DC Comics Creators Discuss The New 52, The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

The other big conversation over the Fourth of July weekend on social media amongst comic creators and fans was kicked off by Gail Simone wanting to talk about The New 52. Ten years ago, in a series of stories first broken by Bleeding Cool, DC Comics relaunched and rebooted their entire line, retconned and rewrote continuity, and gave us a younger, less legacy-bound superheroes, no longer married and with fewer sidekicks, as well as a universe that also stretched further into horror, Westerns, space opera and other genres often ignored by The Big Two. Bleeding Cool also reported on severe issues regarding micromanagement of creators from executive as well as editorial level, to the degree that comic books were greenlit, scripts approved and entire issues drawn before they were scrapped and started from scratch. Sometimes this happened to the same issue more than once. Edicts such as removing marriages and sidekicks rankled many and fans who were invested in previous versions of the characters often felt betrayed. But how did it feel to work on the reboot? Gail Simone kicked off the conversation on social media and many creators joined in.

Gail Simone: I will put forward a weird side-effect of the new 52 that was very positive, and a lot of retailers have told me this. It raised DC sales for a good bit. But it was a jolt to a lot of other publishers and they really started upping their game to compete…… Marvel and others had a wake-up call, they needed to put out really strong stuff, with the top creators. Which led to a resurgence in sales for many publishers that had been flat for a good while. So while the New 52 had problems, it did boost sales across the board.

Sterling Gates: H&D [Hawk And Dove] was supposed to be a '90s fight book — big, bold, brash, 12 issues of H&D versus the biggest DC icons (who were all infected with Chaos Seeds!). Then the New 52 happened and we did our best to make it fit into what editorial needed it to be. I'd do it differently now.

Taylor Esposito: I got my big lettering break during New 52. I came into the company a year into the run, and was there for about 3 years. Taught me a lot and made me the letterer I am today.

Marc Bernadin: I have very mixed feelings about the New 52. On the one hand, it was the only time I was ever invited to write a mainline, monthly DC comic book. On the other, writing Static Shock was the single worst experience I've ever had in comics. I got the call from then-group editor Eddie Berganza asking if I wanted to take over Static because the launch writer, John Rozum, was stepping away. (I didn't, and still don't know the reasons for that. Maybe I should've asked.) Excited, I agreed on the phone. Eddie then set a lunch to talk about it. I had a bunch of ideas. I basically wanted to make it Buffy: Give Virgil some friends in school who knew his secret and a teacher who discovered the truth. I showed up to lunch to get my marching orders. There was a surprise third person at lunch: Assistant Editor Harvey Richards, who would actually be editing the book. Cool. First order of business was to wrap up John's story, that had been going for six issues. My first issue was to be #7. So I read through what John was planning and found a way to land that bird that made sense. Issue 8 was my first real go at Static. And Harvey made it awful. Edits that pulled the story in directions I didn't like. Changes I didn't agree with. Vetoing almost every decision I wanted to make. It got to the point where an email from him would make me physically sick. When I turned in the first draft of the script for issue 8, the note I got back was "I just don't think you understand how superhero stories work." I was crushed by the experience, by an editor who either didn't understand me, didn't like me, didn't like his job, or all of the above. Static Shock was canceled before my first issue hit stands. I only ever wrote two issues, 7 and 8. And 8 ends with the heroes looking forward to new, shiny adventures that would never come. When I got the news of the cancellation, it was greeted with a sigh of relief. I didn't write a comic book for years after that. It broke me. And I haven't written for DC since. (There have been conversations about things, none of which came to fruition. Yet.) I've told part of this story before, but always leaving out the name of the editor. But you know what? F-ck it. What happened happened and I feel the way I feel.

Gail Simone: the first few months of the new 52 were almost dictatorial. But to DC's credit, they realized it and got a LOT better about letting creators do their thing, and the stories got much stronger for it. There's some damn good stuff in those books!

Mike Costa: With all the reminiscing about the New 52, it's also important to remember that while Marc's story of outrageously incompetent editors and weapons-grade toxic corporate short-sightedness is particularly intense, it was not unique during that initiative. I was part of the New 52, as were a lot of friends of mine, and for all the excitement, from the professional perspective I mostly remember it as initial demolition charges of a uniquely catastrophic period for DC creative decisions and professional practices. A decade later, the majority of the decision makers who were steering into icebergs and locking passengers in steerage to drown have been shown the door in one corporate blood-letting or another (I have thoughts on that too) and of the people left, a lot of them are the good ones. I no longer have a lot of friends either working at DC or for them, but the leadership structure there is largely brand new this past year, and I hope that leads to an era of not just good comics, but good and transparent relations with employees and talent.  Also, just so a good dude doesn't think I'm subtweeting shit-talk, the editor for most of my run on Blackhawks was @ConroyForReal. (I went through four editors. Haha, FOUR EDITORS IN EIGHT ISSUES) and he was and is a prince. I was lucky when the music stopped he was in my chair

Charles Soule: My only work at DC was during the New 52 era – so no one will ever convince me it was anything other than pure excellence. Pure Excellence

Gail Simone: I had twice made Birds of Prey a hit. Then the new 52 came, and I was sent two paragraphs what the new book would be, no discussion, no back and forth. It wasn't good. So I said, 'I'm not writing this, sorry.' So I didn't. :)… Batgirl had all kinds of stuff turned down, she couldn't wear glasses, she couldn't be a librarian, we had a cool hideout, she couldn't have that. Lots.

