Grumpy Old Fan | Ten from the old year, ten for the new: 2010-11 edition

So, is this a tradition? I have to come up with a better subtitle...

For the past couple of years, I’ve picked out twenty random DC topics, of various levels of importance, for a paragraph’s worth of analysis each. No guarantees as to accuracy, of course -- this site is for entertainment purposes only. Regardless, even a blind pig finds a truffle now and then.

With last year’s list in mind, let’s get right to it--!

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1. DC at 75. My first impulse -- which is not necessarily the correct one -- is to say that DC had a relatively low-key anniversary, because there was no single celebratory event unifying the superhero line, like there was in 1985 with Crisis On Infinite Earths. I think that’s unfair, though, considering that the superhero books did have some commemorative covers, and there was a big coffee-table book. That’s about right, I guess.

2. FOX’s “Human Target.” I am embarrassed to admit that I have only seen maybe one-and-a-half episodes of this series so far. I hear good things, though; including about solid ratings and critical acclaim. In terms of cultural impact, it’s apparently no “Walking Dead,” but it’s not under the radar either.

3. Wonder Woman #600. Last year I theorized that “if [Blackest Night’s] readers are intrigued sufficiently by the Blackest Night: Wonder Woman miniseries, they may decide to check out the regular title — and even if they don’t, WW #600 may itself be a big enough event to draw them in.” I wasn’t too far off on this one. Issue #600 sold over twice as many copies as the previous issue, and subsequent issues have been selling anywhere from 12-14,000 more copies than they were before the anniversary. Obviously much of that is due to the altered-timeline story and attendant publicity over Wonder Woman’s latest revamp, but #600 was the first issue where any of that appeared.

4. The new Justice League(s). The JLA made last year’s list largely on the strength of speculation about a second Justice League title, which (rumor had it) would be written by Geoff Johns and pencilled by Jim Lee. So far that hasn’t materialized, and James Robinson’s Justice League has been puttering along behind a malleable, eclectic lineup. At the start of 2010 I thought it could only be a placeholder League; but going into 2011 Robinson’s approach (if not quite his roster) has taken hold more firmly. In fact, if his League has any competition for fans’ attention, it comes from the former Justice League International over in JL: Generation Lost.

5. Legacies, History of the DC Universe 2.0, and Who’s Who 2010-11. Of those three projects, only Legacies appeared in 2010. Its intentions are noble, but so far it’s been an uneven, at times pedantic trip through the generations. In fact, it’s occasionally muffed the details of DC history, from character introductions to costume elements. Makes me wonder whether it’s a setup for the timeline-twisting promised in Flashpoint -- but I digress....

6. Co-features may be just the beginning. Well, maybe not. The co-features were discontinued in 2010, in favor of a consistent $2.99-for-20-story-pages format. However, many of the interrupted stories will be concluded in their own Specials.

7. The Jonah Hex movie is set for June 18. Jonah Hex was a critical and financial flop, so its deadly opening date -- against the unstoppable Toy Story 3 -- probably sealed its fate. Last year I hoped Hex would at least do well against a remake of Footloose, but I got that entirely wrong: Footloose is still in post-production.

8. The Legion of Super-Heroes. Currently there are two Legion titles, Legion of Super-Heroes and Adventure Comics, both written by Paul Levitz. LSH is currently selling around 26,000 copies (and falling, it seems); and Adventure is around 24,000. That seems to be an acceptable number for a Legion book, considering that the group has been selling in the mid-to-high 20s for the past few years. However, this is the first time in over ten years that the Legion has had to support two monthly titles, so I don’t know how long it can stay in Adventure.

9. The Flash family. Speed metaphors are unavoidable: Flash has been slowed by publishing delays, but it looks to get back on pace with December’s two issues. Of course, the embryonic Flash franchise is being asked to support the Flashpoint event, which may lead to the long-awaited launch of the Kid Flash and Speed Force books.

