Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Breaking Down the New DC Comics

And so the rumors are true—announced on May 31st through various comic books news sites, DC Comics is going to completely relaunch their line starting in September with a whopping 52 titles, all beginning with a #1 issues. This is arguably the biggest news in the history of DC Comics as this represents the most substantial change to the line since Crisis on Infinite Earths effectively reset DC’s continuity in 1985. Let’s take a few moments to break down what this change means for the industry as a whole in three core aspects.

Day-and-Date Digital

At the root of the DC launch is the announcement that, beginning with Justice League #1 by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee, DC Comics is now going day-and-date digital. While all major publishers have now made their comics digitally, this is perhaps the biggest move in favor of digital comics publishing yet. While its importance is self-evident, its true impact on the industry won’t be seen until well after the launch of the new DC Comics.

While the publishing industry as a whole has widely embraced digital publishing, the comic book industry has been hesitant to jump fully into this realm, and understandably soon. The backbone of the comic book industry is a network individually owned and operated brick-and-mortar comic book shops. Major pushes into digital publishing is arguably a blow against the biggest ally that the comic book industry has. By cutting out the middle-man and making their comics available day-and-date, DC is taking an important first step in what could eventually be the death knell of the traditional comic book economy.

There are two big questions swirling around this issue. The first is how will other publishers respond? The impact of the second-tier publishers (Image, Dark Horse, Boom!, and IDW) jumping on the bandwagon is unlikely to have any immediate effects on the industry. However, if Marvel were to begin day-and-date digital publishing, the game has officially changed and the war between Digital and Print sales officially begins in earnest.

The second (and perhaps more important) question is how much will these digital comics cost? If DC continues to “hold the line at $2.99” (more on that later) with its digital releases, the impact of this move will take even longer to be felt. Now, if DC were to lower its digital prices to say $1.99 per issue (or lower), the fence-riding casual comic book fans are more likely to begin migrating towards digital consumption. The impact will be immediate and comic book industry will be drastically changed overnight.

Courting the Casual Fans

Let’s face the facts here, despite having the two most iconic and widely recognized superheroes in the world as their flagship characters, DC Comics is the #2 comic book publisher and, until today, nothing was going to change that. Marvel is the biggest dog in the fight and, every Wednesday, DC is fighting for scraps. This is DC’s opportunity to change that.

In September, DC will not have unprecedented chances to bring in new readers. Every single book is an opportunity to bring in a new fan as the oppressive baggage of nearly 80 years of continuity no longer keeps potential new readers from understanding what is going on. As long as DC keeps sticks to two very clear principles, the relaunch could very easily vault them to the #1 spot that Marvel has held dominion over for years.

The first is that DC must absolutely keep their comics at $2.99 or lower. Hardcore comic geeks have trouble justifying a $3.99 per issue purchase as it is, so it is completely ludicrous to expect a new reader to pay that much. We are facing a fierce economy right now and DC simply cannot afford to follow Marvel’s lead by increasing their prices. Not only would that alienate their longtime readership, it would kill all opportunities to court new readers.

While the relaunch does allow DC to streamline their continuity and make sweeping revamps to its properties, The Powers That Be must remain conscious of the fact that new comic book fans are not going into their local comic book shops (or making their purchases) without some baggage. Non-comic readers know that Batman is Bruce Wayne and that his parents were murdered when he was a child. They hold true to the fact that Superman is the Last Son of Krypton and that the love of his life is Lois Lane. After this summer, their Green Lantern is Hal Jordan and he battles alongside a diverse extraterrestrial police force in the Green Lantern Corps. As long as DC stays true to the core of these icons, the relaunch has the potential for success with new readers.

Of course, DC must remember that there are other ways of reaching new readers. They won’t be swayed by articles on Newsrama or even write-ups in USA Today or news stories on CNN. DC needs to spend a little to make a lot—that means nationwide advertising on television, in magazines, and perhaps more importantly, in movie theatres. You want someone to read a Green Lantern comic because they loved the Green Lantern movie? Then you need to tell them that Green Lantern comics exist and where they can buy them!

New DC vs. Old Fans

I’m not going to lie, I’m really hesitant to support the new DC launch because I love DC Comics. I want it to be successful, but more than that, I don’t want to lose the beloved characters that I have spent literally thousands of dollars following over the last decade. I’m not alone in this and DC needs to start addressing their panicking fanbase as soon as possible or this launch is going to require a massive reboot within its first year.

Announcing that their iconic heroes would be returning to the Justice League was a great first move. With all due respect to the folks who write and draw Justice League, the current line-up is a mockery of what the Justice League represents and the fans know it. We want Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern anchoring that team. We want it written by the biggest writer that DC has. We definitely want it drawn by perhaps the most popular artist in modern comics’ history. Justice League #1 by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee was strategically chosen to be the first comic announced as an olive branch to the immediately disenfranchised readership of DC Comics.

