Crimespree on Comics: “The New 52 at 16 Months” or “Clint Eastwood Lives in Gotham City”

It’s been almost two years now since DC Comics began their grand experiment with the launch of their line-wide reboot, the New 52. With the New 52, DC Comics hit the restart button on Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and all their pals in the universe they’ve shared since the Golden Age of comics, starting during World War II. Citing stagnant sales and an ever-shrinking readership, some would say DC had no choice but to roll back decades upon decades of shared continuity that they felt was preventing their readership from growing. Good or bad, they had the guts to give it a try.

By starting over, we readers were told over and over that “Things Were Changing!” and “You’ll Never Guess What’s Coming Next!” and “Each Issue Is New Reader Friendly!”

All to varying degrees of success.

Do I really care if Superman no longer wears red underpants on top of his overpants? Or that all the heroes now wear high v-collar shirts and their uniforms all have high-tech scratchy looking body molding? No, but it does make me think everyone shops at the same store. I hope they were giving group discounts that day.

What I do care about, and what drove me to this mild rant, is this: There seems to be an overall disconnect in the ways the books interact with each other. The fact is, out of 52 different books, the only ones that still have the same creative teams intact are Batman, Batman and Robin, Supergirl, Green Lantern, Green Lantern Corp, Wonder Woman, and Swamp Thing. The ones with at least the same writer are minimal at best. And with another wave of changes recently announced, that number is getting smaller yet. Keep in mind; the New 52 is very young. As of this Wednesday (new comic book day!) the New 52 is only up to issue 16. DC Comics has insisted on keeping a publishing line filled with 52 different titles. They’ve already gone through a culling of low selling titles already, but these have been replaced with new books to keep the overall number at 52.

Point being: if DC insists on keeping a set number of books in print, why can’t they keep a consistent creative team on their books? The number of writers and artists that have been on Green Arrow alone in the past sixteen months is embarrassing. It’s the same with the main Superman book. Come on! It’s Superman, for crying out loud! This is a flagship book that has been aimless since the New 52 debuted.

All this being said, I believe the best work being put out right now is on the All Star Western book. The beauty of this title is simple: take the scarred bounty hunter Jonah Hex out of the deserts of the Old West, and drop him into the Gotham City of the 1880’s. Add the artistic genius of Moritat to the writing team of Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti, and the book is addicting month in and month out.

What All Star Western does so well seems like a simple formula: we have the cantankerous Hex (who brings to mind Eastwood’s Man With No Name, if he’d been having the worst day of his life) paired with the bookish Dr. Amadeus Arkham, before he built his famous asylum. The two become a sort of Odd Couple of their day. The storylines all seem to build on each other, month in and month out. Every month we learn more about the world of Gotham City in the 1880’s. Learning about the Wayne family of this era, meeting up Mayor Cobblepot, all these things that impact the books based in the modern day. Add to that the fact that gifted Moritat has been the only artist to date. The book has a consistency that is only matched by the work of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo.

I know people are not machines. Writers, and artists especially, need time to put out quality work. Having fill in artists lend a hand to spell an artist is a basic part of comics. But what DC has been guilty of is endless shakeups due to “editorial differences,” or “low sales.” The line is only 16 months old, and the number of shakeups on some books is crazy.

What would I do? Easy for me to say, from the comfort of my living room, but since this is my little rant, here goes: I’d plan out were each book’s storyline is going for the next year or so, and put the best team available on each book. Ensuring the Batman in the Justice League is portrayed the same as he is in his own half dozen titles is what fanboys like me live for. If not having the available talent to put out consistent, high quality work every month means putting out fewer books than 52, so be it. When the whole point of your line-wide shake up is to put out a consistent, new reader friendly line up, quality is paramount. When your product is not delivering as promised, care enough to set the ship right.

These are players in a vast universe I’ve been following for most of my life. I want all of these comics to be awesome. Then, everyone else will read them and say, “Wow. THAT was awesome!” And then they keep reading. And give copies to their friends. And so on, and so on. It doesn’t matter how many years of continuity a character has. It just matters that the story and the overall product are amazing.

*steps off of soapbox, bows, exits stage left*