The Not So New DCU

You may have read Erika’s review of Batman Incorporated #2, which is a stellar issue. Everything she said about it is true. Talia most certainly is a great character and Grant Morrison writes her well. But the issue stood out for me because it is full of DC continuity past. Somehow (we all know how), the rules of the relaunch don’t apply to Morrison.

And you know what?

Thank goodness for that.

While the relaunch boosted sales in the short term, and perhaps set up for DC’s attempt at a decent film franchise … almost one year later, I am not impressed with the DCnU. In fact, I am so not impressed that I am on the verge of barely having any DC books left on my pull list. Before, they made up the bulk of it.

Looking back, I was optimistic for B-list characters to get some love – Mr. Terrific, Voodoo, and Justice League Dark. All of which fell from my pull list within a few issues. I liked Blackhawks, but that got canned. I had slobbered all over every solicit for Batwoman, and was ecstatic that Wonder Woman would be drawn by Cliff Chiang. Now, both of those books, while beautiful and featuring characters I adore, are on the verge of being dropped.

Sure, there are some good books, some great books, even. I love Birds of Prey, and I am infinitely grateful to Duane and Jesus for Starling. Lemire’s Frankenstein was a fun ride, and apparently he has breathed new life in to Justice League Dark. Animal Man, Batman & Robin, The Flash and Snyder’s Bat are all a testament to the talent on those books. But the majority of the superhero books just aren’t packing much of a punch. I feel like something is missing, something like 75 years of history.

It was a universe where The Question and Lady Shiva pause to fight during a zombie apocalypse. The Teen Titans book had hit its stride again after a long decline. Zee missed her dad and Green Arrow was a douche. Big Barda made her way back from the dead, a Banshee and a homicidal sharpshooter could fall in love, and Red Robin had come into his own. Batman was just as psychotic as the Joker. Continuity in the DC Universe was a mess. A beautiful mess that rewarded you when you remembered the panel that was a reference of a reference, and you knew which issue the original reference was from!

I don’t care that it was insular. Getting to know the characters and their history was the fun part. Now, there is no history.

This is not my campaign against the relaunch. What is done is done. The wheels will most definitely keep turning on that machine, but I miss sitting in the Mobius chair. I miss Ragdoll’s bizarre one-liners. I miss Canary’s fishnets. I miss getting pissed off about one, little retcon. I miss reading old trades that lead up to a current book. Damn it. I miss Oracle.

I miss the quixotic, convoluted vastness that was the DC Universe.

I guess I’ll check back in 20 years.

25 thoughts on “The Not So New DCU

  1. This just rings so true… I was at the comic store Tuesday night, culling my pull list from 12 titles to 6, knowing full well that I’m going to cut at least 1 more next month. I was so excited about the relaunch – pulled about 20 titles – and after less than a year, I’m feeling lukewarm at best about the few that still make the cut.

    I love Birds of Prey and that’s about it. I too miss Oracle tremendously. I’m just so underwhelmed with the title, character, ridiculous reason for her “recovery.” Wonder Woman – no idea why they can’t get it right. Flash, Superman, JLA.. I want so much to keep loving them but I can’t. And I think you got to the heart of it.. the continuity. My investment in these characters and books over the last 25+ years is no longer rewarded, even with little details and references.. little winks at the long-term readers.

    You said it so right: “I miss the quixotic, convoluted vastness that was the DC Universe.”

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    • Thank you.

      Underwhelmed is the feeling I experience month after month with many of the DC titles. The thing is, there are so many good comics out there, comics that are striking and original. So … we’ve got options.

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      • This month after I read Mind the Gap and Saga, I couldn’t bring myself to read my super hero pulls for another day. Those independent comics are so stellar, like you said, it really brings into perspective just how downhill the DC comics have gone. And the reason they can’t get WW right is because she’s not moving the story. Protagonists have to protag! She’s just a supporting character in her own book. I’m considering dropping it. And I totally agree about missing Oracle. I want to like the new Batgirl because it’s Gail Simone… But it’s just not compelling. DC stands for disappointing comics at the moment.

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      • Right you are! I am really enjoying both Saucer Country and the Manhattan Projects at the moment, so at least I’m not in the position of walking away from comics… just taking a break from most of the DC universe…

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        • Saucer Country is a good one! The Manhattan Projects, too. I love The New Deadwardians and Chew. Always Chew. Rachel Rising. Saga is brilliant every issue, so far. Uncanny X-Force has been solid for over two years, now. Brian Wood’s The Massive, that book is beautiful and intriguing. Yes. Plenty of options.

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  2. Well said V!

    I so concur, and I miss the old DC as well.

    I was so let down by how they treated Mr. Terrific, (I had high hopes for his book because he is the coolness) and I cannot abide Wonder Woman now, it is too annoying to read because I know just how STELLAR she used to be.

    And I have always thought anyone can be Batgirl but no one can be Oracle, not even Batman. I miss her too.

