Tuesday, 31 May 2011

The New DC Explosion ...


 ... let's hope it's more successful than the last one. In the Seventies, DC Comics published a slew of new titles, with more pages, over several months in a bid to gain back ground from Marvel. But early sales weren't great, wobbly executives cancelled many of the new titles and a few old ones, and the period of retrenchment became known as the DC Implosion.

This summer, DC are going one better. Here's today's announcement from the company.

This year, change is in the air at DC Comics.

On Wednesday, August 31st, DC Comics will launch a historic renumbering of the entire DC Universe line of comic books with 52 first issues, including the release of JUSTICE LEAGUE by NEW YORK TIMES bestselling writer and DC Entertainment Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns and bestselling artist and DC Comics Co-Publisher Jim Lee. The publication of JUSTICE LEAGUE issue 1 will launch day-and-date digital publishing for all these ongoing titles, making DC Comics the first of the two major American publishers to release all of its superhero comic book titles digitally the same day as in print.

DC Comics will only publish two comic books on August 31st: the final issue of this summer’s comic book mini-series FLASHPOINT and the first issue of JUSTICE LEAGUE by Johns and Lee, two of the most distinguished and popular contemporary comic book creators, who will be collaborating for the first time. Together they will offer a contemporary take on the origin of the comic book industry’s premier superhero team.

In the hours, days and weeks to come, we’ll have more news about the other titles. Tomorrow, we’ll hear from Co-Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee about this momentous occasion. Keep checking THE SOURCE for updates about the other first issues.

This year, make history with us.

52 new number 1s? Yes, 52 is the number of worlds in DC's current multiverse, but do they have to fetishise the number to the extent of making it the foundation of a publishing plan? Relaunching the entire line is a bold move, but more than four dozen titles competing for our DC spend?

The optimist in me, though, looks at the number and sees it as a sign that DC will diversify, moving away from a line bloated with superhero books to one embracing the genres of its past. Currently, Jonah Hex represents the once hugely popular Western line; perhaps he won't be lonely much longer. I'd be delighted to see other non-superhero books show up. Fantasy comics such as Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld. Horror titles like Night Force. Sgt Rock heading up a war line. Sugar & Spike bringing back kid humour. Cop book Gotham Central, And so on. I don't doubt that superheroes will form the backbone of the imprint, but surely DC isn't going to give us 52 of them?

I can't say I'm enthusiastic about longstanding titles such as Wonder Woman, Superman and Flash going back to number one, again. And the sentimentalist in me is appalled at the prospect of such never-rebooted comics as Action (just passed #900), Detective and Batman having their serial numbers wiped back to #1. I don't believe for a minute it'll last - it'll be the usual pattern of short-term blip followed by falling sales and a return to 'legacy' numbers. Five years, tops. But before that, seriously impressive numbers will have been thrown away.

And I don't relish the prospect of seeing seasoned heroes reintroduced as naive tyros, their old continuities slowly returning, as happened with Superman and Wonder Woman after the Crisis on Infinite Earths. I'd far rather the top creative teams we're expecting (Geoff Johns and Jim Lee on Justice League a cert, Grant Morrison and Phil Jimenez on Wonder Woman, rumoured) were told to institute whatever new approach they wish, within the confines of existing continuities. If creators prefer to present heroes as a tad younger - as the singular unimpressive promotional art DC presented with today's announcement, posted above, indicates - fine, just don't throw out the baby and take a decade to replace the bathwater. I don't care what great new angle Writer A may have on Mr Mxyzptlk, I can't see it needing a whole new continuity to work in.

The idea of yet another Legion of Super-Heroes restart has me pulling a face Chameleon Boy could never match. It's been stopped and started about four times in the last few decades but with the great Paul Levitz at the writing helm, joined by a slew of fine young artists, the current book's the best Legion we've had in years. With luck it'll get a new number #1 but be left in its own continuity - the 31st century is a long way from the new DC Earth promised after the current Flashpoint crossover concludes, let's keep it that way.

am pleased to hear that DC is diving into the area of day-and-date digital publishing. A lot of people have been asking for this, and it can only help sales. So long as the physical books remain, I'll be happy. And while I'm no fan of reading comics on screen - I work at a computer all day and my eyes need a break when I get home - I can see myself dipping into things I know I'd like to read, but not necessarily store.

