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.

DC has a wonderful tradition of legacy characters and no one hero embodies this better than Jaime Reyes. However, what happens when two different versions of a single heroic identity are both particular favorites among the fandom?

 

BLUE BEETLES BY FABIAN NICIEZA

I can’t take credit for this one. While I’ve tried to put a little bit of my own spin on it, the brilliant idea for a Blue Beetles series was Mike Norton’s, as is the mock-up cover I used above. Like peanut butter and chocolate, Ted Kord and Jaime Reyes are two unique flavors of Blue Beetle, but up until now DC’s never seen fit to see how a Blue Beetle Reese’s would taste (probably like an extremely strained metaphor).

What a jolly fellow…

Ted Kord was the second Blue Beetle, a tech genius who put an inventive mind and a good heart to work playing hero on a global scale. As the Blue Beetle, Ted was a very old-school hero, eschewing guns and rushing into danger with reckless abandon and a mouth that would not stop running. Eventually, however superheroing took its toll and Ted not only found himself outmatched by other heroes but broke when his company fell on hard times due to his frequent absences.

In order to continue doing what he loved, he joined Batman’s new Justice League, where he would finally find an odd family of sorts. Most of these was Booster Gold, who became Ted’s lifelong best friend and frequent partner in crime, or at least pranks. The two shared a similar sense of humor, even if Ted tended to be slightly more mature and good-natured, especially as time wore on. Ted would suffer from troubles with his weight and self-esteem over the years, even developing a heart condition from the stress of being the Beetle, but remained a hero to the end.

Unfortunately the end would come for Ted when he was betrayed by his friend and former boss, Maxwell Lord.

The first Blue Beetle, Dan Garrett, had gained his powers, including enhanced strength and vision, from a mystical scarab he found on an archeological dig in Egypt. Eventually the scarab came into Ted Kord’s possession, but he could never figure out how to activate it. After Ted’s death, however, the scarab passed into the hands, or back, of a boy named Jaime Reyes and its true purpose was revealed.

A great design and a brilliant series pretty much made it impossible for Jaime Reyes not to garner a huge following.

Jaime is a kind young man from El Paso, Texas. He’s a bit of a nerd and a superhero fanboy but, perhaps more than anything, Jaime bares a strong sense of responsibility. He would have remained an exemplary but entirely normal human being had he not picked up Dan Garrett’s scarab one day when he found it on the street.

That night the scarab fuses to Jaime’s spine and forms a suit of organic armor for him. The scarab is psychically linked to Jaime and can transform the armor into all manner of offensive and defensive tools for Jaime, including blasters, shields, wings, and more.

It is eventually uncovered that the scarab is a Reach infiltrator, a tool of a conquering alien species that creates sleeper agents using such scarabs, however, due to unexpected interference during the scarab’s hibernation it was cut off from its database and effectively booted up blank, taking a kinder, more adorable path.

It’s also worth mentioning that Jaime bucked the trends of the industry and has one of the most amazing supporting casts in comics. His father is lovely, his mother is a badass, and don’t even get me started on his sister. Plus his best friends Paco and Brenda could probably hold their own series. Add in side characters like the Peacemaker and Dani Garrett and you’ve got a huge number of great characters to play with.

Both Beetles are fan favorites, but Jaime’s origin was kind of built on Ted’s death, squelching the possibility of a team-up. However, with the New 52 erasing much of Ted’s history and utterly changing the timestream, the possibility now exists. Even better this project allows us to pick the ideal mix of the two characters. Norton’s original concept, and later the New 52, de-aged Ted, but I actually think it might be fun to see Jaime interact with a middle aged Ted Kord.

Particularly in his famous JLI incarnation, Ted is a fabulous foil for Jaime. While they’re both lovely, funny people, Ted is constantly running away from his responsibilities while Jaime feels the need to seek out more. Jaime is good at working with what’s at hand, while Ted likes creating something completely new. Ted is often plotting ways to hit it big, while Jaime’s greatest ambition is to be a freakin’ dentist! Throw in the idea that Ted is still going through his mid-life crisis and possibly even jealous that he couldn’t activate the scarab and make Jaime a huge Blue Beetle fanboy and I think that relationship is loaded with potential.

So we’re looking for a writer who can write humor, action, tech jargon, teen drama, and occasional angst. I have to nominate Fabian Nicieza. Nicieza has written a lot of comics, not least of all the X-Men (and at a critical moment for the brand, too), but everything I described can be found within two of my favorite Nicieza comics: Red Robin and Cable and Deadpool.

Red Robin’s focus on Tim’s increasing independence was oddly rare in teen superhero books, but it made for a really interesting balance of character traits.

Red Robin is probably the more obvious match, starring another brilliant responsible teen hero from DC. Though he only wrote the book for a little over a year, Nicieza’s Red Robin did a great job of presenting Tim Drake (at the time going by Wayne) as an actual teenager. His relationships were complicated and interesting, his jokes just funny enough to make you smile, his confidence just hollow enough to ring true. Better still, all of that was well integrated into the superhero plots. Nicieza also brought just a touch of Ocean’s Eleven energy to the book, a dash of cleverness that made each page turn exciting and convinced you Tim was as smart as he claimed.

Especially considering that Tim and Ted Kord were kind of huge nerds together during Birds of Prey, those talents should come in handy. In fact, I think you could probably divide up most, if not all, of Red Robin’s characteristics and assign them accurately to either Ted or Jaime. While there would naturally be a blending of the two characters’ styles, I definitely want some of the John Rodgers tone to make it into Jaime’s sections. For me that means keeping Jaime’s emphasis on community and his confusion at ridiculous situations if at all possible and I think Red Robin proved that Nicieza can do that without having force himself out of his wheelhouse.

The other series, Cable and Deadpool was absolute madness. I mean the premise involved the two leads being reduced to protoplasm and reconstituted! Nicieza really just let his id run wild on the page whenever Deadpool opened his mouth. But while the series is monstrously funny, I think it worked because it was really about humor in the face of death. What ultimately united these characters was the fact that they were both in that grey area between living and dying, powerlessness and omnipotence. With Cable regaining his full psychic powers at the start of the series, in many ways they were the unstoppable force and the immovable object. That tension between them was key, but when they agreed…it could break your heart.

While neither Beetle would really be Cable or Deadpool in this situation, this is running off a buddy cop skeleton, just the same. The twist this time is that it’s not really clear who’s superior to who and, while that sounds like comedy suicide, I think that Nicieza can pull it off.

Tomorrow… Good God, y’all!

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