The New 52 or How One Major Comic Book Company Decided to Change Everything By Doing Absolutely Nothing Different

by Melissa G.

Melissa on the DC Relaunch.
As some of you may or may not have heard (depending on what realm of nerd you consider yourself), DC has – in a desperate attempt not to go bankrupt – decided to relaunch all of its comics, starting with “The New 52” which premiered throughout September. They talked it up for months beforehand, promises of inclusion and pants were rumored. My roommate and I alternated between cautious optimism and cynical pessimism depending on the time of day. And now, the relaunch has come and gone, and the only thing left to do is bitch about it on the internet. Let’s get started, shall we?

First, some information about us. We are both long-time comic book fans, but my roommate (hereafter to be known as CF) has been much more loyal in collecting monthly issues before this. I had been sticking to my Ultimates Marvel Universe and only dipped into DC for Teen Titans and the occasional Batman graphic novel. So both of us are required to really get a well-rounded idea of how successful this relaunch is – CF as an existing customer and me as a potential one. We have read our way through almost all of them.

There were some that we missed because they were sold out at our comic store.
It’s hard to really know where to start with this. The good, the bad, or the ugly. Because there was indeed good to be had here. Some of the comics were excellent and we will see their second issues join our bookshelves. Others were simply “meh” and we can’t be bothered to spend the money on them. But the others…oh, dear, the others. There was some ugly in here, ferrets, and it must be mocked.

Problem 1: It’s fucking confusing

So, we couldn’t help but notice as we read through that some people’s attitudes toward the relaunch went something along of the lines of, “A relaunch? That’s a great idea! …for you.” Some of these comics just honestly decided to continue their regular timelines, which was against what DC’s whole marketing campaign for these new 52 were about. It was about bringing in new readers, starting from scratch, but I guess only when they wanted to? For example, all of the Green Lantern books (of which there are four) have picked up right where they left off, according to CF. Which explains why I had trouble following most of them. I managed to mostly get by on info from CF and the new movie, but it didn’t exactly inspire me to keep reading. Protip, DC, people don’t like being more confused coming out of the comic book than they were when they went into it. This is not how you get new readers.

Batman (and its multiple affiliate comics) runs into an even stranger problem. Everything that had happened in previous continuity has in fact still happened. However, it is also established that Batman has only been around 5-6 years. And yet, he’s still gone through all four Robins. That’s a pretty high turnover rate, Bruce. Here’s how the continuity used to go:

    Bruce adopts Dick Grayson after his parents are killed and he becomes Robin

  • Dick quits to pursue his own crime-fighting career and Bruce picks up Jason Todd

  • Fans hate Jason Todd and vote to have him killed off. He is, by the Joker; it was harsh.

  • Tim Drake figures out that Dick Grayson was Robin and becomes the new Robin because he said so.

  • Somewhere around here, Jason Todd is revealed to not really be dead anymore and comes back as vigilante villain Red Hood.

  • We’re not even going to talk about Steph Brown because the new continuity wrote her out

  • So then Bruce finds out he has an illegitimate child named Damien, who becomes the new Robin when Bruce dies

  • Tim becomes Red Robin due to emo-ness. I would have thought that would make him Black Robin, but whatever. He likes red.

And yes, that all still happened; just now in the span of 5-6 years. Right before the relaunch, the editorial staff created a storyline with multiple Batmen throughout the world. This is still around, sort of. We have Batwing (African Batman) and Dick Grayson is still established to have been Batman previously, but has given it up because the cape didn’t fit, I guess. Also, Barbara Gordon (aka Batgirl) was still paralyzed by the Joker, but now she is magically healed after 3 years. It’s unclear whether she was ever Oracle, but it’s been implied she was (maybe). Did we mention that this is confusing? Again, DC, confusing readers is not the way to get them to read your comic.

