The Desperate Search for the Rare, Elusive, Original Reboot Joke

Extreme Scooby!

All-new all-different Scooby-Doo art by DC Comics VP Jim Lee. To the EXTREME.

Just when you thought entertainment corporations had cooled down on the idea of rebooting their property catalogs, along comes a day like today to remind you to stop overestimating entertainment corporations. This morning Entertainment Weekly reported Hanna-Barbera has struck a deal with DC Comics — that bastion of work-for-hire literary integrity — to jump-start some of its most well-known characters as 21st-century comics for a new generation who doesn’t know them and/or an old generation that will shell out money for any repackaged remnants of their childhood.

The article linked above includes teaser images from DC’s planned reboots of Scooby-Doo (now with weapons and tattoos!), the Flintstones (realistic proportions + painful Stone Age puns = PROFIT), Space Ghost and Brak (no more Adult Swim irony, natch), and more. (Jonny Quest’s cast looks surprisingly unchanged, but we’ll see what happens after half of them are killed in the first issue.) The official press release offers additional details omitted from the EW summation, including the part where the Scooby Gang will be fighting nanites, which are now officially Over if they weren’t already. (Trivia undisclosed in the article: DC, Hanna-Barbera, and EW share the same giant parent company.)

It didn’t take long for Twitter to burst into laughter and kick off another round of reboot jokes. Within the first thirty seconds after I caught the news, I next saw other users lining up to brainstorm concepts for a grim-‘n’-gritty Yogi Bear, scoffing about a Jabberjaw revival, hoping Mighty Man and Yukk were up for grabs, and so on. By the time I got home after a long work day and in a better position to interact, I didn’t even bother checking Twitter because I assumed all the best jokes and obvious intellectual properties were spoken for, and my late contributions would be tired and redundant. What’s a sarcastic guy to do?

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My 2015 at the Movies, Part 1 of 2: The Year’s Least Best

Jai Courtney!

Jai Courtney comin’ up on loot at the thrift shop while waiting for a call back from the producers of Lethal Weapon 5.

Once again it’s National List Month, when all of Hollywood runs down to Hallmark and buys “For Your Consideration” cards to mail out to their fifty thousand closest friends. Meanwhile on the internet, where no one sends us free stuff to buy our love, we dedicated theater-goers are forced to make up our own minds, revisit our opinions, and vote with our bullet points. It’s just this fun thing some of us love doing even though the rules are made up and the points don’t matter.

I saw twenty-six films in theaters in 2015, but five were Best Picture nominees released in 2014 and therefore disqualified from this list, even though two of them amazed me, because I’m an unreasonable stickler about dates. Also disqualified are a few 2015 indie releases I watched via the graces of Netflix as well as one recent sci-fi film I caught on Blu-ray last night. Of the remaining 21 contenders, one was a reboot, ten were sequels or continuations of long-running series, and one was arguably both depending on how you feel about time travel consequences. Call it a “bootquel”, I guess.

Right this way for our least favorite films of the year!

Grieving the Erasure of Your Favorite Corporate-Owned Universe

DC: Where Legends Live!

DC Comics house ad from The Flash #339, cover-dated November 1984. A lot of ’80s characters are no longer around, and it’s been decades since fans begged DC to bring back “legends” like these.

We live in an entertainment culture where we take it as given that all the best ideas were conceived before we were born, so trying to forge new universes seems like too much effort. Reboots used to be a desperation move, but anymore they’re the norm for luring in new fans — not just for work-for-hire companies with an intellectual property catalog to keep fertile and growing, but for artists, writers, and filmmakers all too happy to make a lifelong career out of perpetuating the lives and histories of worlds and heroes they didn’t invent themselves. It’s a living.

It’s easy to scoff at reboots when they’re happening to characters that don’t matter to you. If you’re a geek for long enough, though, sooner or later they’ll get to a universe you do care about.

I’ve been there. I remember the first time I had a universe yanked out from under me.

Right this way for memories and lessons about two universes with a lot in common…

“Fantastic Four” a Maddening Marvel Mishmash

Human Torch!

