My Justice League, Part 2

Green Arrow wallpaper
Incarnations of Green Arrow

Sorry for this delayed post — I’ve been busy with work. This past weekend, Janice and I visited New England Comics, Newbury Comics, and Million Year Picnic in Norwood and Cambridge, Massachusetts. We also ate at Mr. Bartley’s Burger Cottage and Boston Market for the first times in several months.

Among other things, I picked up a few role-playing supplements (including the aforementioned DC Adventures: Heroes and Villains, Vol. 1) at Pandemonium Books & Games and the Compleat Strategist. We had to deal with “gamer funk” from hordes of collectible card players and wargamers at the former, but we had no trouble looking at the bookshelves in the latter.

I was pleased to see that costume shops are getting ready for Halloween, one of my favorite holidays. This past weekend would have been a good one for the King Richard’s Faire, but we had enough other errands to run, and I’m still trying to get my Pathfinder/Skype: “the Vanished Landstelecom fantasy group going again.

Returning to the DC Comics universe, as I catch up on the revised official continuity, or “DCnU,” below are some picks for my ideal Justice League. I’ll try not to obsess over costumes and continuity, and I’ll try to review DC’s actual titles in the near future.

I’d pick the Ryan Choi version of the Atom because he’s the most recent incarnation of the character, he adds some ethnic diversity, and he can represent a younger hero who has “graduated” to the major leagues. (Sure, he was killed, but we all know that’s not a permanent condition in ever-changing yet cyclical comics.) With predecessor Ray Palmer and Justice Society member Mr. Terrific as mentors, Choi would likely view the Titans‘ Cyborg as his closest peer. I could also see the Atom mentoring Jaime Reyes/the Blue Beetle in Young Justice.

Like Marvel’s Ant Man, Choi’s Atom is the resident expert in physics and weird science. When he’s not infiltrating enemy lairs or solving life-and-death puzzles, I picture Choi exploring the microverse, chatting with fellow scientist the Flash, or tinkering with Red Tornado. He might be a bit intimidated by the “Big Three” and would probably annoy less patient comrades such as Hawkgirl.

Every team needs a magician, and Zatanna is the Justice League’s. The fishnet-wearing, backward-speaking stage performer is similar to the Avengers’ Scarlet Witch and could ask the Justice Society’s Doctor Fate (or even her late father) for advice. Raven would be her likely contact in the Titans, and Zatanna‘s cousin Zachary Zatara has been in Young Justice.

While Zatanna is among the few people who can call Bruce Wayne or John Constantine friends, I figure that Superman, who is vulnerable to magic, would be wary of her. By contrast, Wonder Woman and Aquaman are comfortable with magic and would often rely on her when dealing with the supernatural foes of Themyscira and Atlantis.

Yes, I chose Shiera Hall/Hawkgirl partly because she was in Justice League Unlimited. I’d respectfully call her “Hawkwoman,” but the longer name doesn’t roll off the tongue. Her role as winged warrior mirrors that of lover Hawkman in the Justice Society, Hawk and Dove in the Titans, or Wasp in the Avengers. Whether she’s a reincarnated Egyptian noble, an archaeologist with mystical weapons, an extraterrestrial police officer, or all of the above, Hawkgirl should kick butt and take names.

As in the Dini/Timm cartoon, Hawkgirl should get along with Wonder Woman and Green Lantern, if less so with romantic rival Vixen or liberal firebrand Green Arrow. Hawkgirl‘s knowledge of procedure, tactics, and obscure history could be balanced by claustrophobia and distrust of her motives (depending on her origin).

Like peanut butter and jelly — or, more properly, Oreos and milk — the Martian Manhunter goes with most recent incarnations of the Justice League. In the DCnU, he’s now with Stormwatch, another “major league” team. The shapeshifting telepath is almost as powerful as Superman, but the Martian Manhunter is more alien than human and provides an outsider’s perspective on humanity and superhumanity.

Like the Titans’ Starfire and Beast Boy, J’onn J’onzz can be refreshingly naïve or stubbornly idealistic. I think the Martian Manhunter would get along well with Superman, Elastic Man, Plastic Man, and the Outsiders’ Metamorpho. His protégé on Young Justice is Miss Martian. If Batman is the brains behind the Justice League, Superman the brawn, and Wonder Woman the heart, Martian Manhunter is the informal mascot and morale officer.

A second-generation costumed vigilante, Black Canary is another tough woman in the Justice League, but she has a different perspective from the aristocratic Wonder Woman or soldier/cop Hawkwoman. Dinah Drake Lance grew up knowing the entire Justice Society, including her mother (Black Canary I) and trainer Wildcat. Black Canary II is a street-level heroine who supplements her sonic scream with martial arts skill, not unlike Marvel’s Mockingbird.

While other Justice League members have sidekicks, Dinah can call on her other teams, including the Justice Society, the Birds of Prey (Oracle, Huntress, Lady Blackhawk, and Spoiler, among others), and the “families” of Batman and Green Arrow. A cross between a den mother and a drill sergeant, Black Canary helps keep the Justice League in line. She tends to let her hair down with Green Arrow, Green Lantern, and the Birds of Prey.

Speaking of Green Arrow, the Justice League’s social conscience has been one of my favorite superheroes since Mike Grell’s Longbow Hunters and subsequent run in the late 1980s. The Robin Hood-inspired archer, onetime wealthy playboy, and chili-loving rogue adds unpredictability and emotion to the team.

As much as I like the works of Judd Winick, Kevin Smith, and others, I think that Oliver Queen has been put through the wringer a bit too much lately. The fun-loving (and nonpowered) daredevil who shamelessly uses trick arrows, copies Batman’s toys, and flirts with every woman in sight has been dragged down by mystical forces and deaths (and rebirths) of himself and close friends.

The sometime financial backer of the Justice League is closer lately to Russell Crowe’s dour Robin Hood and Marvel’s Ultimate Hawkeye than to Errol Flynn. I’m also not sure about Ollie’s Smallville-influenced costume and lack of a goatee in the DCnU, but I hope the costumed vigilante and his universe can return to a sense of heroic fun.

Green Arrow‘s protégés include the troubled former sidekick Roy Harper/Arsenal in the Titans, his philosophical son Connor Hawke, and Arrowette and Mia Darden/Speedy II in Young Justice. Even though he can be annoying to nearly everybody he meets, Ollie is of course close to wife Dinah Lance, best friend Hal Jordan/Green Lantern II, and even Batman. The emerald archer’s progressive politics may put him afoul of Hawkman, but the Justice League has no more dedicated champion.

Coming soon: More Justice Leaguers, “Vortex” game updates, and the new SFTV season!

My Justice League, Part 1

Pre-DCnU Justice League
Pre-"Flashpoint/DCnU" Justice League

DC Comics has been releasing more issues in its recalibrated universe (a.k.a. the “DCnU“). Many fans and critics greeted the renumbered titles with skepticism, but I still give DC’s editorial management credit for a bolder experiment than usual annual crossovers, which inevitably lead to a short-term spike in readership followed by diminishing returns. Many of the early reviews have been positive so far. I liked the first issues of the renumbered Justice League, in which Batman and Green Lantern met for the first time, and Action Comics, featuring a denim-clad Superman.

I’ve already blogged about how I would approach DC’s “Big Three” — Wonder Woman, Superman, and Batman — with a mix of reverence to their 70 years of shared history and an attempt to keep them young and relevant for new audiences across serialized media.

As I’ve portrayed the Justice League in my “Societe de Justice Internationale” role-playing scenarios (using GURPS Supers and Mutants & Masterminds), that group of superheroes is the “national team,” similar in theme and power levels to Marvel’s Avengers. It has international branches, but it is based in the U.S. and focuses on threats such as natural disasters, alien invasions, and supervillains that no single superhero can handle alone.

The “major leagues” include the Justice Society, which is composed of “legacy” heroes — semiretired costumed vigilantes and their children and grandchildren. Marvel has its Invaders. The Justice Society, which began in World War II, disbanded during the Cold War (in a parallel to the censorship of comics) and served as mentors and inspiration to the Justice League.

The experienced metahumans of the Justice Society and Justice League have a few offshoots, such as Justice League International, the covert Outsiders, the futuristic Legion of Superheroes, and the street-level Birds of Prey. I’d put Marvel’s X-Men and Fantastic Four at this level.

The “minor leagues” include the young adults of the (formerly Teen) Titans and the up and coming Young Justice. Marvel’s equivalents include the New Mutants, Runaways, and Young Avengers. Some of the people on these supergroups are the protégés of older heroes. Just as the Justice League has its Legion of Doom, so do the sidekicks have their own foes, such as the Brotherhood of Evil.

I like this generational aspect and would try to keep it. See my previous blog posts on how relative ages should work out. For example, the Justice Society’s Nite Owl is the protégé of the Golden Age hero of the same name, and Batman (about age 30) is the dark vigilante of the night in the Justice League. In turn, Batman’s former sidekick Nightwing (about 20) leads the Titans, and Red Robin (age 17) is on Young Justice.

