There are different flavors of artistic nostalgia. We see a great deal of steampunk, the riff on Victorian and Edwardian science and style. (Including us! Keep your eye on the skies for BVC’s original steampunk anthology, coming soon!) Thanks to Mad Men we’ve got a recent strain of early ’60’s imagery, and The New Frontier was a spectacular reimagination of the ’50s. Now the folks at DC are making a case that it’s about time for a ’30’s-’40’s pulp look to come back. They have placed their bet by initiating a new line of comics, the First Wave.
These comics will feature some of the major non-super DC heroes — Batman, the Black Canary, and so on. From other areas of the creative galaxy they’ve gotten the rights to Doc Savage and the Spirit, who will join in. The kickoff issue is out this month, a Batman-Doc Savage teamup.
The story itself is kind of meh, especially for a kickoff issue. But this type of nostalgia is almost always about how it looks. If it doesn’t create a new aesthetic, a new cool look, then the thing will fail. (This is why nobody has successfully brought back the ’20’s; flapper dresses look terrible on nearly everybody.) And by this criteria DC is in with a chance. It does look good, slick clean art, pulpy tech like gyroplanes, gloomy blue nights and Technicolor sunsets.
To make this work, the writer (award winning Brian Azzarello) has had to rubberize the calendar a good bit. He has made Batman (Bruce Wayne) very young indeed, a brash twenty-year-old dipping his first toe into superheroics. Even this is a terrible stretch. If we postulate that the current Batman is forty — generously pushing it — he must have been born during the Carter administration. But the entire issue of age and comic book heroes is so supremely difficult that it is easiest to just ignore it, and we will do so here too. (Some other time, if there is interest, I will expound my own theory of how it can be made to work; like all theories of this type it is unwieldy and too complicated.) He’s twenty, and the year is 1949, let’s go with it!
It remains to be seen whether this concept will produce any great comics. I sure hope so. All the omens are good!