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.

Through seventy-five years of comics, Robin has held a special place in the hearts of comic fans. Whether your Robin was Dick Grayson, Tim Drake, or Burt Ward, there’s something about the character that’s more than just the second part of “Batman and…” Maybe it’s that they tend to be relatable. Maybe it’s that they’re teen heroes who are famous enough to attract big writers. Maybe it’s just the dynamism of the quips and costume. Whatever it is, each of the Robins has their own passionate fan base.

The Robin concept is also impressively viable. The first Robin series ran for almost 200 issues and was followed shortly by Nightwing, at the time the only other living character to hold the Robin mantle, for a similarly immense run of about 150 issues. Dick Grayson’s leadership of the New Teen Titans is considered one of DC’s greatest runs and Jason Todd is better loved today than he was at the peak of his popularity as Robin.

I would love little more than to give the New Year’s 52 a fantastic Nightwing series, however not all of the Robins can justify taking one of our fifty-two slots. I think there’s even more potential in giving all of the Robins a showcase.

 

THE ROBINS BY JOHN ROGERS

Robins by Mellerio

The core of The Robins is the struggle of these four young men to build their own identities.

While they’re great characters on their own, the modern collection of Robins: Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, Tim Drake, and Damian Wayne (before you sharpen spears, if you’re looking for Stephanie Brown, you can find her over in Birds of Prey) have a pretty fantastic team dynamic. Each one has an interesting and distinct relationship with the others and brings something special to the DC Universe.

As such I think a Robin team-up book could be a huge success for the New Year’s 52. While I don’t know that the four wards of Batman would join a team in the traditional sense, I think there’s enormous potential to create an interesting series with a different view of what a team book looks like. Whether it were a Brave and the Bold style team-up book, a spotlight for solo adventures, a web of Seinfeld-esque converging plotlines, a Seven Soldiers-style web of interconnected stories, or any combination of the above, I think writers and fans alike would love to have a book where we can really dig into the characters who have worn the red and green.

With Red Robin a member of the Teen Titans and he and Damian especially likely to show up in Batman or Detective Comics, I think the series should definitely try to feature Nightwing and the Red Hood a little more. It certainly doesn’t hurt that they’re particular fan favorites already, but they also open up two very different worlds for the title, with Nightwing having established a little more of a separate identity than the rest of the Bat-Family and Red Hood connected to numerous elements of the DCU’s underworld, from drug runners, to the Demon, to the actual underworld!

The buzzwords for The Robins are character and adventure (distinct from action). I want to see Jason and Damian bonding. I want to see Dick and Damien being a dynamic duo again. I want to see Jason’s grudging respect for Tim. And through all of it I want there to be a sense of swashbuckling excitement, fast paced-action and rising stakes. From the very name, Robin has always had an element of classic adventure and I think that this is a great chance to follow the boys on some of theirs.

The current DC offices have also been notoriously anti-Nightwing, seeing him as too similar to Batman (despite publishing two to five Batman titles, Batwoman, and Green Arrow, among others). While my first instinct is to prove that characters like Nightwing can stand on their own, a joint Robins title may prove more useful in this regard than a solo.

The web of brotherly affection and vicious rivalries between the four boys ought to ensure that the title never gets dull.

By contrasting the Robins against one another, we may actually do a better job of distinguishing them to the fans, allowing each one a greater identity within the brand. The series also allows us to build unique talents for each of the boy wonders. Obviously the book has potential to utilize some of Gotham’s greatest rogues and establish the Robins as serious contenders by having them take down Batman’s enemies, but there’s plenty more to work with here. The Red Hood brings the book into grittier crime stories and globe-trotting adventures. Nightwing’s aways been just short of having his own rogues gallery, bringing interesting street-level supervillains into the picture. Red Robin is a fusion of Batman and Oracle, perfect for looking at systemic crime and master planners. And Damian lends himself to the weird and the genre-defying. In fact, one naturally interesting element we could explore is the complicated relationship that each of the boys has with the al Ghul clan. That’s a plotline that would get the book onto pull-lists.

Regardless of which direction we take first, it could be really interesting to use a team book to help establish individual antagonists and struggles for the heroes.

John Rogers’ name isn’t the most famous in comic circles but he’s had quite an interesting career in both comics, film, and television. On one hand he contributed early drafts of the (abysmal) Catwoman and (mediocre but relatively decent) first Transformers movies, but on the other Jackie Chan Adventures was a huge part of my adolescence, I hear Leverage was good, and his run on Blue Beetle is one of the best comics DC has published in the last ten years. Take a look at his Dungeons & Dragons comics and you’ll find that, while it’s in a league of its own, Blue Beetle wasn’t a fluke.

Unlike many of its contemporaries, Blue Beetle wasn’t trying to take itself entirely seriously, but, partially because of that, it is serious business to its legions of fans. Rogers demonstrated with remarkable acuity why funny and realistic are not opposites and how humor can bring the drama of a series into brilliant focus. Robin has ever been the light to Batman’s dark, excepting possibly Damian, who’s hilarious in his own way. With that in mind, I really wanted The Robins to be a funny book without losing its ability to take the characters seriously. That’s where Rogers lives.

Nightwing is an excellent leader, but sometimes he forgets that not everyone can do what he does and stay so optimistic.

Rogers’ stories also tend to put an emphasis on friendships, integrating them seamlessly into the plot so that there’s no feeling of conflict between one and the other. The Robins are some of the characters that fans like to speculate about the most. Their interior lives receive more fan attention than many mid-tier superhero teams in their entirety. Particularly with a fan base that feels so strongly about them, who have watched Dick become Nightwing and Damian learn to feel comfortable in his own skin, there’s a special mandate to explore who these sons of the Bat are and a unique opportunity to establish their relationships with one another.

The Robins is an admittedly unorthodox book, but with fan favorite characters, an emphasis on fun and honesty, and a writer who’s proven able to make magic at DC, I think this could be a breakout book for the New Year’s 52.

Tomorrow… In brightest day, in blackest night…

 

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