Another confusing aspect, which sometimes worked and sometimes didn’t, was the inclusion of some Vertigo and Wildstorm (subsidiaries of DC) characters into the regular DC continuity. They’d done this before with Zatanna and John Constantine, and it worked, and it continues to in Justice League Dark. However, with Stormwatch, it gets a little confusing. This was mostly a problem for CF because I was actually just really bored by Stormwatch and had no idea that they were playing tradesies with characters from other canons. I was mostly sitting there going, “Who are these people? J’onn, you’re the only one I recognize, surely you can tell me what’s going on?” But apparently, no, he couldn’t. I think the reason it works in JLD and not in Stormwatch is because although the Vertigo characters interact with DC characters in JLD, it is mostly a comic about Vertigo characters and DC characters make little cameos whereas Stormwatch is a comic about Wildstorm and DC characters coexisting and being on a team together. It doesn’t quite mesh well.

And now we’re going to approach the real issue of why their continuity is such a problem. Basically, there are three kinds of continuity going on here: existing continuity, tweaks on existing continuity, and brand new continuity. And sometimes, these all exist in the same book. For examples of this, see Justice League International, Red Hood and the Outlaws, and Teen Titans. In JLI, Booster Gold seems to have been tweaked or reset back to before he had his character and personality growth, Green Lantern (Guy Gardner) and Batman are both in existing continuity, and the other characters seem to be brand new continuity. In Red Hood and the Outlaws, Jason Todd is in existing continuity, Roy Harper is in tweaked continuity (no daughter, for example), and Starfire is…yeah, we’ll get to that later. As for Teen Titans, Red Robin is the same as before, Superboy is completely new (and sucks!), Wonder Girl is totally new as is Kid Flash (we think?). I’m not sure how the creators plan to try and make all of these differing continuities work together when the characters are constantly crossing books. I suppose they just shut their eyes, stuff their fingers in their ears and shout, “Lalala, I can’t hear you! This relaunch is genius! Lalala!”

So, in short, the new 52 may be more confusing than the old continuity was, and considering that the relaunch happened partially because the old continuity was too confusing for new readers, this is a major fail.

Problem 2: It’s fucking boring

To be honest, most of my issues with the relaunch comics were that they just weren’t interesting. There’s a lot of reasons that they weren’t interesting, some of which had to do with the confusion factor discussed above, but we have also thought of some other reasons.

Text-blocking: Don’t do it. Comic books are a visual medium. There should not be that much text on the page. Show don’t tell is Rule Number 1 of any writer, and when you have a picture to help you do that, it’s even more unforgivable to be telling me everything. Here’s an example from Stormwatch where one of the characters narrates her power as she uses it, saying, “Okay. This is me connecting the alien language processing lobe that got lodged in my brain with all Earth media, and finding only three mentions of the guy!” I’m watching her do this. I don’t need to be told what she’s doing! Superman had some choice moments as well because they decided to have excerpts from Clark’s article about Superman saving the world overlaying the pictures of Superman saving the world. I understand what they were going for, but it didn’t work.

Another reason many of these comics were so boring is because they expended zero effort on trying to express who this character was and why you the reader should care about them. For example, not many people cared about Hawkman, and guess what? We still don’t. I think the only reason I liked certain comics was because I already had an attachment to the character. The only reason I enjoyed Green Lantern: New Guardians was because I already liked Kyle Rayner. And the only reason CF is going to keep buying The Flash is because she already likes Flash. In short, you still aren’t getting any new readers. Not really.

Problem 3: The fucking –isms

Now we’re getting into the meat here, people. Comics have long gotten a bad reputation for their failing on the various –isms. And while some progress has been made, it seems as though for every step forward, there are two steps back. Let’s walk backwards with DC, shall we?

Batgirl is in a sort of “rock and a hard place” position. Years ago, Barbara Gordon (Batgirl) was stuffed in a refrigerator (slang for killed off/depowered/dismembered etc for being a woman). She later became the superhero Oracle while being paralyzed in a wheelchair. And being in that chair did not hinder her from physically kicking your ass. She became an A-list superhero; Batman called her for help. She formed her own team, The Birds of Prey, and they all kicked major ass. So, Babs came out of her fridging a better hero in most people’s opinions. Good writers turned a shitty situation into an awesome new hero, who also happened to be in a wheelchair.

