With the release of the Zero Issues in September, DC is publishing origin stories for all of their current New 52 series. (Not so fast, JLI). They will also be introducing 4 new series by this same method. What are your thoughts on the new books? Are you interested in getting more origins on stories that just started over a year ago? With the sheer number of events and crossovers since the relaunch, is this just another easy cash grab or a meaningful addition to universe?
Peter: It is no secret that I love backstory and history. With the announcement of #0 issues that coincide with the 1 year anniversary of the New 52, I was pretty stoked. For me, these #0 issues, along with a ‘Third Wave’ with 3 interesting titles, there is probably NO WAY this could go bad. But then again, after some thinking there are DEFINITELY ways it could, and that’s what worries me.
With the ‘Third Wave’, I am about 75% excited. We at Retcon Punch unanimously agreed that if there was an entire book dedicated to Talons that we would read it. Believe me: we are going to read it. The main sticking point for me is going to be how well this mimics the style of the backstories that we have already seen from the Talons in the Night of the Owls. Phantom Stranger has always been a bit of an enigma in the DC Universe. How we get from Judas to now, and ties with Pandora and the Question will be exciting to read. Also, Team 7 should be particularly interesting because it includes a whole lot of characters that I have never read before, because they come from the WildStorm Universe. (Earth-50)
As for the #0 issues, I’m pretty pumped. This is right up my alley. I like that this can create new jumping on points for new readers, albeit they would then have to pick up the 12 other issues they missed, but it doesn’t scream cash-grab. I am worried that these may end up creating more questions than they answer. It would not be unlike DC to do that. Hopefully they will steer clear of that and present excellent stand alone issues. Also, the potential to take away from continuing storylines worries me a bit. For example, most of the Bat-Books just started new storylines in the wake of Night of the Owls. Will they finish those up by September, or will there be an awkward month in the middle of the stories?
Patrick: Oh, Peter, I don’t think we need to worry about wrapping up stories to get out of the way of zero issues. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the on-going story arcs simply pause for a month to let some backstory through. And it’s also possible that the origin stories in question will relate directly to what’s going on in the forward-moving story. It’s not like this was sprung on the creatives last minute – I’m sure the publisher-wide mandate came with a helpful list of procedures not to fuck this up.
But here’s how they might fuck this up.
I like imposing artificial forms and restrictions on art as much as the next guy, but let me tell you what I don’t really care about: origin stories. Establishing a universe and a character and a whole set of motivations is tough work, and even when it’s done with the utmost grace, you can still see the wheels of exposition grinding away, keeping you away from all that meaty STORY BITS just on the other side. And we’ve already gotten so much in the way of origin on all these ALREADY REBOOTED series (like I can’t imagine what origin Swamp Thing #0 will show me).
The only slices of back-story I’m interested in right now concern the Big Shit in the DC Universe: The Three Sinners, Team Seven, Justice League, The Trinity War – that stuff. But then there’s going to be like another 40 zero issues… just because…
Shelby: Peter, when you posed the question, you asked “cash-grab or meaningful addition.” I’m going to go with both, and I’m completely ok with that. I think sometimes it’s easy for us nerds to forget that DC is a business, with expenses to cover. Are a lot of their publication decisions going to be driven by the thought of capitol gain? Probably: I hear that’s how business works. When I was in college, my senior year I took a class that was basically on the mechanics of being a professional artist: how to price art for galleries, write a C.V., etc. One of the first days of class we learned that there’s no such thing as selling out, because you have to eat and pay rent and have money to exist. For DC, this is an opportunity to make a big deal over their titles and get some extra dollars…
…as well as give us an extended view into the universes that have been crafted by talented artists and writers. Are some of them going to be crap? Oh, most definitely. I have faith in my favorites over at DC to give us something meaningful and interesting and fun to read, and the rest are probably titles I’m not reading for a reason anyway. As far as Patrick’s dislike of origin stories: I understand, but I’m not worried about it. Since I still haven’t read Flashpoint, there are a lot of things about this version of the DCU that I’m still a little shaky on, so I welcome the chance for a little more info.
Drew: I’ve often expressed my distain regarding origin stories on this site, but the idea of zero issues somehow doesn’t bother me. I suppose part of it is that the zero issues don’t seem to promise origins so much as they promise stories that take place before the first issues, which is a heck of a lot more open-ended. For example, I’ve read that Batman #0 will be set in a kind of Year One point in Bruce’s life. That’s a well that’s been returned to a few times, to be sure, but it’s much more interesting to me than seeing Thomas and Martha get shot for the umpteenth time. (Though, to be honest, I’d probably be pretty interested in Scott Snyder’s take on Batman’s “origin.”) I’m sure many titles will opt for the origin story, but I’m holding out hope that those are mostly titles I’m not reading.
This certainly could be seen as a cynical cash-grab, and I’ll agree that it’s entirely unnecessary for the vast majority of titles. At the same time, I have enough faith in the writers and artists I like to make something good come of even the most unnecessary endeavors (see also: our coverage of Before Watchmen). The one thing that irks me about the zero issues is that they may very well be throwing a wrench in the gears of some of the harder-reset titles, which have often used the vagueness of their heroes’ pasts as a huge asset. We don’t know what happened between the first and second arcs of Justice League, but that mystery has been one of the things I’ve been most excited about for that title. The thought of unceremoniously plopping down answers to questions that have been driving the narrative smacks of season two of Twin Peaks, which is probably about as inelegant as a mystery can be wrapped-up.