Comic Books Film Pop Culture

Mopesgiving v Hopesgiving: The Rebirth of DC Comics Fandom

By Miguel B. Martinez

(–Work in Progress–)

If you count yourself amongst those who have yet to see Justice League, first and foremost, I invite you to do so, in order to obtain your own assessment of this long-awaited film that will surely be a subject of contentiousness in geek circles for years to come.

In any case, there is a song that plays near the very beginning, and everyone should take a listen:

There’s a reason why this song struck a chord with everyone during the opening minutes of Justice League.

From the DC die-hards who’ve spent decades engrossed in the world of DC Comics to the newcomers who have only just begun to dip their toe into the rabbit hole, the song, Everybody Knows by Sigrid, touched us on multiple levels, because everybody knows the touch of injustice.

From what may seem like the simplistic and colorful corners of the comic book world, to the all-at-once mercurial and definitive divisions of the current political landscape, to the struggles of withstanding the blitzkrieg on our precious and sorely limited supplies of time, attention, and patience, there isn’t one of us who hasn’t felt like the world is out to damage our efforts to be the best representations of ourselves. All of us, at some point in our lives, have felt like the world was built on a crooked foundation.

It’s particularly easy to feel that way right now about the state of DC Comics fandom, as it’s becoming more and more clear that Warner Bros stands to lose face critically and commercially in the case of Justice League. It would seem that this failure to live up to the expectations thrust upon the film from forces within and without the production process will leave everyone involved in a state of commercial, emotional, and creative limbo.

Despite what can only be categorized as a triumph in this year’s earlier DC-branded offering, Wonder Woman, WB finds themselves in uncertain territory with the fallout of Justice League, the superhero ensemble Warner Bros has been building towards ever since the false-start of Green Lantern turned into the (at least) financially successful Man of Steel.

Lukewarm critical reception has dogged the DC movie-verse since WB released Man of Steel, causing many arguments between fans, new and old, as to whether or not Warner Bros’ late-to-the-party big screen attempt was an interpretation of an iconic character that we could, and should, live with and embrace. Fittingly, Superman was experiencing a similar ordeal in the source material, having shed much of his characteristics that the general public associates with the traditional take from the Richard Donner/Christopher Reeve films and going through such retroactive growing pains as:

– Separating from Lois Lane and starting a relationship with Wonder Woman
– Trading his cape and bright red briefs in for jeans and a t-shirt
– Abandoning his status as an American citizen in protest
– Giving up flight so that he may walk across the country

The reactions of longtime fans ranged from acceptance of this new idea to ambivalence towards an obviously temporary take to demanding blood for bismirching a beloved icon. I was somewhere in the middle, though watching this version of Superman bleed over into the mainstream DC movie-verse has begun to make me teeter towards the latter.

If this sounds dramatic, it’s only because I count myself as one of those aforementioned DC Comics nuts, and I make absolutely no apologies for it.

I’ve loved the DC icons ever since I picked up my first copy of The Dark Knight Returns 20 years ago. That particular tale was one especially suited for my then-adolescent mindset, as it also tapped into a sense of helplessness before showing there is indeed light at the end of a dark path: one simply must possess the will to seek it out. That was and remains my takeaway from Frank Miller’s iconic 1986 Batman story, and there will be some who take issue with this analysis.

There’s going to be people saying that TDKR is all about darkness, loss, anger, grief, and a prideful fire that seeks to purge the world of injustice, but, I disagree. In fact, I would say that the inability to see the light in the darkest stories is why we DC fans are in our current predicament. Rest assured, however, that there’s still time, and there’s always hope.

Enter Geoff Johns.

For those unfamiliar with his work, Geoff Johns has a habit of saving DC Comics from themselves when things start to get unruly. Johns has produced such noteable runs on DC titles like Teen Titans, Flash, Justice Society of America, JLA, Green Lantern, Superman, and Aquaman, and he’s taken a hand in restructuring the face of the DC Universe itself in events such as Infinite Crisis and Rebirth. Furthermore, Geoff Johns has written several live action adaptions of DC properties like Smallville, Arrow, and The Flash, in addition to providing the plot to the DC massively multiplayer online game DC Universe Online. These hefty credentials resulted in Johns being named Chief Creative Officer since 2010, giving him more power to influence DC properties outside of the comic book medium.

Save for perhaps Mark Waid, author of what is widely considered to be one of the greatest DC Comics stories ever produced, Kingdom Come, or Paul Dini, mastermind of the animated DC animated shows from the 1990s and beyond, there is no other author that’s been more influential on the modern landscape of DC Comics than Geoff Johns.

Johns has a lot on his plate. He looks upon the daunting task of shifting the tone and conversation about the DC movie-verse, which would be difficult enough by itself, but he also has to create a consistent anchor point in the monthly source material that appeals to both DC die-hards like me and new fans of all generations who may have only experienced the DC universe through the WB films.

How to accomplish this, though? One word: Rebirth.

Rebirth is simultaneously both the event and theme that’s dominating DC Comics right now. Longtime fans of DC and Johns are no stranger to the term, as Johns has found success in several character-specific reboots and reconstructions based on the same name, such as Green Lantern: Rebirth and Flash: Rebirth. Now, Johns is taking his flair for balancing decades worth of publication history against the mindset of a modern audience and turning it on the whole proverbial enchilada.

Johns’ fearless and ambitious approach to storytelling is going to be pushed to its limits, as it’s quickly become apparent that the goal of Rebirth was to introduce the characers of Alan Moore’s iconic 1985 maxi-series, Watchmen, into the mainstream DC Universe.

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