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.

Finally we return to the very beginning, to DC’s namesake book, to close out the New Year’s 52…

 

DETECTIVE COMICS BY MATT WAGNER

With Batman looking at the Dark Knight’s world a little more broadly, Detective Comics is free to look at Batman’s more solitary efforts. Batman first appeared in ‘Tec in 1939, a variant of the masked mystery man heroes of the day. In his earliest stories he doled out harsh justice, carried a gun, and needed no reason to wage war on crime. He was very much in the hard-boiled tradition. In my mind there’s no denying that the Batman of today is a stronger character, but something about that pulpy detective has remained, a testament to its enduring potency as an idea.

With Detective Comics I’d like to take Batman back to that genre without abandoning his development since. I imagine a back to basics Batman – very human and therefore trying to appear very inhuman – solving crimes with his mind first and his fists to back it up. We call Batman the world’s greatest detective, well I’d like to see it.

The Bat-Man gives the dastard the old one-two!

The Bat-Man gives the dastard the old one-two!

I imagine this book having middle-length (two to five issue) arcs focusing on Batman’s attempts to bring the quiet crimes of Gotham out into the open and taking us into the mob politics of Gotham. In an ideal world, regular readers will get a real sense of Gotham City and how it operates.

While Batman will be the place to really see the Bat-family in action, I think there are definitely some characters that suit Detective. I think Alfred Pennyworth would do well here, acting as Batman’s Watson and voice of reason. Damien Wayne could make occasional appearances, with the emphasis on detective work both frustrating him and allowing him to prove himself to his father, as could a more natural Tim Drake. I also think that characters like Lucius Fox and Leslie Thompkins would be good supporting cast members.

Despite this, I think the primary focus of the series as a whole should remain on Batman and the individuals relevant to the case, some of whom I could easily imagine becoming ongoing players. In fact, I think it would be great if the cases weren’t entirely episodic. While I’d like this to be a book that people can pick up fairly easily (Batman seems a likely place to start for new readers), part of what’s great about comics is the sense of being in the world and the need for superfluous clues in detective fiction means that there’s a great ability to world-build in this title. In fact, I imagine that this is the title most likely to cross-over with yesterday’s series, as Batman investigates the shadowed corners of Gotham City.

Maybe Modern Age Batman’s superpower is not obtaining injuries he obviously should have received?

When you say the words old-fashioned Batman, it’s hard not to end up thinking about Matt Wagner. The writer/artist creator of Grendel, Wagner has turned in several old-fashioned Batman stories. One of them, Legends of the Dark Knight’s “Faces” is considered by many to be one of the best Batman stories around, and with good reason. Wagner revels in Batman’s pulpy origins and the beautiful strangeness of his adversaries, Golden Age names like Two-Face, Hugo Strange, and the Mad Monk.

Another thing that I adore about Wagner’s Batman stories is the fallibility of his Caped Crusader. We’re often subjected to dramatic panels of Batman’s scarred (read: sexy) body, but we rarely see or consider what gives him those injuries. Part of what’s so amazing about Batman is that he is “just” a man. He is human and he is mortal and he stands toe to toe with Superman, that’s awesome. But it comes at a cost and, like so many things that come at a cost, we’re not interested in seeing the consequences. It’s another way we play into the flawed myth of striking without being struck. While I’m not advocating Batman losing pints of blood every night, I think we should see Batman having to know his limits and occasionally, that not being enough to keep him from harm. Wagner’s Batman always manages to have limits without seeming weak or like anything less than the world’s greatest badass.

Wagner is also a really talented artist and that shows through his scripting. Check out this great page from “Faces”:

Clever abstractions like this are just one of the many benefits of having a writer who’s also an artist.

Comics are a naturally strong medium for detective stories due to their visual nature and subjective pacing. I’d love to see what clever ways to utilize the form a talented, noir-inspired artist like Wagner could come up with. And, of course, if he wanted to do some covers or even an issue here or there, it would only sweeten the deal.

With Wagner at the helm, Detective Comics would become a place for not just Batman stories, but exceptional mystery comics. Perhaps we could even have a backup where new detectives and underappreciated classics like Slam Bradley could give fans a little more bang for their buck. Who knows, maybe Wagner would even provide the art for these shorter stories. Regardless, the Batman name is a huge draw to this title and allows us to try some new and interesting things. I think investing in atmosphere and specializing could yield some beautiful results.

 

That’s it, friends. Fifty-two days of DC titles and fifty-two days of talented writers. There’s a master post linking to all of the articles up so feel free to poke around and let me know what you think. Thanks for sticking with me and I hope you enjoyed it.

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