By Joe Palmer
Last week much of the comics world was dominated by the news of DC’s planned relaunch and the subsequent reactions of its readers. To say that shocked was one of the most common reactions is an example of the proverbial understatement. The more rumors started to become fact last Wednesday for the comics reading public (apparently retailers were aware of changes on Tuesday, at least my shop guy was) the more it seemed that I was experiencing disbelief and and a feeling that was creeping toward anger. After a few hours and some distractions I decided to try to reach some objectivity.
In all the decades that comics have been one of my primary interests and passions there have been times of dissatisfaction for me. The source of this was quite often a change in an artist or writer with a favorite character (or sometimes that there wasn’t a change). Less frequently a change of direction was involved. As a example, I’ve read comments from a few Wonder Woman readers who expressed their love of the story in which Wonder Woman underwent trials to re-join the Justice League. I remember reading those comics at the time and hating them both for the art and the insipid handling of what is supposed to be an iconic character in its own right. Other times my interest in a character had waned, but I was too hooked into the stereotypical completist mindset to stop reading the comic(s) in question, and either save my money or try different comics. A few years ago as my collection, now 44 years old this summer, was rapidly taking up more and more space I began to break this mentality with baby steps: selling or giving away odd and ends, dropping a comic here and there from my pull list, and as a result of those decisions I started to find some measure of more enjoyment in reading the remaining comics. It lasted till about a year ago and my lack of happiness manifested itself again at least once a month as I looked through Previews. It wasn’t just DC, though it has been my publisher fix of choice for longer than you care to know.
The simple truth for me is that during the past few months I had begun wondering how many mainstream comics I’d be reading come this winter. Two comics that really had my interest weren’t even published yet, Batwoman and Static Shock, and they’d both been pushed back under vague circumstances that frustrated me. Wildstorm and its series had vanished, though the stories and characters had languished. Sure Jim Lee had said the characters would return some day — that’s one of the cliches in comics, unless the character is LGBT — but it was easy for me to get the impression that DC was systematically shutting itself down all the while Marvel seemed to do the opposite. It seems Jim Lee was speaking as openly as possible at the time now that there has been news of various Wildstorm characters with either new solo or team books seems he was speaking as openly Speaking of Marvel, two of the few books I enjoyed, Runaways and Guardians of the Galaxy, were canceled some time ago. When DC recently canceled a number of comics my pull list shrank even more and I wasn’t feeling compelled much at all to “reinvest” the money in other comics.
Then came that damned news from DC. That news that had me mentally saying “What the hell! How could they do this?” By “super compressing” the seven stages of grief process, aided by the numerous new comics teased in following press releases, I think I’m past my feelings of anger and abandonment. A good number of them are piquing my interest and a fair few aren’t. Hawk and Dove is One of those that won’t get my money because of Rob Liefeld’s involvement. His art style isn’t to my liking and my personal opinion of the man, based on his comments about Shatterstar being gay (read here and here), is that he’s an ass. And Mr. Liefeld, should you read this, you can think likewise of me if you want. I promise my feelings won’t be hurt. I digress.
I’m happy now to see Batwoman, Static Shock, and Midnighter and Apollo, presumably still gay and a couple, on the list of new releases. And other LGBT characters like Obsidian and Mikaal Tomas? Too soon to tell though I’ll guess that Mikaal at least is shuffled off to limbo. On the other hand, I have a theory that Obsidian is somehow the catalyst for Eclipso to vanquish the heroes fighting on the moon, providing him the opportunity to bring down the curtain on DC’s universe as we’ve known it. Like many readers, I will miss Oracle as the strong role model into which she was made. The importance of a character who has refashioned herself and doesn’t accept ableist social limitations or define herself by those limits can’t be stressed enough. I trust Gail Simone’s ability as a writer, as well as her empathy for characters. Even so, I think DC is making a serious mistake if Oracle is undone and not a part of the new universe. Gail Simone and Jill Pantozzi, who writes for the Newsarama blog had a frank discussion about this change that was posted after I took a break in writing today. You can read it here, and you should if you have any interest in Oracle or Batgirl.
There has been a lot of unhappy comments from fans about what little is known of the changes. Certain costume designs or tweaks come to mind, and some of the choices do indeed seem questionable to me. I could spend time making a list of points that I’ve read concern expressed over, and as valid as I think those opinions are, I’m trying not to be influenced by them. There just isn’t enough information yet for me to form a solid opinion. Pictures may say a thousand words, but often those words are up to the viewer’s interpretation. As things are right now, the relaunch isn’t a jumping off point for me as I wondered it might be. Not that I’m blindly buying into this massive change; that would’ve been the old completist me. Rather, I see this as an excuse to re-examine my relationship with comics, not to wholesale dump them, but to be more discerning in choosing the stories that I feed my to my imagination and as importantly, why.