One good reason to avoid the Palmiotti and Grey revival of Jonah Hex has been the frequency with which rape has featured in their stories. It’s as monotonously repetitious as gore and dismemberment in a Geoff Johns comic, or the death of leading characters at the hands of Judd Winnick, but even more distasteful.
Now, at least Jonah Hex was always supposed to be at the nasty end of the spectrum of westerns, though long-time writer Michael Fleisher used to keep things more varied. But a revival of Bat Lash, DC’s answer to Bret Maverick? With stories by co-creator and noted humourist Sergio Aragones? And drawn by John Severin, a veteran of the days when American comics were suitable for children? That’s got to be different, surely? That’s going to be banter and frolic, right?
The problem, I think, lies with DC’s branding strategy. Compared to Marvel, DC as a company publishes a much greater variety of material. But with Marvel, everything – cartoon capers with Franklin Richards, standard superheroics, adaptations of The Iliad - comes with that big white-on-red Marvel brand.
DC, on the other hand, subdivides its publications into a range of imprints each of which has a very consistent tone. Johnny DC emulates television animation. Vertigo is about applying modern urban sensibilities to the fantastic (or, in the case of Northlanders, to the historic). Minx brings you stories of girl outsiders who find social acceptance without compromising their individuality. And CMX … well, to be honest, I’m not sure what kind of manga CMX prints, not having read any, but from their adverts it hardly seems to be casting its net very wide in Japanese stylistic waters.
So there can be western comics under DC’s DC Universe imprint, but it seems that they have to have the tone of their standard superhero books. Out with the banter and frolic, and bring on the blood and the pain and the rape. Because that's what the DC bullet stands for, now.
Do you think they could start an imprint for people who are sick of that?
Bat Lash Issue 1 “Guns and Roses” Chapter 1 “Splendor in the Sage”, by Peter Brangvold and Sergio Aragones (writers), John Severin (artist), Pat Brosseau (letterer), Steve Buccellato (colourist), Rachel Gluckstern and Michael Wright (editors), DC Comics, February 2008