DC Editor-in-Chief Bob Harras Rides the NEW 52 SECOND WAVE
The discussion followed DC's announcement this morning that six new series, billed as the New 52's "second wave," will replace six canceled series.
Men of War, Mister Terrific, O.M.A.C., Hawk and Dove, Blackhawks and Static Shock will end with issue #8 in April. (This aligns with what DC Executive Vice President of Sales John Rood told Newsarama late last year.)
The new titles will be:
- Batman Incorporated by writer Grant Morrison and artist Chris Burnham, concluding the writer's Batman story;
- Earth 2 by writer James Robinson and artist Nicola Scott, detailing the life of the JSA as they collide "with other worlds;"
- Worlds' Finest by writer Paul Levitz and artists George Pérez and Kevin Maguire, which details the life of Earth 2 heroes Helena Wayne and Karen Starr as they are stuck on "our Earth," seemingly meaning the main New 52 Earth;
- Dial H by science fiction/fantasy novelist China Miéville and artist Mateus Santoluoco, which is a "bold new take on a cult classic about the psychological effects on an everyman who accidentally gains powers to become a hero;"
- G.I. Combat, which will have co-features: "The War that Time Forgot" by writer J.T. Krul and artist Ariel Olivetti, "The Unknown Soldier" by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray with artist Dan Panosian, and "The Haunted Tank" by writer John Arcudi and artist Scott Kolins;
- The Ravagers by writer Howard Mackie and artist Ian Churchill, which spins out of Teen Titans and Superboy.
Sitting in the DC offices, Harras admitted he was disappointed that some titles from the September relaunch didn't make it, but he called this the "second phase" of that initiative, emphasizing that this part of DC's strategy is all about expanding the universe.
Questions to Harras and DC's publicity department exposed a few more tidbits of information about the announcement:
- While Earth 2 is now confirmed, and DC did talk about "parallel worlds," DC would not confirm to Newsarama that there are 52 worlds. But the company's continuing use of the number "52" would suggest they're sticking with that number in the DCnU, as would the already announced upcoming Morrison mini-series Multiversity.
- Karen Berger, Vertigo's senior vice president and executive editor, is editing Dial H, the new title from China Miéville.
- The Ravagers is also linked to Legion Lost.
- DC is specifically not announcing what the prices of these new series are, although it's clear that G.I. Combat will have a page count that DC usually prices at $3.99.
To find out more about these announcements, Newsarama talked to the Harras via telephone.
Newsarama: Bob, the most striking thing about this announcement is this hint of "worlds," and the addition of the Earth 2 concept. Can you walk us through the thinking behind going forward with the Earth 2 concept, what it means, and what you think it will bring to the shared universe?
Bob Harras: One of the things that was especially gratifying with the launch of the New 52 was that people really were excited about being able to jump on, learn about these characters, feel like they were in there from the beginning. And what the second phase is is really world-building and really expanding on the universe, building on what's gone before, taking core DC concepts and kind of like burnishing them and re-presenting them for 2012.
Earth 2 has been such a part and parcel of DC mythology that we thought this would be a great place to bring it back. And because a lot of story and a lot of characters have been discussed since the beginning, since before the launch of the New 52, we had discussions: What would it mean if there was an Earth 2 out there? What storylines would this bring to us? What drama? What tension? And that's one of the reasons we went in that direction.
At the end of the day, we said, this brings us a lot of potential dramatic story. That's really the reason we went for it.
Nrama: What's the thinking behind having a war-related comic when, from the September launch, your lowest selling comics were war-related comics?
Harras: Every book, you hope, of all the 52— everyone works hard. You want them to all succeed. You know at the end of the day that some are not going to find their audience, and that's always unfortunate and a little bit disappointing.
But with G.I. Combat, what we're going to try to do is just present some core DC war-related comics, but that have that "tweak," that have that kind of, for want of a better term, that supernatural tweak. "War That Time Forgot," where you have soldiers from all over time battling on an island full of dinosaurs; you have "Haunted Tank;" you have "Unknown Soldier." These are great, core DC ideas, DC concepts. And again, we're just burnishing and just putting them out there as part of the New 52. So it's basically taking what we did earlier and just revamping it a little bit and going back out with G.I. Combat.
Nrama: But did you analyze the comics that didn't do well in September? What have you learned from their demise?
Harras: What did I learn? I mean, with everything else, it's one of those things where, as I said earlier, you have hopes for every book you put out there. And you have hopes that they find their audience. And when they don't, you either have to chalk it up to, OK, maybe it was not the right time for this property, or the audience just wasn't there. So each book that could be a separate thing.
