Confessions of a Comic Book Guy is a weekly column by retailer Steve Bennett of Super-Fly Comics and Games in
Though it’s not as big a deal as the announcement that Neil Gaiman is going to be writing Batman there were a couple that came out of San Diego which came as something as a surprise (it’s hard for me to judge; I lost my capacity for surprise in a boating accident).
Milestone at DC
This one makes sense. New superheroes are notoriously difficult to create and sustain and superheroes of color are even harder to get right so this deal is a handy way for DC to raise their diversity profile – and they could use it. Well there was Jeph Loeb and Geoff Johns' Muhammad X who appeared only once in Superman #179 and Johns has (excuse the expression) “retconned” it so since the Golden Age there’s always been an Amazing Man. But they're more interested in social justice than fighting Major Force, so haven’t been worth mentioning until now.*
Plus when DC gets the inevitable itch to release more superhero titles than the market can bear they’ll at least have product different from what’s already on the shelves and could have a longer life upon collection (there are still people out there looking for Milestone back issues; you can’t say that about most comics published in the last thirty years). But hopefully DC will also absorb some of the Milestone corporate culture, like having its characters exist in a racially diverse universe. As I’ve written before, most DC (and to spread the blame like butter, Marvel) comics features not only all-white casts but all white-white background characters (from supporting casts to the people literally in the background). As with prime time television I don’t think it’s a matter of racism as much as lazy indifference. With all the fires an editor has to put out in a month, making sure there’s racial diversity in the back of panels is probably a pretty low priority. But Milestone proved with concerted effort it can be done.
Archie At DC
I’m really not sure what exactly DC gets from the one. OK, having their relaunch take place in Brave and Bold will undoubtedly help its sales but most of the Archie heroes aren’t significantly different from their own. Sure, DC hasn’t had a patriotic hero since the Golden Age (the less said about Agent Liberty or The Force of July the better) so could use The Shield, but when you already have a young adult who turns into a bug-based hero, why import The Fly? If The Fox met Wildcat in the dark I don’t think they’d be able to tell the difference; Mr. Justice is basically The Spectre and The Black Hood works the Batman side of the street (but with the added disadvantage of wearing a yellow leotard).
With all that said, Archie does have some interesting characters. If the DCU needs a Punisher they’ve got The Hangman, and Steel Sterling would make a nice street level Superman (no secret identity, no fortress; if you want him he’s working at the Community Center). And of course JMS has just got to revive Rang-A-Tang The Wonder Dog. I mean, the cover to Blue Ribbon #8 is cooler than the last two Crisis-es combined.
It just occurred to me, having both the Milestone and Archie heroes DC has an almost virtual monopoly on superheroes at a time when the world is superhero crazy -- smart. The only thing left for them to do is make a deal and get the rights to Thunder Agents.
Devil’s Due Makes a Deal with Humanoids
My horrible cynical side (which I’m sad to say is spreading and appears to be resistant to treatment) wants to say something like after Devil’s Due fails to sell Humanoids graphic novels in
* And Marvel has Adam: Legend of the Blue Marvel, another black superhero who’s always been there but nobody’s noticed. This is an example of what I like to call The Alex P. Keaton Stratagem; the producer of the sit-com Family Ties received complaints about the lack of black characters on his show and with the very best of intentions decided to correct this by not just giving Alex a black best friend but establishing he had always had a one who for some reason had never been seen or mentioned. Unfortunately he was a deadly dull character who lasted only a single season.
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