For the sake of convenience, I’m limiting my ideal Justice League roster to 12 members. In upcoming posts, I’ll share which characters I picked and why. My approach is similar to that taken by the very cool DC Adventures: Heroes and Villains, Vol. 1.

Beginning Batman: An alternative to the DCnU

From DeviantArt.net
The DCnu Batfamily

As the mainstream news media continue covering DC Comics’ relaunch of 52 titles, the initial reviews have been positive, despite fan misgivings over the revamped continuity. Here’s how I would handle Batman, Warner Bros./DC’s most profitable franchise and one of the most recognizable superheroes in the world.

~1939: Thomas Wayne born? (See my blog post about shifting Superman’s origin by a generation.)

~30 years ago: Bruce Wayne is born to Thomas and Martha Wayne, wealthy physicians in Gotham City. The family fortune is a combination of old real estate (including Wayne Manor), savvy early biotech investments, and occasional shady dealings. The Waynes are also noted philanthropists, eventually running afoul of some of the megalopolis’ underworld.

~22 years ago: After attending a screening of the classic Zorro, Thomas and Martha are gunned down in a random mugging by Joe Chill in front of their son. Bruce is raised by family butler and head of security Alfred Pennyworth — a former street urchin, British intelligence officer, and thespian. Dr. Leslie Tomkins, another friend of the family, offers condolences. Bruce swears vengeance against all criminals (not merely Chill, who he’ll encounter later but comes to a bad end on his own). He also vows never to use guns or take a life.

~10 years ago: A prodigy, Bruce Wayne graduates from university with degrees in business, engineering, and criminology. He travels the world, honing his skills for his private war on crime, which continues to fester and grow in Gotham. He has a revelation that “criminals are a cowardly, superstitious lot” and takes on a bat totem (whether it’s a utilitarian disguise; inspired by Zorro, The Scarlet Pimpernel, and Die Fledermaus; or from a bat crashing through a study window can be left open to individual interpretations). Bruce also meets Zatanna, daughter of a famous stage magician who was friends with his father.

~9 years ago: The urban myth known as the Batman has begun stalking Gotham’s streets, working his way up the food chain from street thugs, drug dealers, and pimps to various gang leaders. Even as other costumed vigilantes are inspired by Superman, garish villains begin to arise in Gotham and elsewhere. A few thrill seekers, like Selina Kyle/Catwoman, toe the line between altruistic hero and selfish villain. Even as Bruce dons the guise of a billionaire playboy, he supports worthy causes, such as a clinic run by Tomkins in what’s become known as “Crime Alley.” Lucius Fox, head of Wayne Enterprises, learns of Bruce’s dual life and initially helps him acquire or develop his many “toys.”

~8 years ago: Partly inspired by the Justice Society, Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman form the Justice League to handle global crises and provide a community for superheroes. (DC’s new official continuity puts this only five years ago or less, rather than eight — or 50 — years ago.) Meanwhile, 12-year-old Dick Grayson loses his parents, the Flying Graysons, when mobster Tony Zucco makes good on extortion threats to Haley’s Circus. With wary approval from Lt. James Gordon, whose daughter Barbara is about the same age, Bruce adopts Dick (and soon begins training him as Robin I). Barbara soon joins them as Batgirl I. While dealing with Middle Eastern intrigue, Bruce unknowingly fathers a child, Damian, with Talia al-Ghul.

~5 years ago: After co-founding the Teen Titans, Robin I eventually becomes Nightwing. Fourteen-year-old Jason Todd, who tried to steal the wheels from the Batmobile, becomes Robin II. Batman trains the Outsiders for covert missions that the Justice League can’t or won’t handle. Villains become more vicious, and Todd is apparently murdered by the Joker. Soon after, Gotham suffers from plagues, cultists, and an earthquake, and Bruce’s back is broken by Bane.

~4 years ago: Bruce works hard to recover and takes back the cape and cowl from religious zealot Azrael. Gotham City rebuilds, but corruption quickly returns as well. Thirteen-year-old Tim Drake, who has figured out Bruce and Dick’s secret identities on his own, is taken in as Robin III and joins Young Justice, which includes understudies to the (now-young adult) Titans, the revived Justice Society, and the Justice League. Like their mentor, the various Robins are able to hold their own, even when surrounded by metahumans, by virtue of training and wits.

