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.

Jack Kirby’s Fourth World epic is one of the great additions to the DC Universe. Designed as Kirby’s vision of a Post-Ragnarok Marvel cosmology, the idea was shot down by Stan Lee and Marvel editorial. When Kirby finally grew tired of Marvel’s appropriation of his work, he took the concept to DC, seeding the necessary ideas in Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen.

But while the Fourth World characters are hugely valuable to DC, both economically and creatively, they kind of belong to their own world. Kirby connected the New Gods to the DC Universe because he and his editors saw the need to do so in order to sell the books, but, according to Kirby, he saw the Fourth World as a new kind of comic, a complete novel to be sold in bookstores rather than on newsstands. With the New Year’s 52, I think we would be wise to be cautious and not try to force the Fourth World on readers when we’re just launching the main DCU. Still, it would be wrong to completely ignore that corner of DC’s toy box and, luckily, there’s a pair of characters who bridge that divide beautifully.

 

MISTER MIRACLE AND BARDA BY MATT FRACTION

Scott Free was born to be a tool of politics, the son of Highfather of New Genesis traded to Darkseid of Apokolips in order to strike a tenuous peace. Big Barda was born to be an engine of war, groomed from birth to be the leader of Darkseid’s elite squadron, the Female Furies, for the day when that peace inevitably broke down. The two were raised separately by Grannie Goodness, Barda her prized pupil and Scott her favorite toy. They could not have been more different, but somehow the two fell in love. Practiced in escapology thanks to his captivity in Granny’s ‘Orphanage’, Scott takes Barda and flees to Earth where he takes up the identity of Mister Miracle, the world’s greatest escape artist!

These two are adorable. You don’t even KNOW!

Scott and Barda are some of Jack Kirby’s most under-appreciated creations. Based partially on Kirby and his wife (with Barda being physically inspired by Lainie Kazan’s playboy photoshoot, make of that what you will), Scott and Barda Free are one of comic’s great marriages, sweet, passionate, and loving. They’re also a great example of how the best relationships are built on loving people for who they are, rather than who you want them to be.

Quiet, peace-loving, and frankly a little nebbishy, Mister Miracle may be a hero but he’s no warrior. Though he’s plenty handy in a fight, his first instinct, and in fact his skill, is to escape from danger rather than face it down. Barda, on the other hand, has trouble containing her instinct for violence. Bred as a warrior, she loves to scrap and brawl. Show her a situation that can be solved with violence and she’s on it. You’d think that their relationship would be based on their shared experience on Apokolips or on shared interests that mitigate their vastly different world views, but Scott and Barda love each other for their differences rather than in spite of them. Though she frequently worries that he’ll hurt himself somehow and begrudges how much time his ‘hobby’ takes him away from her, Barda loves seeing Scott practice his act and you’ll never find Scott happier than when Barda finds a reason to fight. The two of them just love who they are deep down at their core and they appreciate the things that make them different (by the way, it’s Valentine’s Day, I hope you’re taking notes…).

Loving, not jealous, secure in his masculinity, Scott just adores being Barda’s husband.

When push comes to shove, that’s the key to any series starring Scott and Barda, the love they have for one another. Having suffered unimaginable torment, the pair aren’t interested in doing anything but making the world better for others and spending their, potentially limitless, time in it in each other’s company.

They’re also really fun because they subvert a number of expectations about superhero comics, particularly as they relate to gender. While Scott may be the man of the house, he’s a regularly average looking fellow, positively dwarfed by his massive wife. They don’t call her Big Barda for nothing. As such, Barda could, and does, easily throw Scott around being, by far, the stronger of the two. Despite her great strength and warrior upbringing, Barda still greatly enjoys the pleasures of the domestic life. Both of the Frees enjoy cooking for one another, sometimes with more success than others, and spending lazy afternoons together around the house. Also, there’s no getting around it, their sex life is awesome.

DC recently proved that a book starring an escape artist and his badass girlfriend is viable with Talon, and Scott and Barda are quite a bit more established as characters that he was. The ability to be weird, call upon elements of the Fourth World, and play Scott and Barda off of one another would only make this series more promising. Admittedly Talon was coming off of the huge success of the “Court of Owls” arc, but I think Matt Fraction ought to be more than enough to even things out.

