DC Comics has taken the extraordinary step of restarting their entire line of comic books, 52 issues all beginning with #1. Even the venerable Detective Comics, which started in 1935 with #1, has a new #1.
When DC first announced this publishing initiative a few months ago, I--as a comics fan, NOT as someone who works in the comics industry--was skeptical to say the least. All publishers have restarted their "universes" from time to time. Marvel seems to do it every other week with their Ultimate Universe, a sidebar line of comics which was created to lure in new readers when the heavy weight of the regular Marvel Universe got too much for non-followers to even attempt to fathom.
DC has gotten that way in recent years, too, with one Crisis after another. The very first Crisis storyline occured in Justice League of America #s 21 and 22, way back in the sixties, when editor Julius Schwartz--along with writer Gardner Fox and artist Mike Sekowsky--introduced the Earth 1 (then present day) superheroes to their Golden Age counterparts over on Earth 2 (Flash meet Flash! Green Lantern meet Green Lantern!). That was mind-blowing enough for a 7-year-old like me. But over the years, all this continuity--augmented by retro-continuity (that never happened, THIS did)--got so weighty, so burdensome, that it seemed like the entire line of comics would collapse under its own weight. And shouldn't the joy of comics reading simply be good stories with good characters by great writers and artists?
DC announced this new start to a more than skeptical group of fans, a group that has been steadily dwindling in the past few years. As the economy worsened, comics sales sank. And as co-publisher Dan Didio mentioned recently, DC did not want to be selling a 10,000 $20 books to a that small amount of readers. Drastic times called for drastic measures. And boy, is this drastic.
The first issue of "The New 52" debuted last Wednesday, Justice League by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee. As a first chapter of a 6-part series, it was enjoyable. Not great (although the art by Lee, inker Scott Williams and colorist Alex Sinclair is nothing short of spectacular), but serviceable. It's the kind of story one is used to in this day of trade paperbacks; it's just the first chapter of a bigger storyline. I'm more looking forward to the debuts of the other books starting today (ironically, I will be away from a comic book shop all week...oh, the horror of it all!), books like Action Comics (written by Grant Morrison), Detective Comics (written and drawn by Tony Daniel), Batgirl (written by Gail Simone), and Swamp Thing (written by new wunderkind Scott Snyder), to be followed--for the remaining weeks of September and ongoing after that--with numerous other new #1 issues, finally totalling 52 in one month.
So far, The New 52 has brought--or will bring--people back into comics shops. Justice League sold more than 200,000 copies, something very few comics have done in the past 5 years. A handful of the other new titles have sold more than 100,000 copies. Books that haven't even hit the stands yet have gone back to press for second printings, sold out from the distributor (Diamond). The real test, of course, is if people keep coming back week after week, month after month, or if this is just some kind of "I'll give the first issue a try" thing that will be dropped immediately. I know I'm buying 27 out of the gate. Two of my friends are more daring than me and buying all 52 first issues, being democratic and deciding to vote with their wallets for the first round of this Iowa Caucus/Last Comic Standing type of contest. In the meantime, the skeptic in me has disappeared. I--evidently like a lot of people--am excited about The New 52, and especially excited to read these first issues and go to a comics shop each Wednesday. It's nice to feel that way again.