The PopCult Bookshelf
A lot of comic book news came out of the International Comic Con in San Diego a few weeks back, and most of it has been reported-on and analyzed ad-infinitum all over the internet, but there was one bit of news from DC Comics that seems to have been lost in the shuffle.
Early next year, eight new mini-series will be published by DC, and while I don’t have really high expectations for anything coming out of the “Big Two” these days, this slate of titles certainly seems to be targeted at attracting some nostalgic attention from long-time readers.
The eight books will be: Swamp Thing, Metal Men, Raven, Firestorm, Katana: Cult of the Kobra, Poison Ivy: Cycle of Life and Death, Metamorpho and Sugar & Spike. Not only are most of these titles revivals of books that had their heyday way back in the 1960s, 70s or 80s, but DC has brought back some of their original creators to script these books.
Len Wein, who created Swamp Thing with Bernie Wrightson in 1971, will write the new Swamp Thing book as well as Metal Men, a comic book about robots with human personalities that I loved when I was a kid. Marv Wolfman will write the new Raven book, starring the character he created in 1980 with George Perez as a member of the New Teen Titans. Gerry Conway returns to Firestorm, his 1977 creation with Al Milgrom. Mike W. Barr returns to DC Comics to write the Katana book, which will pit his 1980s creation, Katana, against Jack Kirby’s mid-70s concept, Kobra.
Amy Chu will write the Poison Ivy book, while Aaron Lopresti takes on Metamorpho. Though using new writers, both characters date back to the mid-1960s.
The oddest book of the batch will be Keith Giffen’s take on Sugar and Spike, which will abandon the original premise of the book and, well, here’s how DC’s co-publisher, Dan Didio, explains it, “They’re not spoiled kids anymore, but they’re older and they’re operating as private investigators handling problems and mysteries that the superheroes can’t handle themselves.”
Now, that description fills me with a bit of dread. If you don’t know, Sugar and Spike, written and drawn by the legendary Sheldon Mayer, told the adventures of the two titular babies, and set forth that all babies could communicate via their babbles and noises, but grown-ups couldn’t understand them.
If that sounds familiar, it’s because years later the Nickelodeon cartoon, Rugrats, ripped off the concept wholesale. I hold Sheldon Mayer in as high regard as Carl Barks and Walk Kelly, and there are actually several Suger and Spike stories created for the European market that have never seen print in the United States, so this is really disappointing news for me. Aging them, making them private investigators and placing them in a super-hero universe is sort of a red flag that this book is just being put out to protect the trademark.
In fact, that may be the driving motive behind most of these books. While it’s great that, unlike in previous reboots, DC has actually hired some of their original creators, some of whom have become poster boys for Ageism in the comics industry, all of these books will be set squarely in the newly-semi-rebooted DC Universe, now known as “DC You” (and yes, that is the lamest re-branding in recent history, just edging out “All-New, All-Different Marvel” by a hair).
I have fond personal memories of most of these titles. Metal Men and Metamorpho are two of my favorite obscure comics from back when I first learned to read.
It will be cool to see how Len Wein, the creator of Swamp Thing, incorporates the elements introduced by Alan Moore to the character’s lore. Wein spoke with Comic Book Resources about his two books, and it’s a great interview.
I’m looking forward to these books, however, I worry about the art and how radically the characters will be redesigned. Advance artwork of the Metal Men shows the team looking totally different than their original designs. Metamorpho still looks like his old self.
I am cautiously optimistic, but wary of these books. They may be plagued with DC’s boring house-style for their interior art. I’m sure the preview images are all covers, and most likely aren’t by the same folks who are drawing the insides.
The new “DC You” universe has not engaged me any more than the “New 52 reboot did, and that reboot took me from buying over 40 DC comics a month to buying two or three. I will give these series a try, but if the first issues confirm my worst fears, then I’ll be dropping them before they finish their run. Let’s hope they get them right this time.