Second Coming: The DC Relaunch and the Comics of the Next Century

Justice League #1 coverWell, here comes tomorrow.

After talking about it constantly for three months to the day (as three months of pre-chatter tends to be the nature of the beast around here) we have finally reached the Wednesday that made us all say, “Wait, they’re doing what?” the first time we heard it, and then made us say it several more times after that and rub our eyes and refresh the page until it sank in.

This week, DC Comics is releasing Flashpoint #5 and Justice League #1, and that’s it.

Ending that sentence with “and that’s it” probably sets the wrong tone. It’s like saying, “After convening and working tirelessly together all summer, the Continental Congress released the Declaration of Independence, and that’s it.” And now I’m setting the wrong tone from the opposite direction.

My point is: this is the week that DC is “only” putting out two books because those two books have the potential to be the biggest of deals. If nothing else, that’s how DC wants us to think of them. One is the end of an era; the other is the splashy, pants-altering debut of a whole new one. If they’re even half of what they promise to be, it’s cause for excitement. If nothing else, I have a feeling that in the coming months my wallet and I will quickly grow warmly nostalgic for the time DC only put out two books in a week.

Between two posts about the relaunch on this site– the initial announcement and our definitive guide— there have been over 800 comments. This week, we finally start to find out what we’ve been talking about.

Between the renumbering, the shakeup of the universe, and the digital component of the relaunch, DC are trying to make a bold move to attract new readers from a vastly larger (electronic) audience with fresh stories. They seem to want to shake up the real world as much as the one on the shelves.

What if it’s exactly as big as they want it to be? What if it’s bigger?

I was thinking this weekend that, of all the hundreds of opinions I’ve read about this relaunch, I’ve rarely seen anyone say anything more optimistic than “well, good luck to them. You know. Godspeed, or whatever.” I’ve almost never seen anyone saying anything like, “Day-and-date releases available on millions of iPads, right there in people’s homes? Comics are saved! Everyone in my nephew’s class will subscribe to Batgirl by this time next year! Oh, what a relief.”

It’s like we dare not believe such a hopeful outcome is possible. For a group of people whose hearts belong to heroes that swoop in with happy endings, the comic book readership is permeated by a weirdly defeatist attitude. Among the armchair publishers and commenterati, it is a foregone conclusion that Comics as an industry (if not a form of expression) is circling the drain. So many people follow the sales estimates like shareholders and believe even as they spend a fortune on them that Comics Are Dyyying.

But what if they’re not? What if DC has just struck a spark that is going to blow the roof off the joint? The best part about it, beyond exposing more people in the world to Paul Cornell, is that no biz is better than the comics biz at following the leader. If DC pull this off, six months from now everyone else will be doing it too. Make fun of the copycats all you want; I don’t care why it happens, as long as it happens. That’s a lot more comics in a lot more hands. Wouldn’t that be amazing?

The other day, I was talking to the local shopkeeper about the big week he was about to have. He told me with equal measures of excitement and dread that, in a year when the #1 book has been lucky to sell 100,000 copies some months, DC is shipping 200,000 copies of Justice League #1. It’s not Jim Lee’s X-Men, but it ain’t nothin’, either. We didn’t even get into the digital sales. Mostly because it seemed impolite to bring up.

All-Star Western #4 cover

I do not for a minute think that Comics Are Dyyying, and I have been using this forum to poke fun at that mentality since practically the day I got here. (My attempts at optimism have a bad habit of devolving into negativity about negativity, but we all have our crosses to bear.) Oh, your shop may die, and stapled pages may get hard to come by in the next five or ten years. More broadly, though? There has always been an audience for stories, and as long as the medium is a compelling way to tell stories it will always scratch an itch that somebody has. You might just have to finally wrest yourself from the clutches of your Wednesday fix or your inexplicable paper fetish.

Or maybe not. What do I know? We’ll see soon enough.

In the meantime, even as someone who historically has averaged something like three purchased DCU books in a given month, I could not be more excited for what might be coming. I hope DC knocks the ball out of the park and through the windshield of a car on the top level of the parking garage. I hope they’re still going back to print on All-Star Western #1 in February. I hope they get a big, fat banner on the front page of the iTunes store and millions of men and women who would never set foot in a comics shop (if they even knew where to find one) think, “That app looks interesting…. Wow! Look at the wide variety of genres you can get on this thing. This is way more than just Aquaman.” I hope thousands of people who last bought a comic when Bruce Wayne broke his back catch wind of all this and end up saying, “Well, things are certainly looking up since I saw this last.”

What if the news were good for once? Stranger things have happened. I’ll see you this September on the sidelines.


Jim Mroczkowski cannot believe we have seriously been Monday morning quarterbacking this s*** since May. You can find him using his time much more productively over on Twitter.


  1. Agreed. I am a DC fan, and I am pulling for them hard here.

  2. Day-and-date digital is the only way I’d ever get back into weeklies… don’t know what formats are supporting this, though. Is it just on the iPad? Can’t afford one of those yet, but we do have a Nook color.

  3. i’ve seen a lot of discussions on this and other sites that makes it seem like the overwhelming majority is rooting for this reboot to fail. Whether its a “don’t take my printed comics you digital basterrd!” or a “my stories don’t matter” or a “i hate marketing hype” thing, everyone has their reasons, but i’ not seeing the collective optimism that i’d hope for.

    I keep getting this read that somehow comics fans are threatened by their comics becoming more popular or reaching a new audience. On another site someone made a comment that really bugged me about digital. “I”m just worried people will buy the digital ones and won’t support real comics”. As if the stories are meaningless and we’re just hoarding recycled paper pamphlets with staples in them.

    Maybe its cool that you’re the only person in your shop on a thursday and can chat with the owner for an hour uninterrupted, but it sure as sh#t aint good for his business.

    If DC can have success with this, than every comic publisher, creator, fan, shop will benefit in the long run. I really believe that.

    • Ask Borders if e-publishing has been good for their brick-and-mortar stores. Ask Sam Goody about digital music. Day-and-date digital will change the landscape of comics in ways you can’t even predict. The big stores, the Forbidden Planets and the Midtown Comics in NYC, for example… they’ll always have a costumer base, I think. It’s the local mom-and-pop shop, the small LCS in your neighborhood, THAT’S who’s going to feel the pinch from the digital release point.

      That said, day-and-date digital has been inevitable. Always inevitable.

    • Thats not a fair comparison. Borders half assed everything about their digital strategy including outsourcing their entire web-store to Amazon and were the last ones to the party with a tablet platform. Borders failed because they couldn’t repay all of their mega loans (its the #1 reason why they couldn’t sell) and over expansion…nothing to do with the product or customer base. I just remembere Sam Goody charging $25+ for a CD that everyone else was charging $15 for.

      Even if mom and pop feels a pinch, oh well. thats progress. There used to be a lot of haberdasheries, butcher shops and dressmakers but then department stores and supermarkets came along.

      Interesting though, is that across the street from my complex is a large mini-mall which contains an Albertsons (mega supermarket chain) and a small regional butcher shop, indie bakery and indie liquor store. They all are doing quite well. Smart business owners will survive. Crappy ones will go away. Thats how it should be.

    • When I got back into comics, I was all Vertigo. I soon discovered other books by all the smaller publishers, but try as I might, superhero stories could hold no interest for me. But with DC’s new initiative, I’m in, at least in the beginning.

      I want this to succeed, and I don’t even read most of these titles (yet). If only because comics need to do something to shake things up, and I want a risky gamble like this to pay off.

  4. Love it! Great stuff, Jim.

  5. You wound me Jim! I’ve gone on record saying before on CRT and Comicbook Fury that the reason people should do day and date is because they move from thousands of stores with a small reach to millions of stores in people’s homes. I’ve also been pretty optimistic about DC’s relaunch. My one caveat though has always been “as long as they do everything right.” Hopefully they catch all of those people with ipads, iphones, and android phones. I’m pulling for them.

    • Now, I am very deliberate with my “rarelys” and “almost nevers.” No blanket statements here. There are always a few of us dreamers, reaching for that rainbow.

      By and large, though, the nattering nabobs of negativism surround us on all sides.

    • They have been circling the wagons. That’s for sure.

      I don’t think it’s marketing or the publishers killing comics. It’s the negative readers that scare away new business. Although that’s not really a new thought, as I’ve thought that for comic shop owners… for maybe forever now?

  6. Also WIth day and date, if this works really well, then it can show indie publishers/ creators that this is a safe route to go. Could be a creator owned bonanza. No more hoping someone finds your new book in the back of previews, no more “i wanted to try that book but the retailer didn’t have it” B.S. Get the stories you want, when you want. Everyone wins.

    • YES! Looks like we were typing that at the same time, but I think you made the point better than I did. So, sorry if my comment below seems to be overstating what you already said effectively.

