The DC Comics Rebirth initiative debuted in May 2016, putting a definitive end to the controversial New 52 line of titles that received mixed reviews over its five-year run. Debuting with far fewer books than its immediate predecessor, Rebirth found major success in revitalizing interest in the company and its properties by focusing on quality over quantity. At the same time, DC has traded fewer titles with more individual issues, pushing many of their books out twice a month to keep the hype going.
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As a result, none of the Rebirth launch titles have been cancelled, which was a common occurrence during the New 52. The initiative is still going strong in its first wave of titles, however, the recent introduction of “Justice League of America,” “Super Sons,” and “Batwoman” show that the publisher is open to adding more titles to their line. We know more are inevitably on their way, but here are the 15 DC Comics properties that still need their own Rebirth.
JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK
One of the best new concepts to come out of the New 52 had to be “Justice League Dark,” the superhero team that gathered magic-based heroes together in order to save the world from supernatural threats. It was a great way to access the Vertigo-like corners of the DC Universe to bring characters like John Constantine, Swamp Thing, Madame Xanadu, Deadman, Zatanna, and many other oddities into the light. The series ran to issue #40 and showcased a bevy of talent from veterans Peter Milligan and J.M. DeMatteis, to up-and-comers Jeff Lemire and Mikel Janin.
The series proved to be so popular that it spawned an original animated film that was released in 2017. It even featured the voice acting of Matt Ryan, returning to his role as Constantine after the TV show was cancelled. It only makes sense that JLD should be brought back for a second volume with new and old members showing up. While Constantine still has his own title, most of the former members of the team have been relegated to the background of the DCU. It might be time to bring them back, give them a clearly defined mission, and let someone play in this mystical sandbox again.
MANHUNTER (KATE SPENCER)
“Manhunter,” debuting in 2004 by Marc Andreyko and Jesus Saiz, tells the story of a district attorney who steals equipment from from evidence lockup to become a vigilante so she can hunt down and kill criminals she can’t put away in the courtroom. The series proved popular enough to stave off cancellation once before, ending at issue #31. However, it made a return for an additional eight issues in 2007, proving that there was a vocal fanbase for her.
As popular as the character was, the Kate Spencer incarnation of Manhunter might be one of the more challenging properties for DC to relaunch because she was developed so deeply within the Pre-Flashpoint continuity of the DCU. Her supporting cast, the legacy aspect and even the supersuit she wore are all likely out of continuity now. With a little bit of tweaking, though, her adventures as a vigilante, lawyer, and single mother should be as compelling as ever.
HAWK AND DOVE
This is a team that has been constantly in disarray. Their original title in 1968 was marred by editorial interference before a revival from Karl and Barbara Kesel in the 1980’s with Dawn Granger as Dove proved to be successful. Things fell apart in the ‘90s as Hank Hall became a villain, then Holly Granger replaced him, then Hank came back as a zombie and killed Holly, and then he was restored to life. In the New 52, Dawn and Hank returned in an ill-conceived and short-lived series with far too much Rob Liefield influence for a modern DC Comics audience to handle.
The “Titans Hunt” series by Dan Abnett and Paulo Siqueira brought back the original team of Hank and Don. This opens the door for the return of Hawk and Dove in a title that can embrace the order vs. chaos narrative as well as the political undertones that have been introduced over the years. By using the Dawn and Hank team, they can build a strong cast of characters, with Holly in a supporting role and Don around either in flashbacks or as some kind of spirit guide.
Most characters have received a soft reboot to transition them away from their New 52 incarnations. Others will have their status quo changed over time, like Captain Atom in “The Fall and Rise of Captain Atom” by Cary Bates and Greg Weisman. The Question, however, might just need a drastic full reboot after spending most of the last few years wandering around as a supernatural criminal punished by the gods and having his identity erased. It’s such a departure from the original Vic Sage as an investigative journalist and street-level vigilante that it arguably just needs to go away.
Instead, DC needs to go back to the Denys O`Neil and Denys Cowan version of the character, the one who put on a mask and learned martial arts to fight the corruption of Hub City. Making him a bit of an unstable conspiracy theorist, like he was in the “Justice League Unlimited” animated series, would add another layer to his character. He doesn’t have to go full Rorschach, but it would help to make the title the dark and brutal story it needs to be.
It feels like DC has wanted to bring this concept back for awhile now, but other similar ideas are holding them back. “Red Hood and the Outlaws” always felt like a precursor to the Outsiders. Batman’s recent investigation into the Suicide Squad and his decision to create his own version after the events of “Justice League vs. Suicide Squad” was the perfect opportunity, however, “Justice League of America” is likely a better seller than “Batman and the Outsiders.” There’s still a place for both teams, though, if you consider JLA to be the public-facing team and the Outsiders to be the clandestine strike team it has been in the past.
