It’s no secret that DC’s comics have been a misery during the New 52. There have been very few points of light, with the fun comics getting shuttered quickly, vibrant characters like Static being editorially ruined, and repeated grim/dark storylines getting all the attention. The first few acts of the New 52 were Superman being cruel to police officers, Batman and Green Lantern being mean to each other, and the Joker having his face cut off and stuck on a wall.
Things have been RELENTLESS, and to be honest I’ve absolutely hated every single time DC have tried to one-up the misery stakes further. Whilst I’m not against darker storytelling – Wonder Woman benefited from it, and Green Arrow improved considerably once Jeff Lemire took over – it’s tough when that’s basically all DC have to offer. The most light-hearted series is Injustice, and that was a series which started with Superman accidentally killing his family and then murdering The Joker.
But I have faith that things will improve! A number of things are currently happening which offers some hope that we’re on the path to comics where people DON’T hate each other.
1: Fun writers are coming onboard. There’s a slide over time for writers at the Big Two companies, where people start out with lots of work and projects, and then slowly slide out. Jeff Parker and Greg Pak are two such writers, whose work at Marvel has slowly faded out. As a result, they’ve now started to make the move to DC, where their lighter ethic is starting to take hold – Pak has grabbed hold of the Superman franchise and seems set to take it under his control, for example.
Jeff Parker’s Batman ’66 has got critical attention (something DC have struggled with) and led to him moving onto Aquaman. Some fun writers are starting to take on some of the highest profile DC books, and that can only be good…. can’t it?
2: A sense of creative community is building. Although nobody knows what’s going on with the editors, the writers are starting to build a community. One of the most likeable aspects of Marvel’s business is that the creators know each other, bicker with each other, and socialise. At DC, it can feel a bit like creators come in and collect a paycheque – but creators like Scott Snyder, Marguerite Bennett, Tom Taylor and James Tynion IV all working together have a great camaraderie.
When there’s a freer community working on the comics, the comics themselves tend to feel a lot lighter – you can always sense when creators are really enjoying the work they’re doing. I like that we’re seeing blocks of community establish within the various books, now.
3: Forever Evil will finish. This is wild speculation, but it feels as though this event is designed to formally jettison the grimness of the DC Universe. This is evil vs evil, everybody’s feeling very sad, and it seems like this is one last push for DC before they get over this whole ‘darker and edgier’ phase. Everything we know about the end of this seems to suggest we’re going to get something better – for example, the repeated references to the Kord family, as well as the noted absence of Booster Gold.
If Blue Beetle IS coming back to DC, that would have to be seen as the catalyst. He’s so well known to be an optimistic and fun character that his arrival into the New 52 would seem set to reinforce a new ‘lighter and entertaining-er’ phrase for the company.
4: The back-story is getting sorted out. One of the big problems in the New 52 is that continuity doesn’t sit very well together. Batman’s origins and Superman’s origins are taken on faith, essentially – some of the stories happened, other stories didn’t, and nobody is quite sure how so many Robins showed up in such a short time. But what Zero Year has done is give us a condensed look at history and finally establish a single continuity for readers.
Superman still is a bit of a mess, but that’s because Scott Lobdell’s current storyline is all about how messy and inexplicable it all is. But Zero Year has let Jeff Lemire plan out a backstory for Green Arrow, whilst Gotham City has started to get a working timeline together thanks to John Layman and Scott Snyder.
DC have put us through some really really depressing comics over the last few years. I had to read all of Villains Month, and came out feeling SO upset. But if we’re seeing what I hope we’re seeing – a coherent direction for the company, characters getting to be heroic without constant murders being thrown in their face, and a freer creative environment for the writers and artists – could we hopefully be on the way to a better DC Comics in 2014?
Fingers crossed, at least.