DC Adds Four to New 52, Including DiDio's PHANTOM STRANGER

In September, DC will begin another "wave" of new comics, this time canceling four titles to replace them with four new ongoing series.

The new batch of titles will launch as part of DC's "Zero Month," in which all New 52 titles will be numbered at #0 and will tell a stand-alone story about the history of the title characters. In October, all the New 52 titles will return to their numbering from August (most releasing issue #13).

DC Co-Publisher Dan DiDio, who is writing one of the new series, said "the goal [of The New 52] was always to constantly refresh the line."

So far, DC has announced that Justice League International is one of the canceled series. The four new series are:

Talon:

Image courtesy

USA Today.

This new comic, which is being co-plotted by Batman writer Scott Snyder, introduces a new "anti-hero on the run" to the DCU. Calvin Rose, the only Talon to escape from the control of the Court of Owls, will be traveling all around the DCU as he is hunted by his former masters. While the story spins out of the Court of Owls storyline that is running through the first year of Snyder's Batman, the title character is a brand new one.

As the comic launches in September, Snyder will be working on plots with James Tynion IV, his co-writer on the Batman back-ups. Talon will feature art by Guillem March. 

Sword of Sorcery:

Image courtesy

i09.com.

This new series, which DiDio described as "a new anthology book in the same vein as All-Star Western," will launch with the return of Amethyst to the New 52. Written by Christy Marx with art by Aaron Lopresti, the comic will show how Amethyst finds out she's the lost princess of Gemworld, and she's being hunted by her murderous aunt. The comic will launch with a back-up story about Beowulf and Grendel, written by Tony Bedard with art by Jesus Saiz.

The Phantom Stranger:

Image courtesy

MTV Geek.

Written by DiDio with art by Brent Anderson, The Phantom Stranger will spin out of the character's recent appearances in Justice League and DC's Free Comic Book Day story. It promises to tell more about the mysterious origin of the character who seems to have biblical ties and his connection to the purple-hooded woman Pandora.

Team Seven:

Image courtesy

IGN.com.

Set in the early days of the DC Universe, Team Seven will show how the emergence of Superman touched off the formation of counter measures against superheroes. The comic, which is being written by relative newcomer Justin Jordan with art by Jesus Merino, will have a team composed of Amanda Waller, Dinah Lance, Steve Trevor, John Lynch, Alex Fairchild, Cole Cash and Slade Wilson.

Newsarama talked to DC Co-Publishers Jim Lee and DiDio about the cancelations, the four new titles and why DC is sticking to 52 titles.

Newsarama: Dan and Jim, if you're adding four titles, does that mean four titles are going away?

Dan DiDio: We've announced one cancellation already, which is Justice League International, and at this time, we're looking at reviewing the rest of the line. But one of the primary goals is to maintain the number 52 as the number of series that we'll be doing on a continuing basis.

Nrama: Is the number 52 important because of marketing, and the way the term "New 52" has caught on?

DiDio: Yeah, it is. From our standpoint too, the goal was always to constantly refresh the line. When you're in the business of comics, replacing series and canceling series is just part of the business that we do. And it's something that's always been part of the business since comics existed.

But one of the things we try to do in this case is, as the expression goes, throw the baby out with the bath water. So if a series does go away, we want to make sure we have a proper place for the characters, because the idea of just bringing everything to an end or a close so that nobody else can use anything else from there is detrimental to the line and the universe that we're building.

So the primary goal here is, even if a book comes to an end, that there's some aspect of that series that moves forward and still continues on.

That's one of the reasons why, in Zero Month, we're doing DC Universe Presents #0. And in that issue, you'll see a 10-page story featuring the origin of O.M.A.C., you'll see a 10-page story for Mr. Terrific, a 10-page story for Hawk and Dove, and then also a 10-page story for Mother Machine, which is a character that was created in part of the Blackhawks story.

So there we have four series that had ended after eight issues, but still add value to the line, and still are important enough to be part of the Zero Month. We're running four 10-page stories to basically give the chance to re-spotlight some of the characters that had their books canceled early on but still are important to what's going on in the DC Universe.

Jim Lee: We're looking at the New 52 sort of from a TV model, in that every season, or every wave, we'll be putting out new books that interject fresh material and new creative teams into the DCU.

When we decide what books get canceled, it's not just a numbers game. We also look at the diversity of the line, what books are critical in terms of continuity or in terms of some of the backstory or some of the larger story elements we want to build up for the world-building of our characters.

