Monday, December 7, 2009

DC Announces Yet Another Superman & Batman Origin Retellings

DC's The Source blog updated today with the surprise announcement that DC would be doing yet another origin retelling for both Batman and Superman, both going under the Earth One branding as Superman: Earth One and Batman: Earth One, two out of continuity projects aimed at modernizing the origins and appealing to the mass market.

What was most shocking, besides the absurdity of these retreads on the origins (Superman: Secret Origin hasn't even finished and they have ANOTHER origin book in the works???) is the talent attached.  J. Michael Straczynski and Shane Davis will head up the Superman: Earth One title while Geoff Johns and Gary Frank will handle the Batman version.  Ain't It Cool News (link was working at time of post, seems AICN is having server issues currently) has an interview with JMS and Johns about the project for those looking for more information.  I have some thoughts on it after the jump.


That's all I can say.  Why is DC doing this?  I mentioned it above, but Superman: Secret Origin hasn't even finished and is all about retelling the origin.  They don't even have it in trade yet and are already priming another origin tale and wasting some of their top talent on it to boot.

For Batman, Batman: Year One is perfect in every way.  It's timeless and boils the character down to exactly what makes him tick and, as no surprise, is one of the best selling trades to this day.  Hell, for modern work, they have some Batman: Confidential tales, such as the recent retelling of Joker's origin and Batman's earlier days, or even Batman: Long Halloween and Dark Victory to cover the Year One-like days of Batman. 

Original Graphic Novels

One thing that piqued my interest, though, was the use of the original graphic novel format.  DC could have easily slapped these into miniseries and, despite my confusion of why rehash these stories, they would still sell like gangbusters on a monthly basis.  They did the Joker OGN last year and now these two OGN's - is DC moving away from the traditional "singles financing trades" model?  I know these are baby steps, but it's definitely not something you see that often these days. 

Batman's Wearing Pants

Well, he always wears pants, but this time he doesn't have his underwear on the outside.  Yes, this is something I found noteworthy.  Don't judge me.

Where is Wonder Woman: Earth-One?

Seriously, Trinity my ass.  There was talk of a renumbering of the series and Simone is doing some interesting things with the book, so why isn't there a Wonder Woman: Earth One to go along with these two?  She never gets an origin update and this would be a perfect time to do so.  Greg Rucka or Gail Simone and Nicola Scott.  Make it happen DC. 


What do you think?  Up for another round of origin rehashes for Batman and Superman?  Buying it for the creators?  Is it too soon for Superman: Earth One on the heels of Secret Origin?  Let us know in the comments below.

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Flip The Page said...

I'd probably rather buy the GN of JMS' superman origin than Geoff John's secret origin one. I kinda like the choice of talent there. Batman though.... eh... I don't much care for gary frank and it's retrod too often i'm sure

Phillyradiogeek said...

Kirk, one big point to mention in your article is that these origin stories are NOT part of current DCU continuity, but are in fact part of one of the alternative Earths. I assume that since main DCU continuity currently exists on Earth 0, these OGNs are the origins of the current Earth 1 world, which is an analog of the pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths Earth 2 (but I could be mistaken about that).

Based on my assumption (if correct) this Superman/Clark Kent will work at the Daily Star rather than the Daily Planet, this version of Batman will eventually marry Catwoman, etc.

Chris said...

Ugh, what sucks is I'll probably end up getting both of these....I'll definetly get the Batman one, maybe I can talk myself out of the Superman one though.....

Kirk Warren said...

@Phillyradiogeek - I'm pretty sure these are just random branding as Earth-One to indicate out of continuity. Current branding of the Earths is by numerics, liek Earth-1. These are Earth-One, which is pre-crisis style naming. But the thing is, JMS and Johns talk about just doing modern updating of the origin in the Aint It Cool News interview (the link is down now, as is their whole site, but should be fixed soon).

