Bob Harras on DC Comics' New 52 "Second Wave"

Thu, January 12th, 2012 at 6:58am PST

Comic Books
Jonah Weiland, Executive Producer/Publisher

DC Comics Editor-in-Chief Bob Harras discusses the ins and outs of the publisher's cancellations and new ongoing series

News of the New 52's "Second Wave" has left fans with some major lingering questions. Although six new ongoing titles will be joining the ranks of DC Comics' line, six of the books from the New 52's initial launch are left by the wayside. As reported earlier today, fans can look forward to finally reading long-anticipated books like "Batman Incorporated" and "Earth 2," but it will only be after saying farewell to the likes of "O.M.A.C." and "Static Shock."

DC also announced the creative teams of each book, and among them are many fan-favorite creators including Grant Morrison, James Robinson, Paul Levitz and more. The six new series range from updated fan favorites old DCU books like "Batman Incorporated" and "Worlds' Finest" to the adventures of the JSA in "Earth 2" and "Superman" and "Teen Titans" spinoff "The Ravagers."

Shedding some light on DC's "Second Wave" announcements is Editor-in-Chief Bob Harras, who spoke with CBR News on the significance of each new title, the rationale behind the cancellations and the keyword moving forward for the New 52: world-building.

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CBR News: Bob, let's talk about these announcements. Obviously, DC is keeping the line at 52 ongoing titles, canceling six titles and replacing them with six more. Do you see that changing any time soon?

Bob Harras: I think our comfort zone right now is 52. I think that's a nice number and it's worked very nicely for us so far.

"Batman Incorporated" is a title fans have been waiting for. How wil Grant Morrison's story fit in with the relaunched line of Batman books and how will everything get coordinated with the other Batman writers?

Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham leap into action as the creative team of the relaunching "Batman Incorporated"

What's going on with [Editor] Mike Marts and Scott Snyder and Tony Daniel and Grant [Morrison] -- the Bat office works very well together. They talk a lot, they're very keen on the fact that this is a shared character and a shared universe. What Grant has got planned is very well known to both Scott and Tony, and is, quite honestly, phenomenal. I really think Batman fans are going to be ecstatic about what's coming down the pipe on all the major Batman books, but "Batman Incorporated," especially, is going to be a lot of fun for people.

In the past, "Batman Incorporated" has seen a lot of fill-in artists here or there, one of whom was Chris Burnham.

Yes, he was. Chris Burnham is our regular artist, he's working already. He's super-jazzed about being on the title, and Grant is determined that Chris is there each and every month.

Considering the title's history, will there be any fill-in artists on this book any time soon?

I don't foresee anything right now, that doesn't mean something can't happen. The plan right now is, Chris is our artist on "Batman Inc." And he's working on it, even as we speak.

One of the more interesting titles amongst the new announcements has to be James Robinson's "Earth 2" with artist Nicola Scott, which has been a well-known secret for a while, but everyone thought it was going to be called "JSA." Now we know it's called "Earth 2," which invites so many possibilities and so much speculation. Fans are immediately going to jump to the conclusion that you're opening up another universe worth of titles. Could you speak to that and what the long-term plans are for "Earth 2?"

I think one of the things that I was very gratified with with the New 52 initially was that people took what we did -- we freshened up some characters, we presented them in a different light, we gave them this new start and we built up this great, great excitement. "Earth 2," as part of the "Second Wave," is world-building. We're creating a bigger, larger epic that will encompass different worlds, different characters, and "Earth 2" is very integral to that plan. More so than just calling it "JSA," we wanted to say, no, this is about a parallel world and what that parallel world will mean to our world down the line. Again, we have long-term plans.

I think I said this earlier on when we were first discussing the New 52. We really have sat down, we have discussed story, we have discussed character, what we love about comics and what we think will excite readers. "Earth 2" is an example of that.

There's been a lot of speculation about Pandora, the hooded character who's been showing up in the New 52. Does Pandora feature in any way prominently in "Earth 2?"

That is something you'll be seeing soon. That is something that has been discussed from day one. She was seen in the early 52, and we may very well see her on "Earth 2" as well.

Let's move on to "Worlds' Finest," written by Paul Levitz with art by the rotating artistic team of George Perez and Kevin Maguire. This is an interesting one, because it also ties in to "Earth 2." Can this title actually be read separately from "Earth 2" and understood, or are these titles meant to be companion pieces?

China Miéville's "Dial H" will inhabit the Dark corner of the DCU

A little bit of both. They're companion pieces, but they can be read separately. Again, this is part of the world-building. What we have in Huntress and Power Girl are two exiles from Earth 2. They are on our world. Part of the ongoing saga is, what do you do when you're exiled from your world? Do you try everything you can to get back to that world that you know, or do you accept what you think is fate and make a new life here? I think that dynamic and that difference of opinion between these two main characters is what's going to drive that series. But again, with a series like "Earth 2" also being put out there, there is an ongoing story linking these books. I keep using the term, but it is key: it's world-building and it's universe-building.

"Dial H," by writer China Miéville and artist Mateus Santoluoco, sounds like a very Vertigo-esque book that will fit in nicely as part of The Dark line of books in the New 52, but what I think a lot of industry watchers might be surprised to learn is that it's a DC Universe book being edited by Vertigo editor Karen Berger.

Karen is editing this book, which I love. I think it's fantastic. "Dial H" is a book along the lines of "Animal Man" and "Swamp Thing" that we have in The Dark, where we take characters that have historically been viewed as Vertigo characters, and shifted them into the dark side of the DCU. That's what "Dial H" is doing. China Miéville is an incredible writer, he's a huge DC fan and what he's got planned for this series is very much in keeping with what you've seen in "Animal Man" and what you've seen in "Swamp Thing" -- strange, but unique takes on what makes DC so unique.

