And so after all the theorizing, here it is: my Fifty-Two Pick up. Those of you who are not interested in seeing me doing a bit of a faceplant, you may go. The rest of you: make yourselves comfortable. I’ll be wheeling the thing out shortly…
But first, if you don’t mind: the Rules.
(Not that I’m suggesting anyone should play along with me — but hey, that’d be fun, wouldn’t it? — just that I’m going to try to keep this in line with the whole thesis in the last post…)
1. Continuity is downgraded to Yellow, but only to Yellow because crossovers of some characters will still be necessary, because people like that.
2. Similarly, there are people like some sense of larger storylines and historicity, but this can’t be allowed to become something that every title depends on, or even most titles. Historicity isn’t something you pour on sales numbers when they’re on fire; its prevalence should be proportionate to new sales it can reliably supply on an ongoing basis, not to old sales previously lost. After all, superheroes are primarily about costumes, not contexts; if you need a billion years of backstory to explain why Character X is punching Character Y, you need to get yourself a new toolkit. Even where historicity is part of a title’s core appeal, characters have to be integration-ready for presentations in other media, and capable of grabbing the interest of potential readers crossing over from those other media. Like, not the way people have been saying it for a decade or so now, but FOR REAL.
3. That being said, art and story are actually more important than ever, and covers doubly so. Current editorial “culture” is gone, and it isn’t coming back; notionally, the Nineties strategy can be presumed to have failed, here, so something different’s going to be tried. Something more in line with the new realities of the situation. DC and Marvel are still nominally in competition, that hasn’t changed, but the days of desperate seesawing are over — with Bigger Fish in charge, it isn’t all about fighting for control of a gun with ever-more-baroque and exclusionary Events, or sucking up to momentary whims of the readership so you don’t go bankrupt. We don’t try to guess what people will like in their Batman and Superman comics, and dance around at the end of that chain — short-term fixes for long-term goals are out, and the flywheeling of movie and merchandising receipts is in. So these things have to be good enough to interest an Average Person as a first priority, even if that causes sales to suffer. Mind you, if sales suffer too much, changes will be made to ensure that gets corrected. FROM ON HIGH, get me? But really, how hard can it be to intrigue comics fans? If it’s that hard, we might as well shut this place down anyway…
4. And in light of these new priorities, consistency of tone on any given title is likewise more important than ever, and as a result the willy-nilly changing of creative teams in order to goose sales is now a distinct NO-NO. Writers and artists can certainly be replaced if conditions warrant a change, but this eventuality should be managed with maximum caution in order to preserve the loyalty of already-existing readerships: where possible, long-term creator runs should be encouraged.
5. All of which makes inter-title navigability a key editorial issue in this New DCU — since the line must not only have something for everybody, treating individual titles as separate compartments even if those compartments occasionally come equipped with communicating doors, but also encouraging readers in one compartment to try out other compartments similar to the ones they already like. This will be a bit tricky, considering that the maintenance of brand recognition is absolutely paramount to the management of the company…characters have to look like what they’re expected to look like…so a way must be found, without the creation of too many sub-imprints, to guide any given potential new reader of a title, to at least one other title, that has a chance of guiding them to another title still. Yes: this is about to become a comics publishing line that aims at getting a minimum three kicks at every can it comes across…and if there remain some cans that don’t get kicked, well at least we can say it was because of their reluctance to buy, and not our reluctance to sell.
6. And other than all that, feel free to do whatever.
And that’s all the rules there are, folks! So without further ado…
Here’s my New Fifty-Two.
1. SUPERMAN is the main Superman comic, set in the “main time”, wherein he semi-regularly fights super-scientific genius Lex Luthor and his plans for world domination/ruination/just plain crime. A couple of important things to know about Superman (besides the fact that he was the first “superhero” anyone ever heard of) is that he grew up on a farm in Smallville in the latter half of the twentieth century, and combined with the lessons of his Kryptonian heritage this has made him (for want of a better word) something of an environmentalist. His people all died because they refused to see what was happening to their world; growing up working on your family’s farm in the waning days of the twentieth century is a great place to see that it can happen here too. Believe me. So Superman eventually goes to work at the Daily Planet as mild-mannered Clark Kent because he has something to say to the world; he’s a very interdisciplinary sort of guy, and strives to get hold of the big picture. It’s a much bigger deal than shutting down crime bosses. Imagine being interested in ecological systems in the crazy world of the comic books, with its bizarre energy-sources and innumerable lost civilizations, some of which only super-people can ever discover! If you’re not Superman, the big picture is going to be very hard to see, there…to get a grasp of all the issues you’d have to have picked up a very good scientific education somewhere, and probably you’d have to be able to read at super-speed just to keep abreast of developments, too…and so as a reporter you might never hit the really big time, you might wind up primarily a science writer or something. Or an excellent editor, really, and that’s exactly what Perry White is secretly (as in: don’t tell Lois) grooming Clark Kent to be. Young Kal-El, with his supergenius parents, would’ve been an intellectual prodigy even by Kryptonian standards — as smart as Lex Luthor even if he can’t match Luthor’s fecund inventiveness, or his obsessive focus on solving impossible problems — but Clark Kent isn’t interested in thinking outside the box, so much as he lives in a bigger box, and seeks to understand it more completely. So Superman’s character is one that invariably couples action with insight, and he’s always alert to the consequences of exercising power: not a Boy Scout by the time he gets to Metropolis, but a GROWN-UP…which is essentially the nature of his philosophical difference with Luthor, mirrored in his philosophical differences with everyone from Batman on down to Jimmy Olsen. And in a sense this philosophical divide colours (albeit faintly and tastefully) a whole lot of the new DCU: there are superpeople with global understandings, and superpeople with local motivations, and superpeople balanced in-between. Basically it’s an ethical universe, just like ours, and Superman is the paragon of ethical behaviour in it. He never has a physical adventure that isn’t also a mental one, and just like it was in the Fifties and Sixties it’s always his understanding of what’s really going on, that secures his success.
