As the new year is still fairly new, it’s time once again to revisit some old speculation, and offer a fresh batch.
2015 promises to be an unusual year for DC Comics, thanks to a couple of well-publicized real-world events: moving its offices from New York to California, and publishing two months’ worth of retro-themed comics while the regular series take a break. Although I'm getting tired of writing about these things, they will continue to dominate DC news for the next little while. Accordingly, counterintuitive though it may be, this week I’m going to resist talking about them as much as possible. You know they’re coming, I know they’re coming; but let’s try to find some other topics in the meantime.
Now to catch up on 2014's items:
1. Anniversaries. Besides Batman’s 75th, which naturally got lots of play, I noted that last year was the 50th anniversary of the Teen Titans, the 55th of the Silver Age Green Lantern, Nightwing’s 30th, Zero Hour’s 20th and Identity Crisis’ 10th. The Titans got a commemorative hardcover and IC likewise received a new edition. However, Nightwing-the-series ended in 2014, as Nightwing-the-identity was exposed and Dick Grayson got a new spy-oriented comic. I also wondered whether the 50th anniversary of Batman’s “New Look” would get some special attention (it didn’t, unless you count the flood of Batman ‘66 love that accompanied the long-awaited home video releases of the New Look-inspired series).
2. When, officially, does it stop being New or 52? Not in 2014 ... although we might see some news along those lines in the summer of 2015. DC surely won’t let go of the “New 52" brand until it’s darn good and ready, and when it does it’ll spin it as the best choice for the company. If that means waiting until the superhero line gets down to 18 monthly series, so be it.
3. The return of the weeklies. Last year I said, “I like weekly storytelling, because I enjoy the differences in pacing. I’m also curious to see what kinds of stories these series tell — decompressed, collection-ready mini-arcs, installments that make it hard to wait seven days, or a bit of both?” As it happens, the weekly series which hadn’t yet been announced (Earth 2: World’s End) feels like the one best-suited for a frenetic weekly style. It’s also the one which seems most intent on tearing down everything I enjoyed about the Earth 2 series. As for the other two, it’s hard to say whether Batman Eternal or Futures End is written for the trade or for the every-Wednesday reader. Instead, both are building toward their own particular apocalypses. With their large casts and labyrinthine subplots, I suspect that reading either in collection-sized chunks will be a daunting task.
4. The Flash, back on TV. Last year I wrote that a new Flash series wasn’t “automatically a slam dunk.” Turns out that was completely wrong, as the Arrow spinoff premiered to boffo numbers and became one of the fall’s standout series. Now there are Supergirl and Teen Titans shows in various stages of development, and DC has staked out its small-screen territory as doggedly as Marvel has defended its claim on the world’s cinemas.
5. Editorial shakeups as DC moves West. Actually, the biggest editorial shakeup happened outside of DC’s move, as Mike Marts left the Bat-books for the X-Men. His successor Mark Doyle (who, thankfully, is making the westward move) came over from Vertigo and sparked a welcome Bat-makeover. Otherwise, I think I’ll just take a mulligan on this one and wait to see how things shake out.
6. Who are the new Architects? By this I meant that “[a]s individual titles adjust to new teams, 2014 will be a good time to see who goes where, and which of those particular professionals ends up emerging.” However, I’m not sure anyone really “emerged” from 2014 to quite the extent I thought they might. Geoff Johns, John Romita Jr. and Klaus Janson took over Superman, but Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang left Wonder Woman, in something of a zero-sum outcome for the superhero line. Although few writers (including Greg Pak, Ray Fawkes and J.M. DeMatteis) were on multiple series, that’s not really the same thing. In any event, it strikes me as difficult -- at best -- to have a diverse creative roster, where each title conveys the unique identity of a distinct creative team, *and* have a core group of “architects” (like DC did in 2006-07 with Johns, Grant Morrison, Mark Waid and Greg Rucka) guiding the whole thing generally. Certainly I don’t think the Futures End brain trust of Azzarello, Keith Giffen, Dan Jurgens and Jeff Lemire rise to that level, because FE has been so disconnected from the main superhero line. Maybe the Batman Eternal team comes closer, but even the Bat-line is getting more eclectic.
7. Can American Vampire rise again? The short answer is yes. The longer answer may be more complicated. In November, The Beat’s Dave Carter said that AmVam was Vertigo’s top-selling title, but at 14,621 copies of its October issue (#5), that may be indicative of the state of Vertigo sales as well. Since relaunching in March as American Vampire: Second Cycle, the series has published only those five issues, skipping a total of five months, including November and December. Issue 6 is scheduled for Feb. 4. Speaking as an unabashed fan, here’s hoping the series gets back on track. Whenever it comes out, it’s worth picking up.
