Monday, September 17, 2012

The DC Revamp -- Hits and Misses

Doug:  Wait - what?  Where the heck is Man of Steel #5?  Well, my partner Karen has been a frequent flier these past few weekends, and to give her a bit more time and to keep quality around here paramount, we've delayed your scheduled Superman fix to tomorrow.  Hopefully, in a Bizarro sort of way, it will be worth your wait!

Doug:  So, what to do in the interim?  How's about we discuss not only the fall-out of Byrne's re-imagining of the Superman mythos but also throw in heaping helpings of George Perez's Wonder Woman, Mike Grell's Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters, Mike Baron's and Butch Guice's Flash, Tim Truman's Hawkworld, the Batman writers/artists carrying on the Frank Miller legacy, Steve Englehart's Green Lantern Corps, the new Justice League of DeMatteis/Giffen/Maguire, and Roy Thomas' Shazam!?

Doug:  Which of the new and/or revised DC mags did you latch onto?  We have many, many Marvel Zombies in these parts -- did you stay that way?  If so, were you aware of all of the changes (some of them quite ballsy, if you'll pardon that rough-around-the-edges term) DC was making?  Or, were you a longtime DC fan who suddenly felt like you were on the outside looking in?  Thanks in advance for flashing back with us today!


William said...

Of the handful of "post Crisis" DC titles I sampled, a couple became some of my all-time favorites. Those were Superman by Byrne, and the new Justice League by DeMatteis/Gifen/Maguire. I faithfully read both of those series until the original creative teams departed, and then I shortly followed. But when they were in their heyday, Superman and Justice League were right at the top of my monthly list of "must read" books.

As I have mentioned in previous articles I didn't care too much for the very dark "Batman: TDKR" or "Batman: Year One", both by Frank Miller. I also didn't much like the subsequent Miller-inspired Bat books that followed. Not to say I like the old "campy" Batman by any means. I think Batman definitely needs to have a dark noir tone, but at the same time, it still should maintain a sense of fun and adventure. I think the version of Batman in "Batman The Animated Series" did that perfectly and brilliantly. For me, that is the definitive version of the character and the main reason that I list Batman among my favorite super heroes.

As for Mike Grell's Green Arrow. I read the initial mini-series and I was less than thrilled with the new Batmanesque GA who gave up his trick arrows (boxing glove, capture net, flash bomb, etc.) in favor of the sharp pointy kind that kill people. Definitely not my cup of tea.

The new Wally West Flash was O.K., but in DC's attempt to "Marvelize" their characters they gave him a few too many limitations that just over-complicated his powers and made the book a bit of a chore to read. For example he could now only run Mach 1, and he would get tired quickly and have to rest and/or eat a truckload of food in order to recover, etc. They spent much of the book having to explain all of this to the reader and less pages on actual storytelling and superheroing.

I also (vaguely) remember Shazam by Roy Thomas, I really like DC's Captain Marvel and as I recall I enjoyed the book well enough, but it didn't really leave any lasting impression on me.

I did not try the new Wonder Woman, Hawkman or Green Lantern Corps, as I never really had much interest in those characters as solo acts.

Edo Bosnar said...

Yep, I was/am a total Marvel zombie, and at that point in my life I was hardly reading any ongoing titles. However, since I was also a Byrne zombie (or perhaps better stated, Byrne victim), I read the Man of Steel mini, plus the Legends mini a little later, plus the first few issues of the Superman ongoing by Byrne. As I've mentioned before, I rather liked the Superman reboot.
I can't speak of many other titles, because I didn't read enough (or any) of them, but my general impression is that this was actually a good period for DC. It seemed like they were producing a lot of great material across the board. Another thing I really liked about DC from the mid-80s to the early '90s was all the really strong creator-oriented mini-series that were coming out that had little or nothing to do with their mainstream super-hero universe. Not just Watchmen, but also Silverblade, Cinder & Ashe, Gilgamesh II, Twilight, etc.

Edo Bosnar said...

By the way, I've never that Hawkworld series, but based on the fact that Truman and Alcatena headed the creative team, I bet the art was really nice.

Doug said...

Like you, William, I generally stayed with these revamps/reboots through the initial run of the marquee creators.

I enjoyed Superman at first, but I still found the character to be boring. I think that's why I've always gravitated toward Superboy -- the Smallville setting, as well as the Legion, humanized him. I just have never been able to get into Superman as a solo character.

I really liked Perez's take on Wonder Woman, and that may be my favorite series of the bunch. I liked the Hawkworld mini-series, but drifted away from the ongoing. Same for the Green Arrow mini The Longbow Hunters.

Overall, as a young man in my early 20's I found these books to be fresh, somewhat grown-up takes on characters I'd generally stayed away from. I thought this was a great attempt by DC to re-energize their properties and give Marvel some serious competition. To be honest, if DC had maintained what I would have considered a high level of quality and the momentum of the post-Crisis years, I'd have begun to buy more of their product and less of Marvel's.