2. LOIS LANE (“…Star Reporter”; “…Gets The Scoop”; “…Is In Over Her Head”; etc. etc for cover copy) is a book about the finest investigative reporter of her generation, a bit of a throwback to the old days of journalism as a calling…set in what we might call the Main Time -1, shortly after Clark Kent comes to work for the Daily Planet, that most unusual of daily broadsheets: thriving in an Internet age, because it’s good enough to do so. Must-read stuff, absolutely unmissable; and Lois is a big part of that. Sometimes, she thinks, the only part that’s doing what it’s really supposed to, in the good old way that works. Everyone else around her (except her EIC) is new, new, new…and already so set in the modern way of doing things that to her eyes they’ve gotten uselessly decrepit before their time. Out of the whole lot of them, the only one she’s got any hope for is Jimmy Olsen, her favourite photographer. The new guy at the Planet, Clark Kent, is actually a very promising writer, with a good grasp of language (sometimes he corrects her diction) and superior researching skills (sometimes he also does Lois favours), but he’s stuck running Perry’s dues-paying gauntlet, fashion file and human interest and odd spot and stats…and besides, he hasn’t got the focus to do what she does: too abstract. And he hasn’t got the guts: too retiring. And he’s too damn clumsy to get in and out of any tight spots. When he arrived, Perry gave him a challenge: “get me an interview with Superman, Kent, and you’re in!” But of course he didn’t get it…she caught him daydreaming on the roof that week, asked him what he was doing, after a pause he said he was thinking about jumping off it, maybe Superman would fly by and…I mean really. The guy’s all wet. GOD does it suck when Perry makes her depend on him for background, he’s always all “no, no, that sounds good but it’s too much of an oversimplification…” Get with the program, Kent! You’re supposed to be a reporter, not a professor! And so who else is there? Steve Lombard? Cat Grant? Please…they sell papers, but that’s about it. So Jimmy’s the only bright light, he’s got a terrific eye and good instincts, and he seems to lead a bit of a charmed life on top of it. How many times, for example, has Superman accidentally come along just when she and Jimmy have been jammed into some corner or other? And, Superman, hmm…for a good idea of Lois’ main antagonists, you can think Lex Luthor and Intergang, but her biggest irritant has always been Superman, whom she regards as skeptically as she would any other powerful public figure (hence the mocking nickname they throw at her sometimes: “well, well, if it isn’t Superman’s Girlfriend”). Not that she’s anti-Superman — though it distresses her when younger people (like Jimmy for example) seem to accept him uncritically, even superficially, as a natural part of their world — you’d have to be crazy, not to mention ungrateful, to be anti-Superman…but it’s ridiculous to think everybody knows all they need to know about Superman. Great that he fetches kittens out of trees, you know? Prevents airline disasters. All that stuff’s good. But for God’s sake let’s look a little deeper, people…! You kind of want John Byrne for this one, for a retro look…this is the first place we encounter the use of art styles to suggest a placement in time, and/or continuity-connectedness, and/or genre, said use of art styles to also be one of those threads running through the whole New DCU.
3. SUPERGIRL is the story of how Kara Zor-El, the sister of Superman’s great-great-multi-great-grandfather — and so not really all that related to him at all — raised on Krypton ’til she was a teenager and then lost somehow in space for untold millenia, adapts to the different culture of Earth once she gets here. She is not like her “cousin”, is not naturalized, doesn’t have a “secret identity” as such — is straight-up a strange visitor from another planet. She’s not even from the same Krypton as Superman is, in objective terms she is a time-traveller as well…at least, in regard to him. She was born five hundred years before Jor-El, into an earlier culture. She’s going to have trouble figuring things out…until eventually Superman decides what she really needs is a deeper immersion in the culture. After all, Krypton’s gone — she’s got nowhere else to call home, and though right now she’s living a teenager’s dream of total freedom, eventually her loss is going to catch up with her and she’s going to need a sense of belonging to support her grief. Superman was adopted; Supergirl’s an orphan, and that’s a big difference. And perhaps also a subtle philosophical through-line of this new DCU…? It’s in Main Time, of course…which I guess I’ll slowly start designating by a simple “MT”, now…
4. BATMAN is the regular Batman title featuring Bruce Wayne. Batman is Batman. MT.
5. BATMAN & ROBIN is the regular Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne title, which is absolutely too good to contemplate losing. MT.
6. BATWOMAN, written and drawn by J.H. Williams, Jr…is the Batwoman comic written and drawn by J.H. Williams, Jr. MT.
7. BATGIRL: YEAR ONE is my favouritest ever Batgirl comic, and it deserves to be ongoing. Just get Beatty, Dixon, Martin and Lopez back on it, and keep the thing running forever. This, too, is something we might call Main Time -1.
8. ACTION COMICS is a triple-sized title that comes out bimonthly. I know, I know, but how can it come out any less frequently? Two-thirds of it is a Superman comic where he teams up with some other DC hero. One-third of it is a solo Supergirl story that will eventually introduce her to the Legion. MT.
