DC Rebirth logo

Well, at least the logo’s better. Although I do agree with this tweet:

After all, “Rebirth” is supposed to be about respecting DC’s history or something. Had I been around when this was first being talked about I could have updated my thoughts as it went on. I tried going over most of CBR’s coverage but my old computer like to lock up for flash ads and that site’s covered with them. More than one page open or every time I reload a page there’s a problem. However, this interview with CBR’s Albert Ching features the man behind the event, Geoff Johns, back in April discussing his plans for the event and the aftermath, and that’s always a good way to judge what they say versus their history. First, though, I want to look at the more recent explanation Johns posted at DC Comics’s blog.

As the writer of GREEN LANTERN: REBIRTH and THE FLASH: REBIRTH, the word “Rebirth” has come to mean something very important to me. It’s not a brand or a marketing tool; it never has been. To me, “Rebirth” is about how to approach mythology—about how to honor and celebrate the characters and their respective universes and embrace the values they embody. It’s about the past, the present and most importantly the future.

Super Power Flash

“Okay, Flash. I’m it already. Stop tagging me!”

If DC had been honoring or celebrating the characters, their universe, or their values you wouldn’t NEED a rebirth. Remember, this is the guy who still thinks giving Barry Allen a tragic origin as the Flash rather than an inspirational one is improving the character. I saw a video he did for DC to promote this event where he said that Barry didn’t have a backstory…except he did. As a kid Barry was fascinated with the comic adventures of the original Flash, Jay Garrick. (Originally intended as the Golden Age Flash was fiction but later retconned to be on Earth 2–not the first time fiction in one reality was real life in another, even in a DC comic–and later changed to be a historical record when the universes were merged.) That led him to join the police, using his love of science and chemistry to become a forensics specialist. Barry was CSI before CSI was cool, which we have OJ Simpson to blame…or at least Johnnie Cochran.

This should have been good enough. I have nothing against tragic origins like Batman and Spider-Man, but not every law enforcer or rescue worker did so because of some tragedy. Some may have been rescued by one of those, or just saw them on TV and said “I wanna do that when I grow up”. In fact I know cops, soldiers, firefighters, and EMTs and most to all of them have never had a loved one die as an excuse to become what they did. They had an urge to help people in one of these ways and went for it. They were just good people. Now imagine a good person gets superpowers and wants to help others. Seriously DC, between Barry’s new origin and DiDio’s comment about heroes not having families I have to wonder if they even know what drives someone to become a police officer or rescue worker, basically what superheroes are.

And if we were going to do a “Rebirth” across the DC Universe, we needed to take a hard look at where it was now. And a “Rebirth” starts with bringing something back that’s been missing…

Fun? Positivity? Origins other than tragedy? Lighthearted moments between the action and serious moments?

For the DC Universe, it’s about more than just the heroes or villains we might not have seen in a while; it’s about the intrinsic values of what DC Comics and its universe stand for.

That’s epic storytelling.

That’s legacy and honoring the past, while moving it all to the future.

That’s hope.

Justice League #1 Green Lantern“Honoring the past”. From the guy who messed with Barry’s family (who were both alive, not in jail, and someone Barry could lean on during his superhero adventures…along with his wife that he’s not married to anymore because New 52), decided his take on Superboy’s origin was better, and brought both of these teenage fan letter to life. (No, really, these were ideas in fan letters he wrote to DC long before becoming a writer and making them happen. I know I mentioned the Flash one once but I can’t find it.)

And as for “epic storytelling”…no. Not every story has to be the biggest ever. The DC I grew up with had some epic stories, but it also didn’t always involve saving the world. My first Batman comic had Batman hunting someone murdering homeless people and leaving gold coins in their eyes. Mr. Freeze was teased for the next issue (which I don’t currently have) but Gotham wasn’t ablaze, there were no third parties like the Court Of Owls or the Supermanesque Gotham and Gotham Girl that shows up in one of the Batman Rebirth titles (the previews are online). It was a simple murder investigation and of course the killer had psychological issues. It’s a Batman story from the Bronze Age, where they worked to bring Batman away from the 60s without going as dark as The Dark Knight Returns.

And hope left the DCU right around Identity Crisis, where heroes were brainwashing each other and formerly mild villains became rape addicts. No, I’m not letting that go because seriously what the hell?