The reason we need this title now is because long-time member Black Lightning is about to get his own show on the CW. The character hasn’t been around much, so a reintroduction is probably a good idea. Bring back members like Geo-Force, Metamorpho and Halo, maybe bring in Katana from “Suicide Squad” at some point, and add some fresh faces in there as well. Outsiders has never really worked outside of the bat titles, so some connection might be necessary to make it all work out.
Plastic Man has been around longer than most people realize. Created in 1941 by Jack Cole for “Police Comics” #1, Eel O’Brian is one of the few Quality Comics characters to survive into the modern day. He’s had several solo series over the years, until his popularity peaked in the 1990’s when Grant Morrison added him to the Justice League’s roster in “JLA.” Since then, he’s only appeared sporadically without much traction, but it’s time to change that.
Plastic Man’s bizarre personality (which is part of his charm) has made him a challenging character to take on without the right team in place. A Rebirth title should embrace the slapstick comedy much in the same way Marvel has done with Deadpool in recent years. They should even follow their hiring practices of bringing on non-comic book writers, like comedian Brian Posehn, to write the book and embrace the fun cartoon adventure Plastic Man can be. A supporting cast that includes his son Offspring and long-time sidekick Woozy Winks as they walk the line between opportunists and heroes could be something incredibly entertaining.
The origin of the android known as Red Tornado has been in flux for years. He was a robot, then an alien entity, then an air elemental in a robotic shell, and even had a brief stint as a human being. He has gone by the Tornado Champion and John Smith, he has fallen in love and raised a daughter. However, Red Tornado was essentially put on the shelf throughout the entire span of the New 52, recast in “Earth 2” as the consciousness of Lois Lane in a robotic body. It’s time for the real Red Tornado to make a comeback.
If Rebirth is about streamlining these characters, DC can focus on his life as an artificial creation of doctor T.O. Morrow, who outgrew his master and now yearns to become more human. A new title could deal with his growing humanity, the complications of a human-android relationship, and what it really means to be human. Introduce his android brothers and sisters in Red Volcano, Red Torpedo, and Red Inferno, and you have an entire roster of characters to work with.
There are essentially two versions of this character, one who serves as a punchline to the superhero community, and another that stepped up to become the hero he was always destined to be. We’ve seen the first over the first 20 years he’s been around, but the latter holds so much potential for fun and amazing stories. Any story that concerns Booster Gold should contain some amount of silliness and comedy, but there’s no reason to recast him back into the role of ineffectual hero like he was in the New 52.
Given the nature of Booster Gold as a time traveler and preserver of the multiverse, he is in a unique position to bypass changes to continuity as a metafictional superhero. Much like he was tasked to repair the damage to the time stream following the events that took place during “52,” Booster could become the protector of the Rebirth line, continuing to work with his son Rip Hunter, alongside his robot sidekick Skeets and his sister Goldstar. Sure, he turned into Waverider during “Convergence,” but we can just assume he got better.
The Martian known as J’onn J’onzz has always been defined by his membership in the Justice League, which is likely why he’s failed to find a place in the DCU since he was removed as a founding member. JLAer or not, he was not handled well until Rob Williams and Eddy Barrows released “Martian Manhunter” in 2015, which told the bizarre story of how J’onn “died,” split into several personas to escape a plot by the White Martians, and ultimately saved the world. It was new, it was weird, but it didn’t do much to establish the character in the mainstream.
J’onn J’onzz’s wandering loneliness as the last of his kind, existing in anonymity and looking for acceptance through assimilation, has always been at the center of his story. Some say he is more powerful than Superman, however, his appearance never allowed him to become a part of human civilization. Tracking his journey as a refugee, from feared alien to a man seeking peace, would be a fantastic direction to go in. Make Miss Martian his sidekick and have the two just trying to make it in a world that fears them, and you have the start of a strong new direction.
WONDER GIRL (CASSIE SANDSMARK)
DC’s Young Justice team really took the brunt of Rebirth’s streamlined approach with Wonder Girl, Superboy, and Kid Flash/Impulse all falling off the map. Wonder Girl has always been seen as less of a sidekick and more as Wonder Woman’s kid sister. Introduced originally as the human daughter of Zeus, her origin was altered in the New 52 to remove her ties to her mentor. However, it left us with a character who was hardly recognizable. She has been M.I.A. since Rebirth, but a return is needed.
