DC Rebirth is on the horizon, a revamp of the comics line to reflect a changed editorial approach.
It’s hard to believe it’s nearly five years since DC Comics crushed the old continuity in a Flashpoint and gave us a revamped line. Since then we’ve had cancellations, new titles and the DC You project, which loosened the reigns of editorial fiat.
The initial DC New 52 sales were great, but soon tapered off as it became apparent the line-wide revamp was in large part a rush job. Storylines turned on a dime, creative teams were wafted away in the dead of night, and readers deserted in droves. While there were some good series here and there – Batman has been consistently worthwhile, Batgirl turned into something fresh, Justice League 3000 was surprisingly great – too much of the output was reheated Nineties generic pie.
And the good things came at a high price – the history of the DC universe. The heroic legacy stretching back to the 1930s, which had led to fourth generation heroes, was eschewed as DC drove forward into a very 1990s refresh. Last year, though, DC dipped its toes into the waters of course correction, bringing back characters from the pre-Flashpoint continuity, and even letting a couple of them – the Lois Lane of ‘New Earth’ and her Superman – appear regularly.
And now DC has gone further, announcing that come May, there’ll be a Rebirth. Creative Director Geoff Johns is overseeing a spring cleaning of the line, hoping to recapture some of the magic of his Green Lantern and Flash Rebirths. He won’t be writing everything, of course; after the $2.99 80pp DC Universe Rebirth kicking off the project, it looks like he won’t be penning anything regularly. But he is running a Writers’ Room at DC Entertainment’s new headquarters in California.
He tells Comic Book Resources: ‘So editors come in, writers come in, we sit down, we talk about “Rebirth.” What it means, what our goals are, how to build up and forward instead of tear down. I have a whole wall that’s a whiteboard, and an extensive comic library, and we talk about story, about what we love about the characters. Take “Birds of Prey” — we talk about why we first loved the Birds of Prey; why we love Dinah, Barbara and Helena. The runs we loved. The characters then and now. It begins with that. And then where it all goes next. It can’t be doing the same old thing. Or re-telling another story. It’s got to be new. “Blackest Night” was new when we had the dead rise. So what can we build on in this case? What story can only the Birds of Prey tell? And I think there’s a great one coming up.’
Sounds good. It doesn’t mean everything that emerges will be to my taste – I don’t see how ‘what we love about the characters’ led to Barry Allen’s backstory becoming grimdark, with murdered Mom and jailed Pop – but it has to be good that discussions have been taken place. What emerges should be a mix of Johns’ vision as a massive, longtime DC fan and whatever fresh ideas the writer brings to the table.
Ah yes, ‘the writer’. DC hasn’t yet told us just what the creative teams on individual books are. Details will be given at Wondercon in Los Angeles on 26 March
. We know that a few names have been signed as DC exclusive – Tom King, Clay Mann and Jon Timm – but not what they’re attached to. Rumours say King is handling Batman, which is going bi-weekly, with departing Batman writer Scott Snyder switching to the still-monthly Detective. Given the novel work King has done on Vision, Omega Men and Grayson (with Tim Seeley), I’m definitely interested.
I’m not so hot on the idea of bi-weekly books. Yes, DC is rolling back the line to $2.99, dumping the several books priced at $3.99 which contain just a couple of pages more than the rest of the 20pp books, unlike Marvel’s twice-a-month $3.99/20pp cash grab. But still, following a few of these more frequent books will soon add up, and I’m wary that storylines will be artificially padded to ensure ideas don’t run out.
One thing I am good with is the return of the original numbering to Action Comics and Detective Comics, which are fast-approaching their 1000th issue. Sentimental? Yes, but it goes back to DC embracing its history, the legacy Johns says will be at the heart of the Rebirth project. To quote his CBR interview again – which is well worth a read – ‘There’s got to be an umbilical cord that goes all the way back to “Action Comics” #1, that connects the whole DC Universe.’ That line made me smile broadly, I think of his umbilical cord as a beautiful magic lasso, pulling back the best of the past and placing it gently into 2016.