Michael B. Jordan gets into character while the film crew shields themselves from the toxic work environment.

As a longtime comics fan, John Byrne’s Fantastic Four was one of my favorite Marvel series as a kid. Years later I developed an appreciation for the first 103 issues in which Stan Lee and Jack Kirby gave us some of the greatest stories among their many collaborations. My FF fandom came and went as creative teams, interpretations, and times changed, but I have fond memories of great runs by Walt Simonson, Dwayne McDuffie and Paul Pelletier, Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo, and the long-forgotten team of Doug Moench and Bill Sienkiewicz (#219, 222-231) who introduced Marvel’s First Family to this impressionable eight-year-old. I have those runs, and I have my warm memories, but my emotional attachment to them as individual characters has faded enough over time that I’m open to seeing new and different reinterpretations. Honestly, though, I haven’t encountered a worthwhile use of the FF in years.

Meanwhile in the more recent past, I previously named Chronicle my favorite film of 2012. A previous entry already used up a couple hundred words explaining what impressed me about this found-footage mini-epic that imagined what would happen if one of Disney’s Witch Mountain films were remade as an episode of Black Mirror. Credit remains due to lead actors Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, and The Wire‘s Michael B. Jordan; to screenwriter Max Landis making a heck of a feature-film debut; to cinematographer Matthew Jensen, editor Elliot Greenberg, and numerous other cast and crew members for an experience that still rattles me whenever I think back to key scenes.

In the MCC capsule summary I’d expressed my hopes of seeing big things from director Josh Trank in the future. Here we are today, living in that bleak future where the boundaries of Chronicle‘s imagination are visible in maybe two sequences from Fox’s newly rebooted Fantastic Four, which was mostly directed by Trank and finished by a producers’ committee using Trank as their contractually subjugated proxy/scapegoat. In a short-lived tweet last week Trank publicly blamed the studio for all the faults in the finished product. The multiple flaws that riddle this slipshod corporate product from start to finish belie Trank’s sorry attempt at a total cop-out.

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First Teaser Pic Leaked for “Ronald vs. Hamburglar: Dawn of Grease”

New52 Hamburglar!

I worked for McDonald’s for twelve years and wouldn’t be who or what I am today without the experience, but the place keeps getting funnier every time I see them try something different.

In the past week the venerable fast food behemoth had announced plans to ditch several superfluous menu items, add a few new superfluous items, test a McDonald’s delivery service, and consider raising its workers’ wages across the board so they’ll have an excuse to double their prices. Today the veil of secrecy was lifted on an upcoming TV project in which the company has paid an ad agency to reboot the Hamburglar for a 21st-century audience, maybe because his copyright was about to expire and Arby’s was ready to make a play for him.

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Top 10 Surprises in the Upcoming “Teletubbies” Reboot

Teletubbies Time Warp!

Pictured left to right: William Shatner, Harry Shearer, June Foray, and Seth MacFarlane. Or not.

Sooner or later, every old intellectual property must be revitalized for a new generation that has no interest in it. Revivals are perpetually on the way in every medium –as of this minute, your slate of candidates includes Archie, Logan’s Run, and even gum-wrapper superstar Bazooka Joe. Why waste your time and imagination inventing new characters when you can just stamp your preferences onto someone else’s venerated labor of love?

Also on the way: the return of the Teletubbies! England’s other, other, other Fab Four were psychedelic freeform heroes to a generation of toddlers born at a weird time. Now that formerly captive audience will have the opportunity to recapture their childhood, reunite with their old mentors, and complain about all those years of characterization, continuity, and PBS crossovers that are being tossed out the window and now the seasons they’ve collected on VHS are null and void. Welcome to 21st-century entertainment, youngsters.

Right this way for…another list!

My Super Awesome Cinderella Reboot Pitch

Walt Disney's Cinderella

The young woman whose life was changed forever by a first date and some pretty shoes.

[It’s a hidden gem from the MCC Archives! The following entry was originally posted on November 19, 2012, with zero awareness that Disney would someday do something new-not-new with Cinderella. Fast-forward two years, and their live-action remake is coming to theaters this Friday, March 13th. The prophecy has come to pass!

