Amid all of the controversy over “gendercrunching the New 52,” one of the things that DC co-publisher Dan DiDio did several times was to allude to the “next wave” of new titles. It has left me wondering if, sometime between six months and a year from now, DC may try and replicate some of the excitement of the New 52 by launching another “wave” of new #1s (probably around the same time they cancel a few underperforming titles from the initial phase).
There are some obvious choices for the next wave—things like the Justice Society and the Marvel family have very vocal fans who are pretty upset that they haven't got a presence in the DC Universe at present, and characters like Wally West have been asked after by fans more than anyone probably expected. But if DC were serious about a new “wave” of titles to create a new wave of publicity, what could they choose?
I'm going with the assumption here that they aren't ready quite yet to flood the market with another fifty-plus new titles. But between their average numbers over the last several months (Flashpoint and RetroActive notwithstanding) and, say, a half-dozen or so titles probably getting the ax shortly after the six-month mark, I've come up with half the original number—26 total titles—and divided them into title “families” to indicate where I feel they might fit best. For the purposes of this discussion, I'm taking for granted the rumor, recently reported by Bleeding Cool, that Nicola Scott and James Robinson are working on a Justice Society title, and giving the Justice Society its own “family” as well.
As the story runs quite long, I'll break it up over two parts to give readers an opportunity to read and respond to each thirteen and not get lost along the way. Contained in today's portion will be the Justice League and Justice Society families of titles, as well as the first couple of "Young Justice" books I would propose if I had to figure out what properties were valuable in the long-term, what might sell and what chances might be cool and exciting to take.
Azrael - There are a couple of options here, but the bottom line is, it's a valuable property. If it were me, I would use Mark Shaw, one-time Manhunter, schizophrenic and sometime supervillain. His archenemy, Dumas, wore the sigil of Azrael's order and part of Mark's efforts to overcome that personality's influence on him (there was a bit of Captain Marvel/Sentry going on there) was to visit the Order of St. Dumas personally. Readers never found out what came of that, after the demise of the much-loved Manhunter monthly, but I'd be willing to bet Marc Andreyko could be persuaded to come back to DC and finish that character's arc. Coming with a strong built-in supporting cast and a writer in Andreyko who has shown a real skill with the character, it could be a surprise hit, keeping the name and property alive while divorcing themselves from both the Joe Quesada design for the character (which has always been rumored as a sticking point for DC) and Jean-Paul Valley's questionable history with Batman and apparent death.
Cyborg - With all the talk about race lately, let's skim over this obvious and important fact: The only member of the Justice League's “big seven” main-and-permanent members not to have his own monthly title is the black guy. Giving him one would add credence to the “diversity” line that DC's been spinning, even though I suspect that was meant to reflect a diversity of the line (as in, “hey, look, we've got Westerns and war books and horror titles), and just took on a life of its own. Cyborg has also never had his own title, so it doesn't come with the stink of failure that can be hard to wash off some of the oft-canceled franchises (a couple of whom are getting new #1s in September anyway). A liability for Cyborg is that his name is very...generic. But between Flashpoint and being a key member of the newly-rebooted Justice League it seems clear that Vic is about as ready for a solo title as he has ever been.
The Outsider - The Outsiders as a franchise has been a very hard sell for a while now. Despite a long history and a lot of great creators' involvement, the team just can't seem to find its footing, sales-wise OR critically. But the name, obviously, has some cache with DC readers and the DC brass. A solution? Carry over The Outsider, one of the more intriguing characters from Flashpoint, and let him play in the new DCU sandbox. He, and at least one or two other titles on this list, may always have been in the cards but may be something DC was unable or unwilling to unveil before the end of Flashpoint.
Speed Force – This is a title that's been rumored, announced, canceled and rumored again so many times that I'm not sure what its status is—or if that status would even mean anything in the post-relaunch world for DC. But a team book that deals with Flashes the way Green Lantern Corps deals with Green Lanterns could be a cool thing to try. Taking off from the approach Geoff Johns and Ethan van Sciver created in Flash: Rebirth, we could see the different ways characters like Wally West, John Fox and Max Mercury interact with their powers, from the way the lightning appears around and on them to the way they actually use their abilities. Added bonus? Keeping the name and concept of “Speed Force” alive on the off chance that the actual Speed Force doesn't exist anymore, post-Flashpoint.
