13 months ago DC Comics announced the New 52 relaunch of their entire line of comic books, following their "Flashpoint" event with a shift in status quo for Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and all the publisher's other super and non-super hero characters. Even though DC is heading into the second full year of the New 52, if Co-Publisher Dan DiDio is to be believed that "New" designation is not going away anytime soon.
"It's still New! I think the 'New X-Men' have been 'New' for a very long time, so don't knock my New off so soon!" DiDio joked as he and fellow Co-Publisher Jim Lee spoke with Comic Book Resources at the DC Entertainment talent party at New York Comic Con about the past year and DC's new direction for 2013.
In terms of sales, the past year has been a good one for DC with the September #0 issues and DC's controversial "Before Watchmen" initial issues topping sales charts. Looking back on the past year of the New 52 as a guidepost, DiDio joked that the numbers had changed his approach as DC Co-Publisher from "aggressive" to "even more aggressive."
"From my standpoint it's been an interesting year; we started last year and as we built getting into the New 52 there was a lot of trepidation among the retailers, the fans, everybody, even our own staff. But we believed in what we were doing and we went out there and basically hand sold it to everybody," DiDio said. "We saw people's minds change and join us and come along with us. Now a year later the numbers are holding strong for us."
"The #0 month was always something I had planned, believe it or not!" DiDio continued with a laugh, speaking about last month's line-wide initiative in which every single New 52 title put forth an "origin" issue that explained some part of their characters' pasts. "When we started the books I didn't want to start with all origins all at the same time because that gets a little tedious, so we started in the middle of stories, we started in the action because we wanted to get people engrossed in what's happening in the characters. We saw that in different cases some were brand new characters so they had a brand new start, some were in the middle of a storyline, some were in the past, some were set in the future, so this gives us the chance to have a nice even point for everybody, everybody was starting the same with the #0s. Moving forward we have a great base we can continue to build story off of now that we've feel we've explained the key beats of the past -- now we can build on that foundation and tell a uniting story that brings the universe together."
The New 52 relaunch also saw the full integration of Jim Lee's Wildstorm imprint into the main DC Universe, a move Lee said he left up to the individual creators writing the characters.
"I actually was pretty hands off on that, partly because the whole thrust of the New 52 was to streamline things and to simplify, to add new elements," Lee told CBR News. "So I was really curious to see what the New York-based editorial team could do with the Wildstorm characters and how they saw them and how they saw them integrating into the DC Universe."
While earlier at NYCC Lee stated that there was a meeting planned to discuss DC's other integrated imprint, Milestone, for his Wildstorm fans there was one team the Co-Publisher/artist cautioned readers shouldn't expect to see anytime soon.
"I think it's been pretty successful so far, I'm pretty happy with the results, but I have held back the WildCATS characters and that title. I would love to do it at some point, but I feel that's one I need to be more involved in out of all the books, so that's one I've held back a little bit," Lee admitted.
DiDio also weighed in on DC's imprint integration and story development process, saying he felt the publisher was equally driven by creators as it was by editors.
"It's hard to say where one begins and the other ends to be perfectly honest, it's all part of the same process. The editors create the box we play in and it's the writer and artist's voice that pushes against the box as hard as they can to make it successful," DiDio explained. "One of the things we're doing right now is make sure we have a consistent understanding of who our characters are; therefore as other people decide to use those characters they feel like the same character from book to book. We're not asking every book to tie in but you want that familiarity with the characters so they can behave in every book the same way. So these stories that have been coming out have been more story-driven and based on the writers themselves and what the writers wanted to do."
Citing specific writer-driven storylines DiDio continued, "The Superman team has a story, "H'el On Earth,' that's really unique to the Superman group, 'Death Of The Family' is unique to the Batman group and then Green Lantern stories have the 'Third Army.' We're trying to build our key franchises with stories that help expand their reach across the titles that tie into them, and sooner or later you'll find ways to weave that all together into one bigger story."
To that end, DiDio sees the focus of 2013 squarely centered on the development of new characters and new ideas generated by creators.
"There is one major goal: one of the things we're going for right now is the introduction of new characters and new ideas to the 52. Right now what we did is take the pre-existing characters, we had to rebuild them and build a strong base for them. Now I feel we have the impetus to try new characters and new things," DiDio said of publisher's strategy for 2013.