I have no plans to see their version unless someone mails me a ticket, but it’d be great if they totally followed my outline and proved me a genius out of time. Based on the last trailer I saw, they declined my pitch and theirs will instead be a Gus van Sant shot-for-shot homage with no twists allowed. This entry, then, captures the marketable joy of What Might Have Been.]

* * * * *

This weekend I revisited Walt Disney’s twelfth animated classic Cinderella for the first time since the late 1990s. Of all the numerous Disney films our family has owned in multiple formats, this is one of several that rarely saw repeat viewings even when my son was a toddler who insisted on watching every animated movie over and over again until I hated it.

As with many older Disney films, parts of it have aged better than others. I’ll admit I had trouble staying conscious all the way through. Even if I’m alone in this struggle, the film is now over sixty years old and therefore in need of a gratuitous overhaul on shallow principle. In the spirit of today’s remake-happy medium that thrives on second-hand ideas, the following notes are my suggestions to downconvert this one-time children’s favorite for the modern, unsophisticated audience that Hollywood executives so dearly crave.

Right this way for notes to make the greatest Cinderella of all times!

My 2014 at the Movies, Part 1 of 2: the Year’s Least Best


Harry was pretty sure he’d gone terribly wrong somewhere on his Defense Against the Dark Arts homework.

Once again January is National List Month, that left-brained time of year when everyone’s last twelve months of existence must be removed from their mental filing cabinets, reexamined, and refiled in specific pecking order from Greatest to Most Grating. Here on Midlife Crisis Crossover, we enjoy our annual tradition of spending at least two posts looking back at our year in movies, trying to remember what we thought about them at the time and ultimately deciding which films can beat up which other films. When I reach that realization that my opinions sometimes change over time upon further reflection or second viewings, that’s when the process turns messy and I end up hating my own list. But internet bylaws insist it must be done. And I like lists more than I like internet bylaws.

The final tabulations reveal I saw 19 films in theaters in 2014 (tying with 2007 and 2010 as worst moviegoing years ever) and four via On Demand while they were still in limited release. This count doesn’t include seven 2013 films I attended in 2014 for Oscar-chasing purposes, or any films I watched on home video long after their theatrical run. As one sad example, this harsh rule of mine disqualifies Boyhood from the list since I just watched it via Redbox rental two nights ago. If I’d gotten out of the house for a three-hour theater visit just one more time last summer, it would’ve made my Top 3. Consider this paragraph my version of a Very Honorable Mention.

Links to past reviews and thoughts are provided for historical reference. On with the reverse countdown, then:

Right this way for the weakest of the herd!

My Super Awesome “Frosty the Snowman” Reboot Pitch

Frosty the Snowman!

Millions of viewers used to love watching Frosty the Snowman every year when it aired around Christmastime. The beloved 1969 animated special was one of several perennial favorites in my childhood household. We knew the song, we knew most of the lines, we recognized those familiar cartoon voices, and we knew every beat of the story, from the flop magician to the snowman’s parting promise. Frosty was common knowledge among us kids.

See that face up there, full of angst and pathos and magic? That classic hero just turned 45 years old. Isn’t it time for his 21st-century reboot?

I don’t mean as a feature film, because that declining box office is depressing. I also don’t mean another one-time TV Christmas special, because that’s thinking too small. See, I’m thinking live-action regular series. So many facets of this undervalued intellectual property yearn for a modern update with better fashions, extra pizzazz, hipper attitudes, and supernatural warfare. Frosty himself could stay CG, but there’s no reason Karen, her friends, the other townspeople, and most of the town scoundrels couldn’t be played by real actors so we can crank out episodes more quickly and minimize our animation needs. Unless we send this proposal to Fox, animating it will get us nowhere. I say it’s time for Frosty to start over, but this time keep it real.

I’ve taken the liberty of mapping out a hypothetical thirteen-episode first season that would rebuild the Frosty universe from the ground up and make it relevant and “sick” to a whole new generation of impressionable prime-time viewers. This, then, is what my preliminary episode guide looks like for…


Right this way for capsule summaries of all thirteen season-one episodes and a sneak preview of future storylines!

