DC Rebirth: A Meta-Review
DC Rebirth was a good comic and I enjoyed it. It hit all of the warm fuzzy moments I wanted to see, pointed out why I quit reading DC in the months after the New52 and has me interested in where they are going. In that regard, it worked, and everything else I am about to write is really stuff that doesn’t much matter if they follow through on the promise of this story. Much like when Johns wrote Green lantern Rebirth, it made me happy. It was like when an old friend shows back up in your life.
I missed the DCU.
Even during the 90’s, and some truly terrible comic runs, I had a fondness for that universe, and people like Mark Waid kept it from getting completely “grim and gritty”. Then, with the New52, I drifted away as the characters just didn’t interest me any more. DC was run by a bunch of 90’s Marvel editors, and the books read like 90’s Marvel comics and my feeling at the time was, “Well, they just aren’t for me anymore. That’s OK.”
But now, Wally West coming back seems like the moment in Green Lantern Rebirth when Hal Jordan came back.
Now, let’s talk about the Meta-problems.
First – Using the Watchmen characters as the plot device bothers me, just as much as the Before Watchmen books that now gather dust in bargain bins. The characters weren’t created to have a life beyond their novel. Much like how I don’t want to see spin-offs and prequels to Citizen Kane or Casablanca, some stories just aren’t made to be franchises. Besides, do we want to see Batman and The Comedian Tracking down a team-up between Joker and Moloch?
Second – At the time Watchmen came out, both DC and Alan Moore touted it was the most creator rights friendly contract ever written, and a year after the comic went out of print, it would revert to Moore. We can argue about the merits of the contract, as Moore was thinking it would be like other comics where it was published, maybe a collection came out and it went out of print and no one knew it would stay in print for 30 years. But DC deciding “Screw it, let’s use the characters in a big super-hero punching story” should continue the exodus of creators to working on the stuff they own and control themselves.
Third – The blame that darkness in superhero comics of the last 30 years, and how it overwhelmed the books at DC on Watchmen is bullshit.
Let me repeat that. It. Is. Bullshit.
Yes, Watchmen was influential. Yes, it kicked up the expectations of comic creators beyond the “give me 15 pages of fights and 3 pages of soap opera”. Yes, it showed there was an audience for mature storytelling. But Watchmen wasn’t a “Let’s do super-heroes who kill!” book, it was a SF story based off of the premise that what happens in a world where super-heroes exist. The scientific advancements, the complex legal and political issues all of it tied in. It wasn’t just “They kill people.”
I call Bullshit.
Especially from a writer who wrote stories where people routinely got their heads punched off for shock effect.
The reason comics got dark is because writers didn’t understand what was being done in mature comics. They didn’t understand that the Mature aspect of Mike Grell’s Green Arrow wasn’t the sex and violence, it was the realism of a man shooting actual arrows, a complicated love life and dealing with middle age. The mature aspect of Hawkworld by Tim Truman wasn’t the blood, but the politics and prejudice of Thanagar.
You want to blame someone? Easy, blame the editors who wanted the books to be dark, serious and grim. Blame the writers who didn’t know how to inject drama into a story. Blame the artists who gave that blood and grimaces and didn’t allow for a smile or sunshine.
It isn’t hard to do comics that are hopeful and bright. You just have to hire creators who will do them and get out of their way. There are a LOT of stories that deliver thrills, suspense, action and the like without it feeling like you’ve been dropped into a mine shaft of darkness surrounded by nightmares.
How about doing it?
I’ll loan you some Mark Waid Flash trades so you can get a couple of examples from a time when everyone wanted to write like Alan Moore. I can also give you some copies of Saga, Squirrel Girl, Secret Wars (the new one), and an avalanche of Jack Kirby books. Hell, read some Carl Barks Uncle Scrooge comics.