8/9. A transitory year begins in April … and might peak in September. In the broadest sense, I think I got this one generally right. If Futures End turns out to be the New 52's thematic coda -- a calamitous cacophony coalescing in Convergence (sorry) -- it started at the end of April (or, as you might call it, “May”) and peaked in September with all those tie-in issues. I did note that “the changes [won’t] last too long,” given Dan DiDio’s fondness for “an ‘iconic’ status quo.” That wasn’t accurate. Still, there is one way to make those changes “permanent,” at least for this particular timeline, and that is to stop telling stories about this particular timeline.
10. What is the nature of the Multiverse? In fact, we got quite a lot of Multiverse talk in 2014, from the return of the Anti-Monitor to Brainiac’s revelation at the end of “Doomed” and the long-awaited Multiversity. I suppose it’s all designed to fit within Convergence somehow. Stay tuned. ..
* * *
Now for 2015. In light of the aforementioned real-world events, it may be more useful to start off by examining the potential fates of particular features, with an eye towards what that might mean for the larger superhero line.
1. Whither the Legion of Super-Heroes? They’re appearing in Justice League United, as the only ongoing series set in the 31st century is Justice League 3000. I still don’t think DC will let the Legion languish in limbo (Gaah! Can’t stop alliterating!) for too long. When it does return, I suspect it’ll be a more traditional version, because DC may not want to risk alienating its dedicated fans -- i.e., the ones who’ll still turn out for a Legion title -- by rebooting.
2. As seen on TV? That extended look at a flame-topped Ronnie Raymond, blasting off into the night at the end of 2014's final Flash episode, probably augurs well for a new Firestorm series, or at least another round of reprints. The first classic Firestorm collection reprinted the original five-issue series (canceled during the DC Implosion) and the first batch of backup stories that ran in The Flash (including a Flash team-up), but that still leaves over 100 issues uncollected, including all of the 1980s’ Fury of Firestorm and most of Jason Rusch’s series from about 10 years ago. Get cracking, collections folk!
3. Can Futures End help the Atom begin again? DC’s weekly dose of potential doomsday might well have been called Cancelled New 52 Cavalcade, since it features so many characters whose books have come and gone. However, it’s also put Ray Palmer (back) in the Atom costume, after a few years of being “just” a SHADE scientist. This sort of exposure isn’t as fruitful as it might have been outside of FE’s five-years-from-now setting, but assuming this timeline never comes to pass, maybe Ray and/or other FE stars will benefit in the here and now. Besides, with Ant-Man on the way, DC will probably want its own shrinking superhero to get some attention.
4. Boosting Booster Gold. He disappeared at the end of 2012's Justice League International Annual, bouncing through the timestream until he popped up in his own Futures End one-shot last fall. His creator is one of FE’s writers, so odds are there’s something big in store for everyone’s favorite time-traveling quarterback. With Booster’s previous series being cut short by Flashpoint fallout, bringing it back via another multiversal morass would be only fitting. Heck, he might even meet his Justice League 3000 counterpart.
5. Wonder Woman. Between Sensation Comics, her own Earth One book, and Gal Godot, there’s going to be a lot of Wonder Woman news in 2015 -- but that list doesn’t include the actual Wonder Woman comic book, written and drawn by Meredith and David Finch. The Finches’ two issues to date don’t exactly portend good things to come, so you have to think that if any series is getting a summer relaunch, it’s this one. The Amazon Princess looks to have a huge 2016, but it may start in 2015, and the ongoing series should be at the heart of that.
6. Whither Earth-2? Yes, this is another Convergence-related item in a post that wasn’t supposed to be so much about Convergence; and yes, I’ve asked this question before. Still, as with the fates of the Legion and All-Star Western (see below), I think the fallout from Darkseid’s final invasion will be indicative of where DC wants to focus the superhero line. Whatever its incarnation, this particular parallel world has been a place for DC to keep exploring its Golden Age characters, and that’s something the publisher has never been able to quit, no matter how many times it tries.
7. Diverse Content? 2014 saw the end of All-Star Western, one of the most successful non-superhero comic published by the main DC line in recent years. Other non-superhero series like Sword of Sorcery, The Green Team, and G.I. Zombie came and went fairly quickly. With all the possible changes coming this year, how much room will the main comics line make for these kinds of series? Furthermore ...
