It was announced last week that DC Comics is planning an ongoing series of original graphic novels starring their two biggest icons. The Earth One line will feature J. Michael Straczynski and Shane Davis on Superman and Geoff Johns and Gary Frank on Batman. These books will restart the history of both characters from scratch, leaving the creative teams free from the shackles of continuity and 22-page constraints. We probably don’t need to go any further, but just in case you aren’t yet convinced of the potential awesomeness of this venture, we’ll continue.
It doesn’t really get any more accessible or popular than Superman and Batman. These are probably the two best known characters in comic books and their fame goes far beyond the confines of the printed page. They are American icons on the same level as baseball (only not as boring) and apple pie (but not as delicious). So on that level, DC has their bases covered. If they were planning a series of graphic novels featuring Firestorm, we might wonder what they were thinking, but playing it safe with Supes and Bats is a good start. It’ll appeal to die-hard fans as well as newcomers.
Speaking of newcomers, the lack of continuity will be a saving grace. Sure, everybody in the world knows the origin stories of the World’s Finest, but beyond that it’s all fanboys and confusion. Exploding planets, dead parents, utility belts and Lois Lane? Got it. Parasite, dead sidekicks, paralyzed Batgirls and Krypto? Not so much. Tossing history out the window and starting over from day one will allow people who are interested in comics but frightened of continuity to jump on at the beginning and with Superman and Batman, it’s a very safe beginning. How many Marvel Zombies do you know who always say that they’d be interested in checking out a DC book, but don’t know anything about the characters or the universe? Ding! Ding! Ding! Here you go, folks. A brand new DCU just for you.
Not to mention the fact that from the looks of it, we’re getting a decidedly different Clark Kent. He arrives in Metropolis at the age of 21 and in the sketches we’ve seen, he’s got a decent haircut and isn’t wearing the Coke-bottle glasses. This is good. #1 – it’ll be controversial and controversy = cash. Comic fans will buy it just for a reason to bitch. #2 - to anyone who doesn’t understand why the nerdy glasses routine works (which is basically everyone who doesn’t read Superman comics on a regular basis), the whole thing is ridiculous and stupid.
Now hold on – We’re not saying that we think it’s ridiculous and stupid. But your cousin Vince who just doesn’t get it no matter how many times you explain it or how many times you show him that scene in Superman II where Lois realizes the truth and Christopher Reeve straightens up and … well anyway, he thinks it’s stupid. And these books are made to appeal to your cousin Vince. Look, everybody knows we’re gonna buy ‘em, but the whole point is to get new readers. So dropping the nerd specs and putting some product in Clark’s hair is a good thing, no matter how much we might want to grit our teeth and call it Superman 90210.
Ahhh, we’re just kidding. The monthly’s not going anywhere and besides, we don’t have any intention of starting that debate up again. We just used that sub-header to get your attention. Still here? Good, let’s continue.
As long as we’re around, there will always be monthly comics because comic readers are an obsessive lot and we gotta have our weekly Wednesday fix. But we’ve all lent trade paperbacks out to our non-comic-reading friends, right? And what do they always say upon returning said books? “I really liked it, but I just couldn’t imagine having to read that in those short little monthly installments!” Ding! Ding! Ding! We might love dropping ridiculous amounts of cash on fleeting moments with our favorite four-color heroes, but we’re kinda stupid that way. It’s really hard to explain to someone who doesn’t read them why a 22-page comic works so well and it’s even harder to justify the price.
The long and short of it is this: people who don’t read comics think graphic novels are great and single issues are crap. So releasing these stories as OGNs is another great way to capture a whole new audience, and not just the Marvel Zombies. This is a way to bring actual, honest-to-god NEW readers into the fold.
J. Michael Straczynski on Superman with… okay, we’ll be honest, we’re not too familiar with Shane Davis. But the sketches look nice and we’re willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. But Straczynski? Hell, you had us at J. We’re talking about one of the best writers currently working in comics and right now he’s coming off of a freakin’ spectacular run on Thor – hopefully some of that mojo will carry over to the Man of Steel. Yeah, we’re still holding a grudge over The Twelve, but that’s another one of the many obsessive-compulsive joys we fanboys bring to the table. After reading his run on Thor, we’re willing to forgive and forget and we’ll damn sure pick up a Superman book that JMS writes.
Oh yeah, and what’s that other book? Some obscure character called Batman written by a nobody named Geoff Johns. And Gary Frank on pencils? Never heard of the guy.
Seriously. The term “nerd boner” has never been more applicable than in this situation. Geoff Johns and Gary Frank on Batman?!?!? And there’s no continuity tying them down? They have free reign to do whatever the hell they want? Be still our beating hearts.
Sure, we know we weren’t the first folks to say it, but Comicscape would like to pat ourselves on the back and act like we were by reminding you that as recently as August, we were clamoring for an “Ultimate DC” line of comics. Ahhh yes… somebody is listening. You’re welcome, Mr. DiDio. We’ll be waiting for the check to arrive.