There's a Daily Planet in the Superman image (and cropped in the banner above), too, so no Daily Star here.

JMS mentions making Jimmy Olsen fearless photographer standing their taking shots regardless of the danger like real photographers and other things, too.

BUt, yes, it is out of continuity, which I probably should have made clearer int he post isntead of requiring people to go to the link.

Phillyradiogeek said...

If these OGNs are not set in the current Earth 1, then yes, that branding is confusing. Thanks for the clarification, I misunderstood the intent of the OGNs to attract new readers.

brandon said...

As a casual DC fan like myself it just appears DC is a mess. The left hand doesnt know what the right's doing.

What sort of broader audience will approach with an Earth-1 label on it? The title just smells of messy continuity. What a mess.

Kelson said...

On the plus side: it's basically Ultimate DC Universe, and they're finally focusing on the bookstore market. On the minus side: why do they insist on constantly redoing the origin stories?

It's Superman and Batman. We know their origins! Just tell some stories!

Jason said...

This piqued my interest... a modern day retelling sounds kinda cool. DC could have something big on their hands if they made these into ongoings, similar to what Marvel does with their Ultimate line. I don't collect DC, nor do I plan to because there's so much history, but if they created ongoing modern-day retellings in an alternate universe, I would totally check it out and possibly subscribe.

Kevin said...

I don't really get why DC feels the need to have to tell the origin stories of these two characters when most people, both comic and non-comic fans, know the origins of these two characters specifically. It just doesn't make sense especially with Superman: Secret Origins not even finished yet.

I would probably think differently if this was similar to what Marvel did with the launch of the Ultimate Universe were they retold Spider-Man, the X-Men, and Avengers origins and tweaking it for the modern era. And I think it would be awesome if JMS got a Superman book all his own were he could write his own stories (ala Ultimate Universe) as he could do something epic with the character like he did with Thor.

The Dangster said...

I think this might be the Ultimate Versions of these characters.

I LOVE shane davis, im so glad he's finally getting work.

Johns and Frank on Batman. Why am I the only person looking at the positives?

Ryan K Lindsay said...

And another reason why I'm just not a DC guy. Batman is one of the most fascinating characters and yet they tread back to his first years...and Superman only gets origins, must have about a dozen around his neck by now, and they're not even that good, for me.

I don't really care what DC does, but if all of a sudden Marvel started doing Daredevil's origin again I'd be busted.

However, I would love to do an Iron Fist: Year One and look at his first year back from K'un-L'un. This was a kid who suddenly left Earth from age 10-20 and learnt kung fu for all that time, imagine all that he missed and what coming back would have been like, that's something I pay to see, or write, yeah, I'd pay to write it.

Klep said...

It just seems like a really bad business decision to announce a new origin for Superman while the current one still hasn't finished yet. I'm completely befuddled. Maybe they really wanted JMS for it and now was when he was available?

Kelson said...

@Jason: These are intended to be ongoing. They're ongoing graphic novels, like manga series, rather than ongoing monthly floppies.

Jeremy said...

The thing is, this is basically the DC Ultimate Universe. And what did those Ultimate on-goings start off with? Origin stories. This isn't just gonna be some out-of-contunuity origin story and thats it. This is the beginning of an entire new universe, and to do that, well...YOU GOTTA START AT THE BEGINNING!

Eric Rupe said...

Since these are essential DC's version of Marvel's Ultimate, starting off with origins is a perfectly sound idea, especially if there are some updates in them.

The Earth One branding is definitely weird though and I hope they drop it before the books are released.

As for for why there is no Wonder Woman I can't say for sure but the sales for her title recently have been anything but good, even during Rucka's run. I've also heard the argument a couple of times that what would be Wonder Woman's non-comic book reading audience already reads manga, which Marvel and DC seemingly have no idea how to compete against. Add in the fact that Wonder Woman hasn't had a big screen movie yet and I can see why DC isn't releasing a Wonder Woman: Earth One comic.