“Mr. Peabody & Sherman”: Wibbly Wobbly Timey-Wimey Ruff

Mr. Peabody and Sherman, DreamWorks

Midlife Crisis Crossover calls Mr. Peabody & Sherman the greatest adaptation of a Jay Ward Productions cartoon in cinematic history!

Seriously, consider the competition: 2000’s live-action The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle, which had precisely one (1) funny joke that I recall with traumatized clarity to this day; Brendan Fraser as Disney’s George of the Jungle, which was a merchandising showcase disguised as kiddie slapstick farce; and Brendan Fraser again in Dudley Do-Right, which had no reason to live. Thankfully Hollywood came to its senses and refrained from giving us Brendan Fraser as Tom Slick, Aesop’s annoying son, and Super-Chicken’s sidekick Fred.

DreamWorks neatly sidestepped any more Fraser pain by taking the CG-animation route and barring him from participation. In another risky deviation from the formula of the other three films, director Rob Minkoff (The Lion King, Stuart Little) and his crew also chose to make their film funny. I applaud this bold, non-conformist stratagem.

This way for another Wayback adventure!

My Super Awesome Blockbuster Reboot of “E.T.”

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

Those eyes are pretty in the right light, but the rest of this will have to go.

February 2014 will see The Killing‘s Joel Kinnaman taking over for Peter Weller as the new Robocop. This fall Ironside returns to TV with Blair Underwood somehow replacing Raymond Burr. Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, the Lone Ranger, and the Green Hornet are but a few of the myriad characters to return from pop-culture limbo in overhauled guises. And this is the sentence I had set aside for DC Comics if I could narrow the possible examples down to less than four hundred.

At the rate our entertainment recyclers are plowing through their back catalogs, every intellectual property from the last fifty years will have been remade and/or rebooted before I’m fifty. Even if 90% of them flop, every producer, editor, or writer will convince themselves their attempt will be different from all the rest because they truly believe in themselves, if not their work. Maybe 10% of them will hit the jackpot, reap the rewards, and retire at forty.

Sounds like a sweet deal to me, even though I’m running dozens of laps behind the competition. If I’m to win, I need to move now. That’s why I’m calling dibs on E.T.: the Extra-Terrestrial. It’s not taken, right? Excellent.

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“THE Star Wars”: Fun Adaptation of Stuff Found in George Lucas’ File Cabinets

Annikin Starkiller, Kane Starkiller, The Star Wars

Race into adventure with Kane Starkiller and his sons Annikin and Deak! Whoever they are!

In 1999 Dark Horse Comics published an intriguing experiment called Buffy the Vampire Slayer: the Origin — a comic-book adaptation of Joss Whedon’s original script for the movie, hewing more closely to what he envisioned in his head before the director and producer meddled and warped everything. Although Dark Horse’s version didn’t contain nearly enough Paul Reubens, few Buffy fans would choose the movie over The Origin. It was a rare opportunity to see a writer’s lost draft technically restored and given life anew.

In that same vein, Dark Horse now brings us The Star Wars, an eight-issue miniseries promising to adapt George Lucas’ 1974 rough-draft screenplay that would later be rethought, rewritten, rearranged, and eventually filmed as merely Star Wars. Without the “The”. Because it looked cleaner.

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“Veronica Mars” Kickstarter Success Raises Unreasonable Hopes in Fans of Every Canceled Series Ever

Kristen Bell, Veronica MarsJust as Star Wars fans spent weeks celebrating in the streets at the news that their beloved childhood franchise will return to theaters, so is another fan base breaking out the party hats this week…and, more importantly, their wallets.

