DC Reboots the Entire Universe

So yeah, about last night.

In case you haven't heard by now, Jim Lee and Geoff Johns had something of an announcement last night that's kind of a big deal. On August 31, DC Comics will reset all their titles to #1. That's right. The day that Flashpoint #5 hits stores everything else will be reset to #1.

The first book to be released in this brave new world will be Justice League #1 which, ironically, teams up Lee and Johns for the first time and reunites the famous lineup of Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, The Flash, Wonder Woman and Aquaman.

Not only that, but DC Comics will also be released day and date digitally and the characters will see revised costumes. Oh, and in September an additional 51 first issues will make their debut, meaning DC will release 52 titles at #1 over four weeks.

USA Today got the first interview regarding the big switch. In it, Lee says it best himself.

"We're allowing people who have never bought a comic book in their lives to download them on portable media devices and take a look," Lee says.

"Having the ability to give people access to these comics with one button click means we're going to get a lot of new readers."

DC needs readers and this seems to be a surefire way to get them. Or is it?

I guess the best place to start would be the #1 reset thing. I'm not one to question either Lee or Johns and clearly they have a vision for DC Comics that has them gaining market share on Marvel. But resetting EVERYTHING to #1? That's like Crisis on Infinite Earths without the actual Crisis on Infinite Earths. I suppose the storylines have gotten a little unwieldly and this is a great opportunity for DC to clean house without actually killing anyone.

Resetting the issues to #1 will give every character a clean slate and allow for more modern takes on the characters. I'm sure Bruce Wayne will still be born of vengeance from the streets and Superman will still be the mild-mannered, non-US citizen reporter. If anything this gives the characters a chance to start anew and build a brand new universe that doesn't violate past storylines.

DC really wants to introduce readers to a more modern, diverse DC Universe. The stories will remain within that character's canon, but the goal is to make them easier to relate to real world situations. We've already seen this with Superman renouncing his US citizenship, but of course that could be negated come September. This is most intriguing because it's almost as if DC Comics is a brand new publisher just starting.

I get the sense that Time Warner is spooked by Disney buying Marvel and seeing how successful their properties have been (primarily in film). This is clearly a reaction by Time Warner and DC to position the DC Universe as a more viable brand. If everything's #1 then everyone can get on board. Continuities can be redefined and Warner Bros. can get a box office hit that doesn't focus on Christopher Nolan's Batman.

I hate to boil it down to movies but, at the end of the day, I think that's really what it boils down to. Movies are vastly more accessible than individual comics or arcs because they require less commitment. DC and WB know this. That's why they made Green Lantern and had Blackest Night/Brightest Day the past two years...to drum up interest in the character.

If tons of people see the movie then those people may check out the comic. Giving them the option to download the comic instantly WHILE LEAVING THE THEATER is massive for DC Comics. Comic book purists could say that bringing in all these readers dilutes the concept of "geek," but isn't this what we want? Don't we want more comic book readers? Don't we want guys like Lee and Johns to be successful?

Personally, I applaud Lee and Johns. Resetting everything to #1 really does give them a chance to build DC into what they really want it to be. It's their show now and clearly they've got to catch up to Marvel, who accounts for 40% of publications sold at comic-book stores (according to Diamond Comic Distributors). DC's at 27%. The day and date digital thing is also a boon, but I worry that comic book stores will take a hit.

Agree or disagree, digital comics are the way of the future. One of the biggest complaints I hear about comics is the speculator market and how people who actually want to read a comic may miss out because people are hoarding them for eBay. This alleviates that greatly. If you can't get the book in store you just buy it digitally and read it then.

Sure, there's not the physical aspect of it. That's a culture shift that digital publishers in general are working to erode. Giving fans the option though to buy an issue digitally the same day it hits stores makes the book so much accessible. You don't have to worry about timeframes (like the 28 day delay on Netflix) or keep checking to see if a particular comic is added to the store.

As mentioned earlier the downside is that comic book stores could see a decline in customers based on this, especially if Marvel follows suit. If 67% of the market (DC and Marvel) moves to day and date digital release then I'd wager a good majority of the population wouldn't go to comic book stores nearly as much. And I'd venture a guess that we see Marvel announcing the exact same thing sometime in the near future.

This announcement is a gamechanger. It has the potential to completely redefine the comic book reader culture by making it more accessible. More readers means more comics. Hopefully this will also lead to more interest in indies and more interest in creating comics in general. It'll be interesting to see how it all pans out and whether or not it actually works. Call me cautiously optimistic.

Check out Bob Wayne's, SVP of Sales for DC Entertainment, letter to retailers below.


To our comics retail partners,

In the time I've worked at DC Comics, I've witnessed any number of industry defining moments. But today, I bring you what is perhaps the biggest news to date.

Many of you have heard rumors that DC Comics has been working on a big publishing initiative for later this year. This is indeed an historic time for us as, come this September, we are relaunching the entire DC Universe line of comic books with all new first issues. 52 of them to be exact.

In addition, the new #1s will introduce readers to a more modern, diverse DC Universe, with some character variations in appearance, origin and age. All stories will be grounded in each character's legend - but will relate to real world situations, interactions, tragedy and triumph.

This epic event will kick off on Wednesday, August 31st with the debut of a brand new JUSTICE LEAGUE #1, which pairs Geoff Johns and Jim Lee, together for the first time. (Yes, this is the same week as FLASHPOINT #5.)

We think our current fans will be excited by this evolution, and that it will make jumping into the story extremely accessible to first-time readers - giving them a chance to discover DC's characters and stories.

We are positioning ourselves to tell the most innovative stories with our characters to allow fans to see them from a new angle. We have taken great care in maintaining continuity where most important, but fans will see a new approach to our storytelling.

Some of the characters will have new origins, while others will undergo minor changes. Our characters are always being updated; however, this is the first time all of our characters will be presented in a new way all at once.

Dan DiDio, Bob Harras and Eddie Berganza have been working diligently to pull together some of the best creative teams in the industry. Over 50 new costumes will debut in September, many updated and designed by artist Jim Lee, ensuring that the updated images appeal to the current generation of readers.

The publication of JUSTICE LEAGUE #1 will also launch digital day-and-date for all ongoing superhero comic book titles - an industry first.

On Wednesday, June 1st, this initiative is expected to be announced in a nationwide feature article, and we're hopeful the news will be picked up by media outlets around the world. Throughout the month we'll reveal more details of our plans with articles in both the mainstream and comics press and on June 13th the Diamond catalog solicitations for all of the September titles will be released, followed by the June 29th street date of the print version of Previews.

DC Comics will support this initiative with an innovative mix of publicity, promotional efforts and retailer incentives designed to maximize your opportunity to increase your DC sales. We will discuss additional details of these incentives when we get closer to solicitation later in June.

We'll be updating you more through email as September nears. But today, I hope your share our enthusiasm for this historic news!


Bob Wayne
SVP, Sales
DC Entertainment