To recap: DC Comics' recent relaunch has been on the tongues of every comic fan since it was announced. Not only does the scope of the project jar people out of their comfort zone, but the fact that retailers will have all these #1s (and even more frightening, #2s) to contend with, sell, manage and figure out how to order...well, let's just say it's a little mind-boggling even before you throw digital day-and-date delivery into the mix.
But not everyone has been happy with every decision, and there has been a vocal group of fans complaining about certain characters or titles that no longer exist or aren't being published regularly, as well as the much-publicized discussion about diversity and gender balance in titles, stars and creators at DC. The company's co-publisher Dan DiDio has done his best to combat these gripes with vague comments about a forthcoming “second wave” of new titles, presumably in 2012, and this is part 2 of a two-part story (part one can be found here) discussing the 26 titles I would launch in that second wave if it were my decision to make.
I think that with digital delivery entering the conversation in a big way, it's important to consider new readers, lapsed readers and other folks who haven't ever subscribed to a comic book before. With that in mind, it's worth noting that launching these titles all at once, to create another month or three of sensational buzz and to set DC's new release slate up as a fairly regular thing, exciting and worth waiting for, would probably do well in speaking to an audience that's more familiar with things like TV, where the seasons for most hit shows start around the same time, and that's when you can get the previous season on DVD. Building a business plan where each new slate of anticipated titles can hit right around the same time, along with collected editions of some of the last slate's most-talked-about successes, is something that I haven't yet heard proposed—but which just seems like common sense to me. I hope they at least try it, because the run-up to the New 52 has been exciting and getting another, similar surge in a year or less could turn out to be a good thing.
Without further ado, though, the final 13 contenders in my personal “second wave” of new-universe DC titles, grouped by “family.”
Young Justice (continued)
Major Bummer – It's been almost 15 years since DC launched this short-lived and much-loved title—but its then-unknown artist Doug Mahnke has turned out to be a real boon to the company, saving their bacon during Final Crisis and taking the reins on Green Lantern when superstar Ivan Reis left the title to work on Brightest Day and then relaunch Aquaman. There's a hardcover coming soon from Dark Horse that collects the series, so it's hard to say what the rights issues at play are (or perhaps DC just allowed that to happen because they themselves couldn't see making a profit on it, but to license it out to somebody else who hopes to means everyone wins?), but if they could do it, this character could join Resurrection Man in the list of “great '90s titles that return to circulation,” and we'll see whether books like that can capitalize on the excitement of the relaunch to grab success from the clutches of historical failure.
Team Titans – There are, let's face it, a lot of Teen Titans. Most of them are still unaccounted for when you really consider the team's history and what's out there so far in terms of the relaunch, and it could be cool to see Argent, Risk, Donna Troy, Connor Hawke, Miss Martian and other would-be Titans and Young Justice members come together under the banner of a title that DC hasn't used for years since its last high-altitude flame-out. That said, Titans was once a major franchise for DC and if there are two or more of their books doing well, there's no reason it can't be again. Look at Green Lantern, a franchise which has gone from one (barely publishable) book to four in under ten years.
Black Alice (or Traci 13) – Serving DC's need for more female leads, and for marketable magic characters (let's face it—most people are expecting half of “The Dark” books to be surprise hits and the other half to be gone in a year), the deciding factor between these two fan-favorite leads could come down to something as simple as the direction DC wants to take their magic titles in a year, with Alice being the moody teen to Traci's youthful enthusiasm.
Ghost Detectives – Ever since the end of 52, fans have wanted to see Ralph and Sue Dibny's adventures continue, but it hasn't seemed fiscally responsible to launch a supernatural title about a couple of third-tier superheroes who are likely more popular dead than they ever could have been alive. At a time in their financial history when they're making big gambles, though, this one could pay off if it were good and walked that Starman-type line between superhero adventure and stylish noir. They could also play off on Ralph's history as part of the lighthearted and whimsical era of the Justice League by playing occasionally with the “ghost” part of the premise.
