It’s not a secret that I love Super Hero Comics. Superheroes have played an important role in my evolution of who I am today. I fell in love early and I fell in love hard. But it’s a good love, a healthy love as neither of us will get hurt and we’re both willing to give and work on our relationship. I learned to read with superhero comics as my elementary reading teacher encouraged me and my parents to let me read anything that interested me and superheroes interested me so I had a healthy diet of Marvel with a some DC thrown in for good measure. Since then superhero comics have been a constant in my life, through elementary school and my awkward junior high years. A hidden passion while in High School and fully re-embraced in college. Through a turbulent marriage and a return to bachelorhood and remarriage and now they are not just my constant but well on their way to being an important roll in my children’s lives as my four year old loves all things Avengers and my one and a half year old daughter loves nothing more then jumping around in a Spider-Man costume.
As I sit here at the beginning of 2018 I decided that rather then looking back at what was great in 2017 with superhero comics I wanted to look forward to what I hope 2018 will entail for the multiple worlds of super heroics. I whittled my original list down to 8 hopes I have for 2018 in the superhero genre:
1. A Brian Michael Bendis Justice League extended multiple comic tale. Inspired by the Bendis Assembled Podcast I spent a good chunk of my free time the past few months reading the entirety of the Bendis Avengers run and am halfway through his X-Men run. I know that Bendis is not everyone’s cup of tea but I loved what he did on these comics with the dual perspective of events with conjoined titles like the New Avengers and the Mighty Avengers or All-New X-Men and The Uncanny X-Men. I would love to see this done with the Justice League, maybe along the lines of Justice League: America and Justice League: Europe or as they already have two Justice League books simply plug him in there (sorry Steve Orlando, I have enjoyed what you’re writing on Justice League of America but maybe it can become Batman and the Outsiders and continue what you’re doing). All I know is that DC paid a hefty price for Bendis and it’s not simply to take over Superman (rumor) and it would be a shame if they didn’t give him a grand stage with stellar artists and the best way to do this, in my opinion, is give him the Justice League and let Bendis be Bendis.
2. A lighter side to the DC Universe. For years the DC Universe has felt dark with constant death and then a side helping of death and destruction thrown in for good measure. For a decade there was a continual cycle of Crisis that became darker and darker in tone. Whether it was the rape of heroes wives and the subsequent mind wiping of villains in Identity Crisis, to the ill treatment of Superboy and the entirety of a beautiful conclusion of Crisis on Infinite Earths #12 in Infinity Crisis to the pointless death of Batman and the New Gods in Final Crisis. Then there was Flashpoint, which led to the very dark New 52. But over 2017 DC has found some light, even in its darker corners. There are obvious bright spots like Super Sons and Superman under Tomasi and Gleason but even Batman has been lightened up and they’re even letting him get married….well at least engaged. I haven’t seen a Batman that smiles in some time, maybe since the mid-‘80s before the Dark Knight Returns. Even darker books have lightness to them now, Green Arrow regularly deals with the downtrodden being beaten even further in the ground by the 1% but there’s Oliver Queen, finally re-embracing his Robin Hood roots, and taking on the establishment with charisma and laughter. Having some lightness and humanity doesn’t devalue the stories being told, something that surely the ‘90s taught us. Keep it up DC and continue to bring fun back to the DC Universe.
3. Black Hammer! Enough Said? Okay, maybe I should say a little bit more. I fell hard for Black Hammer. It hit every theme I love in comics and did so with loving homage to the past but not so mired in the comics of yesteryear it can’t tell its own story. Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston are telling not only a tremendous superhero story but also a family drama wrapped in a mystery. It’s a book I look forward to every month and am enjoying its spinoff title Sherlock Frankenstein and the Legion of Evil and am anticipating Doctor Star and the Kingdom of Lost Tomorrows but I am really looking forward to the return of Black Hammer in 2018 and hope more people gravitate this beautiful super hero drama and Lemire spends more time expanding the Black Hammer universe and it fits in with my other superhero homage series, Astro City, but hits a different narrative then the Busiek, Anderson, and Ross classic and was one of my favorite titles of 2017 and can’t wait to see what 2018 brings.
