In Sept 2011, the DC Universe undertook the bold initiative to not only relaunch it’s titles with #1 issues, but also to revamp characters, and even redo origins. The company announced it would cut the number of magazines it published down to 52 and would absorb companies like Milestone and Wildstorm’s characters directly into the new DCU. This bold new move left a lot of us wondering if we would see some of our Black Hero characters that had seemed to fade into the limelight. Characters like Steel, or Wildstorm’s Battalion or Flint, and Milestone characters like the beloved Icon, Rocket, Hardware, or perhaps even the Blood Syndicate were hoped to finally be brought out of the shadows and maybe into a more visible role. What we got though was a little disappointing.
Of the 52 books that were released or still a part of the current 52, only 13 books featured, either as solo titles or with a group, black heroes. Who were these lucky individuals you ask?
You’ll find the list at the bottom. Take a good long look at it, because after the first year of publication, few survived the next couple of waves, which in turn brought on cancellations. Four books in particular were solo titles. We had Mr. Terrific, Static Shock, Batwing, and Voodoo. Static Shock and Voodoo represented the other companies (Milestone and Wildstorm, with a Battalion-less Stormwatch coming from Wildstorm as well). Although Static Shock had his own solo title and following from his Milestone and cartoon years before the New 52, he couldn’t muster the sales to stay afloat; same with Voodoo. Mr. Teriffic’s sales figures were weak as well, but then again, I don’t think I (or anyone else) would have chosen him for a solo title. The last man standing is Batwing (See Sales Figures Here). If you aren’t reading Batwing, then you are missing a treat. His showing remains strong, even with the switching out of David Zavimbe for Luke Fox. The change in lead character comes with a change in creative team, but nothing was lost. Batwing is still an awesome read and worth it’s price. The question is, wasn’t there maybe another character or two that could have had his own title? Couldn’t Icon be counted as one of the Milestone representatives? How about Vixen? To be fair, both Icon and Rocket saw unprecedented air time on the DC Nation cartoon series, Young Justice, with Icon joining the Justice League team and Rocket joining the “B” team. The cartoon itself held black heroes viewers because it also starred Black Heroes Aqualad, Black Lighting, Mal Duncan, Bumblebee, an alternate version of Static Shock, and appearances by Cyborg and John Stewart. This strong showing of Black Heroes with pivotal roles (in one storyline Icon was the galactic counsel for 6 Justice Leaguers who found themselves in trouble on another planet) made this cartoon a must see. So why not feature one of these in a solo title?
The New52 saw major changes to a couple of heroes, and introduced us to two nice surprises. We saw the revamped younger version of Black Lighting, which meant goodbye to the wife and kids (Thunder and Lightning), and am now seeing the changes made to the Bronze Tiger, who now instead of wearing a Tiger mask, can actually change into a tiger (Check it out). I am still up in the air about that one.
At least we can say he kicked Batman’s butt while still human! The loss of Black Lighting’s superpowered kids was also something to bemoan, having been as established as they were. As for the surprises, we were introduced to a new Earth 2 version of Hawkgirl. This character has the potential to be very dynamic, but she needs more panel time. We were also introduced to a new Green Lantern named Simon Baz, who despite the wrestling mask hiding his identity (he looks like the Marvel character Rage with a power ring) is also a force. The thing that bothered me about the introductions was how both were shown with guns. Why should that bother me? Well, one has a GREEN LANTERN POWER RING. As for the other, as exotic of a character she has the potential to be, couldn’t we pick other sophisticated weaponry instead of a gun?
O.k., maybe we won’t be seeing the Blood Syndicate in the New52; maybe we won’t see Steel or Hardware featured in their own solo titles; maybe Jakita Wagner won’t be wrecking shop; but can we at least have some characters with more than 8 issues of staying power? Can we at least get some type of poll or something so we can get a little say? A nod does go out here. At least Amanda Waller and John Stewart are still representing. I hope Batwing and Hawkgirl can do the same.
Here is the list of New52 titles that featured or included Black Heroes:
Mr. Terrific– Michael Holt canceled
Static Shock– Virgil Hawkins canceled
Green Lantern Corp– John Stewart; even though they tried to kill him off
The Fury of Firestorm– Jason Rausch– canceled May 2013
Justice League– Cyborg
Earth 2– Hawkgirl
Team 7– Young Amanda Waller
DC Universe Presents– Black Lighting, issues 13-16; canceled Jan 2013
Justice League of America– Simon Baz
Green Lantern– Simon Baz
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