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The Future of Comics: DC’s EARTH ONE

Batman and Superman - reinvented

By Chad Derdowski     December 16, 2009
Source: Mania


Comicscape: The Future of Comics: DC’s EARTH ONE
© Mania

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.

 

Accessibility

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.

Cover art to SUPERMAN: EARTH ONE

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.

 

The Death of the Monthly Comic

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.

Cover art to BATMAN: EARTH ONE

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.

 

Star Power

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.

 

Ultimate DC

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.

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

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ManiaHasIssues 12/16/2009 1:54:44 AM

 mania does a good job of patting themselves on the back for suggesting this idea a few months ago, but how do they go an entire article talking about the ultimatization of dc without once mentioning the recent allstar batman and allstar superman? didnt those two lines bring in some ringer talent and let them play without worries about continuity? as far as i can tell, the only differences here are delivery has full trades without single issues (and who knows how long we'll have to wait between each trade for the next installment, assuming initials sales dont kill the project after 1 or 2) and the CW-ization of supes. and i gotta say, marketing wise? after the nonstop multiverse crisises dc undergoes, earth one makes this sound waaaaay more like something drenched in continuity then a genericizer like allstar. 

or did i miss the april first timestamp somewhere on this page?

Wiseguy 12/16/2009 5:15:55 AM

DC needs to send that check to Marvel, they're the ones that came up with the idea, so what's new

kwsupes 12/16/2009 5:19:50 AM

 You know I wonder in thirty years if Johns will be seen as the man who helped re-shape DC's characters in the same way that Stan Lee established most of Marvel's characters in the 60s. Everything the guy has written I have enjoyed. I am interested to read his take on Batman because there is a pretty good chance that it will be awesome. And I am pretty sure that the Superman book will rock too. I am glad DC is giving this a try and actually putting two great writers in charge.

ChadDerdowski 12/16/2009 6:17:14 AM

ManiaHasIssues - All-Star Batman and Superman weren't the same thing.  Those were finite series' that each had their own continuity.  Miller & Lee's Batman wasn't in the same universe as Morrison & Quitely's Superman.  Those were more like Elseworlds type stories or simply "continuity free" books.  Earth One is hitting the reset button and setting up a whole new continuity in which these two will (presumably) interact with each other and whatnot.

As far as sales and future installments go - we'll see when we get there.  What's wrong with having a positive attitude? As far as patting ourselves on the back goes... y'see, there's these things called "jokes" ...

Wiseguy - Ever heard of Showcase #4?  It came out in 1956 and featured an updated version of this old character called The Flash.  The idea was to recreate him from the ground up for whole new audience.  And then there was this thing called Crisis. Sorry for the snark, dude, but it's not like Marvel came up with it either.  Pretty much every idea in comics is a recycled idea.  DC does a crossover years in the making and Marvel copies it and improves on it.  Then DC copies Marvel right back.  Then Marvel copies DC... it's been happening for a long time now.

kwsupes - I don't think he'll be viewed in the same light as Stan Lee simply because he didn't create all of these characters.  He won't have the mainstream attention and all that because he isn't the attention hog that Lee was... is.  But among comics fans, I think he'll be remembered as the guy who brought the magic back.  Definitely.

Jasinner 12/16/2009 6:55:33 AM

I was gonna make a joke about "payola" since a review site was alluding to taking money from one of the subjects of their reviews, but since you've already had to explain that it was a joke you kinda stole my thunder.

I think a good comparison to kwsupes' Johns/Lee situation above would be Jimmy Hendrix and Les Paul. Les Paul invented the electric guitar Jimmy Hendrix played it in a way that made him an icon that so many others strive to imitate. Hendrix inspired new generations to pick up the guitar and play maybe Johns will inspire new generations to write fun intelligent comics.

Ozymandas 12/16/2009 7:40:00 AM

All-Star Superman and Batman, take 2. (not to say they don't look good!)

DarthDuck 12/16/2009 7:51:12 AM

I'm excited for a number of reasons:

1) the creative teams - Johns gets more of my money and I'm a big JMS fan.

2) the format - Collecting the stories completely and a trade at a time is a great idea, especially for a new series with a new continuity.  I look forward to going to the comic store every Wednesday for my 'floppies' but this could be a great idea.

3) new readers! - I am always trying to get people to read comics and this will work perfectly for that.  Everyone knows Batman and Superman, so as long as they don't spend forever on re-doing the origins this could be great for finding new readers.

TigerPrime 12/16/2009 8:01:30 AM

So any word on when these will hit shelves?

redhairs99 12/16/2009 9:39:15 AM

I followed comics a lot when I was younger in the late 80's and early 90's.  Not so much these days, but I do check them out every once in a while.  I am, however, familar at least a little bit with Geoff Johns and everything I've seen and read shows me that this guy is fanastic.  Now, when I saw that pic of Supes a week or so ago, I was thinking "HELL YEAHH!!!!"  This I will have to check out.

Anyone know when these are coming out?  All I've seen is 2010.

ElBaz13 12/16/2009 12:26:42 PM

I wonder if Batman will get to say "I'm the goddamn Batman!"?

The way I had to wait for All-Star Batman and Robin will be just about the same for these comics...uh...I mean graphic novels.

Sorry, no matter how much DC tries to get big name talent to revamp their characters, they will always be 2nd banana to Marvel. JMS is good, but I will take a Millar or Bendis story any day.

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