Klaw The Unconquered – One of DC's answers to characters like Ka-Zar and Conan, Klaw has never been as popular as Warlord, but creator Mike Grell drew the curtain closed on Travis Morgan's adventures last year and it was such a perfect conclusion (and such a low-selling title) that it seems unlikely DC would want to visit Skartaris again soon. Klaw, however, bounced back from a miniseries so low-selling that it might as well not have existed with a role as a prominent player in the Flashpoint prequel Time Masters: Vanishing Point that teamed him with DC's original Starfire and set up a kind of savage, archaic version of the science-versus-magic debate that could serve a character like Klaw well.
Phantom Stranger – Outside of Constantine, he's the most popular member of DC's “Trenchcoat Brigade” and has traditionally been a bridge between the world of magic and the world of superheroes, especially as it pertains to alternate dimensions or universes, as seen in The Kingdom. And while that story is virtually guaranteed to have been forgotten by the key players, it's likely his role, when he does reappear, will be similar.
The Spectre – One of the characters who, like Hawkman and Aquaman, DC has tried again and again to make a star. The difference? If treated as a horror character and allowed to be mostly or completely separate from the superhero universe (even if he does interact a bit with his old partner The Question), this one has potential to be something very different and possibly even very remarkable. Their challenge? Either making the current Spectre someone fans can care about without worrying about all the Gotham Central baggage he brings to the table, or returning Jim Corrigan to the role.
Ball & Chain – Scott Lobdell, unexpected darling of the new DC Universe, created this book years ago for WildStorm and while the comics themselves haven't seen print in years, there was at one point a TV pilot rumored so it's obvious that not everyone has forgotten the cool, fun superhero sitcom. And “superhero sitcom” might turn out to be something the DCU is missing when you consider the very serious take on the Justice League International that seems to have emerged out of Generation Lost.
Challengers of the Unknown – As the de facto narrators of Mark Waid and George Perez's Brave and the Bold monthly, these characters have had a starring role more recently than most on the list...but it's been very rooted in superheroics, something that could be downplayed in a new approach that focuses on the notion of scientist-adventurers in over their head. Think Indiana Jones with ghosts, superpowered Egyptian relics and dinosaurs.
DV8 – Brian Wood and the supremely underrated Rebekah Isaacs had a great DV8 story a couple of years ago that seemed to go nowhere, largely I think because not many fans remember the property fondly (it's had more bad stories than good ones, historically). Still, with that creative team and their previous mini (which had rebootish elements of its own) as a jumping-off point, it seems like it could serve as an ideal replacement in the lineup for WildStorm staple Gen 13, which is still too fresh off the latest in a series of too many relaunch attempts to be a great choice, I think. The trick? Bring in new readers, digital readers and readers who are so excited about a second wave of the DC titles that they'll try it, so that you don't have to fret over whether the previous volume sold.
The Everyman Project – Run by Lex Luthor during 52, the Everyman Project gives powers to anybody who wants them. This seems an ideal side-project for the team at Project N.O.W.H.E.R.E., which apparently will be a menacing force in books like Superboy and Teen Titans. Yeah, those are bad guys...but it wouldn't be the first time that a group by shady interests banded together to use their powers against their makers and evildoers everywhere. I mean...look at the aforementioned Gen 13. Spin that a little darker, with powers and maybe looks a little odder, and you've got an X-title as told by DC.
Lobo – Considering how long his last title was on the stands, and the excitement people had to see him back in 52 and the recently-defunct L.E.G.I.O.N., don't be surprised if nobody's favorite Czarnian comes back to comic shops everywhere during DC's second wave—especially if some of the “Dark” and “Edge” titles outsell something like OMAC, freeing up Keith Giffen for the gig.
Sun-Devils – Yes, I'm pushing for a Sun-Devils ongoing. This 12-issue maxiseries by Gerry Conway and Dan Jurgens is to Star Wars what Kamandi is to Planet of the Apes. And while it was never established as canon during its pre-Crisis existence, characters from the story have appeared in Superman and Brave and the Bold and the team was referenced in 52 and Geoff Johns's run on Booster Gold. It's a premise that has a lot of potential, with visually interesting characters and the fact that it's set in a “future that may never come to pass” creates almost unlimited opportunities in terms of what can happen and how dire the war can get.