Then we began to hear the names and titles of the comics that would make up the new DC Comics universe. With the announcements made last week and yesterday, we've seen DC Comics throw a lot of information our way. Upon reading these announcements, I was initially underwhelmed. Sure there were some highlights such as Cliff Chiang on Wonder Woman with Brian Azzarello and Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo on Batman, but as far as the rest of the announcements went, I was unimpressed. Names we've been familiar with just shuffling titles. Nothing against the creators involved in these titles, but if anything these DC announcements have been just more of the same.
This got me thinking, as DC Comics gears up announce the rest of the titles, what would they need to do in order for me to not be underwhelmed with these creative teams? We discussed this a bit on this week's podcast, but I felt it was worth discussing here. I have no inside information, no insight to what DC Comics may announce, and all of these suggestions are my suggestions and mine alone, I'm totally just playing fantasy casting, so take it as you will.
But then again, DC has got some amazing talent that I would love to see on any of the 52 new books. Brian Wood, for example, has been quietly doing an amazing job on DMZ and Northlanders over at Vertigo and was the subject of superhero book rumors in the DCU. DC has him under an exclusive contract, so why not let him take his pick of characters and give him a book or two? We already saw his modern take on "superheroes" in the recent DV8 (before Wildstorm got shut down), I'm sure that Wood would deliver some quality on Supergirl, or any other book you give him.
Another person whose potential isn't being utilized by DC is Jeff Lemire. Sure, he's been writing Superboy and Flashpoint: Frankenstein, but why not take a risk and let him write and draw a title? Now I know some believe his art style isn't "commercial" enough for superheroes, but I've seen his sketches of super heroes (like Mr. Miracle to the left) and after the emotion expressed in his written and drawn books like Essex County and Sweet Tooth, I bet he might surprise you. And pulling from Vertigo again, you've got Chris Roberson and Mike Allred working great together on iZombie. Imagine a Roberson written, Allred drawn super-hero book like Doom Patrol? I would totally buy that.
I just hope that as DC editorial looks at their current stable of talent, they don't fall for the trap of sticking to what they know and not pushing the envelope a bit.
DC needs to turn this trend around and recruit some new and exciting creators who can breathe renewed life into some of their titles. There are great creators at Image, Oni and some of the other independents that I hope they're looking to recruit while figuring out ways to challenge new talent with the vast library of DC Characters. Someone like Nathan Edmondson, who's tearing it up on Who Is Jake Ellis? at Image is prime for stepping up to the big leagues, and DC needs to act before Marvel does. Alex Grecian and Riley Rossmo just wrapped up Proof at Image and are an established creative team that could breathe life into a title.
There's always someone who's got some buzz behind them and that DC is already working with, like Kelly Sue DeConnick. An up and coming writer in her own right who DC Comics has had on a few issues of Supergirl. How sweet would it be to have the wife of the current writer of Marvel's main event book helping lead the charge for the new DC? Or someone like Cullen Bunn, who's been writing one of the best new series with The Sixth Gun from Oni Press and has been dipping his toe into the waters at Marvel. Grab him and set him up with a great title and an opportunity to help his career and maybe you can keep him from signing that exclusive to Marvel and losing out yet again.
Basically, DC Comics needs to look at what Marvel's done and find a way to bridge that gap and get some new and fresh creators that fans can get excited about.
But if you want to expand the comics audience you need to think outside of the box a bit. Starting within comics, bring back a name that will draw readers back to DC Comics. Mark Waid has done some of his best work of his career at DC, on such books as Kingdom Come and The Flash. Since leaving DC, Waid has gone on to create one of the best, modern takes on super heroes with Irredeemable at BOOM! Studios. Mend whatever fences you need to and welcome him back and let him work his magic again. Put that encyclopedia knowledge of DC Comics history to work for you.
Back in 2009 when Neil Gaiman recently wrote two issues of Batman that even I picked up! It was an event! Think of what would happen if you could get Gaiman to return to monthly comics, even if only for 6 months or a year. It would be an event again. Gaiman is a powerhouse who helped build the Vertigo line into what it is today. Why not go back to him and hope that his magic could work again. You've recently reintroduced Swamp Thing and John Constantine back to the DC Universe, who better to usher him back than one of the godfathers of Vertigo? Everyone would be watching.
Now imagine if you could bring back one the generation's best writers. Someone that we all grew to love very quicklly, only to have our hearts broken as we all thought he had abandoned comics for the greener pastures of Hollywood. Yep, I'm talking about Brian K. Vaughan. He wrote one of the best Vertigo series since Preacher with Y: The Last Man. Imagine what he could do on just one book. He's already shown an ability to write smart comics (Ex Machina) as well as accessible/all ages comics (Runaways). Get him on one book and you'd have comic fans lining up to get their hands on it. (Nod to Matthew Rosenberg for the original suggestion of this on Twitter)
But those are known quantities. If DC Comics is serious about expanding their audience and pulling people who haven't been reading comics, it's going to take a big move, with a name that has a loyal following that will flock to whatever they do. Think back to the late 1990s, when Marvel got Kevin Smith to write Daredevil. Fans of Smith's movies ran to the comic store to get his latest work because they just couldn't get enough. Who today would deliver that sort of following? Who is the Kevin Smith of today?
How about Entertainment Weekly's Geek God, Nathan Fillion? Already with a strong and loyal following (that appears to be an offshoot of the loyal Joss Whedon fans), and having voiced several characters in DC animation projects like the most recent Green Lantern: Emerald Knights DVD, Fillion can bring some of that Hollywood name and star power to the comics and attract the thousands of fans that line up just for a photo or an autograph. Plus, it would be another great jab at Marvel, who are producing comics based on Fillion's television persona from Castle. Seems like resurrecting the Vic Sage as The Question would be the perfect fit for the charismatic Fillion to make his mark with.
Why not go even broader and international and get Simon Pegg to write a book? He's written television (Spaced) and numerous films (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and the recent geek flick Paul, co-written with Nick Frost) and has a very strong following in both the U.S. and the U.K. Pegg, a self-admitted geek and comic book fan, set his last movie, Paul, at the San Diego Comic-Con and featured the comics of Robert Kirkman prominently within that movie. Offering Pegg a comic title to have fun writing would probably fulfill a dream of his, while getting tons of promotion from both Pegg and the entrainment industry. In looking at characters that would fit Pegg's sensibility, Plastic Man jumps out as something that could have that comedic feel that Pegg could deliver.
No matter what way DC Comics goes with the creative teams, it's clear by the 26 books announced already that while the approach is fresh and new, the names are same. As we make the run into the latter half of the 52 titles, I hope that DC has some surprises up their sleeve to give their comics the burst of energy that they sorely need. You've got the stage DC, the spotlight is on you. Wow us while you have the chance.
Oh, by the way, if one of those 52 books was a new Starman by James Robinson, I'd be totally okay with that too.