I’m All About DC Comics Right Now
I’m not quite sure what it is. I don’t even think there’s one specific reason; rather I think it’s a mixture of a bunch of different things – a perfect storm if you will of comics, TV and…other stuff I’m not even aware of. But, as the title suggests, I am all about DC comics right now.
I think it started off with DC’s TV slate, which I’ve been enjoying more and more. It’s obviously called informally the Arrowverse, but I find that a little frustrating because it’s sorta named after my least favorite one? Don’t get me wrong Arrow has its charms and I’ve been keeping up with it but c’mon. The Flash is genuinely far superior (at least in my opinion) and Legends of Tomorrow may be the best show on TV at the moment. It and The Flash both capture everything I love about what is admittedly the quite limited amount of silver age DC comics that I’ve actually read (I intend to correct that, but more on that in a moment).
The Flash is so good that Arrow – you know, the show that it spun off from? – is playing catch-up by shifting its attitude to a lighter, more comic-booky tone. It’s still way darker than Flash or Legends but it’s heading in a direction that is more comfortable with being ridiculous. The creators of these shows have – intentionally or otherwise – fallen onto something genius here. Arrow started off representing everything I don’t like about the DC movie universe – it was grim, it was dark (I’m reluctant to use the term Grimdark but it is right there) and it took itself way too seriously for a show about a dude that decides that a bow and arrow was the best way to fight crime in the 21st century.
Then along came the Flash and – much like he did in the Silver Age in fact – he changed everything. The Flash embraces its roots. Not only is it colorful, but it’s ridiculous, and doesn’t for a second shy away from the most absurd of comic book influences. The Speed-force? Check. The Multiverse? Yeah, let’s welcome Jay Garrick from Earth 2. A telepathic Gorilla, a shark that walks like a man and Mark Hamil? Yep, that’d be Grodd, King Shark and the Trickster. Not only that but it’s so self aware it hurts. It is the most fun you can have sat in front of a TV that doesn’t have naked people on it. Well, until Legends of Tomorrow that is.
Legends of Tomorrow takes all the fun, ridiculous comic book tropes of The Flash and cranks it up to maximum. Time Travelling team of super-hero misfits getting up to all kinds of mostly one-and-done shenanigans is right up my street and should seriously be right up yours too. I mean, only a show like Legends could get away with a Hawkgirl mixing it up with a guy called Captain Cold. Hawkman was the only part that took itself too seriously and (spoilers) they sorta fixed that pretty early on. Otherwise it’s full steam ahead into the weird, and I actually think these shows (along with the brilliant Supergirl that I’ve not even talked about) went some way to reinvigorating my love of comics and specifically got me wanting to dive into DC.
If you’ve read any of my stuff before you’ll know my biggest blind spot in comics is DC. I grew up reading Marvel and pretty much exclusively Marvel, so aside from Batman – because let’s face it even if you’re not a DC fan chances are you’ve read a bunch of Batman – I really have a lot of catching up to do. I recently signed up for the Eaglemoss DC Comics library, so every two weeks I get a new hardback book with a classic DC story inside, and that’s helped get me into the universe. I’ve got a bunch of them so far (they also make up a cool spine image by Alex Ross) and I’m slowly making my way through some of the bigger stories in the back catalogue; the last one I read was Tower of Babel which was a lot of fun.
What’s even better though is in the back of each book is a thematically linked reprint of a Golden or Silver age book, and that’s what I’m really enjoying. First appearances of characters, first team-ups, first use of such and such plot device, every book brings an issue that transports me back to what might actually be the era of DC I enjoy the most. So much so that I want to start writing a weekly article about these vintage gems and share my love for these stories with you guys.
It got me searching around for more of those books, and I came across the archive editions of Doom Patrol, Legion of Super Heroes and Shazam and I have to admit I’m getting hooked. The visuals alone are fantastic and the stories are superb. They are everything you expect from the Golden and Silver age, and I’m working my way through them slowly. Expect to see me writing more about them soon too.
All New, All the Same
Again, I think there’s a number of reasons why, but for me right now, Marvel is lacking. And you’re reading the words of someone who is and has always been a Marvel fan. Hell I got into Marvel properly during Heroes Reborn, and let me tell you that was a baptism of fire. So if I stuck with them then, why do I feel myself drifting away from Marvel now? Not…Marvel Now, Marvel at the moment- look, you know what I mean.