~2 years ago: Dick and Barbara graduate from college, and Barbara becomes Oracle after being shot by the Joker in psychological torture against Commissioner Gordon. Oracle leads the Birds of Prey, including Huntress, Black Canary, and successive Batgirls Cassandra Cain and Stephanie Brown (who was also Spoiler and briefly Robin IV).

~1 year ago: Tim becomes Red Robin, and Damian becomes Robin V. During a lengthy absence by Bruce (out of time, technically, but offworld or abroad is also fine), Dick fills in again as Batman. Jason returns, but now as Red Hood, eschewing Bruce’s vow of nonlethal measures. Kate Kane, a 25-year-old relative of Bruce and former U.S. Marine, puts on a new uniform as Batwoman.

~Present day: Bruce Wayne/Batman is about 30 years old, at the peak of his abilities. He is obsessive but not obsessed, clinical but compassionate, and indomitable. He is the scourge of supervillains and an inspiration to numerous street-level masked crimefighters. Dick Grayson/Nightwing is about 20 and a talented acrobat and team leader. Barbara Gordon/Oracle is a master hacker, strategist, and support for the Justice League, “Batfamily,” and Birds of Prey.

Detective Tim Drake/Red Robin is 17 and leads Young Justice. The bratty Damian is 8 (going on 18) and trying to live up to his father’s legacy while avoiding his grandfather and mother’s preferred destiny as an assassin. Martial artist Cassandra Cain is Batman’s covert agent on the West Coast and in Asia, and Stephanie Brown is still debating whether to be Spoiler or Batgirl.

Yes, most of this somewhat simplified and rearranged Batfamily timeline follows the recently ended continuity more closely than “pre-Crisis” history or the current “DCnU.” It compresses events from the past 70 years without setting Gotham in any specific period. I tried to fit each character into a consistent setting.

In fact, this is the background I’d use for my “Societe de Justice Internationale” superhero scenarios with DC Adventures/Mutants & Masterminds 3rd Ed. From it, I can extrapolate the ages, rosters, and relationships of the rest of the DC universe. What do you think?

As for individual titles, I’d have Batman focus on Bruce Wayne’s dual life in Gotham City and with the Justice League (the first DCnU issue that’s out), Tales of the Dark Knight on out-of-continuity stories (horror/sci-fi Elseworlds, alternate futures such as Batman Beyond, etc.), and Batman and Robin on Bruce and his protégés.

Detective should focus on solving mysteries rather than punching supervillains. Related DCnU Batfamily titles include Batgirl, Batman Beyond, Batwing, Batwoman, Birds of Prey, Catwoman, Huntress, Justice League, Nightwing, Red Hood and the Outlaws, Teen Titans/Young Justice, and Zatanna. I expect DC Comics to take a different direction, but I look forward to checking at least the first issues of each of these titles. Batman lives!

Superman, DC redux

Justice League revised
The DCnU Justice League

A few months ago, the editorial management at DC Comics announced plans to renumber or relaunchbut notreboot” — its fictional universe. Characters would be de-aged, costumes redesigned, and relationships shaken up. Most of the initial reactions from fans, competitors, and the mainstream news media were negative, but I want to wait and see if DC’s moves can renew interest in its iconic superheroes or if the changes are costly missteps in entertainment’s ongoing migration online.

The cornerstone of the DC universe has always been Superman. DC has had to react to lawsuits from the heirs of creators Siegel and Shuster, who were among the numerous writers and graphic artists who were poorly treated by the companies that made billions of dollars from their creations.

I understand the desire of Warner Brothers and Disney to hang onto profitable intellectual properties, but it’s a shame that popular characters Batman, Mickey Mouse, and Sherlock Holmes can’t enter the public domain.

Today marks the beginning of DC’s updated continuity. Sure, I wish that some things hadn’t changed. For example, I would have preferred that Clark Kent/Superman & Lois Lane and Oliver Queen/Green Arrow & Dinah Lance/Black Canary — not to mention Peter Parker/Spider-Man & Mary Jane Watson — had stayed married.

I also would rather that DC’s Jason Todd and Marvel’s Bucky Barnes had stayed dead rather than experience dubious resurrections, and that Barbara Gordon, paralyzed in The Killing Joke, continued to lead the Birds of Prey as the savvy Oracle rather than revert to Batgirl and displace Cassandra Cain and Stephanie Brown.

