Batman and Robin as the dialogue seems overwrought.
    What it will come down to is good stories; I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks it seems to be 90s overload, but maybe this will get DC to cancel things that aren’t working. Time will tell!

  14. Bobby Solomon September 19, 2011 at 9:27 PM

    @153351 – I don’t think anyone is Spider-Man is going to be amazing because the character is half latino/half black, I think people are excited for something different, a character with a fresh perspective.

    I definitely agree with you on all the Spider-Man retconning though, that was totally shitty. But saying “stick to indies” seems a bit narrow-minded to me, like you’re not cool if you listen to pop songs.

    @Will – Wasn’t a fan of what Morrison did with Batman & Robin, but he’s one of my absolute favorite writers.

    @Mark – It’s funny you mention the females costumes, it sounds like they didn’t want Wonder Woman showing her legs… but Catwoman’s tits can pop out.

    Everyone keeps suggesting Animal Man, but I’m going to keep saying that he’s the most un-super-herp super-hero of them all. And Batwoman was amazing before, J.H. Williams and J.G. Jones made that comic extraordinary (plus Todd Kleing on lettering).

    @rek – I have to disagree with you on Marvel being irrelevant. They are both guilty of restarting with #1’s though, that’s always annoying, but a lot of the time Marvel doesn’t do it to retell origin stories, they do it as a fresh start.

    @Jeremy – Gotta’ say I completely, 100% disagree with you. Making a world feel real but putting fantastic things in it is what makes comics work, ie Alex Ross’ Marvels series. The fantastic mixed with the mundane is exciting.

    And I based my review on the one comic because it’s absolutely the crown jewel of DC Comics. It has all their biggest characters with their co-publisher drawing the issue and their Chief Creative Officer writing the issue. Wouldn’t you assume then, that this should be the absolutely best issue they release in the New 52?

    I need to check out Action Comics. Chiang’s art on Wonder Woman looks great, but isn’t it going to be more Amazonian drama on The-Mascara or whatever? I’m excited to see that Azzarello is attached though, that gives me a lot of hope, so long as they trust him to do his job.

    @Steph – Yeah, Swamp Thing and Animal Man kepe getting thrown around a lot, but these are the least DC Comic books-esque characters of all. I mean, they sound cool, but is DC going to make movies on these guys?

    @TK – Your first paragraph sums up how I feel so perfectly, you totally nailed it. Thanks for being so concise (and reading my mind).

    Totally agree about Morrison, WE3 is one of the finest comic books in history, but Batman & Robin was batshit insane (pun intended). We can only hope that DC is smart enough to discontinue any properties that don’t work.

  15. Greg September 20, 2011 at 12:47 PM

    That Justice League logo makes me gag. It looks like a title you would find a free promotional comic book cross promotion from a fast food chain in the 90s.

    I wish more comic books were designed with the care that Salvador Larroca and Rian Hughes put into a story arch of The Invincible Iron Man a couple years ago. See: http://gregorysiegal.com/gregarious/?p=121

  16. Mark September 20, 2011 at 2:49 PM

    I’ve read that the pants/ no pants on WW was a big discussion, but it sort of illustrates the cluelessness. Jim Lee’s redesign looked way more sexist despite covering more than the old bathing suit did. After the response to the new “street-smart” WW last year, I’m surprised anyone thought that should be repeated with the whole line. Sure it juiced sales, but I think the overall response was negative and the sales didn’t last. I read that they were patting themselves on the back for covering up the Star Sapphires, but in my opinion the real sexism there was in their unwillingness to show an equivalent male. So we get Star Sapphires with pants (that still leave nothing to imagination), but yeah, it’s ok for Catwomans tits to pop out…

    Animal Man isn’t so super-hero-y but good nonetheless. Batwoman really shows how to do a reboot, where it really is a modern reimagining of an old forgotten character with art and writing that feels cinematic while still pushing the envelope.

  17. rek September 26, 2011 at 9:25 AM

    Bobby – I didn’t say Marvel was irrelevant, just that it also struggles to stay relevant. I’ve no doubt a lot of the relevancy is due to the movies, though, and not the merits of the comics themselves.

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