9. DETECTIVE COMICS is a triple-sized title that comes out bimonthly when Action is resting, and contains two stories and a back-up feature. The first story always features a Bruce Wayne Batman story in which he usually teams up with another DC hero (in MT as team-ups ordinarily are, since “having team-ups” is the main reason we have any sort of Time in these books at all); the second story is always a Dick Grayson/Damian Wayne Batman & Robin story in which they usually interact with another member of the Extended Batman Family such as Batwoman, the Cassandra Cain Batgirl, Oracle, Batman Inc. characters, etc., but infrequently also with some other “detective” character traditional and/or appropriate to the title; and the back-up story rotates through many of these other “detective” characters, most notably the Vic Sage version of The Question from the JLI cartoon, with guest appearances by Huntress in something of the character of the old Green Arrow/Black Canary strip (you guessed it, this one’s MT -1)…and another notable recurring feature is our old friend Harvey Jerkwater’s own “Monsieur Mallah And The Brain: Consulting Detectives” miniseries, about a murder in Gorilla City that can only be solved by the two Doom Patrol villains. Because I said so, that’s why. And of course, occasionally Detective will simply be a Batman Family All-Play. But whatever it is, this book must be punchy and exciting, as it’s the transition-point from “liking Batman” — which is a common affliction in our society — to “liking Batman-related things” which is NOT. (By the way, this is the first time we encounter the use of art styles to establish different connections with Time, at least in different stories under the same cover. It won’t just be Lois Lane.)
10. ALL-STAR WESTERN is a prestige project that attempts to cash in on the “new Western” Hollywood movie of recent years, the home of the taciturn, morally-occluded, and intensively-researched character. This is for big-name artists with triple-shelf toolboxes, this is a serious new IP farm, and obviously it is NOT IN “TIME” AT ALL. There is a small amount of Jonah Hex in the back of this book, a “supernatural Western” teaser, about the size of a very expensive ad, which is Time’s only concession here…and it’s definitely going to live its whole life on the bubble. Double-sized, and bimonthly, in-house ads tastefully attempt to redirect readers to the other All-Star title, Sgt. Rock, and Adventure Comics, if we can possibly get them to go.
11. ALL-STAR SF & FANTASY is a prestige project for licensed properties and big-name artists, to cycle old IP and cater to movie tie-ins. Money could be spent on this. Think Paul Pope’s Dune…that sort of thing. Obviously also completely Time-Free, it’s double-sized and bimonthly as well, coming out in months where All-Star Western is in the shop. In-house ads hopefully aim at redirecting readers to books like Showcase, Omega Men, Shade, Tales Of The Unexpected, Global Guardians, LSH, etc.
12. DC UNIVERSE SHOWCASE is for the zippy SF superhero stuff: the (All-New) Atom, Adam Strange, the Challengers of the Unknown, etc. Bit clean-n’-retro in style, or if not a bit retro then a bit adventurous, this is reasonably firmly in Time. One feature that also shows up from time to time is Martian Manhunter, secret alien inhabitant of Earth who tracks down other secret alien inhabitants; you’d be surprised how many there are. So if you ever wanted him in Action, for example, you could show him hunting Clark Kent. Double-sized, this is bimonthly.
13. DC PRESENTS is for whatever’s up-and-coming, whatever secondary strip is popular enough to warrant extra exposure. We start off with something fairly safe: a Tim Drake solo series that puts him into conflict with Jason Todd, in MT. Not sure of what to call that, actually…tempted to rename Jason “Deathstroke” just to get rid of the guy currently holding that name, also knits the classic ex-Robin/Deathstroke antipathy a bit tighter. Sure, let’s do that. And since this particular starting-block one’s drawn for the young people, let it also be drawn by the young people…fair warning, we are going to be going to the Internet a lot for young artists at the New DC…there is going to be a full-time position with a title like “Person Who Looks At Online Portfolios”…
14. ADVENTURE COMICS is headlined by Green Arrow, with two back-up strips making a place for “non-super” action in the other rotating features: the Human Target, the Peacemaker, Manhunter, etc. Despite Green Arrow’s presence as headliner, this is less firmly “in continuity” than Showcase…The Peacemaker, for example, will not be making a guest appearance in Detective Comics, and the design of his strip would (again) suggest a tonal distinction from the “main line”: call it Main Time -0, if you like, as Showcase is basically Main Time +0: as previously noted, we’re not getting rid of continuity altogether, but we’re going to streamline it, turn it into intuitive ordinal measurements. If you can’t figure out “when” or “where” something’s happening, you can ask a kid…outside of that, as I guess I’ve already said, the way things look should tell you pretty much what’s going on. If you thought “Jim Aparo” for this, for example, you wouldn’t be thinking far wrong. Double-sized and bimonthly, alternating with DC Universe Showcase.
15. THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD is a double feature: Hawkman up front, Aquaman out the back. This is a book more than usually heavy on art and mood, for the “fun comics” crowd. Perhaps you might bear Kyle Baker in mind for the look of this one. And notice the “thematic” stuff about global and local, orphans and adoptees…? Okay I won’t hit that thing on the head too much, but you can keep your eyes peeled for it if you like…
16. TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED is an intercommunicating double feature with a back-up: the first feature is the Phantom Stranger, the second is Cassandra Craft (they are totally doing it, you guys), and why would you not imagine Ryan Sook for this? When he was so good with these characters before, in Zatanna…a point to remember here, even though this book’s main features will only have about as much issue-to-issue continuity as episodes of the Emma Peel Avengers, is that magic characters and supercharacters will cross over very infrequently in the New DCU. We can build up a pretty decent “magic universe” if we keep it parallel to the chest-symbol set instead of intersecting with it, and let there be no doubt that in the age of Harry Potter and Twilight we definitely want to build up a “magic universe”, so even though this title can be regarded as a sort of “-0” deal, it is NOT in Main Time, but if it’s in any sort of time at all it’s in something we’ll call Time-2…the time relating primarily to magic, which has its own secret rules and hierarchies. Sometimes the odd person tears away from T2 into MT, but they never stay there long unless they’re renegades…and if they are renegades then they’d better hope they’re good at hiding. Magic is like a family, like a kingdom, like a world all its own…and it’s a jealous one. The back-up feature is The Spectre, here.
17. WORLD’S FINEST is a superhero team-up book that looks just like an excellent superhero team-up book. We’re selling some soap, here. The real DC gave Steve Rude a pass (!) but I’ll correct that absurd mistake here. Unusually for team-ups, this title doesn’t have to be in any sort of Time.
18. WEIRD WAR is basically bait for Garth Ennis; the Non-Time anthology stuff is all up front — people into war comics and ghost stories both are not interested in absorbing continuity — think whoever you like! Rick Veitch! Brendan McCarthy! Goran Parlov! — but the MT +0 feature in the back could so easily be a long-running “Kev” strip, which would be our only access-point to the Wildstorm universe since it’s bloody useless now…hey, if people were to like the Midnighter’s guest appearances here he could always get a story in DC Presents. Of course we are not necessarily going to force Mr. Ennis to shoehorn Midnighter in there, but we’ll try to persuade him by sending flowers and boxes of chocolates every so often…
19. WONDER WOMAN FOREVER! is that strangest of all things, a book for kids. A triple-sized quarterly, it features Ben Caldwell reprising his Wednesday Comics performance up front, then in the back there is “open-source” Wonder Woman, many of the online artists with engaging alter-WW stories to tell that we’ve seen over the past few years, promoted to semi-regular DC contributors. This one has a large (maybe four-page?) letters section in the print edition, and an official online forum password — the two are integrated. This one’s intended to push readers online; to normalize and perhaps even make preferential the online comics experience. Time is an irrelevant concept here.
20. BATMAN, INC. is the continuing story of the Batmen of other nations. Main Time.
21. JLA is pretty self-explanatory, I think. It should be, right? Main Time, but this is going to be the closest thing we have to a real reboot — although we’re not interested in re-hashing the history of the JLA, don’t care about its formation or anything like that, where classic JLA villains are used they will be reintroduced, as though for the first time. Starro and Amazo and the Shaggy Man are all too cool not to use, but this isn’t a book about nostalgia and legacy and in-jokes, it’s a book about superhero action.
22. BIRDS OF PREY is Barbara Gordon as Oracle, along with Black Canary, Huntress, the Cassandra Cain Batgirl, Zinda and you know the drill I hope. It’s also a potentially very lucrative property, so it gets protected in much the same manner as a prestige project — we will dance with the woman who brung us.
23. SUICIDE SQUAD is actually something Harvey has a dandy idea for, so I’ll say no more about it than: yep, Suicide Squad.
24. LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES is another one I don’t feel the need to lay out in detail — LSH bloggers will forgive me for saying “if it ain’t broke…!” — but just for clarification, though there was a Superboy and he was a member of the Legion, we know about him but we don’t see him: Supergirl’s the only crossover here, and she’s an infrequent guest-star at best. Many people do like that “legacy” flavour, so even though we won’t have much of that stuff in the New DCU (we will have it maybe just in one or two places, maybe about as many places as we even hint at the existence of a 52-world multiverse that all these titles may be situated in — and it is definitely not going to go any further than that, if that stuff gets in there at all it’s going to be monumentally oblique, only existing to facilitate the alternate readings of a few diehard obsessives), in a small way we will have it here: Supergirl herself is following the “legacy” of Superboy in her Legion adventures — she has more in common with him than with Superman! — you can read a little Peter Pan or Narnia or A Game Of You or something in there if you want — and the current Legionnaires do have a history of their own, which basically extends to classic LSH villains being available for use without needing official reintroductions. Forget any decades-long intrigues or plot twists, though: we are rebooted to the extent that whatever happened happened, but whatever it was it’s finished now.
25. SHINING KNIGHT is our old pal Justin’s brilliant idea — do go check it out if you haven’t already! Time-free, this operates in its own tiny little bubble.
26. SGT. ROCK & THE LOSERS is a double feature that’s just what it sounds like, and is all on its own. We’re not updating a thing, and we’re keeping Rock in the Kubert family if they’ll have us…in part because this must be damn good, and from the very beginning.
27. THE METAL MEN is a lighthearted adventure series within which a peculiarly melancholy and even ominous undertone can at times be detected. I love The Metal Men, there’s so much room to move in it, it truly is a beautiful design. You could analyze it or leave it be, but if you analyzed it I think you would find unusual things. Don’t really know what else to say about it, it’s a perfect little multi-genre diamond, pure comics. I can’t really explain it, but somehow in my head Metal Men always has more of the flavour of Watchmen than any other strip…MT +0, if you like supercharacters with a hint of conspiracies and dark secrets in their backgrounds this is where you’ll find all that stuff, but don’t expect it to directly cross over with anything outside of Metamorpho. Impressionistic, intelligent crap for people like me who like Neil Gaiman comics — if I could get Neil to write it, I would.
