Last week, DC Comics announced a major shakeup to their lineup coming after Flashpoint. As of September, all 52 titles in the DCU proper will be going back to issue #1. Since then, they’ve been slowly announcing the lineup. Now that all 52 have been announced, we’ve got our response to the news and the lineups. They are also moving to day-and-date digital releases for all of their titles at the same time, which adds a unique twist.
The press releases came out in families, with some surprises in the creative teams, and some expectations. The titles themselves are as follows, grouped by the families that DC grouped them into in their press releases:
Justice League family
- Justice League – The flagship title is to be written by Geoff Johns with art by Jim Lee. Of the 14 members, the confirmed roster to date includes Superman (although it seems to be the Flashpoint version), Batman (Bruce Wayne), Wonder Woman (new outfit, possibly new continuity), Flash (Barry Allen), Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), Aquaman and Cyborg.
- Justice League International – Written by Dan Jurgens, art by Aaron Lopresti. Booster Gold is front and centre.
- Aquaman – Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis reunite for this one.
- Captain Atom – Written by J.T. Krul with art by Freddie Williams II.
- DC Universe Presents – An anthology with rotating stars and creative teams. The first arc is written by Paul Jenkins with art by Bernard Chang. It’s about Deadman.
- The Flash – Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato are sharing both script and art duties. This is their first DC writing assignment, although they’ve cowritten work for other publishers in the past.
- The Fury of Firestorm – Cowritten by Ethan Van Sciver and Gail Simone, with art by Yildiray Cinar. It’s the Jason Rusch / Ronnie Raymond combination.
- Green Arrow – Written by J.T. Krul with art by Dan Jurgens and Norm Rapmund.
- The Savage Hawkman – Writer Tony Daniel and artist Philip Tan.
- Mister Terrific – Writer Eric Wallace and artist Roger Robinson. Definitely a new look, and possibly a new continuity.
- Wonder Woman – Writer Brian Azzarello and artist Cliff Chiang.
Green Lantern family
- Green Lantern – Written by Geoff Johns with art by Doug Mahnke and Christian Alamy. The announcement is oddly worded enough to make me wonder if this will be about Hal Jordan (who is on the Justice League) or Abin Sur (who is still Green Lantern at this stage in Flashpoint.) It’s probably Hal, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Abin Sur survives somehow.
- Green Lantern Corps – Written by Peter J. Tomasi with artists Fernando Pasarin and Scott Hanna. Home to John Stewart and Guy Gardner.
- Green Lantern: The New Guardians – Writer Tony Bedard and artists Tyler Kirkham and Batt. Seems to come directly out of the War of the Green Lanterns going on right now, and home to Kyle Rayner.
- Red Lanterns – Written by Peter Milligan with artists Ed Benes and Rob Hunter. Home to Atrocitus.
- Batman – Team Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo. Bruce Wayne is back as the only Batman.
- Detective – Tony Daniel is doing this one solo.
- Batman: The Dark Knight – David Finch is doing writing and art here, with an art assist by Jay Fabok.
- Batman and Robin – Team Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason. Focus is on Bruce and Damien.
- Batgirl – Writer Gail Simone and artists Ardian Syaf. Yes, Barbara Gordon is back in the tights, and appears to have full control of her legs. Not everyone is happy about that; there aren’t a lot of handicapped superheroes. With Barbara seemingly healed (or never injured in the first place) Daredevil may be the only one left.
- Batwoman – Team J.H. Williams III, Haden Blackman and Amy Reeder.
- Batwing – Writer Judd Winick and artist Ben Oliver. The first African American Batman character.
- Birds of Prey – Team Duane Swiercynzki and Jesus Saiz. This seems to be a very different take, with a covert ops style and a cover with four characters I don’t know I recognize. That may be because they have new looks for Huntress, Black Canary, and possibly even Poison Ivy, or they may be different characters entirely.
- Catwoman – Team Judd Winick and Guillem March. It’s not 100% certain this is Selina Kyle.
- Nightwing – By Kyle Higgins and Eddy Barrows. Yes, it’s Dick Grayson again.
- Red Hood and the Outlaws – Writer Scott Lobdell and artist Kenneth Rocafort. With Jason Todd, Arsenal and Starfire.
Batman Incorporated will return in 2012.
Supernatural / Dark family
- Animal Man – Team Jeff Lemire, Travel Foreman and Dan Green.
- Demon Knights – Team Paul Cornell, Diogenes Neves and Oclair Albert. Etrigan in the Middle Ages.
- Frankenstein, Agent of Shade – Team Jeff Lemire and Alberto Ponticelli.
