Sunday, 27 November 2016

Was Earth-2: Society Supposed to be the Rebirth of Earth-2 Proper? If So, Where Did it All Go Wrong?

I've been thinking a lot about this lately, and especially Dan Abnett's confirmation that he was brought onto the Earth-2: Society title with the goal of saving the comic. Was Daniel H. Wilson originally supposed to revive the original Earth during his run, but failed to deliver on that promise? Was DC recognising their failure with Earth-2 the reason the proper Justice Society is being "rebirthed" on Prime Earth?

As I detailed in my last post, I attribute the death of the franchise to three main contributing factors: (1) The loss of meaningful history and legacy we associate with Earth-2. (2) The decision to turn Earth-2 into a toxic playground for bad storylines ala Ultimate Marvel. (3) The annoying tendency to centre the comic on alternate versions of Batman and Superman instead of the Justice Society characters--Earth-2's main selling point. That was just with the original Earth-2 series alone. If Earth-2: Society was supposed to be a fresh start, where did DC go wrong? The answer, in my opinion, lied with the people they put in charge.

I would argue the New 52 Earth-2 was doomed to fail the moment the property was put under the supervision of Eddie Berganza, who isn't known for his glowing reputation as a competent editor. It was Eddie Berganza who saw the launch of the Huntress miniseries in 2011, which reintroduced Helena Wayne back into the mainstream continuity, along with Earth-2. This is the same Eddie Berganza who thought it was a great idea to retcon the fan favourite Helena Bertinelli Huntress has having been Helena Wayne the whole time, effectively turning another fan favourite character like Helena Wayne into a highly controversial character.

This is also the same Eddie Berganza who thought the best way to reboot Earth-2 was as the world that lost the Apokolips War--resulting in the deaths of the Earth-2 Trinity--and it became the never-ending apocalypse story ever since. This is also the same Eddie Berganza who failed to give Huntress and Power Girl a solid creative direction when they were given their own book, resulting in one of the worst meandering books of the New 52 line. This is also the same Eddie Berganza who thought Earth-2 needed a new Batman, resulting in the worst rebooting of both Thomas Wayne and Dick Grayson in the history of both characters.

This is the same Eddie Berganza who put Michael Cotton in charge of both Earth-2 and Worlds' Finest, and this is the same Michael Cotton who drove James Robinson off the original Earth-2 title. This is the same Michael Cotton who completely mismanaged both the Earth-2 and Worlds' Finest books to the point of Earth-2 becoming a bad parody of Injustice: Gods Among Us (complete with the writer responsible for that comic, Tom Taylor) and World's Finest just continued its one-way trip to nowhere, complete with the piss-poor characterisations of the book's lead heroines.

This is the same Michael Cotton who executed the abominable Earth-2: World's End event, and the same Michael Cotton who described the weekly series as "it's dark, it's mean, and I don't like happy endings." This is the same Michael Cotton who hired someone like Daniel H. Wilson--a writer with zero knowledge of the Justice Society characters and DC Comics lore in general--to execute that project. The bonus was Wilson being hired to develop the story for a weekly comic without the experience of having written a monthly comic to show that he had the right skills to handle a project of Earth-2: World's End's magnitude. The comic itself was predictably worse than trite under those circumstances.

The common denominator in this recurring pattern of bad luck for Earth-2 was the lack of an actual Justice Society fan amongst DC's staff who was actually interested in building a strong Justice Society franchise. The two people who were--in this case, James Robinson and Paul Levitz--didn't exactly have the power to influence the overall directions of the books they were in charge of. They were either eventually driven off the title they were working on due to conflicts with editorial (Robinson), or they simply didn't challenge bad editorial directions, even when they knew these editorial directions would be damaging to the franchise (Levitz).

Without that someone with a genuine love for the Justice Society characters overseeing any of these projects at the editorial level, it was only natural that Earth-2: Society would fail to revitalise the series in any meaningful way from the unnecessary damage that came before. By the time DC got around to course-correcting this property by literally replacing everyone involved with Earth-2--editors and creators alike--it was already too late to make a difference. The damage was already complete.

