Back to the future.

Teen Titans

All I see are the same four white kids I’ve always seen and two hideous monsters.

Going by the gossip around the web, I’m assuming that the two unknown characters are POC. Call me crazy, but wouldn’t it have been a good idea for the POC characters to actually be clearly visible as POC? Especially since they seem to be teenage girls of color—who have been pretty much invisible in the past at DC. Also, wouldn’t it have been a good idea to put Jamie and Static in this book as well in order to slowly build their popularity in a team setting instead of throwing them right into solo books to automatically sink or swim in a very short time frame in a very weak market?

I know I’m harping on the few negative things about this reboot, but I’m hoping that these are things that can be tweaked before everything is locked into place come September.

Oh, and while I’m complaining, let me bring something else up! DC, why aren’t these books available for preorder? People should be able to pay for these books right now while they are thinking about them! I was all set to make a big journal entry about all of the upcoming DC comics featuring black characters and post it on some of the non-comic black-focused entertainment boards I frequent. Then I realized that there would be no point. None of those readers would remember to walk into a comic shop three months from now and buy those books. And three months from now, I’m not going to feel like digging through Source blog posts for pictures and copy to repost. Wouldn’t it have been nice if I could have told people about Mr. Terrific, people could have went to Amazon or iTunes to order his comic, and the comic would have been delivered to their iPads and inboxes three months later like a fantastic little surprise? Boy, that would have been nice!

Oh, well.

General disinterest.

I watch soap operas the way other people watch sporting events. Yes, you hope for an engaging performance when you sit down in front of the ol’ set, but there’s also the drive to root for a player or a team, the need to align your hopes with those of another. And occasionally, or frequently, if you are lucky, you are rewarded with that moment of mutual celebration that comes with a win.

In sports, you cheer when your favorite player dunks on an opponent. In soaps, you revel in the satisfaction that comes when your favorite character gets the upper hand—which brings us to the reason why I no longer watch soap operas. I’ve endured poorly written and poorly acted episodes, but I simply can’t abide the fact that my favorite characters never seem to win. How do you root for a perpetual loser? How do you continue to follow the exploits of one who you know will never succeed? You don’t. You stop watching. One Live to Live lost me the minute it jettisoned perpetual third wheel Evangeline Williamson. And General Hospital has now lost me with its treatment of Jasper Jacks.

There are only so many times you can watch a man get cheated on by his wife, be browbeaten by his ex, or lose an argument to his enemy. This character never saves the day, is treated as a joke by his peers, and is merely an afterthought to his loved ones. While I don’t expect to be treated to an idyllic world where my favorite character does everything right and nothing bad ever happens to him (which would be rather boring, no?), I do want to see some checkmarks in the win column. It’s the uncertainty that keeps one excited, and the “wins” provide the pleasure. Without both? You’ve lost your audience.

The ratings prove it.

I wanted this to be a comics-free post, but one or two of you might be wondering how I can be fond of a character like Empowered if I won’t follow characters who are losers. Simply put, Empowered will save the day just often enough to keep me interested—and keep me rooting for the character’s future success. Plus, though she is massively unsuccessful in her professional life, Empowered’s personal life is firing on all cylinders.

Funny. The only good soap operas left are comic books! Perhaps comic book companies should start courting women who are pretty unhappy with the status of their soaps right now, and soon won’t have any soaps at all to watch.

Those ladies will have to get their fantasy and romance from somewhere. How many times will Marvel and DC watch other genres muscle in on an audience that should rightfully be theirs? If I worked at Marvel or DC, I’d be annoyed each time I heard a woman mention Game of Thrones or True Blood. I’d also have my interns hijacking soap opera message boards to post the more romantic elements of my best comics. I’ve seen women who started watching new shows when fellow posters started regularly posting YouTube clips of romantic scenes of a certain couple on message boards. I’ve started watching new shows due to this. Why couldn’t this tactic work for books? Why aren’t these companies locking on a method of advertising that is free?

It’s so frustrating to see these wasted opportunities, I swear.

Oh, really?

“WBCP has already been exploiting its Super Girl brand to compete with Disney’s popular princesses line.”

Marc Graser

I guess we’ll get a line with Batgirl after that. And then Catwoman. Maybe even Power Girl and Wonder Girl might make the scene. Well, good luck pushing a makeup line built around your major female characters when all your major female characters have the same damn skin tone! Except for green, of course. Let me know how competing with Disney’s “royal rainbow” works out for you when it comes to marketing and brand building!