In a first for a major-studio intellectual property, Warner Bros. has allowed producer/creator Rob Thomas to use the power of crowdfunding to extract Veronica Mars from mothballs and feature her in a major motion picture. Thomas launched a Kickstarter campaign less than 48 hours ago with a lofty goal of $2,000,000.00. As Thomas describes the conditional deal with Warner Bros.:

Of course, Warner Bros. still owns Veronica Mars and we would need their blessing and cooperation to pull this off. Kristen and I met with the Warner Bros. brass, and they agreed to allow us to take this shot. They were extremely cool about it, as a matter of fact. Their reaction was, if you can show there’s enough fan interest to warrant a movie, we’re on board. So this is it. This is our shot. I believe it’s the only one we’ve got. It’s nerve-wracking. I suppose we could fail in spectacular fashion, but there’s also the chance that we completely revolutionize how projects like ours can get made. No Kickstarter project ever has set a goal this high. It’s up to you, the fans, now. If the project is successful, our plan is to go into production this summer and the movie will be released in early 2014.

Thomas worried for naught. Pledges from tens of thousands of fans reached that formidable goal in a record-setting, jaw-dropping twelve hours, leaving 29½ days for slower fans and curious bandwagon-jumpers to keep adding to the budget in hopes of upgrading the film from niche project to wide-release underdog, maybe even with action scenes and trained stuntmen. At the rate the pledges are accumulating, they’ll have enough money to set it in 2030 and equip Veronica and her dad with robot sidekicks.

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If Other Classic “Star Trek” Villains Received Power Upgrades for Future Sequels

Benedict Cumberbatch, "Star Trek Into Darkness"Most of you have already seen the new “announcement trailer” for Star Trek: Into Darkness, apparently heralding the real teaser trailer scheduled for release on December 17th. Internet fans continue debating the exact identity of the villain played by TV’s Sherlock, the inimitable Benedict Cumberbatch. The early rumor-mongers assumed he was Khan, but the more recent consensus is the superhuman Gary Mitchell from the original series’ second pilot, “Where No Man Has Gone Before”. 1966 special effects limited Mitchell’s displays of power, but if that’s SuperCumberbatch’s true identity, then today’s cinematic tools have upgraded him to the same weight class as General Zod, Hancock, and the Chronicle teens. I look forward to seeing him punch the Enterprise out of orbit, and to watching the new Captain Kirk devise something besides an instant avalanche to end their rebooted confrontation.

After Mitchell’s ostensible facelift and the redesigned Romulans who menaced our new crew in director J.J. Abrams’ first Trek film, it’s safe to assume other classic Trek villains are vying for their turn in line to be extracted from mothballing and upconverted for future sequels. The possibilities are many:

* Apollo: The alien in a toga from “Who Mourns for Adonais?” who pretended to be the original Greek god impressed me when I watched the episode as an eight-year-old. In today’s world, imagine Our Heroes taking on an Apollo straight out of the new Clash of the Titans, all muscles and bone-crunching sound effects and flared nostrils and blinding lens-flare armor. Considering that Luke Evans had so little screen time in the Titans role (his one big scene was deleted and made him look petulant), he could reprise the role here and enjoy actual screen time for a change, not to mention superpowers.

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Notes for a “Cinderella” Reboot Nobody Needs

Walt Disney's CinderellaThis weekend I revisited Walt Disney’s twelfth animated classic Cinderella for the first time since the late 1990s. Of all the numerous Disney films our family has owned in multiple formats, this is one of several that rarely saw repeat viewings even when my son was a toddler who insisted on watching every animated movie over and over again until I hated it.

As with many older Disney films, parts of it have aged better than others. I’ll admit I had trouble staying conscious all the way through. Even if I’m alone in this struggle, the film is now over sixty years old and therefore in need of a gratuitous overhaul on shallow principle. In the spirit of today’s remake-happy medium that thrives on second-hand ideas, the following notes are my suggestions to downconvert this one-time children’s favorite for the modern, unsophisticated audience that Hollywood executives so dearly crave:

1. We need to believe that Cinderella’s dad would have good reasons to want to marry the wicked stepmother. As drawn and acted, she’s a horse-faced harpy. Was she, once upon a time, a gregarious looker? Were they married for so long that her looks and demeanor have simply deteriorated over time? Was the marriage that hard on her? What does that say about dearly departed Dad? Cinderella’s trauma at his loss means he wasn’t an unlovable tyrant, so the only other sensible option is that he was a spineless doormat forced into marriage by this conniving harridan. Clearly we need copious non-linear flashbacks to Dad and Stepmom’s deceptively happy wedding day before it all went wrong, when he turned into Walter Mitty and she became Miss Hannigan from Annie.

