LEE & DIDIO On DC's Next REBIRTH Wave, Their 2-Year Story, & the Inevitable DC/WATCHMEN Crossover

Page from 'DC Universe: Rebirth #1'
Credit: DC Comics
Credit: Jason Fabok (DC Comics)

Jim Lee and Dan DiDio are enjoying immense success in their latest act as co-publishers of DC Comics, the phenomenally successful line-wide relaunch “Rebirth.” In a few months, “Rebirth” moves segues into its second wave with the first crossover event of the new DC Universe, Justice League vs. Suicide Squad, and the eventual summer 2017 DC event by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo.

That crossover doesn’t just serve as the first “Rebirth” event – it’s also the next major turning point in the relaunch’s meta-story – a two-year journey to a fully-realized DC Universe, at the end of which, DiDio admits, lies a confrontation with the characters of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’s Watchmen.

Newsarama sat down with Lee and DiDio at New York Comic Con 2016 to discuss what’s next for “Rebirth,” the cyclical nature of comic book relaunches, and exactly what it’s gonna take to bring the DC Universe and the Watchmen characters together.

Newsarama: Dan and Jim, we’re moving into what’s been called “Rebirth” wave 2 with the upcoming Justice League vs. Suicide Squad and the Justice League of America title that’s spinning out of it. In a macro sense, where do you see “Rebirth” in terms of that metastory that started in DC Universe: Rebirth #1? How many acts are there to this story?

Dan DiDio: The meta-story was really laid out as a two-year epic, to be told over a two-year period of time. That felt like the right amount of time to really bring the universe together and get that connectivity. And that’s something we’re really gonna build as we go forward. The Justice League vs. Suicide Squad crossover event is really the first time we’re gonna see characters from what we call different lines really interacting in a way that shows the depth and breadth of the DC Universe.

Credit: DC Comics

It’s a good story to launch that, because the Justice League and the Suicide Squad are such polar opposites. But then, in their battle, there are other things that are revealed that feed into things going forward. That’s why, when we decided to do Justice League vs. Suicide Squad, we delayed launching Justice League of America, because it seemed like a natural fit to have a second Justice League title launch out of an event where the League is front and center.

Nrama: Speaking of that meta-story, once it’s all been told and that two-year arc is done, do you think that will have laid the groundwork for sustainable success for the DC Universe, or are we looking at a future where these universe-redefining events become the norm?

DiDio: It already is the norm. Listen, I’ve been with DC now 15 years, almost 16 years. When I first got here, we had to redefine the universe. That’s where Green Lantern: Rebirth, and the relaunch of Teen Titans and Infinite Crisis occurred. Then we did a restart again with the "New 52." Because you’re telling story on top of story, and sometimes you have to clean house.

True story told, I actually sat down with Julie Schwartz when I first got here – he was still coming in about once a week, and I had a chance to sit down with him for about three or four hours. And he literally said to me, “Every ten years or so, the universe needs an enema.” Meaning that so much story gets built up you have to clean it out and start again. That’s true, he really said that.

Jim Lee: [laughs] I never heard that. I love that!

DiDio: And I always held true to that expression. What you’ve seen though is that, with so much media, and so much attention, and so much noise out there, that process has accelerated. It’s not so much that we’re doing more relaunches or restarts, it’s that the time between them is compressed because there’s so much out there begging for attention that we always have to find ways to one up each other and bring attention back to our line again. The last thing we want to do is take our audience for granted. In a world where there’s so much media and so much content out there, so we always have to stay relevant. And the only way we can do that is constantly finding ways to one up each other.

Credit: Phil Jimenez (DC Comics)

Nrama: This second wave of "Rebirth," is this where we could see the return of the JSA or the Legion of Super-Heroes? These classic DC properties that didn’t get a spotlight in “Rebirth”?

Lee: Geoff Johns certainly laid the groundwork for those things in DC Universe: Rebirth #1, through a large, epic storyline. And I think behind the scenes, we’ve given ourselves that two-year window to tell the story. So I think you’re gonna see things slowly teased out through stories like Justice League vs. Suicide Squad, but those characters aren’t part of wave 2. Wave 2 is Batwoman, Super Sons, and Justice League of America. We actually pared down that list from an initial launch list, because we realized with the success of “Rebirth” that we actually have time to add to the line, and make sure we don’t dilute the line, and the brand awareness, and the good will we’ve generated from “Rebirth.”

And as with all things, you want the right creative team in place. I think, when we talk about bringing the generational aspect back to the universe, clearly that means we’re gonna be talking about those titles that you just mentioned, those characters you just mentioned, but that also means they have to fit into the bigger storyline that we’re weaving, and also give the the right creative teams to give them their best chance at success.

Nrama: I want to dial in on a couple specifics of that meta-story that we mentioned, that two-year arc. There’s a story that started in DC Universe: Rebirth #1 that’s extended into “Rebirth,” some of which you’ve made clear will come to a head in Justice League vs. Suicide Squad, involving certain characters that have been taken off the board recently - Tim Drake, Ray Palmer, Captain Boomerang - that were all central characters in a story that came out about ten years ago…

DiDio: [laughs] I see where you’re going with this. It’s more coincidence than anything else. I know exactly where you’re going with this. It’s more just coincidence than anything tied to Identity Crisis. Those three stories were independent of each other. The Tim Drake story was created for the Bat-titles that was weaved into the over-arching story. The Atom story is gonna play out in Justice League of America, I think that’s the first arc.

Lee: And Captain Boomerang is resolved in Suicide Squad.

Credit: DC Comics

Nrama: At the risk of being told too "wait and see," I want to finish up by asking you both about the elephant in the room in “Rebirth,” which is the presence of the Watchmen characters in the DC Universe. Tom King said the first indications of what would happen with the Watchmen characters would be seen in Batman #9. Is a direct confrontation with the Watchmen characters on the horizon?

DiDio: There’s a lot of story to be told. You’ll see some of that. There’s a lot of wondering what that button Batman found in DC Universe: Rebirth #1 means, what it is, where it came from, what it stands for. So you’ll see some of that occurring pretty soon. That’s a long road.

When you have something like Watchmen waiting for you, you want to make sure you take all the proper time and it up properly, and give it the level of respect it deserves. And for us, we want to make sure that this is something we do properly, because when it happens, it has to be spectacular. There’s a lot to be done to make sure that story is as big and powerful as it should be.

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