In the video DC released of Johns – notice, not Dan DiDio or Jim Lee, the faces of the New 52 and DC You – confirming the rumoured changes – he says the first line of the DC Universe: Rebirth 80pp giant will be: ‘I love this world… but there’s something missing’. It’s a lock that the unknown character – likely Barry Allen, given DC is as obsessed with putting him at the centre of revamps as it is with the number 52 – is talking the heroic legacy. Bleeding Cool, which has been pretty accurate with its Rebirth rumours, says the Justice Society is returning. I don’t know if the younger Earth 2 heroes who debuted in 2011 are sticking around, but it seems unlikely that if, indeed, a more classic, Golden Age group, is to the fore. BC has heard that ‘not only will this active team of superheroes be revealed, along with an explanation as to why no one remembers them, but they will be brought forward, young, to the present days, fishes out of water, fighting alongside the Justice League of America’.
Oh, and indeed, gah. The man out of time thing is interesting, but it’s been Captain America’s schtick, off and on, for decades. Heck, Marvel have already done it with a group of heroes in The Twelve, a very underrated series. I hope BC is only half-correct, and that a Titans Hunt-style ‘the world forgot everything’ conceit isn’t coming. I like the JSA either as heroes in their prime in the 1940s, or as veterans mentoring a new generation. Still, it is, as they say, only a rumour.
What could this publicity image mean? It looks to be, from left, post-Crisis Kon-El Superboy, Jay Garrick, Green Arrow, Bart Allen, Jessica Cruz Green Lantern and Supergirl – but why together?
I’m pretty excited by the presence of a Legion of Super-Heroes image (that’s an extract from the cover to #300 from the Eighties, trivia fans, a superb story) in the Johns video. But will they be monthly or semi-monthly? The idea of a twice-a-month Legion has me retrenching on my ‘monthlies only’ preference. Let’s find out which it is via the list of announced titles and dates from DC:
AQUAMAN REBIRTH #1
BATMAN REBIRTH #1
THE FLASH REBIRTH #1
GREEN ARROW REBIRTH #1
GREEN LANTERNS REBIRTH #1
SUPERMAN REBIRTH #1
TITANS REBIRTH #1
WONDER WOMAN REBIRTH #1
New #1 Issues (Shipping twice monthly):
THE FLASH #1
GREEN ARROW #1
GREEN LANTERNS #1
WONDER WOMAN #1
New Issues (Shipping twice monthly):
ACTION COMICS #957
DETECTIVE COMICS #934
BATGIRL & THE BIRDS OF PREY REBIRTH #1
HAL JORDAN & THE GREEN LANTERN CORPS REBIRTH #1
THE HELLBLAZER REBIRTH #1
JUSTICE LEAGUE REBIRTH #1
NIGHTWING REBIRTH #1
RED HOOD & THE OUTLAWS REBIRTH #1
New #1 Issues (Shipping twice monthly):
HAL JORDAN & THE GREEN LANTERN CORPS #1
JUSTICE LEAGUE #1
New #1 Issues (Shipping monthly):
BATGIRL & THE BIRDS OF PREY #1
THE HELLBLAZER #1
RED HOOD & THE OUTLAWS #1
THE SUPER-MAN #1
BATMAN BEYOND REBIRTH #1
BLUE BEETLE REBIRTH #1
CYBORG REBIRTH #1
DEATHSTROKE REBIRTH #1
EARTH 2 REBIRTH #1
SUICIDE SQUAD REBIRTH #1
SUPERGIRL REBIRTH #1
TEEN TITANS REBIRTH #1
TRINITY REBIRTH #1
New #1 Issues (Shipping twice monthly):
HARLEY QUINN #1
JUSTICE LEAGUE AMERICA #1
SUICIDE SQUAD #1
New #1 Issues (Shipping monthly):
BATMAN BEYOND #1
BLUE BEETLE #1
EARTH 2 #1
GOTHAM ACADEMY: NEXT SEMESTER #1
SUPER SONS #1
TEEN TITANS #1
Oh. No Legion. Am I downhearted? I am not. These lists are notorious for omissions and amendments. I remain optimistic – obviously, the Legion news is SO massive it needs its own press release.
Yeah, that’s it. No Doom Patrol, either, which seems weird, given the team is one of the concepts DC continually returns to. OK, it continually cancels DP series, but there are enough fans out there, surely, to merit it being given a shot.
Cyborg is surprising as a twice-monthly, given the current monthly hasn’t set the sales charts alight. DC must really be expecting Vic Stone to prove a breakout character so far as the Batman Vs Superman film is concerned.
I’m delighted to see Supergirl regain a monthly, though with the success of her TV series I’d expect her to be given a chance at a bi-weekly, a la Flash and Green Arrow.
