By Arturo R. García
Once again, let’s take a comic-book company’s statement and compare it to what’s being presented. Our subject this time is Bob Wayne, Senior Vice-President of Sales for DC Comics. Here’s an excerpt from a letter he sent to comics retailers Tuesday:
In the time I’ve worked at DC Comics, I’ve witnessed any number of industry defining moments. But today, I bring you what is perhaps the biggest news to date.
Many of you have heard rumors that DC Comics has been working on a big publishing initiative for later this year. This is indeed an historic time for us as, come this September, we are relaunching the entire DC Universe line of comic books with all new first issues. 52 of them to be exact.
In addition, the new #1s will introduce readers to a more modern, diverse DC Universe, with some character variations in appearance, origin and age. All stories will be grounded in each character’s legend – but will relate to real world situations, interactions, tragedy and triumph.
Here’s the punchline: the statement was released the same day as the picture posted above: an almost all-white cast for a new Justice League comic. So right off the bat, this “more diverse” DC Universe looks like those “more colorful” NBC ads. But there’s other reasons Wayne shouldn’t be crowing just yet.
Now, it’s good to see Cyborg remaining a part of the JLA; in the now lame-duck regular continuity, Victor Stone “graduated” from the Teen Titans to being in the League last year. And, his membership does support my theory that he’ll be deeply involved in Flashpoint, the mini-series supplying the in-canon impetus for this universe-wide reshuffling. But if DC’s Chief Creative Officer, Geoff Johns, who’s writing both Flashpoint and the new JLA book, understands the character, he doesn’t show it in this statement to USA Today:
“He’s a character I really see as the modern-day, 21st-century superhero,” Johns says of Cyborg. “He represents all of us in a lot of ways. If we have a cellphone and we’re texting on it, we are a cyborg — that’s what a cyborg is, using technology as an extension of ourselves.”
So congratulations, dear readers. If you have any combination of a cellphone, internet connection and a video-game system, Geoff Johns probably thinks you’re a Terminator.
Does this really look like a “more modern” League? Not so far. First, the book may be new, but this line-up sure isn’t: not only is Cyborg the only character here who doesn’t pre-date the Civil Rights era, but this entire roster was featured on the Super Powers: Galactic Guardians animated series 26 years ago:
Second, if the picture is supposed to show us the entire JLA, it disproves Johns’ statement: this is actually one of the least diverse incarnations of the team in years: Cyborg and Doctor Light were in the most recent version, as written by James Robinson; Brad Meltzer’s heavily-hyped writing 2006 stint on Justice League of America included Vixen and Black Lightning; and Dwayne McDuffie’s truncated run on the title featured Vixen, Doctor Light, Cyborg, Jason Rusch, and the Green Lantern featured in the Justice League cartoon, John Stewart. Instead of Stewart, this new JLA features one of Johns’ pet characters Hal Jordan, in a pose seemingly taken from his upcoming film.
There’s still no word on what DC’s reboot will mean for POC heroes like the ones mentioned above, or Blue Beetle, The Great Ten, and the multi-cultural cast Grant Morrison has been assembling in Batman, Incorporated. But once again, the company – particularly Wayne and Johns – is too busy telling readers it’s doing something inclusive to show just that. Let’s hope the next set of announcements avoids that trap.