She Has No Head! – DC Dream Comics
A couple weeks ago, Girls Gone Geek was running a hashtag on twitter called #DreamComics asking people to pitch their character and creative team that would make up their dream comics at DC and Marvel. There were some great suggestions. Because I was a bit busy I simply gave them a link to my Marvel “Dreamy Lady Team Ups” column from late 2013 instead of coming up with new ideas, but it got me thinking about DC books, which I never did a similar piece for. In truth, I never did a “Dreamy Lady Team Ups” piece (or similar) for DC because it’s just a rough place for me right now. There are so many characters I love there, but – as many of you are well aware – it’s just not a very welcoming place to me right now. I find the treatment of female characters to be pretty appalling and even beyond that the tone is incredibly dark and gritty throughout the universe, and honestly, I don’t understand the universe very well anymore – the ages of characters, what was retconned and what was kept, it’s kind of a mess in my head. However, as I was thinking about it, DC not being a great/welcoming places these days is the best possible reason to come up with a list of what I’d love to see. And so here we are.
For my list, as usual, I used whatever creator I wanted most to see on a book. I didn’t take into account whether they would be willing or interested, and I didn’t take into account whether they were so busy with other creator owned (or corporate) books that would make doing said book impossible anyway (see Keiron Gillen/Jamie McKelvie, and many many others). I also didn’t take into account the current status of the DCU. Most of the books you’ll find below do not track with the current dark universe – and of course they don’t – because that track has largely left me not reading their comics, so of course that’s not what I’m going to pick for my #dreamcomics.
Some of these books would be much brighter and lighter and more fun than what DC is currently doing, so I don’t submit them as “realistic options” for DC consider, I submit them as a fun exercise of what I’d like to see, characters I miss and would like to see more of, and creators that I respect and think would have something insightful to say. Obviously, given the poor state of the ladies at DC and my own personal interest and investment in female characters, these are all female-led books.
Okay, let’s go make some fictional comics!
01 – BLACK BAT
Starring: Cass Cain
Guest starring: Lady Shiva, Stephanie Brown/Spoiler, General Bat-crew, Black Canary, and Sin
By: Greg Rucka (writer) Ross Campbell (artist) Rico Renzi (colorist) Ross Campbell (covers).
To be honest, I trust almost nobody with Cass Cain. I certainly wouldn’t sacrifice my beloved Lazarus or Stumptown, but Greg Rucka is about the only writer in the world I trust with a character I love as much as Cassandra Cain. He’s written some of the best Bat-related books we’ve ever gotten (Batwoman: Elegy and Gotham Central) and of course nobody does female led books better – from his new Lazarus, Veil, and Stumptown to his Whiteout and Queen & Country – he has the knowledge, breadth of experience, and talent to deliver the best possible return of Cass Cain. Equally important when launching new books, especially those with female leads he’s an A-list creator with a huge fan base that would bring in readers like crazy, something Cain both needs and deserves.
You know who else I trust implicitly? Ross Campbell. A Rucka/Campbell Cass Cain would quite simply blow my goddamn mind. Campbell has created and drawn some of the best non-superhero/indie comics around (Wet Moon, The Abandoned, Water Baby), and then he went ahead and created one of the best indie SUPERHERO books around – Shadoweyes. And it’s Shadoweyes that particularly makes me think Campbell would kill on a Cass Cain book. Campbell excels at dark trending YA work, especially featuring women. He kills when it comes to design and fashion, and his character work is second to none. Yet he’s perfectly at home in both dark and light superhero worlds as evidenced by his exceptional work on both Glory for Image and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for IDW. For colors, Rico Renzi has quickly established himself with strong work on everything from Oni’s Stumptown and Vertigo’s Collider/FBP to the underrated but gorgeous Loose Ends from 12 Gauge as a colorist to watch and gape in amazement at. Able to reign it in nicely for the “normal stuff” he cuts absolutely wild when the script calls for it and it is glorious.
02 – THE NEW GOD
Starring: Big Barda & Scott Free
Guest Starring: Everyone and everything. Everywhere and anywhere.
