This past September marked the 4th anniversary of DC Comic’s New 52, and comic fans seem to be split down the middle when it comes to the ‘New 52. Some think it’s the best thing to happen to DC since silver age comics. Others think it’s a terrible idea. For those of you that are new to this, here is a brief explanation of what the New 52 is:
The New 52 is a 2011 revamp and relaunch by DC Comics of its entire line of ongoing monthly superhero books, in which all of its existing titles were cancelled, and fifty-two new series debuted in September 2011 with new first issues. Among the series being renumbered are Action Comics and Detective Comics, which had previously retained their original numbering since the 1930s.
Personally, I like some aspects of the new 52 like Wonder Woman’s new origin, the direction they have taken with Aquaman and Batgirl. And there are aspects that annoy me like the Superman and Wonder Woman relationship and the JLA. However, I found myself curious to know what other people were thinking of DC’s new venture. So I found two highly talented artist Jonathan Watson and Benjamin Paczak, and moderated a small debate of sorts between them on their opinions of the New 52.
Valerie: DC’s New 52 has been around for 4 years. How do you think things have unfolded as time passed?
Jonathan: Looking at the New 52, one would compare it to a rushed school project a student put together the day before it was due. It appears fully fleshed out upon initial inspection, but over time the cracks quickly began to form and the errors make themselves present. It wasn’t very long before stories about the poor editorial handling of the reboot started to pour out over the Internet. We heard about writers jumping ship to Marvel and other publishers because they couldn’t handle the constantly changing mandates of DC. We even saw titles quickly begin to get cancelled. It’s starting to look like the new 52 is a bad idea.
Benjamin: The New 52 provided the pathway to my discovery of the DC Comics lore. While theoretically any comic can be grabbed off the shelves, having a fresh Issue Number One in my hands made everything completely accessible. Batman, Aquaman, Nightwing, Justice League, Swamp Thing, Supergirl—I wanted to take it all in. Each story did not require me to know anything else (though might have taken a few assumptions) and made each story seem fresh. . I can understand the pain of leaving behind a legacy of a few hundred Hellblazer issues or abandoning Detective Comics right when issue 900 is in sight, but those characters in those situations were not going away, merely continuing with a smaller issue number. This is where the stories were happening.
Jonathan: But hold up! There were rumors that DC editorial only had 6 months of advance preparation before pulling the trigger on this reboot. Honestly, they needed longer, and it shows. What baffles me the most is that this is a mistake that shouldn’t have happened. Back when the Crisis on Infinite Earths happened, DC performed a similar reboot of its universe. As a result, there were some problems as well. It took years to correct them, but eventually they did. Fast Forward to the New 52 of today, and DC has repeated a LOT of those same problems. Why did they let this happen?
*In the New 52, it is suggested that super heroes have been around for roughly 5 years. in that 5 year time span, DC has suggested that the title of Robin has passed on to 4 different individuals and that Batman treats the identity as some form of “internship program.”
Benjamin: That does not matter all that much to me. I’m more interested in the stories and characters. Not so much with the business aspect. The New 52 gave the chance for discovery among the characters, old and new. I could try out a few issues of Red Hood and the Outlaws or give Hawkman a go. I loved the Static Shock cartoon as a kid and would have tried out the title if it was not under-performing. I could also jump in with some Batman, Aquaman and Action Comics stories written by the best DC has to offer. My local comic shop owner recommended Swamp Thing’s and Animal Man’s initial runs, and now I am hooked on both characters and think Animal Man‘s Jeff Lemire is DC’s top writer. While a list of 52 titles can be intimidating, being able to navigate them to pick and choose what is worth checking out was made easier through the New 52.
Valerie: 6 months to prepare an entire comic reboot?! That is shocking, and stupid….However, I did learn some new names and faces with this change. So I see both sides of the coin.
Benjamin: Through fitting some puzzle pieces together in the coming months as I became a comic collector, I came to realize that the old universe had been rebooted and some foundations were shaken up. Swamp Thing had to reemerge, Barbara Gordon was not paralyzed after The Killing Joke, Kandor had to be rediscovered, etc. It was also apparent that DC Comics had a habit of rebooting things every five to ten years (usually during a Crisis), so I accepted this as the norm. While some changes could leave fans angry of erasing decades of history (or forgetting about fan favorites), I saw it as an opportunity to keep reading fresh stories in this new universe.
Jonathan: Since you listed some characters, I think that’s my core issue with the New 52 , the real casualty are the characters. Its one thing to change a characters history as a result of the reboot, that’s perfectly fine. But what DC was proposing to do was take all their characters from different publishing worlds (Wildstorm and Milestone) and merge them together with their existing characters into one coherent universe. In the beginning, it seemed like this would work out. Characters like Static, Hardware, Grifter, and Voodoo, were running around with Superman, Nightwing and the Red Hood.
Static and Grifter each represent the Milestone and Wildstorm imprints that DC folded into their universe for the New 52. Static’s book only lasted 6 issues. Grifter’s book lasted a little longer, but as of today neither hero or anyone from their respective imprints are strongly represented in the New 52.
Today is another story. DC has cancelled all of the books starring Static, Hardware, Grifter and Voodoo, and you would be hard pressed to find any of them running around the DCU in other books. DC doesn’t have the answers, and from the looks of it, they don’t intend on providing the reasons why these characters have disappeared from the DC universe completely.
Benjamin: For me, I think any of the fun is piecing together what applies to the current characters and what might be retold for new tales to come. So maybe there is hope for those characters. All of my favorites, from Hush to Saga of the Swamp Thing,
still mattered in the grand scheme of entertainment, and stories like Throne of Atlantis were merely adding to the legacy.
Jonathan: Meh. What was once a promising idea, quickly fell apart. At the beginning of the reboot, DC promised that they would publish 52 different books a month. Today that number is drastically reduced. I have been a fan of DC my entire life. It is my hope that eventually they turn themselves around. No one wants to see them die out. Just like someone who loves the New 52 for what it is, I want to enjoy these characters again.
Benjamin: Look, I’m glad I was able to view the New 52 with wide eyes and a welcoming feel. The stories were new to me, but more often than not they were new to every reader. The characters were the classic ones I knew about while also being some newer ones to explore. And the classic stories were still on the shelves and in the stacks to be read and loved, even if DC Comics was going through yet another reboot.
Jonathan: Now to be fair, I WAS all for it. I knew to expect a 100% change. Everything from story arcs, to origins, everything. I knew that characters and their origins would possibly change. To me this meant fans would see new interpretations of old ideas, and maybe even take the opportunity to fix some long-standing issues within the DC Universe as a whole. Eve perhaps see the DC universe appear as all-inclusive as possible. I believe what DC delivered to us instead is anything but.
Well there you have it! I’m sure that we all have varying opinions on DC’s reboot. But it seems that there are pros and cons to everything. Here’s some information about Jonathan and Benjamin and where you can check more of their content!
Jonathan Watson is writer, actor, director, and editor for Slander ENT. a multimedia group dedicated to comedic videos and observation of nerd culture at large. You can see more of his content at these links: