So I’m guessing most of you have heard by now about DC Comics’ plan to restart all their superhero series from #1, along with some attendant retoolings and revampings (and not a line-wide rebooting of every single character from scratch, as had been assumed). Basically, it looks like they’re slapping a new coat of paint on everything, giving some characters new costumes, and giving folks new jumping-on points. And there’s the same-day digital releases that will be available for all these series as well, which…well, as a funnybook retailer, I’m not entirely sure how I feel about that, but that’s a whole ‘nother issue I’ll get into at some later date.
But first…fifty-two new number ones in a five-week period, during the traditionally-slow sales month of September, in this economic climate where the cost of a new DC comic would also get you most of a gallon of gasoline…that’s a bit intimidating, when you first look at it. But I suspect most readers will just carry over with the titles they’re already reading as long as they don’t change too drastically. If you’re enjoying Secret Six at number…what, #36, maybe it’ll be at when the reboot hits, then I suspect you’ll still enjoy it when you pick up the new #1, assuming the creative team remains relatively intact. And if the comics are good and you enjoy them, then it shouldn’t matter if it’s issue #1 or #801.
Of course, the problem with creating new jumping-on points is the oft-stated fact (at least by me) that they’re also good jumping-off points, which is a bad idea particularly now with, as I said, the current economic climate. Some people are itching for reasons to drop books, but they hate to quit in middles of stories…give ’em a definite ending, like wrapping up the series in preparation for a relaunch, they may split and never come back.
And then there are the series that just recently started, like Batman: The Dark Knight. At this point, with #3 of this series running behind, they might as well just throw a #1 on that issue and wait ’til the relaunch to put it out. I’m also assuming in-progress mini-series like DC Universe Online Legends aren’t going to restart with #1s in the middle of their runs. Could be wrong. Have no idea.
Speaking of late books, with all the series restarting at #1 at about the same time, it’s going to be that much easier to spot the comics having scheduling problems in a few months. When everyone’s at issue #11 or #12, and, say, Detective (to pick one at random) is at issue #7, that’s gonna stand out.
Of course, the news was only announced yesterday, so it’s a bit early to enter panic mode. Obviously I’m just blathering on here with my immediate reactions to the announcements. However, I am curious as to how the various series and characters will be altered, and am particularly interested in the effect of this initiative on some of DC’s long-running projects, like Grant Morrison’s Batman Inc.. That’s a franchise-wide rejiggering of the Batman concept that seems like it still has a way to go before its eventual resolution and return to the status quo…I’m guessing it’ll be carried over into the relaunched titles, and not cut short, but again, I don’t have the details.
While I’m curious as a fan about what DC is doing, as a retailer I’m a little worried. Not just about the jumping-off point thing I noted already, but also about how I’m going to explain this to the customers who are going to be caught completely by surprise by DC’s plans. I know it sounds strange, since all of you reading this are plugged into the Web Matrix-style via interface ports at the bases of your skulls, but I have regular customers for whom their exposure to comics news comes from walking into the store and looking at the rack to see what’s new. I can hear them already: “Hey, why is Superman at issue #1 again? And Batman? …And, hey, Legion of Super-Heroes? Again? What’s going on?” Which is fine…that’s part of my job, to explain what new dumb thing a comic publisher has done to confuse and frighten its readership this week.
But as a pal of mine noted to me in email, if this particular publishing initiative falls flat on its face, where does DC go from there? This is an awfully drastic and wide-ranging strategy that won’t be easy to reverse without some consequences. And not just of the “fans and Marvel Comics laughing at DC’s failure” kind, but having highers-up at Warner Brothers looking at the crash-and-burn and thinking “that didn’t work, so why are we bothering with these pamphlet-thingies? Let’s just do cartoons and movies with these characters, and make some real money on them.”
Hopefully, this all doesn’t mean that we’re one step closer to the answer to “comic books? They still make those?” being “no.” Yeah, yeah, I know people have been predicting the end of comics (at least, the “mainstream” Big Two comics) for years, but this feels more like an end-of-their-rope/nothing-left-to-lose move than normal.
Most importantly: if this screws up Swamp Thing’s return to comics, I’m going to be pissed. Unless all the series are being revamped to include Swamp Thing, which I’d be okay with. Swamp Thing and the Outsiders, Batman and Robin and Swamp Thing, Swamp Thing Corps…you know, like that. Gotta keep my sense of perspective.