There's no denying I'm intrigued and look forward to hearing more details of what DC has up its sleeve. It could be that come September, I'll be treating post-Flashpoint DC as a perfect jumping-off point ... DC obviously wants younger readers, hence the line-wide Botox Explosion, and it could be the books will be so hip it hurts. But there's a chance that the invigorated DC Universe will thrill me, especially if the creators are energised and the variety of material increases.

One thing's for certain - with today's announcement, DC has staked a claim to be the most forward-looking comics company, the one looking to the future.There's a confidence that may translate to excitement among fans, better long-term sales and a healthier market.

Just leave my Legion alone!

44 comments:

  1. What a day for news, eh? Imagine if the internet had been around when the first Crisis was announced....

    I'm pleased to see DC making such a bold move, and yes, I'm intrigued, though I'm not sure I'm their intended audience at this juncture. When I was a lad, I liked my heroes older; Supes, Bats and Wondy were in their early thirties, and it felt right. Now I'm fast approaching 50, I'm not sure I want to read about heroes in their late teens/early 20s.

    The move to day and date digital is a bust for me, for much the same reasons you stated - but also I don't believe the way comics are designed today make for easy reading on screen. And I don't think they'll have letter pages, do you? The return of letter pages to DC Comics has been an absolute delight....I hope print comics and letter pages stick around until I'm too crumbly to care, but I'm not too optimistic.

    Anyway, I've been indulging my love of old Marvel comics at mightyworldofbronzeage.blogspot.comsince I stopped buying Nu Marvel, so I could always do the same for DC.

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  2. Thanks for the comments, Terence. Yes, I fear we may be old and unwanted ... well, unwanted in the sense of being seen as DC's customers - I've no doubt they still want our money.

    Have you seen Bob Wayne's letter to retailers, printed at Bleeding Cool?

    http://www.bleedingcool.com/forums/showthread.php?t=43291

    This bit has me weeping: ' ... many updated and designed by artist Jim Lee ...'

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  3. PS, Thanks for the blog link, love yer Bronze Age page!

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  4. Yes, read the letter - now I'm waiting to hear retailer response - and I am gnashing my teeth waiting for the expected Marvel snipe; they'll probably announce a digital only Nu Avengers title by Bendis for $10.99.

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  5. I expect childish snarkiness from Marvel. Dunno why ...

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  6. Interesting comparison to the DC Implosion of the 70s. Didn't really think of a repeat as a possibility until you mentioned it.
    I echo your views about leaving the Legion alone, we've seen more than our fair share of reboots, but at least I know I will probably stick with the title no matter what happens.

    I find the idea of a universe wide reboot really interesting. I'm old enough to remember when it was supposed to happen last time, after Crisis on Infinite Earths, and as a kid I definitely lapped up the Byrne Superman and Perez Wonder Woman revamps (the latter remains one of my all-time favourite comics to this day).

    While I understand comics has become a bit of an old man's game, at least the super-hero genre anyway, I think its a good idea to try and draw in new, younger readers. Personally I don't feel excluded reading titles featuring teenagers and heroes in their twenties. But I've grown up on New Teen Titans, New Mutants, New Warriors, etc. I doubt even Batman and Superman are supposed to be as old as I am thesedays.

    Finally I'd also like to see a diversification of titles from DC. I really got into comics at a time when you could buy Jonah Hex, Amethyst: Princess of Gemworld, Arak: Son of Thunder, GI Combat, Weird War Tales, Unexpected, etc. and it would be interesting to see if the market could support such diverse titles today.
    But if anything, this is telling me that the comics indstry is cyclical. We've seen revamps and reboots before, and in a few years time I'd be very surprised if new writers weren't bringing back the discarded concepts and characters that they read as kids in the same way the likes of Johns and Bendis have done and are doing today.

    Personally I'm looking forward to that New Blood revamp.

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  7. Thanks so much for the comments, Mr_Oddly. Sounds like your golden period was the same as mine ... DC in the early Eighties knocked Marvel for a six when it came to new concepts and formats.

    I suppose the return of 'Mazing Man is too much to hope for ...

