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November 6, 2011

The New DC Comics Universe

DC Comics recently "rebooted" its comics universe by canceling and then re-issuing all new #1s. The idea behind this was intriguing, and it brought me back to comics after 5 years away. Overall, I think it is a good choice. However, I do not think they went far enough with the concept. The editors, I'm guessing, were afraid of changing too much and alienating long-time fans. So you have some characters and titles in which nearly everything stayed the same, and other characters and titles that changed a great deal.

Batman, and more specifically all of his bat-family, hardly changed at all. Had I been in charge, I would have cleaned up all of the extra characters, cleaned up history for some of them, and eliminated others altogether (with an eye for recreating them in the future down the line, assuming that the reboot is successful. One of the change I'm definitely scratching my head over is that of Batgirl.

Barbara Gordon was Batgirl for the longest time, but then was shot in the spine by the Joker and paralyzed. Rather than sending the character to the sidelines, DC re-thought the character and had her become Oracle. Still paralyzed, she became the "information broker" for the Bat-family and the rest of the heroic side of the DC Universe, as well as a member of Birds of Prey. She became not only an interesting character, but was one of the few handicapped characters to be a positive role model in the DC Universe. With this new reboot, however, Barbara Gordon is in a weird place where she still was shot in the spine by the Joker, but somehow got better and is back to being Batgirl. So it works out that DC loses one of its more interesting, handicapped heroes and replaces it with yet another Bat-family character (to go with Batman, Robin, Nightwing, Batwoman, Batwing, and Red Hood).

Static is another character who changed very little. He's still from Dakota (moved to New York), and it appears that all of his history remains pretty much intact. The problem here is more the story and artwork being below expectation.

How they handled Superman was better. They altered his costume (both in the past as shown in Action Comics and in the present in his own title). They altered how he reacts and acts. They decided to kill off both of his parents again (the Kents have been alive and dead a number of times in his continuity). They are playing up the 'alien' side a bit more than they have before. It is the same character, with basically the same moral code, but it is also all new and fresh, too. This was a good change and makes the character more interesting.

Wonder Woman has also changed in subtle ways. She is still an Amazon from Paradise Island, but her mother, who the Amazons are, and how and why Wonder Woman was created has been altered. So far, it all seems to work well.

Other characters changed in dramatic and unexpected ways. For example, Captain Atom (a personal favorite of mine) is a mixture of the silver-skinned version and the Doctor Manhattan version seen in The Watchmen. This makes him one of the most powerful characters in the revised universe. Firestorm is now a three-way threat; he is both Ronald Raymond and Jason Rusch as separate heroes with different, but similar costumes, and they can combine into a larger, angrier, and more powerful form called Fury.

Who is in and how the Justice League is formed has been played with and altered, too. How the characters interact with one another is very different.

In a surprise move, DC decided to release a bunch of titles using lesser names in starring roles, including the  Creature Commandos, OMAC, Resurrection Man, I, Vampire, Mr. Terrific, Animal Man, Swamp Thing, and others. Most of these simply aren't interesting enough to carry their own books and are usually better served as secondary heroes, guest stars, or members of a team. Animal Man and Swamp Thing are really the only two that have enough of a following to separate from the crowd and possibly last long-term.

All in all, while I'm enjoying the change and am back buying comics again for the first time in five years, I feel like DC didn't go far enough. They had the opportunity to really effect some good change, maybe by completely re-configuring characters that could use a change, by increasing female and minority character presences (or by changing existing characters to a new gender or race), and by redoing some of the convoluted histories of many characters. In the end, they took the easier route of changing characters that were more fringe and keeping a lot of the old history intact and in place, even if it might be confusing to new readers.

I'm going to keep with it for at least a few more issues and see where they go and how the stories play out. I'm hopeful that the changes will stay in effect and that more will be coming. Here's hoping that DC can introduce a nice, new, simple Power Girl, for example. I'm hopeful that DC will continue to produce high-quality comics and that old readers will come back, new readers will take this opportunity to come on board, and that this medium will not perish in the new economic realities that all companies are struggling to find their way in.

November 4, 2011

Food Cravings

I have been consuming copious quantities of some pretty strange things lately. For example, I got on a kick where heavily buttered bread was all I wanted to eat, and was practically all I ate for about a week and a half (went through a few loaves of bread in that time).

Then, suddenly, it was salami and provolone. Not on a sandwich, I've been just taking the cheese and meat out of the bag, sandwiching them together (sometimes with pepperoni), and eating that exclusively. And chocolate milk has been high on the list. I had quesadillas every day for lunch (and a couple of times for dinner) every day for a week.

I believe that, for the most part, when you get a craving for something, it is because your body knows it needs something and it knows it got it from that food. Not sure what I have been missing or needing lately that buttered bread, cheese, salami, and chocolate milk covers, but it has been a severe craving.

This all seems to be coming to a close now. I'm not feeling the lusty need for these items any more, and I can go back to normal quantities. Who knows what the next craving will be?