DC vs. Marvel: The Pre-Game Show.

“I have said—repeatedly, to anyone who will listen—that given the similarities found in both lines, Marvel and DC should release separate but simultaneous ‘Crisis’ events that dovetail into a Marvel vs. DC crossover, the climax of which would launch a short-term Amalgam universe, which would then fold as the DC and Marvel universes are rebooted—just in time to coincide with Avengers and JLA blockbusters in movie theaters. If one’s golden goose is dying, it’s best to feed it with as much grain as possible so those last eggs are glorious.”Cheryl Lynn Eaton

I still firmly believe that DC and Marvel should join forces for a month-long Amalgam event. Both companies should put out a line of one-shots featuring Amalgam characters as well as two four-issue event series to be shipped weekly during the month of April 2016—bridging the gap between Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Captain America: Civil War in movie theaters. (It’d also be wise to release two movie tie-in one-shots and two related trades to occupy newcomers for a month while die-hards enjoyed the Amalgam event.)

However, April 2016 is over a year from now and both Marvel and DC appear to be in the midst of renovating at this very moment. Instead of quickly launching from one event to the next, or dragging out Secret Wars and Convergence well past their sell-by dates, perhaps it would be best for DC and Marvel to reorder their houses after Secret Wars and Convergence have wrapped. Then, after firmly establishing the new DC and Marvel universes, a new threat—one that would launch our favorite heroes into Marvel vs. DC—could be introduced.

Post-Convergence Conversations: A quick look at DC’s upcoming titles has me pretty pleased. I’ve often argued that DC was devoid of diversity—race, gender, sexuality, and genre—genre being the most notable issue. While I’ve always believed genre diversity could be best introduced by giving each “house” (Super, Bat, Wonder-Marvel, Aqua, Green, Flash, Power, Teen) its own point of view and style, DC has mixed things up even further by trying for different styles within a particular house. I think it’s a tactic that will work.

Genre diversity aside, I’m elated at the inclusion of minority creators who will be bringing in points of view we haven’t seen in the mainstream for quite a while. More please! And on a personal note I’m glad to see that some of my favorite creators are still in the mix or have snuck in the back door—Connor, Simone, Walker, Corson, Randolph, Cloonan.

Still, all is not completely well. There are still a couple of opportunities that DC has yet to take advantage of and Vertigo is far from healthy—a point I have stressed for a very long while.

First and foremost, I’d bring characters such as John Constantine and Swamp Thing back to Vertigo along with darker Wildstorm characters such as Deathblow and Black Betty. Package them as their own universe—an imprint within an imprint—Vertigo: Heights. The imprint would lean heavy on action and horror, leaving the sci-fi and standard superheroes for the main DC universe. The imprint would also woo “big name” creators such as Ennis and Snyder as well as give creators on the cusp of gaining notoriety a chance to finally solidify their reputation. Vertigo cannot win back its old glory from Image with creator-owned work. That ship has sailed. Even if Vertigo changed its deal to match Image’s, the winds of change have already shifted. What Vertigo can do is champion the beloved characters in its stable while providing creators with something they cannot get elsewhere—financial stability and the attention that comes with working with established IPs. It would be best if Vertigo: Heights stressed characters that could easily be launched as a cable TV projects down the line. The line should be kept rather small too. No more than six titles at a time. I think a strong line-up would be as follows:

  • Constantine: The Hellblazer
  • Section Eight (seeding possibilities of a Hitman cable series)
  • Deathblow (in the vein of Punisher: Max)
  • Lilith (a companion series to Lucifer)

Two slots would remain for miniseries taking place with the Heights universe, such as Swamp Thing, Desire, or Papa Midnight. DC crippled Vertigo in the post-Berger era by pulling characters from Vertigo. And it damaged those characters by altering them to fit within the DC universe. Why? These are not network-friendly characters. They are and will always be HBO, not NBC. Sell them that way.

As for the DC Universe, it seems as though DC is about to correct course and right the ship. But there are still a few ways in which DC could be more competitive with Marvel. Building Power Girl into a brand that complements Harley Quinn and competes with Captain Marvel should be a major objective. And she should be a brand in her own right—not one that cribs from the origin of DC’s most popular Kryptonian. I would roll Harley Quinn/Power Girl directly into a Power Girls ongoing series featuring Karen and Tanya—pairing Amanda Conner with Dani Dixon while keeping Stephane Roux along for the ride. A sales win all around—a beloved creator and character (Captain Marvel), a nod to authenticity and diversity (Ms. Marvel), cross-generational conflict (Icon), and female friendships (Birds of Prey).

Building Vixen should be DC’s next objective. DC has already made inroads with the animated Vixen shorts that will debut soon. But that simply establishes a place for Vixen in the DC television universe. What about comics?