And now we anxiously await their next move. Expect cult-favorites to return and expect at least one or two major characters to be revamped in controversial ways. I fully anticipate that we’ll see a new Robin. I wouldn’t be surprised if Barbara Gordon is Batgirl again. I hope to Kirby that we get Nightwing back. Superman is going to be younger. At least three or four of white characters are going to become more ethnically diverse. The changes will be huge in some cases and barely noticeable in others, but more importantly, to appease both retailers who have to preorder 52 new titles and fans that will start lose sleep, the changes will be announced sooner than you’d think.


This is the biggest announcement in DC Comics history. Come September, neither their publishing line nor the comic book industry will be the same again. Will it be what DC needs to become #1 or will it be an epic failure of unparalleled proportions? Only time will tell.

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brandon said...

Will a reboot prove to be more of a jumping off point for readers or a jumping on point for readers?

Does this mean Morrison's Batman work ends? His saga just abruptly stops?

mugiwara said...

This is the kind of stuff that makes me think that mainstream comics may not be for me anymore.
I am sick and tired of iconic line-ups. I can't stand those comics frozen in time since the 80's. But it looks like most riders want to read again and again Avengers comics including Stark, Thor and Jesus Rogers, JLA comics with Supes, Bats, WW and Jordan, X-Men comics with Colossus, Nightcrawler and Kewlverine...
I have read enough comics including classic characters and have plenty of them on my shelfs. I want something "all new, all different", like in the 70's. Teams with new, unseen lineups of underexposed characters, but I understand that I am the minority here.
Marvel and DC have the most fabulous and the hugest shared universes of all medias. Too bad that editors, writers and readers are only interested by 1% of those universes.

The Dangster said...

"At least three or four of white characters are going to become more ethnically diverse."

Is that confirmed? Aside from the existing changes like black Firestorm and Hispanic Blue Beetle?

Klep said...

I like how the diverse-for-the-21st-century Justice League core lineup has 5 white guys, a woman, and a black guy.

The most disturbing rumor I've heard about this is that they may be splitting up Lois and Clark for Diana and Clark. I think this would be a huge mistake both for story reasons (Lois and Clark complement each other perfectly) and for marketing reasons. The relationship between Lois and Clark has been at the core of every TV or movie adaptation focused on Superman, even becoming the actual title of a successful TV show.

I'm more optimistic regarding Barbara Gordon. DC had the opportunity to make her Batgirl again after Final Crisis and decided against it, so I don't think we'll see them revisit that issue so soon, particularly since we know Birds of Prey will still be around.

maskedmanissue1 said...

@ brandon: Batman Inc comes to an "end" in the august issue, which is kind of a surprise to me. I thought the whole Leviathan threat was going to be much broader and larger and that the Batman Inc storyline was going to be more developed.

kyle said...

I would agree with the staleness of the mainstream comic book industry. With very few exceptions to the rule, at this point I feel no urge to read the majority of DC's stuff outside of Detective comics and some vertigo titles.

The bigger concern for me is that after about 20 years completely out of comics, I have been brought back by the a friend that showed my how to read cbz files on my phone. I have to say the quality of some of the work that is out there is amazing and that is of course what brought me back in full force, but the digital format it very convenient and that too had a lot to do with it. However, later today I will be heading to the local shop to pick up the last month and a half of the eight to ten titles I have set up on a pull list, and I have to say I am pretty excited for it. What my concern is, is that although digital is nice, I hope that this change, although likely a good one for the publishers, doesn't get us to a point of virtually no physical books left in print. Again without the digital format, I wouldn't even be back, but at the same time it just wasn't the same as reading the actual book, and that is why I am taking some hard earned cash to the store.

Perhaps that is just an old school mentality of things, but what I hope the publishers don't forget, is that some of us love the fact that we have or would like an actual copy of DMZ #1 in our basement, all boarded and sealed up, and the feeling of peeling it open and enjoying it in it's traditional format is an absolute pleasure.

Kevin Bell said...

I'm likely to quit collecting. I've been into comics since I was 6 years old (1992) and collected as far back at 1980 and been collecting to the present. But with the idea of a new line up of #1s (and this makes me annoyed but I'll accept it) plus rebooting things, I'm finally going to drop it. Well, depending on how much of a reboot is; how much they get rid of. Batman and GL has been building to stories for years, as has other comics, and to just pull the rug out makes me, as a big fan, annoyed.

So come September, I may be out.

Anonymous said...