Pointing to writer James Tynion IV and artist Guillem March's new "Talon" series as a "perfect example," DiDio used the title to illustrate what he and Lee hoped to do in 2013.
"'Talon,' that concept did not exist prior to the New 52 and when we launched the four new books 'Talon' launched the best of the four. It's tied to 'Batman,' true, but I think it also shows something fresh and new that people can get excited about because people don't have any preconceived notions about it," DiDio said. "So for me, that shows us that we should be trying more of these things and I think new characters is the way to be because it adds to the universe and adds to everything we do -- and that's when the creators really get involved because there's a personal interest in characters they create and since they create it from whole cloth you don't have to worry about what has come before and what everybody else did because you can set the style, tone and voice of the character from that point forward."
It comes as no surprise that one the most anticipated books hitting shelves next year will is superstar artist Lee teaming with "Batman" writer Scott Snyder for an untitled Superman series. Diving into that collaboration, the prospect of working with Snyder left Lee thrilled both as an artist and as DC Co-Publisher.
"Obviously my last issue of 'Justice League' was #12, but we couldn't reveal that at the time, but the plan was for me to leave that book and help launch this new Superman book in anticipation of the 75th anniversary in 2013," Lee told CBR with a grin.
Praising his Superman collaborator, writer Scott Snyder, Lee added, "I've been following Scott's very short but super hot career -- actually I did the variant cover on his very first cover for 'American Vampire' so I heard of this guy super early and then I started reading his 'Batman' run. 'American Vampire' is awesome but the 'Batman' stuff really, not surprised me but impressed me, because it's really hard to add things to lore, especially with characters like Superman and Batman because he's been around so long. But [Snyder] does it so directly and so masterfully, it's awesome."
Laughing about the hype that surrounded the book before the official announcement, Lee continued, "We're both super excited about it, and a bit relieved to let out the secret of it -- although it was a poorly kept secret! Everyone was talking about it except him and myself, so we're happy we can now share that conversation!"
Lee also saw his artistic presence at DC, first working on "Justice League" and now on the unnamed Superman project, as a unique tool in his co-publishing toolbox and only took projects that he thought could both fit in his schedule and "give the company the most bang for the buck."
"By that I mean, given some of my sales history and the fan following, together it allows us to launch new titles or new groups and clusters of books in ways that get more attention, and that's a good thing to have in your arsenal as Co-Publisher," Lee explained, adding with another laugh, "So as long as it's working we'll keep doing it -- thought at some point I'll have to fire myself!"
One of the big events coming down the pipeline for DC in 2013 is "Trinity War," DC's first major event since the New 52 relaunch. While Lee and DiDio were mum on the details, including plot and who is involved, Lee revealed to CBR that "Trinity" does not just refer to the characters involved. Lee also stated he saw it as something on a wholly different level than the event that relaunched the company in 2011 or the origin "themed" #0 issue month.
"Without giving it away, "Trinity War' -- the word trinity resonates throughout the project on many, many levels and so in a sense there's almost three distinct parts. Well, almost three stories combined into one and then each part really redefines the universe in a really cool and unexpected way," Lee said.
"There's a lot of really cool past stuff that's going to be revealed and a lot of new elements that are going to be added to the DC Universe. Again, paying off that initial premise of the New 52 which is we are going to continue to surprise you by allowing people to come in and join in and feel like they're getting in on the ground floor, and Trinity War is a continuation of that theme," Lee added.
DiDio also reaffirmed DC Entertainment's commitment to its Vertigo imprint, which will also be releasing new titles including Scott Snyder's new miniseries "The Wake" come 2013.
"We talk about the DCU all the time but the reality is as Co-Publishers for Jim and myself Vertigo is an important part of comics for us, as is 'Mad Magazine.' We have three very distinct brands and we have to keep those as vibrant as we can," DiDio said.
"The #0 month was a big one for us and we got some great ideas that will take us into 'Trinity War' next year and how that plays across the DCU," the Co-Publisher added.
"I think 2013 is going to be an exciting year, not just with the Superman to-be-titled launch but we're planning our first major event [with] 'Trinity War' and we have an awesome storyline and I think it's really going to rock the socks off DC Comics' fan base!" Lee concluded with a laugh.