Barry Reese said...

From Newsarama:
"They feature a continuity that will be shared amongst the line, and is all-new to DC's comic books as a whole."

This isn't just a retelling -- this is their Ultimate Universe. I, for one, am excited (esp. about the Batman creative team).

collectededitions said...

Where this announcement went wrong was "origins" (and also "Earth" and "One"). If they had announced this as DC Comics Originals, a new line of graphic novels starring your favorite characters and sharing inter-volume continuity, the Internet would be having a different conversation about trade formats and monthlies (some of which is indeed happening here at Weekly Crisis).

I'm understanding more and more why starting with the origins was necessary, but in the way in which DC announced this, I think a more minor point has overshadowed a larger one.

Jeremy said...

^collectededitions is right. Everyone keeps harping on the fact that these books will start off with origin stories, but this isn't just some out-of-contunuity Secret Origin. This is a whole new universe.

The reason DC is starting this off with Superman and Batman is the same reason Marvel started off the Ultimate line with Spider-man, X-men, Fantasti Four, and the Avengers; they are the most popular, well-known characters. If these books succeed, we'll see new versions of all your favorite characters: Earth One Flash, Earth One Green Lantern, Earth One Wonder Woman, Earth One Lex Luthor, Earth One Darkseid, etc. Now of course, they won't all get on-goings. I think theres going to be an Earth One JLA.

This gets more and more exciting the more I think about it. Sooo many possiablities and stories can be told.

Anonymous said...

I would agree with your complaints about the weird branding and constant re-tellings of origin stories, but DC has lined up some heavy hitters for these books. I have always wanted to see Johns go to work on Batman and JMS get a Superman book, so I am very happy with the assignments. Both writers are getting a new sandbox to play in and will not have to worry about pervious continuity, so it would make sense to start at the origin.

Matt Ampersand said...

I'm usually not one to call Grant Morrison the end-all be-all of storytelling, but he told a perfectly great (if not one of the greatest) Superman story and he spent exactly one page to tell the origin. I do not believe that this will change all that much from the origin we all (and by "we all", I really mean "we all", not just comic readers) know already to warrant wasting time in origins.

That being said, an "Ultimate" version of Superman and Batman does sound interesting and the format is something that piqued my interest as well.

I'm a big fan of JMS, so I may check out his work, but Geoff Johns is a puzzling choice for the Batman one. It seems that he has a lot of contempt for the character, from the few times that he has written him. Although the interview seems to ease some of those fears, he sounds passionate about it.

Eric Rupe said...

Jeremy - NO! If one thing killed the Ultimate line it was over expansion. Honestly, the only other Earth One book that DC should even consider putting out in Justice League and then just leave it with those three books.

Kirk Warren said...

Regarding the 'new universe' deal, they have an Ultimate DC, it's called the All Star line. And even with Johns and JMS doing a whole new universe, you literally cannot change either origin or people will lose it. You can adjust
or tweak it a little, but that's it.

Superman's planet blows up, he comes to Earth, gains powers as a boy, goes to Metropolis and works at the Planet. That'st he origin. You want to add Lex in Smallville or the Legion or whatever, fine, but it's not like he's going to be some brainwashed super solider gone insane and thinks he's from Krypton or some other wacked out change. It'll be minor details that will be inconsequential. Superman will be Superman, not a nazi or Russian communist like some other random Earth-whatever version, so it's essentially the same origin.

Same goes for Batman. Parents die, dedicates life to fighting crime. You can work with it al ittle, maybe ground it more in reality or make him more or less paranoid, etc, but it's Batman's origin, you can't change it.

That's why I call it the same thing over again. I also realize they are setting up a new universe that will see these OGN published roughly 2 times per year (from AICN interview), but that doesnt change the fact this is kind of disappointing to see. HOpefully it's just a couple pages of origin and then done and on to the "new" stuff.