That said, I do think the makeup line is awesome and something I (and a whole host of other fangirls) asked for ages ago. And I’m glad it’s here, even if I’m sticking with plain ol’ Clinque. Boring packaging aside, Clinque is the absolute best. Hands down. I’m really surprised.


I said I’d get to Marvel eventually, right? Seven things I want from Marvel in the ’11. Let’s go.

More graf-inspired artists. No it won’t work on Avengers, but I bet it’d look sweet on a Spidey issue. Nicholas is nice with it. I love me some Mahfood. Let me see some Ronald Wimberly up in there. I love a whole host of different art styles, and I’d love to see a place for each and every one of those styles at Marvel. From Linsner to Warren. Adams to Hernandez. I want it all.

More diversity in your writing staff. I’m not even gonna lie. This is a tough one for a mainstream comic publisher. If you only hire five people to write your entire line, it’s going to be pretty damn hard to make sure you’ve got some women, minorities, and gay peeps sliding in as scribes. Here’s three successful tactics to take that I’ve mentioned on this blog dozens of times before. One, venture down the co-author road. Pluck a famous writer from another genre and pair her with an established comics writer. Step two: profit! Once she’s gotten the hang of writing for comics, split up the team and let each author go solo for maximum effect. You know it works. You’ve tested the method with white dudes more than enough times. I’ve also said that I love the idea of easing in new writers with back-up stories in the back of popular books. Let a new writer pen a nice five-page story about Danielle Cage’s first day of pre-school. Or perhaps a quick joint about Tony walking into a bar after hard day…and ordering a glass of milk? Back-up stories are also a nice way to let readers know that they’re getting more for their money. Especially when they’ve got to plunk down quite a bit more change than they do for a DC book. Anthologies are a nice idea, but you’re better off focusing on a certain character or theme than throwing the random work of thirteen black dudes together and trying to sell it. I’m more likely to buy a romance anthology or a Cage anthology. And I’m not paying for floppies either. I want a book. Go hard or go home.

Danny and Misty. I wander off to play video games and watch soap operas for a few months and come back to this? Fix. This. The hair (let’s nip this straight bang thing in the bud now, shall we?), the chi-sperm, everything. She doesn’t have to be pregnant, but…chi? I am so mad at that.

Ladies only. Listen, Marvel is the only place where I have even the slightest chance of getting a female team starring women of different races. And no, I don’t mean a book where the white women drive every story and there’s an Asian chick who stands in the background and kicks a guy every three issues. Yes, I have a lot of nerve asking for diversity and then frowning at the inclusion of penises. But can’t the guys be the damsels in distress for just one book? Let some old dude cook wheatcakes while the girls go off to be your friendly neighborhood superhero team. Or field operatives. Were you aware that SHIELD has had an all-female ROSE (Reconnaissance Organization for Security Enhancement) team in place since WW II? A red team of assassins, a white team of spies, and a yellow team for public, peace-keeping missions? Nine women in total. I bet you didn’t. Because that book doesn’t exist. Nope, no Guns & Roses book for you. You just sit over there and look pretty.

Logos. Yo, DC is killing you when it comes to logos, son! The following characters need clear, easily identifiable logos that stand for a certain theme or idea: Spider-man (and Spider-girl), Luke Cage, Wolverine, Ms. Marvel, and Iron Man. I’d add Storm, but you guys have really made a mess of that character.

