By Arturo R. García
Now that DC Comics has announced all 52 books for its’ upcoming reboot/relaunch, it can be said that, yes, the company looks to be featuring a more diverse group of characters as protagonists – for now. But what happens after the new DCU debuts in September will be the key.
A round-up of the titles announced after June 6, and further analysis, follows under the cut.
Title: Static Shock (pictured above)
What We Know So Far: Following a long-delayed integration into the DCU and a tribute issue honoring his creator, the late, great Dwayne McDuffie, Virgil Hawkins – the best-known character from the Milestone Comics universe – will get a chance to shine on his own. His new series will be written by Milestone alum John Rozum, who has been writing the adventures of another POC hero, Xombi.
Title: Legion Lost, featuring Dawnstar
What We Know So Far: This spin-off of the long-running and frequently-rebooted Legion of Super-Heroes franchise will deal with a group of Legionnaires stuck on present-day Earth. Dawnstar has been identified as a descendant of a Native American tribe abducted by extraterrestrials long ago. Besides her, however, it looks like the character in the goggles, who has not been named yet, might be another POC.
Title: Blue Beetle
What We Know So Far: Fulfilling DC Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns’ pledge to protect the character, the new Beetle, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jaime_Reyes_%28comics#Jaime_Reyes“>Jaime Reyes whose profile has been boosted thanks to appearances on the Batman: The Brave & The Bold animated show and an episode of Smallville, will live on in the realigned DCU. Hopefully, the extra emphasis will propel this series, the character’s second solo book since debuting as part of the Infinite Crisis story in 2006.
Title: Birds of Prey, featuring Katana
What We Know So Far: There’s concern regarding this title on a couple of levels. Katana’s addition to the team is encouraging – she’s been established as one of the DCU’s more professional heroes for years, most prominently with The Outsiders, but the reimagining of her costume makes her look like Fuji, from Wildstorm’s version of the Stormwatch series.
Besides Katana’s new appearance, some readers have shown concern regarding the removal of Barbara Gordon, who anchored the team as the super-hacker Oracle. Following years of serving as quite possibly comics’ best hero in a wheelchair ever (surpassing Marvel’s Professor X), Gordon will be re-cast as Batgirl for her own solo title.
Longtime Birds writer Gail Simone, who has scripted part of Barbara’s journey to providence over the past few years, undeniably has an enthusiasm for the character; in an interview with Newsarama, she referred to Gordon as her “spirit guide character” into the business. Simone also has a track record supporting diversity: she created the second Atom, Ryan Choi, with writer Grant Morrison, and has participated in pro-diversity panels at San Diego Comic-Con. That said, even though Simone will be writing Gordon’s new adventures, the move is a gamble for DC for two reasons: the company is apparently wagering that a) new readers will gravitate toward a Batgirl who hasn’t been active since the critically-acclaimed story Batman: The Killing Joke; and b) that current readers supporting Bryan Q. Miller’s work with the newest Batgirl, Stephanie Brown, will follow the Bat-brand toward a character they’ve known for years as Oracle.
What We Know So Far: Maybe the most surprising new book involves the Batman of Africa, David Zavimbi, spinning out of Batman Incorporated. While having a black character use the Mantle of the Bat with Bruce Wayne’s endorsement is worth cheering about, DC’s approach still has red flags surrounding it. Hopefully, not only will Zavimbi get a more detailed home than “Northern Africa,” but readers will get an explanation as to how one guy is supposed to cover a whole continent. Hopefully, writer Judd Winick will handle the situation more gracefully than Johns and DC did last month. Also: Batman Incorporated will be relaunched in 2012, which is encouraging.
Overall, out of the 52 new comics, five of them feature protagonists of color in a solo series: four Black characters and one Latino, all male. Add in team books like Justice League International (featuring Vixen and August General In Iron) Green Lantern Corps (John Stewart) New Guardians (Kyle Rayner), Legion Lost (Dawnstar and the unidentified other character) and Birds of Prey (Katana) and the number of featured POCs increases to thirteen. On the LGBT front, Batwoman will have her own series again; and writer Paul Cornell, who will pen a new version of Stormwatch, blogged that two gay characters last seen in The Authority, Apollo and Midnighter, “will remain out and proud.” As part of the Wildstorm universe, the two characters fell in love and eventually married. Whether that holds true now that Wildstorm has apparently been folded into DC continuity remains to be seen.
Still unaccounted for are Batwing’s fellow operative Cassandra Cain – the only adopted child of Bruce Wayne to not be featured in a new series; the rest of August General in Iron’s team, The Great Ten; DC’s resident spymaster, Amanda Waller; the new Aqualad, featured in both the Brightest Day storyline (with an alternate version of the character on the Young Justice animated series); detective-turned-vigilante Renee Montoya, who had been appearing in Birds of Prey as The Question; Singapore native Jenny Quantum, New York Latina The Engineer and Tibetan flyer Swift, who had appeared in The Authority with Apollo and Midnighter, and as noted above, Static is the only Milestone character so far slated to appear in the new DC continuity.
Even with those absences, though, the previews released over the past two weeks do point to a more racially diverse set of featured characters for the company – at least, compared to DC’s previews for comics released in both September 2010 and September 2009.
But then what?
According to Bleeding Cool, the company plans to run a nationwide TV ad campaign promoting the new titles. But if Batwing or Mister Terrific are positioned as being as important to this new status quo – heck, even mentioned as being in the same universe – as Superman or Batman, or if Blue Beetle is featured in ads on Univision, it will be a pleasant surprise. And it might be unscientific, but it’s not a good sign when Batwing and Mr. Terrific rank among the “leaders” in a “deadpool” thread run by Bleeding Cool over the weekend, where readers predicted, among other things, which title would get canceled first. How long will DC stick with these characters, or with Static, if sales fall below whatever projections DC has established? What indications are there that the company will even attempt to reach out to the POC audience?
Most importantly, what about current readers of color? Are you encouraged by these new titles? Are you optimistic Batwing, Static, or Mr. Terrific will see solo success?
Later this week, we’ll take a look at the trickiest – and perhaps most crucial – aspect of DC’s initiative: the creators behind the comics themselves.