On the other hand, given the serial nature of comic books (and television and movies), periodically “hitting the reset button” makes sense. Despite the popularity of The Dark Knight Returns and Batman Beyond, I generally don’t want to read about the adventures of an old Bruce Wayne or his protégés, so keeping our heroes forever young requires tinkering with continuity. Here’s how I’d handle Superman:

There are a few ways to recalibrate the timeline of the last son of Krypton, and by extension, the entire DC universe. Rather than use parallel universes, convoluted continuity, or an inconsistent mix of time frames, I’d do something like what I recommended for Wonder Woman.

-Kryptonians age differently. What if Kal-El had arrived in during the Great Depression? Clark Kent could have learned traditional values in Smallville, Kansas, observed World War II as a youth, and participated in the civil rights struggles of the 1960s. What would Superman have done during the U.S. troop deployments in Southeast Asia or in the Middle East?

If he’s still at the height of his powers, Superman could help found the Justice Society and the Justice League, plus marry Lois Lane, anytime in the past few decades. In DC’s Multiverse, similar Supermen existed in the Earth 2 of Crisis on Infinite Earths and the Elseworlds such as Kingdom Come. However, this doesn’t help determine evergreen timelines for anyone else.

-Always the present: Marvel Comics has been fairly successful with this sliding timeline. For example, Tony Stark is a wealthy industrialist who turned from producing weapons to being an armored vigilante as Iron Man. Did the ambush and injuries that awakened his altruism happen in Vietnam or Afghanistan? When did he help create the Avengers — the 1960s or the 2010s? Whenever suits the current readership. This had the advantage of keeping past storylines in the vague backstories, but the buildup of history can be like barnacles on a boat, dragging down creativity and making stories less accessible to new readers. Hence Marvel’s Ultimates line and DC’s “softreboots.

-Fathers and sons: I find this idea somewhat intriguing, because it reflects the multiple generations of readers, fans, and characters. Instead of beginning his career or being born in 1938, what if Superman’s father and stepfather were both born that year? Jonathan and Martha Kent could be of the generation that remembers the Great Depression and World War II, as well as the U.S.’s supposed halcyon days of the 1950s before societal turmoil in the 1960s and ’70s.

Disclaimer: My parents were born in the 1930s, so I can identify with this as a reader and writer, but I also think this possible timeline can help ground Superman’s values. Speaking of values, I’d want the tone of Superman to be lighter than for Batman or the X-Men, and more grounded than the Fantastic Four. Thor or Captain America (or a good Spider-Man) are closer in mood.

If Jor-El was also born in 1938, and he and Lara had Kal-El around the age of 40, the destruction of Krypton could have happened in 1978, the year of Christopher Reeve’s seminal cinematic portrayal. For the kindly Kents to be middle-aged and wanting but unable to have children, putting them in their 40s makes sense.

Clark would have grown up during the 1980s and 1990s, a solid product of the Midwest even as smaller family farms became endangered. Around 2000, he would have finished college, traveled the world, begun mastering his abilities, and moved to Metropolis to work at the Daily Planet in the last gasp of print newspaper popularity. This is similar to Birthright in the comics and Lois and Clark and Smallville on television.

In the past decade, Superman would have become aware of technocratic nemesis Lex Luthor, helped found the Justice League, and inspired many other heroes — and villains — to don colorful costumes (perhaps inspired by the Justice Society of many decades prior). At 33 in 2011, he would be reaching the prime of his powers, like an NFL quarterback.

Pa Kent would have died of a heart attack around the age of 65 — long enough to have guided his son to adulthood, but early enough to be traumatic. I’d make Lois Lane about the same age as Clark but impatient, accomplished, worldly, and ready for a relationship, even if she wouldn’t admit it. Clark’s secret identity should be at least a little believable. In the end, I’d recommend a balance between the revised timeline and the timeless approach. The revised official continuity, or “DCnU,” states that Superman has been active for only five years.

While I don’t think that Superman’s origin story should be endlessly rehashed, a universal starting point is helpful to new writers and fans. As Marvel has often done, I’d start each new issue, TV show, or movie with a concise retelling a la Grant Morrison’s All-Star Superman: “Doomed planet. Desperate scientists. Last hope. Kindly couple.” New stories could start from that timeless point.

As for costume and abilities, I’d try to keep them simple. The new movie and relaunched comics use an overly textured, militaristic look, but I prefer the blue-collar (but not dumb) hero of the 1940s. I’m not a fan of the “ribbed for your pleasure” look that started with Raimi’s Spider-Man and has continued through Superman Returns and the Star Trek reboot to this past summer’s Green Lantern and Captain America. (The black leathers of the Matrix, X-Men, and Batman Begins — and the upcoming Catwomanhave also become just as clichéd as the bright, ill-fitting spandex of previous live-action attempts.)