We were, after all, on the cusp of the second Clone Saga...


Doug said...

Oh, and Justice League was a hoot, issue-in and issue-out. Just silly fun. It was fun to see the new hardass Batman have to deal with characters like Guy Gardner, G'Nort, and Beetle and Booster. The creators knew full-well what they were doing, and it worked.


Anonymous said...

As a former DC fan, I suddenly became an outsider. I disliked most of the changes, and thought that they created more problems than they solved. Before long, the revamped series built up their own continuity so that the post-Crisis canon was more confusing than what it replaced. I think TDKR and Year One were overrated and pretentious. Miller gets too much credit for revitalizing the Batman. Other writers and artists (O' Neil and Adams, Englehart and Rogers) had already ditched the campy comedy and restored the character's Dark Knight image. I did like Mike Grell's relatively realistic take on Green Arrow, but then, I was not a fan of the previous version. A lot of fans disliked the change. It might have been better if Grell had created a new character (as he had done with Warlord and Jon Sable) instead of revising an old one.

Dougie said...

1986-1987 was a very exciting time for DC properties. I was in my early twenties and was definitely buying more DCs than Marvels. I was still plodding on pretty joylessly with X-Men although I was keen on West Coast Avengers and Silver Surfer. Everything else seemed to be New Universe-movie and tv pilot fare.

My favourites at DC were Superman and Justice League- although I eventually tired of its tone. I also liked The Outsiders. Grim and gritty was not my thing!
I felt the Legion suffered most during the mid-80s, bereft of Supergirl and Superboy. I liked Roy Thomas' version of Shazam but prefer Ordway's 90s take.

Garett said...

Cinder and Ashe is a great miniseries--good call Edo! I loved Grell's Green Arrow Longbow Hunters at the time, for its more adult tone, the relationship of Ollie and Dinah, and the art with certain panels drawn in black and white, possibly charcoal and chalk on grey paper. The painted covers inspired me to start painting. I also liked Miller's Dark Knight, but in comparison Grell's writing was more comfortable, something I could relate to.

I was getting out of comics around '87, so I only sampled some of these in later years. Justice League was good for the sense of humour, the best JLA since the Dillin years. I've tried to read Wonder Woman, but somehow it doesn't call to me despite Perez's art. That Flash cover makes me want to check it out--too bad it sounds dull from William's review.

I certainly missed the JLA/JSA teamups, and the possibilities of the various DC worlds. I always liked both Marvel and DC, and have never really understood the loyalty to one or the other. Sometimes I drank Pepsi, sometimes Coke! Sometimes First Comics and Dr. Pepper! : )

Anonymous said...

Pre-Crisis I liked Marvel and DC, but I quit reading DC and went strictly Marvel right around that time...not for any monumental reason, just couldn't afford as many comics, so I had to cut down. Bad timing on my part...I completely missed Crisis and all the revamps at the time; I was aware of them from collecting Who's Who, but I missed all the actual stories.

Since then, I've gone back and read some of them; the new Justice League was cool, but I prefer the gravitas of the old League. I also liked Long Bow Hunters...Mike Grell's writing (and art)always appeals to me...Green Arrow, Warlord, Jon Sable...all great stuff (and no, they're NOT all the same character!)

Mike W.

david_b said...

A lot of great opinions here.., sure helps a lot for what I'm trying to offer.

I agree with William on Wally's Flash and JL, with JL rating a bit higher. DC sure did bring forward a lot of good (and provocative) work post-Crisis. The Flash rebirth grew tiring, since as someone said here, it began to be a chore to read. It definitely tried to be more like Batman (as did GA..), and once you have that, the original flavor is gone. I didn't like Wally's venture into adulthood in those pages at all; sorry, I preferred him in the first two dozen NTT issues as Kid Flash the best.

JL was certainly a hoot, but sometimes it was too scarcastic/light-hearted. After a while, you have to have some drama, or the comedy doesn't play. So I probably enjoyed it longer than the others, but much like the common lament over the 60s' Batman show, 'if you've read one JL, you basically read 'em all', especially with Guy and Batman.

'Longbow Hunters'..? I liked the novelty of the first issue, but the over-all tone was certainly artistic, but stayed a bit too gritty and vigilante for my tastes. Plus, I never warmed much to Grell following the first dozen GL/GA issues he did.

Bat's..? Didn't like the Frank Miller changes; like William, once TAS came out, it made Batman fun to read again, without the campy light-heartedness. Miller's changes would be great as a 'one-off' graphic novel or limited series, but feeling Miller was onto something, DC bled it into everything (and permeated to other titles..).

But with these changes, all in all, DC became more interesting and approachable than Marvel was in those days, the exception being Buscema/Palmer on the Avengers.

Doug said...