    I'm also OK with reading about younger heroes, so long as youth doesn't equal callow and cocky, as is often the case in comics. We need a new Bob Haney to give us some hip teen slang for the 21st century!

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  8. Well...bad news all around, or unfortunate at least. I agree with everything Terence said; the LSH for me was uncomfortable reading in the 90s with its reboot to a younger Legion as i was skittering madly towards forty at the time and i just couldnt relate to this young LSH after years of reading them from scratch...
    not another reboot, for Brandes sake; weve only just got our 'real' Legion back...
    I cannot BEAR the idea of a universe-wide reboot with younger DC heroes. The idea simply appalls me; have they no regard for older readers? After all the trouble fans went to to get WW back to 600 they now go back to 1. And the prospect, the very prospect of Action and Detective losing their historic numbering and going back to 1...
    Christ, thats it. Official...DC are crazy.

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  9. I am SO disappointed by this news, but I imagine DC Comics fans in the late '80s felt the same way 20 years ago. I was just beginning to learn to read as Crisis On Infinite Earths hit, so the impact didn't resonate with me. I'm trying to keeping an open mind, but nonetheless --

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  10. I was around during CoIE, un_taco and actually I found it really exciting. Finally you didn't know where the stories were going, the Charlton heroes arrived - there was a real excitement. Since then, it's become a tad same old, same old, sadly. I'm sure today's younger fans are a lot more jaded than oldies such as me, Terence, Mr_Oddly and Karl were when 'our' worlds fell apart.

    Karl, you may be right. I suppose there's a possibility of 'good crazy'. Really, though, I don't want DC books to change for the sake of it. For example, I don't wish the relationships in the Batman books to go away, or Superman and Lois to be unmarried. The first is an example of change that works, the second of change that could work if DC stopped shying away from showing Lois and Clark as a fun, married couple

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  11. Ive bben reading comics since FF 93 [ yes, that long ago, dont think about what year it was ] and I embrace change. COIE was the shake-up DC badly needed and after initial reservations I warmed to Superman and Spider-Man marrying their respective girlfriends. Some change is throwing the proverbial baby out with the bathwater tho...Spideys 'one more day' insulted loyal fans and the current FF us cold and remote to fans like myself who remember its homely style and humor. Lets not even start on my beloved WW and how its changed completely out of all recognition...
    just hope the following occurs;
    1] the numbering returns within a year or so
    2] the retro-aging of the heroes to young versions turns out not to be true
    oh and thanks Martin for that 'oldie' crack[!]. Im eternally young like the Amazons on Themyscira, Ill thank you!

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  12. This whole thing has left me heartbroken, quite honestly.

    I've collected comics since around '94 (and ONLY DC comics) when Kyle Rayner became Green Lantern.

    I have stuck with DC through it all. I'm now 29 and spend upwards to $120 a month on DC related titles and this will most likely change it all as there are so many things about this relaunch that make me sick. I'm open minded to a point but there's almost too much here to digest.

    I look at it as 15 years of stories that I have invested in as gone. All the time I've spent figuring out how everything goes together was all for naught.

    All the costumes, none of which really need them, have been redesigned.

    Superman, my favorite character of all, looks about 16 and is now apparently the Eradicator full time without the glasses. The redesign of his costume almost single handily makes me want to push myself away from the world of comics. I know that sounds a bit hyperbolic and it probably is, to a degree but when you revamp this much and throw away this much you just, as a reader and consumer, feel defeated.

    Why do they feel so strongly that they don't want me as a reader? Is there not a better way to tap into a younger market? Because, to me, this announcement says "Hey, thanks for supporting us all these years but you aren't the market we want anymore. Go #(%& yourself". Thanks DC, appreciate the sentiment.

    Not that it matters but I have DC statues, I have action figures... I'm a true DC comics fan. And just like that, I'm most likely gone.

    I've thought about this for the last week, when it was rumored that this was going to happen and even discussed with my wife the possibility of my leaving comic book collecting if this was to happen.