- Justice League Dark – Team Peter Milligan and Mikel Janin. Team roster of John Constantine (not the Vertigo version), Deadman, Shade the Changing Man and Madame Xanadu.
- Resurrection Man – Written by DnA (Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, who have been doing such fantastic work with Marvel’s cosmic line lately) with artist Fernando Dagnino.
- Swamp Thing – Team Scott Snyder and Yannick Paquette. If there’s a fallout from Brightest Day after Flashpoint, it’ll be here.
- Vampire – Josh Fialkov and Andrea Sorrentino.
- Voodoo – Ron Marz and Sami Basri.
Young Heroes family
- Hawk and Dove – Team Sterling Gates and Rob Liefeld.
- Legion Lost – Fabian Nicieza and Pete Woods. A group of teen heroes sent back from the 31st century to the present.
- Legion of Superheroes – Paul Levitz and Francis Portela
- Static Shock – Cowritten by John Rozum and Scott McDaniel. Art by McDaniel and Jonathan Glapion.
- Teen Titans – Scott Lobdell, Brett Booth and Norm Rapmund. Team is led by Tim Drake as Red Robin, and includes Wonder Girl (by name) and also Connor Kent and Bart Allen as Kid Flash / Impulse by the looks of the cover.
“Edge” family of titles
- All-Star Western – Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti and Moritat. Jonah Hex and Amadeus Arkham star in this western series set in a much younger Gotham City.
- Blackhawks – Mike Costa and Ken Lashley, with the characters in a contemporary setting this time.
- Blue Beetle – Tony Bedard, Ig Guara and Ruy Jose are working on Jamie Reyes new title. I’m happy to see it return.
- Deathstroke – Kyle Higgins, Joe Bennett and Art Thibert.
- Grifter – Nathan Edmonson, CAFU and BIT.
- OMAC – Team of Dan DiDio, Keith Giffen and Scott Koblish.
- Sgt. Rock and the Men of War – By Ivan Brandon and Tom Derenick. This is also contemporary, starring the grandson of the original Sgt. Rock and his own Easy Company.
- Stormwatch – Paul Cornell and Miguel Sepulveda. The team includes Jack Hawksmoor, Midnighter, Apollo and the Martian Manhunter.
- Suicide Squad – Team Adam Glass and Marco Rudy writing a team of characters including Harley Quinn, Deadshot and King Shark.
- Action – Team Grant Morrison and Rags Morales
- Superman: Man of Tomorrow – Writer George Perez and artist Jesus Marino.
- Superboy – Team Scott Lobdell on writing, R.B. Silva and Rob Lean on art.
- Supergirl – Cowriters Michael Green and Mike Johnson, writer Mahmud Asrar
The Business Model
Many people have voiced concerns about what the new digital plan means to retailers. All DC titles are now available online the day they are available in print, and at the same price. Four weeks after the print release, the digital price drops by $1. For an additional $1 over the cover price, a person could buy both print and digital editions in a package. Some say this is going to kill retailers if adopted industry wide. I don’t think that’s really in the cards. I think readers will fall into a few categories:
- Traditional readers – Some people will never give up their monthly print editions. There is nothing wrong with that. If they form too small a percentage of the population, the number and density of brick and mortar shops will drop, but comics have been collectables for far too long for me to anticipate this will be anything like the imminent death of the brick and mortar movie rental store.
- Hybrid readers – This is the category I expect to fall into. I like print, and I especially like the fact that no server crash or change in proprietary format can render my collection unreadable. However, print titles take up a lot of space. Also, my local comic retailer has given me nearly a decade of fantastic service and competitive prices. I’ll continue to support him, but for DC titles, I’m going to avoid the “where the heck will I put all of these” problem and buy my digital copies from Roy. I also like the idea of having an economical way to get caught up. I heard great things about Blue Beetle when it launched, but as DC doesn’t always collect every issue of a current series in trade paperback format, it took time, effort, and extra money to complete my collection. I really like the fact that someone can tell me about a great title, and I am guaranteed to have access to the back catalog in digital format today. Certain titles in my collection may always stay in print, but most will be switched to digital via retailer when the option is available.
- Completely digital long time readers – Back in junior high and high school, the guy who ran my local comic shop was, to put it mildly, not very customer service oriented. If I hadn’t moved (and if he hadn’t gone out of business in the bubble burst of the 1990s), I’d switch every title I could to digital just to get away from the guy. I’m betting others with limited access to (enjoyable and/or local) brick and mortar locations will do exactly that.