The red briefs on the outside (now omitted) may resemble those of a circus strongman or a professional wrestler, but that’s kind of the point — Superman is powerful and direct, not an ironically cool or an angsty poseur. Kal-El is an alien who has taken it upon himself to defend humanity, not someone who needs armor, intimidation, or shadows to cloak his role as a beacon of hope.

Superman should be “faster than a speeding bullet, stronger than a locomotive, and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound,” but he doesn’t need to be able to erase minds with a kiss, reverse the Earth’s orbit and time, or be strong enough to lift entire cities or the moon.

Kal-El can have “cousins” such as Kara Kent/Supergirl and Karen Starr/Power Girl and a clone in Connor Kent/Superboy, but he should still be the last direct survivor of Krypton as well as the alien who eventually most identifies with humanity (in contrast, say, to J’onn J’onzz, the Martian Manhunter, or others).

The man of tomorrow should be smart enough to deal with weird science but not afraid to roll up his sleeves to smack down supercriminals, common thugs, corrupt politicians and businessmen, dictators, mad scientists, metahuman menaces, and alien horrors.

Kryptonite, magic, and his human heart should remain vulnerabilities. Many of Superman‘s villains are humans twisted by greed, ambition, belligerence, and selfishness, the opposites of his virtues and manifestations of our own darker sides.

Superman should still be the benchmark against which we measure all other superheroes, not just for powers, but also for their dedication to the “never-ending struggle for truth, justice, and the American way.” Let’s hope that those working on the DC Comics and Warner Bros. refreshes remember, don’t mess with the S!

Comic-Con 2011 and controversy

Adam Hughes takes on the women of DC
Women of DC Comics

As I continue catching up after my trip to Chicago just over a week ago, here are some reflections on 2011’s San Diego Comic-Con. Since the largest genre entertainment convention in the U.S. now gets as many as 125,000 attendees, I’m probably better off watching coverage on G4 than trying to make the hajj myself.

As usual, much news coverage of the show focused on movies, television, and fans and “booth babes” in costume. Even as some observers have predicted that comic books and movies based on them have peaked, others have examined the various cycles of different subgenres and media. My impression from afar was that Comic-Con‘s popularity is still growing, even if the intellectual property that it’s based on is overshadowed by nonprint adaptations and tie-ins.

Speaking of comic books and graphic novels, there were still numerous announcements at Comic-Con. Marvel has held onto its position as market leader with the usual rounds of crossover storylines, resurrected characters, and literary adaptations. Independent publishers such as IDW and Dark Horse (as well as DC’s Vertigo imprint) continue to do well with fantasy, horror, and science fiction licenses.

DC Comics released more information about its renumbering, or “soft reboot,” this coming September. The backstories of most of its titles will be compressed to make its main superheroes younger. After Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1985, characters such as Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman have aged about one year for every two years of real time. Resetting more than 25 years of continuity to put them back in their late 20s or early 30s may cause more problems than it solves.

I hope to post my own ideas on how to balance forever-young vigilantes with evolving storylines and supporting casts, but DC’s editors faced numerous questions from skeptical fans. I’m not especially worried about costume redesigns or re-resurrections. I was disappointed, however, that DC’s management got defensive when questioned about diversity among its artists, writers, and characters. Marvel has had a slightly better track record lately of encouraging women and people of color to both create and read its comics.

DC eventually acknowledged people’s concerns and said it would keep trying. One blogger pointed out that major comic book characters are more of a corporate brand than an artistic vehicle, and I agree that our favorite franchises have taken on a life of their own, with profit often overcoming common sense or freedom of expression. For example, thanks to Chris Nolan and Christian Bale’s live-action movies, Batman is one of the biggest brands in the world right now, even as Warner Bros./DC is eclipsed by Disney/Marvel in most other areas.

On the other hand, I’m not quite ready to boycott DC and am giving the publisher the benefit of the doubt. I ran Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition for a year before switching to Pathfinder, and I’ve found that TV’s Star Wars: Clone Wars has made up for George Lucas’ stilted prequel films. If Dan Di Dio, Jim Lee, and company can learn from their early missteps, DC could yet increase its readership through refreshed storytelling, modern digital issues, and more timely comics (no pun intended).

In coming posts, I’ll look at other Comic-Con news, review Cowboys & Aliens, and describe my favorite superhero games!