First things first, Amy Chu is fantastic. She’s writing a new Poison Ivy mini-series for DC Comics as part of a new line of minis that are set to debut in 2016, and she is the perfect choice of writer to do a fresh and contemporary take on the character, which is what DC claims they’re aiming for with this line. Chu’s an experienced writer outside of the Big Two with a lot of interesting credits, and she should bring a cool, new perspective to an old character and to the world of superheroes in general. Smart move, DC, and yay, Amy Chu!
But now onto the other seven titles. DC’s co-publisher Dan DiDio told USA Today that the goal of these minis is to “freshen up and contemporize” these characters, so let’s take a look at the titles:
- Swamp Thing by Len Wein
- Metal Men by Len Wein
- Raven by Marv Wolfman
- Firestorm by Gerry Conway
- Katana: Cult of the Kobra by Mike W. Barr
- Metamorpho by Aaron Lopresti
- Sugar & Spike by Keith Giffen
These are all just the writers, by the way, because for some reason NONE of the artists were mentioned. It’s not like it’s a visual medium or anything.
Carrying on, several of these titles are being written by the men who created the characters decades ago, which seems an odd way to go for fresh, contemporary takes. Moreover, here are the ages of the six white men writing these titles:
- Len Wein – 67
- Marv Wolfman – 69
- Gerry Conway – 62
- Mike W. Barr – 63
- Aaron Lopresti – 51
- Keith Giffen – 62
I fail to see how a group of men with an average age of 62.3 years old are, to quote DiDio, “the best writers for these characters” when the task is to freshen up and contemporize them. All of these men are certainly talented writers and I respect their work and, for several of them, their legacies, but the last thing the superhero world needs more of is old, white guys reintroducing characters and trying to make them relevant and interesting. That rarely goes well. Especially when so many of them have such close ties to past incarnations of the characters. This is where you introduce new voices and new talent, find the NEW Marv Wolfman and the NEW Len Wein, not bring back the same old creators. This would be a KILLER lineup in 1987, but it’s not 1987 anymore.
Old white guy writers aside, I’m pleased to see that 3.5 of the 8 new series are led by female characters. That’s a definite plus. While only 1 of 8 series being written by a woman is disappointing, it’s nice to see women represented somewhere at least, even if they’re fictional women.
I’m not particularly optimistic for this mini-series line. DC has a lot of talk in the USA Today article about continuing the characters in other books if the minis prove popular, but I’m concerned that they might debut low and tumble from there. Most of the characters and creators just aren’t big grabs anymore. Scott Snyder couldn’t make Swamp Thing a huge seller, so I really doubt Len Wein is going to move some units. I think that Poison Ivy could do well, and Raven might have enough residual love as a character to debut okay, but other than that this seems like a lot of stale creators and stale concepts. It almost feels like DC is worried that their June #DCYou books didn’t go over well with their over-40 reader crowd, and so they’re course correcting with old favourites to win them back. Commit to the new, DC. Live in the future.
I got a lot of interesting feedback about this piece yesterday, some thoughtful and some amusingly rude. I went on Twitter last night to reiterate my larger point, and I’ve also done so below in the comments, but here’s a transcript of my Twitter response, in a more readable paragraphed form, so that everyone can now read it when they read this post:
I certainly didn’t mean to suggest that guys like Wein, Wolfman, et al. shouldn’t be getting work. They’re legends. However, a line written primarily by white men who’ve been in comics for decades sends, intentionally or not, a bad message about diversity.
I understand that comics is a rough industry for older creators, and my problem isn’t with them for doing the gigs. But it’s also a tough industry for women and POC who have been rarely afforded the opportunity to break into the Big Two in the first place.
My issue is with DC for not putting together a more diverse and representative line. Hire some old white guys, sure, but ALSO hire woefully underrepresented folks getting their first shot at superheroes. Doing just the former doesn’t send a great message.
And for everyone going “But DC’s June #DCYou books!” Yes, ONE TIME DC put together a slightly more diverse lineup. SLIGHTLY. That doesn’t mean they can stop doing that now, or that it’s cool to even things out with these new minis.