The thing that is also important to note is that these characters [in the canceled books] aren't going to go anywhere. Characters like O.M.A.C. — he's going to show up in another title. Hawk and Dove are going to show up in other titles. They're not going away, because what we're telling here is the story of the DCU.
Just because their particular title doesn't work, their story will continue. And I actually think that's a lot of fun.
Nrama: Is there any concern that three of your canceled titles are solo books for people of color?
Harras: As I said earlier, I want every book to succeed. Also, those characters that are not going to be in their own titles will be appearing in other books as well. We are definitely dedicated to diversity. That's not going to stop now. That's an ongoing part and parcel to what we do.
As I said earlier, those characters are not going away. They will be appearing in other books.
Nrama: Everybody's seen the sales number. These three titles with people of color weren't selling well. Without pointing fingers at anyone, is it at least disappointing to see that readers didn't buy titles that you were hoping would add diversity to the line-up?
Harras: As I said earlier, you want every book to work. You do. And when it doesn't work, yes, it's always a disappointment. And you can Monday morning quarterback until the sun comes up. But it just didn't happen. You just try your best and go to the next bunch of books.
Again, those characters will not disappear.
Nrama: There are still a few solo books with people of color. But does this mean the remaining 46 comics are safe for awhile?
Harras: I would say they are safe for awhile. We're doing OK.
Nrama: Why the decision to stick with 52 comics? When I had talked to John Rood, he had stated 52 wasn't a magic publishing number for a line of comics, but apparently you guys in editorial like it. What were the thoughts behind canceling exactly six and replacing with exactly six?
Harras: I think right now, because— I don't know if 52 is a magic number. But I think it's something that we think we can do well. There's something people like about the "New 52." And we want to just continue it going forward for awhile.
I think replacing these six books with six new books just fit our plan. This was our plan from the beginning. We always knew some books wouldn't work and that we'd have new titles coming in.
Nrama: Are you being more swift with the cancelations than you might have been in the past, since you're having such great successes with some titles and so many eyes are on your books now? Six titles in one month?
Harras: I think swift is a word I wouldn't use. I think we're just looking at it very, very analytically and saying, OK, this isn't coming together the way we were hoping. We have these other properties. They've been in development for awhile. Let's just segue them in.
So we are being a little bit more analytical as we approach this. We're just trying to increase the excitement level of each title as we put them out.
Nrama: We already knew that there was a JSA title coming, and we knew Grant was returning to Batman. Was the thought behind six titles being grouped together for release to bring attention to them? So there could be a marketing push behind them, instead of just adding one per month without as much hype?
Harras: I think, at some point, it was decided that since these new books were coming together at the same time, that it would make the most sense to put them out as a "mini-launch" event. Especially books like Earth 2 and Worlds' Finest, starring Huntress and Power Girl, which are kind of linked books.
We want to put out this sense that we are world building and these books are linked. And we wanted to create that momentum.
Nrama: Finding out that Karen Berger is editing Dial H is a little surprising. For fans of Vertigo, what was behind the decision to bring her onto a comic in the DC Universe?
Harras: China Miéville is the writer of the book. I've met him. He's an amazing, amazing writer. He is a fantastic DC Universe fan. And the decision was made that Dial H really did fit into what we were doing with Animal Man and Swamp Thing, taking that kind of darker aspect of the DCU and exploring it. We felt that this book played into that area very nicely.
And that Karen wanted to edit this book and be part of the DCU, I thought was fantastic. And I'm incredibly excited about it.
I must stress that I have never met a bigger DC fan than China Miéville.
Nrama: Is The Ravagers going to be connected to Rose Wilson or maybe star the Gen 13 characters that are showing up in the DCU?
Harras: Ravagers will be a bunch of different characters. You'll see development of characters from Superboy, Teen Titans and little bit of Legion Lost in the spring. So I think you're going to be surprised by what comes out in that book, and the characters that will be in that title. And who and what they are.
Nrama: Seeing Howard Mackie's name on a DC title is a bit of a surprise. You seem to have brought over a few of the people you worked with at Marvel. How did Mackie come on board?
Harras: He was a Marvel guy, but he had a couple meetings with Dan DiDio over the last few months. I think they talked story, they talked character, and I think Dan was very impressed with Howard's way of approaching story.
Even though we have 52 books out, we're constantly meeting with people. We're constantly developing ideas. We're churning out new concepts. You sit and you talk story, and you talk concepts, and that's how it all comes together.
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