Thanks to all for the memories and evaluations today!

That being said, there is virtually nothing (read that -- NOTHING) that I find even remotely interesting in the Marvel and/or DC solicits that come out month-by-month.

But I should also add, that even if I did find a book or storyline that piqued my curiosity, the $4 price point would make sampling it near-impossible.


Inkstained Wretch said...

Frankly, it was around the time of these various post-Crisis reboots that I began to lose interest in DC. They seemed to changing stuff arbitrarily and messing up a lot of good characters in the process.

The reboots I followed the most were Byrne-era Superman and the Giffen/DeMatteis-era Justice League, both of which had good art and some involved story-telling, but even those aren't big favorites of mine to be honest.

Why, for example, did they decide to eliminate Superboy & Supergirl from continuity, thereby blowing a massive hole in the history of the Legion of Superheroes?

Otherwise, the post-Crisis Green Lantern Corps quickly turned me off. What was the point of a team where everyone had exact the same power?

I was really turned off by the comic revamp of Dr. Fate too. They siphoned all of the mystery out of the character and made him a joke...

The Roy Thomas revamp of Captain Marvel (Sorry, but "Shazam" is the magic word he uses, not his name - no matter what Marvel lawyers say.) was disappointing too. Why remove him from World War II history, which he so clearly belongs in? Especially since he could substitute for the post-Crisis loss of the Golden Age Superman... But I guess DC couldn't swallow that even though they owned the Big Red Cheese outright by that point. (I though Roy Thomas of all people would keep the WWII connection intact. I guess he was under orders to do otherwise.)

I never followed the Hawkworld/Hawkman revamp but I know it blew seriously massive holes in DC continuity too, especially since the Silver Age Hawkman had hung around in the new post-Crisis DC for a while.

For me the disappointing thing was that DC had made some interesting revamps before the Crisis that they subsequently tossed aside.

I mean, why not keep John Stewart as the new Green Lantern? As the animated Justice League series showed, he could be a compelling character with just some good writing.

Anyone remember the Shadow War Hawkman? That was a neat miniseries in which Hawkman was left an exile from his people and earth's lone protector from an infiltration by his fellow Thanagarians. There were great possibilities there that were never explored.

And the Sword of the Atom was one of my favorite miniseries from that era, reinventing the Atom as a jungle warrior with spectacular Gil Kane art. That too was tossed aside after the Crisis.

Ok, I've ranted long enough. I think you know where I am coming from.

Chris said...

As I've said before, the Byrne re-launch of Superman brought me over to DC and like others I found many of the revamps fresh and exciting.

I liked Justice League best. It was so much more fun than the angst of the X-Men.

Wonder Woman was good whilst Perez was around and I stayed with Superman once JB had left because Roger Stern is one of my favourite writers.

I did collect the Batman titles for a while (Alan Davis on Detective!) but the Flash and others didn't stick with me.

Fred W. Hill said...

I was yet another Marvel zombie until a bit before this era -- right around 1983 my comics habit started becoming much more eclectic, enough to include not only a few DC titles but also Cerebus (although that was an indie mag you pretty much had to have been a Marvel zombie to appreciate much of Sims' humor, although it also helped if you were familiar with the Marx Brothers), a few Eclipse & Pacific titles, etc. I did get Grell's Longbow series, shortly after reading the reprinted O'Neil/Adams Green Lantern/Green Arrow series, and the new Flash, Batman Year One and Man of Steel, the Question and a few others for about a year before I mostly quit my comics junkie habits. Partly that was due to working two jobs and spending more time with friends, thus not having as much free time to actually read so many comics. Also I was becoming conscious of how much I was spending on all those comics that I either wasn't reading or not enjoying if I did take the time to read them.
As for what I did like, even then I was rather mixed up -- I liked some of the heightened realism but on the other hand some of the unrelenting darkness became too depressing.
Looking back, both Marvel & DC got very dark and so many supporting characters wound up getting killed off over the years, a trend that Marvel started with the deaths of Captain Stacy, Dorma and Gwen Stacy in the early '70s but seemed to really take off by the late '80s, as related in a column I read a few years ago on the "dead girlfriend in the refridgerator syndrome". Maybe Thanos had infected fandom with a love of death -- after all, a majority voted to kill off the new Robin. But then, in comics death is rarely permanent.

Garett said...

Haha--there's a question Fred! Who is the villain masterminding all the deaths/revivals in comics? That might be a comic worth reading!

Edo Bosnar said...

As per Inkstained's comment, one thing I will concede is just how thoroughly and irreparably CoIE and its aftermath screwed up the Legion of Super-heroes. Basically, DC editorial decided to throw the Legion under the bus, even though, at least in my opinion, it was probably the best DC title in the early '80s along with New Teen Titans.

Dougie said...

I had temporarily forgotten about Barr and Davis on Detective! That was my favourite Batman since Englehart and Rogers.

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