DC has staked their claim on the month of September. Two years ago saw the relaunch of the entire publishing line, and last year saw special “zero” issues for every series. This year, DC is releasing 52 issues featuring villains, old and new, from the DC Universe. There’s no one-for-one correspondence to existing series, and DC hasn’t been the most forthcoming with information about what exactly they’re putting out. There’s a lot to sort through here and no easy answers for what’s going to be worth our time and money. Welcome to the Chat Cave.
Patrick: Oh man, DC is so bad at distributing information about this event. I get that we’re still a couple months out, but DC’s site only shows the solicits for eight issues. Last week, Drew and I would trade texts and gchat messages every time we uncovered a new piece of information. It took forever, but after trawling IGN, Newsarama, CBR, and Comic Book Movie (among others), we finally had a list of 52 Villains. Incidentally, Wikipedia beat us pretty handily and I’ve been able to confirm all of those with solicits except for Green Arrow 23.1 – Count Vertigo and Swamp Thing 23.1 – Arcane. I’ll admit that, while hunting this information down seems like a fucking hassle, I sort of love the scavenger-hunt nature of this announcement. It almost feels like DC is dolling out information in a frustratingly obtuse way because they know I like to collate data and process systems. It’s a damn puzzle — I made a damn Villain Month Spreadsheet!
There are a lot of creative teams missing from this line up. None of Geoff Johns’ old stalwarts (Ethan Van Sciver, Gary Frank, Doug Mahnke, Ivan Reis), no Steve Pugh (Animal Man), no Tony Akins or Cliff Chiang (Wonder Woman), no Greg Capullo (Batman), no J. H. Williams III (in fact, none of the Batwoman team appears here). Even the writing looks a little wonky: instead of seeing multiple titles from Gail Simone, Scott Snyder, Scott Lobdell and Jeff Lemire, they get one each. And while that’s sort of a bummer (coupled with the mega-bummer of seeing Ann Nocenti’s name on there twice), I do like the feeling that anything is possible with this line-up. Check out that Scarecrow issue drawn by Symon Kudranski (he recently did the “dead zone” parts of Green Lantern). Or how about three issues written by Brian Buccellato (Flash) and another three written by Charles Soule (Swamp Thing)? My point is that there seems to be enough chaotic potential here for September to be something special. Or a colossal failure. Either seems just as likely.
Drew: So…who do we think this is for? The New 52 was an obvious (and I think effective) method for courting new readers. Zero month was maybe kind of sort of for new readers, while also giving fans a bit more information about the new histories of characters in the New 52. Villains month, though, just seems about fucking up my pull list. It’s like somebody at DC got it in their heads that people love having their regularly scheduled programming interrupted, and nobody has ever bothered to question that. I just can’t understand why they would opt to preempt their entire line in order to bring us these things.
It sure as hell isn’t to bring in new readers. I could maybe (maybe) see some Joker fans or something out there picking up a Joker-centric issue, but I really doubt anybody is going to pick up something like Green Lantern: Relic on a whim. Indeed, it seems that the audience for some of these titles could only be smaller than those of their “parent” titles, what with the personnel changes and the fact that this whole stunt will be interrupting many arcs. That leaves Villains month as reasonably skip-able, which to me, seems worse than if DC simply hadn’t meddled with the good thing they have going (that is, their normal publications).
Like, even if this month did pull in some new fans, where are they supposed to go come October? Oh, you liked Charles Soule’s take on Lex Luthor? Too bad. Good luck enjoying him in either Scott Lobdell’s Superman OR Scott Lobdell’s Action Comics. It’s a tidy microcosm of DC’s “we’ll tell you what you want” attitude, but I think we’re all duly familiar with that by now. Again, who is this for?
Shelby: I just don’t know about this. On the one hand, I love a good villain. I love their twisted stories and the darkness they can bring to a book. Even more than a good villain, I love a good villain/hero pair: the way a villain can bring out the worst in the hero, push him to the very brink, stretch him in ways he couldn’t imagine. In a way, a good villain is more incorruptible than a good hero, because you can always count on the villain to be the villain. Heroes can be swayed, can make mistakes, can be persuaded, but a villain will always be bad. Villain stories are not easy to write; you can just throw some evil crazy on the page and call it a day, but a good villain story is complex and compelling. It makes you feel something for the villain, kinda gets under your skin. I would definitely take a month of being unsettled and seeing new sides of these characters I know so well.
Except that with maybe a few exceptions, I highly doubt that’s what I’m going to get. Don’t get me wrong, there are issues in September worth getting excited about. Snyder and Fawkes writing The Riddler? Guillem March doing pencils on Two Face? Absolutely, sign me up. But fifty-two issues of new creative teams and unrelated stories is a lot to wade through, and DC seems hellbent on making us work for it. If you go to DC’s Full Villains Month breakdown on their blog, you know what you’ll find? A list of twenty separate websites, each announcing a small part of Villains Month. Do you honestly think I’m going to go to twenty different websites to find some very basic information about what titles I should pull for September? Or is DC making us jump through fucking hoops in the hope that we’ll just get frustrated and buy every issue? As intrigued as I am by the concept, and as excited as I am for some of these issues, DC’s sloppy style of doling out information piecemeal and making me do the extra legwork to figure out what’s happening makes me much less interested in giving them so much of my money.
Mikyzptlk: I think you all might be forgetting about something important here. Something that will potentially change the face of comic books as we know it. 3D Lenticular Covers!
Okay, well I wouldn’t actually call these covers important or, ya know, face-changey. They are pretty cool though. Seriously, I can’t help but like these covers, and even though I do pretty much all of my reading digitally, I know I’m going to be picking up at least a few physical copies. At the same time though, these covers give off the familiar smell of a classic comic book gimmick. This, unfortunately, is where some of my trepidation towards this event stems from. However, Patrick, Drew, and Shelby have already expressed many of the same concerns I have towards this event, so I’d like to focus on the reason why I’m excited for it.
Patrick believes there is enough “chaotic potential” in this event that it can be a success. I’m inclined to believe that, but mainly because this event is seemingly a product of the overall story being told in The New 52. Do you remember Trinity War? It feels like it was announced about a decade before The New 52 ever was, but it’s finally coming out! Even after all this time, I’m genuinely excited for this as it promises to shake up the DCU quite nicely. This event seems to be what will spark Villains Month as well as what I consider the most important thing coming out of Villains Month, the Forever Evil miniseries.
Unlike Zero Month, which just seemed to be a random jump back in time for DC’s books, Villains Month seems to be a line-wide shift of focus due to the events spilling out of Forever Evil. I’m still not sure how organic this event will feel, but it does give me comfort to know that, at the very least, there will be an in-universe explanation for why we are suddenly paying so much attention to our villains. Lastly, can I just say how much joy it brings me to know that China Mieville is writing a Justice League book? SO. MUCH. JOY.
Image courtesy of BleedingCool.com
*Editor’s Note: After Shelby and Patrick wrote their pieces, DC did post the solicits for all 52 Villains (as well as Forever Evil 1). So the information is now all out there.