    Thanks ever so for saying this. : )

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  3. Vanessa I really enjoyed your point of view, it seems I am not alone, I really miss the old DCU. There are no storylines that catch me like before, I collected DC comics since 1986 and bought almost every comic book of DCU, now I only stayed with Aquaman, Batman,Green Lanterns, Teen Titans (only for Tim Drake), and JL and JLI, but they don’t take my breath away like before. DC took a bold decition, but I would love that they could do an alternate universe where they can bring back our old DCU. At least makes me happy that I am not alone and that many old school fans have this emptiness in their comics corner

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  4. Interesting perspective to read! Until this article, I hadn’t thought about what a loss of so much history might mean to long-term readers. I imagine that if I was in your boat, I’d have very similar feelings. I’m approaching the New 52 as someone who has been reading independent comics & graphic novels for a while but was way too intimidated by the decades of complex history to even know where to start with superhero books. So I never bothered. Then the New 52 came along, and the reboot gave me the perfect place to jump in. While I’ve mostly enjoyed the 4 titles I’m currently reading (BoP, Batwoman, WW, Batgirl), I don’t think any of them are as strong as the monthly indies I’m currently reading (Saga, Saucer Country, Rachel Rising).

    Anyway, I suppose I represent a member of the “new” customer base DC was targeting with the re-launch. And while I offer anecdotal evidence that their strategy has found some new readers, it sounds like they may also be alienating their loyal long-term fanbase, which can’t be good for business. As someone who definitely has fandoms I’ve been following for years, I’m saddened by what you and other long-term readers have lost, in an attempt (possibly misguided) to reach out to readers like me.

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    • My friends who read mostly non Big Two books, didn’t really migrate over for much of the relaunch. So, I appreciate your perspective. I do know a few people who weren’t in to comics at all, and started reading them because of the New 52. They seem to be having fun. I have talked to a couple of comic shop owners, and they said that they have new readers that are sticking around. So, it is working for some people.

      I do understand the massive continuity is intimidating. When we first started Girls Gone Geek, we got a good chunk of emails from readers who wanted to read DC comics but had no idea where to start … for that very reason. And, I understand the logic at the time of the relaunch.

      I did not anticipate how much I would miss it all, though.

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  5. For me the biggest issue isn’t that the continuity is gone. I have no problems with an actual reboot (“which we never received”) but with that fact that the comics seem to have no heart any longer. I loved DC comics as much as I loved Marvel. Some of my oldest comic book memories were reading the “New Teen Titans” back in the 80s. But I dont get a feeling from the comics anymore that the creators are feeling the DCnU yet either, and that is hampering their ability to tell the same quality stories there were telling last year. There is either too much n or too much DC U in that mix so far.

    As a reader, I tend to find the rational given for the nU a bit insulting to my intelligence, as well, which biases me against the whole system. I am not a Hawkman fan and never have been. If I were to pick up an issue of his comic at some point last year, I would have known little of his continuity except the basics of his backstory and personality from guest appearances in other comics I did read. That is no different from the Avengers, the Xmen, or Teen Titans, all of which i started reading back in the 80s, far from their first issues. To say that I cant understand a story because of the wealth of its backstory is putting the blame on me as a new reader when it should be placed on the company for creating a comic that required this knowledge to appreciate it but made little efforts to include that knowledge in the story itself. Lazy f’ing writing. We wouldn’t put up with it in any other media, yet we are expected to be excited about it in comics.

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  6. I seem to recall commenting on my hatred of this relaunch way back when it began, and someone telling me to give it a try and it wasn’t so bad. Well I love to say I told you so! It’s actually quite fun. I don’t understand why most people claim to hate saying it.

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  7. I stopped buying DC comics after the reboot. I spent a lot of time learning the DC back stories, which I felt was part of the fun. I just didn’t have the patience to do it all over again. Perhaps I would have changed my mind, but then the new DCU went overboard with sexualizing Starfire, Catwoman, and VooDoo. WW’s father is a character that is a serial rapist. WW didn’t need a father, much less one that completely contradicts female empowerment. Ugh.

    The message I received as a female reader was that the new DCU was going one step forward and many steps backwards to stories that relied on cheap, sexist marketing tricks instead of rich storytelling. (I also miss Oracle. While I would not wish a handicap on anyone, Barbara really made the best of her tragic circumstances and rose above her physical limitations. That was a beautiful story with such a wonderful message.)

    DC owns Vertigo, which has continued to publish really captivating stories. I still buy Vertigo titles, like Fables. I’m really enjoying Saga (Image), which so far has managed to incorporate sexual themes without degrading any of the female leads.

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    • Nicely put venturesister.
      I agree with you about what DC has done to Starfire, Catwoman, VooDoo and WW. It seems that the majority of the female characters have been given short shrift and they have been redone to appeal to a sexist mindset that I do not wish to dwell on because it really gets my gander up.
      Instead of moving forward with good strong characters female and male they seem to have gone backwards and sideways.
      The only character that I have heard that has had a good time of it during this revamp is Aquaman, and I am happy for his book but sad for all that has been lost.

