Last night, DC Comics sent out one of their regular "Direct Channel" e-mail newsletters to retailers, and in between announcements of ordering deadlines, issue sellouts and trade paperback reprints came much more unexpected news: that June 22's "Superman" #712 would ship with entirely new contents than had been previously solicited by the publisher.
Originally, the issue was set to be the latest chapter in "Grounded" -Â the Man of Steel story begun by J. Michael Straczynski and continued by Chris Roberson focusing on Superman's walk across America -Â with a special focusing on the establishment of a Muslim superhero called Sharif in Los Angeles. Instead, the comic will carry a story by Kurt Busiek and Rick Leonardi featuring Krypto the Superdog which was originally created then shelved during Busiek's run on the title circa 2007.
CBR News has learned new details about the story swap and how its changes were released to retailers as well as how they will affect the long term plans for "Grounded" - facts which speak to the publisher's overall plans for the series if not the specific queries as to what happened in the original draft of #712.
DC's e-mail announcement read:
Please note the new contents for SUPERMAN #712, now written by Kurt Busiek with art by Rick Leonardi, a cover by Carlos Pacheco and Jesus Merino and a variant cover by Stanley "Artgerm" Lau.
This fill in issue contains a lost classic, Lost Boy: A Tale of Krypto theSuperdog, set shortly after Superboy died in Infinite Crisis and Superman went missing.
DC Comics determined that the previously solicited story did not work within the "Grounded" storyline. However, Chris Roberson, will be back for the final two issues of Superman's year long walk across America. As we near the conclusion, catch up with Superman next month as he makes stops in Portland and Newberg, OR. SUPERMAN #712 is scheduled to arrive in stores on June 22.
Because of this change, this issue will be made returnable at a later date.
Of course, since the originally solicited issue promised a story where "Sharif discovers that in today's current cultural climate, some people don't want his help - they just want him gone," it has led many online to speculate on what exactly the issue contained that might have made the story not work for the overall arc and whether fear over the Muslim superhero's portrayal could be a factor.
ComicsAlliance has the most thorough roundup of responses to the move, include a quote from Chris Roberson who DC promised would be back in July to wrap up the final issues of "Grounded." The writer told the site "As much as I look forward to seeing an unpublished Kurt Busiek Superman story, it's a shame that DC didn't determine that the story we prepared for Superman 712 didn't work in the Grounded storyline in time for us to do a different story. As it happened, the Sharif story was included in the outline for the remaining issues of Grounded that I submitted in November. The outline was approved, and in February the issue synopsis that I provided was used to draft the solicitation text, to work up character designs for Sharif (the grown up version of Sinbad from the early 90s), and for cover art to be pencilled, inked, and colored. The script for the issue was accepted in April, and was drawn, inked, and lettered. Unfortunately, when the issue was ready to be sent to the printer in the third week of May I was informed that the decision had been made not to print it."
The site also carries a quote from planned variant cover artist George Perez's Facebook page venting frustration over the last-minute change.
CBR News has learned that despite the swap out of content coming so late in the publishing schedule - a practice DC has taken criticism for in the past including during the "Blackest Night" event - the news was not discussed at last Friday's meeting between Co-Publisher's Dan Didio and Jim Lee at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank. However, "Grounded" in general did come up during the open summit, and DC reportedly promised shop owners that the year-long story would finish as originally announced before the publisher's September relaunch of titles.
On the other side of the spectrum, Bleeding Cool is carrying a report that lays the changes at the feet of a kitten rescuing scene a la "Superman: The Movie" that did not jibe with the company's current conception of the hero.
Overall, the specific content issues behind the last-minute change may have nothing to do with either story beats or everything to do with both. While DC has recently published controversial storylines surrounding modern political ideas and characters including the Muslim Batman Nightrunner and Superman's renouncing of his U.S. citizenship in "Action Comics" #900, the publisher has rarely commented publicly on its editorial decisions beyond the public comments of freelancer creators. What is known is that Roberson will continue work on "Grounded" as well as several projects for Vertigo in the months ahead, leaving one key question on this issue whose answer has to come out sooner or later: how will the long-running "Grounded" storyline be affected?
Reached for comment, a DC representative told CBR that the publisher will make sure the storyline will wrap up fully by September with a tale that will take Superman to all the locations promised at the beginning of his journey over a year ago.
Stay tuned to CBR News for more on "Superman" and the future of the franchise heading across the summer.