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“Amazing Spider-Man” Reboot Likely Superior to What “Spider-Man 4” Might Have Been

Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 remains one of my favorite super-hero films, but Marc Webb’s Amazing Spider-Man approaches the same old origin from such a unique perspective of its own, I’ve decided I don’t mind their mutual existence. If I can handle the separate-but-equal Marvel-616 Spidey and Ultimate Spidey holding their own concurrent series, I suppose it’s not too far a leap to afford the movies similar tolerance, regardless of the debates about “How soon is too soon?”

Honestly, after the corporate-mandated mishmash that was Spider-Man 3, I’m relieved that Sony had the gall to buck popular opinion and return to square one. If the downward spiral had been allowed to continue, Spider-Man 4 would have been the franchise’s answer to Batman and Robin (some would argue SM3 was just that — witness Peter crossing over to the Dark Side, where there’s soulless dancing and self-inflicted haircuts), and Spider-Man 5 would have been a two-hour QVC Spidey Merchandise Marathon with no actual story, just five villains as hosts and a 1-800 number flashing onscreen all through the movie, with the house lights still turned on so viewers could use their cell phones to order while they watch. In much the same way that Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins eliminated the stigma from the Dark Knight Detective’s own series, Amazing Spidey restores honor to his own series by returning to the classic super-hero movie formula, by which I mean it only has one villain and fewer opportunities to push new action figures on us.

The web-swinging technology has improved to the point where I can no longer tell which Spideys were live stuntmen versus which were pure CG renderings (as opposed to the first film, which often switched to an animated Spidey only slightly more convincing than Kirk Alyn’s Superman cartoon-takeoffs). The speed-ramping effects to achieve super-cool slo-mo poster shots was annoying at first, until I realized that, for once, Spidey actually did look cool in action. Admittedly, some cityscape sequences felt more like cut-scenes from the Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions PS3 game, but that may simply be because video game art has been catching up to movie effects in recent years. I opted for the 2-D version, but even without a set of Upcharge-o-Vision glasses, the visuals were dynamic and occasionally wondrous without being a complete blur.

As our new Peter Parker, Andrew Garfield brings a winsome vulnerability and a more impish demeanor to the role, while at the same time seeming fiercer when pushed to his limits during the mandatory scenes where he’s unmasked for the sake of Acting. While Cliff Robertson and Rosemary Harris nailed the original Stan Lee/Steve Ditko versions of Uncle Ben and Aunt May, I found the younger versions reinterpreted by Martin Sheen and Sally Field to be a worthy, loving old couple whom you could believe spent thirty-seven years together as a finely tuned family unit. As for Emma Stone’s version of Gwen Stacy — who’s far from helpless, yet just sensible enough to know when she needs to vacate the premises instead of playing victim-to-be — I’d be very content if this series allowed Gwen never to be murdered or usurped by Mary Jane as the original comic-book Gwen was.

I wasn’t exactly giddy at the choice of the Lizard as a villain, but his presence works in the context of the rewritten origin, which takes a cue from the Ultimate Spider-Man comics and gives Peter’s deceased parents a scientific backstory set at the blatantly nefarious OsCorp. Whereas the comics used this setup as an excuse to reinvent Venom, the movie offers a logical series of mad-science events that result in sufficient excuse for two animal-based characters to be spawned at once. Rhys Ifans does what he can with his few all-human scenes, but I wish that Dr. Curt Connors had been allowed to retain his wife and son from the comics. Poor li’l Billy Connors’ shocked reactions to the dad he loved unconditionally used to deepen the tragedy of Connors’ circumstances even more. Even so, at least the Lizard’s makeup and visual effects are well above Black Lagoon quality, though his stiff plastic-surgery grins reminded me of Jack Nicholson’s unsightly Joker makeup. Despite that, as the Lizard tore through the streets of Manhattan (and sometimes through its citizens), I couldn’t help wondering how much better the TV series V would’ve been if the Visitors had been this formidable.