  7. I think digital is GREAT for comics as an art form and as entertainment. Look what digital music has done for indie musicians! This could mean that because it’ll be less of a gamble to produce a comic (like firing up the printing presses and praying you’re not going to end up sitting on em) we could see them taking more chances on material and that could be fantastic! We’d be much more likely to get the next Gotham Central or Queen and Country and it won’t be hard to find because everyone would know where to get it. DC is doing it’s best to stay ahead of the trend, and I think it’s great. I’m sure that as long as there are collectors there will be a market for something to hold in your hands or display on a shelf.. I know I still want to have awesome Absolute editions and deluxe hardcovers of my favorite stories. And if there’s less paper floating around out there, isn’t that actually better for the secondary market and more “thrill-of-the-hunt” for serious collectors?

    We have such a tendency to freak out when things change, but things always seem to work out. Especially in a free market, where the consumer gets to drive.

    • what some people don’t realize is how much it costs to bring one issue of a comic book to print. If you’re an indie guy doing a 1000 or 2500 copy run, that could cost you as much as a decent used car. Just look at the Image Comics model (creators don’t get paid until production costs are covered)….how many 2.99 books do you have to sell to payback a $5k print run?

      The cost of production is always the greatest barrier to risky innovation. Look at what affordable technology did to filmmaking and music. Sure there is a lot of crap, but artists are free to try new things, experiment, innovate. I really hope indies embrace digital and i hope DC blazing this trail will give them the confidence.

    • “Look what digital music has done for indie musicians”? Uh, nowadays most of them (who don’t have rich parents) live at near-poverty levels and have to tour constantly in order to survive. Touring itself will dry up as soon as the recession-ridden parents of scenesters stop letting their kids go to see the same band ten times a year. At least in the ’90s you had indie record labels that could make modest profits. Now those labels have to give everything to Apple in order to have a chance of maybe striking rich. It’s true that digital has made it easier to “get songs out there” to fans, but it hasn’t made getting a CAREER in music any easier.

    • Ok so I’m admittedly a moron about the state of the indie musicians. Maybe I shouldn’t have used that as an analogy, and so avoided stoking your ire. Then again, anyone who is an independent musician to “strike it rich” is probably a moron themselves. That’s certainly NEVER why I recorded or toured. I did it to make a modest living and to entertain others and myself. I never sought to be rich or famous, so I can say I enjoyed success and the accomplishment of what I set out to do. The point I was making is, at whatever stage of the process of “selling something” you occupy, the choice is sell something people buy, or stop selling and go to work for a wage. I’m a little sick of people expecting to be subsidized for producing something that is not wanted by the consumer.

  8. Iam sooo looking forward to the reboot i cannot wait 🙂 good article as well keep it up

  9. I really hope the reboot works out in the long run. Personally I can’t wait to get my hands on some of the new titles.

  10. I, too, hope it is successful. I hope they have good stories to tell and will let the writers tell them. I prefer DC, but I’m tired. Tired of the constant resetting of the table every couple years. I’d really like to get my comics digitally, but I just can’t bring myself to spend $3 for something so ephemeral. If they offered me a coupon I could take to my local comic store when the trade comes out though, that might be a win win scenario for everyone. One things for sure, everything’s going to look different in a few years.

    • The day and date parity is tough right now-
      But if you want a discount just set your alarm for a month later
      and bam- a dollar off.

      If it’s very successful more discounts of some kind will surely follow.

  11. I applaud what DC is doing and think it’s awesome, but I think this article is pretty naive.

    “What if the relaunch does more?” I don’t know what basis that suggestion is even being made on. It’s like saying “What if I win the lottery tomorrow?” It’s a platitude not based in any reality. Sorry, man, I usually love your writing, but it’s like you’re sitting on the Titanic as its sinking, and you’re tired of people acknowledging that the boat is indeed sinking, so you’re just gonna say “What if the boat’s actually rising?” just so you can hear something different.

    What DC’s doing is certainly going to bring in some new readers. It’s an awesome idea. But will the influx be enough to save the industry, or will it just buy the industry five or so more years? Either way, I think it’s good for DC to do this. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to tilt at windmills.

    It isn’t pessimistic to simply look at reality. The reality is that the comics industry has been dying for a long time now. Not just “changing”, but “dying”. Will it die completely? Of course not. Will it “change” to the point that it’s even more of an obscure cultural niche than it is now? Almost definitely. To suggest otherwise, to say that millions of new readers could magically get invested in All-Star Western is just silly. It’s a willful ignorance of reality, simply because the reality is too unpleasant for you. With a lot of you guys at iFanboy–you’re nice people!–but it seems like your understanding of the society you live in is way too influenced based on the like-minded opinions that you constantly hear from your circle of friends on Twitter.

