When DC Comics announced their summer event Flashpoint, they promoted it as a launching pad to a new direction for the company’s titles and the characters they encompass. This was not the first time fans heard such a promise. But little did we know that something was abrewin’.
Not long ago, while the aforementioned Flashpoint storyline was in progress, DC officially let the cat out of the bag: following the event, in September, they will relaunch 52 new titles. Needless to say, this took the entire industry and the fan community by surprise. If it was shock value DC Comics wanted, then they can safely claim mission accomplished.
The truth is DC’s continuity has become rather convoluted. While their rivals, Marvel, also has a long history that goes decades back, there is more of a constancy that makes it more easily accessible to new readers, as opposed to DC, whose continuity was oftentimes lost among even their most faithful of readers. They attempted on numerous occasions to clean the mess up, with all of the Crisis events (Crisis on Infinite Earths (1985), Zero Hour (1994), Infinite Crisis (2005), and Final Crisis (2008)). But no matter how hard they tried, things were not crystal clear. There were contradictions and confusions, just as much for the offices as there was for the creators and readers. I don’t mean to make it sound so chaotic, but it wasn’t easy to follow sometimes. And that was frustrating. It seemed that the best way to truly clean up the continuity was to stop and restart it. A reboot was in order, but were they bold enough to pull such a stunt? It’s out there now, so we know that they are. It all begins on August 31st with the brand new Justice League #01, by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee.
The announcement was followed by passionate debates among fans. You have those who are excited about this supposed clean up versus those who, despite being sometimes confused themselves, are irate that DC is nixing anything pre-Flashpoint. But those fans need not be too upset because this move is being described as a soft reboot, meaning that not everything that we’ve been reading all these years is erased. There are some books who will deal with a brand new continuity while others will keep certain aspects of their history intact for the “new age.”
An example of the pre-existing continuity that will remain relevant is in Batman. Following Final Crisis, it was believed that Bruce Wayne was dead. His former sidekick Dick Grayson (the first Robin-turned-Nightwing) took up the mantle of the Bat and has been the Dark Knight ever since. Now, with the new Batman #01 coming in September, Bruce Wayne returns as Batman and Grayson goes back to being Nightwing. But within the storyline parameters, Dick Grayson will have just come off of being Batman. It is not entirely undoing the successful run of writer Grant Morrison, who did some great work in recent years on the Bat-universe.
But this whole relaunch business isn’t the only controversial bomb DC Comics dropped on the comic book world. They also announced that they will have same-day digital releases. In other words, every Wednesday (the day of the week new comics are released in stores), they will also offer the digital purchase. For those who might not be aware, in order to help keep the struggling retail business afloat, publishers offer the digital versions of their titles weeks following the in-store releases. It is their way of encouraging consumers to buy the actual book instead of downloading it on their digital device of choice.
This isn’t too popular among retailers, who admit that business is not what it used to be since digital comics entered the picture. It is understandable that these companies get with the program. If any business is to survive, they must adapt to the new age of commerce. By purposely delaying digital releases, they play their part in keeping retail going. But with same-day digital releases, DC is depriving most of their retailing business partners from income. It would be easier to accept if some independent company like Archaia Studios made this decision. But DC and Marvel make up of 80% of comic book sales in North America. Essentially, DC is potentially cutting 40% of their in-store retailers’ profit. Not too encouraging entirely.
Stepping away from that issue, it is still a rather exciting time for DC in terms of storytelling and concepts. Needless to say, we will see the heavy hitters like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, and Green Lantern spearheading this movement dubbed “The New 52.” Some more obscure characters will be pushed to the forefront, a few examples being Mister Terrific, Captain Atom, and Deathstroke. We will see brand-new heroes and teams like Batwing and Justice League Dark. Some of these characters will get a complete overhaul in looks and origins. Others will have only a few alterations, but a brand new beginning nonetheless. Furthermore, DC’s WildStorm imprint will merge with their superhero universe and the two separate entities will become one, as evidenced by Stormwatch and Grifter being given new ongoing titles.
Among the 52 is a brand new Batgirl series by Gail Simone, which became a hot topic of sorts for many. Returning as the superheroine will be the original, Barbara Gordon. Since the immensely popular and successful The Killing Joke (1988), Barbara has been a paraplegic. She became an information broker, a highly skilled computer hacker, and an intelligence gatherer in order to help fight crime from behind the scenes as Oracle. The sensitive issue with her no longer being in a wheelchair is that many readers, particularly the handicapped, felt a sense of encouragement seeing a woman with physical limitations playing such an important role in the DC Universe. But DC rationalized it by explaining that in a world where the terminally ill are cured and the dead return to life, it wasn’t logical to have this one woman unable to walk again. But as Gail Simone mentioned herself, what’s to stop Barbara from meeting the same fate in the new title?
When the major publisher began announcing the New 52, they broke them down in themes. This way, we were given an idea of what these books will be like in tone and approach. In keeping with their method, I will also list them as such:
SUPERMAN BOOKS (4)
Action Comics #01 – Superman #01 – Superboy #01 – Supergirl #01
BATMAN BOOKS (11)
Detective Comics #01 – Batman #01 – Batwing #01 – Batman: The Dark Knight #01 – Batman and Robin #01 – Batgirl #01 – Batwoman #01 – Nightwing #01 – Catwoman #01 – Birds of Prey #01 – Red Hood and the Outlaws #01
GREEN LANTERN BOOKS (4)
Green Lantern #01 – Green Lantern Corps #01 – Green Lantern: The New Guardians #01 – Red Lanterns #01
JUSTICE LEAGUE BOOKS (11)
Justice League #01 – Justice League International #01 – Aquaman #01 – Wonder Woman #01 – The Flash #01 – Captain Atom #01 – The Fury of Firestorm #01 – Green Arrow #01 – The Savage Hawkman #01 – Mister Terrific #01 – DC Universe Presents #01
DARK THEMED BOOKS (7)
Justice League Dark #01 – Swamp Thing #01 – Animal Man #01 – Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #01 – I, Vampire #01 – Resurrection Man #01 – Demon Knights #01
EDGE THEMED BOOKS (9)
Stormwatch #01 – Voodoo #01 – Grifter #01 – Deathstroke #01 – Suicide Squad #01 – O.M.A.C. #01 – Blackhawks #01 – Men of War #01 – All-Star Western #01
YOUNG HEROES BOOKS (6)
Teen Titans #01 – Static Shock #01 – Hawk & Dove #01 – Blue Beetle #01 – Legion of Super-Heroes #01 – Legion Lost #01
I am personally looking forward to these new beginnings. For the first time since I became a comic book fan, I don’t know what to expect. And in this spoiler-ridden world we live in today, it is quite the special feeling. As with every fresh start, the potential and sense of promise is endless. DC is starting off with a blank slate. I sincerely hope that they make this one count because the backlash they will feel if this flops will be a hard one to recover from. Nevertheless, the arrival of the New 52 is one I’m anxiously waiting for.