December 7, 2009

Thoughts on Earth One

Category: Opinion — By @ 11:11 am

This morning, DC announced the first two volumes in Earth One, a new series of original graphic novels set in a new continuity. The first two books will be Superman: Earth One by J. Michael Straczynski and Shane Davis, and Batman: Earth One by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank.

It’s being discussed all over the place, so I’ll just state my initial thoughts.

The Positives

First, I love the idea of a series of OGNs. There’s a huge potential audience out there in bookstores, and while collected editions help meet that audience, there are drawbacks — particularly pacing (when read serially) and the fact that waiting for the trade means missing out on the fan conversation. It works for prose novels, it works for Scott Pilgrim, it works for manga (even if it was originally serialized in Japan, it may as well be OGNs as far as the American audience is concerned), and it’s good to see DC taking the concept seriously.

Second, an Ultimate-style reboot of the DC Universe is a good idea. 80 years of continuity, multiple “soft” reboots, heroes who have been replaced, then come back, major events based on short stories from 25 years ago…the modern DC Universe is a complicated place. A project that reaches out to a new audience is a good opportunity to streamline things without messing with the monthly continuity.

Third, I like the Batman redesign.

The Negatives

It makes sense to start with Superman and Batman, because these are two characters that everyone is familiar with, even those who don’t read comics. But they’re starting with the origin stories. Who doesn’t know Superman’s origin? Or Batman’s? With any other character, I’d say it would be worth starting with an origin, but with these two, it might be better to jump in at the deep end and fill in the backstory as they go along.

If they keep the series going, it won’t be a problem, but I can see it being a problem for the first volumes. It reminds me of the choice for the movie of The Golden Compass to rip out the ending and move it to the start of the second movie. It definitely hurt the first movie, and probably contributed to the fact that there won’t be a second movie.

It also makes me worry that, like so many rebooted series, they’ll eventually turn to retelling older stories instead of telling new ones.

The Earth One branding seems…a little obtuse. It means nothing to the new audience, and judging by comments I’ve seen, it’s already confusing the existing DC audience. [Edit: expanded a bit more in that link.]

Uncertainty

I can’t reach the AICN interview, but CBR’s article quotes Geoff Johns as saying that the plan is for two novels a year. Two total? Or two per character? If these take off, two per character would be a much better approach, especially if they expand it to Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash, and beyond.