Sometimes some of the fans become overly focused on what books are being canceled, but they're kind of losing sight of what the entire New 52 is supposed to represent, which is a new universe that's continually evolving and growing with exciting storyline.

DiDio: What we are doing constantly is developing products. Right now, and always, we have books in the "hopper," so to speak, always being developed.

We might be developing eight books, and you might have only four slots. But we like to do it that way. We're allowing the books to develop properly, and picking the best series to be able to launch at the right time.

That way, it also keeps the diversity of the line going, and we're always going to have material ready to go in case we need to replace series as we go forward.

Nrama: Walk me through, with each of them, what appealed to you as you decided to refesh the line and decided on these four series in particular.

DiDio: Each one of them serves a very particular purpose for the New 52. First of all, we want to confirm our commitment to diversity and product. And we know that series that fit into the brand of the Edge and the Dark have a little harder fight, because they're not the more recognizable characters. But that doesn't mean we've walked away from that. Quite the opposite. What we're actually doing is embracing it.

We created a new anthology book in the same vein as All-Star Western, which is Sword of Sorcery. The lead character I think is going to excite a lot of people, which is Amethyst, which is the return of that character. We haven't seen her as a major player in the DC Universe for awhile, and now we're bringing her back into the fold. We're also going to have a back-up with Beowulf for that, which is another character that people might recognize from a long time ago at DC. But again, we're showing a commitment to the fantasy aspect of the DC Universe by doing this series.

We're also showing commitment to the horror or darker corners of the DCU with Phantom Stranger. As people saw in his appearances in some of our featured stories over the last year, the character plays a role in what's coming for the DC Universe in the future.

But while we're moving forward with Phantom Stranger, we can switch back and look backwards, and we created Team Seven. It's set in the early stages of seven very recognizable characters' careers in the DC Universe. And it shows who they are, and how they came to be. It also helps fill in a lot of the missing spots in the DCU as we unfold their stories as part of this team.

Plus we're very committed to finding ways to take so many great concepts that existed in WildStorm, and then finding ways to integrate them fully so they're an actual part of the DC Universe and the New 52.

And then lastly, we had so much great success with the "Night of the Owls" storyline, that we picked up a very clear, new character spin-off, which is Talon. And that shows our commitment to showing new ideas, new characters, new stories and something that didn't have a pre-conceived notion that existed before the launch of the New 52. This is a brand new concept, and a brand new series with a brand new character. And I think that's important too, because it shows that we're not just going to keep rehashing old territory, but really start to pave new ground as well.

Nrama: How did you put together the slate of writers and artists that you have on these titles? Was it the people who matched the concepts you already had? Or the people who pitched the ideas?

DiDio: Actually, it's a little bit of all that. We had some conceived ideas of what we wanted these characters to be. We did go out and listen to pitches on these different characters, and we went with the best people who had a real sensibility and a story to be told with them, but understood who the characters were as a whole.

Lee: I think the diversity of writers and artists has been part of our overriding strategy from the start. The New 52 launch was about taking things that people took for granted or decades-old characters and making them feel more contemporary or giving them an exciting dynamic, and also going through the rosters of creators and making sure there were not only veterans but new, fresh voices. And I think a lot of them have broken out. Obviously, Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire are two great examples in that respect. So it made sense to give Scott a chance to work on something like Talon, given the success of that storyline and those new characters.

This mix of voices speaks volumes about what we're trying to do. We don't want to rest on our laurels, but want to continue to challenge the type of material we put out. We're always looking for fresh new voices.

Nrama: One of the people you've tapped is yourself, Dan. Why did you want to get back to writing for this comic in particular?

DiDio: I was a massive fan of the Phantom Stranger when I was in my early days of collecting. I'm still a fan of the character. It's an incredible challenge to write a book like that, because his greatest strength is his greatest weakness. He has this air of mystery about him, and you're not really sure what his motivations are because of the mysteries that circulate the character. Wonderful supporting character in that sense. Very difficult to write as a lead character.

So it was interesting to sit down and figure out what his motivations are. Why does the Phantom Stranger exist in our world? And then ultimately show how he is an integral part of the DC Universe. It was a fun challenge. It was great to be working with Geoff [Johns] on the Free Comic Book Day because it was the perfect place to set up that character.

When we do the Zero book, it actually opens up with the scenes that surround that Free Comic Book Day moment with him, and the launches it out from there.

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