In a world of digital cynicism and perhaps justified skepticism, I hope you’re surprised when you read the books.

I’ll be surprised if you don’t join in the cynicism. I’m going to have to wait until next week (Friday Night Fights and all) to get into the Rebirth stories I’ve seen online (or at least previews and some shots from scans_daily or summaries on Comicstorian) but remember as I complain that I’m not saying even stories in the New 52 or the DC You were bad. I even liked some of the ideas, and I’m sure the good/bad quotient was similar to any point in DC’s history or their competitors like Marvel, but they don’t belong on DC Comics characters and are the antithesis of what made me a DC Comics fan so very long ago.

From here I’m moving on to the CBR interview, where some of the same stuff was said and there wasn’t much Johns could say because back then it was still announced. There were obviously no comic under the heading yet.

It started when [DC Co-Publishers] Dan [DiDio] and Jim [Lee] came to me and said that they wanted to end things at #52, and work build back to a shared universe and big stories. They wanted to take another look at everything. Dan mentioned the word “Rebirth” to me. I said, look, that word’s incredibly important to me — I feel some pride and ownership of that word. I said it means something extremely specific in my mind, so if we’re going to do something with “Rebirth”, it’s important to me to understand what that means.

It means he has another opportunity to remake the DCU in his image, plus they’re using this as an opportunity to screw over Alan Moore some more, but I’ll get to that next week. By now you who have already read the comics know what I mean. Also, they want to end at #52, where they started at 52. They’re obsessed with that number, aren’t they?

And like everyone else, I’m skeptical of relaunches. So it had to be something that everyone put everything they had into it. That was special. That had a reason. And “Rebirth” to me is a reason. It’s beyond the back-to-basics approach. It’s not just going back to square one. It’s much, much more than something that simplistic. We all need to do our best to get this right and everyone has come together to create a cohesive universe and terrific stories that work individually as well as together.

Skeptical of relaunches? That’s why DC loves doing them. DiDio once said that former editor Julius Schwartz told him that he should reboot the universe every five years. Whether this is true or not, it is dumb, because you’re taking a risk that the fans of the old universe you run off will be replaced by new audiences, and since those new audiences may not be drawn to comics as superhero comics become less and less kid-friendly unless there’s a cartoon attached, that’s unlikely.

There’s an indication that they want to create a shared universe. However, shared universes are earned and worked for. It doesn’t start automatically. Pre-Crisis DC worked for it and so did post-Crisis DC, although I’m sure individual examples could say otherwise. Post-Crisis DC had only slightly more preparation than the New 52, which appeared to have none. New 52 tried to start immediately using a five-year time skip. However, we want to see those five years to see the superhero community come together to form something like a Justice League. It wasn’t earned.

I’ve been a fan for years — I have over 60,000 comics and 99 percent of them are DC Comics. I really see this as an opportunity, and like I’ve said before, take all the characters and thematics that we love — from the past and the present — and build a story that brought them all together, revealed new secrets and truths and mysteries, and moved it all ahead. Again, as someone who absolutely loves the DC Universe, to me it’s maybe lost some things. Not only characters, but more intangibles. Some essence to what makes the “DC Universe” unique and brilliant and unpredictable. And every single character matters — from Batman to Cassandra Cain to John Stewart to Saturn Girl to Blue Beetle to Lois Lane– everyone is someone’s favorite. And in comics, anything’s possible.

New secrets like…okay, I’ll stop harping on the retconed Flash origin. Maybe. The sad thing is, while I agree with some of what’s written here, history shows that they just aren’t going to do it. Yes, every character is someone’s favorite and there will always be a writer or editor that forgets that in the name of preferences and shock value. Johns can’t control this. And I’m not sure he gets even the 90s essence of the DC Universe and how it functions. Again, he’s a good writer with good ideas but sometimes I think he still has the fanfic mentality he had when he wrote in to DC as a kid insisting that Superboy’s human DNA donor should be Lex Luthor. I don’t call these guys the Bad Fanfic Brigade for nothing, folks.

CBR: What has your process of working with the creative teams been like? How hands on are you in shaping these books?

