For those who missed it, DC comics relaunched 52 new ongoing monthly comic book series. This has been called a reboot by some, a relaunch by others, but the short version of a complex story is, this is intended to be a new jumping on point for new readers. So that could mean people who’ve never read a comic before but saw one of the comic book films or watched some of the animated stuff. Or it could be someone who has always wanted to get into comics but was intimidated by starting at issue 334 or felt uncomfortable trying to navigate through a comic shop to find some help. I think DC comics had to do this for a number of reasons, the most important being that mainstream superhero comic book sales were in decline. They were losing their audience for a variety of reasons and if they wanted to stay in publishing they needed a major shake up. I’m being very specific by saying ‘mainstream superhero comic books’, because comics themselves have never been broader in terms of genre. Some non-superhero comics are doing very well and some non-mainstream superhero comic books have been growing their sales figures over the last few years. So, was DC comics relaunch a success?
Overall I would say it was a success. There were a few missteps, such as poor treatment of some, not all, female characters, stories that didn’t work, and a few missed opportunities, but on balance the response has been very positive. I don’t want to go over the bad again, as it’s been discussed at great length by people online, but I will point out that it’s interesting to note some titles have already announced new writers. This is at a point where issue 2 of some titles have only just come out. I’m sure all of the creators went into a title with the best interests, and remember DC signed off on the initial storyline, but some of them have just really worked for various reasons. Static Shock, one of the teen focused books read like a science lesson about electricity. It was dull, despite the explosions, and the dialogue was stilted. Marc Bernadin is the new writer who will be taking over from issue 5. I’m a fan of his work so I might revisit the title now that he is coming on board. The first issue of Green Arrow was so two dimensional, full of exposition and by the numbers I wasn’t gripped by any part of it, and this is coming from a fan of the character and the writer! A new writer was announced after only one issue had been published. There’s something unique about Green Arrow and his attitude, because no matter how big or powerful they are, he will never, ever back down. I hope the new writer highlights this aspect of the character when they take over.
Ok, that all sounds too negative. Focusing on the positive, I went in with a shortlist of titles that I was really looking forward to and I’m pleased to say they have all proven to be excellent. There were also a few positive surprises along the way, titles I didn’t really have any interest in, but when I read them I found I was really into the character. Titles like Deathstroke, Batwing, Men of War and Justice League International.
In my opinion, and because they suit my particular tastes, which I appreciate not everyone shares, the following were the best and most interesting titles as part of the relaunch.
The next interesting hurdle DC need to effectively tackle is their trade paperback policy, that is their collected editions. Normally a trade is about six issues and like novels in the publishing world it first comes out in a hardback form and then a couple of months later a paperback. Sometimes titles jump straight to paperback, sometimes it takes much longer between hardback and paperback. It’s been very odd and inconsistent in the past, and as much as people might like or want to, it’s not financially viable to get all of the comics every month from a local shop. Trades are cheaper and for me they make a comic series infinitely easier to re-read and transport. Digital comics are playing their part too, for those without a local comic shop or those who prefer to read on their digital reader of choice. The move to release all 52 titles in paper and digital on the same day is a bold move, but there again it needed to happen as other publishers had been doing it piecemeal. DC have led the charge and while digital comics make up a small percentage of sales, it has the potential to reach a whole new audience. People who would never dream of going into a comic shop but want to read comics.
Once the initial rush and the PR news cycle is over and the mainstream media lose interest, and I’m sincere in this, I really hope that the monthly sales numbers of DC comics are significantly higher than before the relaunch. More readers mean more variety and creativity, new lifeblood for the comic book audience and potentially new talent and new voices in the future. I don’t think the DC relaunch saved comics, they were always going to exist in one form or another, but I believe this bold move has certainly put a big old spotlight on the industry at a times when it needed a jab in the arm to get people back into the comic shops.