DC's New Plan: start from square one...why?

By Cody D. Medrano

Features Editor

DC Comics has been known for some of the most memorable characters in both the industry and history itself. Characters such as Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern and, without a doubt, the world's finest themselves, Superman and Batman, have been the foundation of the entire comic industry and have ignited a generation of readers all the way from his grandfather who spoke about how it was back in his day to the kid who plugs in the earphones of his iPod to drown out a lecture from his grandfather. However, this generation has been hit hard in many ways, and one of the biggest areas to be hit was the comic industry. Needless to say, DC needed a way to save its sales and its answer to this query was "re-launch."

DC and Marvel aren't so different

The idea of the re-launch is probably one of the most scrutinized ideas ever to come about since the "One More Day" storyline.

A brief explanation of "One More Day" for those who haven't read the comics may be needed. In "One More Day" to save Aunt May, Peter Parker made a deal with Mephisto (Marvel's "Devil") to save her life. In that deal Peter had to give up his marriage to Mary Jane, making it so the marriage between the two never happened and memories of Mary Jane were wiped from Peter's memory, thus creating a series of retcons, which ends with the reveal of Spider-Man's identity and the years he's spent with his wife. (A retcon is when a later writer changes the history of a comic book to accommodate his own storyline.) This caused an uproar throughout the comic community, making Joe Quesada a punching bag (Marvel's editor-in-chief) the many fans of Spider-Man.

That same uproar has been evident with the fans of DC Comics today when the company decided the best way to save its sales was to start its comics over as well as to introduce several new ones (some of which, are coming from the DC subsidiary, WildStorm, founded by renowned comic artist Jim Lee).

DC also rebooted several comics that had been canceled the previous year such as the third-generation Blue Beetle, Jaime Reyes. The news of the "re-launch" caused a huge outcry throughout the comic reading base, some of optimism, some of confusion and a lot of anger.

These reactions were to be expected, however, when news hit the world, DC vice president and publisher Dan DiDio, who was the man behind the re-launch, was probably the most scrutinized man in comics after Joe Quesada.

Years of history done in a flash

To understand how the "re-launch" came about, aside from poor sales figures, you need to look inside the DC Universe and its latest "mega-event" called "Flashpoint." (Mega-event is a term used for an event that spans over an entire comic book company's universe involving a large number or in many cases the entire company's cast of characters.)

In "Flashpoint," Barry Allen (the second Flash) deals with his nemesis Professor Zoom aka The Reverse Flash as he goes back in time and causes disruptions in all the DC heroes' pasts, creating an alternate universe where no one is what he was.

Spanning six issues, the story followed Barry and a small group of heroes who believed Barry was right in saying the universe they were in was wrong or somehow remembered what the universe should be as he tried to set the world back to its status quo.

Without going into spoiler territory, I will keep the resolution of the event quiet so those who are interested in the story and its secret can read for themselves.

Is change good?

At the end of it all, the DC Universe goes through drastic changes, so superheroes have begun to show up only during the universe's past five years, and the Justice League hasn't been formed yet with several heroes only having topical knowledge of one another and some who don't exactly like one another (more prominently Batman and the Green Lantern Hal Jordan). Also, for some reason, DC has added one of the original Teen Titans' Victor Stone aka Cyborg as one of the founding seven members, who comes across as slightly confusing, on a personal note.

The new issues all seem to have a darker than usual tone, taking a more Nolanesque turn for the stories, making them grittier, grim and more adult-oriented, which is vastly different from comics with where readers have grown up. As a number of people are doing 52 separate issues for the "re-launch," the art and stories of each individual issue varies.

What makes it worse is DC broke a taboo for its artists and hired Rob Liefeld (creator of comics like "X-force" and "The Youngbloods" and co-creator for "Deadpool" with Fabien Nicieza) to do the art for the new series of "Hawk and Dove." (Here's hoping they are vaccinated from Youngblood's disease.)

One point that remains confusing is in the "re-launch" fans were told a lot of the stories and characters have been changed, but one that remains out of place is the history of Batman happening in the span of five years and yet the other multiple Batman comics remain for the most part, continuity wise, untouched. One believes continuity is unsafe in terms of the "re-launch." Barbara Gordon aka Batgirl still suffered the injuries that confined her to a wheelchair but only for a short period of time, bringing her back to the mantle of Batgirl.

The final verdict of the DC "re-launch" is…a mixed one. From a sales point of view, it was a success. Issues of each new comic were sold in record numbers, and there seems to be a lot of potential for a number of the new issues.

From a critical standpoint, the stories are darker than they should be, and on more than one occasion the new regime of DC has been criticized for over sexualizing the female characters and conjectures of sexism happening within the company. Even Dan DiDio himself verbally berated a fan who pointed out and asked why so few female workers are in the company and said the number of female creators has dropped from 12 percent to just 1 percent.

Aggressively answering to the fan, DiDio asked: "What do those numbers mean to you? What do they mean to you? Who should we be hiring? Tell me right now. Who should we be hiring? Tell me."

That aside, there are a number of good issues and a lot of potential for these comics.