    A lot of you reading this are probably like "OH, get over it. You're still going to read comics. This is going to be nothing." To that, I say, really? I'm so conflicted right now it isn't even funny. And this coming from a guy who before he got married made sure that his wife understood that he was going to never stop collecting comic books. I hope that you're right and I do want to continue collecting comic books but for me. Well... I don't. I'm not really jazzed on comic book Wednesday coming up (as I get my comics shipped to me once a month when Previews hits as I live in a remote area with no comic store). I'm just morose. I'm sad. And hell, I'm pretty much feeling defeated.

    Why not just launch an ultimate style line for young people?

    Hope you enjoyed the rambles...

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  13. Ah, so that was you next to me on the Purple Ray gurney, Karl ...

    I miss a homely FF too. The family, Agatha Harkness, Wyatt Wingfoot, visits from Lockjaw, Joe Sinnott inks ...

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  14. Is this the way Coke fans felt with the introduction of New Coke?

    I am cautiously optimistic. What other option do I have? I haven't been enchanted with comics of late, maybe this is the time for my exit too?

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  15. J-Man, your response is understandable. The thought of an Ultimate DC Universe being the only one available makes me unhappy. But I'm going to hang on and see what the first month brings. This could all wind up being hype and cosmetics, with the regular versions of characters reasserting themselves quickly.

    Meantime, I suggest copying your post here to DC. Let them know how you feel. You may not feel it right now, but as a regular customer, you're important.

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  16. I should have added Martin that I'm going to give the first issues a try also. I mean, honestly, if I'm as big of a fan as I say I am, how can I not?

    It's just that they are going to be highly scrutinized and they better be the best damn comics I've read in 15 years.

    That said, I'll still keep up to date reading the reviews here!

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  17. Unless we wind up walking into the sunset together! Hee. Thanks for the encouragement, I really appreciate it.

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  18. Love it! Love that Diana is blue, red and silver now. It distinguishes her from Supes more. Glad it is Cyborg and not J'onn. Overall, somewhat excited for the changes.

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  19. Sorry to say, but I'm not holding out much hope for this. To me, this is a gimmick being used to simply throw some "flash" out there (pardon the pun), get the attention of supposedly new readers, and in a few months, things will go right back to status quo, books will be back to their normal numbering, and a year from now, the whole thing will be forgotten.

    I do realize that the comic companies need to do things to increase sales - comic sales are nowhere what they used to be. And maybe it's just me here, but instead of one cross-over leading into the next leading into the next, and instead of throwing out new #1s every few months and re-launching books on a fairly regular basis, and trying to pull in "name" writers and artists who can't seem to stick with a book to complete their story or can't get their work done in a timely fashion, wouldn't it be most feasible to find writers and artists who are capable of telling well-written, well-drawn stories that stand on their own? To me, that would cause the "word of mouth" publicity that, in the long run, would sell more books. For me, these type of stunts are nothing more than short-term fixes that fizzle out relatively quick.

    Now, that being said, it would be truly interesting it DC did reboot all of their books AND STICK WITH IT. Don't go back to the original numbering, don't go back to what used to be. Yes, I might be ticked that some of the comics I like and stories I like are no longer running - but a major change like this that has TRUE long-lasting repercussions would definitely whet my reading appetite.

    And with 52 new #1s coming out - would it be that each book were set on a different earth (since DC has its 52 earths now). That would even be MORE tantalizing to my taste.

    But before I pass ultimate judgment, I'll wait until the books come out and we'll see what happens.

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  20. I'd like Cyborg AND J'onn! And Vixen, Vibe, Zee, Hawkman, Ryan Choi Atom ... just good characters, and if they happen to up the diversity, all the better.

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  21. Todd, I may have your second par tattooed on my chest. I agree with every word.

    I was just wondering about the worlds business, too. What if there's a tie-in to Grant Morrison's Multiversity project, such that a few different worlds DO come into play. I can't see one world per book, but certainly an Earth 1-type world, an Earth 2 with the JSA either in the past or the now, a Shazam Earth, a Charlton Earth, Milestone Earth and so on ... give every group of characters a chance to shine.

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  22. Maybe just a starter team for about a year, then it will get a little adjustment, then I imagine a few more will join in.

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  23. I'm hoping for the best, but apprehensive, of course.

    The best will be where it always is, though -- in the underappreciated, underselling corners of the DCU -- the Secret Sixes, the Jonah Hexes, the Legions and the Xombies. Or whatever idiosyncratic books replace them.

