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 thing I’ve really learned in doing this project is the importance of the shared continuity of DC. If a book is completely divorced from the rest of DC’s characters, it probably should be handled by Vertigo or another company. That said, I’m tired of great little known books being smothered under Special Guest Stars. Especially without the ability to create new concepts to populate the line, it has been an interesting challange to try to diversify the New Year’s 52’s output beyond superheroes. It’s not easy to find room for other genres in a world of titans, but those ideas that do manage to carve a place for themselves are often among the best.

STREETS OF GOTHAM BY MARC ANDREYKO

Despite being considered one of, if not the, greatest Batman stories of all time, I would argue that the true power of Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One isn’t in its plot but its atmosphere. There are lots of arguments to have about Miller’s work, whether those be about how overrated it is or how perfect is up to personal preference, but I think most readers will agree that the sense of Gotham as a broken city present in Year One was something special. Gotham had been sliding into the title of world’s most horrifying city for a long time before Miller got to it, but it was a rare story before Miller that really gave us a sense of the vice and corruption in Gotham. By showing us Jim Gordon’s origin story as well as Batman’s, Miller severed the string that held our perception of the modern Gotham up as the status quo. For years the unchanging comics landscape painted a picture of Batman and kindly Commissioner Gordon. That was how it was and even the dark moments, like Rupert Thorne’s rise to power, were deviations from the norm. After Year One it became clear that without each other, men like Gordon and Batman would be blips in the history of Gotham.

The unending bleakness of Miller’s Gotham doesn’t interest me though, merely its ability to ensnare and enthrall us. Indeed, the stories we find most uplifting aren’t necessarily the ones where the universe is kind, but those where the universe is cruel and the people living in it are kind anyway. Streets of Gotham is the book that fight plays out in.

Detective Renee Montoya eventually grew tired of the GCPD’s corruption and became the second incarnation of the Question. How she’ll deal with the stresses of the job and whether she’ll return to vigilanteism could be interesting questions to explore.

A spiritual successor to the award-winning Gotham Central, Streets of Gotham would follow the men and women of the GCPD. Many of the same characters would likely make appearances. I imagine Renee Montoya in the starring role and I think characters like Josh Azeveda and ‘Sarge’ Davies could be strong additions to the cast. There’s also a slew of other great Gotham Cops that would be available to the series, from famous names like Harvey Bullock to lesser known characters like Andi Kasinsky, Stan Kitch, Dagmar Procjnow, or Officer Xue. Regardless of any old characters the series dusts off, I’d like the writers to make the GCPD their own. It’s not easy to stand in the shadow of Greg Rucka and Ed Brubaker, even for talented writers, and part of what made Gotham Central work was that you didn’t know the cast inside and out just yet. I’d be open to reinterpreting the old characters or introducing new ones, but I think that it’s essential that this feel distinct from any other incarnation of the GCPD.

Another thing I feel strongly about is that some of these cops should be crooked. While there will obviously be bad eggs in Gotham and those who hold the law in high regard would naturally avoid the worst of them, one of the things about Gotham that’s both interesting and frightening is that divesting from corruption simply may not be an option. And there are degrees. Some may abuse the badge but be generally trustworthy, some may openly oppose police brutality but be skimming from dealers, some may be virulent homophobes but be honest cops, and some be might good officers involved in corruption as the only way to survive the most dangerous beat in America. There will obviously be those who are the good guys, but I think the less we can ignore the systemic problems within the GCPD by pointing to ‘good ones’ the better.

Learning who each of the officers is, both in times of stress and comfort, could be one of the little joys of this series.

Learning who each of the officers is, both in times of stress and comfort, could be one of the little joys of this series.

While there’s going to be some overlap in their mission statements, I chose not to call this series Gotham Central very consciously. It would probably be more popular under that title, but there are a couple of reasons I decided against it. The first is simply that Gotham Central is such an incredible comic that to revive the name seemed a disservice to both series. That story is done and this one needs to be free to make its own identity. Second, in the moment, this title would hopefully allow us to pick up some fans of Gotham. Thirdly, and most importantly in my mind, I don’t want this to have quite the same purpose as Gotham Central. While they’re both police procedurals starring the Renee Montoya and the GCPD, I want there to be a greater sense of the city itself in Streets of Gotham. The individual cases would be entirely up to the writers, but I think the series would benefit from not only being a direct look at the GCPD but a second hand one into Gotham’s underworld. Characters like the Penguin or Black Mask could be regular presences, possibly only actually appearing in person on rare occasions. We could also get a sense of who the mid-level players who don’t get as much attention in Batman or Detective Comics are and what villains like Killer Croc, the Tally Man, or Zsasz are doing between their rounds with the Dark Knight.

I think combining a street level approach to Gotham, a solid police procedural, and a look into the world of Batman’s rogues gallery ought to be enough to get people excited about the book, but the idea’s only as good as the people behind it.

Marc Andreyko is best known for Manhunter, a cult favorite DC series that landed another spot in the New Year’s 52. Having written the character through two ongoing series and a regular backup feature, Andreyko’s handle on the character and her world was well established. A prosecutor by day, Kate Spencer became Manhunter to correct the justice system when it was perverted. The series was praised for its noir-ish realism and strongly developed characters including Kate, herself; her son, Ramsey; her co-council, Damon Matthews; and his superhero boyfriend, Obsidian.

Andreyko’s a great example of a writer who’s able to balance action and the characters’ personal lives. Not to mention this is fairly adorable.

Technically Andreyko did work on the Manhunter backups for Batman: Streets of Gotham, but I think that’s different enough to be allowable under my no repeats rule. Besides, if we’re looking for someone who can show us the best and worst of Gotham, Andreyko is a strong contender. He knows how to get the greatest dramatic punch out of a scene and he’s great at writing gritty books that avoid veering into self-parody. Andreyko also has a proven track record writing strong female characters and queer characters and with Renee Montoya front and center you can’t afford to lack those skills.

This would be an important book to me and a tricky one to put together. While it may seem like a side title, the events of Streets of Gotham would ripple through the entire Batman family of titles. Editorial would need to be involved to a greater degree than with most books and they’d have to do so in a manner that didn’t suffocate the fledgling book. Given the scope of the series and the responsibility of determining the flow of power in Gotham, I’d definitely talk to Andreyko about bringing on a writing partner, someone who could keep the ideas fresh, aid him in writing dialogue, and provide insight into the characters he was less comfortable with. That said, I think that’s a conversation we’d have to have with Andreyko, himself, before I could speculate as to who would be the proper choice.

While I would try to guide things in a somewhat different direction, the general success of Fox’s Gotham is proof that DC’s favorite city is a beloved character on its own and that people are interested in seeing a different side of the bleak metropolis that Batman calls home. Police procedurals aren’t going out of style any time soon and one that provides a glimpse into the gang wars of Gotham City seems like a winner. With Andreyko at the helm, I think the GCPD are ready to step into the spotlight once again.

Tomorrow… The World’s Greatest Detective…

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