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  8. If it wasn’t for Hellblazer and Fables I don’t think that I would be reading any of DC’s imprints right now. The entire ‘Das’ Reboot seemed to almost a call to a massive fail. Granted it nabbed DC lots of potential new fans, but those of us who have read DC for years, collected so many of the awesome stories. ‘I myself was a Sgt. Rock fan, and of course a huge Batman fan. I also loved to read Wonder Woman, and naturally I loved the Watchmen.’

    This new and horrible mess seems less and less likely to become anything near the DC Universe most of us long time readers remember. Eventually something may happen to cause them to bring back the entire old universe. When it does I’m certain we’ll be treated to the ripple effect caused by Superboy Prime punching on the wall between realities. (It isn’t like that wasn’t milked to death).

    I will say since DC has done this reboot it has allowed me the chance to get back into other comics I used to read. I’m catching up on Marvel, I’ve read the entire ‘Army of Darkness’ series put out by Dynamite comics, I’ve been re-reading The Walking Dead, and I’ve been checking out Zenoscope comics. The reboot has made me realize the huge wealth of other comics out there, and I’ve been taking it in. Perhaps if they bring back the original universe (say as an alternate universe or the such) I will see myself setting down to getting mainstream DC, but until then… I fear that I’ve lost a good and dear friend in my old comics.

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  9. Pingback: Comics You Should Be Reading: Summer 2012 Edition | Girls Gone Geek

  10. I used to read about 30 DC titles a month, 10 Marvel, and a lot of others. Now I’m down to 3 DC (Batman, Batman Inc, Flash), 2 Marvel (Ult Spider-man, Daredevil), but even more non-Marvel-or-DC books. Marvel’s Fear Itself really jerked around with contrived crossovers and soon-reversed deaths and turned me off to them around the same time as the DC New 52, coincidentally.

    Actually, it’s the same theme as the problem with the New 52: if what happens to the characters is meaningless, why read it? All of fiction requires us to suspend disbelief, but Marvel and DC make it impossible. At every turn you’re reminded that it’s only a story.

    I describe the outrage about the New 52 to non-comics-fans by saying, imagine a good tv show like Lost, that has emphasized a large cast and convoluted plots (and thus attracts people interested in those things), suddenly “rebooting” in the 4th season. Instead of continuing the story, they retell the story from season 1, with slight changes, with all new actors in the same roles. Why would you watch that?

    Even some of the DC books receiving a lot of praise are losing my interest. Batman and Batman Inc are good, but they were good before the reboot, too. Of course I miss Red Robin, Batgirl (steph) and Oracle. And everyone is praising Flash now, but it took me a few issues to look past the stellar art and realize there is no depth to the story at all. The book goes from plot to plot with no themes of any kind.

    Instead, give me Invincible, Saga, Walking Dead, Fables, BPRD, American Vampire, Scalped, Locke & Key …

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  11. I despise the new DC Universe. I was so excited after 52… I thought DC was going in the right direction. I’ve been following Birds of Prey since it started in those one shots. I was excited with the revelation at the end of JLI: Paradise Lost that they would be bringing back JLI. Booster Gold was finally getting some respect and Guy Gardner was transformed from a bad joke to a real kick-ass character. However, the biggest thing to happen in DC for me was the slow transformation of Stephanie Brown from Spoiler, to a failed Robin to a FANTASTIC BATGIRL!

    Now it’s all gone.

    I had admired how DC kept Barabra in the chair and turned her into the dynamic character of Oracle. I loved her in that role and I liked that she was training Wendy to be a back-up Oracle. Now gone. Now Barbara is Batgirl and I’m not happy about it.
    JLI came back, it was OK, but it has been canceled.
    The new DC was supposed to be a place for new readers to step in, except nothing feels like a beginning… it all feels like a sloppy mess… and no one seems to have any desire to tell you what is happening at all.
    Ever issue of the terrible, terrible new Birds of Prey just feels like I missed an issue. I mean… they were fighting a bad guy and then in the next issue, they’re on a new adventure with NO EXPLANATION AT ALL how they got out of the previous situation, how that situation was resolved and if it has anything to do with where we are now.

    Give me back Big Barda and the Doom Patrol. Return Wonder Woman to her traditional costume and roll out the JSA! In fact… give me the Wild C.A.T.S. and Savant and Gen 13 even.

    I miss them terrible and I’m tired of these pretenders wearing their costumes.

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  12. I used to read Voodoo with much pleasure. More or less, the plot was always the same in each issue: Voodoo meets an enemy of her; she shows him tits & ass; he instantly get very interested in her, so he follows her wherever she wants; they get a room, and she kills him, or takes from him the objects and informations she was looking for.
    As you can see, it was a comic book almost entirely built on tits, ass and violence. And you know what? It was so bad it was good.
    Also, I liked the merciless of Voodoo, who killed the obstacles on her way without any resentment. Not because I like violence (on the contrary, I repeatedly complained about the excessive amount of violent scenes in the New 52 comics, Voodoo included), but because Voodoo was a punch in the face of those politically correct comics, where the leading character has strong moral values (and gives a lot of sermons about them), never kills anyone, and doesn’t even hold a gun. It was something new, and, even if the violence was exaggerated, I appreciated it.

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