Four Months In, DC Makes Some Major Adjustments

The new DC 52, the complete reboot of their superhero comic line that restarted with Justice League #1, began in September 2011, so it’s now four months old. Apparently, that’s provided enough data for the decision-makers to make some changes in the line.

(And for the first delay. Flagship title Justice League will ship issue #5 a week late. Since it’s drawn by Jim Lee, who also has other responsibilities as a company official, this is not terribly surprising.)

The first hints came in a Newsarama interview with DC’s Executive Vice President of Sales, Marketing and Business Development John Rood and Senior Vice President of Sales Bob Wayne. Marvel had just reclaimed the top spot in sales to the direct market, a position DC had gained with and held since the reboot, so there was a certain amount of “we’re still nicer to retailers” message-spinning, including this quote:

We’re more about the profitability of these titles. We’re more about the media and merchandise opportunities of these titles. And we’re most interested that the retailers are continually excited about the stories and characters.

Dial H promo art

That’s a reminder that DC is now part of a much bigger company that may not be directly focused on the comics. News also came out that prices were rising on top titles Batman and Detective, accompanied by a page count increase. What many people were curious about, though, were the hints that cancellation notices would be coming.

Shortly thereafter came word that six titles would be cancelled after issue #8 (due in April) and be replaced by six other books. Gone are two war books — Blackhawks and Men of War — two books with black heroes — Mister Terrific and Static Shock — and two books with unusual creative choices — OMAC, written by company Co-Publisher Dan DiDio, and Hawk and Dove, written and drawn by Rob Liefeld. Editor-in-Chief Bob Harras did address the perceived lack of diversity with a statement that said “characters that are not going to be in their own titles will be appearing in other books” and a focus on building the universe.

The cancelled titles will be replaced by these six comics:

  • Another war book, G.I. Combat, with a lead feature and rotating backups featuring famous names from DC war comic history
  • The return of my favorite Batman book, Batman Incorporated, by Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham
  • The Ravagers, by 90s comic name Howard Mackie and Ian Churchill, spinning off from Teen Titans and Superboy
  • Dial H, written by fantasy novelist China Mieville (promising a new, darker take, which ruins the concept for me, but I’m very nostalgic about it)
  • The return of alternate Earths and the Justice Society in Earth 2 by James Robinson and Nicola Scott
  • Worlds’ Finest by Paul Levitz with rotating artists George Perez and Kevin Maguire, featuring Power Girl and The Huntress trying to get back to Earth 2

DC new logo?

Don MacPherson has some good commentary on the coming lineup as well as pointing out that the cancelled books were the worst-selling of the line with one exception: Captain Atom, which was saved for some unknown reason. Another weird change that’s coming — Rob Liefeld will be working on THREE books: writing and drawing Deathstroke while plotting Grifter and The Savage Hawkman. I’m just glad I don’t care about any of those titles.

More changes seem to be in store, with the discovery of this redesigned logo, submitted to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. It’s unclear what it will be used for, with the idea of an app making the most sense to me.

17 Responses to “Four Months In, DC Makes Some Major Adjustments”

  1. Don MacPherson Says:

    Liefeld being assigned three titles in the wake of Hawk and Dove‘s cancellation seems odd at first, but one has to consider his history.

    When Bob Harras, now DC’s editor-in-chief, was with Marvel in the early 1990s, Liefeld moved a LOT of units. We all know comics is a cyclical marketplace, so it seems Harras is betting on Liefeld’s marketability coming back into vogue. I think it’s a losing bet, but looking back makes Liefeld’s present workload make sense.

  2. James Schee Says:

    The 6 titles canceled were all ones I gave up on quickly. They didn’t have a voice or solid direction, and I’d have a hard time telling you what they were about. Which actually made me wonder what their pitches looked like to DC.

    Well except OMAC, but then for me it had the problem all other Kirby DC concepts have had. When creators come on board they just want to do what Kirby did, which makes me go “Well why wouldn’t I just read Kirby’s stuff, rather than your imitation?”

    Kirby’s Marvel creations have been more successful because the creators don’t just come in with the idea of I want to do what Kirby did.

    Liefield is weird, from interviews and seeing him on twitter he seems to have so much enthusiasm. When I encountered his Image titles in packs at WalMart I liked them because they were so different. Yet I took one look at Hawk & Dove and just found it horrible.

    There was a part of me that wanted to read his first Deathstroke though, as it’ll have Lobo who is an over the top character that’d seem to fit his style. Yet then I remembered he had sort of done Lobo, only it was called Bloodwulf

    I wonder if the Ravagers is a reworked Gen 13? Since a couple of those characters have been in the Superboy series.(Fairchild and I think Bobby) The WS characters don’t seem to be having any better luck as part of the DCU, than they did as on their own.

  3. Paul O'Brien Says:

    That’s a good point – Kirby’s DC creations seem a lot more prone to Kirby pastiche interpretations than his Marvel creations. And you have to wonder how big the audience for the comic equivalent of a Beatles tribute band really is. Personally, I liked OMAC a lot, but I’m not entirely surprised that it failed to find an audience.

