Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The New DC Comics Universe, featuring Karl Rove

Tonight is the premiere of the ABC Family show The Nine Lives of Chloe King, based on novels by my friend Elizabeth Braswell about a girl with cat powers (the show may also help fill the “Chloe gap” left by the end of Smallville).  I will have to DVR it, as I will be seeing a one-night-only release of the extended edition Fellowship of the Ring (7pm at Kip’s Bay – and let me know if you want to claim my second ticket for the nearly-four-hour elf-filled epic [UPDATE: The ticket has been seized!]).  The Geek Gods are cruel when they schedule things sometimes. 

(Speaking of women with cat powers, I wonder who would win a fight between Chloe King, Nastassja Kinski, and Jessica Alba, plus Eartha Kitt, Julie Newmar, Lee Meriwether, Michelle Pfeiffer, Halle Berry, Maggie Baird, Julia Rose, and Anne Hathaway...and the voices of Jane Webb, Meledny Britt, Adrienne Barbeau, Gina Gershon, Nika Futterman, Eliza Dushku, Vanessa Marshall, P.J. Mattson, Kelly Huston, Laura Post, Grey DeLisle, and Lorelei King.  I’d watch that fight, which might look a bit like this one mentioned in a prior entry.)

But even geekier things than that are afoot, since DC Comics officially unveiled its fifty-two impending comic book series, all starting from issue #1 in September, along with a slightly-tweaked shared fictional universe and a blitz of TV ads in a last-ditch effort to get the general public to notice comics (even if they end up hating the Green Lantern movie, as it is rumored they will – but more about that in two days).

Some thoughts on the new DC Universe, or “DCnU,” as people have been calling it:

•The new Animal Man artist is named Travel Foreman, and though that series is not supposed to be as metafictional as it was in the days when Grant Morrison wrote it, I still think they should consider having the characters hear the rumbling of truck tires and approaching trains from time to time and ominously intone that “the Travel Foreman is approaching.”

•As seems to be the case every time DC revises its universe’s fictional history, it’s unclear which elements of the past remain intact and which are wholly revised.  In particular, though we know there are three Justice League teams on the way in September, we’ve so far seen no reference to the Justice Society, Freedom Fighters, Marvel Family (Shazam et al), pulp-era heroes such as the Spirit and Doc Savage, and a couple of the lesser Charlton Comics heroes such as the Question. 

Before all this reboot stuff happened, the aforementioned Grant Morrison had been planning to use at least some of those old-fashioned characters as inhabitants of alternate universes (the way DC used to depict them) in a big miniseries called Multiversity.  My theory about why we haven’t seen them mentioned as part of the September relaunch is that
Grant Morrison’s depictions of those characters, sometime in 2012 or so, will now be treated as the official debuts of those characters in the DCnU, rather than just elements of a self-contained Morrison alternate-universe story.  Maybe his versions will even be set in the main universe now and the multiverse framing device will be abandoned. 

I just hope they decide what approach they’re taking before he starts writing (I don’t think they knew whether Final Crisis was in continuity or not before he wrote it, for instance).  I would hate to see him do some complicated metafictional thing and leave other writers frightened to use all of those characters in the way that he undoubtedly frightened some away from the Seven Soldiers (I’m happy to see Frankenstein can’t be stopped and is getting his own series, though – and kudos to Morrison for being perhaps the first writer in history to explain away the confusion over the monster’s name by having him say he eventually adopted his creator’s name as though he were a son).

•The fanboys (and some feminists) don’t seem to be panicking about it just yet, but it strikes me that if the Justice Society is in limbo for now, there may never have been a Power Girl, and that notoriously busty blonde tough-gal is certainly not in the September solicits despite her relative popularity.  Even busty blonde tough-gals sometimes have to be erased from history for the sake of the greater good, though.  

•If cosmology and logic rather than editorial discretion decided these things, I suppose Power Girl probably should be the first thing to go.  I mean, heck, she didn’t even really belong in the prior universe (being a leftover from the old multiverse), let alone this new-fangled thing

•The writer of Teen Titans claims that the new-fangled-looking, less human-seeming Superboy will still be depicted as having debuted after the “Death of Superman” storyline and will still be a combination of Superman and Luthor DNA.  Maybe much of history is intact, then, since the Titans look the most altered of any of the characters in the ads. 

•The continued existence of all four of Batman’s male former sidekicks also seems to suggest that history isn’t a blank slate as of September – but rumors fly that Superman will no longer be married to Lois Lane, and Batgirl writer Gail Simone implied in an interview that all of the characters are being seen at earlier stages in their careers than we’ve become accustomed to.  How quickly did Batman successively train and part ways with Nightwing (Dick Grayson), Red Hood, Red Robin, and the current Robin?  Worst-case scenario in these situations, of course, is some continuity train wreck in which we’re supposed to think Batman’s career is in its first year, but Nightwing somehow trained with him fifteen years ago.  We shall see.

