October 9, 2011 | News
It’s the end of an era for DC Comics.
Or, more importantly, it’s a new beginning.
After more than 70 years of bringing the world the adventures of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and dozens of other well-known characters, the historic company has hit the reset button.
It has re-launched its entire line of comics with an event dubbed “the New 52” (after the number of rebooted titles they’ve released) in a massive effort to de-clutter complicated continuity and make its books more accessible to new readers.
On the forefront of this initiative are three local comic creators — Francis Manapul, Jeff Lemire and Ken Lashley — all of whom agreed it was probably high time for a fresh take on the DC universe.
“I’ve always thought that DC kind of needed to do something like this because their history was so complicated,” said Lemire, who is writing Animal Man and Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. amid “the New 52”.
“I always felt like doing something like this would be a great way to get new people into comics and into (DC) comics and so I was really happy when they announced this initiative and pretty excited about it.”
Manapul, pictured above, who is now co-writing and illustrating the fast-paced DC standard, The Flash, said the decision caught him off guard.
“I was absolutely shocked because DC is usually perceived as the slow-and-steady company,” he said. “It was such a bold move for DC to be making that I thought ‘you really can’t help but be excited.’”
Lashley, co-artist of issue No. 1 of the military-themed Blackhawks and cover artist for that series along with new titles Bat-Wing and Suicide Squad, admitted he initially had mixed emotions about the re-launch.
“Part of me is saying ‘wow, this is great you want to start fresh’ and (another part) says ‘what’s going by the wayside is part of history,’” he said.
Getting involved with “the New 52” came as a bit of a surprise, Lashley said. “I was asked by (DC editor) Mike Marts to do a book, sort of a cool military book, not even figuring it was part of this new re-launch,” he said.
When he quickly learned working on the book was going to require a commitment he couldn’t manage alongside his day job at Toronto’s TransGaming Inc., he opted to contribute to the re-launch exclusively as a cover artist.
Best-known for his dynamic illustration work on books like Witchblade and Legion of Super-Heroes, Manapul adds writing to his repertoire as part of “the New 52” — something he didn’t take on lightly.
“It’s the perfect storm of potentially choking,” he said with a laugh. “(Co-writer Brian Buccellato and I) getting our first big shot at writing this book, this re-launch, everyone’s expecting big sales, everyone’s expecting the book to, at the very least, look good — it was very daunting.
“It really boils down to me thinking about it when I was 14-, 15-years-old, reading The Flash comic and thinking ‘one day I would love to write and draw this thing.’
“Once I started thinking about that, it really took everything else away.”
The decision to take on both Animal Man and Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. stemmed from their diversity, Lemire said.
“I think the books are different, which is something I was looking for,” he said. “Animal Man is a very furious, very dark, emotional story, while Frankenstein is a really big, fun action-adventure, kind of over-the-top sort of thing.”
Animal Man has already been singled out by many critics as a highlight of the re-launched DC lineup and Lemire said part of its success no doubt stems from how personal the book has gotten for him.
“Of all the stuff I’ve written for DC so far, (Animal Man’s Buddy Baker) seems to be the character I can relate to the most,” he said. “Like me, he’s a father and a husband and so it’s very easy to put myself in his shoes and take that family aspect and build out from that.”
The opportunity to get on the ground floor of this updated DC universe was very appealing, Manapul said, because of its historic potential.
“The more you think about this initiative and the books that are spawning out of it, potentially what you’re seeing right now — how the Flash is portrayed, how Superman is portrayed — this could be how these characters are perceived for the next century,” he noted.
And as for long-time readers who aren’t too impressed with losing those 70-plus years of history and investment they’ve made in DC’s characters, Lemire says it’s time to accept change.
“This is not just something they’re trying out,” he said. “This is going to stick, for better or for worse.
“There are a lot of detractors out there, but the fact of the matter is: the books are selling really, really well and it seems to be a success on pretty much every level, so I can’t see it going back to the old way. I think it’s here to stay.”
Lashley, on the other hand, thinks there’s always potential for a new “New 52” down the road.
“Let’s be real: this is comic books, right? There’s always a reset button somewhere,” he said. “That’s the fluid nature of comics.”
(This article first appeared in the Toronto Star)