DC Comics in 2012: The Year in Review
While the DC relaunch of 2011 was a monumental event for the publisher, 2012 was filled with controversy, creative shifts and anticipated events. It was the year of Before Watchmen, the year Wonder Woman kissed Superman, and the year of the first Arab-American Green Lantern.
But behind all those high-profile events, 2012 was also the year that DC was forced to prove its reboot had staying power and wasn't a one-time fluke.
As 2012 started, DC's top titles were still dominating sales charts, from the successful changes introduced to characters in Action Comics and Justice League to the surprise hits from new approaches on The Flash and Aquaman. The Batman titles were made even stronger, retailers were warming up to the New 52, and there was a renewed interest in formerly struggling characters like Wonder Woman, Swamp Thing and Animal Man.
Readers also began anticipating the debut of a new Shazam! character, with a different name and new duds, in back-up features of Justice League.
January also saw the first of many crossovers that peppered the year for DC, as the publisher seemed to be encouraging readers to sample its lower selling titles like O.M.A.C. and Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E..
Readers were still reeling from the departure of writers like Ron Marz, Sterling Gates, J.T. Krul, Tony Daniel, Paul Cornell and more. As a result, it seemed that characters like Hawkman and Green Arrow who might have been given similar renewed life in the New 52 were left to questionable futures.
By Jan. 12th, the company had announced six of their "New 52" titles would be canceled: Blackhawks, Hawk and Dove, Men of War, Mister Terrific, O.M.A.C., and Static Shock all would be ending with their eighth issues in April.
The company also stirred up internet fans by announcing that Rob Liefeld was being control of the plots on three titles: Deathstroke, Hawkman and Grifter. Other writers and artists would be shifting come May on titles like Stormwatch, Justice League Dark, Animal Man, Birds of Prey and several others.
On Jan. 6, DC executives admitted to Newsarama that the relaunch had greatly benefitted their high-selling titles, but mid- and low-tier titles were heading back to the pre-relaunch level. With all the creative shake-ups, it seemed that DC was trying to react swiftly to sales numbers and make necessary changes.
Yet the creative shake-ups that caught attention in early 2012 ended up coming back to haunt DC later in the year. While creators were mostly polite about their ouster at first, George Pérez went public in June with some alarming revelations about how DC didn't even "know what's going on" in their relaunched comics, saying he was forced to rewrite Superman scripts multiple times because of the confusion. And by August, Rob Liefeld was echoing Pérez's concerns about editorial problems and rewrites, but added a few other concerns of his own.
As the year in ending, the shake-ups haven't stopped. Artists like Amy Reeder have disappeared from their titles, Judd Winick and Cornell have left their DC titles, and Ann Nocenti's stay on Green Arrow was fairly short-lived. Other creative shake-ups continue, not the least of which is the recent departure of Karen Berger from Vertigo. But more on that later....
Multiple creators voiced anger about the decision on Newsarama, Twitter and other social media — especially Watchmen writer Alan Moore, who said "I don’t want money. What I want is for this not to happen. As far as I know, there weren’t that many prequels or sequels to Moby Dick."
Yet DC put together what most fans called a "dream team" of creators for the projects that would wear the Before Watchmen label. And the creators all defended their decision to participate in the mini-series event.
After two of the top-selling titles for DC ended up being Batman and Detective Comics, DC announced in early 2012 that it would raise prices to $3.99 on the two titles, adding back-up stories for the additional cost.
Readers found out Nightwing had once been marked as a Court of Owls servant, and Bruce Wayne's ancestors had history with the organization as well. And by the summer, readers were shocked to learn the identity of the villain behind the Court of Owls.
By the end of the year, the success of "Owls" had driven the Batman office at DC to schedule another tie-in event for the end of the year, with "Death of the Family" spilling into several other titles as Joker has returned to the DCU. Batman and other Gotham-based titles continue to sell extremely well, with a few getting new writers — the most high profile being John Layman on Detective and Gregg Hurwitz on Dark Knight.
Events and Expansion
Grant Morrison also returned to the Batman universe in 2012 with Batman Inc.. The title was part of six titles launched in DC's "Second Wave," joining Earth 2, World's Finest, Dial H, G.I. Combat, and The Ravagers. The latter — Ravagers — was part of a crossover event in May that built the teenage part of the DC Universe.
The DC multiverse became a reality in May when two of those titles, Earth 2 and World's Finest, featured "alternate universe" versions of well-known heroes.company was planning its first mega-event, Trinity War, first hyped in the Free Comic Book Day release on May 5th.
Although the event is scheduled for 2013, readers have been teased about Trinity War throughout 2012. And not surprisingly, DC executives Dan DiDio and Geoff Johns were behind the mid-year teases in Justice League #12 and Justice League International Annual #1.
Summer 2012 also saw the mainstream media react as Earth 2 scribe James Robinson made Green Lantern Alan Scott a gay man.
And readers of the surprisingly successful and critically acclaimed Wonder Woman got another shock in August — writer Brian Azzarello is introducing the New Gods in the title, beginning with Orion.
DC also saw successes with its second volume of Superman: Earth One and the first volume of Batman: Earth One. Both titles are expected to have a total of three volumes, at least. And Grant Morrison has indicated there will also be a Wonder Woman: Earth One added to the mix.
Then in December, the company announced that Karen Berger would be leaving Vertigo. While fans wondered about the future of Vertigo, creators were mostly feeling reminiscent about all the great accomplishments of the editor during her tenure at DC.
Within a couple weeks of the announcement, DC implied a continued importance to the Vertigo brand by not only promoting Shelly Bond to Executive Editor for the imprint, but moving most of the Vertigo staff into higher positions to support the new editor. Hank Kanalz, who former oversaw DC's digital initiatives, was promoted to Senior Vice President of Vertigo as well as their Integrated Publishing department.
While the changes indicate Vertigo is evolving from its origin, the imprint had an eventful 2012, with more than one successful launch. October's Fables: Werewolves of the Heartland and the March launch of the ongoing series Fairest both expanded the Fables universe with solid sales. And DC released its first volume of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo via graphic novel, with more volumes to come.
In September, a "Zero Month" event promised to tell the back-stories of DC heroes before their relaunch, yet very few actually addressed the most pressing questions that readers were asking.
New creative teams hit a few of DC's comics, like Scott Lobdell getting his hands on Superman in time for a crossover with Supergirl and Superboy. Four new titles also launched in September: Talon, Sword of Sorcery, The Phantom Stranger and Team Seven.
"Now that we're through our first year of New 52," DC Vice President of Marketing John Cunningham told Newsarama, "that next year is 'filling in' greater and greater details of that world, and how those characters and their stories start to interrelate to one another."
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