8. Where’s the non-Gotham Gotham Academy? While the revamp of the Batman line is a nice step forward for DC, those series still benefit from being Bat-books. DC in 2015 has a golden opportunity to build on their successes by supporting other series aimed at “non-traditional” audiences and set in places without Bat-Signals. DC keeps trying, but I think this time there’s some actual momentum to be seized.
9. How will the superhero line mix nostalgia and new ideas? You might have noticed some thematic overlap among these past few items, but at the risk of splitting hairs, I do think they’re separate questions. Often, talk about different genres shades into talk about bringing back specific features -- say, Bat Lash for Westerns, the Blackhawks for military-themed titles, or Arion, Lord Of Atlantis for fantasy. DC has plenty of titles it can revive, as evidenced by the “military/horror” Star-Spangled War Stories Featuring G.I. Zombie. It may yet revive even more over the summer. Nevertheless, at some point it needs to develop new features, whether or not they’re superheroes. Out of the eighty-odd New 52 ongoings published since the relaunch began, only a few (including The Movement and Gotham Academy) fall into that category. I’d like to see how far DC will go in changing that ratio.
And finally ...
10. Geoff Johns’ world. When a certain someone showed up on the final page of a certain 2013-14 event miniseries, it felt like a pretty clear indication of the next big DC event. Indeed, it felt like a perfect fit for what we later learned was Convergence -- except that it was really only a teaser for “The Darkseid War,” a Justice League storyline. Moreover, Forever Evil doesn’t seem to have rippled out into much of the rest of the superhero line. It turned Nightwing into Grayson, but reintroductions for the Metal Men and Ted Kord haven’t led anywhere. At present, DC’s Chief Creative Officer is writing two ongoing series, and is apparently content in both to pursue storylines which can take or leave the rest of the superhero line. This has nothing to do with their merits -- both JL and Superman are fine comics -- but it’s a curious dichotomy. I do think that DC needs Geoff Johns as a sort of all-around evangelist and historian/continuity maven, so I’ll be watching to see how much of his influence shows up in the comics themselves.
Back after a brief hiatus, here is the Futures Index for issues 34, 35 and 36.
- Story pages: 60 total (20 per issue)
- Firestorm pages: 5 (issue 34) + 6 (issue 35) = 11 total
- StormWatch/SHADE/Frankenstein pages: 5 (34) + 5 (35) + 4 (36) = 14 total
- Las Vegas/Fifty Sue pages: 5 (34) + 4 (35) + 4 (36) = 14 total
- Batman Beyond/Plastique pages: 2 (34) + 5 (35) + 4 = 11 total
- 35-years-later pages: 3 (34)
- Constantine/Superman pages: 3 (36)
- Stormguard/Justice League pages: 5 (36)
- Issue in which the floating head of Jason Rusch has, at most, stubble for facial hair: 34
- Issue in which the floating head of Jason Rusch has a full beard: 35
- Elapsed time between the Firestorm segments of issues 34 and 35: none
- Partial description of the House of Mystery on page 1 of issue 36: “A time between time”
- Narrative caption immediately preceding said description: “Five years from now”
NOTES: There are twelve issues left, so it would be nice if we started to see these various subplots coalescing into something singular, even coherent. Over the past few issues Futures End has turned into a set of character studies. Here’s the new Firestorm, here’s Stormguard’s origin, here are new developments in the Terry/Plastique and Lana/Fifty Sue relationships. The “fall” of SHADE, the Firestorm/Doctor Polaris fight, and the Batman/Batman Beyond/Bat-Joker fight all seem incidental by comparison.
In fact, the latter fight ended issue 35 on a cliffhanger, with Bat-Joker drawing a bead on a downed Batman; but Bat-Joker isn’t in issue 36 at all, and Batman is apparently alive and well enough to spy on Terry and Plastique. That may well be a bit of misdirection, distracting the reader from Bat-Joker so he can pop up later for maximum effect, but for now it feels like sloppy storytelling.
Thing is, though, I thought the Lana/Fifty Sue scene in issue 35, and the Terry/Plastique scene in issue 36, were both done fairly well. I just can’t place them in a larger context. (Why does everyone want the Cadmus safe? Why did the Bat-fight end so inconclusively?) For weeks I complained that Futures End was such a downer because everyone was unwittingly setting up the nightmare future. Now I don’t know whether they’re still doing that, something more productive, or a mix of the two. This is a big story, with a big cast, but the larger plot needs to get moving again.
NEXT WEEK IN THE FUTURE: Stormguard vs. Doctor Polaris! Terry vs. Tim! JL Dark vs. parademons! Safe vs. ground! And ... Constantine impaled!