And now, DC has decided that they want her to walk again. So, on one hand, that’s great. They want to undo what damage they did with her, but on the other hand, they’ve taken away the only well-recognized disabled superhero they had. This isn’t an issue that affects me directly, but I can’t help but feel that it’s problematic, and to be honest, I miss Oracle. She was so much cooler than Batgirl.

One of the things that DC promised for the new 52 was more racial inclusion. And they have, to an extent, delivered on this. We have four titles with black superheroes (Batwing, Mister Terrific, Static Shock, and Voodoo), and a title with a Hispanic superhero (Blue Beetle). This is a delicate issue for CF and I to address as we don’t deal with racial oppression, but there were some things that we feel we have to address. Many of these comics walked the thin line between having the character’s race be a natural part of who they are and unnecessarily pointing out the character’s race as though to remind the audience that he/she is a minority. Static Shock seemed to handle this well as did Batwing, for us anyway. CF felt that Mister Terrific crossed a bit of a line a mere four pages in, where the following exchange takes place:
Mister Terrific: Some people call me the third smartest man in the world.
Bystander 1: Who’s one and two?
Bystander 2: Does it bother you being third?
Mister Terrific: Actually a simple ‘Thanks, black guy, for saving us from a homicidal lunatic wearing weaponized body armor’ will do.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with this dialogue, and in fact, I’m pretty sure the writer of this comic is African-American so I trust him to know if this is natural, but it definitely rubbed both CF and other comic readers the wrong way. Why is he telling us that he’s black? We can see that. And in fact, the bystander he is addressing is also black. This is not the only instance of race being brought up in this comic. It happens again with a black woman named Aleeka and a white woman named Karen. The dialogue goes like this:
K: You’ve been staring at me all night. For the record, Michael and I are just friends. I don’t want to start a turf war.
A: It’s not that.
K: I get it. It’s because I’m a white girl, isn’t it?
A: And I’m a black woman, which means I’m built to handle things that you can’t even imagine or never had to. No, it’s because you’re rich, a corporate worth of over 340 million according to Forbes.

This mention of race just seems to come out of nowhere to me. And maybe it’s because these race issues aren’t a huge part of my life, but it felt forced. Similarly, Firestorm had related issues. The conflict is between a white football player (Ronnie) and a black nerd (Jason), and it devolves into a racially fueled situation really quickly. Jason implies that Ronnie is racist over a rather innocuous comment made by Ronnie. I’ll put the dialogue so you can judge for yourself:
J: So I don’t know, what do they ask people like you? Do you have some astounding insight into this week’s game or do you just want me to make something up?
R (thinking): Oh, a jock hater. Normally I can see them coming.
R: Huh, you know, you look like you could play. Ever try out for the squad? Afraid to get hurt, maybe?
J: That’s what I ‘look’ like, huh? Do you know that for the past four years in a school with forty-five percent of the students being African-American, there hasn’t been a black quarterback?
R: What? Bull. You’re making that up.
J: Am I?
R: I got your number, man. On the field, no one cares what color you are and you hate that, right? Those guys are my brothers.
J: Oh, they’re your ‘brothers’. Ever stay the night at any of their houses, Ronnie? Just, you know, for the record. For the thing.

After this exchange, Jason writes up an article about Ronnie in the school newspaper calling him racist. Again, I’m not saying that these issues don’t exist or that they shouldn’t be in comics, but it feels forced and badly handled. I’m not going to come out and say that any of these comic books are racist, but I don’t feel that race was particularly handled well in all of them.

Let’s move on to sexism – an old fan favorite when it comes to comics. There were some major offenders hitting the stands in September. We’ll be focusing on Catwoman and Red Hood and the Outlaws because certainly they haven’t been discussed enough on the internet. Catwoman – had it come out alone – might not have made it onto this list. Also, if the writer of the comic hadn’t used the word “sexy” forty times when describing it at SDCC, we might not have been predisposed to reading it critically. However, these things did happen and so we’re going to be extra harsh. The main thing everyone is talking about with Catwoman is that the last four pages are a sex scene between Batman and Catwoman despite the fact that the costumes remain on. This isn’t a problem in and of itself. Catwoman is allowed to have sex with Batman, and in fact, it made a lot of shippers happy. However, the scene reads like bad fanfic. There is no real emotional life going on in these characters. It’s like watching cardboard cutouts have sex. I got no sense of who Selina was throughout the whole comic. I mostly just got a sense of what her boobs and ass look like. We see constant ass and boob shots in the beginning of the comic before her face is ever revealed. Basically my problem with the scene is that it felt voyeuristic rather than engaging and a successful piece of storytelling.

