Several DC Comics Go Back To Issue No. 1

DC Comics is resetting all 52 of its continuing series Wednesday in an effort to revive declining sales and renew interest. It's back to issue No. 1. Melissa Block talks to Jim Lee — co-publisher of DC Entertainment/DC Comics and artist on the new Justice League comic — about the comic books reboot.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host: Another big change now in the world of crime fighting. Today, DC Comics is rebooting all 52 of its continuing comic book series. That means it's back to issue number one for the entire Justice League - meaning Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and the Man of Steel. Just imagine Superman with someone other than Lois Lane.

Well, restarting a long-running narrative is nothing new to the comic book industry, and the publisher hopes this will revive declining sales. But the move could also alienate long-time fans who like their superheroes just the way they are.

Well, to help guide me through the DC universe, I'm joined by Jim Lee. He's co-publisher of DC Entertainment/DC Comics. He's also the primary artist on the new "Justice League" series. Jim Lee, welcome to the program.

JIM LEE: Hey, thank you for having me on.

BLOCK: True confession first of all. I am not a comics fan, but I do know that Superman belongs with Lois Lane. This is sacrilege, I suppose, in some worlds. Why do this?

LEE: Well, we're not saying he's not going to end up with her, but we wanted to restore that classic love triangle. Lois loves Superman, Clark loves Lois. And so we have this kind unique situation that would create a lot of new opportunities for the creative teams to explore fresh new directions with the book and tell new stories.

BLOCK: Well, what other changes are involved in the reboot? What else can fans expect to be totally different in the Justice League?

LEE: Well, actually Clark works for Lois at the Daily Planet. So that's kind of a change. And that will lead to some interesting situations. We're returning Barbara Gordon to the role of Batgirl.

And then there's other changes that we're doing just across the entire line, where we're streamlining the continuity. Continuity is all the stories that have happened in the past 70-plus years, and we're really kind of picking and choosing the best storylines and saying these are the ones that happened and the others did not. And we're sort of shortening and simplifying the backstory so that new readers can jump in and understand what's going on from the very first issue.

BLOCK: Are there things in the backstory of these characters that are just so vital that you really can't change them? Let me read to you from a blog post that I saw about this. The death of his parents is Batman's story. It is integral to who he is and who he becomes, by changing that you make him no longer Batman and the world wants us a freaking Batman.

LEE: Right. The thing is we're not changing that. So we are keeping really the most crucial, well-known aspects of the characters intact. So Batman's parents will have been murdered in front of his eyes and that's what motivates him to become Batman. Superman is still the last surviving son of Krypton, and he's sent by his parents to Earth. So those things will still remain intact.

It's really a lot of the continuity, the other stories that have kind of come on that aren't as crucial, that have kind of made the world of comic books a little more daunting to jump into. When a book is up to issue 900-something, you don't feel like you can kind of jump in and really understand what's going on right off the bat.

BLOCK: When you look at the rise of video games and movies that are based on comic books and superheroes, do you think, though, the printed comic is really a relic in some way and the revitalization that you're talking about may be a sign of some real trouble in there?

LEE: Yes and no. I mean, I would say that comics in general have been a cyclical business. They've had tremendous peaks and other valleys, and this is certainly not the first time.

The total number of dollars generated in what we call the direct market, the brick-and-mortar stores, has been fairly steady or flat. And that's because I think we have fewer readers, but we're charging more for the comics. So that's a real problem. And that's why we decided to hold the line. Our basic comic book will be priced at 2.99. And that was part of this entire plan of how do we bring in new customers, new readers. And how do we make sure that comic books don't become a relic of the past.

BLOCK: OK. Well, Jim Lee, thanks so much.

LEE: Hey, thank you.

BLOCK: Jim Lee is co-publisher of DC Entertainment/DC Comics and an artist on the new "Justice League" series.

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