At Comic-Con’s Sunday “The New 52” panel, Dan Didio stated that he’d wanted to reboot the DC Universe for five years, since Infinite Crisis*, but that the time didn’t seem right. Why not? And why is it happening now?
It makes more sense to tie it to Infinite Crisis: follow up a classic universe-changing event with a new universe-changing event 20 years later and usher in a new “age” of DC comics.
It seems clear that his plans morphed into One Year Later. Like the New 52, it was an attempt to establish a new status quo and provide a new jumping-on point for the entire line.
Something else Didio wanted to do with Infinite Crisis was bring back Barry Allen. He was coy about it for several years, but in the DC Nation column that ran the week of the last issue of Wally West’s Flash series, he explained that he’d wanted to bring Barry back with Infinite Crisis, but things didn’t work out, so they set up Bart instead. Then he’d wanted to bring Barry back in The Lightning Saga, but again, things didn’t work out, so they brought Wally back instead.
So what does it mean that things didn’t work out?
In the case of Barry Allen’s return, I get the impression that it was a matter of lining up the talent. As near as I can tell, Didio was waiting for a chance to reunite the Green Lantern: Rebirth team of Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver, but one or the other of them was busy with other commitments (remember, Geoff Johns left The Flash so he could devote more time to Infinite Crisis).
In the case of the line-wide reboot, it probably means one of three things:
- He didn’t think the audience would take it at the time.
- He couldn’t get the rest of DC editorial and creative on board. (I can’t imagine that he didn’t bring up the idea.)
- He was overruled by someone higher on the org chart.
So what changed?
- Didio was promoted after DC Comics became DC Entertainment. The reorganization also brought DC more directly under the control of Warner Bros., putting more pressure on the company to perform economically.
- The comic book market kept shrinking, making it clear that a shake-up was needed to bring people in.
- Digital comics distribution became viable.
My guess: A lot of it is down to Apple and ComiXology. The iPad became the first widespread practical device for reading digital comics away from a desktop or laptop computer. ComiXology showed that you could set up a successful commercial distribution channel for digital comics (basically becoming the iTunes of comic books). There are other tablets and other commercial digital comics platforms out there, but those two have had the biggest impact.
Digital comics are a potential game-changer, and DC’s headlong jump into the digital market is a major part of the initiative. The stated goal is to bring new and lapsed readers, and combining a digital push with a line-wide revamp makes better headlines than doing either alone.
One last thought.
Back in 2005, when Geoff Johns announced that he was leaving The Flash, it was rumored that Darwyn Cooke would be taking over the series. He ended up not doing it, and DC decided to cancel the series instead, getting editor Joey Cavalieri to write a wrap-up arc.
What if the reason bringing Barry back in 2006 didn’t work out wasn’t that Didio couldn’t get Geoff Johns on the title…but that he couldn’t get Darwyn Cooke?
Imagine: an ongoing Flash/Barry Allen series by Darwyn Cooke. How awesome would that have been?
*CBR’s report says it was Final Crisis, but both articles have him saying five years, which lines up with Infinite Crisis. They’re both live-blogs, so it’s likely that the CBR reporter just wrote down the wrong Crisis in the rush to keep the article current.