The recent announcement that DC's Rebirth event would bring back "the best of DC's past" signaled the end of the "New 52."
Love it or hate it, DC's "New 52" initiative was an attention-getter for the company at a time when even company executives admitted the industry needed a "shot in the arm." The changes brought about by the "New 52" of 2011 were drastic. Not only was DC discarding its decades-long numbering system and launching newer, younger versions of its superheroes, but the company was releasing its digital versions of comic books the same day it released print.
So as we get ready to sound the death knell for the "New 52," Newsarama took a moment to look back at the timeline of the nearly five-year era — the multiple waves of new titles, the group launches along the way, and the significant changes and shifts that made the New 52 what it is… er… was.
September Heard Throughout the Industry
On the final day of August, DC's entire timeline was reset, thanks to some in-story time-traveling and a few other supernatural factors from Flashpoint. What resulted was a reboot of DC's most popular franchises.
All of DC's titles started over at #1, launching exactly 52 new ongoing series, from high-profile titles like Grant Morrison and Rags Morales' bully-fighting Superman in Action Comics #1 and Geoff Johns and Jim Lee's reboot of the Justice League, to brand new chances for lesser-seen titles like Static Shock and I, Vampire.
All the titles were divided into "families," or categories, when they were first launched, as DC seemed anxious to diversify its line -- mirroring somewhat, how they were divided internally to editors. There were groupings for the Justice League books, the Batman books, and the Superman books. There was also a group known as "Green Lantern," since the franchise had become so successful since its Geoff Johns-led rebirth in 2005.
But the other three groups were perhaps a little less expected — "Young Justice" for DC teen heroes; "The Edge" for books that have more of a gritty feel to them; and "The Dark," which usually deals with the supernatural.
DC heavily advertised the relaunch, and the print sales success was significant; along with adding to the digital audience, DC's decision to make all #1 issues returnable encouraged retailers to order heavily. Ten "New 52" titles exceeded 100,000 in September, and some even doubled that.
Some of the launches remained in high numbers for a while — particularly those about the Trinity, from the acclaimed Wonder Woman title to the still-best-selling Batman. But others didn't take as well. A series of creator shifts at DC didn't help, with a few even bad-mouthing the company's approach to its relaunch as they left.
By May 2012, DC had canceled six titles, but they would be replaced by six new titles as part of what the company called the "Second Wave." The new list appeared to be along the same lines as the first launch. Among the comic books were expected best-sellers like Batman Incorporated and unusual comic books like Dial H and G.I. Combat.
The Second Wave was also the launch of DC's focus on characters from a secondary earth, with Earth 2 and Worlds' Finest both featuring the Multiverse.
It became clear that DC was not just trying to simplify its universe, but was instead interested in diversifying its line, diversifying its worlds, and, assumedly, diversifying its readership.
Although DC initially shied away from major crossovers and events, the month of September each year was reserved for sales-boosting, themed events that crossed the entire line. In 2012, "Zero Month" told pre-"New 52" stories about the rebooted universe with a series of #0 issues. In 2013, DC featured "Villains Month," as Johns launched a new mini-series titled Forever Evil. And in 2014, the entire line tied into the Futures End weekly by jumping ahead five years.
By 2013, as the "New 52" was into its third year, the focus of the line-up started to shift. DC quietly stopped featuring its "families" in its solicitations. The "Young Justice" titles dwindled down to having only one ongoing left (Teen Titans), and many of the "Edge" and "Dark" books that launched in 2011 didn't fare well, and most of the more quirky titles went by the wayside.
Instead, DC started to beef up its better-known characters — namely, Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. When DC rebooted its universe in 2011, the Superman and Batman families combined for 15 titles. By February 2014, just over two years later, Superman and Batman — or members of their "family" — combined for 23 titles.
In spring 2014, DC kicked off two weeklies that ran at the same time: The New 52: Futures End and Batman Eternal. Releasing two concurrent, long-running weekly series at the same time was a new strategy for DC, and it became even more unprecedented when the company added a third weekly series in October 2014, the six-month-long Earth 2: World's End.
While Eternal and Futures End experienced sales success — and the former spawned a sequel that's running currently, Batman and Robin Eternal — the third weekly didn't do quite as well.
But weekly seemed to be a new direction at DC, and it's one that has been maintained in various forms ever since. Even when the company hasn't been running an official weekly, there have consistently been weekly, crossover storylines like "Truth" in the Superman books and Robin War in some of the Bat-books.
The "New 52" had evolved from a diverse line-up of titles to a series of connected books that all exist within a universe dominated by Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman, and a few other Justice League characters.
That said, there have been moves toward diversifying the DC line, but those changes have been made in a completely different manner than what was done during the "New 52" relaunch.
In September 2011, the attempt at variety was made through different titles — some about young people, one about vampires, another about cowboys, etcetera.
This time around, beginning in October 2014, the diversity was in the art and the approach. With titles like Batgirl, Gotham Academy and a mobster-focused Catwoman, the diversification was happening within the Batman universe.
And with the success of Harley Quinn, a book that was filled with — dare we say it? — humor, it looked like DC was taking its diversification in a whole new direction.
By June 2015, DC appeared to be expanding the "variety" approach to other areas. Not only did they introduce a new line-up of titles that seemed to reach out to new audiences — with Bat-Mite, Prez, We Are Robin and Black Canary — but they also announced that the company would be less beholden to continuity itself.
After April and May's Convergence event pretty much shattered the meaning of the word "52" (with the Multiverse becoming infinite again), DC started to back away from the "New 52" moniker, changing it to "DCYou," and introduced a new slate of #1 issues, many of which weren't set in the same universe as the others.
The "New 52" might not technically exist after June's Rebirth, but it's likely we haven't seen the last of its stories and characters. From what DC has been implying in promotions for Rebirth, the "New 52" will be streamlined to the same type of characters that mainstream audiences are seeing in TV and movies— not dumping all of the "New 52" continuity necessarily, but instead taking those things that made sense (both before and during the "New 52"), then heightening them in a new, fresh start.