On August 30, 2011, a number of comic shops across the country kept their doors open through midnight in order to celebrate the release of DC Comics' "Justice League" #1 -- the first of DC's New 52 relaunch of its superhero line. And while stores all over hosted parties, giveaways and signings, no one made quite as much noise as the combined staff of New York City's Midtown Comics and DC itself. Last night in Manhattan, "Justice League" creators (and DC CCO and Co-Publisher) Geoff Johns and Jim Lee led the charge on an all-out promotional blitz for the entire New 52 line-up, accompanied by a number of creators hard at work on the comics coming in September.
Fans appearing for the "Midnight Madness" event began to line up along 40th Street outside Midtown's doors on Tuesday morning, and by the time Johns and Lee arrived around 6:00 PM, the queue for autographs stretched far down the block. "It's been a long day, and we've got a few hours to go, but it's well worth it," Diego Salas, a public school teacher who arrived at noon to camp out in a lawn chair, told CBR News. "I wanted to make sure I wasn't in the back of the line. My wife and I came from Jersey, and we wanted to make sure we could definitely meet them, get an autograph and then get home on time."
While the Midtown chain of stores is no stranger to events or even midnight signings, co-owner Gerry Gladston explained that the "Justice League" launch felt significantly different. "This is one of the biggest events we've ever had. This will not only be our biggest book of the year, but it's got the biggest pre-orders. We've been pushing [the New 52] books since they were first announced, and are all over Twitter and Facebook offering some amazing deals to buy the comic online and in stores. We think the whole launch is a great idea. The fan reaction at first was cautious with maybe some frustrations voiced, but that's totally given away to excitement and anticipation. Tomorrow should be a very big day."
As the evening went on, Johns and Lee made the rounds before the signing officially kicked off -- delivering pizzas to the die hards who had stayed out through one of the last full summer days of New York. The pair were joined by a handful of creators from the New 52 initiative who walked up and down the sidewalks greeting and signing for readers including "Wonder Woman" artist Cliff Chiang, "Batwoman" artist Amy Reeder and "Batman" and "Swamp Thing" writer Scott Snyder.
"I was ready to tattoo people with my signature," Snyder laughed after making his way down the entire line and marking everything from comics to t-shirts to people's arms with his John Hancock. "DC wanted [our appearance] to be a surprise, but then Jim was so excited that he Tweeted Cliff and I were going to be here. So I started to get Tweets about, 'Are you going to be there at Midnight?' so I told them I'd be here at 6:00. That's how the word spread, and to my mind, I was really glad they knew.
"It's really nice to get out there and promote the books. I've only read about a third of them so far, but I've read the third I was dying to get. I read 'Action,' 'Wonder Woman,' 'Batman & Robin,' 'Animal Man' -- all the ones on my pull list. And out of my pull list, I couldn't be happier with how the books turned out. I dare you to read 'Wonder Woman' or 'Animal Man' and tell me they're not awesome. So it's very exciting to get out there on the line and tell fans, 'Buy these books.' We're very enthusiastic as creators about the whole thing."
That excitement was palpable amongst the assembled creators as Snyder carried a copy of "Swamp Thing" #1 in his bag and declared, "I just got it! I'll show it to you!" to whoever was interested. While the talk around DC's relaunch has often centered on its status as a massive gamble -- from renumbering even its longest-standing titles to adopting an aggressive day-and-date digital plan -- the mood in New York was confident and celebratory throughout.
"As a matter of fact, we've exceeded our expectations on the sales, which is great," DC Co-Publisher Dan Didio told CBR. "But what feels even better is the fact that I feel like a lot of the sales aren't overinflated. If you're worried about the idea of extra inventory on the shelves even if you've sold a lot of copies, I feel like the numbers are realistic. They're reachable, and based on the quality of the material, it's possible to retain the majority of those readers moving forward."
Didio made his own run on the street, handing out Wayne Casino chips the publisher debuted at Comic-Con International as a collectible tied to their "Flashpoint" event. "I brought the casino chips with me because I'm actually going to another midnight signing in Wayne, NJ at Zapp Comics," he explained. "There, I'm giving them out where, for every mile you traveled to go there, you get a chip equal to a dollar-a-mile amount. I want to see how far people came, but here, with people sitting out on their chairs, it gives a real event feel to what's going on. You can't help but get excited."
As the evening counted down to the signing itself, DC's staff brought out the first New 52 book for press as the creators talked up their own work and the comics they were most excited to get their hands on. Reeder and Chiang compared notes and compliments on the DC heroines they've been working on for months, as Reeder explained, "I knew because of a few rumors that there was going to be a relaunch, but I didn't think it was going to be this intense. When I found out about it, I was excited seeing all the new costumes and that they were going to put so much emphasis on things being new."
"This is where it all starts," Chiang added. "Tonight, everything is being unrolled. Hopefully, the buzz is great and keeps building throughout the month."
Reeder confided, "I want to read 'Demon Knights.' It's got Madame Xanadu, so I'm interested to see what they do with her for obvious reasons," while Chiang gave his pick, saying, "With 'Men At War,' Ivan Brandon has a great take on the military and superheroes and how the two interact. It's about this black-ops team that takes on supervillains. So it's pretty cool. Beyond that, 'Animal Man,' 'Swamp Thing' and all the stuff that has a Vertigo feel is what I'm really looking forward to checking out."
The "Wonder Woman" artist also joked about the question of whether or not the heroine will wear pants in his and Brian Azzarello's relaunch. "There's been a lot of Wite-Out," he laughed. "I think it's great that people care so much about it, but it's one of those things that Brian and I can completely ignore because we don't care. This is all about building the world around her and the characters, so if she's wearing pants or no pants, it doesn't matter. It's not a story point."
Didio shared a similar sentiment about tapping into what he liked best about co-writing the "O.M.A.C." series with artist Keith Giffen. "I worked with Keith for a little bit on 'Outsiders.' He's one of my favorite people in the business and one of the true legends in the business," he said. "I love working with him, and when we knew the relaunch was coming, I wanted to pick the one character to work with him on that I felt he could have the most fun with. We call 'O.M.A.C.' the Little Book that Should, meaning we want it to be out there pushing hard. We want it to be the underdog book. I know the style of art he brings to it has this incredible energy that's really reminiscent of old Kirby comics. Our whole concept behind every issue is to start in the mundane and normal and then explode into the insane world that is a classic Kirby comic. Every issue has that feel."
The Co-Publisher added that he'd also been following along with a play-by-play of what Lee and Johns had planned for "Justice League." "I naturally talk to Geoff and Jim about 'Justice League' because they're so excited for it, and I see every new page as it comes in because I'm part of that process. Geoff and I talk a lot about what he's doing because we have that kind of relationship where we just talk about comics. But it's fun to see the final product in our hands."
Before long, the fans had their own copies, as the creative team heard their first reviews in the store where they signed until 3:00 AM. While plenty of questions continue to hang over how well DC's relaunch will perform and what it will mean for the comics business, for the night, the mood of the publisher was victorious.
Check back with CBR News tomorrow for a lengthy interview with Geoff Johns and Jim Lee about their approach to "Justice League" and its place in DC's New 52.