According to DC Entertainment Co-Publisher Dan DiDio, the company's April-launching event Convergence is not a self-contained story, but leaves "every door open" when it concludes — and leads directly into June's expected revamp of the DC line.
Convergence is DC's two-month mega-event that replaces the publisher's entire comic line during April and May. Its story revisits concepts from a wide variety of past DC storylines — including fan-favorite characters eliminated by DC's 2011 reboot. In the story, an alien version of Brainiac has trapped cities from various timelines, and during Convergence, the characters from throughout DC's history are meeting in one big superhero mash-up.
As DiDio describes the story, it's a mix of both the new DCU and the best of the old — something the company is hoping will attract "returning" readers along while exciting the diverse new audience that has embraced the rebooted "New 52" universe.
How diverse is that new audience? And how will Convergence attract them? And what kind of clues can DiDio offer about the company's June line-up? Newsarama talked with DiDio to find out.
Newsarama: Dan, it's been awhile since we talked, and I know you're getting ready for the big move in April. How are things going at DC?
Dan DiDio: Honestly, I've never been more proud of the staff we have than I am at this particular moment, in all my time here at DC. I mean, the level of commitment, excitement, pride, effort is beyond — it's off the tracks right now. And it keeps us inspired to keep moving even faster and harder, and as crazy as we get, we can go a little crazier, because everybody's buying in and fully supportive.
It's actually very heartening, because with everything else going on, that we have going on around us, it was great to see everybody really focus on the line and really try to lift it to even greater heights.
Nrama: Is this excitement about Convergence? Or about what's coming in June?
DiDio: Both! We've got a lot of things wrapping up right now, but we also have a lot of things we're looking toward, really trying to refocus ourselves and bring a new commitment to our line, similar to what we did at the launch of the New 52.
And with Convergence, this is our big celebration. It's a celebration of all the generations of DC characters; it's a celebration of everything that DC represents in terms of character and story. It really touches upon so many keystone moments in DC history and finds a way to bring them all together in a way that's exciting for everyone — long-time readers, returning readers, and brand new readers.
There are so many things here for everybody. If you were ever a DC comics fan, you'll find something in this that you love.
Nrama: OK, so let's talk about how this event came together. How did you guys come up with Convergence?
DiDio: The way this was built was, we brought a number of our writers in together to really help set the structure of Convergence together. And I sat down with the writers from Futures End. And Scott Snyder joined us. Scott Lobdell joined us. And we actually took a lot of input and ideas that really created the infrastructure on how Convergence worked.
That way, we were building off the strengths of things like Futures End, World's End and the Superman: Doomed storyline, and even Multiversity, as it all fed into it.
I want people to understand that this is not just something that's a drop in the center of the line, and everything stops and then starts up again afterwards. It's quite the opposite.
What's going on in the New 52 and the stories right now feed very nicely into the main Convergence storyline.
And it also leads into other things coming out of it as well. So it's integral to what's going on in the DC Universe right now.
And when we brought in writer Jeff King, he had a nice structure to work from, as laid out by those writers, but then he added a level of texture and character that a fresh set of eyes can bring in. As a newcomer, he wants to make sure he's explaining and delivering a story that is accessible to everyone.
So it's not just about the generational characters and long-time fans coming back to see them, but really something that plays to all audiences, including the New 52 audience.
Nrama: When we began to figure out that Convergence would coincide with the anniversary of Crisis, early speculation was that, at the end of it, we might see another Crisis-like rejiggering to continuity. Is that conjecture even close to home?
DiDio: You know what? It's just serendipity this happens to be on the anniversary of Crisis. It wasn't something that was planned. And I know you're trying to get more out of me about June than you are about Convergence, and I always appreciate that.
But without revealing too much about June, let's just say this — whenever you see something that immediately follows a major event, you get a sense of change, or progression, or evolution that I feel is only natural. We're seeing a changing readership. We're seeing more diversity in our audience. We're seeing a younger crowd. We're seeing people really enthusiastic about comics. So what we're trying to do is embrace all our audiences, and to create product that I feel talks to everybody.
A lot of that thought and energy, we're putting into what Convergence is and what might come out of Convergence.