I have a Writers’ Room here at DC, usually we’re breaking film or TV. So editors come in, writers come in, we sit down, we talk about “Rebirth.” What it means, what our goals are, how to build up and forward instead of tear down. I have a whole wall that’s a whiteboard, and an extensive comic library, and we talk about story, about what we love about the characters. Take “Birds of Prey” — we talk about why we first loved the Birds of Prey; why we love Dinah, Barbara and Helena. The runs we loved. The characters then and now. It begins with that. And then where it all goes next. It can’t be doing the same old thing. Or re-telling another story. It’s got to be new. “Blackest Night” was new when we had the dead rise. So what can we build on in this case? What story can only the Birds of Prey tell? And I think there’s a great one coming up.

Huntress Crossbow At The Crossroads

DC found a way to use both Helenas by making only one Huntress and the other an agent for one of the 500 shadow organizations the New 52 had.

Now that’s a good idea, rather than putting someone on a book who doesn’t understand or even like a title and/or its characters. Many a beloved title were damaged or ended because the Editor In Chief at the time put the wrong person on a certain title and it was Atop The Fourth Wall material because of it. And sometimes the writer was just bad to begin with. But this is how you should approach a comic. Find someone who loves the title, have them figure out why he/she likes the title before writing or editing a single issue, and in this day of the internet ask the fans response on social media. And then start making (hopefully) good stories with that information. You can’t be a slave to the fans but you darn well better respect them and the beloved characters you’ve been handed.

And I will give Johns credit that in his own way he may be trying to respect the older characters. He’s shown that Aquaman can be a good character. He brought back the Green Lantern Corps, although I also liked seeing how Kyle could learn the ring on his own with the help of his girlfri..e..nd…dang it, Ron Marz? Why did you make such a good character and throw her away. Editorial mandate is the only answer that doesn’t make me mad at you! Anyway, it’s just that Johns has his own vision, which as I said comes off as fanfic to me a lot of the time. Good fanfic, but still fanfic.

CBR: Given that, there are likely a lot of readers who have felt left behind with DC’s recent moves. But there are also readers who enjoyed initiatives like DC You — where it was kind of the opposite, and continuity was downplayed — and presumably you wouldn’t want to lose that audience, either. What’s the process of balancing that moving forward? Some books have gotten the attention they’ve received exactly because they’re a little different.

Ching has a good point here. While I don’t like the New 52 or DC You, there are people who have, and they’ve rebuilt the extended media around that. Batman wears armor now, and Superman’s outfit in merchandise and the DC Super Friends shorts and more recent movie adaptations (when did DC and Marvel’s direct to video animated movies start taking cues from Japan and just animate comics rather than creating their own stories?) matches the current look because the “cool kids” didn’t get the red area of his tights. Also, Wonder Woman is more ready to fight and carries a sword, except in DC Super Hero Girls, so points to them. Instead she has a shield there. My guess is it’s because the property is for young girls.  So aren’t the current fans going to feel ripped off like us older fans were? Twice for some of us?

This is not about making all the books feel the same, you have individual voices and writers and artists, obviously, and they all have their own particular vision. That’s important. It’s about all of us coming together — not marching on the same narrow path, but living in the same universe again. Working with people who share passion and love for the DC Universe, however they see it. I have absolutely loved every second working with everyone.

That didn’t answer the question! Ching didn’t say anything about individual voices, he asked if the new direction and possibly continuity (that five-year rule of DiDio’s) would alienate current fans like the New 52 did older ones. I want each writer to bring their own voice–preferably without shoving anything they didn’t like of the previous writer’s down the toilet while doing so, but that’s something that’s been going on before Johns was born, much less writing comics. But again, that wasn’t the question. And while I defend continuity and shared universes you can be such a slave to it that you don’t get to have your voice. I say respect what your predecessors did and build on it, not spit in their faces.

CBR: Are there characters that you think haven’t necessarily gotten their due recently that you’re looking to focus on?

There are a ton of characters that people miss. That I miss. You’ll see a lot of them back, but with a story. I don’t want to throw characters back in just to throw them back in. They have to have a purpose. A story that has to be told. Some of my best conversations lately were with James Tynion, [editors] Mark Doyle, Chris Conroy and Rebecca Taylor on several Bat-characters. It was one of the most fulfilling creative discussions I’ve been in. We were in the room just talking about these characters in the Batman universe, that have come in and out for a long time but haven’t really stuck, and suddenly they were coming to life. This specific character suddenly became a vital character to the Bat-universe; that character suddenly became a vital character to this universe. It was exciting because it not only built on these characters, but created story. Great story.

