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Recently, DC Comics announced a new publishing push that would follow the miniseries Convergence called “DC You.” They wanted to emphasize a wider range of characters, stories, and types of storytelling. In the past, DC has been criticized for not making their character line-ups more diverse, and it appeared that this was an effort towards changing that perception and the notion that Marvel, with their new popular characters like Miles Morales and Kamala Khan, was far ahead of DC.
The response to the announcement has been mixed. Although many were excited by new creative teams and a slate of books highlighting characters who had not had their own series, there were some missteps, too. DC seemed to miscalculate their image by filling the promotional material with buzzwordy “cool dad” slogans like “Are YOU ready to hashtag this?” and “Are YOU ready for the new awesome?” Perhaps more significantly, many pointed out that for a campaign that pushed how the titles were more like fans (who are increasingly female), there was a severe lack of female talent working on the books.
One of the exceptions to this rule was Black Canary, a comic written by Brenden Fletcher (Batgirl, Gotham Academy) and drawn by Annie Wu (Hawkeye). However, the creators seem to be taking a chance with Black Canary by making Dinah Lance a part of a rock band called Black Canary. The look and feel of the excerpts from Black Canary made it feel much more like an indie comic (like a cross between Scott Pilgrim and Adrian Tomine) than a typical DC superhero title. As someone who likes both superhero and indie comics and feels that there is too much of a divide (on both sides) between the genres, I think this fresh approach looks really intriguing.
My concern is whether fans will follow the new Black Canary. At Special Edition: NYC, held earlier in June in New York, both Fletcher and Wu were on a panel, along with other creators, to discuss the new DC You titles. The names they brought up as touchstones were not classic Canary villains or former creators, but rather musicians. They namechecked musicians like Peter Murphy and Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood and Grimes. At one point, talking about a character in Black Canary, Fletcher compared her to new music artist FKA Twigs and asked the audience who liked her music and there was barely a stir.
Black Canary #1 debuted this week, and it will be an interesting test case for the DC You. It’s great that DC is allowing risky books with inventive creators behind them, but they also need to sell titles to continue. Will fans want to follow the exploits of rock star Black Canary, especially if the feel of the book tends towards the un-superheroic? Will longtime Canary loyalists get on board with the new approach? If there is strong buzz on the title, as with a Marvel comic Wu worked on called Hawkeye, DC might be more lenient to slow sales.
I have not personally had the chance to read Black Canary #1 yet, although I am planning on it. I like music history and stories about musicians. I also don’t mind character-based plots for superheroes that sometimes eschew the fantastical elements of the superhero universe. So it’s a comic that seems to be right up my alley. I’m not sure how typical I am of the average comic book reader, though. Certainly, there are some Pitchfork-reading cool kids who will have the new Black Canary on their Tumblrs. However, DC also needs at least a good chunk of the traditional fanboys and fangirls to get excited about the book.
Another DC You title discussed at the SE:NYC DC You panel, Midnighter by writer Joe Orlando and artist ACO, seems to have initially captured an audience. If Midnighter, a violent anti-hero from the Wildstorm universe who happens to be gay, can become something of a cult character from DC You, then the decision-makers at DC will be more likely to allow creators to push the envelope more with stories and characters. These types of titles could make DC Comics overall a more daring company with a storytelling reputation akin to the golden age of DC/Vertigo titles. The first step, though, is the DC You titles being good and fans supporting them.