A huge talent, Matt Fraction has been one of Marvel’s greatest assets for almost eight years. In that time he’s written acclaimed runs on Fantastic Four, Uncanny X-Men, The Mighty Thor, and the Eisner Award-winning The Invincible Iron Man. He’s also done great work with some less iconic Marvel characters, breaking in with Punisher War Journal and The Immortal Iron Fist before moving onto books like the Defenders, FF, and an incredibly beloved tenure on Hawkeye. Fraction has also proven that he doesn’t need Marvel’s characters backing him, launching Casanova, Satellite Sam, Sex Criminals, and ODY-C from Image, all to some applause. So naturally, I trust that his first work for DC Comics would make some waves and draw in readers.

Fraction gets it…

Fraction has written everything from superhero drama to out-and-out comedies and, given Mister Miracle’s history, I think that’s highly appropriate. I think that this series has to show Scott Free being a person and being a hero. That said, I’m not necessarily sure it has to show him being a superhero. I at least mean that in the traditional sense of going on patrol and fighting villains. Obviously we want to continue to provide the great relationship between Scott and Barda that have made so many fans of them in the past, but we also want to show people that they can make the world better on a larger scale. Likewise, we also want to allow Barda to act as Scott’s equal. She’s essentially a Wonder Woman-level powerhouse and I want to see her given the opportunity to be a bigger part of the DCU.

Fraction has already written a well received ‘hero on the run’ story in Invincible Iron Man, so that could be one way to take things. On the other hand, he also specializes in writing superhero stories with a twist, giving us a strange but wonderful look at an alternate Fantastic Four in FF and an understanding of who Clint Barton really is in Hawkeye. Obviously Hawkeye is too much of a phenomenon to try to repeat, but perhaps Mister Miracle and Barda would utilize a similar relationship between the characters and their superhero alter-egos, after all, Mister Miracle’s ‘secret identity’ is just his stage name and Barda doesn’t even bother. It could be interesting to examine what it means to be such normal people who are also super-powerful gods from another dimension who just happen to be members of the Justice League. And while the artist and the particularities of the series not yet worked out would obviously affect how the storytelling would read, I can only imagine how incredibly inventive some of the pages in this book could be. Mix the writer behind Hawkeye with an escape artist and season with a sprinkling of Kirby Krackle. That sounds amazing.

But, of course, while Fraction’s work is full of examples of weird and interesting superhero stories, that’s not the main reason why I put him on this title. I put him on this book because of Sex Criminals. Fractions bizarre, beautiful, hilarious look at sex, society, and loneliness has been the talk of the comics industry ever since it debuted and there’s no denying that the idea is brilliant: a pair of outcasts who discover they’re not the only ones who stop time when they orgasm teaming up to rob a bank, it’s genius. But for all the strength in the concept, it’s the execution that makes it shine. Jon and Suzie, our protagonists, would be one of the most interesting pairs in comics even if this were a series with absolutely no speculative elements. They’re real and fun and unique in that way that fictional characters so rarely are. They’re the Seinfeld characters of the modern comics landscape, happy to just wander around and discuss the weirdness of the world, pull pranks, or rock out to Queen.

Come not between the dragon and her jam.

Sex Criminals is a drama and a comedy and a science fiction story and an indictment of the weird rules our society plays by and, in that, it has a great subversive realism about it. It’s the sort of thing that makes you wonder what the writer would do with two adorable, sex-positive strangers in a strange land.

Fraction is a master of writing off-beat superhero stories and odd love affairs and there are few better examples of both than Barda and Scott. It’s no small thing to give one writer the only hint of the Fourth World in the initial roll out of a relaunch, but Fraction has proven that he can craft big stories with respect to the direction of a line over at Marvel. Scott has rarely been treated like the hero he is and I think Barda is awesome and ought to be one of the premier heroines at DC. Fraction’s talent and standing ought to ensure that they both get their due. Besides, Fraction is married to Kelly Sue DeConnick. I don’t know that there’s anyone in comics who understands Scott Free’s situation as well as he does.

Tomorrow… Happy Susan B. Anthony Day!

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