By Noelle Stevenson (writer) Chris Samnee (artist) Jordie Bellaire (colorist) Chris Samnee (covers)
This one’s a little outside the box, but I saw Stevenson tweeting about Big Barda the other day and it hit me like a bolt of lightning that Stevenson’s big bold superhero-style used for Nimona – a character absolutely full of life and violence and love and drama is not actually so far away from the big beautiful badass that is Barda. Stevenson has proven herself as a fan favorite both with her wildly successful Nimona and as co-writer to Boom’s new hit series Lumberjanes, so it’s not such a stretch to put her on a big bold superhero book with a character like Barda at its center. I frequently feel that what mainstream comics need more than anything are fresh new voices to re-invigorate things, and I can’t think of a writer with her finger more on the pulse and that might have more to offer in terms of creativity and innovation than Stevenson.
Chris Samnee is a hell of a illustrator and one that can easily toe the line needed for a book like this that should skew cartoonish, but not be too cartoon-y. Samenee straddles that line between realism and cartoon effortlessly, a good fit for what I expect a Stevenson written book would feel like. This image is Huntress, not Barda, but it has a graphic style and energy that feels like a Barda book maybe should feel…I love it. I’d like to see Jordie Bellaire coloring this. Pretty much everything Bellaire colors is magnificent (and for a while she was coloring EVERYTHING – seriously, Pretty Deadly, The Wake, Journey Into Mystery, All-New X-Men, Hawkeye, Mara, Young Avengers, The Massive, and tons more, and like, all at the same time). But it was her work with Sif and all the crazy violent otherworldly space-y-type awesomeness in Journey Into Mystery that made me think she’d be a particularly badass fit for a no holds barred Big Barda book.
03 – BLUEBIRD
Starring: Harper Row
Guest Starring: All the Bat-related regulars
By: Scott Snyder (writer) Dustin Nguyen (artist/colorist/covers)
Scott Snyder’s Harper Row has a ton of potential. And especially in this current universe which is – especially when it comes to the immediate Bat characters – pretty devoid of great women getting a spotlight, a Harper Row book could make a real impact. And there’s no better writer to develop her and give her an nice indestructible base in the Bat-universe than the writer that created her – Scott Snyder. At the same time, you cannot possibly look at Nguyen’s design for her and think any other artist should be drawing her adventures. I’d love to see Nguyen use the slightly looser watercolor style that he has become so known for – not quite as extreme as Batman: Li’l Gotham, more like his work on the exceptional Batgirl Vol. 3 #18 issue, which was one of the best comics I read in 2011 and likely the most beautiful. With Nguyen’s watercolor style this book would instantly stand out from the pack, something that can be tough to do in a crowded Bat-field.
04 – BIRDS OF PREY 2.0
(but really like 4.0 or whatever, but 2.0 since Nu52)
Starring: Black Canary and Barbara Gordon
Guest Starring: Poison Ivy, Huntress, Cassandra Cain, Spoiler, Lady Shiva, Sin, Big Barda, Catwoman, Grace Choi, and so many more
By Kieron Gillen (writer) Jamie McKelvie (artist) Matt Wilson (colors) Jamie McKelvie (covers).
Bottom line, there should always be a Birds of Prey. Always. It should be as much a staple of a DC lineup as Batman, Superman, or Wonder Woman. Let’s keep it simple this time around with a smaller cast, go back to the core with Black Canary, Barbara Gordon (no, I don’t know how, I haven’t been reading those books for a long time now and have no idea what place the characters are in, I don’t care, just make it happen — remember, these are not realistic options, these are DREAM options), plus some Huntress for extra drama. Maybe flesh out the cast with Spoiler, although Spoiler AND Huntress is a bit PURPLE for my tastes. I liked Poison Ivy on the team as a solid anti-hero so I’d bring her back as well, but I’d keep Black Canary and Barbara Gordon as the core.
Jesus Saiz was, quite frankly, the right artist for BoP with the New 52 relaunch and it’s a damn shame that DC couldn’t see that but in the interest of doing something different, I’d bring in a totally new vibe with the killer team of Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie with Matt Wilson on colors. That’s right, take the team that made Young Avengers such an innovative and crazy adventure and just TURN THEM LOOSE on these characters. With Gillen’s delight in telling extraordinarily bizarre stories he could find new heights of trouble for the birds to get into and with McKelvie’s gorgeous design sensibilities, style to spare, and innovative storytelling the birds would get the A+ design and visual treatment they are far too often denied. I mean, just look at the image at the top, I pulled these images from McKelvie image searches and so these are actually Hope from Generation Hope, Modesty Blaise, and Penny (from Phonogram) but with some thoughtful redesign we’re not so far away from Barbara, Helena, and Dinah. I’m swooning already. I mean…what if AN IMAGE LIKE THIS showed up in BoP??? MIND. OFFICIALLY. BLOWN. With the Young Avengers creative team in place I bet what we got would be absolute magic. And so different from anything we’ve seen at DC in…well…just about ever.
