By Brian Truitt, USA TODAY
DC Comics has a new strategy to be No. 1 in comic books: all-new No. 1s.
Starting this summer, the publisher will re-number its entire DC Universe of titles, revamping famous characters such as Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and others from its 76-year history for a more modern and diverse 21st century.
The first book to be released under this new era: Justice League No. 1, out Aug. 31, a series by writer Geoff Johns and artist Jim Lee that reunites the famous lineup of Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, The Flash, Wonder Woman and Aquaman.
Johns promises a focus on the interpersonal relationships within DC's trademark superteam. "What's the human aspect behind all these costumes?" he says. "That's what I wanted to explore."
In September, more than 50 more first issues will debut, introducing readers to stories that are grounded in each character's specific legend but also reflect today's real-world themes and events. Lee spearheaded the redesign of more than 50 costumes to make characters more identifiable and accessible to comic fans new and old.
"We looked at what was going on in the marketplace and felt we really want to inject new life in our characters and line," says Dan DiDio, who co-publishes DC with Lee. "This was a chance to start, not at the beginning, but at a point where our characters are younger and the stories are being told for today's audience."
In an even more important move in the competitive comics industry, DC is making issues of all the renumbered titles available digitally via apps and a DC website the same day they arrive in comic shops. It marks the first time a major comics publisher has done so with its popular superhero titles.
The company has come in second to Marvel every year since 2002 in market share, according to Diamond Comic Distributors.
While the two companies are making millions off movie adaptations of their comic books, print sales for both have dropped in recent years, as new technology gives readers many more options.
"We're allowing people who have never bought a comic book in their lives to download them on portable media devices and take a look," Lee says. "Having the ability to give people access to these comics with one button click means we're going to get a lot of new readers."
He says what makes this plan so ambitious is that it's not just about changes in characters or costumes but setting the stage for how comic books will be consumed in the future.
"We're trying to set the table for the DC Universe's future success and health."