I know he’s using Bat-characters as an example, but he doesn’t name any. Who do they want to bring back? Vicki Vale? KGBeast? One of the Clayfaces? Condiment King? Crazy Quilt? He’s had a good showing between being a teacher on Super Hero Girls and his history with Robin on Batman: The Brave & The Bold. Maybe he doesn’t want to get people’s hopes up or something.

And there are a lot of other characters — a lot of main characters, too, but a lot of background characters — that haven’t had their due, that haven’t had their spotlight in a while, that will be bubbling up to the surface. One in particular, I’m extremely excited to be writing.

Plenty of background and c-list heroes had their day. And by “day” I sadly mean writers used them as cannon fodder to kill heroes off they thought nobody wanted yet somehow still hoped for the shock value of a superhero dying. As said, some people like seeing these characters return, even if only as a guest-appearance in a team-up or superteam book.

CBR: In the start of our conversation, you mentioned “legacy” as something missing from current DC — thinking back to when I started reading, once of the things that made DC feel unique was that there were heroes from World War II, and heroes that would take over a mantle, like Wally West. How much of that are you looking to restore with “Rebirth”?

“Green Lantern: Rebirth” was never just about bringing Hal Jordan back. He’s a great character, but we had to bring the Corps back, Sinestro, Kilowog, John, Guy, the thematics, the scope of what Green Lantern is, the mystery and revelations of the emotional spectrum and “Blackest Night.” “DC Universe: Rebirth” is about bringing back what makes the DC Universe the DC Universe. There are certain things, like legacy, that are missing. There are other things that I don’t want to totally spoil. But there are a lot of things in there that I think are unique to the DC Universe, and really need to be pushed back to the forefront. The world’s greatest heroes and the world’s greatest villains. The epic stories. The expanding mythology. The obscure and legacy characters getting their due alongside the classics. And then, the new and unexpected. The surprising. Inspiration. Threats. Miracles.

I’m curious how they plan to bring back the WW2 superheroes like the Justice Society, if at all. I don’t think putting them around Vietnam or Korea holds the same weight. Also, since Johns was one of the guys responsible for taking out what make the DC Universe the DC Universe he’s not the first guy I’d trust to put it back.

Even though most of the books are relaunching at #1, the fact that “Action” and “Detective” are returning to their original numbers says something about the tone of what this is. Dan is and Jim are psyched we’re gonna get to “Action” #1,000!!!

Isn’t DiDio one of the guys who hated the thought of Action Comics reaching 1000 under the old 90s speculator bubble perspective that people don’t like high-number issues? The reason given is that new readers don’t pick up high-number comics, which is a load of bull. So I’m not sure he at least will be as happy about the big number, which fans complained about the re-numbering (like most of the Rebirth and post-Rebirth books) just as the milestone was in sight. It’s nice to know a comic you like was so loved that it could reach a high milestone and #1000 has alluded so many comic titles. Now thought it just feels like a gimmick, like the “Blackest Night” tie-ins that used the number past a series ended, like Power Of Shazam! for example.

But that alone, even though it seems small, I think it’s a huge symbol of what we’re trying to do. I realize that people will be skeptical, they’ve heard it before, they think they’ve read everything — I totally get that and appreciate and understand it. They should be skeptical! It’s up to all of us to make our respective books worth your time and money. That’s on all of us as individual creators. Jay and I try our best to make “Justice League” a book worth the time and money. Everyone has the same goal. To earn it. To give you something that only DC Comics can give you. With “DC Universe: Rebirth”, I absolutely will.

I am fan and critic, so I will remain skeptical not only during the event but some time after. The post-Crisis and New 52 DCUs were not completely thought out and forced writers to drop story ideas with little warning. Then you have Donna Troi, whose origin was completely messed up by the altering of events, as well as Power Girl, who was originally a transplant from Earth-2. It’s not just how well this event goes but how well the newest DCU will go. Although it once again tosses aside old fans and hopes to replace them somehow with new ones, while holding someone who will buy anything with Batman in the title. As for the stories we’re presented and how the Rebirth Universe may come to pass…I’ll get into that next week. This article is way long as it is.

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About ShadowWing Tronix

A would be comic writer looking to organize his living space as well as his thoughts. So I have a blog for each goal. :)

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