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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Comic Fans: Get Ready For a Whole New Universe

As you guys know, I am proud to call myself a comic book geek.

And in the world of comic book geeks like myself, tomorrow is a big day. So, I hope you’ll forgive me for the non-TV post…

Tomorrow (beginning at midnight in some major cities), DC Comics will launch “The New 52” with the release of “Justice League #1.” Over the next several weeks, DC will release new number ones of all 52 of their titles.

In other words, they’re starting over…

When I first heard about this, I didn’t really like it. I’m not a fan of starting books over—especially ones in the 800s and 900s. And I was a little nervous about the changes to some of the characters, like Superman being single and the once paralyzed Barbara Gordon once again taking up the fight as Batgirl.

But after talking to DC Comics Editor-In-Chief Bob Harras and Executive Editor Eddie Berganza, I feel much better. It makes a lot of sense that if you’re going to reel in new fans, you have to give them a good place to start. And what better place than the beginning?

Harras and Berganza’s enthusiasm about the project is so infectious, I’m now completely psyched to see how this new universe spins out of the “Flashpoint” mini-series, which also concludes tomorrow.

You got a taste of the interview in my story in Monday’s “The Herald Dispatch,” but I wasn’t able to include all the juicy details, so I’m running the entire interview here.

In exchange, I hope you won’t give away the “Flashpoint” ending until after I get my copy on Friday…

Tell me just what is “The New 52.”

Bob Harras

What “The New 52” really is is just a great opportunity for fans and people who are maybe not as involved in comics to come and read about some of the greatest characters in pop culture today—Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern. We’re really just giving you a place to jump on, read about their lives, read about their adventures and get involved in all this fun here we have going on at DC Comics. It’s just a great opportunity and we have writers and artists who have really stepped up and they’re incredibly excited and the product is just—what’s coming out is amazing.

Eddie Berganza

And also since we have all sorts of new platforms to take advantage of, it’s great. It really does a lot for fans who can’t get to a comic store.

Talk a little bit more about those new platforms.


We are the first to do day and date digital release of our product the same day as old line publishing and it will really give the opportunity for people to go on their iPhone or whatever platform they have and really read our product and the story of all our characters. And it’s not…up ‘til now you had to go to a comics shop or you had to get a subscription. Now, it’s really open to everyone to get involved in comics, to get involved in DC and all the great characters. And again, it’s an incredible opportunity. It opens up the opportunity to have a more diverse line. We have horror, we have westerns, we have military. It’s really like a way to give a sampling to everybody about what comics can be.


We’re expanding on everything. We have a vampire book now, we have one set in the Dark Ages. It really is expanding what we’re doing.

What would you say to the fans who are questioning re-starting the books?


The thing is it stays on character. We’re not doing away with any of the characters. Their stories are staying intact. Batgirl, for instance, had an incident with The Joker that’s very important to us. The Green Lantern mythos, the different corps that we’ve introduced, all the different colors, that stays as well. It’s really staying true to what’s all of these characters.


I think people should realize that we are fans as well of these characters and whatever concerns that have been expressed out there is actually I think part of the great things about comics—the passion that everyone has about these characters. I think people are going to be very excited about what we’re doing, but I’m actually kind of, I’m grateful for people challenging us because it just means they care about the characters as much as we do.

So it’s not going to be a complete washout of story?


We took a lot of care looking at the history of these characters and we’ve created a timeline to express what is important in their lives as people, as characters that will still be part and parcel of the ongoing stories. So again, a lot of care, a lot of thought went into this, as well as a lot of excitement.


And it’s individual cases. In certain instances, we had one of these heroes or villains have so much baggage and now we streamlined it so you don’t have to read 60 years of comic history, you can just enjoy it. We’ve compressed everything to a five year gap of time.

Does “The New 52” come right out of “Flashpoint”?


Yes. They’re going to love it. Once they get to issue five and things are explained, they’ll see how it all comes about.


It’s actually a lot of fun.