This happens a lot in comics. There are things that by themselves aren’t necessarily eyebrow-raising, but when taken together start to look a bit suspicious. Selina Kyle’s backstory was re-written to be rooted in prostitution and kept that way since the eighties. Deadman has only been a woman twice that we see and one of them was a stripper with Daddy issues. Wonder Woman sleeps naked for no reason. The Purple Lanterns are the only ones with revealing costumes out of seven colors and guess what? They’re all women. It’s these little things that pop up again and again and go unchallenged because they’re so little. It’s only when you get something so over the top and offensive that it garners attention. And that brings us to….

Red Hood and the Outlaws. You’re my favorite. By which I mean, I can’t believe I spent money on you. First of all, cheesecake. Like the cheesiest, heart-attack inducing cheesecake you will ever see. This comic features one female lead and two male leads. The female in question, Starfire, was already a well-established sex object. She has always had a revealing costume and is implied to be polyamorous. She’s an alien and her species believes that love can be expressed physically with however many people you want to express it to. Fine. That’s all well and good because she was at her core a complex character. She was both naïve and sexual. She was both wrathful and playful. And she carried it all realistically. Starfire is in fact one of my favorite Teen Titans characters despite the fact that she is constantly sexualized. She was interesting enough to make up for it.

In this relaunch, however, her character and personality have been completely obliterated. Jason tells us that because she’s an alien, humans are no more than sights and smells to her and she can’t even really tell them apart. Roy then asks her if she remembers Dick Grayson (her ex-bf) and the other Teen Titans and she says no and then in the next sentence asks if Roy would like to have sex with her. She is some sort of nymphomaniac goldfish who says that love has nothing to do with sex when in her previous incarnation love had everything to do with sex, and I hate it. Not to mention that parts of the comic boil down to Roy and Jason high-fiving over the fact that they’re both banging Starfire. This article says it better than I can why this is so problematic.

The fucking good stuff

I’d like to end on a high note by listing the stuff that CF and I liked and will be continuing to read. Because there were some stand-outs here and they deserve recognition too. Supergirl was fantastic. It was a great introduction to the character, engaging, and even though not much happened, it happened well. Batgirl, despite its ablelism issues, had a strong voice and I’m honestly interested to see where it goes. Action Comics was the one of the few comics of the new 52 that really updated its title character (Superman) for a modern audience. I’ve never liked Superman before, but Action Comics made me like him. All Star Western made me care about a character I’ve never cared about before. Jonah Hex teaming up with Doctor Arkham in the late 1800’s to track down a Jack the Ripper-esque killer? Count me in. Demon Knights was really cool. Jason Blood is an interesting character who doesn’t get much attention and I’m glad to get to explore who he is in his own book. Resurrection Man also did a good job of introducing me to a character I’d not known or cared about before and now want to read more about. Also good: Blue Beetle, Wonder Woman, Batman, Detective Comics, Teen Titans, Suicide Squad, and Green Lantern Corps.

All in all, we realized that DC had more hits than misses when it came down to it, but when they missed, they missed pretty hard, and I don’t know if their big gamble is going to pay off for them.
Themes: Comics

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Comments (go to latest)
Dan H at 15:10 on 2011-11-12
After this exchange, Jason writes up an article about Ronnie in the school newspaper calling him racist. Again, I’m not saying that these issues don’t exist or that they shouldn’t be in comics, but it feels forced and badly handled.

Hmm ... I've not read the comic and I don't know the wider context but that exchange actually seems quite *well* handled from my perspective. It looks to me that Jason points out that the school's football team is kinda racist, and Ronnie falls back on the old "colour-blindness" argument, and Jason calls him on it.

