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.

When I was in college I wrote part of a short story for a class where the angel Raphael joked that he and his fellow Archangels were “the Justice League of Heaven”. The story saw them working as supernatural detectives, and though it never really went anywhere, I always enjoyed that one line (seriously, angelology nerds who have never considered that are having their minds blown by the parallels right now). As I was thinking about what titles to populate my DC Universe with, it occurred to me that I could take that concept one step further.

 

GHOSTS BY J.M. DEMATTEIS

In searching for ideas for the New Year’s 52, I came upon an old series called Ghosts. The series was another of DC’s more successful horror anthologies, running for 112 issues between 1971 and 1982. While I doubt that the New Year’s 52 could support two horror anthologies, the title jumped out at me.

Mark Waid and Alex Ross captured the Spectre’s grandeur, if not his ferocity, in Kingdom Come.

DC has a wealth of characters that exist beyond death and even more who bridge the world of the living and the dead. This dichotomy has been a crucial part of mythology from some of the earliest recorded legends and seems like a perfect hook for this series.

In my conception, Ghosts would star a series of supernatural DC heroes who require human perspective or bodies to complete their duties. This would provide a wealth of directions to take some of DC’s biggest magical characters, such as The Spectre, Dr. Fate, Deadman, Zauriel and Ragman. Such heavy hitters would have a huge number of stories open to them and the entirety of metaphysics as their playground. I also think it would be interesting to see how a team derived from different traditions would coexist, perhaps with a version of the New 52 Khalid Ben Hassin (played as a Muslim channeling ancient Egyptian deities) coexisting alongside the Christian Zauriel, the Jewish Ragman, and the Hindu Boston Brand.

But it’s not just the awe inspiring stature of the Spectre or Fate that make this title so appealing to me, but the possibility of contrasting them with the relative simplicity of Boston Brand or Khalid or whichever hosts the writer choses to give them. It’s not a revolutionary idea, but using the series to examine what it means to be human and the place of the divine has great potential in the hands of a thoughtful writer.

I also think it would be interesting to look at the differences between these titans of DC’s magical world. Perhaps the Spectre is harder to control, something a little more akin to the Gotham by Midnight approach, while Dr. Fate merely possesses an older morality. Maybe we could look at the difference between the coexistence between the Spectre (a divine force of vengeance) and its host and Rory Regan’s connection to the (evil but human) souls that make up his suit. And who can say that the writer wouldn’t pick Frankenstein or Secret or any number of other characters who fit the theme. The possibilities seem endless.

When looking for someone to write intelligent musings on myth and religion in mainstream comic books, there’s a clear front runner in the form of J.M. DeMatteis. DeMatteis was one of the premier writers of the 80s and early 90s, turning out some of the best Spider-Man stories of all time and co-creating a perennial favorite in the form of Justice League International. In fact, I’d argue that the two constants of DeMatteis’ writing are humor and the divine, a duo I imagine he’d say aren’t nearly as divorced as we like to pretend.

DeMatteis’ blending of traditions often yields beautiful results, both fascinating to discover and yet innately familiar.

Metaphysics has been a part of DeMatteis’ work nearly from the beginning, with his first work being for Weird War Tales and House of Mystery and his creation of I, Vampire following three years later. DeMatteis enjoys the cyclical, symbolic power of comic book stories and his fascination with such matters has led him to write most of DC’s magical heavy hitters, and a good number of Marvel’s, at one time or another. Overshadowed by the nearby releases of Justice League (International) #1 and “Kraven’s Last Hunt”, 1987 also saw the beginning of DeMatteis’ lengthy run on Dr. Fate, which lasted until 1992. He also guided several of DC’s first efforts to integrate the Fourth World characters into the DCU, examined vengeance and redemption by writing the adventures of the Hal Jordan Spectre, and currently controls many of the New 52’s magical heroes in Justice League Dark (as well as formerly writing Trinity of Sin and Trinity of Sin: The Phantom Stranger). There’s plenty more, but between turning in lengthy runs on two of the biggest characters and defining himself as one of the writers most capable of handling topics of faith in the industry, I think DeMatteis’ resume kind of speaks for itself.

DeMatteis’ Harry Osborn is one of the great comic villains in my opinion.

Another thing I like about DeMatteis for this series is that he’s a truly understanding writer. DeMatteis can write evil like the best of them, but he’s really not as interested in writing about punishment as he is writing about the Problem of Evil. DeMatteis’ villains are often tragic figures caught up in systems they can’t or won’t see. It’s easy to write a series starring the Spectre when there are good people and bad people, but the whole enterprise of being cosmically powerful forces for good becomes far more interesting when you’re willing to acknowledge that punishing people rarely means punishing evil.

I don’t know what characters DeMatteis would employ, or what scale he would set the action on, but Ghosts presents a unique opportunity to utilize characters who likely can’t support an ongoing by themselves and weave their very different narratives into something both meaningful and memorable. Especially with an intense art style, I think DeMatteis would be the perfect writer for this series, both as a necessary draw to the title and as a storyteller capable of drawing the potential out of these characters.

Tomorrow… The Justice League.

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