Monday, September 26, 2011

DCU Goes Digital

This month the publishers of the DC Universe comics began their "renumbering" plan for fifty-two comic books in their main lines. Comic book fans are familiar with the concept of a reboot, in which the stories and characters all get to start over again. It's almost become a tradition that when a publisher feels the stories have gotten stale, or need to be retold for a new audience they simply reset everything and start again from the beginning. DC has been doing this so often that they have created a term for the process, it's called a crisis. "Crisis on Infinite Earths," "Infinite Crisis," and "Final Crisis" are all examples of the reboots DCU has gone through over the past few decades.

However, this time they are taking a different approach. Rather than calling it a reboot, they are just saying they are re-numbering the entire product line. This month we have "Justice League #1", "Action Comics #1", "Detective Comics #1", etc. Those last two especially caused an uproar within the long time fan base. You see, the original Action Comics #1 was published over 70 years ago. That's when the world first met Superman. A year later Batman made his first appearance in Detective Comics. Although that wasn't the first issue of Detective, it was a milestone event. So big an event that many reviewers have taken to calling it DCnU (aka DCnew or DC new Universe).

Obviously those first magazines have a special place and get top dollar at auction. That is in the rare event that they appear at an auction. Clearly Action Comics #1 has a very special place for collectors, and while creating a new #1 won't make the original any less valuable, it still dilutes the uniqueness for some people. It also plays havoc with the continuity of issue numbers. There are no other comic books that can claim to have over 800 continuous issues without a break. That ended this month with a new #1. For die-hard fans and collectors there is a sense of loss.

On the other hand, it is clear that the DCU has needed a new beginning. Fans of the magazines are getting harder to find and the new generation of Comic book and Manga readers have increasingly lost interest in the old super heroes. Time for things to get upgraded or simply whither away. Happily the publishers have decided that it is better to change than to fade away. Kudo's to them for having the courage to say "we can take a 70+ year old product and change it for a new age." And while that may make some of the old guard nervous, if it means more subscribers then how can anyone really argue?

Honestly, it's not like all that much is changing. There will still be a Superman, still be a Batman, they will still patrol the neighborhoods of Metropolis and Gotham. As far as we can tell all of the old super heroes will still be there, they will just get a facelift and some new stories will be told. One of the biggest changes will be to the Justice League, which will get a new origin story of it's own. For a change there will be a reason given for the formation of the JL instead of just "it seemed like a good idea."

The biggest thing for new readers is going to be how you buy the comic books. DC has stated that going forward all new books will be available electronically the same day they are available in print. No longer will online readers or users of the iPad app have to wait weeks or even months before the stories are available. Electronic readers will be the same as print readers. Hallelujah to that! For a generation that has embraced greener technologies, the old pulp publishing industry was in need of a revamp. For people uninterested in subscribing to paper products, or unable to go to a comic book store to purchase the latest stories, this is a water-shed event. DC is the first publisher to fully embrace the electronic age, and hopefully the others will follow quickly.

I'll buy the first issues of all the magazines for no other reason than to thank DC for the new model. I'm betting a lot of other readers will do the same.

If there is time, I'll write some reviews of the first DCnU stories. I'm very excited about this new publishing plans from DC, and I hope other readers will be too.

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