I’m not going to be terribly happy if this means I won’t see an Action Comics #1000 in my lifetime.

§ June 1st, 2011 § Filed under publishing § 22 Comments

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.

22 Responses to “I’m not going to be terribly happy if this means I won’t see an Action Comics #1000 in my lifetime.”

  • Chris Sims says:

    You have my deepest sympathy for the people who are going to be coming into your shop in four or five years demanding their million dollars for their copies of Action Comics (vol. 2) #1.

  • Mikester says:

    Oh, crap, didn’t even think about that. DC will probably even make the cover look similar, too, just to mess with me. Yes, me personally.

  • FxHx says:

    So are the Superman titles still doing the S-Shield numbering and does that mean there could conceivably be three entirely different numbering systems on those books?

  • Boosterrific says:

    Forget ACTION COMICS #1000! That’s still 8+ years away. DC will have re-renumbered ACTION by that time to get the media attention that will go alongside that golden number. This looks like it’s killing any chance at a BOOSTER GOLD #50. And I did SO want BOOSTER GOLD to make it to #50.

    I admit it: I saw the news and I panicked. I interpreted this to mean that after 30 years of collecting, DC doesn’t want me to read their books anymore. I’m a firm believer in the “jumping-off point.” I stopped reading ALL Batman titles when they killed off Bruce Wayne in FINAL CRISIS. (Let me tell you, that freed up some spare change!) I haven’t looked back. To me, this is looking like the opportunity to just get out of buying comics for good.

    But Mr. Sterling, your level-headed commentary has helped calm my panic to a mere 2-alarms. Before I tell my local comic shop to cancel my books (why bother wasting money if the few stories I am enjoying are just getting scrapped anyway?), I’ll let DC confirm that it really wants to break up with me before I storm out for good.

  • At this time, the only thing that would interest me about this DC reboot would be getting a call from the company asking me to write a new Black Lightning
    series and to write it my way. Beyond that, I’ll have no comments until I actually read the rebooted comics.

  • MrJM says:

    Of course “data” isn’t the plural of “anecdote”*, but I certainly jumped off of collecting when DC did their reboot of the Legion of Superheroes. I took the fact that DC they didn’t care about the long and lustrous (and deeply impenetrable) history of that group as a recommendation that I disinvest myself as well. I hope that not too many follow that course in September.

    And remember — if the whole funnybook thing falls apart, there’s always the Pogs.

    — MrJM

    * The actual plural of “anecdote” is “cures.”

  • g23 says:

    Yeah. This might be the experiment that makes DC’s corporate overlords realize that 36 comic books may be about 10-20 too many… which may actually be a smart move for comics long term…

  • Patrick says:

    Personally, it seems more like a (poorly conceived) idea to make controversy to hopefully drive sales. Just another in the string of BIG DEAL marketing ideas that’ll end up falling by the wayside once they see that no amount of this kind of chicanery is going to draw in significant new readers. If DC (and by extension the other publishers) wants to really increase their profits, they need to really consider changing the way they do business. Diamond needs to be taken off its place of power and it might be time to consider looking at the methods used by manga publishers and potentially transitioning single issues into primarily digital options. As much as I love the local comic book store, it just isn’t a viable business model without essentially becoming a broader hobby/bookstore.

  • Bully says:

    Mike, how dare you tilt against the rest of the internet by posting a reasoned, well-thought out, informed and professional analysis!

  • Harvey Jerkwater says:

    So this will be a line-wide *relaunch*, rather than a full reboot, with only selected titles getting the reboot treatment? That does make sense. It’s important to leave those books the “out” of returning to old numbering and carrying on as if all of that silly “rebooting” never happened. Because that’s exactly what they’ll do in three years or less.

    There’s no way that the creators will leave the old stories alone. Returning to old stories is the “box of doughnuts” of the superhero comic. You can be good for a while, eating right and exercising, but sooner or later, your will wavers, you decide you’ve been good for a long time, the box is right there…and the next thing you know, you’re covered in powdered sugar and Bavarian creme, happy and wondering why you held back for so long. Only later will you remember why, as the doctor cuts off your diabetic foot.

    Curious about the digital news, though. Marvel lost me as a digital customer due to the site being amazingly bad. Will DC do it in a manner that sucks less? I’ve got a tiny bit of money to my name and some interest in returning to the four-color fold, but can’t do the Wednesday Pilgrimages anymore.

  • Rich Handley says:

    I have my doubts about how well this can work. Sure, a lot of new fans might find the universe approachable with the entire thing rebooted, but a far bigger group–the existing fans–could potentially walk away. This could be a huge disaster.

  • Anonymous says:

    Looks like the end of Search For Swamp Thing #1-3 will be it for me, as far as the DCU and Vertigo are concerned. Even if we get a Swamp Thing Vol. 5 –Post-Flashpoint, it won’t be the same ST that we read about in the first four series, plus all the numerous guest-shots over the last 40 years, seen most recently in Brightest Day #23-24 and Green Arrow #12.

    R.I.P. Earth-1 Swamp Thing. (1971-2011) We’ll miss you…

    Now, about those Swamp Thing variant cover scans you promised?

  • Dave says:

    I just posted this at Savage Critics, but it seems apropos here.