Now if the way this pans out is that Jason learns that he was overreacting, and has to apologize, that would be a big pit of fail, but from what I can see it actually seems to be highlighting quite an important issue. Two of the three scenes you describe seem, to me, to be highlighting the way that white people get twitchy and defensive around people of colour.

I have *zero* standing to be talking about this, but if the person who wrote the comic is African American then it seems likely to me that they're trying to portray a kind of low-key elephant-in-the-room awareness of race which I understand, on the basis of my *very* limited background reading, that people of colour *do* have to deal with.
Arthur B at 16:45 on 2011-11-12
- DC try to be racially inclusive.
- Part of this involves a black superhero called "Voodoo".

Oh wow.
Wardog at 17:57 on 2011-11-12
- DC try to be racially inclusive.
- Part of this involves a black superhero called "Voodoo".

I, err, I am imaging a World of Warcraft troll superhero now. Does he at any point address anyone as 'mon'?
Sister Magpie at 19:33 on 2011-11-12
Re: Batman, this one concrete thing I know. Batman hasn't been around for 5 years, he's just been public for 5 years for sure. Before that he was the urban legend Batman. So we can actually assume the same amount of past as before: enough time for everything that happened. Which doesn't really fit into this amount of time, but comics never will and never did.

So just wanted to say that, fwiw, and just agree with everything else. Interesting that with RH&TO not only is the comic what it is, but the writer then made it worse with his defenses, iirc, all over the internet.

I want to especially agree with the text boxes. One of the things I absolutely loved about Batman #1 (and there was a lot I loved about it) part was that it felt like there just wasn't that much in it.
Ibmiller at 21:15 on 2011-11-12
A very nice overview. I have to say, I thought most of the DC relaunch was boring - I'm still following a few titles, but mostly because I'm hoping they'll improve, not that they are good in and of themselves.

But I'm very disappointed in Wonder Woman. Yet again, a writer comes in deliberately ignoring what other writers have done, and does it worse than those other writers. Azzarello wants to make a strong, witty hero who happens to be Wonder Woman - but he has no clue whatsoever who Wonder Woman actually is. While I adore the art, the whole "horror comic/Greek mythology twist" was done in the early 2000s by Greg Rucka, and done so brilliantly that it would take serious research and care for a redo to actually work. What we get instead is a lot of random violent, powerful people doing random violent, powerful things that often are crossed with half-animal bodies.

Not to mention the fact that Rucka's gods, while incredibly violent, were still involved in a framework of justice (since Wonder Woman is, you know, a super hero). The new Wondy seems totally unaware of the atrocities her pantheon is perpetrating, and the way the comic is going doesn't promise that any kind of justice or redress will be included. Which means Wonder Woman's standing as a hero has become downgraded to "looks great sleeping naked and hacking bits off of animal/people hybrids" from "the most powerful warrior in the world, ambassador from Themyscura to the Patriarch's World, once-princess once-goddess, and all-round champion of those who can't defend themselves from injustice and cruelty."

That's a significant hit, and no amount of beautiful art can change it.

I'm also following Batman, Batman and Robin, Batgirl, and Huntress, but only because the artists/writers/characters have previous connections to me. Of those three, Batman and Robin alone has hooked me by doing something new and interesting. Well, maybe Batman has. But hopefully that will change.
Melissa G. at 22:01 on 2011-11-13
Re: Racism

Mister Terrific was written by an African I think but Firestorm (the one the football convo comes) was not to my knowledge. I think the artwork for this stuff actually makes a huge difference. I tried to find pics but was unsuccessful and too lazy to scan them. For whatever reason when I read the dialogue on the page, it felt stilted and forced. Rather than saying that I think these race issues aren't realistic, I think the writing and art was bad and didn't convey the issues well. If that makes sense.

@Sister M

I didn't realize that about Batman. That makes more sense.
Ibmiller at 23:44 on 2011-11-13
Firestorm is co-written by Ethan Van Sciver and Gail Simone, both white.

