Not unlike right before the hurricane blew past DC Comics’s Manhattan offices just days ago, the air is thick with expectations and alarm, anticipation and hype. Today, as DC’s whirlwind of changes touches down with Justice League No.-1, intense fans want to know:
Just what will this reshaped “New 52” landscape look like?
Today, of course, will spur a whole new wave of cool skepticism and critical hot air, as DC begins the relaunch of 52 titles. So before the Web is whipped into a frenzy, Comic Riffs contributor David Betancourt caught up with DC Co-Publisher Dan DiDio on the eve of the relaunch to talk about what the future holds with this reboot, what new titles he’s most looking forward to — and what he really thinks of Superman losing his red trunks.
David Betancourt: How do you think this line-wide reboot has gotten the creative juices flowing for the DC stable of writers and artists? Does anyone come to mind as especially rising to the occasion?
Dan DiDio: At the start of it all, a lot of writers felt trapped in the past and were trying to work previous continuity [into their new stories].We told them: “Leave the past behind. Look to a new audience.”
I’m going to lean mostly on [DC’s chief creative officer] Geoff Johns. When he had the opportunity to restart or rethink what the Justice League or what Aquaman is, he really took off and ran with it. Geoff and Jim [Lee, the DC co-publisher] are really setting the style and tone of the new DC universe.
DB: How encouraged is DC Comics by the spike in advanced sales?
DD: We’re extraordinarily encouraged. To be honest, it exceeded all of our expectations. The numbers are so solid and so strong , but are they substainable? I feel that we have a healthy future.
DB: Of the new 52, is there any one title in particular that you are really looking forward to?
DD: The best part is that for all of the different members of [the DC Comics team] that have read all of the books, I can’t find two people with the same Top-Five list. That’s what’s great for me. I’m excited to see Action [Comics], Green Lantern, Flash and also Frankenstein. I think [Frankenstein] is going to stand out in its own right.
DB: What do you say to fans who are upset that titles such as Action Comics and Detective Comcs — both of whom would have hit their 1000th issue sooner rather than later — are starting over and won’t see that 1000th issue?
DD: We just hit the 900 mark with Action Comics. [The bottom line is that] Issue 1000 is eight years away. We’d love to be able to enter that discussion eight years from now.
DB: What’s your assessment of the impact of same-day digital delivery? How major is it?
DD: We’re interested to follow this. We’re going to see what happens and how spread out it is. We want to see whether they’re going to be casual readers [or will they stick around].
DB: What have you done to allay any fears from comic-shop owners who worry that being able to digitally download a comic the same day it hits the comic-store shelves will hugely diminish their numbers of physical customers?
DD: You have to realize that the sales we look at digitally are a mere fraction of what our sales are. We’ve spoken with our retailers and we have found ways to continue to support them.
DB: As for the relaunched characters themselves, is Superman losing his trunks as big a deal to you as it is to some fans?
DD: Probably not as much. We’ve heard some very spirited debates on this one. That style was created for the ‘30s. We’re trying to re-envision for the future, and [those trunks are] not something that we’d build on our characters today.
DB: Speaking of losing trunks: As a part of the New 52, it seems everyone’s gotten a slightly modernized look with their costumes. What sort of effort went into making sure that everyone had a new look, yet ultimately was still recognizable?
DD: We spent a lot of time on this. Jim Lee did a lot of the layout. He worked with several other artists, as well. So many people are so familiar with what has existed before. The first reaction is not to touch it, but then it’s what do we really need to change to have a higher rate of success for the future.
DB: Was Red Robin not getting his own title in the reboot a matter of there already just being enough Bat books?
DD: There were a lot of bat books, yes. Also, Tim Drake/Red Robin’s presence in the new Teen Titans series helps solidify the team [and the title]. It only seemed natural to build the series in that fashion. Also, remember that when Dick Grayson/Robin debuted with the Teen Titans, he didn’t have his own title at the time.
DB: How important of a character is Bat-Wing for DC Comics? And is it important to DC Comics that the New 52 be a diverse universe?
DD: Batwing is a very important character. One of the things we looked at was that we wanted the DC Universe to be reflective of our reading audience, and by doing so it was important for us to look at characters like Batwing.
We wanted to have a strong black character. Batwing was introduced in Batman Incorporated (by Grant Morrison). We felt we could launch him into his own series, and we hope that our readers are as excited about him as we are.