Overseen by DC Comics Art Director Mark Chiarello, "Wednesday Comics" was always going to be something special, based on the impressive list of talent involved in the project alone. Presented in a broadsheet format (14 inches by 20 inches), the 12-week series will feature 15 strips written and illustrated by Eisner Award winners like Neil Gaiman, Dave Gibbons, Mike Allred and Kurt Busiek. And with DC icons Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman standing tall beside lesser-known characters like Adam Strange, Metamorpho and Deadman, there is truly something for everybody.
That's what makes the news that "USA Today" will run the Superman strip from "Wednesday Comics" every Wednesday over the course of the series all the more important. With an estimated circulation of 2.11 million copies every day, the partnership could possibly generate over the course of three months thousands of new readers for DC Comics. After the strip debuts in the print edition of "USA Today" on Wednesday, July 8, the series will move to the online edition with its estimated audience of 3.6 million readers.
CBR News connected with DCU Executive Editor Dan DiDio, who candidly shared his thoughts on the landmark deal and also discussed his own Metal Men strip that will appear in "Wednesday Comics."
CBR: First off, you and the rest of the team at 1700 Broadway must be extremely pleased with the "USA Today" announcement?
Dan DiDio: We were. And honestly, one of the things we were hoping for was to work with one of the more recognizable newspapers. Primarily because we feel that this type of story and really the whole format harkens back to newspapers. That's the origin of comics. So it's great to be working in conjunction with a national newspaper in getting this material recognized.
It helps that "USA Today" is a national newspaper that sells more than two million copies every day.
Exactly. We wanted something with a national appeal and "USA Today" was the perfect fit. Again, I'd love to work with every individual newspaper in every individual city across the country but that's all the more daunting a task. So this is one way to reach the biggest audience possible.
Was it important to run the Superman strip by John Arcudi and Lee Bermejo in "USA Today" because the Man of Steel is the one DC icon that virtually everyone in America should be able to identify?
It's the wonderful thing about Superman. It is a worldwide brand. It's something everybody recognizes. Even the most casual reader or someone who doesn't know anything about comics will know something about Superman. And hopefully this brings them into our book and brings them into this format. And maybe it makes them appreciate what comics are all about a little bit more.
Is the story Arcudi and Bermejo are telling in the Superman strip one that will leave an impression with both casual readers and long-time fans?
I'll tell you right now, every single strip stands on its own right with a different sensibility. One of the great things about ["Wednesday Comics"] coming out is I can't wait for the arguments to start about which one is everybody's favorite and why. Because, I think those discussions about what makes comics great is what makes the whole industry fun to be a part of.
There's something for everybody inside this comic. The Batman story may feel a little bit older because it's from Brian Azzarello and artist Eduardo Risso. The Supergirl story from Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner captures all the cuteness of the character and is something every little kid would enjoy.
There's something for everybody in this book over the 12 weeks, week in and week out. That's what makes it great.
Going back to 2006, DC has enjoyed success with its weekly series, "52," "Countdown," and "Trinity." And all were delivered in a traditional comic book format. Why was it time to try the weekly in a markedly different format?
It's several things. We're always looking for different ways to present the weekly format. We think we have a really interesting working model here, creating weekly comics. And with each interpretation of the weekly comic, we try to re-invent the wheel slightly. Going from "52" to "Countdown" to "Trinity," they weren't - all three - apples to apples comparisons. This particular format, this particular concept is something that Mark [Chiarello] has been fighting for, probably for two to three years in several different incarnations. He was always very adamant about what he wanted to do and from my standpoint, once it all started to come together, and once I saw the teams he was assembling -- I mean, 'cause he's the one who went out and solicited every one of those writers and artists for this project, he's the one who put the entire thing together -- so once he put together such a package like this, it seemed the best way to roll it out.
And we didn't want to go with something that was extended past the 12 weeks because we really wanted to keep these key creators involved. And it really worked with everyone's window of opportunity. And it helped us build the book in this fashion.