Just for clarification's sake (because I am easily confused), did you think that both of them had bad writing and art, or was it one of those two specifically, while the other had good art?
Melissa G. at 09:25 on 2011-11-14

I think bad art was a misleading way to say it. I'm typing from a phone so I'm going for brevity and in that case it came out wrong. I din't really mean that the quality of the art was bad. I guess what I meant to say was that I felt there was a disconnect between the writing and the art. They weren't working together to convey the scenes in a way that I felt was natural. It felt manufactured, which I know sounds dumb because it's a comic but hopefully my criticism is clearer? The other scene to think about in Firestorm which CF pointed out to me is the home/dinner scene whete even though the words are implying an equal economic status, the white guy's house is obviously nicer looking. This could have been done intentionally but I don't feel overly generous toward the new 52 at this point.

Also Gail is leaving Firestorm or so I heard.
Ibmiller at 12:34 on 2011-11-14
I see those rumors, but no official confirmation from Gail that I know (and since she tends to be fairly open through Twitter and her forums, I'm going with "not yet").

Unfortunately, I haven't read Firestorm - mostly because I do not care whatsoever about the character or storyline, and I'm already following Batgirl. Trying to keep up with that many books is tiresome enough...
Melissa G. at 23:10 on 2011-11-14

I think Batgirl might be my favorite one. It's the only one I'm really excited about reading the next one of. Because I agree with what you said about it being boring and continuing to read mostly based on previous commitment to writers/artists/characters. That's my major issue. I really am not looking forward to getting new issues. It's just sort of like, "Oh, yeah, okay. I'll read that." As opposed to, "Oh my god! The next one's out! Awesome!"

Firestorm was...okay. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't really good either. And since I had no real connection to the character, I didn't bother to keep getting it. I do love Gail's writing, but from what I could tell, she's not the main writer, seeing as when they did the Q&A for it in the back of the comic, they were only talking to Ethan Van Sciver and Yildiray Cinar.
TryCatcher at 01:06 on 2011-11-15
First off:

If they are doing a reset, they should have gone all the way in, instead of pick-and-choose what stays and what doesn't.

Second, and the main deal:

Comic books are written by and for 40-year old fanboys. Until that changes, all the resets on the world will not make DC or Marvel grab new audience.

Making the Teen Titans act like the Jersey Shore cast was a really, really stupid idea.

What they should have done? A demographic study of what writers and new talen can attract the new, young audience, a heavy web presence (ALL books will be available as .pdf files, one way or another) and an actual review of issues BEFORE publishing them.
Ibmiller at 02:08 on 2011-11-15
@Melissa: As a longtime Birds of Prey fan, and a new Steph Brown Batgirl fan, I was upset about the return of Barbara Gordon as Batgirl, and thus haven't been able to give it a fair chance yet. When the first arc is over, I'm hoping to reevaluate both it and Birds of Prey, but for now, every time I read them I get quite irritated at things which may just be "It's not the characters and relationships I loved for five years." From what Gail said, though, she is the main writer for Firestorm, with Van Sciver doing a second pass through the draft, and helping plan. But that could just be me misinterpreting. My guess is, since Gail got two books, and Van Sciver is only working on Firestorm, they focused on him.

Or it could be the whole Not A Girl thing...

@TryCatcher: First, I agree that the reboot/relaunch is halfhearted and mediocre at best.

Second: I do not see how you think comics are written for 40-year-old fanboys. In general, they are written by them (though I think the current majority are actually mostly ranging from late 20s to mid 30s). But if they were really written for the 40-year-olds, there wouldn't be such things as crossovers, major character deaths, reboots, and other such stunts. Reboots especially signal a desire to appeal to a completely different generation, not the ones who have stuck by a character or series for 20 years. Additionally, the comics do not seem to appeal to a 40-year-old sense of maturity (but maybe that's just me being idealistic).

