The New 52 approaches, and we've been seeing more and more preview artwork from what's going to be in store for us in the new DC Universe, complete with Barbara Gordon kicking ass in the Batgirl uniform and Superman losing the red underpants for work boots and jeans and a baby-blanket cape. However, we can't help but wonder about a few other possibilities they really could have run with that have instead been left behind – at least as far as we can see right now, a month out from the big changeover.
So here's a list of five characters that don't have any of the #1s in the New 52, and why and how they should have been revamped with the rest of the big guns.
5. HARVEY DENT
WHY HE SHOULD BE THERE:
Let's face it - as much as we love it, Two-Face is kind of a hokey idea. A guy scarred right down the middle, wearing half-zany suits. Come on. Joker has zany covered, and the Riddler pulls off the colorful suits with a lot more pizzazz. What's completely cool, however, is Harvey Dent. The whole Harvey Dent. Not another fare in the revolving door ride of Arkham Asylum, but Harvey Dent, District Attorney of Gotham City. The people under his jurisdiction never have any clear sense of where he'll fall on any particular issue. Some days he's a rabid crusader, others he's playing completely dirty to get the job done, maybe even going out to kill a perp himself if he slips through the cracks. He could still flip a coin from time to time to make his way through an impossible moral dilemma. It could be an illustration of how he can get passionately obsessed with something to a point, and then just kind of snaps into an icy detachment if it gets to be too much. However, having him go psycho bugnuts whenever he can't find his coin just makes the guy seem pathetic and annoying. One of the most amazing parts of The Dark Knight movie is that comic fans went in itching to see Two-Face, but were so amazed by how great Harvey Dent was as a character that the descent into his comic-icon madness was disheartening and sad. Harvey Dent is cooler than Two-Face. He should've been rolled back at least to the post-Hush status, when he was together and coherent, but preferably, he'd be back in the saddle in the Gotham justice system.
WHY HE'S NOT:
Apparently, he's to be used as some kind of roided-out nuisance alongside a horde of other Arkham escapees in Batman: The Dark Knight. Is that really the best use of a character this great?
BOOK HE'D NUDGE OUT:
None. The thing is, we've got Batman, Batman: The Dark Knight and Batman and Robin, not to mention the Justice League and Justice League International books where Batman will be showing up. Detective Comics should be true to its name and be the new Gotham Central, where Batman is more of a co-star or recurring guest star, and we get stories about Jim Gordon's police department and Harvey Dent's justice department.
4. LOIS LANE
WHY SHE SHOULD BE THERE:
Since her marriage to Clark Kent is being rolled back and away, let's not just revert her back to love-triangle material for Superman. Maybe it's time to set a new precedent where longstanding "love interest" characters like Lois Lane, normally used as little more than foils for male heroes, get to strike out on their own completely, and leave the old 'meant to be together because that's why she was created in the 1930s' mentality behind. Let's allow her to be an actual intrepid reporter and have DC be true to their word about wanting to give us a whole bunch of new genres of books, such as All-Star Western and Men of War and the like. Imagine how much story potential can be mined from actual journalists with integrity in today's unrelenting tidal wave of pablum and fearmongering while wars rage on, completely ignored by the public – and her father is a rather unsavory military man to boot. Flashpoint hinted at the possibilities here, but the Lois Lane and the Resistance story has quickly become Grifter and the Resistance and she's in the back seat of her own title. Let Clark Kent become an old friend with a lingering spark that flares up here and there, since comic companies seem to be allergic to marriage anyway. If he can be a free agent, let her be one, too, and not have it so every time she dates someone else, she seems like a bad guy committing a crime against Superman. If we're going to elevate female protagonists, let's raise up one of the most enduring comic characters of all time.
WHY SHE'S NOT:
It seems that she'll just be twisting a knife in Superman's heart by dating other dudes, so he can be free to hook up with Wonder Woman or something. Still playing love interest. Lois should get to sow her oats, too - as long as it's not with Grifter, because come on. Of course, even though she doesn't have her own #1, she could still occasionally get these kinds of stories thrown her way. It'd just be better if it was a regular thing.
BOOK SHE'D NUDGE OUT:
I, Vampire. Because go watch True Blood.
3. DR. MIDNIGHT
WHY SHE SHOULD BE THERE:
Dr. Mid-Nite is one of those really cool characters that is constantly overlooked and sidelined by writers, usually only mentioned if somebody gets poisoned or breaks an arm or something and he has to step in to hand them a lollypop and say 'now that didn't hurt so bad, did it?' after a shot. With the Justice Society of America being "rested" in this new world, we don't have the legacy of Dr. Charles McNider's service in World War II to draw on, but honestly, Matt Wagner's creation of the current mantle-holder Dr. Pieter Cross in the 1999 Dr. Mid-Nite miniseries is all the legacy we need. In that, Cross was already known as The Midnight Doctor – a mysterious man who gave medical help to the poor, the needy, the itinerant and the shunned throughout Portsmouth – before he had the experimental-mickey-induced accident that gave him his unique ocular condition. He'd also set up a loyal network of street level operatives – including former gang members – to help let him know where to go to help and, after he donned McNider's mantle, they also helped him fight crime. That's a great setup right there, like a medical-niche Batman, except Pieter Cross is also a Christian who doesn't bother talking the talk like most obnoxious hypocritical holy rollers you hear about, but he really just walks the walk instead. He's never the kind of grumpy dickhead that Batman often is. He's just a polite and pleasant guy – but not Ned Flanders pleasant, lest you be concerned.