This is the first I've heard of this, and I'm not liking it. Jim Lee has rebooted his Wildstorm universe at least 3 times, which I feel was always more failure than success. There he also had a, short compared to DC, rich character base and history. Yet he rebooted it so many times, I could never be sure what each characters origons were anymore. I am a huge fan of Jim Lee back to his Uncanny run, and I know he's an editor at DC now, but I think he should be drawing and not rebooting the DC Universe. Even if it does recover like post Crisis, it will take years.
There are alot of solid stories going on right now that as a comic veteran I don't want to see just go away. Green Lantern since the Sinestro Corps War brought me back to DC as an adult. Through this blog I learned about the amazing writing in Secret Six. Birds of Prey with Gail Simone was good too. We've got Morrison creating this huge story with Batmen all over the world. Even Flashpoint looks well written. So now I'm just supposed to forget that happened and start over with Superman arriving in a modern spaceship with UFO consipracy theorists and the hubble telescope, referenced, and Bruce Wayne's parents killed by meth addicts, carrying automatic pistols instead of a revolver in the 1990's?
If they are really interested in new readers, why don't they do an Ultimates type of line? Or a Year One universe? Besides the fact that Ultimates is more mature, I see it as a rebooting of classic characters with a more modern tone. Or Year One which does a similar thing. Get the new readers hooked on this Ulimates or Year One universe then transition them into the more rich legacy original universe.
But to just junk everything and modernize it, seems disrespectful to readers and the writers and artists who came before.
I love Jim Lee's art, and think he is the best of this whole generation bar none, but I think he should be drawing and not destroying the decades of storytelling that came before.

Frank said...

I'm not a huge DC fan, I've tried to read Justice League, Legion of Super-Heroes and Supergirl. I seem to like the side characters better, Power Girl and Zatanna have held my attention. But, I think if they reboot everything I'll probably let my DC comics go by the wayside. I deal with this enough with Marvel and I just don't want to spend the time on a reboot. I might keep Zatanna if the creative team stays the same but otherwise I can't see myself picking this up.

Klep said...

Aaaand I spoke too soon. Bleeding Cool is claiming that Batgirl #1 will start in September and star Barbara Gordon. :(

Nathan Aaron said...

If DC was the smartest comics company in the world they would make EVERY one of these #1's .99 cents! that would give EVERYONE the chance to try out all 52 books if they wanted, and then issue #2 would be #2.99 from there. Not sure they'll do this, but with 13 #1's hitting shelves EVERY week in September, I'm not sure how else they'd expect fans to be able to pick up all the books and give them a try. Crossing my fingers!

And apparently Superman and Lois Lane will be single once more when this goes into effect, so I guess she could still be the love of his life, but it starts all over.

Rocker69 said...

Such a desperate act by DC...it's almost sad. But I'm excited for the Justice League relaunch. Although I sincerely doubt that Jim Lee will be on board for more than 5 issues.

I've always been a Marvel fan and I'm glad that they never had to resort to these kind of things, like Crisis 1, 2, 3 etc. Sure, what they did to Spider-Man's marriage was beyond pathetic but that was a very unusal move by them.

brandon said...

I guess this means there's no need to sample the various Flashpoint mini series that are coming out.

So if Lee is drawing issue one of JLA to ship in Sept I would venture to guess we will see issue two in Dec then issue three in April before it goes on hiatus.

(I've become more negative about this as the day has wore on)

fodigg said...

I am both worried about this and excited for this change. It seems like one of those things that had to happen, but doing it with a hard reboot seems drastic. I much preferred Marvel's "test it in the Ultimates universe and if it works, use it in the main universe" approach.

But shaking things up in DC? That had to happen. I'm worried that the good will fall apart, but I've already seen that happen in DC enough where I'm ready to take that risk as a reader to see some of the smaller names jump to the front. My biggest worry here is that they're going to try to push out too many new titles and these smaller characters will still fall by the wayside (52 new titles? Really?).

I like pushing Cyborg out front. I like the idea of changing the appearance of some characters (what I assume means pulling a "Nick Fury" on some characters to make the cast more diverse, not just making some characters younger), and I think that a new status quo for the big three couldn't hurt. There's a lot of potential here, because honestly I was way sick of reading the second coming of the silver age. At least this way the creators can use these silver age characters without drowning the readers in continuity-porn. I just hope we don't have to slog through a million origin stories now, which would be even worse.

Someone mentioned on another forum that this seems like a consequence of Warner buying DC. That they want to just use DC as an idea machine, so they don't really care, necessarily, about the direct market the way DC used to. I like the idea of digital distribution being fully embraced (especially if there's a blanket subscription model), I like the idea of Diamond getting their little monopoly broken up (I disliked them & their methods when I ran my shop), but I dislike the idea of even more small shops like the one I managed going under.