I liked the modernized look chosen for this film, rather than Sam Raimi’s timeless, occasionally old-fashioned design, which was a great recapture of Lee and Ditko’s world, but not necessarily one that needs to be enforced in perpetuity. I’m glad J. Jonah Jameson was nowhere in sight, because replacing J. K. Simmons would be a fool’s game. Filling the gadfly role with Denis Leary as Gwen’s dad (constantly irritated, but a hard-working hero when needed) was a smart move to sidestep that issue. Flash Thompson was what he needed to be, albeit capped with a final scene that was a great nod to the comics, though I have to wonder how in the world an aggro basketball jock could gain admission to the renamed “Midtown Science High School” that Peter and Gwen attend in this version for some reason. Would a typical New York high school have been an inadequate setting here? Or was this a subtle plug for magnet schools?

In one or two places, I was irked. In some places, I was blown away. In general, I was content. Whether it counts as a reboot, remake, relaunch, reimagining, recycling, or whatever, I’m not much concerned at this point. After Spider-Man 3 I’m just happy to be able to call Amazing Spider-Man a comeback.

(For those who are wondering: there’s a bonus scene not too far into the end credits, none at the end of the credits. It’s the exact same kind of end-scene we had in the Avengers series — ominous foreshadowing of evil scheming by a shadowy man. His identity is ridiculously easy to guess unless this movie is your very first experience with a Spider-Man product. If you paid attention to the trailers or even read this entry closely enough, you can guess who he is without even seeing the movie.)

The Only Four Titles That Still Connect Me to DC’s New-52 Universe

I was fourteen when DC revamped its entire universe in the wake of Crisis on Infinite Earths. I was impressed that a major comic book company would be willing to toss out decades of continuity and start anew for younger readers like me who had no use for the imaginary stories of the Silver Age and thought that the doldrums of pre-Crisis DC paled compared to Marvel’s output at the time. John Byrne’s Superman and Action Comics, Frank Miller’s “Batman: Year One”, George Perez’ Greek-myth-infused Wonder Woman, and Mike Baron’s Flash were all right up my alley and frequently atop my reading pile.

Twenty-six years later, DC has cycled back around, but now I’m on the other end of the demographic scale. Other than lingering, festering, unwholesome bitterness at the unnecessary cancellations of Secret Six and Xombi, I don’t begrudge them their willingness to indulge in the tremendous gamble of reinventing the wheel for whatever generation replaces me, if one is duly willing to do so. In the spirit of renewal and multiple second chances, in September 2011 I generously ignored my monthly comics budget and tried eighteen of the New 52 series, all while holding fast to other companies’ output as well. Needless to say, that was an expensive month for me, even after rejecting DC’s other thirty-four new titles outright for myriad reasons.

Ten months later, I’m now following just four DC titles.

The winners are:

1. Demon Knights. I miss Paul Cornell’s lively Captain Britain and MI-13. This isn’t too distant a cousin — both are teams of disparate British super-personalities united for one cause, resulting in strange bedfellows, encountering explosive action, and inclusively allowing one Muslim member. Instead of present-day Marvel, our setting is DC of the Middle Ages, home of old characters Madame Xanadu, the Demon Etrigan, Grant Morrison’s Seven Soldiers version of the Shining Knight, and Vandal Savage. Tagging along are new characters Exoristos (an Amazon in exile), the Horsewoman (great with a bow, but cursed to remain forever seated atop her trusty steed), and Al Jabr (the afore-mentioned Muslim, fighter and hoarder of the more whimsical dialogue). Besides Cornell at the helm, its other distinguishing quality is that its time period makes it virtually crossover-proof. For me, this is key.