Black Panther. Hell, all of Wakanda. DoomWar was a great series—for Doom fans. It wasn’t so much fun for fans of the Wakandans. Doom basically spanked the hell out of them, emasculated T’Challa, and Diddy-bopped back to Latveria to bang hot, crazy chicks. And Black Panther decides to mope in Hell’s Kitchen while his baby sister handles business. This. Is. Not. Okay. You need to find some way to build the Wakandans back up to their past glory. New artist. New writer. Jungle Action Monthly. T’Challa holds court in Wakanda, Shuri rebels in the streets of NYC, and the Queen Mother has kept a large volume of active Vibranium secret from everyone—until now. Reboot the series. How did Wakandans stay isolated so long? Because the island (yes, an island set a bit lower off the continent) isn’t really hospitable to many humans. In fact, Doom was right. The Wakandans do carry a genetic strain that allows them to live upon the island and not suffer. But it’s a gene that a small number of humans all over the world carry. How was this discovered? Well, it was noticed when visitors and invaders started showing up on the island and dying. You see, Wakandans are nice in the water, so nice that they thrived by commandeering ships that dared venture into their waters. And when 85 percent of all the people captured (or liberated—where slave ships were concerned) died within days of hitting Wakandan shores? Well, you’ve got to be a little bit tougher than average to make it there. Oh, and due to the Wakandans being so nice in the water? Namor’s people and T’Challa’s people do not get along too well. And this provides a great deal of added tension that Storm doesn’t need—especially when Namor starts in with his nonsense about how mutants need to stick together. Luckily, Storm knows better than to listen to Namor. And T’Challa knows better than to leave Namor alone with anyone’s wife. Trust that.

When you’re done with T’Challa, can you mosey on over to Spidey? Get rid of Carlie. Hell, give Peter Carlie’s job as a forensic scientist (modeled after those appearing in hour-long dramas). Then he’s armed with the two most important things Spider-man should have—a lab and a camera. And he’d always be at the scene of a crime. Plus, he’d get to interact with the old Bugle staff (sans Norah the racist hipster, please) since they’d constantly hound him for scoops. And he’d always be torn between uncovering the truth at his day job and keeping secrets in the tights. Did I mention getting rid of Carlie? Secret time. I love the idea of a single Peter, but Carlie is boring and Poochiesque. And why would one make Peter single just to put him in a committed relationship? It makes no sense. Peter should have a trinity. I want MJ to hold Peter’s heart. I want Felicia to control Spider-man’s body. I want a brunette stimulating Parker’s mind on the job. Make her a reporter. Oh, and I want Aunt May fighting for Peter’s spirit (always guiding him to do the right thing) and Anya doing the same for Spider-man. Oh, and give Anya an after-school job with May. She needs to be in Peter’s life a lot more.

Anyway, there’s your seven for the eleven. Hurry up.

Prince of Gotham.

Y’know what’d be fun? If Amar’e repped Batman the same way that Shaq reps Superman. Then again, I don’t know how loyal the dude is to the Knicks. He may not want to have his brand tied to one city or team like that.

Still, it is a fun idea for photoshoots or promos.

So what do I want?

Last comics post, y’all. DC and Marvel do not pay my rent and I really don’t care about the health of either company when neither is making all that much (or any) effort to entertain me or others like me. Now, that could be due to clueless marketing reps rather than complete indifference. (And if so, what are they collecting checks for?) Just in case? Here goes.

I want a Power Man webcomic called “Black and Yellow” running over at Nah Right for a few weeks. I want Luke Cage to have a bomb-ass logo to put on t-shirts and jackets. Same goes for Anya. I want Power Girl (drawn and written by Amanda Conner) to give Esquire‘s Funny Joke from a Beautiful Woman for one month. I want Cassandra Cain as Batgirl. I want a Daughters of the Dragon ongoing starring Misty, Colleen, Felicia, and Angela. I want the female Young Avengers tackling an advice column in Seventeen magazine. I want a quirky photoshoot starring Power Girl in Glamour magazine. I want Norah Winters gone. I want a giant one-shot of stories about Marvel characters set to classic rap songs. I want an adorable animated Cho giving tech reviews one day on AOTS. I want a new Young Justice comic starring Static, Blue Beetle, and Batgirl. I want Marvel-inspired exclusives from Nike. I want John to get the same face time as Guy and Kyle. I want minority characters as more than window dressing. I want a Wonder Woman television show. I want at least two of the Stepford Supers to change their hair color and style. I want consistent promotion given to minority characters over a prolonged period of time. Stop recycling your heroes of color and yanking them from the spotlight after a short time so no one hero (Cyborg, Static, Batgirl, Blue Beetle, Solstice, Aqualad) ever gets a foothold. I want diversity and good comics. And cartoons. And video games. And gear.

Make it happen—now. Or don’t. I don’t have time to waste waiting. Other companies (comics, animation, video games, etc.) are already circling.

Holding the line.

