Issues in Comics: Rebirth, Rebirth, Rebirth

As the days of this year drift by towards May, details of DC Comics’s “Rebirth” operation continue to emerge, predictably raising more questions than they answer. Geoff Johns seems to be in charge of this initiative, and he’s written a couple of stories with ‘Rebirth’ in the title (Green Lantern, The Flash), so that’s one mystery solved, folks. You’re welcome…

What follows, here, is a series of reflections on some of the developments so far. They’re not connected by a cohesive narrative, because that’s a really big ask at this stage…

Pricing

After the initial 80-page DC Universe: Rebirth Special, DC are promising to return to their former slogan of ‘holding the line at $2.99’. That works out to £2.20 for us over here in the UK. This is pretty good. With Marvel’s continued market experimentation of late [Deadpool #7 for $9.99, anybody?], it’s potentially great to see their distinguished competition actually lowering the bar. The caveat is that this is only going to work out for you if you follow some books, and not others. Breathe easy as Batgirl and Gotham Academy, for example, will remain monthly comic books. Follow Harley Quinn and Suicide Squad? Those books are soon to be appearing on stands twice monthly. Picking up two issues of a single title each month then adds up to $5.98 [£4.40].

Re-numbering, re-launching, but not rebooting!

While it’s difficult to know whether it’s a positive or negative that Johns and Didio are insisting that “Rebirth” is not another continuity-smash, it’s interesting to see them believing unwaveringly once more in the idea that #1 issues boost sales. First issues certainly do sell, especially alongside one another where they offer that sexy feeling of ‘getting in on the ground floor’. The potential pitfall of any renumbering initiative, though, has been illustrated vividly by Marvel’s Secret Wars event which ran throughout 2015. Where some series might have built a real and organic hype, and might even have brought casual non-LCS people into stores [see Ms. Marvel, Spider-Gwen, Thor], a re-launch can just as easily confuse and discourage them. It’s not that casual fans are stupid, it’s that comic book marketing is sometimes a weird and impenetrable language unto itself.

On another note, Action Comics and Detective Comics will apparently resume their legacy numbering, somewhere in the #900s. Okay.

Talent War

“Rebirth” seems to be prompting rather direct and explicit competitive measures, the most prominent of which is the publicly-declared exclusive talent contract. While it’s neither an uncommon or unfair play, DC are making real moves to lock down some new creators. Sam Humphries has reportedly just signed, in addition to Tom King, with King rumoured to be taking on the lead Batman title as Scott Snyder moves over to Detective Comics. King’s deal foreshadows the end of his work with Marvel, most crucially The Vision [news which left the Orbiting Pod nervously and publicly dealing with their collective sadness], but it’s an incredible opportunity and we’re likely to see some stellar results. If these deals mean new talent getting to work on top-tier books, and not just Cyborg or Red Hood & The Outlaws, that’s really something.

Another major positive to emerge from these exclusivity deals is that some announcements have focused on securing new artists. Even though it’s 2016, it’s still depressingly common to see artists devalued and writers considered primary. The recent piece in The Guardian on Stan Lee is just one example of how pervasive the problem is*, especially in the mainstream and it wasn’t all that long ago Marvel was doing poster campaigns for its all-writer cabal of ‘architects’. In truth, DC has generally done better in the last decade or so, allowing more artists to take on script duties in a more formal, recognised sense. Seeing Clay Mann and John Timms get deals and announcements alongside the likes of Tom King is great.

Let’s get reborn?

We’ll need a little more information before we dip our toes in the pool. So for now, that’s all, peeps

Adam Karenina Sherif

* A simple ctrl + F returns zero results for either ‘Kirby’ or ‘Ditko’, which arguably makes the piece totally void