Krod said...

They should change the name to something besides Batman: Earth One. Who cares about your fictional universe's cosmology and editorial politics when they're reading BATMAN?

Krod said...

Ohman, I just thought of something. They fired Chuck Dixon right before starting their Ultimate Batman series.

You've got to be kidding me.

Matt Ampersand said...

Did Chuck Dixon pitch an Ultimate Batman series or something?

Jeremy said...

Eric - I agree with you, and thats why I think all those characters I mentioned won't get their own on-goings, but something like Earth-One JLA or whatever.

Kirk - The origins are similar, but they aren't the exact same. Ultimate Captain America was a WWII super soldier, but after a big fight was frozen in the sea, and then was brought back into the modern world. However, Ultimate Captain America is quite a bit different from the 616 version, and that where I think DCU is going with this. Similar, but different. Its not the same thing over and over, except the basics(parents got shot, dresses like a giant bat/planet blows up, raised in Smallville, works in Metropolis).

And the All-Star imprint was clearly not a new shared universe like Earth One is gonna be. Compare the Superman in All-Star Batman and Robin to the Morrison/Quitely version. He's completely different. With Earth One, Batman will look and behave like Geoff Johns envisioned him, no matter what Earth One book he's in.

Krod said...

I keep thinking of more things to say, so sorry for the multiple posts.

One of the problems I have with the continuity reboot stuff is that it can easily go tedious without a strong mandate. The impulse for the writers tends to be to retell old stories, much like Bendis did for a long while in Ultimate Spider-Man. Every issue was, now for the Ultimate version of ______. Mark Millar did it right by not simply doing rehashes.

It's easy to fall into the trap of retelling someone else's stories over and over and over. I hope the editors come down on that consistently.

There's also the possibility still for constant references to previous versions. Nods and winks at a knowing audience. Character defined solely in how they're different from their other versions. But when you do that it makes the comic just an extension of the other comics, meant for that audience that is already reading another version of ______ character instead of potentially for people not reading the other stuff. Sure, I don't have to know this or get that to read this comic, but then again, I don't have to read the comic at all if I'm going to be missing out on half the content.

Eric Rupe said...

Since DC is kind of starting over from scratch here with the Earth One titles, starting with origins is a perfectly logical thing to do. After all, how many superhero movies, like Spider-Man and Batman Begins, began with the hero's origin even though everyone knows it?

Even if the All Star line was intended to be an all accessible line for new readers, it obviously became something else, which is perfectly fine but that would leave DC without such a line of books.

Also, Ultimate Spider-Man is easily one of the best Spider-Man series of all time. Yeah, it may have retold old stories but not everyone, especially non-comic readers, know those stories. That's the point of the Earth One books, or, at least I hope it is.

And, as for the continuity nods, Bendis did a great job with those in USM. They were obvious to anyone who knew what they were referring to but didn't make the books inaccessible to people who didn't.

Médard said...

I also would rather see these creative teams make new Batman and Superman stories then retelling the origins. But the origins will, hopefully, be told in the first graphic novels. After that it'll be (more) original stories.

Besides that I love that this new universe is going to published only in graphic novels. The last couple of years I've been more of a trade/hardcover reader, and I guess a lot of other readers have become too.

Earth One is a horrible branding. Something like "ultimate" or "all-star" is cool or catchy and not as "complex" as earth one. Earth one implies that there are multiple universes and that these Superman and Batman are not the only ones. That is not something you want to bother new readers with.

I will buy these graphic novels, but only for the creators involved, because I've already read enough origin stories of both characters.

Eric Rupe said...

Médard - The fact that they are OGNs means that they are probably targeting the bookstore market, not the fact that people prefer trades over singles even though the two are related.

btownlegend said...

This isn't for the fans. This is for money. Bring back the serial stories of my childhood.

LuchoMon said...

I think this is All Star all over again but his time is Geoff Johns doing Batman.