Okay, after discussing it on Twitter I’ve come to the conclusion that DC is a lost cause where diversity is concerned. Fans of established (and even not-so-established) white characters at DC do not want to give up shelf space or panel time to make room for minority heroes. And can you blame them? If you have a comic that is catering to your every need, why would you want to give it up? To provide shelf space for a book for someone else? To have a story where your favorite character has to stand in the background 50 percent of the time so someone else can save the day or get the guy/girl? No one is that altruistic when it comes to their entertainment. It’s not about keeping the Asian girl (or Black man, or Latino kid) down. That’s just a very unfortunate side effect. It’s about having that same girl you love in three different books in three different settings—and how freaking awesome is that? Well, I bet that is awesome. And, if you gave me three books I love and then took away one, I’m going to be annoyed. Yes, I still have two, but I had three. I’m not stupid. You took something away from me.

Obviously, DC doesn’t want to risk losing the dollars of its core audience in the hopes of gaining a broader selection of readers. What if those new readers don’t come? Hey, that’s a serious and valid question. Money isn’t exactly pouring in. Taking a risk is scary when a comic selling 25,000 copies is considered a solid book. And so…you do nothing. You make awkward jokes when fans ask questions at cons. You put minority characters who rarely appear in big pose down images as if they are an integral part of the story. You hope to keep complaints from both sides to a very low rumbling.

DC has fantastic brands/icons but they don’t have the diversity. There’s a weak spot. Like a dude in the ring at Wrestlemania with a bad shoulder. How come no one is slamming into that shoulder? Why is Marvel not pairing Matt with an Asian runaway of few words who fights better than he does—a sullen sidekick with a dark symbol and costume ready-made for Hot Topic tees? Why hasn’t any company provided an icon for girls who don’t want a pink S or a purple bat. Yes, I’m talking about being that damn obvious when it comes to courting the fans that DC rejects. Don’t just put Power Man out there hoping disgruntled Static fans might look over. Straight up address those fans in interviews. Tell them flat out that Marvel is willing to do what DC won’t. At Comics Alliance. In Latina magazine. In that Alonso interview over at Nah Right. (Get on that, Alonso.)

Really, what can DC PR say in response?

Ten for eleven.

Who got that dollar share? DC got that dollar share! Who got that dollar share? DC got that dollar share!

Festivities aside, now would be a good time to talk about how to keep that momentum going, no? And so I bring you…the ten things I want from DC Comics in 2011.

Cassandra Cain as Batgirl—in comics and out. So many people have blogged about this that I am not even going to bother delving into it here. Long story short, this character needs a comeback.

A Tales from the Multiverse series. I know what you’re thinking. Why the hell would we need a book like that? You need it for the times when that writer you so desperately want to keep happy has an idea for a prominent DC character that is brilliant but will surely destroy the brand that you have spent decades cultivating. That’s why. Toss it in another universe and publish it. You’re happy, the writer is happy, and that fan out in Topeka who is a supreme stickler for continuity will be happy. However, this title is not just a place for you to churn out stories pulled from some dusty pitch pile. This book ain’t for everybody. Only the sexy famous people. The title should be exclusive—top tier writers and artists only. Let them know exactly how special they are. If Neil Gaiman has a story about Wonder Woman in the Victorian era? It goes here. William Gibson thinks it might be fun to write a Batgirl one-shot? Bingo. This is not the book for Fill-in Schlub #453 (although Fill-in Schlub #453 can be very important to a company when a book is late). I see the book as a series of miniseries, not an ongoing series. In fact, you could even collect shorter stories from various creators in one book as a theme (noir, good girl, horror). And with all those popular creators, themes, and self-contained stories, the material would be just perfect to release in big, expensive hardcover trades, no?

A new Young Justice series penned by Adam Warren. We’ve talked about this, but I’m bringing it up again because…well, I really want this, damn it. Plus, I think it’s important to rebuild the popularity of neglected characters like Static, Batgirl, and Blue Beetle in a team ongoing with a strong writer who has a great ear/eye for youth culture. There’s strength in numbers. You can’t just toss these characters back out into the solo spotlight without a little nurturing (though it seems like that’s exactly what you plan to do). A strong, consistent team book can provide that nurturing. And given how poisoned and erratic the Titans brand has been of late, it’s best to use a title that can provide these characters with a fresh start while capitalizing a bit on nostalgia and stealing a wee bit of shine from the competition (Young Avengers).