    As dismal as I think the prospects for the reboot are, I have to wonder if it’s all a massive stunt designed to shake things up, get some new people to look at the books, and then, say, six months in (allowing enough of a back catalog for a series of TPBs), announce that it’s all been an alternate continuity and that the original DCU is returning (“Your heroes are back!”) — plus those new elements that have won a little bit of favor.

    It gives them two publicity jolts for the price of one, takes some of the pressure off the creative teams — knowing they’ll have to produce only six books (I’m lookin’ directly at you, Johns and Lee) — gives the current ongoing storylines a chance to actually develop after the hiatus, allows them to create the illusion of change, and keeps old farts like me happy — assuming they haven’t driven us all off.

    As low as my opinion is of the parties involved, I can’t imagine that they want to kiss off the millions invested in licensing of the “old” universe. (I also can’t imagine there are thousands of potential readers out there who have been scared off by the continuity, the issue numbers, or the costumes.)

    The digital aspect is exciting — as much as I love my LCS, I don’t love the stacks of longboxes I’ve acquired over 50-plus years. If I have to pay three bucks for a digital copy, there’s no sale. Offer me a deal for, say, $75 bucks a month for unlimited downloads, and I’ll try the whole line.

    Of course, they could be serious, which would mean that after 52 years, I’m done with comics.

  • Jacob says:

    This announcement is bittersweet as a Post-Crisis Batman Family, Superman Family, and Wonder Woman reader and trade paperback collector. On the one hand, I will be sad to see stories and characters I am really enjoying, most notably Batgirl and Batwoman, be presumably pushed by the wayside. I am assuming these sorts of legacy characters will cease to be published, what with the younger primary heroes.

    That being said, on the other hand, I am one of those people looking for a jumping off point on the main DC universe. I like it, but I can’t keep collecting all of these books forever, and have been looking for a good place to stop. With most of these comics presumably wrapping up, this seems like the best time to call it quits, which is probably not what DC is looking for.

    However, I think it was inevitable that they had to to this sometime, from a continuity standpoint. Having read a ton of Post-Crisis stuff relatively recently, Harvey’s comment above about old stories being the doughnut box of the comics industry seems appropriate. The current universe is bloated under too many retcons and legacy characters, and although I enjoy this, I could see how it might be hard to effectively monetize this universe. But hey, this particular version had a good 36 odd years, and I’ll enjoy owning and reading the comics that informed the DC universe of my childhood, while hoping they are able to make the reboot work for a whole new generation.

  • Mr Lawless says:

    I gotta say, I would buy the heck out of Swamp Thing Corps.

  • At this point, all I care about is whether it’s a good or interesting run. I stopped collecting whole titles or characters a long time ago. So this to me just feels more like pointless idiocy, a sort of drifting, grasping at marketing straws. The thing is not to relaunch characters, it’s to say, “Look, we don’t care about continuity any longer. Continuity was a death-trap. We give up. We’re just going to hire people who can tell and illustrate really compelling stories and then move on”.

  • Larry E says:

    Here’s another fan who sees it as a jumping off point after 50+ years. I’m thinking it’s probably a shot at getting Hollywood to notice the ‘new’ characters and build more franchises than Batman.

  • Michael Grabowski says:

    For all those looking for a “jumping off” point but concerned about keeping their LCS in business, here’s a thought: jump off, take half the money you save on the monthly floppies, and start investigating some of the other great books containing comics that your LCS may/should carry. Plenty of continuity and shared universe stuff goin on in those Love & Rockets trade paperbacks, some with occasional sci-fi and superhero (sexy superhero to boot) action. Check out the first four volumes of the Cerebus trades for some great extended stories with hilarious set pieces parodying 70’s and 80’s comics tropes. Eddie Campbell’s Bacchus series pays tribute to the best parts of classic Thor comics by way of Greek mythology. There are so many more great comics collections out there all set to replace the habit several people above are thinking of quitting. If everyone started buying more of those instead of the weekly superflops, your favorite stores just might survive.

  • philip says:

    I am cautiously pessimistic. If that is even a thing. If the whole endeavor craters, it will at least free up more money for me to spend on other comics. Which is a little sad because I’m as big a “DC Zombie” (if that is even a thing) as anybody. I think I’m mostly just not thrilled that Jim Lee did a bunch of the costume redesigns. His style does not punch my ticket.

  • Old Bull Lee says:

    Grabowski – I did just that years ago, and also started spending money on classic mainstream material like the TPB collections of Alan Moore Swamp Thing and John Byrne’s Superman run.

  • They just started announcing some of the new books and I gotta admit, as much as I was looking for jump-off points as I’m finding comics to expensive (especially with DC the only guys holding the line at $2.99), some these books sound awesome.

    Wonder Woman by Brian Azzarello & Cliff Chiang? A Mr. Terrific solo series drawn by Roger Robinson (sucks that means he’ll already be off Dark Horse’s Solar though)

    They haven’t announced what’s happening with Superman and Batman family books though or if the Green Lantern books are getting affected.

    Those are the big ones I think. I can’t deal with a rebooted Superman, Batman or Green Lantern at this point, especially after all those books just got new status quo.

  • Jacob says:

    I read that they are at least rebooting Batgirl with Barbara Gordon in the title role. It seems, based on this that all the Batbooks will likely get a reboot, since they’re all so entwined story-wise. Maybe Superman too, if the ‘Superman hooks up with Wonder Woman’ rumors are to be believed.