[DC is starting a larger roll-out of interviews with various key personnel in their September relaunch; today's subjects are editor in chief Bob Harras and executive editor Eddie Berganza. With only a brief period available for the interview, we tried to get to some of the thinking behind one of the boldest moves in comics history.
THE BEAT: I am going to start with the most super basic question of all: Why are you doing this? What was the inspiration? How come?
HARRAS: One of the things that happened when Eddie and I stepped into these jobs, and started speaking to fans, is we spoke to people who love these characters. We really wanted to spread the love and get the most people excited and involved in comics that we possibly could. We wanted to create a party and invite people to the party and get people involved in Superman, Batman, the Flash Wonder Woman, Green Lantern…In a lot of ways this grew out of those early conversations.
BERGANZA: And it's just creating accessibility. It’s a party but for too long I think we were having too much of an exclusive party. Now we’re opening the doors for everyone. There’s no velvet rope, just come on in. There’s no bouncers who are going to throw you out. We want you in there, dancing!
THE BEAT: That sounds great! It’s still a pretty drastic move though. Did you feel that starting over with #1s for everything was the best way to do this? Did you consider keeping some books at the old numbering?
HARRAS: Because we’re fans and we take these very seriously, everything was very carefully considered and discussed with everyone at DC. This is a big, big program for us and everyone was involved. But I think the guiding factor was what can we do to make people really come in and get excited about our characters? Really join what we’ve got and experience what superhero comic books and what DC has to offer in the biggest broadest possible way. And in a lot of ways we're looking forward and embracing the future and saying come on in and be part of DC. That’s really how it all grew.
THE BEAT: There have been many comments out there that it is kind of the same creative teams that were doing it before. I’m wondering what specifically are you doing to make sure that new readers are getting the message that this is a whole new thing to get into?
BERGANZA: It’s the same names but it’s a mixture of old and new. Even on talent you know, the names are landing in a lot of unexpected places. For new fans they don’t know one person from another so they are going to experience it all as new.
HARRAS: One of the things is we’re having a little more diversity of genre within the line of books. We have Westerns, we have the horror line with I, Vampire. We’re trying to expand what we do to people who may not pick up a superhero book. They may be more intrigued by this DC Comics which we haven't done in a while.
THE BEAT: What storylines are continuing from the old continuity?
HARRAS: Again, we looked as everything as we began planning out this process and we looked at events that were important to the characters' lives and had an impact on their lives and storylines going forward. That was part of a long conversation. Everything was about characters: what was important to individual characters and to history and, more important, to their future. That is why this is a very, very careful process. Eddie and his team worked very hard to create a timeline for this event that would guide writers on what was important and what we would use going forward. This is a very well thought out process with people who love these characters and want to present them for a wider base.
THE BEAT: Have you created a bible for how the DC Universe exists now? Is there a chart where it starts from?
BERGANZA: Yeah this is what Bob was talking about: a timeline we’ve created, that’s a living breathing artifact. Again, certain things are set but we want to have room to grow from and create new history.
THE BEAT: Did you think at all about the 1958 reboot that Carmine Infantino and Julius Schwartz implemented as a guide? Was it an inspiration?
HARRAS: I think everything that has come before has been an inspiration. Eddie and I are fans of these characters are important to us. That’s the guiding force to how do we present these characters in the best possible way.
BERGANZA: The world is more and more accepting of the superhero as a valid genre. It’s up to us to make it as accessible as possible.
THE BEAT: I know you don’t want to play favorites but are there any of the approaches you want to single out that you are particularly proud of or you maybe went in a direction that people are really going to get a kick out of?
BERGANZA: You don’t want to pick favorites but there's stuff that within the genres has been interested. For me it’s bringing back Resurrection Man and presenting it to a whole new audience in a broader sense There are things like I, Vampire which as a vampire fan, I love, and the art is looking great—it isn’t just guys in costumes. That’s what excited me about this. It’s not that if you don’t like superheroes you’re done; we’re offering a cable channel of variety.
HARRAS: And I don’t have any favorites but what I’m really loving is seeing the pages come in and reading stories, seeing the energy grow and grow. That’s one of the most satisfying things we’ve both experienced. Seeing the artists and writers communicate this, and we’re going to do great stuff. I mentioned that we have editorial meetings about September and all the editors come in with the pages of their books, and they're so proud saying "Look what I’ve got here,” and the other teams say “This is what I’ve got’ and there’s a sense of…
BERGANZA: Friendly competition--
HARRAS: --and excitement. That's what you hope for the most, excitement that has been growing day by day.
THE BEAT: There has been a lot of critics of the event era and in a way that’s what got us here today. There were so many events that were tied in, they did seem very new reader unfriendly. And one of the criticisms of the event era was that it was very editorially driven. Are you finding creators are more involved in this process? Is this a way to get creators more involved?
HARRAS: I think the creators are incredibly involved and incredibly excited about this. It’s one of the most enjoyable aspects of this. I’m copied on a lot of email between writers and artists talking about what’s happening and they are starting to see how they are involved and excited and hope readers will be thrilled by September. Again, it’s just that kind of energy we’re looking for.
BERGANZA: They are on the ground floor of something very unique. There have been #1s but there have never been #1’s right across the line, and it’s also day and date there are a lot of cool things happening at once.
HARRAS: And a lot of things that look towards the future all at once.
THE BEAT: Is there anything editorially that is affected by day and date?
BERGANZA: It does allow us to do different genres that go beyond superheroes. The idea of doing a western is very cool. The idea of doing more horror titles like JLA Dark and a Frankenstein [above] book is cool.
THE BEAT: What about holding the line at $2.99? What’s the pricing strategy?
HARRAS: We are definitely holding the line at $2.99. 48 of the 52 titles will be $2.99—that’s something we are very proud of and something we are definitely holding the line to.
THE BEAT: Moving forward, I know we’ve barely got through this, obviously there’s a huge 2 week lead up and everything has been written, there’s been endless speculation. Is there anything you can say about how this is going to rollout after the 52? What is the next phase? Is that in motion now?
BERGANZA: We can definitely say that September is just the beginning.
HARRAS: We are looking forward from September on. It’s about all of our characters being presented in the most exciting way possible.
THE BEAT: This is a very bold new move with new genres and new people—after the sales charts came out yesterday people were talking about how at the top was softer but the bottom was stable, so the audience is broadening even though it isn’t giant numbers. Is there any internal research or numbers that you have looked at in terms of supporting this or what kind of audience you are going to reach?
BERGANZA: We’re looking more at the platform. It’s reactive in the way that looks at all the different ways you can experience comics. That’s what we were looking at.
HARRAS: We were looking at how the world is changing and how we can embrace that change and how people are actually getting their forms of entertainment.
THE BEAT: So it was more just gut level common sense? Which is a great way to go, by the way.
HARRAS: We’re in the creative end of things so that’s what we concentrate on.
THE BEAT: Okay just to wrap up…is there an internal name? What should we call this?
HARRAS: Right now, I’m calling it September. That’s how I label it in my mind.