I love Dr. Cross and would hate to lose him, but in the interest of resurrecting a poorly-killed-off character, Dr. Beth Chapel could be back in the fold. She was a whipsmart and sarcastically funny surgeon who had a freak accident that blinded her as well. She actually had picked up McNider's mantle before Cross came around, but she did the smart thing and spelled the name right – Dr. Midnight. That's the way it should be kept, because the Mid-Nite spelling is as big a throwback as Superman's red outer-underpants. Cross and Chapel could work together to maintain this network throughout their city, taking turns in the guise of Dr. Midnight, working on ways of exposing the massive corruption in the pharmaceutical industry, stopping forms of chemical warfare and terrorism while never losing their focus on the health of the needy.
WHY SHE'S NOT:
Comic creators seem to barely remember that the current Dr. Mid-Nite exists, so it's no surprise that they've completely forgotten Beth Chapel ever existed, either. Plus, that ugly version of the costume ain't doin' her no favors. That would definitely out the window, in favor of a slight redesign of what already works so well for Cross that Tim Drake stole it for the Red Robin look.
BOOK SHE'D NUDGE OUT:
The temptation is to go for the only character saved from the JSA "rest," because honestly, if you didn't know jack about comics and were looking around for titles that seemed cool, would you be more inclined to pick up a book called Dr. Midnight or a book called Mr. Terrific? However, in the interest of not pitting the JSAers against each other, let's lose Hawk and Dove. Because Rob Liefeld has done enough.
2. CAPTAIN MARVEL
WHY HE SHOULD BE THERE:
Come on, people. Do you need this explained? It's a magic Superman that can kick Superman's ass because he's magic, but he wouldn't because he's the living embodiment of a heartbreakingly sweet orphan boy's hopeful idealism. That has the potential to be every bit as inspiring as Superman and Captain America and the big symbolic guys who bring out the best in everybody else. You could bump Billy Batson's age up to early teens to give him some tween angst and potential girlfriend stuff, while maybe shredding away some of the 'gee whiz golly jeepers' cheese factor of… well, The Big Red Cheese. Superman, Batman, Flash – all these people cover big cities. Billy Batson's alter ego could be the superheroic voice of small town America. He's fast enough to cover most of the 'flyover states,' and he's a kid who works as an intern/gofer for a radio news station, so he can get the scoop on where he needs to go to help out in places the big city folk ignore. But we need to keep Billy as altruistic and forthright as he is now, because that's the true heart of superheroics that too often gets lost in the grim and gritty.
WHY HE'S NOT:
It's kind of stunning that he isn't, actually. Trouble is, Superman in the new Action Comics has stolen the 'childhood blanket-turned-cape' thing, but since they're taking great pains for Superman to be the first public superhero, they might be waiting to let Billy Batson be inspired by his example before he stumbles his way into Shazam land. Plus, there's that whole awkward thing where they can't ever call him Captain Marvel on the cover of his own book because of Marvel. So maybe it's time to change his name, too… although let's cross our fingers and hope the Flashpoint version – which amounts to a "Batson and Pals Voltron Force" where Billy, Mary, Freddie and their friends all merge to form Captain Thunder – isn't what we get in the DCnU, too. Although Captain Thunder might not be a bad name.
BOOK HE'D NUDGE OUT:
Captain Atom. The inferior captain.
1. THE SECRET SIX
WHY THEY SHOULD BE THERE:
It was the best book DC was putting out there, with a perfect blend of pathos, darkness, comedy and brutality. Gail Simone was squarely in her element, and she didn't want to stop. She created Scandal Savage, Jeannette and the modern badass reinvention of Catman from a complete joke and also-ran hunk of detritus floating around the ether. She'd just given Ragdoll a cool new look and cemented the team's bond by sending them to Hell and back. Sure, she'd have had to cut Bane loose to revert him back to Bat-villain status to coincide with The Dark Knight Rises, but she ended this series by doing just that in a perfectly elegant way. There's nobody else on this team that needed to go anywhere other than the Secret Six. It could have carried over perfectly and changed very little – just kept on keeping on doing what it does best – please people who want to enjoy the best things about comic books, including a giant talking shark with arms and legs.
WHY THEY'RE NOT:
Probably because someone thought the name Suicide Squad was more of an eye-grabber. There's absolutely no reason that Deadshot and King Shark needed to be taken from Secret Six and put into another Squad book, especially since the Six had just established with ironclad firmness that they were not going to go that route ever again. The Squad could co-exist with the Six and use all sorts of other characters, and still keep their sexed up Harley Quinn. Amanda Waller is all you need for a Squad book – the rest is a revolving door of fringe villains and anti-heroes. The Six need to be mostly those particular Six. Okay, they could give up King Shark if absolutely necessary – he's a relative newcomer anyhow… but there's also no reason for him to be a hammerhead shark like they're showing us. That takes his fun balance of oddball strangeness and deadly menace and skews it way too far toward the goof.
BOOK THEY'D NUDGE OUT:
Suicide Squad. Out of spite now. But if the Squad were to co-exist with the Six, we could lose Red Hood and the Outlaws. That smells kinda like a mess so far. Or maybe O.M.A.C.