I loved Secret Wars. To me, Secret Wars was an unexpected success story. The capstone on an already pretty epic run by Jonathan Hickman, it literally destroyed everything, wiped the slate clean and allowed creators from every level to dive in and tell a glorified ‘What If’ tale. It shouldn’t have worked but it did. Siege was a stand out favorite of mine, but there was also Ghost Racers, Thors, Marvel Zombies, Weirdworld, Infinity Gauntlet – all of which provided new and interesting takes on classic characters and concepts. And what was even more surprising was that, despite the delays, the main Secret Wars title was the best Marvel Event in recent memory. Epic in scope and full of memorable moments right from the start, Hickman knocked it out of the proverbial Battleworld.
Since then though? I’ve felt extremely luke warm about the Marvel Universe. There are highlights, like Ms Marvel and Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, but those were already great before Secret Wars. And I’m enjoying some of the books – Ultimates is by far the best book Marvel is producing right now, but I find it hard to make such a sweeping claim seeing as I’m dropping more and more books each week. I’m not really reading Amazing Spider-man, and that’s never happened. I sat through Sins Past for crying out loud, but for some reason seeing Peter Parker do his best Tony Stark impression isn’t winning me over, and speaking of – the flagship Marvel title is supposedly Invincible Iron Man, but even I’m getting a little tired of the ‘Bendis talk’ that dominates that book, and I’m someone who calls themselves a Bendis fan. New Avengers was what got me into Avengers. His Alias, his Daredevil, both brilliant. But when I describe Invincible Iron Man as tiring it’s literally that – I get actually tired from trying to keep up with the flood of tiny speech bubbles – “that’s what I’m saying” “what?” “I know” “really?” “That’s what I’m telling you” IT’S NOT HOW PEOPLE TALK!
Sorry. I hate going on rants. Especially ones that have taken me so far from my point.
Point is, I’m finding myself less and less interested in the current outcrop of Marvel content. Unlike a lot of people I’m actually enjoying Extraordinary X-Men, but I’ll admit the surrounding X-verse is pretty non existent. The Inhuman stuff is a non-starter, despite the draw of both Kang the Conqueror and Charles Soule. I like ANAD Avengers, and Tom King’s Vision series is genuinely creepy stuff. I have little interest in anything else though, and that makes me sad. I’m going to talk about peaks and troughs in a minute and I totally get that all comics go through it, but Avengers: Stand-Off (the current Marvel Event) hasn’t grabbed me and I sorta don’t care at all about Civil War 2, so all in all Marvel isn’t doing anything that’s really stopping me from drifting over to the Distinguished Competetion.
Probably the final thing that’s sealed my fate as a DC Comics fan is the upcoming Rebirth (sorry, #DCRebirth) event. I’m genuinely looking forward to seeing what DC does with a fresh start. It’s not been easy being someone that really wants to get into modern DC Comics but constantly being faced with – and I hate to say this – but faced with the drudgery of the New 52. Aside from Snyder and Capullo’s run on Batman which has honestly been incredible, the rest of the current slate has been mostly boring. Don’t get me wrong, there has been some highlights – Midnighter comes to mind first and foremost, as does Gene Yang’s Superman, Batman and Robin Eternal, Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang’s Wonder Woman, Gotham Academy and Batgirl. But stuff like Forever Evil, Future’s End and pretty much everything else made me not really want to spend money on DC Comics.
I’m hoping Rebirth will change that. While you never have to look too far to find the haters, to see the comics fandom react pretty positively to the announcements that came out of Wondercon is heartening, as does the commitment DC seems to be making to not only the readers but the characters themselves. I’m under no illusions that it’ll be anything like the Silver Age stuff that I’m into at the moment, but being able to enjoy new DC comics on a weekly basis is something worth getting excited about.
I’ve said before, one of the things I love most about DC over Marvel is the idea of legacy, which by their own admission they are sorely lacking in the New 52. That’s something that Rebirth seems eager to address first and foremost. Action and Detective Comics going back to their legacy numbering is a good start and a symbol that they are thinking of the long term fans, but bringing everything else back to number 1 implies that they have an eye on bringing in new readers too.
I hate that there’s a stigma attached to being a positive, optimistic fan nowadays. I know that the industry (especially within the Big 2) has dished out its fair share of crappy stuff. Brand New Days, Convergences and yes, New 52’s each chip away at fans and their expectations of quality. If you wanted to argue that the last 5 years or so have been particularly rough on those of us who love the Big Two then I’d be hard pressed to disagree (see above about my thoughts on current Marvel). But I’m not ready to give up yet. I refuse to be one of those ‘everything is sh*t’ fans, where nothing is or ever will be good enough. I fully appreciate that in a perpetual, ongoing fictional universe, you’re bound to have your peaks and troughs. It just so happens that the New 52 was, for the most part, a huge trough. But I’m also optimistic that Rebirth will be the start of a great new peak for DC.
If not? Then I’ve still got a whole Silver Age universe to catch-up on.