4. Small Marvel Books. Sadly as I write this Marvel seems hell bent on destroying their wonderful little corner of the Marvel Universe inhabited by character driven titles. Marvel needs more Hawkeye’s and Mockingbird’s. In this day and age there needs to be a Luke Cage title. Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur should never end. Unfortunately the Unstoppable Wasp stopped. Not everything needs to be a mega-hit. Not every title should be linked to the Avengers or the X-Men universes. I know that it’s easy for me to say this since I don’t have to justify the money or balance the books at Marvel but it saddens me that small books seem to be dying at Marvel when they are some of the best books the House of Ideas is producing right now. Hopefully Marvel rights this ship since I would love to be reading more Kelly Thompson Hawkeye and David F. Walker Luke Cage in 2018
5. The X-Men revitalized. I was one of those comic kids in the ‘80s who never missed an issue of Claremont’s Uncanny X-men. I was there with Byrne and the Dark Phoenix Saga (one of my earliest comic reading experiences) all the way through the Jim Lee takeover before he bolted with the other Image founders. I loved everything X for a long time, the Uncanny X-Men, New Mutants, X-Factor, and Excalibur. As much as I love this era of the X-men it is also unfortunately a curse as to often when the X franchise(s) struggle Marvel instantly reverts to mining this era for their reboot and there are enough writers in the industry who just like me grew up on the X-Men that they want to do there best interpretation of Claremont and it just doesn’t work. Nor do they need to return to the Claremont model as other writers have proven that it’s ok to go in a different direction and still keep the melodramatic vibe the X-Men are known for. Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction had a wonderful take on the franchise in the mid ‘00s, Jason Aaron’s Wolverine and the X-Men was an underappreciated comic and as I stated previously that Brian Michael Bendis had one of the most fulfilling X-Men runs in some time. But the current take feels like re-mined Claremont. I hope Marvel allows for a new take, a different take that both captures the past but is more about the future of the franchise, much akin to the Bendis run or Grant Morrison’s New X-Men and Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men. I know we’re in the era of Marvel Legacy but the X-Men doesn’t need a new interpretation of the Claremont era but a fresh take on the Mutant’s of the Marvel Universe.
6. A return of Classic Avengers. Unlike the X-Men where change is slow and Claremont still reigns supreme it feels like Marvel has been experimenting with the Avengers for years, maybe all the way back to the matching leather jacket era of the ‘90s. Not all of its been bad, the Bendis run for example is one of my favorite eras of the Avengers and I loved what Hickman did a few years ago with the build up to Infinity and Secret Wars. Yet over the past few years the Avengers haven’t felt like the Avengers comics I want to read. Now I will preface this by saying I love Mark Waid, I’m not sure the man has ever written a bad comic but his Avengers run has not been the stellar experience I hoped for. Maybe its editorial control or getting roped into to many events or the fact he can’t play with the classic characters since they are tied up in their own individual titles but Waid’s Avengers has been unexciting. This is Mark Waid Marvel. Let the man run wild with the title. Allow him bring in the big three and then fill out the roster with some classic Avengers such as Wonder Man, Captain Marvel, Vision, Scarlet Witch, Black Panther, and… well I could be here all day if I start listing my favorite Avengers line ups but let Waid loose with the team and tell an earth shattering Avengers tale.
*Side Note: I also need more of the Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic Neolithic Avengers (it doesn’t get more classic then that). There just wasn’t enough of this group in Marvel Legacy #1.
7. Less Media influence – Let Comics be comics & Movies/TV be Movies /TV. I will say that both Marvel and DC have gotten better about this but there still feels like an unconscious need to tie comic titles, whether it is topics or appearance, into what is going on in the latest movie or TV show. I have yet to talk to a comic retailor who has seen an uptick in comic sales due to a major superhero movie. As I see it comics are feeding Movies and TV and not vice-versa. Let comic creators tell their story and create the stories that the MCU and DCU want to mine rather then pigeonholing wonderful creators into stories that work on the screen but not on the page. There’s a reason why superhero movies make more money then any other type of film right now, because they have such a rich tapestry of material that they can pick and choose from to make their films and shows. Let comic creators create the next great movie not force them to rehash the movie story, which is just a classic comic story, in their titles.
8. A moratorium on Events. We need a break. I used to love events. I still remember the pure joy I had while reading Crisis on Infinite Earths. It was the greatest thing I had ever read to that point in my life and it’s still one of my favorite series of all time. But over the last decade we are in a constant build up to the next event, so much so that the final issue of Marvel events foretells what the next event is going to be. Right now DC is in the midst of TWO universe-altering events with Metal and Doomsday Clock seeming to be in competition to redefine the DC Universe going forward. Marvel promised after Secret Empire that there would be an 18 month moratorium on events but appear to be back tracking as they canceled Guardians of Galaxy and are instead using the story from that title to launch an new Infinity Gauntlet centric cosmic event, of course to coincide with the Avengers: Infinity War movie. It’s too much and it affects story momentum in other titles and is becoming a financial strain with all of the ancillary specials and attached mini-series. The event comic has lost its specialness and no longer feels like an Event but rather just par for the course. Lets take some time off and let a story naturally develop then be forced into the next event. Make Events feel special, like Crisis did in 1985 or House of M twenty years later in 2005.
Obviously these are just a few of the things I would like to see in 2018. At the end of the day though I just want a year filled with fantastic stories and incredible comics. I want new voices and indie writers entering the big two super hero arena or creating their own super hero universes. I want established writers to be given free reign to tell incredible stories. I want beautiful artwork to grace the pages, whether it be established masters of the comic page or young upstarts breaking into the field and blowing readers away. I want superhero comics for everyone, an eclectic array of titles that draws in readers and resonates with fans for years to come. I want superheroes outside the big two publishers where risks are the norm and unpredictability is common. I hope for incredible Super Hero titles that set a high bar for 2019 to eclipse.