Looking at sales of Storm and Black Widow, I do not believe a Vixen series would sell well should one be launched in the near future. However, I do think placing Vixen in the leadership position of a Justice League International team that borrowed heavily in style from Warren Ellis’ Stormwatch run would do wonders. In fact, perhaps JLI should be repackaged as a revamped Stormwatch. A team featuring Vixen, Fire, Jack Hawksmoor, The Ray, Solstice, and others—given orders by a hardnosed, UN-funded Jackson King—would stand as a tightly controlled bureaucratic counterpart to the Justice League. Special attention should be given to Vixen, but also The Ray (given the dismal number of Asian superheroes to be found in the mainstream). I’d probably go and switch his residence from America to the Philippines too to keep the team from being too American heavy and provide Pacific Islanders with representation. Using the team book as a way to build background stories and establish supporting characters and situations for future television and film projects is crucial.

Anything else? Yes! DC’s “teen scene” needs a major restructuring to lure back fans. The creators on deck are excellent, but another way to show that an overhaul has occurred is through renumbering, costume redesigns, and a change in team lineup. There should be a clearer division between young adults (Grayson, Cyborg, Raven, Starfire, Batgirl, Arsenal) and teens. Also, more interaction between the young adults is key given that there is a Titans show on deck and Cyborg will be appearing in movies soon. And even though the characters are appearing in solo books, building them together as a brand is still helpful. Branding the young adults as Outsiders and the teens as Titans would help in reorganizing. Finally, I think repackaging Shazam as Captain Wonder or Captain Thunder and pulling the character slightly under Wonder Woman’s wing isn’t a bad idea. And having a couple of miniseries ready for readers before a movie is released might be a good idea too.

Next up? Marvel musings.


Read, white, and blue.

I no longer read Marvel and DC comics. That statement should not be considered an insult. The snippets made available to me in previews certainly look to be of great quality and both companies have hired fantastic creators who produce work outside of the superhero realm that I continue to enjoy.

Simply put, I am not the target audience for either line. While there are a handful of works intended to draw in different types of readers, both lines overall are clearly designed to bring in an audience in its mid-twenties to mid-thirties that is overwhelmingly white, male, and flush with disposable income. It is an audience that is shrinking in number, but is still more than willing to fork over substantial amounts of cash for a weekly diet of superheroic exploits.

And so, amusingly, its universes are skewed to appeal to that demographic. Those with even loose ties to the comics industry are well aware of editor Janelle Asselin’s astute critique of the cover to Teen Titans #1. What Asselin didn’t touch upon—a key factor I immediately noticed and mentioned to friends—is the complete lack of black culture both in the image and in Marvel’s and DC’s lines in general. Given the irritating obsession American youth have with black American subcultures (fashion, language, music, etc.) it is surprising to see it stripped from material geared towards teens. However, it is surprising only if one does not take into account two basic facts: the lack of black writers and editors at Marvel and DC; and that the majority of “teen” books are created for older white men who wish to read superheroic coming-of-age stories about the characters they loved as adolescents. And it shows.

As a detached observer, I can certainly see why DC and Marvel wish to completely drain their current resource before fully committing to the laborious task of recreating lines that appeal to multiple audiences. At this point, the demographic they cater to—though shrinking—is still the greatest in number with the greatest amount of disposable income. It is far easier to simply raise prices and change the race, gender, or sexual orientation of a tertiary character than to seek new talent and alter one’s brand.

It would be far easier for DC and Marvel to reach new audiences if their current audience was not so abhorrent to change. And so changes are made on the outskirts—in alternate universes, in solo series set apart from the main event, and in B- and C-list characters. It is a very smart move given the volatile nature of current readers—though I would certainly advise both companies to take a more aggressive stance in creating works that appeal to women. It is a market that is simply growing too fast and has too much money to ignore—especially when smaller comic companies are already taking great care to cater to it.

What I simply fail to understand is DC’s and Marvel’s refusal to band together to wring as much profit as possible from their current audience! I have said—repeatedly, to anyone who will listen—that given the similarities found in both lines, Marvel and DC should release separate but simultaneous “Crisis” events that dovetail into a Marvel vs. DC crossover, the climax of which would launch a short-term Amalgam universe, which would then fold as the DC and Marvel universes are rebooted—just in time to coincide with Avengers and JLA blockbusters in movie theaters. If one’s golden goose is dying, it’s best to feed it with as much grain as possible so those last eggs are glorious.

What would rise from the ashes? A new Marvel and DC featuring universes with a diverse selection of characters and stories—with decidedly lower prices and weekly releases to lure in a larger number of readers.


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.