05 – THE HAWK
Starring Hawkwoman (Shayera Hol version, organic wings, nth metal mace)
Guest Starring: Jon Stewart
Kelly Sue DeConnick (writer) Sean Murphy (artist) Matt Hollingsworth (colors) Sean Murphy (covers).
She’s a traitor, she’s an ally, she denies her destiny to fall in love with a different man, all of it. Do it all! This is a case where my love of the character is much more is rooted in the animated series character than any version I’ve read in comics (in fairness my reading of her doesn’t go that deep) but I’m a firm believer that if you put a solid creative team on a version of a character that television already audiences love and are familiar with, then you’re making smart moves. Television audiences absolutely dwarf comic reading audiences and if you make a smart well crafted comic, then comic audiences are likely to come (and stay) anyway, and if you also use a version of the character that TV audiences recognize, then all the better for your reach and eventual audience. Why Kelly Sue DeConnick? I just like how this lady writes comics, and especially, powerful heroines. I think she brings the violence and the humanity in equal measure, something a character like Shayera needs in spades. I think she’s not afraid to get weird (Pretty Deadly) but she has no problem delivering solid superhero work (Captain Marvel, Avengers Assemble) and weird plus superhero seems like the sweet spot for a character like Shayera.
As for Sean Murphy, to be honest, I’m kind of sick of seeing characters with wings drawn like absolute shit. I’m sure it’s a tough gig (and a tiring one) but it’s something that really has to be done well constantly, or it starts to look lazy. In all my googling I found very few images for Hawkgirl/Hawkwoman/etc., that really felt worthy of her. Unfortunately, there were no Murphy Hawkwoman illustrations, but I did find this incredible page from Punk Rock Jesus (above) that shows he can more than handle wings. And while the first image is Storm and those aren’t wings…if you squint your eyes really hard you can almost make them be badass wings on a badass lady. Besides, anyone familiar with Murphy’s work on The Wake, Punk Rock Jesus, and Joe The Barbarian knows that he can more than manage Hawkwoman. He’s absolutely phenomenal with female characters as most of his work, especially The Wake has proven, but he’s such an incredible world builder and designer that I really think in addition to a great new design for Shayera – including wings that actually look like wings – I think he’d be able to do particularly innovative things with storytelling and design for a winged character. As for colors, Matt Hollingsworth colors so many wonderful things and his books have such distinctive looks – The Wake looking absolutely different than Hawkeye (and rightly so) – but I’d love to see him team up with Murphy to deliver some of the thoughtful color world building for Hawkwoman that he brought to The Wake.
06 – AMAZON
Starring: Grace Choi
Guest Starring: Thunder, Amanda Waller (original/real version) BoP, Wonder Woman, Amazons, Secret Six, etc.
By Kathryn Immonen (writer) Stuart Immonen (artist) Marte Gracia (colors) Stuart Immonen (colors)
I know very little about Grace Choi and yet every little bit I learn and every single time I see someone draw her, I want to know and see more. This would be a great book to rehab some of the damage done to the Amazons in the Wonder Woman book, and even if you never tackle that mess, why not elevate the cousin of Wonder Woman, a badass powerhouse, and an LGBT character all at the same time? Kathryn Immonen and husband Stuart Immonen have worked together on a few projects, the indie book Moving Pictures is great, but perhaps more to the point their Hellcat mini series was gorgeous fun. Immonen did great things with a giant violent badass with Sif in Journey Into Mystery and I’d love to see her take on Grace.
At the same time, Stuart Immonen’s take on a giant future Molly Hayes (formerly of The Runaways) has me jonsing for Immonen to draw a giant lady character and Grace Choi would be a great fit. It also helps that Immonen is easily one of the best superhero artists working in comics…that never hurts. Hopefully while he had Grace in his care he would also fix her hair which is (sometimes) the only non-awesome thing about her. Marte Gracia colors Immonen’s work on All-New X-Men and it is simply exceptional. Vibrant, superheroic but never garish, moody, and with an effortless flow to it as scenes and lighting changes. Just beautiful stuff.