Had DC recognised from the moment James Robinson was driven off the original title that something was wrong, and that the Earth-2 comic was no longer moving in the right direction, a lot of long-term damage could've been easily prevented. Had DC recognised that Michael Cotton's idea of a story that's "dark, mean, and I don't like happy endings' as a bad fit for a Justice Society comic, new staff could've been brought on board a lot sooner to once again prevent a lot of unnecessary damage. Had someone like Geoff Johns been more involved in launching a new Earth-2 comic for a modern DC audience from the start, that would've made a world of difference in the kind of Earth-2 we would've gotten for the modern DC continuity.

Johns who loves the Justice Society characters and Golden Age lore would not have developed Earth-2 as an essentially bad replica of Marvel's Ultimate Universe. Johns would've actually done Earth-2 right, complete with a recognisable Justice Society team, and a more successful modern rebooting of the Justice Society characters. He especially would not have done a story like Earth-2: World's End as the lead-in to Convergence at all, and certainly not with the outcome that it actually got.

If Johns had been put in charge of executing the event leading to Convergence last year, we probably could've gotten our first Earth-2 and Prime Earth crossover event. It would've definitely made the event feel more worthwhile if it meant seeing each of these characters interact with their past selves to battle a new threat. It could've even lead to a genuine rebirth of the DC Universe if DC was already looking to move away from the New 52 era by this point. We probably could've even gotten DC Universe Rebirth a year earlier than we actually did, and Earth-2 could've simply been relaunched as Justice Society of America.

In a better world, this is what would've happened. But alas, it didn't. The only thing DC can do now is learn from the bad choices they made with the Justice Society property in the form of Earth-2, and not replicate these same bad decisions in the future. So far, it looks like DC did learn from their mistakes with Earth-2 because we're now getting back the more classic Justice Society with Rebirth, but on Prime Earth instead of Earth-2. The question now is who's going to be put in charge of it and which characters are going to be brought back with the Rebirth Justice Society?

In my opinion, DC should keep Jim Chadwick as the editor and Dan Abnett and Bruno Redondo as the creative team. It's doubtful Geoff Johns will be writing the title since his plate will be full between fulfilling his duties as DC President and as the head of DC Films, so Abnett would be the next best choice writer. As for the Justice Society characters themselves? Literally bring back everyone, and I do mean, everyone. From the original founding members of the Golden Age to the pre-Crisis versions of Huntress, Power Girl, and Fury to take the place of the Golden Age Trinity. DC should also bring back post-Crisis additions like Kendra Mu├▒oz-Saunders and Sonia Sato, and create Prime Earth versions of New 52 additions like Val-Zod and Queen Marella so that these characters don't fade out of relevance with the failure of Earth-2. Literally give everyone a fresh start and we could potentially have a more successful Justice Society Rebirth title, and not another creative and commercial flop like Earth-2: Society.

The point is, for any comic to be successful, it absolutely DOES matter that the right people get put in charge. If you have editors and creators who love the Justice Society characters and want to tell meaningful stories with them, you'll get a run like Geoff Johns' critically acclaimed Justice Society of America. Put editors who don't love or respect the characters, and--worse yet--they hire writers who have zero understanding of the Justice Society characters or interest in DC's Golden Age lore, and you will get another botched comic like Earth-2: Society.

2 comments:

  1. This is the same Eddie Berganza who reportedly has a reputation as a bit of a predator of women. Look it up.

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    1. Yes. This was actually confirmed by at least one former DC editor and a few other creators. I do hope that Warner Bros. is in fact revising their HR policy on sexual harassment like they said they would back when Berganza was publicly outed in April, following Shelly Bond's termination from Vertigo. People who make any company an unsafe workspace for women and other people are not an asset to the company, they're a liability.

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