28. OMEGA MEN is a scattered mess of people who were once important but now are not, bouncing from pillar to post in DC’s outer space milieu. There’s a whole range of them, and they’re not living large. But they do supply a “ground-level” view of galactic events, and they have the advantage of being invisible…not to mention still somewhat hooked-in to a pretty big covert intelligence and communications network that was established (out of tangible devices and people and contacts and codes and so forth — not just fancy green light) back when they served an important interstellar policing role. Contacts. Favours. Connections. Hardware, even if it’s sitting in hock someplace. Intel. If you want to know the gory details, here they are: years ago there was a brief period when the Green Lantern Corps mysteriously contracted its jurisdiction, we don’t know if it was fighting some sort of war or undergoing some sort of reorganization or what, but it resulted in a large power vacuum that an organization known as the “Omega Network” stepped into…but when the GLC returned to its old duties that all fell apart, got deactivated…or went underground. This one’s as mixed-up and ad-hoc as it can be, a real jumble of lots and lots of stuff from various DC “space” titles, and it’s wildly unnecessary…but maybe a bit of that would be useful, as useful as tales of space espionage? MT +0, this is set very firmly in space, and there won’t be many crossovers with characters who spend much of their time on Earth…an admittedly low-percentage route for readers of All-Star SF & Fantasy to travel on their way to sampling some of the more SF-flavoured titles that exist more prominently in Time, but I think it’s important for there to be such a route even if it is low-percentage…and I have a personal feeling that the outer-space milieu should be big enough to include anything that anyone might want to put in it, without running out of storytelling elbow-room. To convey the impression that space is in fact quite a big stage, is basically the aim of this book…and a good way to get to that goal is to invoke a little bit of “shared-universe” vibe.
29. TALES OF THE GREEN LANTERN CORPS is a place to put excess Green Lantern characters that people may have grown fond of over the years, and is also something of a Continuity Trap for those who like that sort of thing — the New DCU is only very lightly salted with hints and suggestions of a stronger overall continuity, and such saltings are restricted to places where they’ll do the most good: the outer space milieu, and the “magic-universe”. And basically the GLC title is ground zero for “secret history” insofar as matters in this vein that are non-multiversal go. Basically as long as you stay away from “emotional spectrum” Lanterns — which are to be scrupulously ignored because they do not exist — you’ll be fine. Something happened in the time where the Guardians retracted their jurisdiction, and it could be a lot of things, it could be Millenium (in the sense of New Guardians being discovered on Earth) if you want, it could be a war with other cosmic-scale powers, it could be some mysterious interaction with the magic side of the DCU, it could be all of these or none, but it doesn’t matter too much because it’s just the McGuffin…it’s just to say that there is history, here. The history’s actual content is up to the talent of the writer in charge, and of course the editor in charge of all the space-based books who will be making sure things don’t get out of hand. MT +0.
30. GLOBAL GUARDIANS is a semi-satirical book, heavy on the gallows humour, about a very ad-hoc group of international superpeople attempting to cobble together an “independent” and cosmopolitan urgent-action network…but setting it up and keeping it going is easier said than done. Where do you get the money from? How do you get governments to invite you into their country if (say) you want to aid in disaster relief? How do you establish and maintain your political neutrality? The JLA is great, but there are only a few of them, and all they do is fight world-destroyers. Superpowers are a resource that can be used for more things than that, if they can only be marshalled and deployed effectively…but man, you’d think it’d be easier than this…! MT -0: if anyone even says “JLA” past the second issue I’ll be surprised. If you’re looking for Captain Atom, you might find him here…and if you’re thinking of art styles, you might think Keith Giffen and Klaus Janson.
31. TEEN TITANS is set firmly in an MT -1 space: the team doesn’t exist anymore, but when it did it consisted of Dick Grayson’s Robin, Wally West’s Kid Flash, Beast-Boy, Raven, Wonder Girl, and Cyborg, and they had high-spirited and not-at-all-depressing adventures, which this book chronicles. There was briefly a second Teen Titans team made up of Tim Drake’s Robin, Starfire, Speedy (Connor Hawke), Airwave, Terra, and Static…but it didn’t last long. Their main antagonist was Jason Todd, calling himself Deathstroke after having been resurrected by R’as Al-Ghul (bet you always wondered why Deathstroke was such a badass, huh?), whose identity was discovered at the end of their last adventure…but you don’t hear about that Teen Titans very often. If you’re wondering about Doom Patrol, by the way, the short answer is that I don’t have any ideas about it that are good enough to stick — it may well show up in DC Presents at some point, and it’s possible there could be an MT -1 crossover in Teen Titans as well.
32. GREEN LANTERN is Hal Jordan. Sorry. On the bright side, his ring doesn’t work on anything coloured yellow. One of his enemies is this guy named Sinestro, a former Green Lantern turned bad, who has a yellow ring. His boss is Carol Ferris, who is not Star Sapphire…we’ve never heard of Star Sapphire, at least not yet, and I personally hope we never do. This is as close to a real reboot as JLA, or indeed the immediate post-Crisis GL.
