In the course of talking to comic creators this year, I started to think about their unique talents and what I think they would be best suited to. Inspired by all kinds of wonderful ideas I’ve seen online and heard from creators, I’ve put together my New 52. These are the 52 books I would publish if DC’s offerings were up to me and, as my friends and I have had a good time discussing them, I thought I would share them with you.

I tried to consider the actual feasibility of these titles, not only in the sense of immediate sales but in their ability to expand DC’s brand long-term. I also recognize that this is a dramatically simplified version of what DC actually has to do. As such, I made a couple of rules for myself. First, as I don’t have the same knowledge of the creators’ availability and timeliness as an actual editor, I decided that I would allow myself access to any writer currently working in comics, but that I could only assign a creator to one book. Second, I tried not to put a writer on the same book that they’ve already worked on, though some were moved to similar concepts or allowed to expand short work they’ve already done. Finally, while an actual relaunch might do well to include some new books, I limited myself to preexisting titles and IPs for this project.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, on why I’m right, why I clearly screwed up, who should be illustrating the series, etc. But, regardless, I hope you enjoy.

Blame Fredric Wertham if you like, but the truth is that DC is a superhero company. They invented the superhero, they revitalized them during the Silver Age, and they brought them to the masses through cartoons and movies. Especially with the Comics Code Authority banning horror and pirates and the demand for mysteries and westerns fading over time, it’s unsurprising that superheroes took over the comics industry. It’s gotten to the point where, when DC announced three horror books, a pair of military comics, a fantasy series, and one western – less than a seventh of their 2011 reboot – the industry was a abuzz with congratulations on their bold move to eschew superheroes to such a degree. I say that with a bit of sarcasm, but it actually was a huge step away from Capes for the company.

At this point I don’t think that any one company, even one as influential as DC, can make a significant change in the comic industry’s preoccupation with superheroes by itself, however, if the growing success of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe is anything to go by, there is something that can be done to provide a little less homogeneity among the New Year’s 52.

If DC is a superhero company, so be it. But I think it’s time we reminded the world how varied Cape comics can be.

 

BOOSTER GOLD BY KIM STANLEY ROBINSON AND KEITH GIFFEN

A sell-out of the highest order, Michael Jon Carter was basically the superhero version of Biff Tannen from Back to the Future: Part II. Stealing a spattering of outdated superhero tech, the disgraced 25th century football player returned to the present day in order to profit off his (questionable) knowledge of past events. In time the heroic life would soften Booster (as he accidentally came to be known), but though he would embrace selflessness and even save the world a few times, he never fully gave up on the idea of hitting it big.

An ad for the original Booster Gold ongoing series.

Booster Gold is an interesting character to look at, not only for his numerous flaws and charming quirks, but for his evolution over the years. The original 1986 Booster Gold series focused on Booster’s self-serving nature, looking at his evolution from con man to actual hero. The series lasted just over two years, but that was enough to launch Booster into a career with the JLI, which would become one of his most famous incarnations. JLI’s Booster was more of a goofball, always thinking of ways to get rich quick (if in less selfish ways than previously). Through it all, Booster used his high tech suit to mimic more traditional superpowers such as increased strength and flight. The next Booster Gold series wouldn’t arrive until 2007, however. The two factors that allowed this evolution was the restructuring of the DC Universe in 52 and Infinite Crisis and the integration of time travel tech into Booster’s suit. Ever since, Booster has focused on time traveling adventures, with that series sending him to crucial moments in DC history.

So we’ve established that Booster Gold is a different kind of hero, and one who’s only grown more unique with time, but in some ways it seems shocking that the idea I’m putting forward hasn’t been a major part of the character.

Earlier I spoke about expanding the perception of superhero comics. As an acceptable genre to the Comics Code Authority, science-fiction has survived alongside superheroes as one of the major comic genres, with Booster Gold proving a fine example of their co-mingling. We’ve even seen frequent use of time travel in superhero stories and a couple of brilliant alternate history comics, such as Watchmen and Ex Machina. So why not take that to its logical next step and apply the time traveling adventures of Booster Gold vol. 2 to real world history. It would be like Time Squad with Booster as Tuddrussel! (Those of you from a very specific moment in time will find that very exciting.)

I can’t expect that this is the first time this idea has been floated, it’s not horribly original, but I hope I’ll do something to distinguish myself with the creative team. In order to write this series well, we’d need someone who is used to thinking about time travel, is broadly knowledgable about history, and knows how to implement that knowledge on an everyday level. While I’m against the increasingly prevalent idea that novelists and screenwriters are natural choices for comic books, I think that we find such a writer in Kim Stanley Robinson.

Handled correctly, I think there’s great potential in bringing a respected Uchronia novelist onto a Booster Gold series. While I’d be very interested to hear which authors you might suggest, I think that Robinson is a strong contender.

Kim Stanley Robinson has worked in the Alternate History genre a few times, most notably in his novel, The Years of Rice and Salt. The novel examines a world where the black death was far more virulent than in our history and effectively wiped out western civilization, leaving the powerful empires of China and the Middle East to take control of the planet. As the title implies, Robinson’s work has received praise for examining some of the more mundane aspects of historical life, taking a skeptical view of Great Man History. While it’s trendy (for whatever values of trendy apply to philosophical historiography) to slam Great Man Theory, its accuracy or inaccuracy is far less important to this series than the understanding of how historically underrepresented groups lived and interacted. We’ve seen more than enough time travelers interact with Napoleon or Leonidas, what would set this series apart is having the knowledge to look at less familiar moments in time with an understanding of the setting rather than a grasp of the names and dates. In this respect, Robinson’s affection for Islamic and Asian cultures will also be a great benefit.

But Robinson is not a comic writer. As far as I can tell he hasn’t written any notable stories in sequential image. With that in mind, I think it would benefit us to give him a co-writer.

Darkseid works at McDonalds, a memorable moment written by Giffen.

Put a smile on. ANTI-LIFE COMMANDS IT.

Choosing Keith Giffen for this comic comes dangerously close to breaking one of my rules. I knew that Giffen was half of the writing team that brought Booster to greater prominence in Justice League International, but what I forgot is that he actually wrote a chunk of the second Booster Gold ongoing. Nonetheless, I think that he’s the proper choice. Giffen is a veteran comic creator with almost forty years of acclaimed work under his belt. In that time he’s specialized in quirky science-fiction, frequently working with writing partners, most notably J.M. DeMatteis. While both writers contributed in various ways to JLI, Giffen and DeMatteis have been open about the fact that DeMatteis leaned towards dialogue in many instances while Giffen specialized in finding the dramatic beats of a story. In fact, Mr. Giffen is a talented artist who frequently draws layouts or thumbnails for the series he writes. Whether you think of it as a logical division of labor or a perfect environment for Robinson to learn about the comics form, there’s a natural balance that seems to emerge between the two writer’s skill sets.

The two authors are each giants of their fields, likely to draw readers, and each one is a talented storyteller and a smart writer. While I can’t say whether they’d necessarily work well together, I’d be very interested to discuss it with them, were the discussion mine to raise. With Robinson bringing his knowledge of history and new perspective and Giffen providing a wellspring of knowledge about comics and Booster’s character, I think that this series could be a big draw and a memorable addition to one of DC’s heroes hardest to forget (for better or worse).

Tomorrow… Titans Together!

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