10. The return of the artist. Whatever I was trying to articulate last year, I don’t think it came to pass. Not to say that DC’s books had subpar artwork -- far from it -- but once again, the writers were running the show. Brightest Day was advertised as a Geoff Johns/Peter Tomasi book with a rotating bullpen of artists. Frazer Irving did fantastic work on Batman and Robin and Return of Bruce Wayne, but Grant Morrison was still the draw (no pun intended). Francis Manapul brought a whole new sensibility to The Flash, especially compared to Scott Kolins and Ethan Van Sciver, but again, Johns had the higher profile. In fact, a couple of artists finished the year writing their respective Bat-books, namely Tony Daniel on Batman and David Finch on The Dark Knight.

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1. The Green Lantern movie. I am not sick of it yet, but we still have a few months to go. Honestly, I don’t know how it will do. I didn’t expect that a nerd magnet like J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek would be so successful, and I thought The Dark Knight would suffer backlash from overprotective parents. However, my non-comics-reading friends seemed to like the trailer well enough, so we’ll see.  I say more lucrative than Captain America, not as much as Thor.  It’s understood by this point that no one expects a big bump in comics sales, right?

2. Life after JMS. Superman and Wonder Woman will have to play out J. Michael Straczynski’s storylines for most of 2011, but what then? Will Chris Roberson and Eddy Barrows stay on Superman? Will Diana keep her kicky jacket and long pants? (I’m guessing the new costume’s appearance in the JLA/The 99 miniseries is an anomaly.) Will sales improve once “Grounded” ends?

3. Earth One. Speaking of Straczynski, we’re told he’s taking time off from monthly comics to work on the sequel to Superman: Earth One. That’s fine, but I’m more interested in the series’ next debut, Geoff Johns’ and Gary Frank’s Batman: Earth One. The success of SM:E1 has no doubt raised expectations for the new book, sales-wise; but really, I think BM:E1 will be better-received by readers too. I don’t want to say that Batman is an easier character to write, but you really have to go out of your way to write him poorly. Fortunately for Johns and Frank, they can be guided in all kinds of ways by recent (shall we say) “unconventional” creator-driven Batman projects....

4. All Star Batman/Multiversity/Teen Titans: Games. And since I brought up All Star Batman, what are the odds we’ll see its relaunch this year? Lee announced last spring at WonderCon that the retitled Dark Knight: Boy Wonder would continue in February 2011 -- so keep an eye out for next month’s solicitations, I suppose.  Meanwhile, Games was supposed to come out in November and has not been resolicited, and Grant Morrison’s romp-through-the 52 miniseries Multiversity was supposed to come out in 2010, after Blackest Night. From what I understand, George Pérez’s health problems have delayed Games, and Morrison clearly has been preoccupied with Batman.  Which of these will grace us in 2011?  I’m hoping for the hat trick.

5. The United Colors of Batman. And not to dwell on Batman, but I really liked how DC used the Detective and Batman Annuals to introduce Nightrunner, the new French representative of Batman, Incorporated. For a story which could easily have traded on hype, it was a good, practical way to show how these recruiting trips will work. More to the point, it felt like a Batman story -- which, taking nothing away from Nightrunner’s unique cultural contributions, is how it ought to feel, what with him being the new French Batman. As to the rest of the world, Morrison and the rest of the Bat-team have an unenviable task: filtering entire geopolitical groupings through the lens of Batman, one franchisee at a time. There’s real outreach potential in the Batman, Inc. concept; but there are also plenty of opportunities to stereotype. Nightrunner was a good start, and not least because he certainly avoided the standard French stereotype. Batman, Inc. next checks in with old friends El Gaucho and Chief Man-Of-Bats, and from there goes to Africa. I’m curious to see what the franchise looks like at the end of 2011.