In a title like "Dial H," there's a long-term fan base that's familiar with this concept and loves it, but it doesn't have a massive fan base. Are there possibilities of guest stars of a bigger stature to help drive interest?

Oh yes. There's always the possibility of that, but nothing planned right now that I can think of. Again, it will be part and parcel of the world we've created in "Justice League Dark," "Animal Man" and "Swamp Thing." It will be linked to that world.

Is that a hint for the possibility of a crossover?

No crossover planned, just the thinking that they are in a shared world.

"G.I. Combat," written by J.T. Krul with art by Ariel Olivetti with two other creative teams on backup features, seems like it is going to be a harder sell to mainstream superhero comic fans. Why should a reader who's loving, say, "Batman" also pick up "G.I. Combat" when it comes out?

In "G.I. Combat," we've got in-training stories, looking at the military with that DC tweak. We've got "War That Time Forgot." It's stories from all over history. You've got "Unknown Soldier," you've got "Haunted Tank." You've got these unique DC properties, again being presented in a slightly tweaked way, in -- if I could use the term -- a slightly New 52 way, just telling different stories with these characters. It's a way to expand what we do, attract new readers, taking what is core to DC and just freshening it up and putting it out there and saying, "There's a lot of great stuff there."

Finishing up the new titles, we have "The Ravagers" by Howard Mackie with art by Ian Churchill. Is it really important to folks reading "Teen Titans" and "Superboy" to read this book? What place do the Ravagers have in the New 52?

"The Ravagers" is going to be coming out of, and actually storylines have been growing out of both books, "Superboy" and "Teen Titans" specifically have hinted [at this] almost since issue one. What "The Ravagers" is really going to be, as it comes out of an event where these books come together, it's going to be about, in a lot of ways, what is destiny and do you have free choice? A lot of these characters, as you'll see, have been designed to be, for lack of a better term, super-villains, or killers. Now, they've been freed by a certain event. They have a choice to follow what they've been bred to be, or they can now be better than they think they can be. What we'll be following with them is a book that can go either way. Some characters will go to the dark side; some characters will hopefully embrace the lighter side. It's very interesting. It's different from our other teen books because we don't know where these characters are going to end up, we don't know how damaged they have been by the preceding storyline that you will see through this Spring. It will be an interesting journey, following them. You'll be seeing some interesting characters come and go in that book. What I like in the book is the struggle to do good when it's not innate in you.

Though a critical success, sales on "O.M.A.C." weren't strong enough for the series to survive. The character, however, will live on in other New 52 titles

"The Ravagers" spins out of Scott Lobdell's two books -- "Teen Titans" and "Superboy." Is there a potential for crossover there? Are Howard Mackie and Scott Lobdell discussing their individual storylines? Is this really a stand-alone book?

Scott Lobdell and Howard Mackie have been working together very closely over the past few months, discussing things. Even Tom DeFalco, who has stepped in to help on "Legion Lost," which is a book that will be tangential to this, has also stepped in, discussing characters and directions for all these new Ravagers. As I said earlier, when I say "world-building," there's a lot of conversation, there's a lot of talking about stories, talking about new characters that go on constantly. This is just an example of that.

Let's close out with the cancelled titles. If you look at the sales estimates of each cancelled book, they do give us an indication of its overall performance, and there aren't any real surprises here. "Hawk and Dove" is probably bit of a surprise considering Rob Liefeld's status as a fan-favorite artist, but "O.M.A.C." was the biggest surprise with CBR's team, considering it was on our Top 100 comics of 2011 and has consistently received great reviews by our staff. Sales haven't been spectacular, but they haven't been awful. Do you have a higher standard for a guy like Dan DiDio, since he's co-publisher, which he has to hit in order of his book to be kept?

I have extremely high standards for Dan DiDio. [Laughs] With all these books, and this is where I'm going to sound corny, every book we put out, we want to succeed. Every book is kind of like a child, you want it to work. Books like "O.M.A.C.," yes, I loved "O.M.A.C.," and you know the hard work that goes into that. Unfortunately, sometimes these books don't find the audience you were hoping they would. We knew from the beginning, when we created the New 52, some of these books that we were discussing earlier, there was always the discussion of replacement titles if something was not performing to the extent where we'd like it to be. It's always unfortunate when something doesn't work out the way you'd like. It doesn't mean these characters are going to go away. One thing I really think is exciting is you will see O.M.A.C. land in another book. You will see Hawk and Dove land in another title. This is the fourth time I've used this term, so again I apologize, but we are world-building. These characters, even if their books are going way, they are still part of the DC story. We'll still be seeing them.

Before we finish, let's talk about strategy. A lot was learned through the New 52 and the way it was launched. It proved there is a mainstream interest in comics and if you give readers something to go into a comic shop for, they'll do it. Now, instead of just launching one new title, you're launching six titles all at once in your second wave. Did the New 52's success and it's massive launch have any impact on launching the books together instead of spread out, one at a time?

I think somewhat. I don't think we're going to launch 52 titles again, not for a long time. I do think there's something to say we're putting these books out, we're proud of them, this is an event that we're bringing these books out. It's part of, again, a plan. It may be a smaller launch, but it is all part of a plan as we expand the DC Universe. So, yes. As long as you give people a reason to be excited and give them something to go, "Yes, this was worth it. This was worth the wait, this story was great, this art was great," I think that's a bigger win than anything else.

Stay tuned to CBR for more news on the New 52: Second Wave.

TAGS:  dc comics, new 52, bob harras, batman incorporated, dial h, ravagers, worlds finest, gi combat, omac, grant morrison, china mieville, chris burnham, dan didio, rob liefeld, hawk and dove, earth 2, james robinson, nicola scott

 
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