A little less Blonde Ambition. Are you not embarrassed by the fact that nearly all of your prominent young heroines look and act the same? Are you not embarrassed to be embracing the most obvious of Mattel’s failures by placing all of your eggs in one genetic basket? You need to fix this. Now. Let me make it easy for you. Cassandra replaces Steph as the main Batgirl of the DC universe. One down. But I’d still dye Cassandra’s hair red and give her a cute Rihannaesque cut as a fun counter to the adorable nostalgic images of Babs all over t-shirts and other memorabilia. America will happily accept an Asian Batgirl, but my guess is that it still expects its Batgirl to be a redhead. (Keeping the red hair color will help make the rebranding process a bit easier.) Mia is slowly morphed into a nice strawberry blonde. Supergirl is kept the same. Don’t muck about with icons. Wonder Girl goes brunette and very short to keep her from looking like a clone of Donna. And for the love of God, put some of your non-white heroines front and center. If you don’t have enough, make up some!

Logos for your ladies—and the second tier. People I know who don’t even read comics still own and wear Batman and Superman t-shirts. The symbol stands for a myth that is widely known. The symbol becomes a substitute for an archetype. DC has more recognizable symbols than Marvel and this is something that you really need to capitalize on and strengthen when it comes to second-tier characters. By the time the Wonder Woman television show rolls around I hope that DC will finally decide on a decent Wonder Woman logo and push it heavily as a symbol of female empowerment. In fact, the following characters should have easily identifiable symbols associated with them: Wonder Woman (female empowerment), Power Girl (cheesecake with a big helping of irony), Black Lightning (nostalgic Blaxploitation), and Batgirl (the cutting digital edge). I’m just picking random themes, but you should really hold a meeting about this and decide what would be profitable and popular for the long term. And not only should these characters have symbols, but those symbols should stand for something. With enough repetition in a particular context it should conjure up an image or feeling in the viewer’s mind. Logos are important. Take your time with them and make sure that they are distinct.

Expand upon your houses. I’ve always seen the Marvel universe as a group of friends and the DC universe as a group of families. Unfortunately, only two families get any real attention—which leads to a universe that feels very bland and repetitive. What has been done with the Green Lantern characters needs to be repeated on a smaller scale with other sectors of the DC universe. Other families need to be fleshed out. The House of Adam (Black Adam). The House of Wonder (Wonder Woman). The House of Lightning (Black Lightning). Develop stories to make these houses a cohesive unit. You don’t need a plethora of miniseries. The ground work can be done within existing books through character interaction and development.

A Grand Theft Auto miniseries. I know that Wildstorm was once the place for comics starring IPs from popular games. Wildstorm is gone now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t sneak one last comic in. GTA V, a guaranteed moneymaker, is coming down the pike. Wouldn’t it be a good idea to have a one-shot that could be pushed right along with it in stores? Perhaps a comic by the same artist doing the artwork for the promotional material? And wouldn’t it be fun to have cheat codes (phone numbers) hidden right within the stories?

DC characters embedded in different forms of entertainment. My friend, who is way more of a basketball fan than he is a comic fan, showed me the promotional work Marvel did a while back for ESPN. What a wonderful and sneaky way to get your characters in front of a new audience! Contact Glamour about doing a fun Power Girl photoshoot. Get a custom Batman cycle made by American Chopper. Get one of your youngbloods on MTV’s True Life: I’m an Intern. Have a cake made for some character’s anniversary and showcase it on the Food Network. Get out there!

Popular entertainers embedded in DC Comics. This is pretty much the inverse of the preceding category. Create a vanity project for a famous singer before Bluewater can churn out of crappy one. Let a famous actor co-write an issue of a comic that could use a small sales boost. Do a one-shot set to the lyrics of famous rap songs.

Romance. Look, I need romantic angst and scandalous affairs. Now, I can easily get that from General Hospital. However, watching General Hospital (which I started doing around the same time I stopped reading most comics) and tweeting about this show with Kalinara (also occurring about the same time I stopped reading most comics) isn’t making you one bit of money or helping to keep the names of your characters circulating in nerd circles. A romance one-shot might be a nice way to reach out to the fans who need to see a kiss or two after every three kicks to the face. Start off with mainstream superhero characters to test the waters and try a straight up romance anthology later on. How much could two comics hurt your bottom line? If it doesn’t pan out? No harm, no foul.

Next up? I’ll try and list the ten things I’d like from Marvel. No promises though.