6. End of the Archives? Okay, enough Batman! If you’re like me, you might recently have found all the DC Archive Editions on sale for half-price at the local comics shop. I took the opportunity to catch up on the Flash Archives with vols. 4 and 5, and bought the first Kamandi Archives. Unfortunately, I take this as the first indication that the Archives line is being phased out, in favor of newer, thicker full-color formats like the hardcover Omnibus Editions and the paperback Chronicles. In its twenty-plus years, the Archives line reprinted a whole lot of Golden and Silver Age material, including nine volumes of Justice League of America, eleven books’ worth of Justice Society stories from All Star Comics, and twelve books’ worth of Legion of Super-Heroes adventures. However, at $50.00 (retail) a pop, these were not collections to be entered into lightly. I’m not getting the Wonder Woman Archives mainly because DC is now reprinting the same stories in less-expensive Chronicles form. The question then becomes whether DC will try to use the Chronicles, or a similar reprint line, to cover the same ground as the Archives. Surely we’ll see more Silver Age material reprinted in Omnibii, and we’re already seeing a good bit of Golden Age Batman and Superman stories in their respective Chronicles. Not all of the Archives’ subjects have that kind of name recognition, though. It would be a shame if the end of the Archives meant the end of DC’s commitment to these reprints.

7. Reprint floodgates. Maybe I’m worrying irrationally, though; as recent weeks have brought news of two long-awaited reprints: Sugar & Spike Archives Vol. 1, and Flex Mentallo. Is this the first crack in the dam holding back collections of Suicide Squad, Captain Carrot, Secret Society of Super-Villains, and Jonah Hex? Might the “dead zone” of the ‘70s and ‘80s finally yield a bountiful harvest? Can I find another metaphor to mangle? One of these things will surely happen in 2011....

8. The changing shape of Events. We know already that 2011 will have its share of crossover events. “Reign of Doomsday” started this week and runs to May through various titles. “War of the Green Lanterns” brings all the GL books together. Flashpoint’s structure has yet to be revealed. One thing about the latter, though -- it may already have started. Recent issues of Flash and Time Masters have discussed changing DC’s timeline, and in fact have pointed out that Wonder Woman’s current storyline might be a symptom thereof. Furthermore, the new WW history has become a plot point in Justice League: Generation Lost. What interests me about this “stealth crossover” is the fact that DC hasn’t called attention to it -- it’s just a fact of life these days. Of course, Wonder Woman’s current storyline doesn’t really depend on being part of a shared universe; but again, that’s why it’s so odd that the other books would comment on it. Part of me resents another book’s changed premise intruding on the plots of Flash and Generation Lost. Still, my fannish nature enjoys putting the pieces together without a hype machine telling me where they all are. Wonder Woman may therefore be one of 2011's most important DC-superhero books that (almost) no one reads.

9. The spirit of ‘86. I mentioned last week that 2011 is the silver anniversary of some of DC’s best-known projects, including Dark Knight, The Shadow, Watchmen, and the Superman and Wonder Woman revamps. I don’t expect DC to celebrate any of those anniversaries, although the publisher could put out yet another edition of Watchmen or Dark Knight if it wanted. What I’d really like to see, though, is a behind-the-scenes look at what went into that seminal year. For example, at one point, the Big Three were going to be revamped entirely, as part of something called the “Metropolis” imprint. It wasn’t just Frank Miller, John Byrne, and George Pérez, either -- Howard Chaykin submitted a Superman proposal, and I think Steve Gerber was interested in Wonder Woman. It may be more disgusting than making sausage, but I bet it’s a story worth telling.

And finally ...

10. DC on TV. This spring, “Smallville” wraps up, possibly with Clark flying past the Daily Planet in his familiar blues-and-reds. However, there’s more in the pipeline. “Human Target’s” new season is apparently off to a good start. “Young Justice” follows a love-it-or-hate-it premiere with a regular series starting this Friday. David E. Kelley may surprise us all by bringing a credible “Wonder Woman” series back to the small screen. My guess, though, is that “Raven” will have the easiest path to life on The CW. She struggles with her emotions, her father’s an otherdimensional demon, and she may or may not be part of a super-powered support group. Sounds like a plan to me.

Okay -- 51 weeks to see how this all pans out!

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