Nrama: It's interesting to hear you say there's a changing, younger crowd. There are a lot of people who think Convergence feels like it's aimed at an older fan.
DiDio: You know, it's interesting you say that, because I used to talk to people at conventions a lot about this. You'd be surprised how many people say they came in [to reading comics] on a major event. "Oh, my first comic I read was Crisis on Infinite Earths;" "first thing I read was Infinite Crisis;" "the first thing I read was Zero Hour."
They look at these events, where all these characters are in there, and they get a sense of a scope of the universe, and then they start to head to the corners of the characters that might interest them.
So with Convergence, we're able to show readers what DC is all about, and my hope is that it's not just talking to the older reader, but really to the young reader too, so they really, truly understand all that DC comics has to offer. And that's our approach. This is a story for even a brand new reader.
Nrama: You also said earlier that there's a "changing" audience. Is that something you've noticed in research you've done? Or deduced from other evidence?
DiDio: We've done some market research that has shown that information to us. We also have a stronger book market than we've ever seen in past years. Books like Watchmen and Killing Joke are as strong as they've ever been, so we believe there are new people coming in, finding it, reading it, and hopefully coming to our other product.
We're also seeing it at conventions. The convention attendance has never been higher, and you see conventions growing in every market right now. It's an exponential growth, and it's a younger crowd.
Nrama: I've seen huge change in convention audiences just over the last 10 years.
DiDio: And there are a lot of first-time attendees there, who are new to the business, new to comics, and it's for us to be able to grab these people and attract them.
And you know, I get a lot of anecdotal information from our writers and artists, especially when you talk to somebody like Jimmy [Palmiotti] and Amanda [Conner], who are commanding these monstrously long lines because of Harley Quinn right now, and it's almost all women. They're even taken aback by that, by this really intense loyalty and love for this character by an audience that includes a lot of women. And we realize that, and we have to really start to gear our product to attract them to more of our books.
So we try to find the trends that are drawing these changing audiences to shows and create product to really build on that interest.
Nrama: Does that mean we'll see titles in June that keep those changing audiences in mind?
DiDio: Quite possibly. We'll have a conversation about that soon. Quite honestly, there are a lot of trends in the marketplace right now that we think are strong for the market, and there are trends in the marketplace right now that we feel are detrimental to the market. And naturally, we want to build on the strengths — the ones that really create a strong foundation for us to grow into the future.
Nrama: Getting back to Convergence — this event has so many pre-Flashpoint characters in it, and I think people are wondering if this is more of a "farewell," or a "remembering," or is it a "rebirth," opening the door for more stories featuring the pre-Flashpoint characters?
DiDio: It's a little bit of all of that. When we launched the New 52, it was a rather harsh ending to the current universe. We did the Flashpoint story, which led us into the New 52, but you never got that sense of closure, like you did with other events.
When you look at things like Crisis on Infinite Earths and Zero Hour, the characters that changed, you saw the character change occur and it sort of brought closure to certain books and characters and stories.
We never did that with the pre-Flashpoint DC Universe. And there are a lot of interesting character beats and stories that we felt were still worth revisiting. So we're telling those stories, but we're also presenting characters in a way that I felt would intrigue fans.
These aren't just leftover stories from pre-Flashpoint. These stories are as if we're joining their lives, later down the line, to see what happened to them.
And then, more importantly, how it fits into the grander scope of things.
And ultimately, you know, we're leaving every door open everywhere. We want to see what the reaction is, where the excitement is… because our goal is to reach as many people as possible. So the more people who get excited about ideas, the more that we'll go back and see whether or not there's this viable option on how to really capture whatever interest they're showing in those characters.
Nrama: I often hear people talk about how they expected, with the New 52, that things would get "simpler" — that continuity would be tighter and there would be only one version of each character. I know you never announced that was part of your plans for the 2011 relaunch, but it was one perception. With Convergence and with so much of what you're doing now on multiple earths – and what Marvel's doing simultaneously — do you think today's audiences are more intrigued by, and are excited by, the idea of a prismatic universe? Where there are many different versions of one character, as we're seeing highlighted in Convergence?
