DC Comics to Relaunch

Okay, I’ve got a tonne of comics posts waiting on me sorting them out, but given the massive news last night, I just felt I had to weigh in.

Okay, so for those that missed it, DC is relaunching its entire line of superhero comics at the end of August.  The end of Flashpoint is going to mark a reboot point for the DCU, featuring many of the characters with redesigned costumes, and some with tweaked or overhauled origins.  With this relaunch, DC are also going to make their entire line of superhero comics available digitally through Comixology on the same day as the print versions are released.

Wow.

Firstly, possibly the biggest game-changing part of this news, that may really impact the market is the announcement that all of DC’s main superhero books are going for a day-and-date digital release.  Frankly, that aspect really shocked me.

While DC have played with day-and-date digital releases on some of their titles, few of those books have been what I would call A-list.  I would have been surprised enough if DC had announced that something like Green Lantern would go digital, but for every book, its a massive step.  One no other company has come near.  And given that DC were pretty late to the digital comics market compared to the other publishers, its a real surprise to see them being the ones to make this move.

I’ve never made any bones about liking the digital format.  With the exchange rate it works out cheaper per-book for me, and means I can carry my comics with me on my phone, rather than worry about the increasingly non-existent storage space in my home for all these monthlies.  Now admittedly, there will probably be some books I continue to get the print versions of.  Most likely any GL books DC continue to put out.  However, I can also see me grabbing some books I otherwise might not have, since the lower cost of the digital books makes it easier for me to justify.

It will be very interesting to see how this plays out.  DC are obviously banking on the majority of current collectors sticking with print for the most part, while allowing new or more casual fans to grab the digital copies.  With the comics market having shrunk massively over the years, it’ll be interesting to see if this digital move opens it up again.  I can only assume DC were getting some very positive numbers from the digital sales of its current day-and-date books, like Batman Beyond.

If this does go well, I can only assume other companies will also make the jump, which might see me expanding the number of Marvel books I pick up again (their love of the $3.99 price point having made regularly collecting a number of Marvel books unsustainable for me).  Although how this will all impact the local comic shops will remain to be seen.

From a creative/continuity point of view, things still seem very much mixed for me.  Some aspects I’m ok with, others make me pretty wary.  Various details are slowly coming out now, but we’re far from a complete picture.

Green Lantern is going to continue pretty much unchanged.  Not really a surprise given the popularity of the franchise, and the fact that Geoff’s been steering it for years anyway.  Meanwhile there are rumours of Superman and Lois Lane’s marriage vanishing to make way for a Superman/Wonder Woman romance.  Hmmmm, not sure about that.   Such things are the realm of Elseworlds, and while I’ve got no major problems with Superman and Wonder Woman hooking up, cross-franchise relationships generally don’t tend to end that well (Kyle/Donna, Kyle/Jade, Green Arrow/Black Canary) as individual creative teams start to get constrained by them.  Also, Superman and Lois Lane is a classic DCU relationship.  Its ok in worlds like Kingdom Come, but I’m not sure at all about it in the main DCU.   We’ll see if this rumour turns out to be true or if its not quite what it sounds like.

Similarly the rumour that Batgirl is going to be returned to Barbara Gordon.  To be honest, she’s a character that’s far more interesting as Oracle, and fills in a vital role in the Bat-family.  Not to mention portraying an incredibly positive role model for disabled readers, one that has often been praised.  And to be honest, I’m a big fan of the Stephanie Batgirl (far more than I expected to be, given how much I liked Cassie in the role previously).  Its one of DC’s best books on a monthly basis with a great balance in characterisation and fun.  If this is true, then I’m not sure I can see me continuing to pick it up.   And with no Oracle, what does that mean for the Birds of Prey?

I am pleased to see the JLI back, and being under the stewardship of Dan Jurgens suggests to me this book may replace Booster Gold.  If so, that’s a shame, but if I still get Dan writing Booster on a monthly basis, I’ll be happy.  That said, the lack of Blue Beetle on the cover is a bit disappointing (unless he’s going to turn up in Teen Titans or somewhere else).   And Booster’s new costume looks pretty ugly in comparison to his current one.  Guy Gardner being back on the team should be good fun (although I wonder how that’ll tie in with him being on Oa over in GLC).

It is nice to see some of the new books giving lesser known characters a shot as well.  I’ve always liked the modern Mr Terrific from JSA, so it’ll be interesting to see what his book is like (another that I might’ve skipped in print, but will probably check out with the cheaper digital version).  Saying that, it doesn’t strike me as a book that will be a big seller, so I wonder how many of these relaunched books will stick around long term.

The fact that some of these books seem to be including Wildstorm titles is interesting.  Granted, I’ve got almost no investment in that line, but I’d be tempted by a new Authority book.  That said, how the Wildstorm characters interact with the wider DCU will be interesting.  I just can’t see the Authority and the JLA sharing a universe…

There’s obviously a very mixed reaction in fandom to this announcement, however I’m cautiously optimistic about it.  While there are definitely aspects I’m not immediately keen on (and bare in mind quite a lot of our information is still technically rumours from Bleeding Cool, with DC only slowly releasing official info like the GL titles), there’s no denying the boldness of this move to try and reinvigorate DC’s books in the market.  If the digital sales pay off, DC could get a substantial number of new readers, who this is obviously targetting.  I just hope though that they’re careful about how they handle these tweaks and changes for regular readers.  Some characters sound like they’re getting substantially altered, and DC’s track record on these reboots is wobbly.  While Green Lantern is the smash hit everyone will invariably bring up, the Barry Allen Flash series has had a much shakier start.  I just hope that as more confirmed details about characters and books come out, it reassures readers (including myself), that this isn’t just about Barbara Gordon Batgirl or some silver age-agenda (as DC have been accused of in the past), and instead there is a concrete, long-term plan in place here for the future of these characters.

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