It’s been a few weeks now since DC Comics announced their big plans for reworking their universe. Early on, the company said it was redesigning some characters and starting all their titles over. In fact, they were going to start 52 titles over — and they weren’t necessarily going to be the ones published now.
In fact, the list of new comics does veer away from its current lineup quite a bit. In some aspects, that’s good.
DC’s Bold Plan – Revised
I for one like the idea of a fresh start — but it wasn’t long before DC back-pedaled and clarified its plans: The aren’t starting from scratch. Much of the history of the DCU remains, but they are restarting a few titles from scratch.
From that, I perceive two problems:
- Problem 1: There really isn’t a fresh start at all. They are cherry-picking what was good, what was bad, what was relevant and what was irrelevant. That is a nightmare for readers who think they know they know what’s going on. As I understand these changes, a fan can’t even theorize what’s going on in the lives of their favorite characters because the writers can hand-wave away anything they didn’t think of while they’re coming up with their stories. It’s a simple matter of what they say goes, what they want stays — and who gives a crap about the rest. Continuity-wise it’s a total disaster. A fan can’t say for sure now if the 10-Eyed Man even exists any more or whether Metamorpho ever met Lobo. Of course some people don’t care about the answers to those questions — but sooner or later some writer is going to want to care, suddenly it will be relevant, and then the new continuity will crash into the old continuity, which leaves us with the same mess we’re dealing with now.
- Problem 2: 52 titles. Let’s face it, that’s a total gimmick number on DC’s part. They know it. We know it. Why even play that game? If you’re serious about relaunching your universe, doing it in 52 different titles is not the way to do it. Just like the original proto-DCU, it needs to start small to work right. And really, who can believe that DC expects to be publishing those same 52 titles a year from then. Why not build it up slow and make everything count? Sure, they’ll say ever one of their new 52 titles is important, but you can already sense the dogs in the lineup.
A DC Comics Relaunch Publishing Plan that Makes Sense
Those two problems made me wonder how I would do a DC Universe relaunch. It took a while — I batted around some ideas and then I came up with a plan.
It’s a plan I can’t say would work for sure. It’s a plan that may not work financially.
But it is a plan that makes sense.
It’s a plan that builds a universe and doesn’t instantly suffocate it with irrelevant titles.
So here it is:
- Month One — Launch Four Titles: To kick start the new DCU, launch just four new titles: Action Comics, Detective Comics, Sensation Comics and All-Star Comics. These titles will be used as the springboard for your “trinity” characters — Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman — and the premiere team — the Justice League. These comics should be 80 to 120 pages long, carry a $10 to $15 cover price and feature multiple stories — an origin, a scene-setter and at least one action piece. For example Action No. 1 would set up all the pieces on how Superman came to earth, what Clark Kent’s life is like in Metropolis and then his first confrontation with Lex Luthor as Superman. A similar pattern would be followed for Batman and Wonder Woman. All-Star Comics would set up the formation of the Justice League as they come together against Starro or some other villain, and also check in on the lives of the next round of heroes to come: Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, Martian Manhunter and Green Arrow. These aren’t necessarily origins, but just letting us know they’re on their way.
- Month Two — Launch Four More Titles (Eight total): As the original four hit their second issue, we now see four new titles: Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman and Green Lantern. The trinity heroes continue with new adventures in dedicated solo titles. Green Lantern features the transformation of Hal Jordan into Green Lantern and sets up some of the key elements of his origin and the Corps. Meanwhile, Action Comics, Detective Comics, Sensation Comics and All-Star Comics go through a slight revision: The headliners stay, but now they get some supporting features to fill out their 80 pages. Action Comics introduces us to the Atom and Hawkman. Sensation Comics brings out Hawkgirl and Power Girl. Detective adds Robin and starts to fill us in on the future residents of Arkham Asylum. All-Star continues with the JLA, but also adds an Aquaman origin story and Martian Manhunter’s as well.
- Month Three — Launch Four More Titles (12 total): Now added to the line up is Flash, Green Arrow, Hawkman and Adventure Comics. The 80-page-long Adventure Comics spotlights the Legion of Super-Heroes and the early career of Superman as a member of a future society. Flash, Green Arrow and Hawkman hit the ground with their origin stories. Meanwhile the Justice League is fully formed in its title. While we still have only 12 titles going, any title with the word “Comics” in it is carrying 80 pages worth of story and churning out character introductions while its main feature carries it. So we soon learn about the formation of the Teen Titans and the Doom Patrol. New characters are popping up too: Swamp Thing, Deadman, the Huntress, Mr. Terrific and so on.
- Month Four — Launch Four More Titles (16 total): Here’s where you start dipping into your more obscure characters for solo titles. Pick whoever you want: Aquaman, Hawk & Dove, Batgirl, Spectre, Dr. Fate, Manhunter, Metamorpho, Azrael, Catwoman, a team title of your choice or a Jonah Hex title. But you only get three. The fourth title launched this month is Qualtity Comics. In that title, DC begins rolling out characters from its “purchased universes” — Captain Marvel, Blue Beetle, Uncle Sam, Black Condor, Captain Atom, Son of Vulcan and so on. Again, the other 80-pagers continue doing their jobs of highlighting new character intros to set the stage. But we’re getting fewer origin stories now. By this time the “Comics”-titled comics now have a second regular backup feature: Action has Atom, Detective has Robin, Sensation has Power Girl, Adventure brings in Booster Gold, Quality stars Captain Marvel and Blue Beetle backs him up.
- Beyond (Add four to eight per month): Just keep adding titles until the Universe is spooled up to its full strength, but don’t add any more “Comics”-titles. Action Comics, Detective Comics, Sensation Comics, Adventure Comics, All-Star Comics and Quality Comics are all you need, and even those could be weeded back down to Action, Detective and Adventure once the universe is completely reloaded.
To re-iterate a few key points:
- This plan guarantees prominence of your key trademarks. It also places them high in the over-arching “story of the universe” and keeps minor players minor for now.
- Yes, this is a complete reboot. None of the old continuity matters. Everything you want in this universe from the old universe needs to be retold. Yes, older fans would be buying the same story again — but at least they know exactly what they’re doing.
- The “Comics” comics are the launch-pads for everything else. They cost a small fortune to buy, but you load them with amazing creators and cherry pick fan-favorite characters. You get fans to paying a lot, but you have to guarantee its a must-read every month.
So there you go: My Plan for DC.
It would probably totally sink the company, but that’s how I’d pitch it.