Sunday, August 26, 2012

Wednesday Comics Vs. "The New 52"

In 2009, DC Comics launched Wednesday Comics, an ambitious project that relied on the publishers deep stable of character and top talent comprised of industry veterans, superstar creators and up-and-comers to temporarily revive the classic Sunday adventure comic strip.

Published large newsprint and available each Wednesday, the project was essentially a funny pages of DC Comics characters. Not all of the strips worked all that well. Some worked better than others, some worked better some weeks than others, but it was undoubtedly a success—a project designed to grab attention and to hold it, and, it's worth noting, providing easily accessible versions of the various characters in standalone stories that should have proven just as entertaining to folks who had never read a DC comic book as they would have to old hands.

I began thinking about Wednesday Comics again a few months into DC's 2011 "New 52" reboot/rebranding, as so many of the stated goals of it seemed to coincide with what DC had done a few years earlier with Wednesday Comics. In short, I was curious to see how many of the characters characters/features from Wednesday Comics were also chosen as stars in The New 52, and how many of the creators from the earlier project were involved in relaunching the DC Universe.

Wednesday Comics had 15 regular features, starring 16 different characters/teams of characters: Batman, Kamandi, Superman, Deadman, Green Lantern, Metamorpho, Teen Titans, Strange Adventures starring Adam Strange, Supergirl, Metal Men, Wonder Woman, Sgt. Rock and Easy Company, The Flash, Hawkman and The Demon and Catwoman, who shared a feature.

Of those, ten characters received their own titles in the initial 52 books of the New 52 (and, in the case of Superman, Batman and the Green Lantern characters, multiple titles apiece), so it’s easier to name those who didn’t: Kamandi, Adam Strange, Metamorpho, The Metal Men and Deadman didn't get their own books (although Deadman has appeared in Justice League Dark, and the initial DC Presents story arc). (If you’re wondering about Sgt. Rock, his grandson starred in the short-lied Men of War series, which was canceled after eight issues, and The Demon lends his name to the title of the ensemble book Demon Knights, in which he appears).

Very few of the 27 writers and artists involved had New 52 projects.

Batman writer Brian Azzarello was and remains the writer of Wonder Woman.

Kamandi artist Ryan Sook has provided cover art for DC Comics Presents. Supergirl writer Jimmy Palmiotti has been co-writing All-Star Western, co-wrote The Ray and will be co-writing the upcoming Phantom Lady minis-series, which Supergirl artist Amanda Conner is providing cover art for.

Metal Men writer Dan DiDio wrote the short-lived OMAC series (which, like Men of War, was one of the first titles canceled with its eighth issue), an arc of DC Comics Presents and will soon be writing an upcoming Phantom Stranger series.

And that’s it.

Some of these creators would have been rather unlikely ones to continue their vision, or similarly reinvent other characters, on a regular, monthly DC comic book—Metamorpho writer Neil Gaiman, for example—and others have continued to work for DC in other capacities (Azzarello, Conner and the late, great Joe Kubert all worked on various aspect of that stupid Watchmen thing, Allred and Eduardo Risso on Vertigo projects), but there are some very talented, familiar superhero creators in this mix—Kurt Busiek, John Arcudi, Karl Kerschel—and some exciting new comers—like Ben Caldwell or Sean Galloway—whose presence in the New 52 would have been welcome.

I wonder if it's also worth noting how little effort went in to redesigning the more iconic characters. Paul Pope, another artist whose stature is such it's hard to imagine him on a monthly, in-continuity DC Comic, redesigned the hell out of Adam Strange, of course, but mostly by bringing the pretty generic sci-fi/fantasy elements up-to-date from their post-WWII trappings. Lee Bermejo gave Superman an S-sheild belt-buckle like the one Brandon Routh wore in the last Superman movie. And that's...that's about it, really. Caldwell redesigned the villains and supporting cast members of Wonder Woman, but his Wonder Woman looked and dressed almost exactly like the DCU one.

The New 52, meanwhile, rather radically redesigned everyone's costumes, including Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Hawkman and The Flash, about a half dozen of the best superhero costumes in esistence.


Martin Jackson said...

I had forgotten about Wednesday comics.

If only the new 52 could have been something like that or the short lived Solo series

Anthony Strand said...

@Martin - Both of those things were edited by Mark Chiarello, who also organized "Batman: Black & White." Cool guy, that Mark Chiarello.

Anthony said...

This is SOOOOO much better than the new 52. And unlike the crappy new 52, this isn't so alienating and they have the heroes i know and love :)