There has never been much in the way of narrative for her, so Cassie is an open book for any creative team to come in and finally develop her story. It’s long past time for DC Comics to introduce a second Wonder Woman title. Like Batman has “Detective Comics” and Superman has “Action Comics,” Wonder Woman appeared often in a comic called “Sensation Comics.” Maybe it’s time for a revival.
Another member of the original Young Justice team, Bart Allen is the future grandson of Barry Allen, the Flash. He travelled to the present from the future and became the hero known as Impulse, where he was impulsive and reckless before maturing a bit and becoming Kid Flash with the Teen Titans. He was reinvented as an alien criminal named Bar Torr in the New 52, but the unpopular change has led him to disappear from comics.
Since Bart was introduced at a time where Barry was dead, the two have never spent much time together. It would be great to see how Barry Allen meets his own future grandson and the relationship they form. If the original Wally West returned de-aged in the pages of “DC Universe: Rebirth,” Bart can come back as Impulse as well. A creative team could set him back up with his old mentor Max Mercury and make an “Impulse” book the secondary Flash title that we need right now. The Flash is all about family, and Bart would make it all come full circle.
Conner Kent has been one of DC’s more lasting concepts to come out the 1990’s. A clone of Superman, we watched him grow up and step out from under the shadow of the world’s greatest superhero. When it was discovered that he also shares DNA with Lex Luthor, he became infinitely more complex as he struggled with his identity and what kind of person he was destined to be. The character was pretty much ruined under Scott Lobdell’s run as writer on “Superboy” and “Teen Titans,” so it’s no surprise that he disappeared in Rebirth.
The title of Superboy is now held by Superman and Lois Lane’s son Jon Kent, but there is still plenty of space for Kon-El too. Whether they call him Superboy—after all, there are two Flashes and multiple Green Lanterns—or come up with a new name for him, Conner has a place in the DCU. Set him back up as a young man trying to find his place in the world, give him time with the Superman family, and show him acting as a big brother to Jon.
Shazam may have been one of the few concepts that actually improved under the New 52. The “Curse of Shazam” story arc by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank did wonders in helping to modernize the story of Billy Batson. It actually served as a Rebirth in its own right by introducing Billy’s foster family, revamping the Wizard, and creating new members of the Marvel family. Whether they stick with these story elements or tweak some of it to fit a new title, this should serve as a baseline for any new Shazam title.
When Rebirth was first announced, we were promised Shazam would be a part of the relaunch. A year later and he is still nowhere to be seen. It has never been easy getting a Shazam title off the ground, mostly because DC has never really known what to do with the character. Shazam is the rare example of a character that works best the closer he is to his Golden Age incarnation of magic and wonder. It might be worth the wait for the perfect creative team to tell the right story. Maybe he’s being saved for when Geoff Johns finally returns to comics.
LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES
The Legion of Super-Heroes are coming. With the return of Saturn Girl in “DC Universe: Rebirth,” we know that the Legion is bound to return. She’s been spotted in “Batman” as a patient in Arkham Asylum, so her story isn’t going away. Before DC announces a new title, though, they need to decide what iteration of the team is the most iconic. You have the Golden Age team, the incarnation from the 1990’s, and another group introduced in the 2000’s. Then there’s the reincarnation of the team as adults that became popular for a few years, but we can probably all agree that the New 52 team can be ignored from here.
Legion is a staple of the DC Universe, but it has been a long time since the characters have had a title they deserve. Regardless of what incarnation they decide to use, if DC wants a new title that can bring together old and new fans, we need to see a roster that has been streamlined and manicured. A large roster of characters with strange powers can easily be overwhelming, so maybe establishing the title with a smaller group before expanding will do the trick.
JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA
In “DC Universe: Rebirth” a senile Johnny Thunder remembers the Justice Society of America and is searching for a way to bring them back. Barry Allen sees Jay Garrick’s helmet in the speed force in “The Flash” #9. The adventures of a younger Justice Society have come to an end now that “Earth 2: Society” has been cancelled. Now Garrick is expected to return during the “Batman” and “The Flash” crossover called “The Button.” We don’t know when the JSA is returning, but it’s pretty obvious that the groundwork is being laid for a new title.
DC Comics saw that the New 52 lacked a sense of legacy, which is why the Rebirth initiative was aimed at re-energizing their titles with characters that are familiar. No title represents the company’s focus on legacy more than the Justice Society. It’s also no coincidence that Geoff Johns was the creator to start their return into the fold, since he played such an important part in establishing the team within the DCU. It’s time to bring the original superhero team back. It’s why Rebirth was thought up in the first place.
Be sure to tell us in the comments which superheroes you want to get the “Rebirth” treatment!
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