That disagreement aside (and I think it is a significant one), I think your idea of how they could have launched and planned the event better is an excellent one. One other thing I think they should have done is work on communication with the fans - perhaps that is covered in "web presence," but I think explicitly not playing around with teasers and misdirects and deliberate confusions. The fates of Steph Brown and Cass Cain being a particular microcosm of how the relaunch was so poorly handled - we still haven't been told anything about them, either by the creators or in the comics themselves.
Melissa G. at 02:20 on 2011-11-15

Oh, don't get me wrong, I'm not pleased to see Barbara Gordon Batgirl, but the book sucked me in more so than any of the others. I adore Gail's writing and how she's shaped Babs as a character in the book.

As for the Firestorm part, you could very well be right. I'll admit that I haven't looked too deeply into it.

TryCatcher at 05:47 on 2011-11-15
Reboots appeal to 40-year olds because they want their characters to be unchanging. See: One More Day.

Also, I said 40-year old fanboys because is my most accurate name for the kind of grognard with nostalgia glasses who wants to add poorly handled and just plain stupid "serious" storylines on everything in a sad attempt to copy Watchmen. at 07:04 on 2011-11-15
Now if the way this pans out is that Jason learns that he was overreacting, and has to apologize, that would be a big pit of fail

It actually does kind of feel like this is in the cards. The two characters are both the hero and I got the feeling this was meant to be the "we are making judgements about each other that will later prove to be wrong and we will be bestest of friends".

Also DC reboot meant to increase diversity, where did all the Asians go?
Just on the subject of Barbara Gordon not being able to walk, I always (well, not really always, I don't actually devote a considerable amount of time to pondering Barbara Gordon or comics in general, I have much more important stuff to do with my time, like pondering fantasy novels, which are clearly much more mature) thought it was pretty silly that Batman, with the sheer RIDICULOUS amount of tech he has at his disposal, couldn't rig up something to let her walk.

Of course, the alternative explanation is that he could, and just decided he wasn't gonna. Which makes him a dick.

Yeah, yeah, consistency in comics, I know.
Sister Magpie at 21:36 on 2011-11-15
Of course, the alternative explanation is that he could, and just decided he
wasn't gonna. Which

No, it's Barbara who canonically decided she wasn't gonna, not Batman. As Oracle she's got her own access to tech.
Cammalot at 23:26 on 2011-11-15
Drive-by delurking/posting!

From someone to whom much comic-book continuity is strictly second-hand and randomly gleaned knowledge: The conversation about the football team sounds fine to me, if a little after-school-special-y. I share Daniel's concern about where that might go, though. The "Thanks, black guy" comment from an African American person also sounds dead-up accurate. It might not be the best of habits, but it is a definite idiomatic tendency, at least amongst American blacks of my generation and earlier. Often, it's just humorous. Pops up (and is often deconstructed) by a lot of black stand-up comics. The conversation between the two women does not make sense to me, I think I'd need more context. Is the black woman trying to be ironic?

So yeah, a lot of my musings here are a little context-free as my comics knowledge is sporadic.
Melissa G. at 01:56 on 2011-11-16

Thanks for the feedback! Not being at all qualified to discuss this kind of stuff, I always feel weird bringing it up. I too thought that the "Thanks, black guy" sounded okay and naturally humorous.

The football team one is kind of iffy just because it seems like the story being set up is one of "These two boys don't understand each other and will come to realize that their first impressions and conceptions of each other are wrong as they get to know each other." I think it's also pertinent to mention that Ronnie had a black teammate defending him against Jason's accusation of racism. As well as his female Asian friend also telling him he was out of line. So....yeah.

The convo between the two girls is the one that stuck out to me the most. It was just jarring. It honestly seems to come out of *nowhere*. And no, I don't think Aleeka was being ironic with her response. And what makes it weirder is that the woman she's talking to is Karen Starr (aka Powergirl) who is basically female Superman. She hasn't been established as such in this continuity yet, but it was just an odd conversation.

I decided to stop being so lazy and scan the pages in:

Football convo

Argument between Aleeka and Karen. There really isn't much context besides this. We only see these women a few times in this issue.
TryCatcher at 03:46 on 2011-11-16
Afeter checking the scans and re-reading the article:

First one, the black guy was acting like a little bitch.