Hopefully this will grab new fans, not turn old fans away from the shops. We always found there were different customer groups. 1) online, 2) in-store, and hopefully now 3) digital. And even the in-stores could be broken into 2a) singles, 2b) toys, 2c) trades. What this could--emphasis could--mean is that those who like to support local shops will continue right on doing it and, in fact, those shops will see more customers coming through their front doors who were won through digital delivery. New potential customers buying toys, t-shirts, and trades, or just coming in to talk comics would certainly be a positive result for local shops.

Anyway, I'm hopeful this will reinvigorate DC and result in some good stories for relatively untouched characters. I hope that the push for digital helps the medium in the long-term, even if it does have a short-term cost that impacts the local shops. That's my optimistic side. My pessimistic side looks at the recent, failed reboots of Wonder Woman and Flash and shudders in fear.

btownlegend said...

All that is needed is for the right creators to be on the right books...hell a good artist like Quitley can juice the Traci 13 book to number one.

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty excited by this. I've been wanting to try out some of the DC titles over the last few years but I generally struggled to find good jumping on points. If nothing else I'll definitely be giving that Morrison Superman title a look.

Ivan said...

I'm ok with it. As long as they can tell good stories. And the same day digital release is very interesting. I hope it works as they planned. But I gotta say, I'm really underwhelmed by Jim Lee's designs if that JL cover is any indication.

CombatSpoon86 said...

Im not too excited about the reboot. But as long its a good read I'm in. I'm starting to trade wait on alot of my books now these days. Jla & Superman looks to be the ones I'll give a shot but we'll see. As long as Dc doesn't screw up Secret Six, Ill be happy

Jeremy said...

@Brandon No, the Morrison Batman Saga isn't coming to an end. This isn't another Crisis On Infinite Earths deal where everything that came before just doesn't matter anymore. Scott Snyder said his Detective Comics stories still count, Geoff Johns said the reprucussions from Blackest Night will still be in effect, etc.

We don't know WHAT'S gonna be changed, but we'll know more by June 11th.

Jon Q. Citizen said...

I'm excited about this! I've spent literally thousands as well over the years, but this move doesn't bother me at all. As long as the stories are great, and all the characters I collect are there (I already collect 10 DC monthlies, so add on a few like Hawkman, Aquaman, Captain Marvel, etc. and I'm cheesy happy), I will be buying with a smile for years to come.

@Mugiwara: With 52 new titles starting in September....there is the possibility that Robinson's Justice League may stick around as it's own book.

Steven said...

From what's being said so far, I have to believe that some things are going to be rebooted more dramatically than other things. They have already said that past continuity is not going to be erased, so I have a feeling that some of the reboots will be more cosmetic than anything.

They may do a fairly heavy reboot to, say, Aquaman but I doubt they are going to reboot Legion dramatically after going to so much trouble to reinstate the old continuity.

Ty said...

Don't worry. Booster Gold will fix it.

Ty said...

Don't worry. Booster Gold will fix it.

Anonymous said...

I'm more concerned about Secret Six, its the only DC comic I've made an effort to follow. Aside from a Batman story here and there.

Anonymous said...

Fifty two titles. Doesn't this remind anyone of the "DC Explosion" of the 1970's, where 57 new titles premiered, and the subsequent "DC Implosion" and the "Cancelled Comics Cavalcade"?

In all seriousness, it's an interesting idea, insofar as it's rather unprecedented & DC is apparently anticipating that the digital distribution system will yield them far more fans than the comics shops could these days, and they're banking that new readers will be demanding an utter torrent of new content. When iTunes was getting off the ground, every Tuesday for months, I would check the "New Releases" section religiously. The big difference is that iTunes' "New" releases back then consisted of a lot of re-releases, whereas DC will be heavily promoting all-new content.

That said, I do have concerns about homogenity in the product line. I would hope not every book would look like Jim Lee knockoffs. The biggest thing that kept me from picking up Valiant during their first run in the 90's was that the art style all looked same & bland. I'm not saying every comic has to look like Rob Liefeld, but they don't all have to look like Ross Andru either.

I'm not sure what I'd really look forward to. If Giffen & DeMatteis are involved with the new "Justice League International", I'm all in. If Peter Milligan gets another crack at "Shade the Changing Man", I'm in like madness. Anything that Kevin Maguire draws, I'm there. But that's as far as the tide reaches the shore for me.

Anonymous said...

If this fails, Jim Lee can have Captain Atom explode again, and hopefully return everything back. And at least he'll explode and reboot his own universe this time.

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