While the DC Universe is in a state of flux this summer as fans and creators alike await September’s announced DC Relaunch, this July and August, DC Comics is also offering fans a look back in time. DC Retro-Active is a series of one shots that take a look at Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, The Flash and the Justice League in their seventies, eighties and nineties incarnations. More than just a nostalgic look back, each book features two stories, one new and one a reprinted classic from the comic’s era, with the writers involved including Denny O’Neill, Cary Bates, Len Wein, Marv Wolfman, William Messner-Loebs and others associated with the characters’ respective eras. Beyond the writers being joined by new artists, a number of fan favorite creative teams from those eras including Ron Marz and Darryl Banks, Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle, and Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire have joined forces once again, lending an extra level of authenticity to the event.
Overseeing this project is veteran editor Ben Abernathy. Abernathy, who has a long career including stints at Dark Horse and Marvel, has been at Wildstorm and now DC for many years. He spoke with CBR News about the project, providing us with insight, details and an exclusive look at upcoming issues.
CBR News: For people who may still be somewhat unclear on the concept behind this series of one-shots, what is DC Retro-Active?
Ben Abernathy: DC Retro-Active is a fun little event that’s revisiting some of the past decades of the DC Universe, focusing on our core six properties. In most cases, we’ve lured the era-specific creators to tell a “lost” story set in that era! It’s been a blast to tell one-off stories that are really just fun, exciting, stand-alone adventures by the creators who helped make these characters iconic.
Where did the idea for doing a project like this come from?
Dan DiDio cooked this idea up as a fun little trip down memory lane for the fans and the creators.
How did you end up overseeing the books?
Basically, I got a phone call from Dan, Jim, and Bob Harras and they asked if my group could oversee the project — and how could I say no? The one downside was having to do a panel at WonderCon and talk about it. Anyone that knows me knows I’m terrified of public speaking.
What was behind the decision to highlight these spcific decades?
It was Dan and Jim’s choice, ultimately, but I think they’re the most logical for a project like this. The sixties are a bit distant in regard to still active creators to involve, and the 2000s is far too recent. That’s not to say we wouldn’t consider doing another event down the line and touch upon some other decades.
Was there any debate over which characters should be highlighted?
None whatsoever. There are obviously dozens and dozens of other characters we could have chosen, but since this is our first run at this, we wanted to stick with the big guns.
Having made those decisions, how do you forge ahead and settle on who should write and draw these books? Was there anyone that you immediately knew you needed to be a part of this?
Well, in a lot of the cases, the creative decisions were simple. Who better for Green Lantern of the 1970s than Dennis O’Neil and Mike Grell? Or Batman of the nineties than Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle? You can go on-and-on like this — we essentially did — and once we got on a roll in discussing creators, it really fleshed itself out fairly naturally. With several of the books, our first choices might have sadly passed away or been unavailable, so we tried to match creators who we felt would do the material justice.
Was there any discussion about the tone of the books or making sure that there was a clear contrast to the books on the stands today?
The only real “tone” that was discussed was trying to keep the material evocative of the era. There was no conscious effort to differentiate the material from what’s on the stands today. We just encouraged the creators to revisit a distinct time in their careers and tell a fun, stand-alone story. I think it yielded some spectacular results.
Finally, along with the new stories, you’re packaging an older story. Was it a challenge to find the perfect tale for each title?
Honestly, generating the list wasn’t challenging at all. When we approached the creators, it was the first question after their agreement to be involved. I think every creator involved had a few suggestions. The trick was just tracking down the film and making sure it was in color and such — that proved more of a challenge.
I think people will be pleased with the reprints, and we’ll be releasing digital-only copies of other “classic” issues in the spirit of Retro-Active. Everyone should check out read.dccomics.com to see what’s available when the issues come out!