    There *will* be good stuff in all this. We just don't know what it is, yet.

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  24. I think it would be a blast. I would love to see the Justice League be the must-read DC title where everything cools happens. I would love to have a writer of John’s caliber and Lee's skill on the book. They just have a HUGE SKEPTICISM GAP to cross. Please prove me wrong.

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  25. I'm right there with you guys. I want to be all in, these creative teams sound good. But a reboot? I dunno if I can make it through that. I'm too invested in my 70 longboxes that I've spent 25 years reading!

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  26. Wouldn't it be rather in-keeping if Booster Gold kept its current numbering? 52 number ones and one series on #47 or whatever it is...

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  27. Is that a gun Hal is creating with his ring, or is he just really happy to be rebooted?

    I don`t really understand where they are going with this, marketing-wise. Twilight fans? Manga fans? Will they put on every newstand a banner that reads: "DC Comics are only for kids again!"?

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  28. So much to process. I am also a child of COIE and I don't mind reboots when necessary.

    This is the 3rd reboot in 16 years? Do we really need it?

    I just want good stories. That's it. If this reboot gets me that, I'm happy. But if it is a gimmick, a last ditch effort for relevance, it'll leave me jaded.

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  29. Oh, is that Wonder Woman? In silver instead of gold, no eagle, no tiara, and her bodice barely covering the tips of her breasts?

    DC not only doesn't want the older fans (what's wrong with appeasing older fans while making the material available to new, young readers?), it is clear to me that they really, truly don't want female readers.

    Power Girl is so-so, but her appearances in team books are not enough to get me to buy those books. And Wonder Woman hasn't been in print since issue #600. DC's handling of the character purporting to be her is heinous and a bizarro version, completely opposite to what she should be.

    So perhaps 2012 will be the year I finally give up this crazy hobby of mine. It'll give me time to finish my post-Crisis WW index as well as others, and that'll be great. I'll be able to concentrate on much more important things.

    I'll give the new line a chance (probably digitally, if the prices are reasonable), but to judge from the direction the company has taken since just before Identity Crisis or whatever it was that spawned all the modern crises, I don't want to read such dreck.

    (And I gave up on the Legion a handful of reboots ago.)

    I remember when reading comics could be a wonderful adventure, full of heroes I could admire and be awed by. Siiigh.

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  30. I'm hoping there'll be enough good stuff to make up for what we lose, Rob. Cos I don't doubt there's going to be a fair amount of frustration - some things that happened in current continuities will still have happened, opening the door immediately for years of confusion as to what's canon.

    Home Inspector Expert, I hope DC surprises us with infinite goodness too. I'm a regular Nellie Forbush.

    Timbotron, glad to see you're also down with the half-full glass - top it up DC!

    KlownKrust, excellent, clever notion. So it won't happen.

    Nataniel, superb gags! I'm very jealous!

    Anj, nope, we don't need another reboot, but new versions of the characters mean Geoff Johns can kill everyone again, for the first time.

    Carol, I singled out the Legion because I enjoy the current stories a lot. Wonder Woman, DC has already messed up so much that another reboot has me headscratching, rather than angry. I hope for something good, I expect little. An interesting scenario is that Grant Morrison does take charge and institutes an 'everything happened' rule as he did with Batman - if DC won't make Diana work as a superhero in conventionally conceived adventures, I say bring on the madness. Who knows, we may get closer to the Marston/Peter original that was actually, you know, popular.

    Please god, that Jim Lee illo is pure puff pap ... that costume's even worse than the one he designed for the JMS run. Star-spangled shorts, tiara and an eagle top, that's what Diana needs, and if Grant Morrison and Phil Jimenez are on board, I trust that's what we'll get.

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  31. The more I think about it,the more I'm coming around on the reboot idea. There are a ton of characters that would benefit from a clean state and a return to status quo. Wonder Woman, the Shazam family, Question, Donna Troy, Spectre, it would help them all. I'm sure there's more, too.

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  32. I agree with Timbotron and the Marvel family was my first thought when I heard there will some new directions.

    I saw someone suggested elsewhere that the reason J'onn is not in the new JLA is that he will be in the JLI. I don't really think many of the books need big changes. Obviously it is a bit of a shocker that JT Krul is off Titans so soon. But with Gail being off BoP, I'm hoping Marc Andreyko is the replacement.