- New digital readers – This is probably the group DC wants to target. It’s hard to argue against someone sitting in a theater buying this week’s Green Lantern comic minutes after watching the movie. If the industry is going to grow the way it needs to, access to comics has to be more readily available. Rumour has it that DC’s existing day-and-date titles (such as the excellent Justice League: Generation Lost) are doing around 50% of the sales figures of print editions. That’s without a movie to drive the sales.
- New hybrid readers – There will be some people who start reading comics because the iPad or other such tablet makes it easy and convenient. The problem with the digital stores is the recommendations. Digital suggestions are getting better, but I have yet to see the system that is as effective for putting a good comic in your hand as a knowledgeable staff member. People with mixed experiences in the digital stores may seek out brick and mortar stores and get drawn into print editions, too.
I’ve seen wildly varying speculations about which of these groups dominates the market. Oddly enough, though different writers cannot agree on which group that is, they all basically say “the group I’m in will win.” I would argue that there’s no way to know how big these groups are until the fall. I don’t expect brick and mortar stores to die, especially since Marvel isn’t doing day-and-date (and Marvel still accounts for 45% of the direct market product, approximately double DC’s share). Unfortunately, Diamond’s direct market numbers tell a misleading picture. They do not account for other distribution channels, such as bookstores and newsstands. If it did, Archie would own the lion’s share of the comic market outright. The company says that their titles sell 250,000 titles quite routinely. For comparison, the highest selling title in Diamond’s May chart, Fear Itself #2, sold around the 175,000 mark. There are successful titles around the 30,000 mark. Compared to Archie, Marvel and DC numbers just plain suck. Unfortunately, this same lack of detail on the Diamond charts is, in my estimation, going to lead a lot of my fellow Marvel zombies into mocking DC in October when the market share reported goes down. This won’t necessarily mean fewer people will be buying DC, but rather that the people who start buying DC online will represent sales Diamond can neither measure nor report.
By the sounds of it, DC is trying to create a relaunch rather than a reboot. It isn’t precisely clear how much history will be rewritten when Flashpoint goes away, but it looks like some of it will. The idea is to make the line accessible to new readers. This is a double edged sword.
It needs to be relatively easy for a new reader to pick up a title and understand what’s going on. DC and Marvel both have decades of history behind their products. This can make it hard to follow a story. DC’s solution since the original Crisis on Infinite Earths has been to rewrite the history of their titles, relaunch and streamline them, and generally make a “clean slate” version of their characters to pick up. This approach has actually made it more difficult for me to get involved in their characters.
When Sam Raimi made his first Spider-Man movie, I got sucked back into comic collecting. Marvel’s Essential line made it easy for me to pick up the key original issues and figure out who these characters were at a relatively low cost. DC didn’t have a Showcase line at the time, so it was just plain easier for me to get started with Marvel. On top of that, Marvel titles start with a recap page in the front of each issue, telling the reader the most important pieces of information needed to make sense of the issue. These pages appear in every Marvel Universe comic on the stands. For those familiar with the Marvel multiverse, they know that “Earth 616″ is where the action is, and that’s the version we see regularly. In many cases, when a creative team has used particularly obscure characters (such as the recent and fantastic Heroes for Hire by Abnett and Lanning) Marvel has even included Marvel handbook entries in the relevant issues of the series. You can learn what you need to learn to make sense of issue #n simply by reading issue #n.
Compare this to DC. DC has no such recap pages. Trying to follow some of the Blackest Night tie-ins meant hitting Wikipedia every other page. (Speaking as a reader with 4,376 DC comics in a 16,897 comic collection, that’s significant.) When I read a Showcase Presents volume to get up to speed, I often get more confused, because the “Superman” I read about in his Chronicles series and the “Superman” I read about in the Showcase Presents are two different Superman, neither of which is the “Superman” who is the star of that character’s titles today. Sometimes it’s just difficult to figure out what’s going on. If there is one simple thing DC can do to help gain new readers in September, I think it would be to use these recap pages. Sure, Marvel started them ten years ago, but this would be far from the first example of the two companies
stealing from mutually inspiring each other.
In the end, this is a brave, brave move that will be talked about for at least the next six months on every comics board on the Internet. It may look and smell like a gimmick, but at the end of the day, there’s only one thing that really matters: I’ll be buying more DC titles this September (from 9 to 11; decisions aren’t final on two) than I have in a single month since the height of Blackest Night, and I’m going to be dropping Marvel titles to create the budget space to do it. I know others who are so dissatisfied with DC lately that they are taking the “if September is a line-wide jumping on point, that makes August a good line-wide jumping off point!” approach. If buyers like me outweigh buyers like them, DC will have had a success.