Geoff [Johns] has done a wonderful job and Andy Kubert has done amazing things. They pretty much created a world so it’s very cool when you see how that plays out. There’s little touches of it when you had the introduction of the Frankenstein character and then you see that Frankenstein character has its own book. You saw Grifter interact with the DC characters for the first time and now that’s going to continue.

So why now?


Why not now in lot of ways. A lot of great things, a lot of fun things just came out of a meeting with writers and artists a while back sometime in 2011 and we just talked about story, we talked about characters. There was no agenda. It was really what excited you about these characters. What attracted you? What stories did you want to tell? And out of that conversation just came this sense of we’ve got these great characters here. What can we do really to celebrate that? And I know it sounds corny but in a lot of ways, this whole “New 52” really came out of that creative conversation which I really think is the best way for these events to happen.


It’s excitement and it’s really so many of the creators are so juiced up and pumped up about this. There’s no way we’re going to let go of this. The energy that’s being brought up. The books are fantastic. We’re all really excited about this.


One of the most gratifying things about this is that you see the artists and writers coming together as teams and really in some ways saying look what I can do. And the other teams going, look what we can do. You sense that excitement across the line.

Are you guys going to be out a comic store at midnight Tuesday night?


Yes I am. I don’t know if Eddie is. I’m planning a late night one night. Definitely am.


I’ll be out there.


It’s what comics are about. Exciting stories, great art and community as well.


These are the characters that inspire movies that people are nuts about. It’s nice to see that we’re going back to the source and the excitement is starting from there.

Some headlines have come out about some of the characters. You mentioned characters with baggage. Were you talking about Superman when you said that?

[Both laugh]


Were we? [laughs] For better or worse we aged him a lot. He sort of became someone’s parent. Between being married and everything else, he started to look a little worn there. So we kind of spruced him up. He’s an amazing character everybody indentifies with. We’re kind of going back to his roots. We couldn’t be happier that Grant Morrison is the one who’s sort of initiating this, which is a story that takes place five years ago the same way Geoff Johns is doing in “Justice League.” And George Perez is coming up and giving us the current time and also everything in between and people start discovering this character for the first time. I mean, see the success we had with “Smallville.” People want to know about this guy.

Bruce Wayne is once again the one true Batman.


The one true Batman, yes. We really spoke with the talent involved—Scott Snyder, Tony Daniel—and we talked to them about what is the core of the character. What attracted them to Batman and we really just sat down and we worked out these storylines and events and what you’re going to see next month, is just really getting to know Bruce Wayne, getting to know Batman and really just exploring his world and how Gotham City impacts him and how he impacts Gotham City in a new and different way. And really both of them, the first issues are amazing, I think, and kind of end on surprising notes. And I think Batman fans are going to be very excited.




All the writers and artists have really stepped up and gotten very excited. I get everyday book maps that show the progress of the book and it shows the art for every issue and I can see just every month, the storytelling and the events and the artists working together. It’s just really nice to see and it’s exactly what comics can be—incredibly great visuals meeting with great stories. I think that’s what we’ve got going on here.

Where do you see the future of comics? Do you see them going completely digital?


I think it’s going to be a mixture of everything, I’ve got to be honest. Personally, I don’t want to give up print. I’m one of those guys who wants to read a book rather than read it on a Kindle. I’m old fashioned. Wherever people are going to be to read and look at material, we want to be there where people are to show them what we’ve got and entertain them. I think the future is very broad, very exciting.


We’re entering a point where I think it’s going to be an evolution on both sides as well with print and where we go digitally as well. I think pretty much we’re kicking it off.


It’s very exciting. It really is. I don’t mean to sound corny, but it’s a lot of fun. It’s a lot of hard work but seeing this material come in, you just go, it’s a great job. And I get to work with Eddy.

When people read “Justice League #1” Wednesday, what are you hoping they’ll say?


I’m hoping they’ll say this is what a super hero comic book can be. You know, the excitement and the energy and this is what comics are. You know, kind of magic on a page.

You guys should bottle your enthusiasm and sell it.


We want that to spread. We really want people to get back in comics…Accessiblity has been important to us. That people don’t have a lot to muddle through. They can just have a fun read.

Photos Credit: DC Comics