Tonight marks the launch of DC Comics’ “The New 52” — a reimagined series of 52 classic comics, starting with “Justice League #1,” which goes on sale at midnight at Midtown Comics in Times Square and features favorites including Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Aqua Man, and Batman. Comic book icons Geoff Johns and Jim Lee of DC Comics will be there, as will an array of superheroes, and, of course, fans. “Flashpoint #5,” the final issue in Geoff Johns and Andy Kubert’s bestselling series, will also be for sale. The remaining 51 titles to be launched reflect an array of comic book genres, from western to horror to detective, and will be released 13 editions a week through September.
DC Comics has a history of reinventing the thousands of stories and characters created in their 70 years of existence. This happened in the ’50s and ’60s, and again in the ’80s. With this current initiative, DC Comics co-publisher Dan DiDio told us, they’re trying to bring a more youthful feel to the characters, making them not seasoned heroes but novices still learning what they’re doing, thereby upping the antes of danger and adventure.
“What’s happened is that we as executives and fans have gotten older; we’ve aged with the characters,” he said. “We want to get back down to the core characters and rebuild the fiction around them. This isn’t about rehashing stories, but providing things that new readers can relate to.”
In “Superman” of the present day, for example, by George Perez and artist Jesus
Merino, Clark Kent is a bachelor living on his own. He’s never been married and is figuring out how to deal with his human and superhuman qualities. Lois Lane, for her part, is dating a colleague at the Daily Planet, Jonathan Carroll, and has a new position with the paper.
There’s also a costume change in effect, updating superhero-wear originally created in the ’30s to instead reflect “what the heroes of today would be wearing in their adventures,” DiDio said. “A lot has been made of Superman losing his outside underwear — those styles were really reflective of muscle man suits in the ’30s and ’40s.”
Along with the launch of new editions of physical comics are digital distribution methods including read.dccomics.com; iOS, Android, and WP7 apps; and Comixology. There’s also DC Universe Online, and a video game, “Batman Arkham City.”
DiDio said, “We want to make comics more accessible and help them reach the widest audience possible. There are parts of the U.S. that don’t have retailers nearby, and there are also casual readers who might want to use an iPad or iPhone to read comics.” (Don’t expect Spider-Man to have an iPad, however — “We try not to use too much of the current technology; those things can get old as fast as anything!”)
The goal is to compete with and, DiDio says, exceed the sort of special effects you get in movies and video games: “What we try to do is push the scope and keep the heart of the character.”
However, there’s a change to Batgirl that not everyone likes. After being introduced as a character named Barbara Gordon on the ’60s TV show, in the comic book series, in “The Killing Joke,” the character was shot by the Joker and rendered paraplegic. She went on to become the character of Oracle, superhero information broker, but never regained the use of her legs. In the latest re-envisioning, Batgirl is returning as Barbara Gordon — meaning, she will walk.
DiDio said, “We decided we’d bring back Barbara Gordon as Batgirl. We didn’t want to turn our back on the diversity issue, but she’ll always be the most recognizable. We are working with concerns to diversify the line. We’re always looking to reposition to be reflective of today’s audience.”
DiDio’s own experience with comics started with “The Amazing Spider Man #40,” which he read in the ’60s. He says his greatest interests, however, were in mystery and horror — favorite characters include The Metal Men and Adam Strange — which eventually led him to superheroes. “The Flash? Batman? What’s not to love?” DiDio hopes to bring the breadth and depth of comics to new readers. “I think that’s what’s fun about what we do,” he said.