The announcement of a Blue Beetle series makes me smile, I hope it’s a mix of Ted Kord – who has appeared a few times in the New 52, and needs a haircut – and Jaime Reyes. Both were great characters prior to the 2011 revamp. They’re both in the video, which augers well.
Super-Sons? Presumably not the return of the Bronze Age’s hopelessly hip teenage sons of Superman and Batman, it’s more likely a teaming of Damian Wayne (who’s seemingly losing his current solo title and rumoured to be leading a new Teen Titans, despite being about ten) and Jon Kent of the excellent Lois and Clark mini. All of which sounds decidedly non-organic so far as concepts go – and if Damian’s in charge, where does that leave Tim Drake? Hopefully as anything but the terrible Red Robin – give him back the lead Robin status, DC, and a solo book written by Chuck Dixon.
Superwoman? Bleeding Cool, in one of its off moments, were fooled into believing this was Lois Lane with superpowers, but the faker came clean. Could it be Power Girl with a new name to follow the awful costume with S-shield she adopted a couple of years back? I hope not, Power Girl is Power Girl; making her an official Super character would be as daft as Marvel making Falcon Captain America, and you don’t see them doing that, do you?
As for The Superman, Lex Luthor with powers seems a safe punt given the cover of Justice League #52, the last issue for Johns and the excellent Jason Fabok. Plus, a bald Super-Man ties in with the legacy notion by evoking Siegel and Shuster’s pre-DC Reign of the Super-Man story. Unless the creative team are un-favourites, I’ll give it a try, though I’m almost as tired of Luthor as I am of the Joker – it’s only a few years since Luthor headlined Action Comics, I’d rather he appeared only a couple of times a year and spent the rest of his days in prison greys.
Nightwing makes sense, given King will be very busy if on double-Batman, Grayson never felt like a longterm thing and Dick is already back in one of his old suits in Titans Hunt.
Which brings us to Titans and Teen Titans. Having grown up with Dick, Donna, Lilith and co, I’m all for them having a regular spot, but I do hope Donna and Garth are de-savaged, I’m not at all keen on the New 52 versions. The Teen Titans need serious work if they’re to gain me as a reader, the adventures of Red Robin, Brickboy, Oysterface and co have been a consistent lowlight of the New 52.
As for Earth 2, to quote the Cybermen, delete, delete! I’ve had enough of the updated JSA in doom-laden stories. And while the loss of an Alan Scott who happens to be gay is a blow for diversity, DC could always, like, invent some new folk – the new Alan always felt like a stunt anyway.
Trinity would be Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman, the World’s Finest trio – depending on what characterisations shake out of Rebirth, this could be fun.
Barbara Gordon gets two books, her eponymous title and a Birds of Prey revamp. Well, I’ve been a fan of Barbara’s recent exploits, but upcoming solicits seem to have the Burnside locale and approach ending, as the creative team departs. That’s a headscratcher, as the Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher and Babs Tarr Batgirl seems to have been one of the few genuine critical hits of the New 52. And while good press doesn’t always equate to sales, I’m pretty sure it was doing OK. Still, let’s see what’s coming next, it’s not like anyone saw Burnside coming.
As for Birds of Prey, it’s never flown without Babs-as-Oracle; I can easily see DC slipping Batgirl’s computer expert roommate Frankie into the role, but at its core BoP was always Oracle and Black Canary in defined partnership roles, and I’m unsure it can work with a different dynamic. I hope so.
I’d like to see Wonder Woman completely de-New 52-ed – no sword, no Olympian family and definitely no rapist Amazons. Current writer Meredith Finch and artist hubby David are rumoured to be off the book but on different, separate projects, which is a good start.
If Scott Snyder does land on Detective Comics – and I’d not be surprised to see him on a Superman book after his Superman Unchained limited series – it’ll finally stop being seen as the skippable Batman series; with Batman as the lead of the line, Snyder is free to go weirder places. And weird Snyder is the best Snyder.
Superman and Action Comics need to adopt a consistent approach, with Clark as the world’s favourite hero once more, the man who deserves to be DC’s best-known figure (Batman has the better sales, but kids come out of the womb knowing Superman). I’d love to see Nineties stalwart Dan Jurgens writing and ‘show running’ the books, Lois and Clark showed he still gets the character.
As for the rest of the line, there are no big surprises, and nothing that provokes particular thoughts. What do you think?