2. Dial H. The best of the New 52’s second wave that launched in the spring after eight underperformers were escorted off the premises after eight issues. The original Robby Reed version of “Dial H for Hero” was years before my birth, but as a kid I was a huge fan of the Chris King/Vicki Grant incarnation that ran in Adventure Comics (and was later relegated to ignominous backup status in The New Adventures of Superboy). As promised by the ad tagline, “The Hero Who Could Be YOU!” Robby’s successor dial-bearers turned into heroes created by Us, the Readers at Home, without benefit of complicated work-for-hire contracts. I didn’t care for the later New Teen Titans story that turned Vicki evil, but I was largely pleased with Will Pfeifer’s 2003 H.E.R.O. reboot, even if it was underrated and bypassed both Chris and Vicki. Alas, the closest thing for today’s consumers for some time has been Ben 10, whose own Omnitrix and resulting army of do-gooders owes a massive creative debit to the H-dials.

When DC announced the return of the concept at the hands of acclaimed author China Mieville, I was on board immediately. Admittedly, I haven’t read any of his novels in full yet (two of them are on my enormous reading pile), but the samples I’ve read were convincing enough. So far it’s spooky and very much off-the-wall, but I’m hoping the constraints of the dial’s current form as an archaic phone booth are only temporary. If dumpy protagonist Nelson Jent has to take a cab to the same magical phone booth’s deserted alley location at the beginning of every single issue, this may grow repetitive quickly, despite the outlandish single-use heroes popping out of every issue. (I’m sure I would pay good money for a Rancid Ninja one-shot.)

3. The Shade. Not strictly a New 52 title, this twelve-issue maxiseries began in the New 52’s second month, but could very easily be set in the previous timeline for all we know. I’m following along as a former big fan of James Robinson’s classic 1990s Starman series, hoping for glimmers of that old Jack Knight magic, but not yet 100% reveling in it, as the ex-Starman is still in permanent retirement and Robinson isn’t the same writer he was a decade ago. He arguably shouldn’t be, but I’m not in the same place I was, either. Somehow reader and writer aren’t quite as in synch as before. It doesn’t help that the capriciousness with which the Shade has changed alignment over the years as needs and continuity dictated hasn’t endeared him to me as a main character, largely because I can’t remember in which eras he was evil, and in which eras he eased down on the murdering. The guest-starring new heroes from other countries have been creative, so there’s that.

4. Batman Inc. Also a second-wave title; also not really in the New 52 timeline. Clearly these criteria really spoke to me.

I only sporadically followed Grant Morrison’s lengthy Batman run, so I’m ignorant of half the details of his long-running Leviathan storyline, and forgotten most of the other half. Throwing nuance and Easter eggs entirely to the wind, all I know is I enjoy seeing Batman’s exotic analogs in action, I find Damien to be irritating and entertaining at the same time, and I like watching artist Chris Burnham as he tries to keep up with Morrison’s scripts, with overall impressive results.

* * * * *

Setting aside other imprints, that’s my entire monthly DC list for the moment. My capsule reviews of my first round of New 52 sampling are buried elsewhere online, but ten months into the relaunch, I’ve allowed all other contenders to fall by the wayside as a result of the following misdemeanors:

The reboot paled before a previous incarnation that I truly, vastly preferred: Blue Beetle; Fury of Firestorm, the Nuclear Men; Static Shock; Stormwatch.

Unlikable main characters: Batwoman; Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E.; Red Hood and the Outlaws.

Heroes weren’t quite awesome enough to overcome how much I actively disliked their villains: Resurrection Man, Swamp Thing.

Artwork went to the dogs: All-Star Western.

I didn’t quit; DC canceled it out from under me: OMAC.

Quit because of crossovers, regardless of quality: Animal Man, Batgirl, Batman, Justice League Dark, Nightwing, Superboy. (Seriously: not in the mood. At all.)

Again: in general I’m not as bitter as the average over-40 message-board troll. DC desires an audience that doesn’t necessarily want what I want. I wish them well with that. I’m not out of comics to read yet. And I’m perfectly willing to revisit the New 52 as creative teams change in the future, such as when possible rising star Matt Kindt takes over Frankenstein. I may also check out Christy Marx’s new take on Amethyst (sometimes I do love odd choices) that will be one of several third-wave titles to emerge from the September Zero Hour rehash event.

For now, though, this is where I’m at. Also, I have one question I don’t think they’ve seriously considered:

How does the Horsewoman go to the bathroom?

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