33. FLASH is Wally West; his uncle Barry Allen, a friend of Hal Jordan’s, died heroically some time ago. You’re welcome. Wally is unmarried. You’re welcome again. Jay and Joan Garrick are supporting characters — Jay was the Flash of the 1940s but no one really seems to remember that…it’s a mystery! Also Jay and Joan should be in their nineties, just like all their old friends ought to be, but instead all these old folks seem to be hovering in the spry mid-sixties/early seventies range, so…it’s a mystery again! There are actually quite a few mysteries in the Flash’s life, but, you know…it’s comic books, right? And time is funny around the Flash, always has been: no, we don’t need any Speed Forces, if you think about it the nature of the Flash’s power is simply that time is funny around him, and that’s where the whole thing starts and stops…and, if you like, begins again. It’s never quite MT where the Flash is, not exactly — after all, what the Flash does is impossible, haven’t you heard? — but as a top-tier superhero he crosses over into the MT world effortlessly. In case you’re curious, Barry died saving the universe from being annihilated by an intersection/collision with its anti-matter opposite, and I could tell you the whole big story of that (I really could!) but I won’t bother because hardly anyone remembers it and it doesn’t really come up in a “what exactly happened there?” sense. EVER. Though structurally important to a certain type of reading, if you’re interested in experiencing that reading you’ll pretty much have to follow more than a dozen books in order to put together the extremely slight clues they drop into a theory of your own. Not that this won’t be rewarding, if you’re the sort of person who likes doing things like that! But it’s just an Easter egg, when all’s said and done. All it means is that the New DCU had a Crisis…it doesn’t mean that the New DCU had the Crisis. Because it didn’t. Well, how could it?
34. STATIC is a character I never knew much about, but we could stand to have more of him in the Main Time, couldn’t we? So here’s our designated Marvel-style Peter Parker/Firestorm new young superhero who doesn’t quite know how to do it yet, controlling “electromagnetic energy” (that’s the crackly kind, not the light kind), and trying to make a difference.
35. JONAH HEX is the main-universe Wild West guy, and as far back in time as Main Time is going to go…call it MT -2, and thank goodness for Return Of Bruce Wayne!
36. DR. FATE is about to become a giant problem for Zatanna Zatara, the far-too-public sorceress who’s always on the verge of being censured by the “Immortal Seven” who sit on the board of the Invisible College of Magic, and always seems to just escape it because she is not technically operating completely in the open and not technically wielding magic just as she pleases, but instead following the letter of the Atlantis Convention by which everyone with her special talent is supposed to be circumscribed. She’s no tearaway, and she’s proved it a dozen times at official Seven hearings: her own ancestor a signatory to the original document, mere days after the Golden Kingdom fell into the sea, she’s got no problem going toe-to-toe against Arion’s Ghost itself, in defence of her rights. And she’s got people on her side, too: old Vandal Savage, for one, has always supported her both publicly and privately (I trust you are all getting the picture okay). And as long as she’s been doing this, has she once seen (touch wood) the Spectre? Which surely she would have, if she’d been breaking the rules as much as all that. But now something really messy has come down around her ears, and that’s the reappearance of Dr. Fate, in the form of some apparently extremely naive guy named Kent Nelson who showed up at her door with the Helmet Of Nabu in a bag…and then put it on, and so there you go. Nabu’s idea for this Nelson character to come to her, oh thank you very much, person-she-thought-was-just-a-story-until-now, yeah thanks a ton…because what’s so messy about this is that Dr. Fate is the only person from Magicland who’s permitted to cross over freely into MT under any circumstances he likes (the Phantom Stranger being beyond permission, naturally) and do pretty much as he likes there…wield any old sort of magic, of whatever form or degree…because for uncounted millenia he was basically the magical version of Superman, older rules still apply to him, even if he’s not really “Nabu” now, but really this Kent Nelson guy instead: the Convention wouldn’t even have been valid if his name had not been invoked within it, even though he was at that time thought gone and dissipated for good…which explains why he is specifically named as not being bound by it, the one and only person to be so named…and so Fate is powerful, shows up on all kinds of magical GPSes, standing next to him is like shinnying up a lightning rod in a storm. And “Nabu” tells her that Kent Nelson needs protection and guidance, cannot go before the Seven immediately, has hidden enemies, has not yet learned what he needs to learn in order to fully bond with Nabu’s power and complete his return…”well just tell me what he needs to learn and I’ll teach it to him, I’ll leave him a note“, Zatanna says, but of course it just can’t be that easy, can it…? And besides that the guy’s muttering this name in his sleep, Zatanna knows how this shit works, whoever “Inza” is she’s probably going to have to find her for him…so YES NEW DCU WRITERS WE ARE PREPARED TO “BORROW” FROM WHATEVER WE HAVE TO, BECAUSE YOU’D BETTER BELIEVE WE ARE GOING TO SNARE THOSE TOLKIEN AND HARRY POTTER FANS, so if you wouldn’t mind providing something approximately like that for us that’d be great.
37. PETER CANNON, THUNDERBOLT is a time-free book about a walking stereotype, and its hero knows it: the white Western guy who turns out to be better at Eastern Mystic Secrets than the people who were born to them? It’s unfortunate stuff, but he can’t help being who he is. Iron Fist? The Shadow? It’s quite a chore to walk in the shadow of Iron Fist. Peter Cannon is a rich man who lives in a fabulous high-tech mansion on the California coast and occasionally leaves it in a helicopter to dive into the sea and swim to a boat full of smugglers lying offshore who are stealing precious artifacts sacred to somebody-or-other…Peter Cannon is big on the dignity of other cultures, he’s the other side of the Indiana Jones coin. And just like Indy, in his world the mythological is always becoming not just immanent but imminent. We’re not rebooting Planetary, but we’ll do something a lot like it in this title…the perfect man known as the Thunderbolt, what is he supposed to do? Well first he has to find out where he came from…and then if he sees a castle floating in the air, I suppose he’s got to grab onto it somehow…and then he’s going to go pinballing through time and space like a man out of control. Yes: him. He’s the world-crosser. Bet you didn’t see that coming, did you?