07 – MANHUNTER
Starring: Manhunter (Kate Spencer) and The Question (Renee Montoya)
Guest Starring: The BoP crew, and a whole slew of other DC characters, especially the Bat-related characters.
By Charles Soule (writer) Jae Lee (artist) June Chung (colors) Jae Lee (covers)
Again, I don’t care how we get there, but I’d love to see the team up on these two. Makes complete sense – even more than Renee and Huntress teaming up did as one is (or was, depending) a cop, the other is a prosecuting attorney, it makes total sense that they would know each other in their public lives and then figure out each other’s private “night work” and team up. Make it so! I know not everyone is fond of Renee Montoya as The Question, and I can understand why, but I miss the character deeply and in this climate I figure we’re more likely to get her back if she has a superhero-ish alter ego than if she’s “just a cop.”
The book should have a less traditional superhero-y vibe and more a blend between cops/procedurals and kind of dark more realistic vigilantism. Charles Soule is delivering fantastic work on She-Hulk right now and part of that is because the man knows his way around a courtroom. Obviously this would be a darker and more serious book than something like She-Hulk, but I still think Soule’s experience would be a huge benefit. I thought about going with a more realistic artist for this pick but time and again I kept coming back to Jae Lee’s image of Kate Spencer as Manhunter (above) and how perfect a fit that feels for a darker book that should still look stylized and beautiful. Lee’s work with Superman/Batman, especially his work with Catwoman in that title had me aching for him on a Catwoman book, but if we can’t have that then I’d love to see him tackle the contrasting sides of Kate and Renee’s day jobs and night jobs. I think the contrasts would be magnificent. Lee is almost always colored (and inked) by his wife, June Chung, and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. She’s a huge part of what gives his work the evocative and haunting quality it has.
08 – ZEALOT
Starring: Zealot and Voodoo
Guest Starring: Grifter, other poor lost Wildstorm souls – so many to chose from!
By Warren Ellis (writer) Valerio Schiti (artist) Dave Stewart (colors) Valerio Schiti (cover)
Back in 2010 when the New 52 launched I read almost all of the first issues largely thanks to this project. In my research and stats for that project one of the comics people were most interested in and most frequently requested to read was Voodoo. This kind of blew my mind because I knew enough to be wary (which turned out to be right on the money) but it made me think that even though ultimately the book was hugely problematic, that there is a missed opportunity in sidelining that character – and a lot of the characters that DC inherited from Wildstorm. Voodoo & Zealot were pretty intriguing ladies back in the 90’s and into the early 2000’s even as Joe Casey and Sean Phillips really re-invented the WildC.A.T.’s. Zealot’s training of Voodoo and their developing friendship and respect for one another, despite extremely divergent personalities and goals, was good stuff. I’d love to see that explored again. Give them a mission, let them be complicated badasses with pasts and baggage, and plenty of flaws, and set them loose on the world. I’d buy THE HELL out of that book.
Warren Ellis has the skills to deal easily with darker stories, while still keeping things basically hilarious, which would make for a good balance with the Oscar and Felix type of vibe that you could get from Zealot and Voodoo. I’ve called the book Zealot cause it sounds better than Zealot & Voodoo, but I think this works better as team up book with each character bouncing off the other. For art, Valerio Schiti absolutely KILLED IT with Sif on Journey Into Mystery and Zealot has a similar badass warrior look (not to mention the red costume) so Schiti feels like a good fit. Schiti also really embraced the total weirdness of JiM and that could be a real advantage on the totally bizarre crap Zealot and Voodoo would be likely to encounter. Sue and I spent like ten minutes n 3 Chicks Review Comics one day raving about Dave Stewart’s ability to deliver perfect reds in an issue of B.P.R.D. He’s basically a comics coloring god, but when it comes to red, man, what’s one level above comics coloring god? So with the amount of red in both costume and blood spilled in this book, I feel like he’s the perfect man for the job.
So, those would be 8 of my #dreambooks at DC. Anything catch your fancy? What about you – what would you like to see?