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.

Stupid disguise, too powerful for believable tension; boy scout; red undies; Truth, Justice, and the American Way. We’ve all heard countless reasons why Superman is no longer relevant. Why then is he a hero to so many people around the world? Why has he endured this long? What is it about Superman that captured the hearts and minds of an entire world and who could we trust to show it to us once again.

SUPERMAN BY GREG PAK

For a character who people are so fond of saying is stuck in the past, Superman has evolved a lot over the years. Show people the original Superman and they might not even recognize him. A cocky, socially liberal crusader more likely to punish a wife-beater than hold off an alien invasion, the Golden Age Superman walked among us, teaching the powerful and the corrupt the fear they instilled in others.

This may be one of my favorite comic panels.

Flash forward to the Silver Age and you’ll find a chuckling, paternalistic Superman, ever laughing at the antics of the humans at his feet. He spoke to that part of us that knew that if ‘they’ knew the real us, the depths and multitudes contained within us, they would regret treating us so poorly and that we would forgive them. What limit could hold you if you were Superman? What limit can hold you now, he asked with a wink. Your entire imagination was his playground and he was king. Ride dinosaurs? Fight aliens? Move planets? He’s done it and he invites you along.

In the modern age, Superman grew up some. No longer was Superman “disguised as Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for a major metropolitan newspaper”, now Superman was the guise through which humble Clark Kent could live out his dreams of making the world a better place.

It’s a little known fact that Superman’s transformation from Clark Kent isn’t complete until his love for freedom transforms the nearest object into an American flag.

There’s seventy-six years worth of Superman history to interpret and live up to, so what elements should we pull from for the New Year’s 52? Well, going back to the beginning, there were two parts to a Superman story: the identification of an ill plaguing society and the application of Kal-L’s miraculous powers to punish the wrongdoer. Given that Action Comics has a stated focus on depicting the spectacle, that means that perhaps Superman should focus on the morality that drives our hero. But of course that’s not enough.

One other thing that’s great about Superman is that he’s the Man of Tomorrow. Maybe part of the reason people think of Superman as a relic isn’t just his old-school outlook, but the fact that they just imagine him fighting Lex Luthor’s latest robot gorilla every week. (Though, now that I think of it, I’d watch a super sentai show with Lex as Rita Repulsa in a minute…)

While Superman would be a place for the Man of Steel to face off with foes he can’t outrun or outmuscle, like Brainiac and Mr. Mxyzptlk, I think it would also serve a valuable function as a place where Superman could explore new frontiers and new challenges different from his traditional fare.

You needn't be afraid of me action 1

Another classic from Action Comics #1. There’s something both sweet and gentle and powerful and threatening about Superman’s introduction to Lois Lane.

Superman also has a rich supporting cast, with names like Perry White, Lois Lane, and Jimmy Olsen. Lois is already starring in her own series that will likely feature other members of the Planet’s staff, but I don’t see a reason why Clark wouldn’t spend some time with his best pal, Jimmy, or confide in Lana Lang.

Combining strange and unknown with the comforting and familiar seems, to me, the core of Superman. It’s about going beyond space and time without losing the kid you were in elementary school and the adult you dreamed you’d be. All of that taken into consideration, I honestly have to hand it to DC and say that they’ve already moved along the right path by putting Greg Pak on Action Comics.

Pak is a writer who often considers rather weighty themes in his stories. Whether it’s something as overwhelming as the Holocaust or something as simple as the fear that you’ll never quite belong, there’s an odd undercurrent of fear in his work. Perhaps that’s part of why much of it feels so personal. Regardless, despite that Pak’s work isn’t depressing as a whole. That’s merely the starting condition of Pak’s worlds and that condition is the villain of his narratives. For Pak, the conflict and the question and the happy ending is discerning the heroic way to navigate life.

Pak clearly has the interest for the kind of ideas I’d like the title to explore, but, even better, we have a proof of concept. While the circle has been fairly small, Pak’s run on Action Comics has done some fantastic things with Lana Lang. By playing up Clark’s Smallville roots, Pak has not only brought the crucial elements of Superman’s character but allowed Lana to step in and provide an alternate experience of his adventures.

This is the kind of girl that breaks Superman’s heart…

I also admit that Pak creations like the Ghost Soldiers and the solicitations for his horror-tinged current arc were in my mind around the time I started formulating my thoughts on this list and probably played a part in my realizing that Superman should continue to explore new genres and characters. Though he was given the opportunity to write Superman facing off with classic foes like Doomsday and Brainiac during the “Doomed” event, Pak’s other work on Action has done a great job of pushing Superman out of the traditional superhero sphere.

Superman is America’s favorite immigrant. No wonder, when even the SS felt threatened by him

Pak’s work, on Action Comics and otherwise, demonstrates proficiency with all the ideas I’d want to bring to Superman and he’s proven that he can write (and move a comic starring) a Superman who lives up to the high standards of the character. Plus, while it’s a secondary concern, he also has an experience that I think can be valuable.

Superman is an alien. He was raised among us, but something always set him apart. There are numerous theories about reflections of Siegel and Shuster’s feelings of belonging or unbelonging in Superman, but no matter what you believe, Superman is an immigrant. His situation is interesting because he passes rather perfectly for a white, Anglo-Saxon man and never knew his own culture first hand, but that’s part of what makes his struggles with identity interesting. To me, Superman will always be intimately connected with the immigrant experience and the attempt to reconcile your ancestry with your own experience into a fuller depiction of you. He raises people up through his hands and his example and serves justice where the system turns a blind eye. Like me, like Pak, Superman is (effectively) a second generation immigrant with a foot in two worlds, every so slightly out of phase with the world around him but perhaps stronger for his contact with another world and the connection to that of his ancestors. I think that similarity is an obvious and crucial one between Superman and his writer (be that Siegel or Pak) and, given the opportunity, an effort should be made to encourage those with that experience to share a little of it with him and with us.

Pak is funny, topical, character-driven, inventive. He’s already doing great work with Action Comics and I think he’d reach even greater heights with a reboot of one of DC’s biggest titles driving him on. I obviously think well of him, but I kind of have to. After all, this is a job for Superman.

Tomorrow…The Emerald Archer.

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