Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Brave and the Bold

Looking over the List of the "New 52" DC titles, I'm struck by the redundancy. There's, what, 4 titles - Batman, Detective Comics, Batman: The Dark Knight, and Batman and Robin - where Batman is in a lead role, plus a handful of comics where he's a supporting character (although I bet he steals the show as per usual in Justice League). Top that off with the return of Batman, Inc in a few weeks and that makes for a very busy Bat.

Now, I can't fault DC for wanting to feature its most bankable characters as much as possible, but I wonder if this is just hamstringing future growth? Batman's non-comic media presence has long outstripped his funnybook income, so at what point does the comic take a back seat to the movies? I believe the future of comics is in the creation of ideas, characters, and stories that can then be spun off into other media properties. To rehash popular characters over and over again may be a good tactical move, but it's hardly a strategic one. A long term winning strategy would be to try out as many new characters (or revamp ones from DC's 75+ year legacy) as possible to see what sticks.

While DC is doing this, they don't seem to be doing it with any gusto. You can't be embracing new ideas while publishing a half dozen Batman titles. Add on top of that the list of titles that are "required" from DC - your Supermen, your Justice Leagues, your Lanterns, etc. - and you're suddenly left with very little room for new ideas. Importing Vertigo and WildStorm characters is a novel idea, but they're not anything new, they're just fully developed characters being presented to a larger audience.

So of the 52, what would I consider "new"? Batwing and I, Vampire seem to be the only titles headlining characters that didn't exist, say, a year ago. There are some potentially decent revamps in Mister Terrific and O.M.A.C. that hopefully will attempt to take some minor characters to the next level. (These two steps forward are offset by the one step back that hit Harley Quin - why they couldn't have just imported Duela Dent for that role, I dunno.)

But then again, maybe I'm just bitter. Limiting even the most popular characters in the Drewniverse - Batman - to just two titles - Batman and Detective Comics - has made things harder for me. I'd be done by now, farting out some Dark Knight, Batman Inc., and Batman and Robin titles to go along with my two. I admit the temptation is there and it's one that I'm going to give in to.


So The Brave and the Bold began life as an anthology comic, then became a themed comic, then a Team-Up comic, and then specifically a team-up comic featuring Batman. We'll start off our Brave and the Bold (#49/52) featuring Batman in one of the team-up roles, but once we're done with that first arc, we'll use the title as more of an opportunity to highlight minor characters who might be lost in their ensemble titles, develop new ones, and test out potential new series. Like Tales of the Green Lantern Corps and All-Star Villainy, The Brave and the Bold will be a test-lab of the Drewniverse focusing on developing new heroes rather than new sci-fi elements or villains.

And the first "new" character to be developed? Robin.

You will remember, of course, that Barbara Gordon has swapped her cowl for a power ring and Dick Grayson is out on walkabout, beating up knock-off Batmen. We've covered the candidates for the new Robin and The Brave and the Bold will feature their stories and their eventual tryouts for the job. This will free up our primary Batman title to deal with punching rogue clowns, always a plus, and while still spreading the marketability of Batman around.

Once our Robin is picked (and I'd want it to be a vote - I figure if a phone poll could kill a Robin, it could make one too), The Brave and the Bold would transition to being a team-up title, Batman optional. The basic format would be a team up between an established DC character and a newer, younger, or more obscure one. People may not be enthused by Metamorpho on his own, but after seeing him team up with Superman to stop an army of mutant lavamen from the Earth's molten core, they might be a bit more interested and would go and seek out the comic Metamorpho appears in.

In this way, we walk the line between featuring the bankable characters fans want to see and developing new ones for their future devotion.

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