Last one, who the fuck thinks that human beings talk like that?
Cammalot at 11:46 on 2011-11-16
Okay, the first one makes more sense. The interviewee is being purposefully obnoxious, calling the interviewer a coward. (And making all kinds of assumptions about the inevitability of sports for a Certain Type of Man, if he wants to be properly manly. Could be interpreted as race, or build, or perceived straightness or whatever, but it is hostile, and frankly the assumption that blacks are just naturally more physical than cerebral leaks into our society everywhere and is a pretty fair guess on the interviewer's part.) Retaliatory response is retaliatory...but, yanno, being five ten and yet massively uncoordinated and not remotely shaped like an athlete in any way, yet getting my basketball-playing prowess instantly assumed by strangers as far flung as Seattle, Budapest and can be fucking annoying. I will not go so far as to say "triggering" when what I mean is "big damn pet peeve."

The second still forces me to make lots of assumptions. What is the first woman defending herself from? (It sounds like she's claiming not to be in an interracial romance.) The black woman (to!me!) sounds clunkily sarcastic, particularly because she makes a statement, then contradicts it right away: no, it's because you're rich, not because of your race, that I have a problem with you. Because she contradicts het first statement, and because her first statement is a widely known and complained-of stereotype (black women suffer bunches, but it's hunky dory, or at least not as shocking and rallying, because they are built for it, strong like bull doncha know). But for the sarcasm to make sense (it still doesn't to me) the context would need to be that the white woman was asserting that first statement and I've no indication she is. She seems to be being prickly about an entirely different sort of topic. I still don't quite get why she would have brought up the white thing. (there may be typos in this, I am fighting with an overzealous autocorrect)
Axiomatic at 14:22 on 2011-11-16
Sister Magpie: "No, it's Barbara who canonically decided she wasn't gonna, not Batman. As Oracle she's got her own access to tech."

Oh. I didn't know that. That makes more sense, I guess.
Melissa G. at 16:50 on 2011-11-16
The interviewee is being purposefully obnoxious, calling the interviewer a coward. (And making all kinds of assumptions about the inevitability of sports for a Certain Type of Man, if he wants to be properly manly. Could be interpreted as race, or build, or perceived straightness or whatever, but it is hostile, and frankly the assumption that blacks are just naturally more physical than cerebral leaks into our society everywhere and is a pretty fair guess on the interviewer's part.)

That's how I interpret it too. Jason assumes Ronnie means he could play football because he's black i.e. athletic looking and gets defensive because he already doesn't like Ronnie. But the thing is, he is pretty strongly shown to be the one more in the wrong through out the comic. He even tells his friend that he was out of line and that he'd apologize to Ronnie. So, at least in the first issue, the comic doesn't appear to put Ronnie at fault. So I feel like Jason comes off as "Angry Black Man" and as though he's looking to get offended. Which, you know, I'd rather *not* have as Jason's reasons for getting upset are more complicated and understandable than that.

What is the first woman defending herself from?

I *think* she and Mister Terrific are sleeping together? But just as fuck buddies. So yes, she's trying to tell Aleeka that she's not after Mr. T. But I'm not sure why Karen would jump straight to assuming that Aleeka doesn't like her because she's white. Although even though Aleeka is saying it's not because she's white, she then feels the need to bring her own race into it which implies that it was about race in the first place. It's just a weird shoe-horned in scene that seems like it was trying to hard to be edgy or controversial or I have no idea. That one, out of all of them, was the most jarring to me, and I can't really find a way to rationalize its being there. O.o at 18:15 on 2011-11-16
No, it's Barbara who canonically decided she wasn't gonna, not Batman. As Oracle she's got her own access to tech.

This is one of the reasons why making Barbara Batgirl again is problematic to me. Oracle was a hero in her own right. She had her own superhero team and she was called on to help out heroes outside of Gotham. She was heading for A-list hero status while being a paralyzed woman which is pretty freaking cool (Wonder Woman and Black Canary are the only A-list women I can think of at the moment). Batgirl is just one of Batman's numerous lackies. No one is going to be calling her for help when the world ends, but they would have called Oracle.
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