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.

This may be a weird way to start this one, but I love the solicitation text for DC’s Voodoo #1.

“Who is Voodoo? Is she hero, villain – or both? Learn the truth about Priscilla Kitaen as she leaves a trail of violence across America. Discover the new DCU through her eyes, because the things she sees are not always what they seem…”

Whatever you thought of the series itself, we can agree that this was not what it was. Nonetheless, when I read those paragraph-long glimpses into a new DC Universe in June, 2011, this was the one that grabbed me: an ongoing series starring a biracial woman of color outside the traditional lines of comics morality wandering across my favorite comics universe.

I’ve never forgotten this solicit because it represented a strategy that truly excited me and because it answered, without knowing it, what would become the New 52’s biggest criticism.

Especially for a reboot, this solicit left all the right questions in your mind. Who is Voodoo? How significantly has the Wildstorm universe been altered? Is she a villain? Will she come into conflict with DC’s heroes? Will other characters be making cameos in the series? Will this be the place to see how beloved characters who didn’t get an ongoing will be reinterpreted? How does Voodoo see the world and how accurate is her perception?

This was a different DC Universe and this book, it seemed to me, offered a guide to that brave new world.

So, now that I have a hypothetical line of DC comics, I say we go for it!

The only question is how to encourage people to read it. You could slap Batman on it, but that feels like its destined to either feel forced or devolve into another book purely about Batman. You could market it heavily, but that relies on comic advertisements bringing in new readers, something that’s hard to do when you can only advertise in comics and websites read only by comic fans or put out some woefully overspecific ads in newspapers or TV (which are definitely where the young people are getting their information these days). You could even try offering it at a discount, but that seems like short-term thinking and likely to negatively affect the quality of the book in the long run. So what to do with a book that can’t have a lead so interesting that it distracts from its essential purpose? My thought: make it a comedy.

 

DC UNIVERSE BY CHRISTOPHER HASTINGS

While they’re only attempted occasionally, comedic superhero comics are kind of awesome. Books like Justice League International or Peter David’s X-Factor are beloved classics and Deadpool’s so big these days that Marvel just announced that he’s their 2015 character death, following 2014’s WOLVERINE!

Still, comedy is funniest when it’s built into stories with the possibility of seriousness so we’ll need not only a funny comic writer but a skilled comic writer. While he’s newer to the printed comic scene than many, Christopher Hastings definitely has what it takes. The creator of The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, Hastings has transformed a message board user name into one of the strangest and most wonderful web comics I know. Dr. McNinja is a doctor who comes from a long line of Irish ninja (long story). His parents don’t respect his career; his town is being overrun by an extreme sports version of the Burger King; his receptionist is a gorilla; and his sidekick is a thirteen year-old boy with a fantastic mustache, a dinosaur named Yoshi, and an uncle who leads a gang of raptor-riding banditos.

Dr. McNinja enjoys high-fives. Dr. McNinja enjoys high-fives with animals.

It’s kind of amazing. Best of all, there’s an odd logic and continuity that’s emerged from the chaos, and when the moment strikes Dr. McNinja can be as heartfelt and awesome as almost any superhero comic.

The madcap success of Dr. McNinja brought Hastings to the attention of Marvel, who asked him to write their “Fear Itself” Deadpool tie-in. He went on to write a spattering of other Deadpool comics as well as Longshot Saves the Marvel Universe, all while continuing to work on Dr. McNinja. Hastings clearly has the talent to work in this industry but, still being something of an outsider, he’s perfect to show us the weird and ridiculous side of superheroes.

Just for a minute, let’s all do the bump.

I don’t know who our guide to the DC Universe would be (Ambush Bug seems the obvious choice, but I wouldn’t mind trying someone new in the role. Perhaps someone who’s previously been taken more seriously), but whether Hastings picked Jimmy Olson or J’onn J’onzz or Gaggy Gagsworthy or who knows who, I can’t imagine that it wouldn’t be hillarious.

DC Universe would probably depend a little on good word of mouth at first, but a new reader friendly comedy series set in the DC Universe seems like an amazing way to make new fans and reward the old ones (that sounds more Lovecraftean than I intended…). The potential of this series seems astonishing to me. Admittedly it would require a very good editor in order to make sure that it was actually representative of the line and that Hastings wasn’t being suffocated under top-down demands, but this is the sort of series that can seek out that one element of a fictional universe that’s perfect for you as a single insignificant spec on this planet and make you a fan for life.

Best of all, DC has actually had enormous success with this strategy recently in the form of Batman: The Brave and the Bold. While there are definite advantages that B:TB&tB had over DC Universe, that was a comedic series that used its mass appeal to highlight some of DC’s lesser known characters, exactly what I hope this series will do. Especially towards the end of the show, as more and more continuity was introduced, even early skeptics came around and couldn’t help but love this bizarre love letter to everything comics. While I admit that, as an Aquaman fan, it’s incredibly annoying to hear people who’ve never read an Aquaman comic declare how the only time the character was worthwhile was on Brave and the Bold, it shows the potential of well-written comedy to invest people in these characters.

I hear you’re dismissing 74 years of comics…OUTRAGEOUS!

The DC Universe is a big place, but this is your gateway to that world. This series could bring an entirely different tone to the line while threading the essential needle of being accessible to new readers and worthwhile for old fans. Especially with Chris Hastings at the helm, I feel confident that the series could be something special.

Aquaman is everywhere...watching...always watching...
Tomorrow… See you space cowboy…

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