Post-Convergence marks a big launch for DC Comics. It’s not the same thing we saw in September 2011. We spoke with several creators on the upcoming new books and creative changes happening in June 2015 and beyond (look for those coming up). To kick things off, co-publishers Jim Lee and Dan DiDio filled us in on the changes and what to expect.
JIM LEE: It’s a big launch. I think it differs from what we did four years ago in the New 52. We are sort of updating the line, but selectively. Rather than having 52 books all in the same continuity and really focusing on keeping a universe that is tightly connected and has super-internal consistency and really like one flavor, we’ve really kind of broken it up. We’ll have a core line of twenty-five books that will have that internal consistency that will consist of our best-selling books. The rest of the line of about twenty-four titles will be allowed to really shake things up a little bit. We’re really asking the creators to put stories and characters first and really focus on canon than continuity.
Continuity is where this characters was today and this is where the character was tomorrow. Those are things that sometimes the readership gets too wound up or too concerned about. It starts overshadowing what we’re in the business of doing, which is telling stories. By focusing on canon, which is really the stories that matter, the best stories we tell with these characters, they’ll get elevated. That’s the history we want to create with these characters. It was really weird when we launched the New 52. There were so many fans focused on “Well, what happened between the five years when this character showed up and this character…” it almost overshadowed what the original intent of it was, which was basically put a fresh face on the universe, boldly go forward and tell new stories.
This is an attempt to refocus the line, focus on story, focus on producing great stories that become canon, and let the creators have some freedom to tell those stories without having to necessary be confined by the “resurgence of continuity.” That’s my perspective on it.
DAN DIDIO: I agree with this on so many levels. One of the perfect examples is, you look at things like DARK KNIGHT RETURNS or even KINGDOM COME. These were considered Elseworlds, outside of the normal realm of our storytelling, but those stories were so powerful, they started to work their way into the continuity. They were so motivating and inspiring to the writers that they wanted to take aspects of that and start to branch out for themselves.
The goal for everything we’re doing right now is we still have a shared universe, we still have a shared space where these characters can interact. The main goal is to allow each of these characters to really exist on their own, build their own sense of story, direction, supporting cast, and audience. Once you do that, you have a much stronger foundation for the DC Universe. Ultimately what happens, as you see what works, you can start to bring ideas and concepts together to actually expand the audience and cross-pollinate.
We see a lot of growth in what we’re doing now. When you see a book like BLACK CANARY coming out of BATGIRL, there’s a sense that people are getting excited about and we’re building off that. When we see the excitement behind HARLEY QUINN, we brought in the same people on STARFIRE. We want to build on success and build outward to strengthen our overall base. If you get yourself into a ground with event after event, sooner or later, you’re going to be artificially propping up the sales of your books and the line itself because only the event is what’s driving people, not the individual characters. You’re forced to add in more and more things just to attract attention.
The bigger win for us is to be able to rotate the crops a little bit, replant the land, and grow strong characters. That way when we build something else out of it, we have a much stronger base for all of the stories to be told.
If you look back at DC’s history or even comic’s history, most of the characters that exist today, traveling in a group, that wasn’t the case when they were introduced. Every character existed and breathed in his own right. When they crossed over, it was special. What we want to do is make those individual things special again. But we also recognize there’s changes and there’s new readers coming in. One you get a new fan, you want to hold onto them.
What about the Casual Fans?
Jim touched on when a movie or trailer is released, they do see a rise in sales for the collected volumes. TV shows are trickier unless you have a “massive” hit like THE WALKING DEAD. They do have some things in the works in anticipation for Batman v. Superman, Suicide Squad, and the Supergirl TV show.
Dan mentioned it’s more about the material that inspired the shows and movies that catches the attention. The books they put out that are derivative of the TV shows “doesn’t nearly sell as well.”
Back to the June Launch
JIM LEE: I think a big part of the June launch and announcement was really recognition that the audience has changed. It’s more fragmented than it was before. You see a lot more women and girls that are into comics at comic book shops and conventions. Our own studies have shown there’s a lot more people that are looking for a lot more flavors and diversity in our lines than we’re currently doing. We’ve been pretty good about putting out a lot of female-lead books. We’re really good about tackling new issues within the pages of the comic books. I think June is a real line in the sand in which we’re basically saying this is the new DC. This is just the first of many steps that we’ll be taking, trying to address these new audiences and find new ways to grow our business.
DAN DIDIO: When we launched the New 52, we knew a percentage of the line would fail or be canceled. This is a natural progression about how we launch a book, how it sells over a period of time, and ultimately how long it stays before it needs to be replaced with another series. But that doesn’t prevent you from trying things. I can tell you what I’ll get out of a Justice League book or a normal Batman book or Superman book. I can’t tell what I’m going to get out of PREZ or BLACK CANARY or any of these things.
