Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Young Justice is Better than The Regular DCU: Yeah, I said It

Slight Spoilers for Young Justice: Invasion

Since the start of the post-DC reboot comics, I've personally been finding the overall tone of the comics to be somewhat uneven. There ARE good books there, I feel that I have to say, Scott Snyder's Batman, James Robinson's Shade and Brian Azzarello's Wonder Woman all being very enjoyable thus far, but I can't help feel that there wasn't really a plan, as such, as to how everything fits together as a cohesive whole.

Now, a lot of these issues were brought up by the Reboot occuring in the first place, but while some of the issues have been resolved (the status of Captain Marvel and his associated characters, for example), others really haven't. The frank mess that has been made regarding issues such as: what is and what isn't canon any more, the juvenile approach to sex and violence, the bizarre return to mid-90s style character designs etc. has made reading some of the new content confusing at best and down right offensive at worst in some cases.

An example of these changes in action can be seen in the new Blue Beetle series. The original series was critically acclaimed both by professional people within the industry and by people within the comicbook fandom itself, with support for the character being as such that, despite kind of low sales, the series managed to clock up a 36 issue run despite this. Jaime Reyes was even deemed popular enough to appear in DC's show Batman: the Brave and the Bold as a reoccuring supporting cast member. The series was a fun, well written book that made a lot of breaks from the standard formula... but it had the problem of being heavily tied to DC's Infinite Crisis event in regards to Jaime's superhero origin. So understandibly, when they rebooted the entire range of comics, they decided to make it a bit simpler and more insular, so that new readers could just step onto the series without having to do homework.

All well intentioned and understandable, and with the new 52 coming about, a lot of the fans of the original series were looking forward to a return to Jaime's series when it was announced. But large amounts of people were understandibly turned off by the sudden shift in tone from the original series to the new one. Gone was the support cast that knew Jaime's secret and generally light hearted tone of the original, in was a more darker story where Jaime was physically stopped from telling people his identity, the Scarab actively tried to make him murder people against his will, and he had to resolve one conflict by smacking one of his best friends in the face... "for her own good". Again, I can kind of see what they were going for here, they were trying to tell a story about how scary it must be for Jaime to suddenly have a piece of hostile alien technology fuse to his spine and hijack his body occasionally... But that isn't really what people want when they read a Blue Beetle story with Jaime Reyes.

I get the idea that the DCnU suffers from the same problem that Countdown to Final Crisis did, in that it was put together by marketing people and the editorial rather than people who are actually involved in the creative process more directly. They feel that because Barbara Gordon is the most familiar Batgirl to people who don't read the comics, for example, so having her be Batgirl again would attract more readers than either of the two women that succeeded her in the comics, Cassandra Cain or Stephanie Brown.

Batgirl 6
Again, they seemed to want to reduce the amount of Homework people needed to do to understand the story, but this theory is repeatedly contradicted by the constant references to Alan Moore's Killing Joke and Scott Snyder's more recent Black Mirror story. The former is pretty much recapped within Gail Simone's new Batgirl series, but the latter ends up contradicting ITSELF in their attempt to get it to fit with the new storylines Barbara is going through.

And then there's the assumption that they can attract the readership from Stephanie Brown's Batgirl series by deaging Barbara Gordon to roughly the same age as her successor, along with transplanting a large chunk of Steph personality-wise into the "Original"... The thing is, people get attached to characters, you can't just take bits from them and stick them onto someone else, and assume that people would like the second characters more. This attitude that there are right and rong characters for the characters to be fans of isn't helped by the seeming attitude by some of the DC Editorial, who appear to outright refuse to let writers use characters that they want to use, Scott Snyder with Cassandra Cain and Bryan Q Miller with Stephanie Brown for example,  on the basis that they might seemingly "detract" from the original is yet another one of the Reboot's big problems...

And, look, I know that I've pretty much flogged this dead horse to paste by this point, but really when you have writers who have made a large amount of critical and commercial acclaim with characters, and would like to use them in certain ways, taking the characters away and telling them that no one is allowed to use them... doesn't really seem like good business sense. To me at least, if there is a market for more than one of the three main Batgirls, they should be more willing to exploit it. The fact that they can't even keep details like who Batgirl is right even on their own damn website doesn't help matters.