38. STARMAN is Jack Knight, legacy hero from Opal City, whose weapon is the most advanced piece of super-technology ever to come out of any of the various star-spanning races’ scientific inventory…and nobody ever knew how it worked but his father Ted, who invented it. Jack doesn’t know how it works either, but he can do tricks with it that the old man never imagined. Hardly anybody else can even make the thing glow, but he can almost make it talk…in the grand tradition of toy-tie-in shows from Japan, there’s always more power in toys than their makers suspect, but only kids know how to use them…only kids can discover their secret properties and potentials. Which is appropriate for Jack Knight, since his story is all about how to preserve optimism, learn how to grow up without losing youth’s enthusiasm and wonder. Adult inheritance is a tricky thing, it can be weight or wings…but it’s non-transferable, and it’s inescapable…anyway, Jack’s MT, and he can go into space anytime he wants.
39. METAMORPHO is another MT +0 book that could well be described as impressionistic, intelligent crap…only this time written for people (like me!) who like Grant Morrison comics. Like The Metal Men, it exudes a sort of dark playfulness, impossible to take as anything but gaudy, careening adventure stories on the surface, yet with a slightly disturbing undertow. This is for the smart set; this is Vertigo.
40. MISTER MIRACLE is Shilo Norman, going around the world doing stuff as he performs his act. Need more be said? Well, maybe one thing more: Shilo is the only person in MT who remembers the Fourth World.
41. SHADE, THE CHANGING MAN is an old Ditko book I loved, but most people seem to be more fond of the Peter Milligan version at Vertigo. Fine, let’s have that back, then! Cosmologically, Shade might be the scariest of all these titles — who the hell is Shade, what the hell is a “Meta-Zone” anyway, and what in God’s name is going on here? Shade doesn’t seem to relate to the ordinary Time structure AT ALL, he seems to have a foot in MT and a foot in T2, and another foot in…something else. A forgotten world, perhaps: a Third Order of things, to which he’s the only remaining door, but the door’s locked and he can’t get out. Outside of that, for Mr. Milligan we remove every limit, trusting in his judgement.
42. KAMANDI is a book that is 100% time-free, and 100% only for absolute top-shelf old-guy talent…because there’s no other way to make it work, in either case.
43. BULLETEER is just what you (hopefully!) think it is, with omniscient narrative-captioning provided by the ghost of Sky-High Helligan. This is your self-aware postmodern superhero-commentary book that plays with allegory and touches nerves, and by God I’d write this one myself…sorry, Justin. MT +0.
44. FRANKENSTEIN & KLARION THE WITCH-BOY is a cock-eyed Rip Hunter replacement, seasoned with a slightly-menacing/gleefully-anarchic dash of Doctor Who. Castle Revolving takes Klarion and his semi-controlled companion hopscotching through time and space, usually on Earth but sometimes not, and if there’s one thing they don’t do, it’s “safeguard the timestream”. Out of Justin’s playbook once again? Yes, it is…and it can cross over with anything, anytime, anyplace, except for the places only Shade may go: which is to say, except only the places that acknowledge any pre-New DCU reality. Oh, and of course except for Sgt. Rock…still, guaranteed you’ll never miss Booster Gold once you see Frankenstein in Weird War! Klarion in Kamandi! Forget about the continuity you once knew, it’s gone! And good riddance to it.
45. WONDER WOMAN is the movie-convertible story of Diana of Themyscira, and so it can be just about anything…it doesn’t really matter what adornments are made to her story in the comics, so long as the basic through-line of her curiosity about Man’s World is preserved. In the movie, there will be some romance; but in the comics we’ll try something else, and steer clear of that. So we’ll say she was here once before, when she was young, as “Wonder Girl”…and she wasn’t supposed to be, did not actually have the “Wonder” status that made her an official ambassador, with a kind of divine diplomatic immunity, she just said she had it…and thus, she was always working without a net. Of course since she was not dealing with spiritually-informed people (little nod to Darwyn Cooke there) they just thought it was a “super-” name…and when she got forcibly yanked back to Paradise Island they were all splitting up anyway, Robin to be Nightwing, Beast-Boy back to his “family” the Doom Patrol, etc., so it never occurred to anybody that “Donna” (that’s “Diana” with a thick accent) didn’t want to go back home. Or that she got in trouble when she did. They only send out these ambassadors every so often, you see; once in a long, long time, and between those times nobody’s supposed to leave the island. But Diana couldn’t wait ’til she was old enough to get into the contest, she found a way of running away from home so she up and ran, keen for adventure and novelty. However now she’s gone through the trials and gotten the official sanction, and so she’s got a right to be in MT as well as T2; Themiscyra is not a signatory to the Atlantis Convention because it didn’t have to be, it is held under the hand of the Gods, and Hippolyta is the representative of a Higher Power. Diana can converse with the Spectre if she wants to. She’s a wild card. Think Mike Mignola, because Hellboy is exactly what we’re going for here: like the Flash, Diana doesn’t exactly belong in MT, but she’s there anyway, because this is comics.