Actually, that’s kind of fun. When those things works, that’s what gets us excited. That’s the part that gets me really jazzed. The others ones are built not to fail, these books are built to overachieve. There’s something exciting about that because you put your heart and soul into building a product that you’re not sure you have an audience for. Then when people are excited by it, then you know we’ve done something or addressed something that was needed in the market that wasn’t there beforehand. It gives up the impetus to try more and to take more risks going forward.
Will we see more titles added in July?
DAN DIDIO: What it is, right now some of the titles are actually starting in July. The bulk of them are starting in June. I believe about six of them actually start in July. Then need a little extra time to get settled. You have to remember, we’re in the middle of a move right now. It’s been a daunting task to try to launch this and the staff has gone to great length to take advantage of this. We’re going to be launching books in June, July, several books are miniseries so that will show you there will be a natural progression of how those characters work. If they work, great, we’ll continue with the series. If not, we’ll have other series to replace them down the road. You alway have to be developing something and have something to replace.
JIM LEE: If you look at the slate, there’s this desire to do something new. We’re bringing some new talent. We’re bringing in Gene Luen Yang, who’s taking on SUPERMAN. He’s a National Book Award finalist, he has legion of fans that buy, read, and collect his graphic novels. We’re really thrilled he was a fan of Superman. He and John Romita Jr. are taking the character in new directions, which we can’t share with you right now. It’s something that hasn’t been done, as far as I can tell, in recent decades, so it’s exciting to see the ideas and energy he’s bringing to the table.
We have Ming Doyle who’s kind of know for her Vertigo work. She’s the artist on THE KITCHEN. She’s coming in writing CONSTANTINE: THE HELLBLAZER. She’s also drawing a book as well. So there’s a lot of new talent. Annie Wu’s coming in and drawing BLACK CANARY. Garth Ennis is coming back. I think the last time he was at DC was over ten years ago.
What about the “New 52”?
DAN DIDO: For every BAT-MITE and BIZARRO, there’ll be a SECTION 8 and OMEGA MEN, which will be the hard-hitting side. And we’re going with every shade in between. The interesting thing is this is a lot different for us from when we launched the New 52. We had a catchy title, which I still think is a catchy title, we had different types of groupings we broke it out in, and we went out with a very clear promotion plan and roll outs.
This is different. There is no overarching brand on it. This is the DC Comics, pure and simple. Because it’s DC Comics, we have to literally go out and sell every single title individually. Which is what we want. Every one of these books is it’s own entity. What we’ve done is we’ve created eight page original stories that will be made available free to our fan base in the month of May. These stories will be inside the second month of Convergence monthly titles. At the same time, we’re going to be making them available on the DC website, making it available for free through ComiXology and our other distributors that handle our digital products. Our goal is to get these in as many hands as possible.
JIM LEE: The DIVERGENCE Free Comic Book Day offering will have Batman, Superman, and the Justice League 8-page previews. So that’s three of the forty-nine that will be created.
DAN DIDIO: Those would be the continuity-heavy stories. The Batman 8-page will change the status quo of BATMAN, the Superman 8-pager will change the status quo of SUPERMAN, and the Justice League one will set up The Darkseid War.
What were they looking for with the new creators?
JIM LEE: When you are overseeing a line, you have to realize not everything is going to appeal to your own personal taste. I think that’s a challenging part of the job. You have to trust your editors. You hire your editors for their taste, their relationships, their ability to curate content, develop content, and I think they’ve done a masterful job for June. The New 52, when we launched, was a whole different kind of beast. It was more about getting all the trains on time and lining. This one was more about casting the net broadly.
One of the things we’ve done organizationally is, Bobbie Chase, who was an editorial director, we’ve promoted her up to be the V.P. of Talent Development within the company. Her team is tasked with finding new voices, bringing in people that obviously know how to write but maybe haven’t thought about writing in the world of comic books, and bring them into our space. I think that will yield a lot of awesome projects going forward in the future.
Are the twenty-five returning core books encouraged to changed?
DAN DIDIO: We have the change in status quo on SUPERMAN, BATMAN and the JUSTICE LEAGUE storyline. That’s the reason that’s there. In fact, every team was challenged saying, “We have all these new #1s. You have to do something that makes your book stand out. You can’t just sit back and do the same thing. Everyone else is trying to push in new directions. Take the opportunity and do the same thing on the ongoing books too.”
It was mentioned that Batwoman will come back and they may even already be talking to people about it. MIDNIGHTER was not meant to “fill a void.”
Are there any company-wide events planned anytime soon?
DAN DIDIO: …No. [laughs] What it is, we’ve got some major story lines taking place. The Batman story is going to play across the Batman books, the Superman stories will take place across the Superman books. The Justice League story will have some one-shots to help support that. The last thing we want to do is crossover a bunch of books or remove them from the stands while we’re trying to let them grow and form to find their audience. We spoke to the creators and we’re giving everybody some running room to really be able to establish themselves and build some solid series.
June marks new things for DC Comics. Be sure to check out our interviews with several of the new and returning creative teams.