Comics / Cult Favorite

DC's re-Rebirth


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By Philip Schweier
May 2, 2016 - 13:51

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Kevin Costner and Susan Sarandon in Bull Durham
There is a scene in the film Bull Durham (1988), in which a minor league baseball player has been called up to the majors. Suddenly, the collective eyes of the sports press are going to be on him, and he’s nervous. What does he say when those camera lights are shining in his eyes?

 

Crash Davis (played by Kevin Costner) tells him, “You're gonna have to learn your clichés.” He then proceeds to coach him on phrases like “giving 110 percent,” and other meaningless rhetoric.

 

About 15 years later, I heard a popular comic book artist – I could name him, but AH!, that would be telling – said it’s very much the same in comic books, as writers and artists move from one title to another, one publisher to another, using phrases like “getting to play with all the toys in the box,” and “being able to tell really great stories.”

 

Well, I once heard an editor say (and I’m paraphrasing here): “A good writer doesn’t tell great stories. A good writer makes them great.”

 

So I was at my friendly neighborhood comic book store recently, and was offered a free copy of DC Comics Previews, a special edition in anticipation of DC’s upcoming Rebirth event.

 

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What is Rebirth? I don’t rightly know. It’s like DC gave up on the New 52, but after four years, it wasn’t so new anymore, was it? Rebirth seems to be a return to what DC was before the New 52, with Superman in his red trunks, and a migration back to the Multiverse concept, and restoring the original numbering of Action Comics and Detective Comics.

 

Oh, and according to the Previews, Superman and Lois seem to have a 10-year-old son. Huh-whaa?! I didn’t even know they were married.

 

Many have complained that over the decades, the DC universe has become bloated and over-burdened with too much extraneous history. Casual fans no longer relate to the many nuances. To ease those complaints, DC brought back Hal Jordan as Green Lantern and Barry Allen as the Flash, but it didn’t help.

 

The New 52 was supposed to be the ultimate solution, a complete re-set to zero. But all the re-invention was lost on long-term fans, who saw decades of heritage tossed away, simply to lure a few new fans with little to no attention span.

 

Hence, Rebirth – yet another in a long line of facelifts, re-imaginings and re-launches designed to keep the DC Universe relevant in the eyes of a few casual comic book readers (and Hollywood).

 

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Green Arrow #1
One tiny little bit of promotional copy in Previews caught my eye: Benjamin Percy, the incoming writer of Green Arrow, is quoted as saying, “Expect stories that aim a broadhead into the zeitgeist, that are ripped from the headlines.”

 

OH, COME ON!! He never said that! That's the same kind of rhetoric written by a marketing intern.

 

OR… maybe he did, in which case, I have no confidence in him as a writer. “Ripped from the headlines?” How many times has Law & Order over-used that little chestnut?

 

For one thing, I don’t want my comic book stories ripped from the headlines. If I wanted headlines I’d read the local daily. I read comic books to escape from the headlines.

 

In perusing many of the quotes from DC’s stable of writers, it seemed much of it was crafted by the publisher’s marketing/PR department. Throw in some shameless hucksterism by Dan DiDio (Sorry, Dan, you’ve got a LONG way to go before you challenge Stan Lee at that game), and it makes you wonder who’s driving that train wreck.

 

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DC Entertainment's chief creative officer, Geoff Johns
Rebirth is the brainchild of Geoff Johns, DC’s chief creative officer. As such, he is expected to have at least one hand on the creative reins of the company. However, with other executives like co-publishers DiDio and Jim Lee involved, I have to wonder how many of Johns ideas aren’t compromised in the interest of marketing.

 

I sincerely don’t begrudge DC for wanting to make money, but I think they could go a long way toward telling good, simple stories, rather than constantly reaching for epic, all-encompassing stories.

 

I strongly urge DC Comics to stop hiring wanna-be screenwriters, and solicit stories that can be done in one from people who want to write comics – and comics only. They think in terms of panels, and page count, rather than cinematically. One page is not an opportunity to dolly in on a lone figure; that sinks in in about .7 seconds for the average comic book reader. For this, they want $3.99?

 

My hope is that Rebirth is not yet another example of vomit-on-the-wall-and-see-if-it-sticks. But I haven’t much faith. I want to believe in Geoff Johns, but I know he has obligations to his employer, and despite his position within the company, he can do only so much.

 

When Rebirth happens, I’ll test those waters, but the past 10-15 years has made the argument that comic books are dead. DC and Marvel don’t publish great stories anymore. They publish movies in paper form.

 

Believe me, I’d LOVE to be proven otherwise.


Praise and adulation? Scorn and ridicule? Email me at philip@comicbookbin.com


Last Updated: May 15, 2017 - 11:53

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