Duane Swierczynski: Same here, and I loved working on BoP. But I wish there had been a little more… planning.

Cully Hamner: Interesting to see #New52 trending so kindly. I think I'm the only *freelancer* who touched almost the entire line in a design capacity. @JimLee
and I were responsible for at least 90% of the character redesigns you saw (and a bunch that you didn't!). Cool to be a part of!

Jimmy Palmiotti: #New52 was a great time for comics. Thanks Dan Didio for letting us have more fun with Jonah Hex in All Star Western

Kyle Higgins: Was honored by the opportunity. Still am. But it was an intense, often political roller coaster. I personally don't have much nostalgia for it haha… I don't think comics is ready for the full New 52 talk. Yet.

James Tynion IV: Give me another 5 years and maybe I'll be able to participate in more of the warm nostalgia going around today.

Kyle Higgins: Hard to be nostalgic for all the pain.

Fabian Nicieza: Give me another 50.

Gail Simone: Plas was not part of the original New 52. There was very little room for 'fun' in the original line-up, which I fought against (and lost).

Van Jensen: New 52 nostalgia? It was something. Had a pretty rad time during our brief Four Corpsemen Green Lantern era with @robertvenditti @CharlesSoule & @Justin_Jordan . We got to create new New Gods. How do you beat that?

Pete Woods showed some of those designs off…


Lilah Sturges: I didn't write anything in the New 52. I got offered a book and turned it down because I didn't like the idea, and never heard from any editors in the DCU again, oops. But by that point DC had already mostly decided that I couldn't sell a superhero book, which was true. The real bummer was that I had JUST gotten a handle on how I wanted to do superheroes, and did some *really* good stuff in Zatanna and Power Girl and The Spirit but it was kind of too late by that point I think.

Scott Snyder: Getting a lot of kind comments on our New 52 Batman run today and I just wanted to say thanks. One of the toughest, craziest but best times in my life, working on Bruce, becoming friends with a brother @GregCapullo (and @jonathanglapion and @fcoo) and making things we loved. And getting to work on Swamp Thing with @YanickPaquette and @nathanfairbairn getting to add to the mythos, create the Rot, all of it. A dream come true.

Greg Capullo: Proud to have been part of the New 52. I'm humbled by all the the kind words that I've been reading today regarding my contribution

Gail Simone: Mostly I remember the art…whatever one feels about the changes made or the stories being told, the line-up of artists was INCREDIBLE and I recall all of us writers sharing the new costumes and covers and layouts, and it just felt like everyone wanted to blow the doors off.
Ardyan Syaf created a beautiful Batgirl outfit, I thought it was incredible. Then a couple days later, I get a sketch with some tweaks and improvements to the design, that made it even better.
From Jim Lee.
I remember sitting down to write the first issue of Batgirl, which was stressy as HELL in a lot of ways, some external but a lot of it was simply this, Batgirl was THE DC character I first fell in love with, she had the biggest influence on my life. And I was going to write the first ongoing Batgirl series ever.
There was a LOT of pressure.
I remember Dan sent me a little text message, something he very rarely did, and said, "What do you think about BG as BG?"
That was how he asked me. I had NO IDEA what they had planned, and at first I couldn't figure out what he was asking…BG as BG?
It was the wildest time in comics that I recall. It was full of a LOT of stress but also some incredible highs. And I loved the sense of community that sprung up amongst creators…at cons, all we could talk about was what stories we had coming up. We were that invested.
It was a roller coaster, but when I look back, I am very proud of BATGIRL and the MOVEMENT in particular, and SECRET SIX volume II. I'm grateful to DC, very few other publishers would have supported those books to the degree they did.
Anyway, it was a stroll down memory lane after not really talking about it much for ten years. Literally hundreds of people posted that it was their gateway to comics, so I'm pretty proud of all of us who made that happen. They put out some damn good books!

And for some it seemed rather influential:

James Gunn: New 52 is when I refell in love with #TheSuicideSquad – & when #HarleyQuinn joined. Because of that, Court of Owls, Animal Man, & much more I'll always be fond of that era at @DCComics
. Call me a sucker but I literally bought every single issue launched at that time & loved it.

Zac Thompson: New 52 is trending – so let me just say, in 2011 I was a lapsed comic reader. Lemire and Foreman's ANIMAL MAN reignited my passion for the medium and is sincerely one of the biggest reasons I'm writing comics today.


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About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
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