46. WHATEVER HAPPENED TO FORAGER? is a book set in the inner city, about the last refugee of the Fourth World — the man raised by the insects crawling under the skin of New Genesis, their best and most daring food-gatherer, who hid his human features under a mask. Now he hides by taking the mask off, working and living in hard conditions that are nevertheless more favourable than any he’s ever known. Not a New God and not an Apokoliptian, he was a person in the forgotten middle between them, and now both of those poles are gone and the middle remains, as forgotten as ever…something happened to the Gods when the skies turned red, and something happened to all the worlds, too: they’re different now, if indeed they’re even still out there. Is that a fast-moving dot against the sky? Orion may have encountered Superman, but Forager never did, and he’s not going to now. We don’t know where he is, we don’t even know what kind of map we’d need to try to find him…there’s nothing that can be done about that question, so there’s no point asking it. That dot may simply be a bird, or a plane. But here at last, at least, is the faint suggestion that maybe there are (or have been) other worlds…even if the suggestion doesn’t make any practical difference. For Forager what’s much more important is the freedom to make a completely new life, to wipe away what came before and immerse himself in the here-and-now…especially since the here and the now have no particular context. Or, do they? To go from life in an insect colony to life on Earth is strange two ways: strange through being eerily similar, and strange through being eerily different. In the Hill one relied on hierarchy above all, and here there are hierarchies as “natural”, as organically-developed as that…and for that matter there are higher powers too, but the most curious thing about this new and abandoned world is that the hierarchies aren’t rigid: the niches are responsive to the desires and emotions — to the passions — of individuals, and he finds that new dynamic not only confusing, but inspiring. In the Hill he experienced absolute fellowship until the moment he experienced absolute condemnation: it was all about the way power flowed, and it couldn’t be resisted. But here, each individual has a say in what their environment is to be like. So — you know this already — at night Forager goes out and cleans up the streets, unable to abide injustice, and by day he pursues his relationships with his neighbours. It’s hardly rocket science, though it’s bound to be a somewhat lugubrious book — think of it as Swamp Thing, think of it as Machine Man, think of it as Hero For Hire, it’s in that ballpark and I gotta confess I’d read the bejeezus out of it…so in it goes! If I had my pick of artists, it’d be James Stokoe.
47. THE WORLD ACCORDING TO DR. OCCULT is about the one and only successful renegade from the world of magic — the blended being known alternately as Dr. Occult and Rose Psychic (but man, we gotta do something about that name, don’t we? I see from Wikipedia that “Rose Spiritus” is available, but honestly that ain’t much better, is it?) that was saved by the Seven from a human sacrifice, and raised in the Invisible College itself. Then one day, after stealing the College’s most potent token…pffft! Out into nowhere, unfindable. Never seen since. This is time-free stuff, as the good Doc and his lady fair wander the highways and the byways…think of it as a Phantom Stranger story from the Phantom Stranger’s own perspective, and most importantly think of it as looking trippy…I’ll have to come back and plug in some artists’ names here, and…uh…actually now that I think of it plug in a bunch of artists’ names throughout this misbegotten thing, holy crap this has taken a lot more time than I thought it would…of course the reason Dr. Occult is invisible to all the people who would dearly love to find him is because he’s not a him at all, but a hir…the male and female principles being unified within one person, that person is operating on a whole different level of magic…a family of one, you might say, and that’s the only reason they can make that totem work. Anybody remember Steve Gerber’s old Starhawk character, before it was misunderstood? This is the next step from that, the Promethea move…only climbing down the ladder to solid ground, this time. It’s also got more than just a finger in J.M. DeMatties’ Dr. Fate, and Messner-Loebs’ Dr. Fate too…well, romance is really the best magic, isn’t it? So this is a DCU picaresque, also a magic story where it’s all adventure all the time, and lots of action…not hemmed in by the barbed-wire fence of plot nor pinned down by the searchlight of spooky implication, but free to go anywhere and mix things up in an exciting way. Why don’t we just say that any door Dr. Occult comes to could just as well be magically turned into the inner door of hir office, eh? So we don’t lose that Sam Spade thing. Dr. Occult could draw a picture of a door in the sand with a stick, and reach down and open the thing onto that office. Let’s not get too concerned with the whys and the wherefores, just make an entertaining book about the dream of freedom — what if you were magic and could do anything? That would be cool…
48. BLUE BEETLE is just like that Blue Beetle book everyone remembers and liked so much, except it isn’t in Main Time…or rather it’s right on the borderline of Main Time’s expanse, barely MT -0, honestly quite far from all the other goings-on, instead in a world not unlike Forager’s, where if Superman exists he’s just a fast-moving dot in the sky. I swear to God that was the worst thing about that book, all the fan-service guest-star Mary-Sue stuff. No. Let Jaime Reyes be off on his own, doing some world-building. This is sort of the Static spot, really: we’re swapping the relative positions of these two. One day Dr. Fate may show up here, and say “AHA! SO THIS IS WHAT HAPPENED TO THE SACRED SCARAB!”, but if it ever does happen it’s not going to be before this title cracks #150, or dies a lonely death, or both.
49. THE QUESTION is the story of Renee Montoya, friend of Batwoman and successor to Vic Sage, who gradually gets to know Huntress. MT, and if there’s any justice also awesome.
50. AZTEK is in here because the city of Vanity is just too good to lose, and I never thought the character got a really fair shake. MT, and he’ll join the JLA soon enough.
51. MANHATTAN GUARDIAN is something everybody under the sun wants to write, isn’t it? I’d tell you how I’d write it, but that’d make this post twice as long as it already is…
52. PLOP! is…why are you looking at me like that?
Listen, do you know how long I’ve been doing this thing? THIS WAS JUST SUPPOSED TO BE A JOKE POST, GODDAMNIT…!
Well, maybe it’s time we both got some sleep, eh Bloggers?