If you’ve not been following all the news coming out of DC Comics lately, you might not be aware of the magnitude of their current plans. They are not only releasing their newest gimmick-laden mega-event, but bringing a new focus to the company’s line of titles. According to them, there will be new books (that’s a given; nothing new there), new creators (which is always welcome), and a broader focus (this is the part that I’m intrigued about).
So… what exactly do they mean by a broader focus? Well, starting on June 3, they will be dropping twenty-four new titles, to go along with the twenty-five they are keeping from the New (now, I suppose, old) 52. They are dropping the New 52 tag line altogether, and taking the company in a new direction. What direction? Well, one good thing is that they’re not planning on rebooting everything and starting with all-new #1’s after Convergence. Why is that significant? It’s significant because it bucks what seems to have become a standard operating procedure: to try and get more sales by constantly having new #1’s. Sales figures show that a new #1 will always have higher sales, whether because of genuine interest in the new story, or from a speculator’s standpoint. By not relaunching everything, DC shows that they are possibly moving away from this tactic. So there is a check in the “good” box.
To quote DC Entertainment co-publisher Dan Didio, “This heralds in a new era of the DC Universe, which will allow us to publish something for everyone, be more expansive and modern in our approach and tell stories that better reflect the society around us.”
That makes sense to me. They are going to try new kinds of books to bring in new kinds of readers. I think that’s a great idea. I’m not so sure how well simply tweaking existing characters to do it will go over, though. I think DC might have been better served to open a new imprint, like they have with Vertigo, and using that as a venue to introduce new characters and new stories, particularly with humor-focused books like Bizarro, Bat-Mite, and Prez. That said, it could still work.
In their press release they say they will be going back to basics with their legendary characters, like Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman, while reinventing others like Black Canary, Bizarro, Cyborg, and Starfire. Again, nothing wrong here. You will alienate some long-time fans of the reinvented characters, maybe, but that’s just part of doing business. I’d also like to know specifically what they mean by going back to basics. To me it means one thing, but to them that could be a completely different thing. Based on everything else they are saying, it looks like they are alluding to just telling great stories with great creators, so there is another check in the “good” box.
For the first time we get an acknowledgement that they will be altering the published books, to bring them more in line with what we are experiencing in DC-based television shows, movies, and video games. Let’s take a look at what the other Co-Publisher, Jim Lee, said:
“More than ever before, DC Comics fans are being exposed to our rich portfolio of characters through multiple sources, including an unprecedented number of highly successful TV shows, video games and upcoming major motion pictures.”
Nothing wrong with this, and again, this is smart business. My only concern is what effect this will have on their continuity. I think continuity is very important to the telling of serial character stories, like Batman and Superman. Why? Because when you have characters occupying a shared universe, how they interact with each other is dictated by their shared history, or lack of shared history. The relationship between Batman and Superman has been molded by it. If we don’t have this background to look backto, we are starting all over again from scratch, and when we start over, we need to do one of two things, either tell it all over again, or ignore it, and hope it turns out alright. Here’s another quote from DiDio:
“in this new era of storytelling, story will trump continuity as we continue to empower creators to tell the best stories in the industry.”
While I’m a huge supporter of giving storytellers has much freedom as possible to tell their stories, I’ve also lived through all of DC’s other multiverse and multiple earths. I’ve seen their attempts to streamline continuity and bring things into a more easily understandable universe. Something like this could simply throw that approach off the rails if not handled correctly. At the same time, though, if handled correctly this could be the best thing to happen at DC in decades. I’ve always been baffled by the inability of DC (and Marvel, to a lesser extent) to find a system that allows both the “alternate” stories and the mainstream to coexist happily. A simple labeling system would be all that they would need—one where non continuity books would have a simple symbol on the cover to show it as such. But publishers shy away from a system like this for fear it might hurt sales. But would it? Marvel’s Ultimate line shows us that you can have a great series of books outside of continuity, even using the same characters.
When all is said and done, I feel like I’m being courted by a suitor. I feel like they are telling me all the things they think that I want to hear. On some of those counts, like bringing in new creative blood to give us a more diverse pool of creators, they’re right. I do want to see that, and I do want to see better stories and new takes on old favorites. I hope DC’s plans are more on the mark than off, because if they aren’t just telling us what we want to hear, then the next wave of books coming from them could be some of the best they have ever done. Only time will tell, though, and I wait with crossed fingers. I hope, that in two years, I’m not pounding away at the keyboard over the latest failed gimmick.