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.

If you went back to December of 1988 and told a comic fan that in almost exactly ten years Barbara Gordon would not only still be paralyzed but that she would be launching a wildly popular series starring her and Black Canary, I think they would be understandably surprised. Nevertheless, that’s exactly what happened. Teased in one-shots all through the late 90s, the Birds of Prey, the rarely used name for the partnership of Oracle and Black Canary, quickly became a huge seller for DC. The series is famous for becoming the trademark series of writer Gail Simone and for reestablishing Barbara Gordon and Dinah Lance as major players in the DCU. The series also slowly introduced the Birds as a network of heroes more than a team, giving it a distinct flavor. The original series would run for over ten years and swiftly be relaunched for another 15 issues before “Flashpoint” ended the Post-Crisis universe.

While the New 52 reboot of the title possesses its own fan base, there was a distinct feeling of reinvention in the new volume. Lead by Black Canary and new character Starling, the new team lacked the focus and naturalism it possessed under Oracle, who had been healed and returned to being Batgirl.

For our Birds of Prey I think it would be wise to try to channel the slick, stylized feeling of the New 52 Birds with a slightly more traditional direction. Black Canary may be off starring in her own title but we’re still looking to bring the depth, character, and intelligence of the original series into the New Year’s 52. I happen to know someone who I think could do that…

 

BIRDS OF PREY BY GRACE RANDOLPH

The pitch I’d bring to Randolph is this: In the New Year’s 52 the Birds were founded by Barbara Gordon, Dinah Lance, and Evelyn Crawford. Eventually Canary relocated her crime fighting efforts to the West Coast and Gordon expanded the Birds into a network of under the radar heroes, dealing proactively with super terrorism. Now, several years later, the Birds have grown to include a number of heroes.

While I’d leave the precise makeup of the team to Randolph, I’d recommend building a team incorporating a number of the following characters: Barbara Gordon, Starling, Huntress (Helena Bertinelli), Black Bat (Cassandra Cain, possibly switching to Black Bird depending on how much of her history is left intact), Spoiler (Stephanie Brown), Ice (Tora Olafsdotter), Fire (Beatriz da Costa), Hawk (Holly Granger), Dove (Dawn Granger/Hall depending on how Randolph wants to play the Hawk and Dove relationship), and Bluebird (Harper Row). I really like the idea of putting Fire and Ice on the team, as they bring a different vibe with them, however I admit that the team can’t get too big and Hawk and Dove are a similar and more thematically appropriate duo. I also think that Hawk and Starling’s roles on the team overlap with Huntress’ a bit and might be redundant. I also would be happy to see appropriate characters like Nightwing, Red Robin, Blue Beetle (Ted Kord especially), and Black Canary cross over with the series whenever appropriate.

With a combination of fan-favorites, classic Birds, and underutilized heroines, I think Randolph could build a memorable team.

As for Barbara Gordon, I would like to see her return to being Oracle, however, I understand the economic and cultural pressure to have her be Batgirl. In the end that would be a discussion to have with Randolph and the editors, but, even if Gordon could walk, I don’t think we’d see her in the field that much. Barbara’s strengths leaned towards organization and planning long before she was forcibly removed from the rooftops. I think there’s something awkward about the implications of Barbara only serving as Oracle when she’s physically unable to walk, both in terms of what it says about heroism and about the paraplegic. Whether she’s paralyzed or not, active as Batgirl or not, Barbara Gordon will be Oracle and, as such, I think the argument for her being in a wheelchair is a strong one.

I also imagine the Birds of Prey not necessarily being as closely tied to Batman. While Oracle will continue to be an information broker to the superhero community, I think it would be interesting to look at the Birds as something of a more clandestine organization.

Particularly in this interpretation, I’d love to see a BoP series written by Grace Randolph. Randolph, like Gail Simone before her, was best known as a media critic when she took on her first comic gigs and spent some time writing the comic adventures of some beloved cultural landmarks before moving on to Cape comics (The Simpsons in Simone’s case and the creations of Jim Henson in Randolph’s).

The interconnectedness of Supurbia‘s heroes was just one of the reasons it was so easy to get caught up in their lives. Randolph had a talent for letting you know the characters as people as well as icons.

Randolph came to my attention with Supurbia and I was quickly hooked. Supurbia examined a series of Justice League Expies living together on a suburban cul-de-sac for safety and convenience of secret keeping. The series both indulged and deconstructed comic tropes, imagining if the Batman style crime fighter were in a homosexual relationship with his sidekick while actually giving some of the most sincere and unironic looks at what it means to be part of a superhero’s supporting cast I’ve seen. As the series progressed, the focus on the heroes’ significant others widened and we got an impressive reconstruction of modern superheroes, with great characters like Batu of Bright Moon, Aso, and Agent Twilight able to stand among the best of DC or Marvel’s offerings, while others like Sovereign are more bit players in their significant others’ lives.

Oh No! Lint Zeppelin!

Oh No! Lint Zeppelin!

Obviously the industry is awash in Justice League parodies these days, but, while it starts by prodding the most basic elements of each character, the Meta-Legion quickly comes into its own as distinct individuals from their obvious inspirations. I’m as tired of the faux edginess of gay Batman and Robin as anyone, but Randolph quickly showed a real respect for the both the original characters and her own creations.

That ability to deconstruct comics without having to mock them is a big part of why I’d love to see Randolph on this series. I want the BoP to straddle the line between superheroes and spies without having to claim one as superior. Supurbia, in the end, was an exploration of what secret identities mean for heroes and Birds of Prey would almost inherently explore secrets in a super-powered world.

Randolph also proved she can write charming and real characters with close, moving friendships and romances. It’s important to me that this series capture the sense of camaraderie the Simone-era Birds had. Friendships among superheroes, especially women, are far too rare and, in a series with a proud tradition of them, it would be wrong to exclude that.

Supurbia proved that, like Simone, Randolph’s time as a critic left her capable of avoiding weak tropes without leaning on irony or pushing back too forcefully against them. Though they’re very different books, Supurbia and Birds of Prey share their most crucial elements. I’d love to see Randolph become a bigger presence in the comics industry and this seems the perfect place for her to prove her mettle to the audience at large.

Tomorrow… Let’s put a smile on that face…

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