    Most people just don’t want to read comics anymore. Just like they don’t want to listen to bluegrass music much or go to the opera. The culture(s) to support those things are gone. The culture that supported comics is going away as we speak. These cultural changes are a lot bigger than grievances about there not being enough Western titles. It’s not the content; it’s the medium. Whether comics are on paper or digital, whether they’re $3.99 or 99 cents–people don’t want them. This is hard for us to acknowledge, because we love comics–I love comics–but I understand that the actual reality is different from my own preferences. It takes courage and honesty to face that truth. For those who can’t face it, there’s always blind optimism, as the ship goes down.

    The numbers on Justice League #1 are already in, and they already prove that the venture is failing to meet expectations. Only 200,000 copies on a RETURNABLE #1 issue? Those aren’t even Civil War numbers (and I don’t think Civil War was returnable). All of the other #1 issues from DC are also going to be returnable. Good for DC. I’m not complaining. And I think it’s awesome that DC is doing this. I support it. I’m excited. But I’m not going to let my excitement and my support for DC turn into some an almost laughable optimism that’s totally out of touch with reality.

    Of course the 200,000 figure doesn’t include digital sales. But unless the issue sells at least 100,000 copies digitally, I don’t see how anyone can say that DC’s initiative has grown the industry any. I’m not being pessimistic, but these are just the facts. It takes courage to admit these things. I agree that some people fall into pessimism for pessimism’s sake. I’m not that way. I’m just dealing with reality. I LOVE what DC’s doing. I applaud it. I’m excited. But I’m not delusional.

    • All of that, ladies and gentlemen, was generated by the question, “What if it succeeds?”

      Not even “I believe it is going to succeed.” Just “what if it does?”

    • Man, Froggulper do you have a wide grin on your face when you tell Children that Santa doesn’t exist? That was like a suicide note for comic book fandom. Uggh,

    • Nobody knows how many people are out there just itching to buy this stuff on their iPads. There could be millions, DC has no way of knowing because there are no pre-orders for digital. I for one, will now be buying their stuff digitally. My wife is now interested in jumping on, when she never was before. There have to be more people out there like us.

  12. One thing to remember with digital comics too, is that they will continue to sell. Someone months from now might download a copy of Justice League #6 and go “I want the other ones too!” and buy those. Whereas comic shops, what they have is what they have and once it’s gone, you have to wait for the trade. I really can’t see this being a bad thing. Will it hurt some shops? Maybe. But then again, maybe it will bring new readers who discovered the comics online and now want either the trades or the monthlies themselves. Not everyone will be like that, but I bet a few will.

  13. Great article as always Jim. I appreciate the optimistic spin you are bringing to this. I can only speak to my own experience. I stopped reading comics monthly years ago because I just didn’t want anymore paper in my house and I would only buy trades of the sure thing home runs that I like. With what DC is doing I am going to buy some issues and I am willing to try some new titles because I don’t have to worry about filling up my house with issues that I don’t like. I’m hoping it does well enough that the whole industry goes to day and date publishing. I really think it is the only option and I want to reward DC with my money for stepping up and being the first.

  14. I have been excited for next month since I heard the news, I just laugh at all the people who think that it was a horrible idea and that they were going to give up on DC when they have not even read one of the new issues yet.

  15. >negativity about negativity

    Wouldn’t that yield… positivity?

  16. @Wally – Except you said you truly believed “every” shop would benefit here. Not just the smart ones. I agree the smart ones will always find a way. But in one post you say “every” and in the next you say “well, not the mom and pop shops. And not the ones that do business like Borders and Sam Goody did.” You can’t have it both ways.

    I agree with your reply. Not your pie-in-the-sky initial post. Digital is the future. The past will get swept away.

    • basically i was saying that whats good for one major publisher is good for everyone. If DC has smashing success, that means shops are moving more product, so they are making more cash. Also it means that others will copy the success which could lead to more tittles, more work for creators, new stories for us. New readers, and excitement for comics in general.

      A poorly run business is what it is, and will get killed by something sooner or later. Really if you’re running an small shop and can’t absorb a few customers converting a few pulls a month to digital then you really you’ll be out of business the next time you have to call a plumber to fix the toilet.

  17. Is Flashpoint #5 day & date digital? Because otherwise I’m only going to be getting one DC book this week.

    • Best. Avatar. Ever.