Truly, Chiarello did land an incredible A-list of talent for this project. Why do think there was so much buy-in?
The fun part is if people had the time available, they joined in. And there were some people that we lost along the way only because they couldn't fit it into their schedule for the moment. But everybody was interested in the format. And it's a challenging format to create, but it's something a lot of writers and artists are finding interesting. And the fun part of this is when you look at the 15 strips, in each book, each one is handled in a different style and a different tone with a different sense of pacing and a different sense of focus. And I think that's what makes it unique. It's not just a one-size fits all for all 15 strips. Each one has their own individual personality. Not only in the personality of the characters but in the personality of the creators that are involved.
Again, as it comes together, it takes on this brand new life of it own. It just keeps growing with each issue that we see.
The great thing for you is not only do you get to be the pitchman as Editor-in-Chief, but you are also part of the A-list creative team on "Wednesday Comics." How did you get involved and how did you land on the Metal Men as your subject matter?
The story is a little weird. It's a little fun. What happened was Mark had asked me early on to be a part of this and I passed on it because I really wanted us to go out and give an opportunity to some of the various talent we have working for us and talent we wanted working with us. And the story goes, one of the teams dropped out at the last minute and Mark came back to me. I had a particular idea in mind for the Metal Men, I always enjoyed those characters and it really came together for me when [Jose Luis] GarcÃa-LÃ³pez stepped up as the artist. For me, and this is me putting the fanboy hat for the moment, it is the ultimate thrill in the world for me to be working with such a professional and to see a script that you've written and hand it to him and just have it come alive by his art and his storytelling. It's just one of the finest moments for me since joining DC Comics.
Have you had any sense from the retailers that "Wednesday Comics," in its special format, will be difficult to stock in stores? Or display? Or difficult to move?
You can only imagine the discussions that took place about our concerns over this particular style of presentation. The fact that we are presenting it on folded newspaper, which is something that isn't traditionally seen in a comic book store, but that format worked so well to the material that we decided to roll the dice. And granted, you know, maybe we could have sold more if it was just a traditionally stapled comic but that's not what this is about. It's about capturing the Sunday newspaper comic experience and being able to enjoy it the same way you do Sunday afternoon but now it's on Wednesdays.
The first issue hasn't even shipped yet, but if everything works out well, is the plan to make "Wednesday Comics" an annual summer tradition for DC?
We've been talking about that but we don't want to get too far ahead of ourselves. But you know what, I would personally love to see this become a summer comics tradition.
While we're on the topic of summer events, DC seems to be parading all of its heavy hitters out this summer. There's "The Flash: Rebirth" and "Superman: World of New Krypton." Grant Morrison has the new "Batman and Robin" and then there's Geoff Johns' Green Lantern-led "Blackest Night" series still to come. Was that the plan, to have all the big guns out in their own showcase books this summer at the same time?
It's one of the things that we had in mind coming out of "Final Crisis." "Final Crisis" was not only an expansive crossover across the DC Universe but for the DC Multiverse too. It featured so many characters and so many ideas and what we wanted to do coming out of that was refocus around each of the individual characters around each of the individual character groups, which is something I feel we've done well. The thing that I get most excited about is we know how good the material is. We know how excited we are about it. We're the seasoned veterans in the room.
We're putting our books out on a monthly basis and a weekly basis. We see a lot of material pass through our bullpen and pass through our offices. The "Flash: Rebirth" book. The first issue of "Blackest Night." The first issue of "Batman and Robin." When we see those, that actually makes everybody stop and make pause, not only from our department but from the other departments, as well.
And right now, I have a copy of "Detective Comics" with Batwoman on my desk. And let me tell you, I feel with Batwoman we are reinventing what comics are all about. This transcends the traditional comic book. It is that good. And we have seen this, we have known we've had this for some time, but now to see it in printed form, I just can't wait for it to get into people's hands. And hopefully they will react with the same level of excitement as we do here.