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.

Team books have long been a way for publishers to make some of their less popular characters viable. The Justice League’s charter actually included rules that prevented certain heroes (characters with their own books) from joining. However, in doing so, you do lose the ability to hear different writers’ voices for those characters and run the risk of a great character being eclipsed by a writer’s favorite or overshadowing their peers.

While this may be a necessity for certain IPs, there are some characters who are more popular but are stuck in limbo. Those who can’t support their own ongoing, those whose sales numbers don’t live up to their reputations. Team books are a great way to give characters a platform, but for those who a publisher wants to push, I think the super -hero team-up is a better model, and I know a pair of characters who I think DC should be pushing.

 

WONDER WOMAN/AQUAMAN BY AL EWING

Wonder Woman and Aquaman are DC’s longest running A-Listers after Batman and Superman, both debuting in 1941. While they came from very different places, they have a surprising amount in common. Both were designed as warriors against Nazi expansion; both originally had trained their bodies to superhuman levels; both struggle with the burdens of royalty; both have origins heavily inspired by sword and sandals fantasy; both Atlantis and Themyscira worship the Olympian gods; but, perhaps more than anything, neither of them get the respect they deserve.

Diana and Arthur’s Excellent Adventure…

Despite being a member of the DC Trinity, Wonder Woman is consistently treated as less than Batman or Superman. For over half a century she’s made due with a single title, only to break that streak with the slightly backhanded Superman/Wonder Woman. People think of her as a ‘female superman’ and almost willfully ignore her accomplishments. When writers try to rehabilitate her they seem to like to focus on her warrior heritage and reminding readers how strong she is but that’s actually spitting in the face of everything Wonder Woman stands for. Her creator, William Marston (admittedly a slightly odd fellow), wrote:

“Not even girls want to be girls so long as our feminine archetype lacks force, strength, and power. Not wanting to be girls, they don’t want to be tender, submissive, peace-loving as good women are. Women’s strong qualities have become despised because of their weakness. The obvious remedy is to create a feminine character with all the strength of Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman.”

and based his character around his concept of “loving submission”. There’s some outdated thought there, but the point is that appropriating the worst of heroic machismo is not the answer to sexism. To Wonder Woman, it’s not about who’s strongest or who is most skillful but who is the better person.

Meanwhile, Aquaman is one of the most mocked superheroes on the planet. This is a character who has been reduced to an interpreter for fish in the public consciousness. Many of the traits that were the source of the ridicule have been removed or reversed (some might say too much so) but Aquaman remains largely a punchline. I’ll admit that my love of Aquaman probably started just because his superpower could be sharks and I was a boy of that age, but if you actually take the time to read some Aquaman, you’ll find that he’s far from a joke.

“Do you have any idea how much life there is in just one single square mile of sea? I don’t think you do… and if you multiply that by lots of miles in every direction… ” – The Brave and the Bold vol. 3 #32

Aquaman was originally only slightly less powerful than Superman and was the Man of Steel’s first chronological ally, making him Earth’s second superhero in Earth-1 continuity. Despite sharing the zany trappings of the Silver Age with his fellow heroes, the Bronze Age hit Aquaman hard, with the weight of rule becoming an increasingly important theme in his stories, an increasing awareness of his capacity for anger, and his son being murdered by his archenemy in 1977. Especially after the death of Arthur Jr., Aquaman’s stories began to show a rebellious edge, culminating in the work of Peter David.

While Wonder Woman grew up in a culture of support and love, training her toward the Amazon ideal, Arthur was raised by a single father who had never even seen Atlantis. When Tom Curry died, Arthur was left alone, not fitting in anywhere or with anyone. Both heroes still bear the results of their upbringing. Diana, feeling a little suffocated by her island home, sought out adventure and the opportunity to share Amazon love with the outside world. Arthur, feeling alone, took to the sea, an island unwilling to be hurt again until he discovered Atlantis and came into his own.

Aquaman, admittedly, still has a bit of a chip on his shoulder, but, unlike many of our cultural icons, he’s less an action hero hiding a good heart than a good person pretending to be an action hero. He has a temper, but that’s a flaw, not a strength. Well, it is a strength in one way. I can’t help think having the slightly rash Arthur in the book will naturally encourage Diana to keep her head and act in a manner befitting an Amazon. Likewise, Diana is a bit formal, trained in diplomacy and deeply committed to the truth. Arthur is a good king, but he’s a little…looser with his etiquette. I think the two make a perfect pair, each complimenting the other.

Written well, Arthur and Diana’s quiet grace and wry senses of humor make them excellent allies.

Taking place in short arcs set into the margins of Diana’s other titles, Wonder Woman/Aquaman would see the two forced together, set against epic foes and their own doubts. This is the book where we get to see Arthur and Diana be Heroes (spelled ἥρως). The Olympian gods and the beings of Greek myth would be large, though not omnipresent, part of the book and I imagine the title looking less at traditional super criminals for adversaries and more at beasts, deities, and conquerors.

