Forgotten 15: The Lost Launch Titles Of The New 52
With the announcement of the Rebirth event, DC Comics has unveiled another line-wide relaunch with new #1 issues across the board. Aside from some eyebrow raisers such as The Super Sons, DC looks to be playing it safe with a core set of books focused on recognizable characters, with many of them now published twice monthly.
DC’s last line-wide relaunch in 2011, The New 52, was a lot bolder in the chances it took with its ongoing series, and promoted a wide range of genre diversity and odd curiosities. With The New 52 nearly five years old, only a handful of those original books are still being published, and while some of the lost titles remain cult-favorites, a lot of them have already faded into obscurity. Here are 15 New 52 titles that were the first to fall.
Blackhawks was one of The New 52’s attempts to diversify the line with various genres, while still giving those genres the unique DC Universe spin. The story featured an elite mercenary unit having to contend with a nano-machine threat and a techno-organic supervillain, and G.I. Joe’s Mike Costa was a perfect choice to bring sci-fi espionage to the DC Universe.
Blackhawks lasted eight issues.
Jaime Reyes was one of the best characters introduced in the new millennium, and his original comic was a textbook example of how to establish a new legacy character, not too dissimilar from today’s Ms. Marvel series. Unfortunately, his New 52 book removed the legacy aspect that made Jaime’s journey so exciting, and retold his origin only five years after his creation.
Blue Beetle lasted seventeen issues.
The New 52’s Captain Atom series tried to go back-to-basics with one of DC’s most complicated and messed around characters. The book took huge cues from Watchmen’s Doctor Manhattan, who himself was originally based on Captain Atom, and saw the character struggling with his potential to be an incredibly destructive force while trying to be a hero. Captain Atom ends up developing a god complex only to realise the error of his ways and go back in time to prevent it.
Captain Atom lasted thirteen issues.
DC Universe Presents was a smart choice for a title from DC as it gave the publisher the chance to introduce lower tier characters and establish their place in the New 52. The first arc featured Deadman, and later stories starred The Challengers of The Unknown, Vandal Savage and a Black Lightning & Blue Demon team-up. It was a good idea, but anthology titles have been a tough sell for a while now, and eventually the book was cancelled.
DC Universe Presents lasted twenty issues.
Demon Knights was another attempt to expand beyond traditional superheroics and featured a host of DC’s medieval characters assembled into a team led by The Demon, Etrigan. The book united The Demon, Vandal Savage, Madame Xanadu and Shining Knight, with new characters Al Jabr, Exoristos and Horsewoman. Paul Cornell used the book to establish Shining Knight as a trans man, which is only alluded to in Grant Morrison’s Seven Soldiers, and introduced Horsewoman in an attempt to establish a new hero with a disability in The New 52, following former Oracle Barbara Gordon’s return as Batgirl.
Demon Knights lasted twenty-four issues.
The New 52’s Firestorm book was probably the most fair when it came to acknowledging legacy and multiple versions of characters. While characters like Wally West or Donna Troy just didn’t exist for the first few years of the line, Firestorm introduced Ronnie Raymond and Jason Rusch as equals, and changed the Firestorm concept where they could both become Firestorm independently, but combining their powers they could become the hulking Fury.
The Fury of FIrestorm: The Nuclear Men lasted 21 issues.
The New 52 took the opportunity to fold the Wildstorm Universe and its characters into the mainstream DC Universe, and a couple of those characters and concepts got their own ongoing series. Grifter was the breakout star of Jim Lee’s WildC.A.T.s, and this series brought him back to basics with a new origin which also introduced the Wildstorm baddies the Daemonites to the DC Universe.
Grifter lasted 18 issues.
Hawk & Dove saw the return of Rob Liefeld to DC Comics, and to the property that he received his first published work with in the late '80s. The series took its cues from Hawk & Dove’s return in Brightest Day, with Sterling Gates taking over on writing duties. Dove’s relationship with Deadman added a new spin to both this book, and to Deadman’s story taking place in Justice League Dark. Although this book wasn’t long for the world, Liefeld impressed DC enough to be given the writing duties on Grifter, The Savage Hawkman and Deathstroke, as well as the writing and art duties on the latter.
Hawk & Dove lasted eight issues.
I, Vampire was an exciting and interest attempt on DC’s behalf at embracing horror comics and features something of a civil war within the underground vampire nation, with ex-lovers Andrew Bennett and Mary Seward's conflicting philosophies driving the series. The series is most notable for introducing Andrea Sorrentino to mainstream audiences, who went onto Green Arrow with Jeff Lemire before jumping to Marvel, where he and Lemire are currently working on Old Man Logan.
I, Vampire lasted 20 issues.
Men of War leaned harder into the black-ops thriller genre harder than Blackhawks did, and featured a modern take on DC’s classic Sgt. Rock character, as well as the terrorist organisation Kobra. Ivan Brandon’s Final Crisis: Escape was a hidden gem from DC’s pre-Flashpoint line-up and he brought an authentic take to army life in a world with superheroes. Tom Derenick’s classic superhero style worked wonders contrasting the grounded lives of Easy Company with the greater DC Universe.
Men of War lasted eight issues
Mister Terrific is a concept that has been around at DC since the Golden Age without ever having his own series, and this book’s inclusion in the starting line-up showed that DC was willing to try new things with classic concepts, and try out some new lead characters while improving the diversity of the overall line. Mister Terrific introduced some interesting ideas, but the post-Flashpoint version of Michael Holt just wasn’t as likable as the one we knew from JSA, and his series ended on a cliffhanger as he walked through a portal to Earth-2.
Mister Terrific lasted eight issues.
Possibly stretching the definition of “forgotten” by how well regarded it is by some fans, Keith Giffen & Dan DiDio’s ode to Kirby was bursting with creativity every page. One of the best things about OMAC was how it integrated ideas from throughout DC’s history, from Amazing Man to Maxwell Lord, while still remaining thoroughly new. DiDio’s legacy at DC may be spotty, but this short run on OMAC deserves to be remembered as a shining star of The New 52 line-up.
OMAC lasted eight issues.
Perhaps the most surprising addition to The New 52 line-up was the return of Resurrection Man, which originally ran for 27 issues in the late nineties. Resurrection Man’s gimmick was that he could come back to life, and every time he did, he had a different superpower influenced by the cause of his death. DC brought back original writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, and although the book did survive the first wave of cancellations, it was perhaps still a bit too niche in a crowded market to sustain publication.
Resurrection Man lasted thirteen issues.
DC made a concerted effort to introduce Milestone characters to its universe just before The New 52 launched, but in team books such as Teen Titans and Justice League of America. Static Shock returning as an ongoing series made a statement that DC was supporting the Milestone characters, but it didn’t quite work out that way. The book moved Static from Dakota to New York City, and there were apparent clashes between Milestone veteran John Rozum and his co-writer/artist Scott McDaniel, which led to Rozum leaving after #4. The book wrapped up shortly afterwards.
Static Shock lasted eight issues.
Like Grifter, and Paul Cornell’s Stormwatch ongoing, Voodoo introduced more aspects of the Wildstorm Universe to the New 52, and featured the eponymous hero siding with the Daemonites in their upcoming war on Earth. Voodoo came under fire almost immediately after the release of #1 for exploitative scenes of Voodoo’s day job as an exotic dancer, which, coupled with criticism leveled at Starfire’s portrayal in Red Hood & The Outlaws, cast DC in a negative light right of the gate.
Voodoo lasted thirteen issues.