Born again?
POGI FROM A PARALLEL UNIVERSE - RJ Ledesma (The Philippine Star) - June 8, 2016 - 12:00am

What was the most shocking development for comic book geeks this past movie season? Was it that Captain America has been a sleeper agent for Hydra — a clandestine organization dedicated to world domination — all along? Was it the fact that Superman died (yet again)? Or was it the fact that Reggie Mantle was exercising his, um, one-handed right of self-expression in an Archie comic? (Of course, this occurred in “Afterlife in Archie,” a mature readers zombie-themed Archie book read by immature people like myself.)

For a DC zombie fanboy like myself, the most shocking of all developments came with the release of the special-edition comic DC Comics Rebirth #1: an issue that “brings back what was lost: the legacy of the characters, the love and the hope of the DC Universe.” Poring over this 80-page monster, the writer dropped the microphone on so many classic DC superheroes that they’ve had to rewrite their Facebook statuses. But in the final two pages, the author drops the microphone so hard, it burrows its way to the center of the earth.

But what is even more telling (and you’ll find out why it matters to the superhero movie going public) is the writer who scripted this (calculatedly optimistic) “return to greatness” for the DC Universe: an equally zombified DC fanboy-turned-writer-turned-executive named Geoff Johns. Johns rose from the ranks as a writer who pitched and wrote his own concept for a second-generation superhero named “Star-Spangled Kid,” then went on to resuscitate the Justice Society of America — the DC Universe’s precursor to the Justice League — composed of “Mystery Men” from World War II who were still fighting crime (with the help of Anlene and Efficascent Oil). From there, Johns became DC’s “Rebirth” specialist (a.k.a. “Mr. Ob-Gyn”), reinvigorating the flagging careers of many DC mainstays including Hawkman, the Flash and Green Lantern. Recognizing his talent for connecting with the “core concepts” behind characters that will appeal to both new and lapsed fans, Johns eventually became chief creative officer for DC Comics in 2010. 

Johns’ superheroic gynecological skills on the DC comic book universe couldn’t have come at a better time: sales for their comic books had plummeted to a record low versus their Marvel-ous competition ever since embarking on a gutsy creative revamp of the DC Universe which was called “New 52” — in which DC wiped out years of comic book stories in a Flash (or to be more comic geek-accurate, Flashpoint) and “restarted” the DC Universe. Presumably, the idea behind the new 52 was to welcome millennials and lapsed readers back to the DC comic book fold where they could jump into stories without being burdened by years of continuity. Instead, the new 52 ostracized decades-old readers who were invested — both emotionally and with credit card debt — in these years of continuity. #Bittermuch? (Star Wars Expanded Universe fans, we know how you feel.) 

And after resuscitating one universe, it looks like Geoff is out to resuscitate another. A few days before Rebirth was released in comic book stores, it was announced that Geoff was bumped up the Warner Brothers totem pole as co-pilot of the DC cinematic universe. It looks like his gynecological skills will be put to the test again after the critical and commercial misstep that was Batman vs Superman (“Your mom’s name is Martha, too?”) as he co-produces the upcoming Justice League film and co-writes the Batman standalone film with (no longer sad) Ben Affleck.

So, what happened with the DC Universe Rebirth comic that has given fans like myself hope that Geoff will make up for all the negativity that Zack Snyder introduced to the DC Cinematic Universe?

The story opens with a disembodied narrator (whom we later find out is Wally West a.k.a. Flash a.k.a. Kid Flash a.k.a. a character who disappeared as suddenly as a drug dealer in Davao at the advent of the new 52) desperately seeking the help of superheroes with whom he has a “strong” connection to warn them of a “darkness” that has corrupted their universe for “a long time.” In what sounds like a stinging rebuke to “the New 52,” the darkness has resulted in “heroes who were legends becoming novices, bonds between heroes weakened and erased, and the destruction of heroic legacies.” As the story progresses, Geoff starts restoring the building blocks of what made the DC universe great for long-term fans by “undoing” the corruption (Na Du30 ang DC Universe).  

In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Geoff said: “The pervasive attitude in the DNA of DC is optimism” (which, for me, is characterized by all that was lost in the “new 52” — hope and legacy and relationships). And Rebirth set out to do just that. Initially, the DC higher-ups wanted to do another restart when the surviving
“New 52” comics hit issue 52. But before they could set the reset button, Geoff offered an alternative: instead of discarding the “New 52,” he used Rebirth to restore the entire DC comic book universe history all the way back to 1938 while cleverly folding the new 52 into that overall tapestry.

For Geoff, all stories told in the DC universe are good stories — whether they are too silly, too campy, too dated or too melodramatic (because he knows that this is the secret beauty of comic books); these stories just need the opportunity to be told better. 

But Geoff’s underwear-destroying contribution to this Rebirth is when he identifies (both within the story and in a meta-commentary fashion) the “darkness” that has infected the DC comic book universe (and presumably the cinematic universe as well) with a “grim and gritty” vibe. Who is it? Well, I don’t want to spoil it for you. But if you’ve been a fan of superhero movies, he is the only superhero whose superhero costume is his birthday suit. Go on, Google it.

If Geoff can correct the course of DC’s comic book universe by bringing back “optimism” in one masterful comic stroke (no, not the same stroke as Reggie Mantle’s), I pray to the Kryptonian gods that he can change the course of its cinematic universe in one movie as well. Hopefully, in the upcoming Justice League movie, we get to see Superman smile. And get to see Batman, um, grimace. 

* * *

For comments, suggestions or Hail Hydra! Email Ledesma.rj@gmail.com or visit www.rjledesma.com. Follow @rjled610 on Instagram or @rjled on Twitter. 

 

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