Friday, September 02, 2011

The New DC Begins

I've been a DC guy since childhood. My heroes were Superman, Batman, the Justice League, and all their assorted allies. I kept up with the Marvel heroes via my cousin's and friends' collections.
My favorite stories were the "crisis" multi-chapter tales that took the heroes of the regular DC universe to parallel earths, where they met the Justice Society (their 1940s counterparts) or the Freedom Fighters (heroes DC had bought from another company), and so on.

So when DC collapsed its multiple universes into one during the "Crisis on Infinite Earths" in 1984-85, I was OK with seeing all the heroes brought together into one reality; even if that meant the alternative versions had to cease to exist. You could no longer say those Batman adventures from the 1940s actually took place on "Earth 2" while the modern Batman's adventures were those on "Earth 1." Instead, you had to take all those old stories and say, hey, those were cool and we remember them fondly, but now we're going to tell all new stories about the hero. John Byrne got to retell the origin of Superman that threw out decades of old continuity -- and it was pretty cool.

They did it again several years later with "Infinite Crisis," which was kind of a bust. And there have been lots of little reboot attempts in the interim (anybody remember the electric Superman of the 1990s?). Now the heroes get all new costumes and origins (again) in a total revamp.

The difference is, with the rise of the Internet in the interim, every bozo and fanboy with Wifi thinks he's the font of wisdom, and nothing is better than tearing apart your heroes. Thus, lots of bad reviews of the new books -- the "NEW 52" -- and long before anyone ever saw anything more than some promotional art. (I firmly believe that's also what killed the Wonder Woman TV pilot made by David Kelly recently; fanboys savaged it online, having only seen a few promo photos, like the one at right. I watched it this week, and while it had some very weak points, it had some great ideas as well and might have turned into something worth seeing if it was allowed to go beyond pilot stage. Remember: Most pilots never air. They're just proof of concept. This concept was pretty good.)

Likewise, I'm here to tell you: Having read Justice League No. 1, the only book of DC's "NEW 52" titles to be released so far: It's going to be OK.

What we're getting is the beginning of these heroes. Batman is a young vigilante, hunted by the police and suspicious of all these other costumed adventurers appearing around the world. I hear Christian Bale's voice when I read his dialogue, and not in a jokey, growly way. There's no grand arsenal yet, no rogues gallery of weird villains, no baggage. (There's a great moment when Green Lantern realizes Batman is "just a guy in a suit.")
Superman is a mystery; people think he might be an extraterrestrial, the first one anybody on earth has ever (officially) seen. There's no ongoing relationship with Lois Lane. He's superpowerful beyond anything on earth and he has no perspective on what that means; he's never met another superhero, and he's never been tested to his limits (so far as we know). He has yet to realize there are tougher things than him out there.
Likewise with Green Lantern, who comes off very much like a Ryan Reynolds character: brash, over-confident, like you'd imagine a young test pilot might be. He thinks he's God's gift to the world, until Superman knocks him down without breaking a sweat. This is not the proven veteran of the Lantern Corps, not the legend. It's the "poozer" before he got taken down a peg, before he lost everything, before he battled his way back to life.

(I also think it's no accident that the characters are written -- and their costumes redesigned -- to emulate the movies being made about them. At left is Henry Cavill as the new Superman, and though it's difficult to tell in this photo, he has no red Underoos on the outside of this tights.)

These are the only three heroes introduced so far. I like that we get to see these guys grow and learn, and the writers get to establish a new status quo. I hope it lasts long enough to tell a bunch of good stories before the next reboot comes along. Please, people: Put it in perspective. None of this is permanent.

The other 51 titles DC is relaunching will make their debuts over the next several weeks. I look forward to seeing what they try to make of my favorite fictional universe. And I'll let you know.
T
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