I also think that the book needs to have a sense of humor. Both Arthur and Diana are miserable characters when they’re completely humorless. I don’t think either one will ever be Spider-Man, nor do I want to play either one for laughs, but I think that the pair’s restrained senses of humor would do much to make them relatable and some comedy where we can laugh with them would help it feel less like the company berating readers for not liking their characters. That said, I think there’s room to acknowledge and play with some of the jokes about Aquaman, and to a lesser extent Wonder Woman, on this series.

Oh come on, this was cool! …Right?

I’ll also admit a bias and say that, here even more than in his solo title, I think it would benefit Arthur if we left him, or rebooted, his Water Hand. I don’t know if anybody else found it cool, but I thought that was just an awesome addition to the character that softened but held onto the changes the character went through in the 90s.

So basically, we’ve got a self-aware fantasy-adventure series starring two outsiders, one of them a staunch feminist (and the other one’s Wonder Woman, hey-o!) and both of them with the potential to be written as people of color (fun fact, the Hellenistic world was not only more diverse than we give it credit for, but the Greeks themselves were only questionably white themselves). It would obviously take a very particular writer to pull this off, but luckily, someone with that exact set of skills has come to my attention over the past year and a bit.

Al Ewing’s Loki: Agent of Asgard is the comic you always wanted to write, written so effortlessly that you can’t even feel bad about that failure. Honest, complex, funny, self-reflective; aside from some publishing delays, the series has been an absolute delight. Part of what makes it so interesting is the way that Ewing is so honestly looking at the parts of super-fantasy comics that many of us are really interested in.

There is a certain stereotype of fan fic writers and the type of fan they include or which includes them. You know the kind, the type who can seem utterly uninterested in all the defining attributes of the property they’re fans of; they want to see Han Solo in High School or Iron Man involved in Game of Thrones-style medieval scheming. We find the most eccentric among them and pretend that they’re new and different, but the fact is most fans are in the seats for the same things, just with a little action seasoning. Ewing looks at this nonsense argument, laughs at the false dichotomy, and writes up a fun, self-contained series examining identity and self that’s full of fanservice, action, and characterization. You probably just won ‘they’ll never publish that’ bingo!

Teen!Loki’s struggle to redefine himself is one of the most basic stories we have but so often comics feel the need to weigh it down under pages of respectability politics and questionable metaphors about masks. Not only is it what the character needs, but that level of refreshing honesty is a trait I’d love to see in Aquaman and, while I see it as less directly relatable, I think it shows promise for the sort of mind that would have interesting things to say about Wonder Woman as well.

“That’s kind of the theme of this series. No more A-lists, no more D-lists. No more looking down from towers and mansions.” — Al Ewing

In fact, I’m almost certain about that, since Ewing’s other big book for Marvel has been Mighty Avengers, a really cool street-level Avengers book with a focus on race and class. Diana of Themyscira is kind of the original Social Justice Warrior so I consider the ability to write about such issues intelligently and with some measure of subtlety a big part of the Wonder Woman resume (don’t forget that I’ve already pitched a series where she’s a U.N. Ambassador with a focus on humanitarian issues so these things would very much be a part of this Wonder Woman’s day).

I also have to say that I absolutely adore Ewing’s take on magic. Loki effectively takes a rather meta-approach and makes magic, godhood, and mysticism the science of convincing the universe of things. Again, it’s one of those things you tried to articulate in high school but ended up sounding like a stoner, but Ewing pulls it off masterfully. He even manages to throw flourishes like clever plays on Norse myth or a rather fabulous Dr. Doom into the mix. It all ties into the idea of defining the story you’re in that’s made Agent of Asgard so interesting and I think that that’s really been a big part of Aquaman’s mythology since, at least, The Atlantis Chronicles. Of course, we’d also get the other side of that with Wonder Woman who ironically is excellent about making her own destiny but still does put a great deal of faith in the signs and oracles of her religion.

And he’s funny. You have to know your writer is funny before you tell him to make some lame Aquaman jokes and expect that people won’t just leave agreeing that Aquaman is lame.

He rolled a natural 20, there’s nothing I can do…

This is actually one of the first concepts for a series I ever seriously considered, predating the rest of these pitches by about five years. It was originally intended to raise Wonder Woman’s profile and reintroduce Aquaman into the DCU if he was revived at the end of “Blackest Night”. I hope that the seams aren’t showing too much and that I’ve been objective enough about modifying this older idea, but the reason I say so is to point out just how perfect Ewing is for this series. There are concepts I had considered that I revived and expanded for this project, new concepts I had to hunt down an appropriate writer for, and concepts I built around a particular writer’s skills, but this one has been sitting on the shelf for almost half a decade and it’s a perfect fit! We could even have a couple of Wonder Woman and Mera stories here and there!

I think these characters are a great pair and that they deserve a little more attention from DC. I was stunned to see DC take the bold step of giving Aquaman a second title, but I can’t help but think this would be a stronger direction to take both heroes.

Revelations

Tomorrow… Happy Birthday, Rosa Parks.

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