    Commercially, the WildStorm characters are doing a LOT better as part of the DCU than they did on their own. The last two WildStorm relaunches were utter disasters. The current versions of Grifter and Voodoo are at least shifting in the region of 20,000 copies a month in north America, and while that’s not spectacular, it’s a massive improvement.

  4. JennyN Says:

    promising a new, darker take

    When oh when will supposedly creative types learn – and I’m talking about films, TV and novels as much as comics – that it’s often far more difficult to do light comedy (or for that matter adventure, or romance) really well, than to load your story and characters with faux edginess – usually meaning no more than lots of four-letter words in the dialogue and gore in the illustrations? I don’t know if Americans read much of the English writer P. G. Wodehouse, but his apparently airy concoctions have far more careful structure, and far more tightly controlled language, than many a heavyweight literary concoction. Tintin titles still sell in the hundreds of thousands every year because Herge understood how to pace an adventure story, how to set up a gag and time the payoff, and how to suggest character in a few frames of entirely “realistic” art in a children’s book. Most of the current crop don’t have anything like that degree of sheer craft – and I suspect they won’t have anything like that longevity, either.

  5. Bytowner Says:

    Wondering if the Static relaunch wasn’t undermined by some of the premise changes rung in from upstairs at the last minute.

    Who’s currently got Dwayne McDuffie’s old gig of giving/withholding approval of those sorts of changes re: the Milestone characters now on loan to the DCU?

  6. Johanna Says:

    Bravo, Jenny. I’m with you in wanting more light than darkness.

    It’s understandable that Harras would want to hire former co-workers as known quantities, Don, but it does give the line a “been there, done that” feeling.

  7. chess Says:

    “We’re more about the profitability of these titles. We’re more about the media and merchandise opportunities of these titles. And we’re most interested that the retailers are continually excited about the stories and characters.”

    And this is entirely what is wrong with comics. Who cares about telling a good story? This is all about profits and getting another terrible Green Lantern movie made.

  8. Dean Peterson Says:

    Harras’ whole thing seems to be about turning DC into 90s Marvel/Image and to me, that era is dead and gone (as it should be).
    IMHO, they missed the mark with the relaunch…..instead of reinvigorating the line with fresh ideas, they’ve taken the line back to an era that I feel was a blight on comics history.

  9. Johanna Says:

    It can seem safer to aim backwards at what worked once than to gamble on new work that might flop, especially from a corporate perspective. Except I think trying to recreate the 90s is a gamble, too.

  10. chess Says:

    Isn’t that 90s era what almost did in the comic industry? Too much of speculators trying to buy massive amounts of comics like they were hot stocks only to find out that comics are not a wise investment?

  11. Jim Perreault Says:

    So what is the status of the Milestone characters? In their Justice League appearances, the “owned by Milestone” disclaimer was missing, making be think the characters were sold to DC. Is that not the case?

    It seems to me that Liefeld moved a lot of books as an artist, not a writer. So making him a writer on a number of books seems odd. He does come up with interesting ideas, but he needs a writing partner to mold them into stories.

  12. Johanna Says:

    That’s a good question, Jim — with McDuffie gone, I don’t know who’s shepherding Milestone or whether it’s still an independent company.

  13. Don MacPherson Says:

    Chess is right the mid-1990s gimmick-cover/speculator-craze mode harmed the industry, but I don’t think one can point to specific creators as the cause. Liefeld as a publisher was a problem, but as a creator, I don’t know that he was. Editorial and publishing decisions to mimic what was popular harmed to an extent, but that can’t be laid at the feet of specific creators, I don’t think.

  14. chess Says:

    I don’t have a problem with Liefeld doing three books for DC. I don’t care for his style and can’t say I’m familiar with his writing. I just won’t buy the books. Simple as that. I hadn’t bought mainstream superhero comics in a while and the relaunch got me back into them. Unfortunately, for the most part, it also reminded me of why I stopped buying them in the first place.

  15. GWComics Says:

    “When oh when will supposedly creative types learn – and I’m talking about films, TV and novels as much as comics – that it’s often far more difficult to do light comedy (or for that matter adventure, or romance) really well, than to load your story and characters with faux edginess – usually meaning no more than lots of four-letter words in the dialogue and gore in the illustrations?”

    I’m pretty sure they have learned that already. Which is probably why they don’t do it. Too much work.

    I wonder if not cancelling Atom has anything to do with the upcoming Watchmen prequels. I’m not saying that Atom will be in it, just that everyone, including DC, pretty much knows that Manhattan is based on Atom and keeping Atom alive keeps tongues wagging. Just a theory.

    And given that many titles put out run for years with crappy numbers, DC quickly canceling and replacing the recent poor sellers is actually interesting. I wonder if that was part of DC’s plan since the inception. It’s hard to believe that DC thought all of the 52 would be top sellers. More likely that they had multiple replacements lined up and this is just the first of many. Since it’s a recent reboot, there will be less invested by readers and replacing something like Men of War with Dial H for Hero causes a buzz that sparks reader interest and probably works in DC’s favor. I have a hunch we’ll be seeing a lot of this in a post reboot world. Much the same way that televison once let a show run in spite of poor numbers until if found an audience and now if a show doesnt catch on immediately, it’s cancelled.

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