Steel – One of the more obvious choices who got overlooked during the New 52 relaunch, John Henry Irons is a character who has built up a lot of goodwill with fans and who hasn't had his own ongoing since shortly after he was created more than fifteen years ago. Would it sell? Hard to say, but since the Death of Superman is reportedly one of the stories to remain intact in the new universe, one presumes that its aftermath—from the introduction of the Four Supermen to the destruction of Coast City—will also still “count”.
Time Masters – Time travel has been a problem in the DC Universe of late, with different characters operating under different rules. Still, Booster Gold has been one of the most consistently entertaining comics DC has put out for five years, and along with Secret Six and Batgirl, it's one of the titles I was truly sorry to see go when the new books were announced. DiDio later elaborated on his Facebook page that “The timestream is closed,” a comment that Booster Gold writer (and creator) Dan Jurgens has said will be clarified in-story with the end of Booster Gold Volume 2 on Wednesday. For this title, though? Take it a little differently, have it center less around superheroes and continuity and more on the cool and weird stuff that can happen when you're traveling through time, a la what the original Rip Hunter stories were about. Have Rip star with Booster, Linear Woman and the android Hourman from DC One Million, and you've got a recipe for a Fantastic Four-type title, complete with the family ties between team leader Rip and his hotheaded, young father Booster Gold!
Captain Thunder and S!H!A!Z!A!M! - Once again—if this is the direction they're going to take the character, I can see why they wouldn't have wanted to announce it before the end of Flashpoint. That said, I thought the Flashpoint take on Captain Marvel was clever. It also would sidestep the trademark issues of the “Captain Marvel” name, thus allowing DC to have the main character's name in the title—and it apparently is actually closer to the creator's original pitch for the character, which was dumbed down by editorial at a time when it was presumed that all comics readers were semiliterates or children. Geoff Johns, once he's served his year on Aquaman, could probably leave the title like he did The Flash and Booster Gold and head over to Captain Thunder to hopefully reinvigorate the Shazam! franchise.
Huntress – We've seen she's back in the new universe, and let's face it—if anyplace can sell a street-level title with a female lead, it's Gotham. Huntress has a lot of history in the old universe, both pre- and post-Crisis on Infinite Earths, and it would be nice to see what elements of that have carried over to make her who she is in this brave new world.
Infinity Inc. - What better way to reintroduce the “second generation” of Justice Society heroes—characters like Jade and Obsidian, as well as some of the middle-aged JSA "legacy" heroes who wouldn't fit comfortably in the “student” role that Stargirl and Cyclone do, like Liberty Belle and Manhunter—than to bring them back in the title where they originated decades ago? You could have them led by Manhunter (who seems qualified for the role), or Jade (who is the most popular and visible of these characters), and push the “diversity” envelope forward a little bit without offending anyone much.
Justice Society – Obviously. Not only have there been persistent rumors since the relaunch started that James Robinson was working on a JSA title, but the new wrinkle that Nicola Scott may be on it as well make this a legitimate choice for the flagship title of DC's second wave. A superstar writer, a fan-favorite artist and characters who, after a little absence and some questions about their status, will likely build some substantial buzz among committed comics fans. The only mising piece? Figuring out a way to make them appeal to the new reader demographic that DC is chasing.
Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. - Another obvious choice, not only because Mattel inadvertently revealed art of an upcoming S.T.R.I.P.E. Toy that doesn't look much like the old outfit (and said it would be seen soon in the comics), but because the characters were created by Johns and Stargirl has become a fan favorite, helping to shape the feel and direction of the last few JSA series and appearing as the de facto founder of the next generation of JSA'ers on TV's Smallville.
H-E-R-O – Like Chase, this title is well-loved and much-missed by its small and passionate fanbase after its too-short late '90s run. Unlike Chase, neither its main characters or the MacGuffin that drove the series have really appeared anywhere since (excepting a one-issue appearance in Brave & the Bold, I think, but there may have been time-travel involved). It's a story with huge potential for creativity and always felt to me like a natural companion to Resurrection Man, should that series survive...or a replacement for it if Abnett and Lanning end up sending him back to his grave again.
Kamandi – With the Planet of the Apes franchise being relaunched, why not relaunch DC's imitation? Plus, the Kamandi feature in Wednesday Comics was one of the best-received bits in it, and Jack Kirby's Kamandi Omnibus is coming soon to a comic shop near you. Add that together with the fact that the character was shown to be part of the DC Universe proper again in Final Crisis and you get a combination that offers a lot of potential.
Tomorrow--the rest of my ideas, including at least one DC property you've probably never heard of--but that has a lot of potential.