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  33. The rebooting to #1 thing is just a gimmick and by far the least interesting thing about this announcement (does anyone really think they're going to miss Action Comics #1000 in a few years?).

    The real deal here is the move to digital. It all depends on price, of course, but if they get it right, and it proves wildy popular, it could signal the end of pamphlets (and a knock-on farewell to comic shops as we know them). A future with a concentration on digital editions and semi-annual print collections beckons. It's a bold, possibly even brave, move.

    But, it's not for me. After 40 years I'm giving up. There's a whole history of back issues I want to read, and that's where I'm going to spend my time and my money.

    The future belongs to the young, and they're welcome to it. Welcome to the world of comics, kids -- you're gonna love it!

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  34. I echo everybody's comments about leaving the Legion alone. I gave up reading it during one of the previous reboots and could easily decide to give up on the comic again.

    And talking of the Legion, where's your review of the latest ish of the Legion?

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  35. It gets better...in this new reality, Supes and Lois were never married, so we can blithely throw 15 years of continuity away, never mind[!]. And lets put him together with...Wonder Woman! And to spare our comic-book blushes, all of DCs heroines will be wearing long pants.
    Three reboots in as much as 16-17 years. And to make sure DC dont lose their revenue from longterm fans who may dump their books, we can read them digitally, for a third of the cost. That is of course until they realise most readers want actual comics they can hold and feel, not glance at on a screen.
    Ill never give up my comics, but honestly dont know how Ill cope with whats in store.

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  36. I do think the Legion is fairly safe, considering Geoff Johns spearheaded their proper return and this seems to be shaping up to be Geoff Johns' DC Comics.

    I am considerably worried about Wonder Woman.. didn't the man say he didn't like or 'get' the character? And hasn't she been the uber-bitch-warrior in almost everything he's worked her into? I'm not too big on the beheaded Mera image at all.

    I'm willing to check it out, but I am leaning towards this being my final few months with DC. Eddie Campbell and the Hernandez Bros. can have my cash.
    c.

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  37. Did you catch the announcement today of the WW creative team, ch?

    http://www.bleedingcool.com/2011/06/02/ten-issue-ones-announced-for-dc-relaunch/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+BleedingCool+%28Bleeding+Cool+Comic+News+%26+Rumors%29&utm_content=Google+UK

    Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang. WW with a bloody sword. I feel a post coming on ...

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  38. Let 'er rip, Martin! Just saw it myself. But it also made my suspicions about the whole thing raise about a mile. Age of Flashpoint. The best sellers stay and the ones that flop are suddenly 'mini series and always planned that way'.

    Xena still hasn't gone out of fashion with the DC fanboys up in those offices.... sigh.

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  39. I love the subtle star design on Diana's costume. Gail Simone doing Firestorm? With interesting costume designs between Jason and Ronnie? I might have to pick that up. Mr. Terrific might be interesting too. I like the team picks for JLI except I don't know who that one fellow with the staff is. Glad to see Guy on the team along with Vixen!

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  40. And the latest...
    Oracle is no more. Barbara Gordon is set to become Batgirl again; previous continuity all wiped out. Even Birds of Prey will be different without her.

    INSANE! JUST INSANE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  41. Cheers for the thoughts, Todd, mine are in a big, separate post, as threatened. The new Firestorms look interesting, but you still can't beat the original!

    Oh crivvens Karl, the eejits. I must find this announcement.

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  42. Timbotron, Todd, a new Marvel Family series, set away from the DCU, would be wonderful. I'd love them to be freed from the cycle of bungling they've been tied into since The Power of Shazam ended.

    Well, we now know the price of the digital editions, Allan - might it persuade you to reconsider?

    Rob, I'm so sorry! The last Legion came out in a busy week, and had no particular hook for me to peg a review on ... it was just another great issue. I can't resist Comet Queen, though, so an Adventure Comics review is forthcoming.

    Karl, I'm against unravelling the Clark/Lois marriage, but no one outside of Kurt Busiek ever seemed able to make it interesting, so it may turn out for the best.

    Karl, the Batgirl thing's still not been officially announced. Fingers crossed ...

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