•Hey, they could bring back the New Gods again now if they wanted to, right?  No?  (Actually, though I like those goofy characters, I would also accept it if they officially said Darkseid slept for a thousand years after Final Crisis and only reawakened in the Legion’s era – that would actually stitch a couple plots together nicely.)

•With Warner Bros.’ Hollywood arm in greater control of a shrunken DC these days, you have to imagine that part of the plan for September was #1’s in which Batman looks a bit more like Chris Nolan’s version, Superman looks like Zack Snyder’s impending 2012 movie version more than Siegel and Shuster’s version, Wonder Woman looks like the new TV show (despite it exploding before launch), and Green Lantern looks like the can’t-fail blockbuster hit of the summer (regardless of whether that works out well).  Wonder Woman undeniably has pants as of September.  But the interesting question is whether we can glean anything from Superman about the likely tone of next year’s Man of Steel movie.

•DC co-publisher Geoff Johns, the fanboy who made good, probably failed to ensure a quality Green Lantern movie, and he is responsible, as writer, for maintaining interest in the Green Lantern comic in September and the new Justice League comic, but amidst his many big responsibilities, the most frightening ought to be writing Aquaman.  Good luck making that guy interesting.

•What with the revisions of history, it occurs to me that DC Comics is a bit like the unnamed Bush administration official (possibly Karl Rove) who, claims Ronald Suskind, said to all those in the reality-based community, “when we act, we create our own reality.  And while you’re studying that reality – judiciously, as you will – we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out.  We’re history’s actors...and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

•Overall, though, I suspect these fifty-two new comic book series are going to be an awful lot like the old ones.

•Just under the wire before the September fresh start, Marv Wolfman and Dan Jurgens have this one-shot that appears to revisit every time-jarring DC “Crisis” ever all at the same time.  And why not?  One last drive before the scrapheap. 

•Michael Malice recommends this much briefer work of comics art, which also alludes to the continual cycle of death and rebirth.

•On a comparably silly note, the indispensible BleedingCool jokingly traces the source of the new dark/supernatural Justice League spin-off to...cartoonist Fred Hembeck!

•Meanwhile, at Marvel: given rumors that a cheating Matthew Vaughn impregnated January Jones during the production of X-Men: First Class (and was thus summoned home by his beautiful, angry, ghurka-squad-protected, German wife, Claudia Schiffer, before production was entirely completed), it’s ironic that the main villain’s a German in the movie (albeit played by Kevin Bacon) and his partner a cold blonde beauty who reads minds, named Frost.  I just hope Schiffer and Jones don’t get into a big fistfight over it, or that if they do, Vaughn gets footage.  (By contrast, if Duncan Jones directed it, it’d presumably look like this.)

•If perchance it turns out that, the writer’s reassurances aside, Teen Titans history is so altered that Wally West, Donna Troy, and Garth from Atlantis never existed – and Raven and Beast Boy have not yet met – the Wolfman/Perez era of DC, arguably DC’s peak and the time that many Marvel kids like me switched sides – will be dead.

•If the new Blue Beetle comic doesn’t succeed, I say it’s time to put him, Canterbury Cricket, and Ambush Bug all on one team and call it Bug Squad.  It’d be funny, naturally.

•If All-Star Western #1 with Jonah Hex takes place in Gotham City, is it no longer in New Jersey?  Now they’re shaking the foundations of my world.

•The Justice League International ad seems to hint superheroes are a new thing in this world – though the Bat-titles make Batman Inc. sound like it has enough history to have “legal ramifications” now arising...and Dove’s dating Deadman.  So these heroes weren’t born yesterday.  But if, as Rich Johnston theorizes, Action is a “year one” thing whereas Superman is his present-day adventures, I wonder if maybe they were born about a year ago.  Superman’s been referred to as this world’s first superhero, in any case, so a seven-decade-long Justice Society history seems unlikely. 

•And I’d be willing to bet Mr. Terrific has never met superheroes before, from the way the ad for his series is worded. 

•The site ComicsAlliance notes (as Jacob Levy pointed out to me) that with DC’s mainstream comics all returning to issue #1 – and Marvel ending the numbering of its long-running Uncanny X-Men a month later to reflect a schism within the characters’ ranks – the highest-numbered ongoing comic will suddenly be: Hellblazer.  Congratulations to crusty occult detective John Constantine, who for all his cynicism has been coming out twelve times a year like clockwork for over two decades now.  

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