DiDio: I mean, it's funny you say that. Because the reality is, we've always fed that audience. Before Crisis on Infinite Earths, we had multiple worlds, multiple interpretations. We had imaginary stories. We had all these different things that basically allowed us to do multiple interpretations of our characters, under the auspices of continuity.
Then when Crisis happened, we said no more multiverse, but then all of the sudden, lo and behold, "Elseworlds" emerges. And that's where we began to tell all the new stories with alternate characters and alternate storylines and alternate interpretations.
Then after Infinite Crisis, we brought the Multiverse back, and wouldn't you know it, we went back out and showed different worlds.
So I think, just because of creativity, storytelling in the medium that we're in, we're never going to be able to hold it that tight anymore.
I think one of the things we talk about is this need to catalog or number every world. Or understand where they sit next to each other, and that's something that people push for more these days.
But what we do is, if there's an important story to tell with our characters that can't be told in the normal confines of the way people perceive them right now, then we want to be able to give our writers and artists as much freedom as possible to tell those different interpretations. And whether it's an "Elseworlds" or a Multiverse or whatever, we're going to find ways to tell those stories.
We have characters that have existed for dozens of years — for 75 years or more — and what audiences want to see is the true expansiveness, and see those characters true at the core, but see how else you can interpret them to give them different challenges.
And I think the audience is hungry for that. [Next week], you'll see the Multiversity Guidebook. That lays out the entire Multiverse in that Guidebook. And pieces of that and worlds you see in there will play into Convergence.
Nrama: We've seen you talking on Facebook about moving to the West Coast. Can you confirm now that you're making that move, and whether you have any idea how your job might change? Because the insinuation was, when you and Jim [Lee] were appointed "co"-publishers, it was because one of you was on the West Coast, and the other was in New York. Is your job changing?
DiDio: No, it's the same job, different coast. Jim and I have been working side by side even though we're 3,000 miles apart. My ability to work with Jim has been one of the great things that's kept me most enthused about my job in the last four years. I'll be honest with you. I love working with him.
He approaches everything with the same enthusiasm he did when he first started, and he's been in this business a lot longer than I have. I still feel like the new guy, which is funny. But what I love about working with Jim is, as an artist, he sees things differently than I do, and he sees things in a very visual sense. So it opens my mind to more creativity and more things we can do with our characters and line and really present it in a way that, I think, opens up the scope of the product.
When you talk about multiple worlds, multiple visions, when you're talking to an artist, it opens them up and makes them think in a completely different way than somebody else. Jim is one of those people that commands the room just by sheer presence. I just enjoy working with him, and I'm going to look forward to working side by side with him.
Nrama: This year, you had three weeklies at one time. Did that work, and is it part of your plan going forward, this commitment to weeklies?
DiDio: You know, I am a crazy man for weeklies. I've loved them ever since 52. People said we were crazy when we first proposed 52, but we were able to pull it together. We made it work beyond belief. We've done four weeklies after that. Three weeklies running right now. I'm so happy to say, never has a weekly missed a week. We have never missed shipping, with every weekly we've done. Everybody approaches it with a true professionalism, and a different sense to understand what their deadlines are and their responsibilities are.
I think we've succeeded in places; I think we've missed the mark in places. But I think we've got to keep on trying, because we should be as fast as our delivery system. And if we put books out every week, we should find a way to bring people into the stores every week. And a weekly book is the best way to do that.
Nrama: OK, then to finish up, can you just leave fans with a few words about what 2015 looks like for DC Entertainment, with Convergence and whatever comes after?
DiDio: In 2015, it's my hope that, as we bring the generational aspects of the DC Universe together, that we bring the multiple fans in together with Convergence — that there might be fans coming back in because they see something they remember from the past of DC, and we can bring them together with the new people that have really jumped on board and embraced the New 52.
And what we're going to do right now is really make a commitment to our stories and characters, to make sure we present our characters in ways that are consistent to people's beliefs of them, and telling stories that we feel will entertain, excite and surprise them. If that's something we can do, then we win, because we build a foundation from which we can continue to build stories for years to come.