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.

Adventure Comics is a special title. While the somewhat generic name and old-timey concept may not excite the way they once did and its name recognition has fallen behind younger brothers Action and Detective Comics, Adventure Comics was once a staple of the DC lineup. Here readers met Siegel and Shuster’s Jor-L for the first time, here classic heroes like Sandman and Hour-Man made their debut, here Aquaman and Green Arrow weathered the ending of the Golden Age and survived into the present, here a host of loyal fans of the Legion of Super-Heroes discovered worlds undreamed of. In short, it felt wrong not to have an Adventure Comics if at all possible, but how could the series survive the modern market? And, perhaps just as important, who would headline it? For the answers I turned to Adventure Comics #66.

 

ADVENTURE COMICS FEATURING THE SHINING KNIGHT BY PAUL CORNELL

I try to contain my biases when it comes to this project, playing favorites has rarely helped creative officers at DC or any comic company, however every here and there I just can’t help but believe that readers would love what I love.

So, bias: I love Sir Justin of Camelot.

An archetype of the noble knight pure enough to make Superman roll his eyes, Sir Justin was gifted an enchanted sword that can cut through anything, impregnable armor, and a flying horse by Merlin in return for saving him. He served valiantly as a Knight of the Round Table until, on a quest to free a town from a rampaging ogre, he was frozen in ice and lost to the centuries. Awakened in 1941 like some badass proto-Captain America, Sir Justin resumed his knightly duties of defending peace, pursuing justice, and speaking in corny faux-Middle-English. After co-founding the Seven Soldiers of Victory and serving in the All-Star Squadron, Sir Justin would return to Britain to serve as Winston Churchill’s personal body guard! Basically he’s the most English thing ever and he’s awesome and adorable and badass. Sir Justin came to my attention through his appearance in the excellent Justice League Unlimited episode, “Patriot Act”, where his sheer determination and nobility was instrumental in defeating the nearly unstoppable Shaggy Man, even if he had best watch what he says about Mr. Clint Eastwood.

That is a MAN on a HORSE fighting off THE BLITZKRIEG! Why does this character not have more fans!?

Tell me you wouldn’t want to see a period piece about noble Sir Justin and Winston Churchill fighting Nazis or a globe-trotting adventure featuring Sir Justin discovering the modern age alongside a young transwoman, someone who understands the gross but subtle injustice of the world, or even some combination of the two! Especially with Captain Marvel headlining an All-Ages book in the New Year’s 52, Sir Justin’s old timey sensibilities make for a great fish out of water story, whether in 1942 or the present day.

Of course, Sir Justin isn’t the only Shining Knight. Grant Morrison reinterpreted the concept for his “Seven Soldiers of Victory” event and introduced us to Sir Ystin, a Celt girl from an alternate Camelot who disguised herself as a boy to be close to the knight she loved. The concept was further tweaked by Paul Cornell in the New 52’s Demon Knights, where Ystin was interpreted as a genderqueer man empowered by the Holy Grail.

Sir Ystin brings a little more swagger to the role of Shining Knight, and HIS horse talks…that’s pretty cool too…

I have a complicated relationship with Sir Ystin. On one hand they’re a great character and I want to support the added diversity of the new concept, however I don’t love them (really her and then him) the way I do Justin and their presence inherently made his appearances less frequent and less likely. Until it came time to write this article I honestly wanted to pitch this series as starring Sir Justin, with the idea of paring him with a trans character originally coming to me in an attempt to at least not decrease the number of a sadly rare minority in comics. All the same, as I’ve been planning out the specifics of the series, I just can’t bring myself to pull the trigger.

So what I propose is this: a bisected series, half starring Sir Justin awakened as a stranger in a strange land and half starring Sir Ystin in the court of a King Arthur different than the one we’ve been taught. Whether the series plays the two as two individuals filing the same role in an archetypal history, different embodiments of the same spirit, or completely unrelated adventurers I think there’s potential to strengthen both of their stories by really calling upon the idea of time travel suggested by Sir Justin’s origin.

Cornell’s “The Black Ring” was a brilliant look at Superman’s greatest nemesis. Not to mention a subtle pun on “The Modern Prometheus”…

Even before I acknowledged that Ystin needed to be a part of this series, I had a writer picked out, but choosing Paul Cornell only makes more sense now. Cornell first came to my attention when I absentmindedly picked Action Comics #891 off the shelf. While I see it more evenly now (it’s still a great comic), that issue utterly blew me away. Lex Luthor is a character who comic fans know well and know from a huge number of sources, but I’d never seen him so completely or intelligently realized before. That was all it took to put Cornell on my radar. Since then he’s handled runs on Demon Knights, Saucer Country, Wolverine and more. His Wolverine work stuck out to me for much the same reason as “The Black Ring”. Cornell has an uncanny skill for synthesizing all available information about a character into a respectful and unified vision and then bringing that to the page. Even when he’s working with unestablished or original characters, Cornell’s actors always speak with a fullness and thoughtfulness that almost recalls Chris Claremont’s ‘method’ scripting on Uncanny X-Men. Plus his take on The Hand was pretty clever…

Cornell is also a British citizen who’s written extensively for British comics and TV and whose American comic work has not shied away from representing and poking fun at his native land. If your comic has even a small chance of realistically being about a Knight of the Round Table and Winston Churchill hanging out, it makes sense to hire an Englishman. Besides, Cornell wrote the Knight and Squire mini-series for DC and his lead, Cyril Sheldrake, was the son of Percy Sheldrake, Sir Justin’s sidekick! He’s practically family!

It’s only a model…

Especially, but not exclusively, with the reintroduction of Ystin I’d also be glad to have someone who sees the world the way Cornell does. In writing his characters so truthfully, Cornell have demonstrated the ability to communicate and validate their worldviews. Characters as different as Lex Luthor and Wolverine both make sense when Cornell writes them and though he maintains his own moral opinion within his writing, he doesn’t let that affect his characters’. I’m also deeply impressed by his handling of Ystin’s issues with his gender. Cornell wrote a character who connected to genderqueer people and their allies in the 21st century without enforcing modern understandings of sexuality and gender on Ystin. To a young person in the 6th century (much less the 8th century B.C.) the idea of transgender, non-binary, or genderqueer would be lightyears away; gay and straight didn’t even exist then! Cornell respects this, writing Ystin truthfully without falling into the tropes of modern gender identity or the all too common practice of writing something divorced from the reality of queer experience. If Cornell can accomplish that, it makes me feel confident about letting him write Sir Ystin again and it also assures me that Cornell will have thoughtful things to say about Sir Justin’s attempts to adapt to the 20th or 21st century. He’s also got an…odd sense of humor that I think would suit that fish out of water story and balance out all that literary consideration I so appreciate.

It’s certainly not a sure thing, but with a writer like Cornell, who’s proven skilled at nearly all the individual parts of this project, behind it I think that Adventure Comics could be a great series. Despite sharing a name, Justin and Ystin are utterly different characters and fantastic contrasts in the study of what it means to be a hero.

adventure06614

Tomorrow… The representative from Themyscira has the floor

Advertisements