How DC Comics Hopes to Use New Stories to Hook New Readers

Potential Full JUSTICE LEAGUE Lineup

Interested in reading some new comic books, but not sure where to start?

DC Comics is banking on you, starting now. Beginning this week, the 76-year-old publisher will be starting over every single one of its comics at No. 1 in an effort to attract new readers — a move that will mean all-new stories for the publisher's characters.

The comic book industry, which had been experiencing growth over the last decade, finds itself struggling in the digital age. While major film franchises like "Iron Man"  and "Batman" are raking in hundreds of millions of dollars at the movie theaters, sales of their comic books are dropping.

So DC is making a concerted effort to attract new readers, selling all its comics digitally on the same day as print, and restarting them with a fresh, new beginning and including younger versions of their iconic superhero characters.

"It's really about re-introducing the concept of superheroes in the DC Universe, and doing it in a more contemporary, timely way," Jim Lee, co-publisher of DC Entertainment, recently told Newsarama.

Yet readers may still be intimidated by the amount of product DC is releasing over the next few weeks: a whopping 52 new No. 1 issues, all with new premises and characters.

To help out all the potential DC Comics "newbies," we put together a "primer" to get you by:

Fresh start

The first thing to know is that anything you've ever read or seen about DC characters doesn't necessarily apply anymore. Nothing from the movies, animated series, TV shows or even comics.

For example, you might think you know what happened when Superman came to Metropolis.

No... you don't.

The past of the characters that exist in the DC Universe — from Wonder Woman to Supergirl to Batman — is getting "tweaked." Some characters are getting more changes than others, but even the most familiar origin stories — and most clichéd scenes — might be different than the ones you know.

Return of the icons

Before this relaunch, it wasn't uncommon to have someone other than Bruce Wayne wearing the Batman costume. There were even different people sometimes wearing Wonder Woman's duds, and don't get us started on how many Batgirls there have been.

But for these new No. 1 issues, most of the iconic names have returned to the costumes for which they're best known. Bruce Wayne, Diana the Amazon, Clark Kent and even Barbara Gordon are back in their most recognizable roles.

The only major change from iconic roles that should be noted is that Dick Grayson is no longer Batman's sidekick Robin. As DC picks up his story in this new launch, Dick used to be Robin, but has grown up now and wears the title Nightwing. Batman's son is the new Robin, who readers can meet in "Batman & Robin #1."

Once upon a time... five years ago...

You may have heard somewhere that Superman once fought Nazis. Just put that idea out of your head.

In this new DC Universe, the "dawn of superheroes" only occurred five years ago. These heroes are young. They're very new. And they're not your father's superheroes.

While some of them may have been around for awhile in secret (namely Batman), all the rest of these spandex-clad men and women just started flying around in the DC Universe about five years ago.

While most of DC's new titles take place in the present-day, there are a couple titles that will explain what happened five years ago:

This week's "Justice League #1" by comic book superstars Geoff Johns and Jim Lee, will explain what happened five years ago to bring all the new heroes together. The comic's first six issues take place in the past, when the Justice League first formed. But then the comic's stories will switch to present- day.

Next week's "Action Comics #1" by Grant Morrison and Rags Morales will explain where Superman came from five years ago. Readers will see him first show up in Metropolis and meet Lois Lane. But DC's other title, "Superman" by George Pérez, will take place in present-day.

Fifty-two flavors

Everything in DC's new universe may be new, but it's not necessarily bright and shiny.

In fact, some books are downright "dark."

In an effort to attract a variety of readers, DC is launching comics that fit into several different genres. The titles of "All-Star Western" and "I, Vampire" are pretty self-explanatory. But there's also a sword-and-sorcery fantasy book in "Demon Knights," and a supernatural investigation team in "Justice League Dark."

The hope is that readers will try out new things, thanks to the fresh slate provided by a brand-new universe. And that includes titles that might not fit the superhero norm.

Even some of those superhero titles are trying something new with their characters. Brian Azzarello has described his new "Wonder Woman" title as a "horror" book. "Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E." is less about the horror one would expect from the famous monster, and more about sci-fi adventure.

And while the futuristic Legion of Super-Heroes are commonly helped out by techno-gadgets of the 31st century, the new title "Legion Lost" puts the heroes at peril in the present-day world.

Even the superheroes come in varieties. There are young hero books in "Teen Titans" and "Static Shock." And war-related heroes in "Blackhawks" and "Sgt. Rock and the Men of War."

But don't expect these comics to stand separate from the world of spandex superheroes. Eventually, there will be some superhero reference in just about every one of them. Even the Western comic takes place in an old-time version of Batman's Gotham City.

So even though they're very different genres, they're still part of a DC Universe where superheroes abound.

Digital revolution

One of the reasons behind DC's decision to relaunch the publisher's entire comic lineup is the growth of digital comics.

Now that the Apple iPad and other tablets are growing in popularity, DC is hoping the handheld devices act like a portable spinner rack where customers can pick out new comics to read. This is important to the comic book industry because much of the population lives nowhere near a comic book store.

The future of digital comics takes a leap forward this week. Beginning Wednesday, DC will release every one of its digital comics on the same day as the company releases its print comics — something it's never done before. The goal is to reach new digital customers who either haven't read comics before, or are returning to comics after taking a break.

To prepare for the digital event, comiXology, the company that distributes the vast majority of DC's digital comics, launched a new version of its software for Android and Apple iOS. This update streamlines many of the purchasing and reading procedures, just in time for DC's big launch. At the same time, dozens of comic book stores have started to sell not only print comics, but digital comics as well. DC and other publishers are giving the stores a cut of the profits from these sales.

For new readers interested in digital comics, DC will now have them available for purchase in a variety of platforms. And most of them will help new readers find a print comics store if they get hooked and want to read more.

 

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