As 2016 has begun, DC Comics has sent the online world in a frenzy of rumors and speculation by announcing that a “Rebirth” is coming this summer, and that it isn’t yet another “reboot” of their canonical continuity (which would be the second in five years). After allowing such scuttlebutt to play out for weeks, DC Comics has issued an official statement detailing what “Rebirth” is via ICv2 and Newsarama. It looks to be a restructuring of their publishing line with an over-sized special and relaunches (and cancellations) across their entire line of comic books, with co-publisher Jim Lee attached to draw one of their newest launches.
May will see the 52nd issues of many of the few remaining titles which were launched during the initial “New 52” push in fall 2011, which will also be their “final” issues. For the record, DC Comics has seemed to have a fetish for the number “52” in all of their promotional and editorial campaigns for almost a decade now. The “Rebirth” strategy officially kicks off in June with an 80 page “DC Comics: Rebirth” one shot which is “value priced” at $2.99 and will be written by chief creative officer Geoff Johns and art by Ethan Van Sciver, Phil Jimenez, Ivan Reis, and Gary Frank. It will lead off a march of a variety of “rebirth” one shots for “Batman”, “Superman”, “Aquaman”, “Wonder Woman”, “Green Lanterns”, “Titans”, “Green Arrow”, and “The Flash”. All of those ongoing titles will then relaunch with a fresh number one issue, a cover price of $2.99 and will ship bi-weekly (twice a month). “Action Comics” and “Detective Comics” will also return to their original numberings, which means that both will reach a 1000th issue within a few years since both will also ship bi-weekly. The creative teams for these series are unknown, but it is rumored that Scott Synder will move from writing “Batman” to DC’s namesake, “Detective Comics”.
July will see a similar pattern. “Batgirl & the Birds of Prey”, “Nightwing”, “Red Hood & the Outlaws”, “The Hellblazer”, “Hal Jordan & the Green Lantern Corps”, and “Justice League” will all get “rebirth” one-shots, with “Nightwing”, “Justice League”, and “Hal Jordan & the Green Lantern Corps” to become bi-weekly ongoing series. The rest will be relaunched with fresh “number one” issues and presumably priced at $3.99 as monthly books. The rest are listed as debuting in the “fall”, rather than simply August (perhaps to allow some leeway in case there are delays). Receiving “rebirth” one-shots will be “Batman Beyond”, “Blue Beetle”, “Suicide Squad”, “Cyborg”, “Deathstroke”, “Earth 2”, “Supergirl”, “Teen Titans”, and “Trinity” (which will presumably be a Batman/Superman/Wonder Woman team up). “Suicide Squad” will be among the slate of bi-weekly ongoing series for the fall, with Jim Lee confirmed as being among the initial artists in rotation for it; other bi-weekly series will be “Harley Quinn” (DC Comics’ best selling title starring a woman), “Cyborg”, “Deathstroke”, and “Justice League of America” (a second Justice League book). All of the rest of the “rebirth” specials for fall will also get relaunches for monthly series, in addition to new month series titled “Superwoman” (rumored to be a Lois Lane series), “Super Sons”, and “Gotham Academy: Next Semester”.
In conclusion, while “Rebirth” doesn’t look to be a reboot of their continuity, it is a reboot of their entire publishing line with a slew of fresh “number one” issues with their two longest running series returning to their old numbering, presumably to set up overpriced specials for those 1,000th issues. It is a strategy which is very similar to what their marvelous competition has done with their “all new, all different” line after “Secret Wars”. The dilemma for DC Comics is that this latest line wide relaunch has had middling results for Marvel overall (who rely on strong “Star Wars” sales to make up the difference) in part because it is a strategy which they have run into the ground since 2004. On the other hand, it seems that DC Comics brass are pleased with the performance of their last two weekly “Batman” related series, and are pushing for more of their series to be so; getting $5.98 from one bi-weekly title featuring a better known franchise may be a safer bet than a slew of $3.99 priced titles featuring C-list characters or spin offs the market can’t support. It is a line which is more slim of various side franchises, but will see a lot of better known titles ship more issues a month. It will remain to be seen if this tweak allows for a strategy which is beginning to fail (or at least reap little boon) for Marvel will prove to be victorious for DC Comics. Regardless, drastic moves such as this betray feelings of unease throughout the industry, which may not be healthy in the long term.