And that´s something I´d buy.

All Star Superman was one of the best comics of the decade.
Why not try another angle?

I´m buying this.

Daryll B. said...

ok so I get out of this that the DC All-Star Universe is all but dead...

And it also shows that companies believe comic fans are sheep, content to buy the same ol' stories over and over again for umpteenth retellings.

This being said, it'll probably be within the top 5 books and make money....and another nail is driven into my faith of the comic book genre...

Eric Rupe said...

Daryll - I highly doubt the Earth-One comics are for current readers. I suspect that they are aimed a new/first time readers.

Anonymous said...

I agree whole-heartedly about Wonder Woman, as she has a confusing as hell origin given how many times it's been changed. That said, I'd much rather an in-continuity origin story for her.

As for the tag, I'm confused as hell about "Earth One". Fine, current standard continuity is set on "Earth 1", but what are DC thinking? Couldn't they've just come up with another Earth or another name for the project (something like All Star). Actually, couldn't they've just kept up with their commitments to All Star rather than go ahead with this pointless Superman/Batman origin crap? As if they have the most complex origin stories in the world. Want complex and interesting, DC? Try rebooting Donna Troy or someone who's origins haven't been reproduced and referenced a million times.

The Don said...

I was a little off about this too. Especially after the horrid Batman and Alfred designs by Gary Frank.
But these will be aimed at the bookstore market, not the DM. My local shop probably won't order any copies of either, lest someone specifically wants one. Hardcovers traditionally move far less than TP's anyway.
And with this being DC, they won't be promoted outside of the DM anyway. I would give a signed copy of anything if I see any publicity outside the usual channels to actually push these for the book store market. Considering DC's recent blunders with marketing, I don't see that happening. The only place you'll see an advert for these will be in an issue of a DC Comic.

I want to see how this will play out, but I don't think it will be the next wave of the industry, but another step closer to the death knell. The industry cannot be sustained by 20,000 in sales every seven to eight months.

Kirk Warren said...

@The Don - OGNs dont replace, they suppliment the industry. Europe and Japan both feature lots of OGNs. Sky Doll is released in a series of books, not singles, for one European example. There are lots that come out in twice a year or four times a year schedules in other markets. Scott Pilgrim is an example of a North American one that comes out on a yearly (if were lucky) basis, though it adapts a more manga digest sized format than the bookshelf versions.

In the 80's and earlier periods, many of Marvel's most acclaimed books were OGNs, such as Triumph and TOrment or God Loves, Man Kills. They didnt cater exclusively to OGNs, but they did add variety and a different venue for stories that typical monthlies do not.

Also, Joker from last year sold more than 20,000 copies. A lot more. And continues to sell on Amazon and other book store chains that do not chart on Diamond's sales data, which only covers direct market (comic shops).

The Don said...

I know all this. I'm not too worried per se, but with DC's refusal to push toward digital distribution of any of its DCU material, as well as the shiftyness of the interview regarding the idea, kinda makes one think. But like you said, baby steps.

And look at the flipside of it. Joker was a done in one graphic novel. Two creators had an idea for a story and the avenue to tell it was better as an OGN. Also, many have speculated that hype surrounding TDK could have inflated the numbers. It's plausible. This is a "new universe," theoretically designed as chapter one. There will be a chapter two, three, etc.

Furthermore, this dives into a staunch debate on what direct market sales numbers mean. Of course, they mean that in Nov 2009, DM ordered 145000 copies of Blackest Night. The Lost Symbol may be a NYT Bestseller, but I could find 50 to 100 copies at any bookstore I go to. The same principle applies. Numbers ordered versus numbers sold.

And that is a moot point itself, as no company cares about units sold at a retailer level, as long as returnability is not a factor. Units printed, ordered and sold to retailers is all that matters.

It is all useless speculation for now, as the announcement is only several hours old.

But now, I'm going back to Torchwood for the time being.

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