I don’t know if you’ve heard, but some potentially huge news for comic book fans and super hero aficionados has recently hit the web, and the effect can be called “polarizing” to say the least. DC Comics has been running a shared universe in its publications for decades now, and the company has been the home to the two longest running super hero series in history: Action Comics (which recently had a controversial story in its 900th issue and is slated to hit #904 in August), and Detective Comics (the series for which DC Comics is named, slated to hit issue #881 also in August). There have been some convolutions in the long-running continuity which have had to be “corrected” from time-to-time with various event series employing retroactive continuity (or “retcon” for short) to clean things up.
The biggest, most sweeping retcon to the DC Universe occurred in the mid-1980’s when the maxi-series Crisis on Infinite Earths paired down the universe and streamlined the characters for the new, modern age of comics. Superman’s continuity got a complete overhaul, with a new origin story and a brand new #1 issue. Wonder Woman got a similar treatment. Batman received more of a “soft reboot,” which spawned what many renowned comic creators call their favorite Batman story in Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One. Over the next two-and-a-half decades, DC’s continuity has been patched, re-patched, and even repackaged since then.
Well, their answer to all of this has recently emerged. While unclear exactly how much of the old continuity will be maintained and what will be abolished, DC is canceling their entire super hero line of books just to bring them back with brand new number one issues. Every series, fifty-two to be exact, including the long-running Action and Detective series, will be starting back at number one for the new DC Universe.
The immediate fan reaction has been mixed at best. Some fans that I’ve spoken with in my capacity as a comic book retailer have been positive about the relaunch, saying that this will be a great point to jump into the DC Universe. For those readers (or potential readers) curious about the DCU, but not sure exactly where to start, this will definitely be the time to begin reading DC books. Where better to begin than with Batman #1 or Superman #1? Hey, want to jump into Green Lantern? Number one in September!
Other more established readers of DC Comics are lukewarm at best to this idea. One customer in my store said that instead of a great jumping on point, it may be the perfect time for him to jump off. I have plenty of questions that I’d love to be able to ask the powers-that-be at DC about specific characters. Will some of my favorites that showed up later in the timeline even exist anymore? These questions will hopefully be answered further in DC’s retail solicitations for September, which should be released in a couple weeks’ time, but even then not all of the questions will be answered. Although, are more aspects of the DC brand at play here than we may be realizing?
What Does This Mean for the Future DC Movies?
Back in September of 2009, DC’s parent company Warner Bros. announced that the publishing arm of DC Comics would become a subsidiary of a new company, DC Entertainment. From there, a new corporate structure was put in place, consisting of former WB execs and many well-known creators of critically acclaimed DC Comics, including renowned artist Jim Lee as a Co-Publisher and fan-favorite writer Geoff Johns as the Chief Creative Officer. Beyond this, WB Executive Jeff Robinov has gone on record stating that he’s looking at the vast amount of properties in the DC library to cultivate new franchises for WB films in order to fill the cinematic void left by the conclusion of the Harry Potter franchise.
Co-Publisher Jim Lee has also put his artistic pen to use in redesigning over fifty DC super heroes, including the longstanding members of the Justice League. While Batman’s new design isn’t anything overtly new or outlandish compared to what we’ve seen before, characters like Wonder Woman, The Flash, and Superman in particular have all received radical redesigns with certain stylistic uniformities across multiple hero costumes. On the single released image so far, apparently the cover to the new Justice League #1, four of the seven showcased characters all have a similar collar on their costumes, which is an interesting departure from the usually unique costumes with no cross-similarity in the super hero pantheon.
Do these redesigns show some sort of aesthetic intent on the film slate going forward? Jeff Robinov stated that plans were going ahead for a Justice League film in 2013, which include a rebooted Batman and possible new franchises for other characters to spin-off after a full-fledged JL film. Looking across the pond at Marvel, it’s not unlike Marvel Studios to employ well-known comic artists and/or writers to assist in the design of the characters’ big screen adaptations, most notably realized by artist Adi Granov’s contribution to the design of the main character’s suit of armor in both Iron Man films.
While any cinematic consequences will probably not be seen for a while, the complete relaunch of DC Comics will have lasting repercussions for existing, new, and future comics fans. A complete restructuring of the DC Universe on this scale has never been attempted before, and it will be very interesting to see how this affects not just the characters, but the comics reading community as a whole, that has a great deal invested in these characters, both financially and personally.
Will This Work?
While it’s a questionable direction from my point-of-view, it’s definitely interesting. I just hope that they only fix what actually needs fixing (although everyone has their own ideas on that topic) and don’t try to fix what isn’t broken. And a collar on Superman? Really? Either way, there’s no other method of discovering what will happen except for staying tuned.
What do you say? Is a complete relaunch of the entire DC line at issue #1 enough to get you to the comic shop and see what the world of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and the Flash is all about? Or, does this sound like a hackneyed idea that might make you less interested in reading mainstream comics? Sound off!
Chris Clow is the author behind The Dark Knight Rises Countdown column for Movies.com, and he also writes for the web’s premiere source for Batman movie news, Jett’s Batman-On-Film.com. You can find his comic book reviews for a couple of regular titles over there.