    • The rest of Flashpoint has not been day and date digital, which to me, it should have been. Flashpoint #5 is the single most important book this week, and if it’s not day and date digital, that’s a major oversight on DC’s part. Hopefully it will at least come out on Flashpoint Friday (as Comixology has been releasing them);.

  18. so many diffent opinions,alot of them makes sence.but i can only speak for myself and i think this is gonna be a good experience and i cant wait to read the new titles. i hope this does wonders for comics,being hopefull never hurt anyone.

  19. “We didn’t even get into the digital sales. Mostly because it seemed impolite to bring up.” That’s exactly how every conversation I’ve had with my LCS owner goes. “Yeah, DC reboot, crazy stuff, Barbara Gordon, 52 #1’s . . . crickets chirping.” I feel like I’m insulting him personally to admit it’s a pain to walk to his store once a week.

    • I know what you mean. I left my LCS a couple months ago because I graduated. A few weeks later a email was sent around saying the shop may close if they don’t hit certain sale figures. They made the goal but I honestly wish he had just cut the cord. He is a nice guy and ran a really good shop but the market is moving against him and I would hate to see him double down now and then once again see sales slowly drop as digital becomes more standard. It might just be that I lack the courage to be a small business owner.

    • As a small business owner, which has struggled immensely recently, it is hard to overstate how difficult it is to let go. I feel for the small shop owners, their lives are built around an industry who’s downfall they contribute to and that will soon not need them anyway.

      I imagine there will be quite a few who struggle on until there is literally no customers left, but the ones who get out as soon as possible will get upset, but will ultimately be better off. This whole sequence of events has really brought into sharp relief the mess that is the comics industry. I really hope it succeeds, but I cant see it myself. That said, I will be buying some digital release comics from DC so who knows? It is both exciting and worrisome, but then I suppose all change is.

  20. They are doing this like the end of a universe ought to be. Flashpoint #5 is the old universe collapsing into a single fixed point, and then JLA #1 is the big bang that kicks off the new universe. So of course it makes sense to only publish those 2 books the first week. Then the universe starts expanding rapidly next week, and into fall when they add the Shade mini-series and next year when they add new titles like JSA, etc.

  21. Way to think positive Jim! I’m totally right there with you! I’m mostly a Marvel guy, but I am very excited to see what the Heroes and Villians of the New DCU have in store for us!

  22. The one thing that’s kept me from really getting into DC Comics has been the murky continuity. I’m jumping in head first with this relaunch, hoping it’s new reader friendly. They like the toss that ‘new reader friendly’ thing around, but DC has been notorious for throwing in a ton of characters i don’t recognized with no explanation. i’m hoping this is different. LET’S GO DC!!!

  23. A couple of things…

    1.) I miss spinners in the gas stations and grocery stores. If comics publishers are going to make distribution deals that limit access to comics they should provide an alternative. The comics industry has made themselves a niche market. A kid can find a Playboy quicker than he can find an issue of Superman, I mean what the heck is that about? Is it really a mystery why comic books don’t sell more? THEY MADE THEM FREAKING HARD TO FIND!!! It’s like the entire industry thought it would be a good idea to hide the products from customers, then they whine when sales numbers go down.

    If I had to go to a comic book shop when I was a kid to get my comics fix I would never have gotten my comics fix. I found my comics at Walgreens, Krogers, Stop N’ Go, etc…

    2.) Many story-lines are to involved. I’ve been reading Green Lantern for over a year now and I still don’t know what all is going on. I always loved Green Lantern as a kid, but I have no idea what all these new colored rings are about. I know there are trades I can buy (I have a few) but I shouldn’t have to spend a couple hundred dollars to understand what is going on. I also shouldn’t have to buy three or four monthly titles to understand the ongoing story. I will not do that. It’s cheap marketing bull-crap. I dropped Green Lantern. If a relaunch helps DC simplify the stories and get back to the basics then I say do it. This has the ability to bring what Marvel did with Ultimate Spiderman to the entire DCU.

    I picked up The Flash when it started over and was thrilled with the book. It was fun, it was a good read, great art, everything you could want in a comic. If they can do that with Superman and Aquaman I’m totally in. Heck I hope they do that to Green Lantern as well, please for the love of God make it fun and easy to follow again.

  24. I hope it works. The only way I’m going to be able to keep up with single issues is through digital. I think from a new-reader perspective, coupling the digital push with a universe reset works well. I feel way less compelled to get “caught up” before I start a series, like I currently do with a few Marvel books.