EXCLUSIVE: DC Redefines Its Co-Feature Program

When it was announced earlier this year, DC Comics' co-features program proved equal parts old school superhero throwback and 21st century value additive. By inserting short superhero serials into the back of books which were seeing a price increase from $2.99 to $3.99, the publisher hoped to give new life to some of its lesser-known characters while also easing reader worries about the value they got out of their comics purchases. Over the past few months, fans have come to follow the adventures of characters like Blue Beetle, the Question and the Metal Men as part and parcel of their regular comics fix, but the programming is seeing some shake-ups in 2010 as DC Executive Editor Dan DiDio revealed exclusively to CBR.

"The success [of the program] has been the fact that everything didn't crash and burn when we added the extra pages in and put them out with a higher price point," DiDio revealed of what he learned with the experiment. "We're trying to be as judicious as possible when it comes to changing our price point or raising the cost of the books. We want to make sure that there's value in there, and I think people identify the co-feature as added value. They understood why the price was increased, and I was happy to see how we moved at that level.

"Some of the co-features worked quite well for me. I was very happy with how a couple of them came out creatively and how they added that extra value. Some of them stumbled a bit out of the gate, but more importantly, we're constantly reevaluating this system. We wanted to give it a chance to take hold, and now that we're pretty deep into the first year's worth of co-features, it's the perfect time to start thinking about what changes we can make to either grow this program or change it."

DiDio outlined all the changes that will arrive to the DC co-features program starting in the spring of 2010, including:

  • "Green Arrow," "Booster Gold" and "Doom Patrol" will all lose their co-features moving forward and will return to a $2.99 price point.
  • "Action Comics," "Adventure Comics" and "Batman: Streets of Gotham" will swap out their currently running co-features for serials starring different heroes from the DC Universe.
  • Moving forward, "Teen Titans," "Justice League of America" and "JSA All-Stars" will include co-features where, rather than focusing on one character over a long story, readers will see different cast members related to the main team embark on their own, limited run adventures. On occasion, a co-feature will be dropped for a month if the main story needs to expand out to 30-pages.
  • The Inferno and Hangman co-features in DC's Red Circle series "The Shield" and "The Web" will be replaced by similarly rotating stories featuring more characters associated with the classic Archie Comics superhero line, including the Black Hood and the Fox to start, with Mr. Justice, the Comet and Jaguar included as the series roll on. Designs for these new characters were revealed last week on DC's The Source blog.
  • Upon the launch of its First Wave titles in March, DC's "Doc Savage" series will include a "Justice, Inc." co-feature, and "The Spirit" ongoing will have a "Spirit Black and White" series of stories.
  • In the publisher's first official world of plans for the post-Blackest Night DCU, DiDio explained that "Green Lantern Corps" will gain a co-feature in the new year.
  • The "Question" co-feature in "Detective Comics" will remain unchanged.

Talking about each specific change on its own, the executive editor explained that for the first crop of books being reduced in size and price, the decisions were purely story based. "'Green Arrow' is going to be very Green Arrow-centric, and we have other plans for Black Canary. And rather than adding another character, we felt it would do well to go back to the $2.99 price point. 'Booster Gold,' too, is taking on a new direction for the series, and we wanted to keep the focus just on Booster Gold. You'll be seeing some creative team changes on that book very soon. We've decided to move Blue Beetle out of that series, and he'll be moving into another book in the new year - but neither as a co-feature or in his own starring title.

"'Doom Patrol' was an interesting choice for me. I really, really enjoyed the Metal Men series that Keith, Kevin and J.M. Dematteis did, but we looked it over, and Maguire was moving on to another project. So rather than try and break up the team, I thought it would be the perfect time to wrap up the Metal Men co-feature. Those three brought such a unique voice to that, it was better to leave it as it is and put Metal Men aside for the moment. Also, it leaves Keith able to focus on Doom Patrol."

In the case of books like "Action," "Adventure" and "Streets of Gotham," DiDio said that some of the current stories had run their course within the books they were assigned, but that all was not over for characters like Captain Atom and Manhunter. "Each one of those characters will find different homes moving ahead in the new year. It's not that any of these characters are falling by the wayside. They will be moving into different series, just not their own title series, similar to what Blue Beetle is going through."

As for the new co-features coming in to the series to replace their predecessors, as well as the one added to "Green Lantern Corps," DiDio said, "I don't want to get too far ahead of those, because they'll be separate announcements down the line. Each book will be featuring a different co-feature than they have now."

The rotating feel for the Red Circle series is part of DC's plan to help firmly establish several of those characters within the context of the broader DCU. "We wanted to start showing more characters and creating more excitement about what's going on there," DiDio said. "This was asked of me recently, and I want to be very public about it. The Red Circle books have our full support. We're about to enter our second year with them, and it's all systems go. The sales might seem a little low at this particular moment, but I think the creativity is high on those books, and we want to keep pushing them as strong as we can. My hope is that you'll be seeing an interesting Red Circle story and maybe even some cool announcements coming in 2010."

Asked whether that meant a Mighty Crusaders series would be in the offing for 2010, DiDio laughed and said, "I think the first step in that is the fact that we're getting ready to reintroduce characters like the Black Hood, the Comet, the Fox, the Jaguar and Mr. Justice. It shows our commitment to this line and to those characters. Hopefully, that's the foundation of a really good team."

Another contributing factor to the changes made across the line came with the fact that as the original run of co-features started up, stories began to meld between the front of the book and the back in unexpected ways, and the publisher wanted to take advantage of that idea where possible. In other cases - such as "Teen Titans," "Justice League" and "All-Stars" - DiDio and editorial saw an abundance of characters who might not be able to carry their own stories for a long haul. "That's why we changed our logic on these ones. We were looking at something like Ravager when thinking about having enough material later on to stand alone as a collection, but quite honestly, it works much better for quicker, more succinct and stronger stories if we don't concentrate on collecting the co-feature but rather finding ways they can enhance the front story or give a spotlight to a character who might not have enough story to fill 12 segments as opposed to, say, six segments."

Already revealed as part of this initiative is the first "JSA All-Stars" co-feature starring Liberty Belle and Hourman, which hits in March's issue #4 by Jen Van Meter and Travis Moore.

The executive editor did say that collections are in the offing for some of the previous co-features, and that each series will be put together based on the best way to make the front and back stories interact with each other. "Some of them were built in that fashion. I think Manhunter, the Question, Ravager and Metal Men were all built apart from the lead book. But we're going to take advantage of those extra pages either in having the feature stand alone, supporting the lead story or have the lead story expand out to 30 pages if necessary. We want to take advantage of these pages to tell the best story possible so fans always feel like they're getting their money's worth."

Ultimately, the co-feature factor will continue to go hand-in-hand with any pricing changes seen at the publisher, as DiDio promised, "That was always the plan. We only went to a $3.99 price point if we had 30 pages or more of content. We're going to hold to that line as long as we can."

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