Bryan Q Millar has talked about recently how he misses writing Steph's series... but isn't allowed to use her in anything anymore, due to ill defined "plans" that they refer to whenever they are asked about them at conventions.  Or when they are allowed to use then, they are subject to being told how they can be used as the focus in the story, for example, how Scott Snyder originally planned for Gates of Gotham to be a Cass Cain story that involved her adoptive brothers, rather than vice versa.

And these things are why I honestly kind of prefer the YJverse to the standard post-reboot DCU now. The restrictions as to what characters they can use in the show now are only held in line at this point by the writer's personal choice, as opposed to someone who, for example, isn't even a fan of comics but is allowed to say who goes into one through looking at customer research and demographics.

So in YJ, if they decide to have Madame Xanadu in a story, they have Madame Xanadu. If they have an episode beginning in Star City, then they have a pre-heroics Arrowette show up and fangirl Green Arrow and Artemis when they rescue her dad from Evil!Spider-Man, aka Black Spider. They can reference Abel's House of Mysteries. Mercy Graves can show up in some form. The Doom Patrol can be referenced via one of the members' prehero acting career.

In the YJverse, there is even a legacy of superheroics with the JSA and the like starting back in the 1940s, which connects the heroes of the present day back to a larger universe and gives characters time to breathe. This is something that was lost to the regular DCU during the Reboot: a sense of history and scale.

 Heck, even with the new season that started this last weekend, which takes place five years after the first season and ten years since the debut of the current generation of superheroes, they actually have enough of a time scale for everything to slot easily into place regarding more recent legacy characters. For example, they have at least two people who were Robin in the show now. This is opposed to.. say... the current DC Comics idea that EVERYTHING outside of the Religion of Crime and the Court of Owls has happened in the last five years. EVERYTHING, including Batman starting and having at least four Robins and maybe two Batgirls, Barbara getting shot and getting better again, Infinite Crisis, 52, RIP, Return of Bruce Wayne, Batman Inc., the Sinestro Corps War etc. etc. etc.

Suicide Squad
My point in summary? Due to the creative team of YJ having more control over what goes into their series, and its comicbook, Young Justice feels to me to be more like the DCU that I grew to like as a comicbook fan. Sure, it isn't perfect, but what work of fiction is? Yes, they have Barbara Gordon as Batgirl, but the potential for Cassandra Cain, Stephanie Brown, Azrael, etc. to appear is greater than in the regular DCU. Jaime Reyes is more in line with his pre-reboot self than his post-reboot version is, for another example. The freedom that the YJ writing staff have in regards to what goes into their stories is much more refreshing than the sense of dread that some of the new 52 books invoke through just wondering what might happen to the characters next. And not in a "how will they get out of this deathtrap?" sense, but in a "Oh, Harley Quinn just compared her vagina to a clown car, classy" sense.

I suppose that there is just a sense of irony involved that the people who aren't necessarily part of the DC Stable proper are handling the characters and stories with more respect than the people who SHOULD at the moment.


  1. How quite true.
    The new DCU is such a dark, serious and mess of a place. This goes from being "improvised" by all sorts of creative teams without any guidance. Unlike YJ, where it is obviously much more planned with seasons well ahead in mind.

    Also, there's just a big lack of fun and creativity in the books. I mean, this reboot's forcing me to go "back in time" and read instead lots of 80s DC comics which were lots more interesting and unique.
    Back when they still had Julius Schwartz around, you had such original new ideas like Booster Gold, Blue Devil, Angel & the Ape, Ambush Bug and tons more original creations...


  2. I did like a lot of the books right before the reboot like Grant Morison's Batman and Robin, as insane as it was. But the tangled continuity alone makes me dizzy. I'm trying not to get too involved in whatever happens right now because the most obvious way to reboot this mess would be for people to find out Barry changed history, yell at him, and figure out how to change it back.

    At first, the weird mismash of YJ confused me, but after a while I realized there was at least an internal consistency. Though Roy Harper really gets a rougher deal here (I mean, he loses his arm again in comics and his daughter, but that was in a stupid book. He didn't get his prime sidekick years turned into 3 years in a jar.)

    1. Well in the tv show, they've continued to introduce parts of the preboot DCU with the introduction of a certain character this week...

      Stand by for my review and recap later, or just hop over to DC Women Kicking Ass to see the spoiler,