DC’s future full of #1s

DC Comics is resetting all of their comic book lines later this year. Will it be the kick they desperately need or just another fruitless stunt?

DC announced yesterday that 52 of their titles are being relaunched this September, which means that over the course of the month (thirteen a week for four weeks) each title will be resetting to issue #1. This will do a number of things.

First, it serves as a ‘jumping on point’ for each comic line. Often time people who would otherwise be very interested in trying out some comic books see the issue numbers and see that they have far too much catching up to do to really understand the story.

If a comics line has over 600 issues, where does one start, even if they could find all the back issues? If you’ve been wanting to read Batman, seeing Batman #1 on the shelf makes the decision easy.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that all 52 of these titles are being rebooted. We’re not getting 52 new origin stories. Some of them likely will be, but it does mean that each issue will begin with all of its loose ends tied up, so that a new reader won’t get confused by huge floating plotlines.

The writers of the issues will also write with the new readers in mind, making sure that they have the characters explain everything that’s going on to keep the readers in the loop. It might annoy the people who have been loyally reading all along, but it really will make for a good jumping on point for new readers.

Of course, jumping into all of them would cost you well over $200 just for all of the #1s, then that same price again every month to keep reading all the lines, so I don’t think DC will see many readers who jump onto every line.

Second, it provides DC with a massive sales spike for that month.

Precedent tells us that any time a comics line relaunches with a new #1, the sales nearly triple that month. Not all of that is new readers.

Much of it is collectors and comics dealers buying up anything with a #1 on it, since those will often become more valuable later.

This popularity often dips down quite a bit after that first issue, and sometimes return to old readership levels, or lower, after the first five or six new issues, as new readers fail to get hooked, and old readers get disillusioned with the titles after all the hype.

Finally, it allows the writers to redo some of the lore. Comic books are notorious for allowing their canons to shift around like ever-blown sand dunes, but when a title is relaunched it allows writers to make the most drastic changes that they feel are necessary to make the story work for them: Costumes are changed, relationships are rethought, backgrounds are retconed, and some heroes are even completely dropped, as if they had never been.

Relaunching 52 lines all at once though, will allow them to revamp even major crossover lines, things that they couldn’t change in the past because, for example, Green Lantern is part of Batman’s story so changing one has to change the other, or you have to only change things that don’t disturb those around them.

Comics have been suffering the last few years, and DC has seen particularly low sales numbers, with most lines dropping as much as half their readership over the last decade. This might be exactly what DC, and perhaps the industry needs, needs to get it back on its feet, or this may be the swan song of a dying media.