2013 came and went without DC Comics releasing an “Earth One” book, but the line — hardcover original graphic novels set outside of DC’s mainline continuity, and aimed to tell accessible stories from the early days of the company’s iconic characters — still has plenty of life.
On the eve of Emerald City Comicon, DC Comics announced to retailers in Seattle plans for “Teen Titans: Earth One,” scheduled for release on Nov. 19 from the creative team of writer Jeff Lemire and artist Terry Dodson. 2015 will bring a third volume of “Superman: Earth One,” the from returning writer J. Michael Straczynski and artist Ardian Syaf, new to the series; and a second installment of “Batman: Earth One,” from the familiar team of Geoff Johns and Gary Frank. Plus, “Wonder Woman: Earth One” from Grant Morrison and Yanick Paquette, remains in motion, though a release date has not been set.
CBR News spoke exclusively with DC Comics co-publisher Dan DiDio about the future of the Earth One line, and why it’s important to the company. Additionally, DiDio shared a bit about the upcoming, still-shrouded-in-mystery third weekly series, and DC editorial’s move from New York City to Burbank, California, planned for 2015.
Dan, between “Teen Titans,” “Wonder Woman” and the next volumes of “Superman” and “Batman,” there are four Earth One books known to be in production. How important is the Earth One line to DC currently?
Dan DiDio: I think it’s very important, because it allows us to tell stories with our primary characters at a different style and pace than we normally do in the periodicals. When you’re reading books in 20-page increments, or a little bit more than that, there’s a certain style of storytelling, a certain expectation per issue. But when you’re telling a full, complete story, you have a chance to really roll it out and really build to major crescendos, and take your time to develop bits and pieces of the characters in a way that really is much more expansive than allowed in the regular periodicals.
The Earth One line started in 2010, and thus predates the New 52 by about year, at least in terms of the books being on the stands. Earth One is outside of that continuity. Has there ever been concern within DC that there might be some brand confusion between the two?
Not really. There’s two very particular stories that are being told at different paces. Both of them play on a lot of the same concepts and sensibilities that people recognize with our characters. I think they truly stand on their own, and they’re told in their own style. What’s good about the “Earth One” books in particular is that we have very strong, unique creators on each one that bring their voices to the characters, that it makes them feel different from what’s going on in the main New 52 line.
Speaking of creators, the new “Teen Titans: Earth One” book has Jeff Lemire writing and Terry and Rachel Dodson on art. What has you excited about that one, and what made them the right creative team for the book?
Jeff was an extraordinarily successful graphic novelist before coming on to the periodicals. He has a strong following in the book market, and that’s something we wanted to build on. He has a voice that I thought was very strong for our younger characters, and had a very distinctive vision for these books. It wasn’t a very typical “Teen Titans” story. “Teen Titans” stories, as they’re created in the ongoing series, are a bunch of alternate characters, sidekicks or young characters that are brought together. Now he found a much more cohesive style of bringing them together that really worked for his novel.
Also curious as to the choice of Teen Titans for the next Earth One book out of the gate. Batman and Superman were pretty obvious starting points, and there’s a Wonder Woman book in the works, but why was Teen Titans right for the next one?
Mainly because we had already gone out with Superman and Batman, and those were the rights ones to go ahead. The Wonder Woman book was going to move up a little bit earlier, but it was coming together a little bit slower, and these are books that we do not want to rush. We want to put them out when they’re ready to go. The Teen Titans one actually came together very nicely. Jeff is a very structured and organized and very focused writer. When he gets working, he gets it done pretty quickly. When his script was done, we were able to get the Dodsons started quicker than some of the other series.
Speaking of the general importance of the line within DC, you see the value that it must have to the publisher with the types of artists that are on these books, because obviously it is a big commitment for an artist to do a graphic novel. The time it takes someone like Terry Dodson or Gary Frank to do a book like this, you could probably get six monthly issues out of them.
How do you approach that? It seems DC is showing a vote of confidence in these books to put artists of that caliber on them.
We have faith in the artist and the writer that are going on to the series. We always feel very strong about that. When we bring them on board to these projects, they’re aware of the rollout, how this is going to occur, how long it’s going to take before they’re back on the stands. They’re going in with that knowledge, so they’re able to pace themselves properly, and understand that this is what their primary focus is going to be. We find them other work in between — you might get a cover or two here and there. Even when we were working with Gary Frank, he was able to squeeze in some “Shazam” material in between the “Batman: Earth One” books. We always find ways to keep them out there and available, but on the other side of the coin, we really want their focus to make this the best possible project for them.
