DC Comics will expand even further later this year with its "Black Label" imprint, announced today by the publisher. It's stated aim, according to the official press release, is to provide "premier talent the opportunity to expand upon the canon of DC’s iconic superhero comic book characters with unique, standalone stories that are outside of the current DC Universe continuity," and the initial lineup of books will include new stories starring DC's Trinity of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman.
Creators announced for DC Black Label's launch slate include Frank Miller, John Romita Jr., the fan-favorite Batman team of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, and Bitch Planet co-creator Kelly Sue DeConnick, in her first major work for DC Comics since a three-issue stint on Supergirl in 2011. Previously announced projects Superman: Year One, by Miller and Romita, and the John Ridley-written The Other History of the DC Universe, will both be released under the Black Label banner. An artist has not yet been named for The Other History of the DC Universe.
DC Black Label will launch in August with the debut of Superman: Year One, a three-part series. Mark Doyle, Executive Editor of DC Comics' mature readers imprint Vertigo, will also oversee DC Black Label.
"DC Black Label offers leading writers and artists of any industry the opportunity to tell their definitive DC stories without being confined to canon," Doyle said in the announcement. "We are carefully crafting each series to fit the vision of the creative team. All of these creators are masters of their craft. I’m psyched to be working on a Wonder Woman story with Kelly Sue and Phil [Jimenez], helping to bring John’s vision of The Other History of the DC Universe to life and reuniting with some of the greatest Batman talents in the industry.”
It's not specifically stated in DC's announcement that any Black Label books will be labeled as for "mature readers," but the words "edgy" and "provocative" are used, and it's said the new comics will have a "sense of sophistication." Along with that, it's said each book will have its own distinct format and release schedule (details still to come), and Black Label books will sport a separate logo, seen in the images accompanying this article.
In the announcement, DC named Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, Darwyn Cooke's DC: The New Frontier, Alan Moore and Brian Bolland's Batman: The Killing Joke and Moore and Dave Gibbons' Watchmen as inspirations for the line. Each featured stories of DC Universe superheroes, other than Watchmen -- though Watchmen characters have now intersected with the DCU as a result of Geoff Johns and Gary Frank's currently unfolding Doomsday Clock.
“Many of our perennially best-selling, critically acclaimed books were produced when we unleashed our top talent on standalone, often out-of-continuity projects featuring our most iconic characters, a prime example being Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns,” DC Co-Publisher Jim Lee said. "Creating DC Black Label doubles down on our commitment to working with all-star talent and trusting them to tell epic, moving stories that only they can tell with the highest levels of creative freedom."
Along with Superman: Year One and The Other History of the DC Universe, DC Black Label will include Wonder Woman Historia: The Amazons from Kelly Sue DeConnick and Phil Jimenez, a three-book series that spans "from the creation of the Amazons to the moment Steve Trevor washes up on the shores of Paradise Island." Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, fresh from even series Dark Nights: Metal, will re-team for Batman: Last Knight on Earth, taking place in a "strange future, villains are triumphant and society has liberated itself from the burden of ethical codes." Snyder first discussed the series this past October at New York Comic Con, with Batman: White Knight's Sean G. Murphy attached as artist at the time.
The Joker team of Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo will reunite for Batman: Damned, featuring a team-up between Batman and John Constantine, following the Joker's apparent death. Writer Greg Rucka will return to Wonder Woman for Wonder Woman: Diana's Daughter (working title), which tells the story of "a young woman seeks to reclaim what has been forgotten" in a hopeless world.
As DC Comics has stressed that these stories are "outside of the current DC Universe continuity," it's easy to draw comparisons to Elseworlds, the publisher's outside-continuity imprint that ran from 1989 to 2003 and included famous stories such as Batman & Dracula: Red Rain and Superman: Red Son.
Here's the official initial lineup for DC Black Label, along with synopses from the publisher:
Superman: Year One by Frank Miller and John Romita Jr.:
"A groundbreaking, definitive treatment of Superman’s classic origin story in honor of his 80th anniversary. This story details new revelations that reframe the Man of Steel’s most famous milestones—from Kal-El’s frantic exile from Krypton, to Clark Kent’s childhood in Kansas, to his inevitable rise to become the most powerful and inspiring superhero of all time."
Batman: Last Knight on Earth by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo:
"Batman wakes up in a desert. He doesn’t know what year it is or how The Joker’s head is alive in a jar beside him, but it’s the beginning of a quest unlike anything the Dark Knight has undertaken before. In this strange future, villains are triumphant and society has liberated itself from the burden of ethical codes. Fighting to survive while in search of answers, Bruce Wayne uncovers the truth about his role in this new world—and begins the last Batman story ever told."
Batman: Damned by Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo:
"On a deserted Gotham City bridge, a body is found. Whispers spread the news: Joker is dead. But is this a dream come true or a nightmare being born? Now Batman and DC’s outlaw magician John Constantine must hunt the truth through a Gotham City hellscape. The city’s supernatural recesses are laced with hints about a killer's identity, but the Dark Knight’s descent into horror will test his sanity and the limits of rationality, as he must face a horror that doesn't wear a mask."
Wonder Woman Hisoria: The Amazons by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Phil Jimenez:
"A Homeric epic of the lost history of the Amazons and Queen Hippolyta’s rise to power. Featuring monsters and myths, this three-book saga spans history from the creation of the Amazons to the moment Steve Trevor washes up on the shores of Paradise Island, changing our world forever."
Wonder Woman: Diana's Daughter by Greg Rucka (no artist yet announced)
"It's been 20 years since the world stopped looking to the skies for hope, help, and inspiration. Now the world keeps its eyes down, and the powers that have risen have every intention of keeping things that way. Amongst a scattered, broken resistance, a young woman seeks to reclaim what has been forgotten, and on the way will learn the truth about herself, her heritage, and her destiny."
The Other History of the DC Universe by John Ridley (no artist yet announced)
"A compelling literary series analyzing iconic DC moments and charting sociopolitical gains through the perspectives of DC Super Heroes who come from traditionally disenfranchised groups, including John Stewart, Extraño, Vixen, Supergirl, Katana and Rene Montoya, among others. At its core, the story focuses on the lives of those behind the costumes, and their endeavors to overcome real-world issues. It isn’t about saving the world, it’s about having the strength to simply be who you are."