You may have heard that DC Comics is relaunching their many titles this September. At Comic-Con, io9 had a chance to chat with DC Co-Publishers Jim Lee and Dan DiDio about how they implemented this sweeping initiative. We also learned about those secret editorial debates concerning the merits of Oliver Queen's goatee.
This is a radical plan not only by DC Comics' standards, but in terms of the comic industry as a whole. Did you study the examples of any past big publishing events when planning this?
Jim Lee: Nothing overtly. The two of us had a pretty long history with doing big projects like this. This one was definitely double or triple the amount of work than anything I've done before. We generated a pretty thick document at the start of all this outlining the ideas to sell it internally.
Dan DiDio: Once we did that, it really was a full company effort. Every department contributed from their assets. We met on a regular basis building a full battle plan on how to do this at every level: creative, marketing, sales, and so on. Right now, the first and second issues are done and everyone's thinking, "Now it's time [for DC] to take a little bit of break!" But no, the goal is to stay ahead of our schedule so we really have time to examine our books instead of rushing them out the door.
With something like Flashpoint, we know that Andy Kubert had been designing the costumes since last summer. When were the seeds of the relaunch planted?
Dan DiDio: This has pretty much been in the works since the beginning of the year. It moved very quickly. Our biggest concern was once you do something of this size and scope, we knew that it would come out sooner or later. Everyone who worked on this was on a non-disclosure agreement.
One of the most radical things you did was integrate the Wildstorm Universe into the DC Universe. Could you give a little background on this?
Dan DiDio: When we looked at the overall strategy and balancing out the books, there were certain kinds of stories, characters, and tones that were lacking. There's an aggressive nature to the team coming out of Stormwatch, there's a sexuality that comes out of Voodoo, and there's a grittiness that comes out of Grifter that is not part of the DC Universe. Rather than create something brand new, we decided to incorporate those particular books first.
What is the most outlandish rumor you've heard regarding this relaunch?
Jim Lee: The "no underwear" [outside of pants] policy and the "pants" policy. I've heard both policies, it's the idea that there's this editorial edict that's passed down. Some other stuff, the Shuster/Siegel lawsuit. It's all speculation. This is purely a publishing initiative, and we wanted to put the focus on the characters. All that stuff is just talk on the internet.
Dan DiDio: We tuned a lot of it out because we're so close to what was going on, but now that we're going ahead, we're wondering, "I wonder where that came from?" And you can track back to maybe making a statement or two in the past and get a general sense of what people picked up and ran with.
Jim Lee: Another one was that some of the design decisions on Superman were influenced by the Zack Snyder movie that's going forward. That's purely a rumor. This is about DC editors and creators getting together and discussing the universe in print.
Speaking of costuming, Jim, you designed new attire for the superheroes. Will we see a sketch book of concept art?
Jim Lee: I think eventually. Cully Hamner was instrumental in putting these designs together, Mark Chiarello gave us invaluable feedback, and the artists on each book tweaked the outfits. It was really a team effort.
Will the relaunch affect the release of the Earth One books like Superman?
Dan DiDio: They're still going. The second volume of Superman: Earth One is 40 pages from completion. The first volume of Batman: Earth One is 20 pages from completion. They're scheduled for 2012 right now. Those books are things unto themselves.
What's the most ridiculous brainstorming session you guys had when planning this?
Jim Lee: [laughs] Oh gosh, which ones weren't?
Dan DiDio: We had some crazy ones about deciding the direction and tonality for I...Vampire. We had some interesting discussions just setting up teams. We had some really interesting arguments about tonality, but nothing too outlandish.
Jim Lee: It goes down to every detail. We had a huge message thread just about Green Arrow's beard and stubble. We had the big grand decisions, but we really got down to the nitty-gritty of the character's costuming, facial hair, the color schemes. There was an insane amount of work to be done to realize this project.
Dan DiDio: There was probably more talk about deciding Green Arrow's facial hair than there was whether or not Ma and Pa [Kent] survived.
The interview is derailed for a moment for everyone to regain their composure.
Man, that's brutal!
Jim Lee: No, no! Some things are inherently clear but other seemingly arbitrary details are the ones that require a lot of discussion. You know that these details aren't going to make that much of an impact, yet everyone has their horse in the race as to why something should be one way or the other. It unleashes the inner fanboy in every one of us.
Also, here's a ton of Jim Lee's artwork that premiered today at the Justice League panel...
And here's a bunch of art that premiered today from (in order) Aquaman, The Flash, Mister Terrific, The Savage Hawkman, Action Comics, Superboy, Supergirl, and Superman.