The conventional wisdom over the past few years was that for the big publishers, original graphic novels were not necessarily that feasible financially, because it’s better to have the double hit — it’s better to have both the single issues and then do a collection. With DC putting a lot of resources behind these Earth One graphic novels, it seems that’s not necessarily what you have experienced?
No, not at all. We’re trying to be much more selective when we do original graphic novels. If you look back to when I first got here, and we were producing a lot of Prestige Format books — we were churning out a lot of them, and they were a higher price point, and they were supposed to have a higher level of quality than what was going on in the regular line. But when you produce too much of that, it all starts to water itself down.
Here we want to be very selective, and try to find the right teams for the right characters. That’s why we’re not rushing these books out — we’re actually taking our time, and putting them out when they’re ready, because we feel that there’s going to be a hunger and interest to the audience for these creators and these characters, so when it does arrive, we’re presenting it in the best form possible to reach the widest audience.
Let’s talk about a couple of the other Earth One books that are in production — for “Superman: Earth One” Vol. 3 the art is going to be by Ardian Syaf in place of Shane Davis, who illustrated the first two. What prompted that switch, and what made Syaf the right choice for the book?
I love Ardian Syaf’s work. He did a wonderful job for us when we launched the New 52 line. Unfortunately, Shane had gone on to other projects, and was under contract to another company when we started this book up. We didn’t want to hold up the series, and Ardian seemed the best choice. We had a chance to show his work to JMS, and JMS loved what he saw. It was a nice, easy fit. Ardian’s done a beautiful job, and the pages look spectacular. I’m really happy. Shane set a really high bar with this series — wonderful to see somebody else taking it and running with it.
The “Wonder Woman: Earth One” book has been out there in the ether for a while — any update as to when readers may expect to see that one?
We’re trying to put these books out almost to one a quarter. We’re set to go with the “Teen Titans” book first, and as we watch the other books develop, we’ll be able to put them on the schedule.
So not until 2015, at least?
Exactly. The only one Earth One book you’ll see in 2014 will be “Teen Titans.”
We’re talking about four different Earth One books in production — how active is the development right now at DC in terms of planning even more beyond this?
We’ve looked at a couple of the other key franchises, and we’re considering them right now, but we’re waiting for the right teams to come together. Also, since we have a little bit of a backlog of material, we’d like to get through some of the material we have right now before we put anything else into production.
Dan, while I have you here, wanted to ask the question, even though you may not be able to say something — a third weekly series at DC has been announced, but nothing more beyond its existence has really been established. Is there anything more you can share at this time?
It is the third of three weekly series. [Laughs] Coming out later this year. It runs on parallel stories, and interconnects with the other weekly, and actually has beats that crossover with the “Five Years Later” storyline. And then you’ll see how the entire universe makes sense.
Tied in with that news was the return of lenticular covers this September. Obviously last year they were a huge hit, but there were also some speedbumps, certainly, given complications including allocations. Was there any hesitation in returning to that format? Or was it kind of a no-brainer, given how big of a hit it was?
I wouldn’t say no-brainer, because we gave it a lot of thought. It makes sense to do it again, but we had to do it smarter and better. And we did both. Smarter in the sense that we spoke to all of the retailers, and we came out with a process on how to solicit them so they’re better informed, and can order them in a proper manner to ensure that all of their fans get enough of the books. They’ll be enough books on the stands. That’s part one.
Better is the sense that we didn’t want to repeat the same trick. We don’t want to do the same thing we did last time. What we’ve done is identified ways to be able to do motion covers now. Now we actually have motion, and art changing, and still have the 3D effect, but you’ll actually see a change take place. On one flicker side you’ll see the character as he exists currently, on the other flicker side, you’ll get a sense of what’s going to happen to him five years from now. A lot of fun.
Coming up in 2015 is DC editorial’s move from New York City to Burbank. From your perspective as co-publisher, what are you hoping for in having DC consolidated all on one coast?
What I’m really hoping for is the true sense of integration that we know will help to launch this company to even greater heights in the future. We are much stronger united, and we’re headed to that goal. We’ve got a road to get there, but I know it’s all for the right things for the right reasons, and for the betterment of the company itself and the characters. [DiDio declined comment when asked by CBR News if he expects a high rate of editorial staff to make the move.]
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