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.

One of the frequent praises and criticisms of superhero comics is that they’re power fantasies. Admittedly reading a story with little else to offer but wish fulfilment broad enough to appeal to the entire audience can feel a little patronizing and insincere. However, there’s no denying that many of the best Cape stories are examinations of a power fantasy. The characters that tend to endure are the ones we wish we could be: Superman (with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men), Spider-Man (the hero you could be if you had the proportional strength of a spider), Wonder Woman (the strongest, most beautiful woman in the world, capable of ending wars, crushing tanks and defying patriarchy), Batman (the billionaire pinnacle of human achievement), Wolverine (to paraphrase Neal Stephenson, “Until a man is twenty-five, he still thinks, every so often, that under the right circumstances he could be the baddest motherfucker in the world… Shiro used to feel this way, too, but then he ran into Logan. In a way, this was liberating. He no longer has to worry about being the baddest motherfucker in the world. The position is taken.”). If we accept this premise, it actually mystifies me why Zatanna isn’t better loved today.

ZATANNA BY KIERON GILLEN

In an era of Wizard Rock and Leslie Knope, Zatanna Zatara seems like a perfect character to build into a new icon. One of the rare successors to heroic legacy to completely overshadow their predecessor, Zatanna is the daughter of Golden Age hero Zatara the Magician. A powerful sorceress and frequent ally to Batman, during the day Zatanna indulges her hobbies and covers her trail by performing as one of the world’s most skillful stage magicians, only using her powers for especially impressive tricks. She’s known far and wide in this capacity and through it all she remains charming and upbeat.

Zee's a practical sort and a little bit of a tomboy, but that doesn't mean she can't be fabulous at the same time.

Zee’s a practical sort and a little bit of a tomboy sometimes, but that doesn’t mean she can’t be fabulous at the same time.

Zatanna’s stories and disposition fit in perfectly alongside those of characters like Jaime Reyes and Kamala Khan. She’s DC’s highest profile magic user, debatably dueling for the title with sometimes lover John Constantine (she can do better), and her powers are naturally suited to creating interesting situations and solutions.

Of late she’s done fine for herself, being the most stable member of Justice League Dark’s lineup, but I think it’s time we gave Zatanna another shot at a solo.

Kieron Gillen is one of the biggest writers in comics today. Known for writing exceptionally human characters and turning continuity snarls into brilliant and natural stories, Gillen’s work is almost universally regarded as quality comics. Perhaps the best known of Gillen’s writing is his work with Kid Loki in “Fear Itself”, Journey Into Mystery, and expanding into Young Avengers.

With the original Loki having sacrificed himself to defend Asgard during “Siege”, the Jotunn trickster returned in a new, younger incarnation. Caught between the essential harmlessness of the Loki myth and the hounding of Loki’s history, represented most literally in the form of his magpie and shoulder devil Ikol, the new Loki went about turning his mischief to noble ends and proving Gillen’s ability to write intelligently about story, myth, and magic.

From waging war on the concept of progress to tricking Galactus to bickering with his best friend/bondsman/daughter(?), Loki’s adventures brought Gillen cleanly into the ranks of cult favorite writers even as he proved ever more a mainstream hit. The Journey inevitably ended, but Kid Loki lived on (after a fashion) as he joined the Young Avengers for a critically acclaimed,fan favorite run. If Journey Into Mystery established Gillen as a tumblr favorite, Young Avengers made him a patron saint. Exciting and inventive in its plots, Young Avengers also gave comics some of its most human and well-developed young heroes of the past five years, as well as becoming, to my knowledge, the first Big 2 comic to canonically feature an entirely queer cast.

Despite how I started the article, Zatanna’s powers are very much secondary to her personality for me. Admittedly she has a fun gimmick and magic heroes are awesome done right, but, largely due to the work of Paul Dini, Zatanna has become synonymous with a certain tone of fun and honesty.

Magic? Wit? Emotional truth? Yeah, that sounds like Kieron Gillen’s M.O.

The Zatara family’s unique way of spell casting is also interesting. Caught between needing to be heard and needing to be seen it’s an oddly lyrical addition to the character. When Kieron Gillen entered the comic industry as a writer, he did so with a book called Phonogram. The series was a love letter to music, among plenty of other things. For the characters of Phonogram, and likely to Gillen too, music is magic. He’s continued to use musical symbolism in his work and openly discusses the role of music in his creative process. It’s odd to see in comics because, of course, they are a mixture of image and word, but not sound. The medium is distinctly unsuited to music, but I think that’s part of what makes it so interesting for Gillen to incorporate it. Naturally I’m curious what he’d do with Zatanna’s spoken spells.

 For Zatanna, being a hero is another form of performance and performance is different way of being herself.

For Zatanna, being a hero is another form of performance and performance is a different way of being herself.

One also can’t follow Gillen on twitter without quickly learning just how dangerously addicted to puns the man is. Do we dare then give him a heroine for whom wordplay is effectively a superpower? I can’t help but think, ‘do we dare not to?’

But perhaps most importantly, Kieron Gillen has proven himself an intelligent, interesting writer and one with an all too rare skill for writing female characters. Zatanna’s relationships with femininity and performance are particularly interesting parts of her character. While comics are no stranger to “Strong Female Characters” and bullshit discussions of confidence used almost solely to justify pandering to the expectation of a male audience, Zatanna owns being a performer, being at once normal and celebrity and normal and Other. It’s something fun and interesting about the character, but you need a very specific writer to pull it off. I think the man who gave us America Chavez and Leah is a good candidate.

I also  think it’s time DC stopped pretending that it doesn’t know what the word gypsy means. Admittedly I understand if there’s hesitance to make the genetically magical hero a Romani, but she’s either a Romani or she’s not. In the event that we decided that we wanted to actually go ahead with a Romani Zatanna, I’d similarly welcome Gillen’s integrity and respect in a writer.

I think Zatanna has the potential to be one of DC’s heavy hitters, another A-List heroine. To do that we need to bring her in front of eyes without abandoning what already makes her great. Putting Kieron Gillen on her book, especially if it were his first work for DC, would be the kind of statement that would put Zatanna in the hands of comic readers, new and old, and, once it got there, I’m certain it would be quite the comic.

Tomorrow… Sibling rivalry. But with bo staffs!

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