Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Earth One=Earth Lost?

Now that DC is relaunching the entire DC Universe with an updated comics continuity, younger heroes, and a more contemporary take on the whole line, what happens to the Earth One graphic novel line?

Last year, DC launched the line with Superman: Earth One, an original graphic novel by J. Michael Straczynski & Shane Davis that proved to be such a successful seller that JMS abandoned his Superman comic book arc in mid-story to devote himself to telling the story of this younger Superman in a world that has had no prior heroes.

Geoff Johns & Gary Frank were already working on a Batman: Earth One graphic novel, while Straczynski & Davis were making progress on the next volume in the Superman: Earth One saga. But now that we're resetting the DCU in this post-Flashpoint relaunch, what is the purpose of the Earth One graphic novels? Is there any need for these books set in a quaint continuity that seems absolutely irrelevant in the light of September's New 52 from DC?

Even more importantly, if it is published, will there be an audience? The first book sold surprisingly well because it was something different--a sort of Ultimate Superman, so to speak, using the same formula that made Ultimate Spider-Man the best Spidey book in the past thirty years. People were drawn to the book because they wanted to see how it changed the Superman mythos.

When the second volume comes out (if the second volume comes out), however, it will be the "old guard," so to speak. Its continuity will date back to the bygone days of 2010, while DC's New 52 will reflect the hot new continuity of 2011 and beyond. Will readers want a "retro" book that takes them back to that quaint continuity reboot of a year earlier? Will they care about a continuity that they can only visit for an hour or so every year or more, when they can get 52 invitations to DC's new continuity every month? (That's the biggest problem as I see it: you can't build "brand loyalty" to a graphic novel line that comes out so infrequently that it doesn't seem to be anyone's first priority... Even if the New 52 hadn't happened, I'm not convinced that a second Earth One graphic novel could have recaptured the cultural gestalt that made the first one so surprisingly successful.)

Can't say for sure, but I suspect that the Earth One line may have already seen its shining moment; if it continues at all, I think it'll be difficult to convince anyone they should care. Like the ill-fated and haphazardly executed All-Star line, it's one of those great ideas that got lost along the way, and it already seems like it could become a footnote in DC history.


Tredekka said...

As I understood it, isn't Earth One literally set on Earth-1, e.g., still part of the regular universe of 52 Earths? The 2011 reboot will be on Earth-2, but Earth-1 still "happened"...and will still be more relevant continuity-wise than anything that happened on Earth-2 up through Flashpoint issue 5. As an interesting side note: so when they killed Ultimate Spider-Man, does that mean that Marvel thinks that the ultimate version of Spider-Man is a dead version? Because if so, they could have just done that to regular Peter Parker. And if not, they're idiots for killing the Ultimate-verse's flagship character. The Big Two need to quit lobbing road apples at their readers. I'm sad to say that this DC relaunch looks nearly as disastrous as Marvel's current lack of a relaunch.

cliff said...

You're thinking of relevance in terms of DC continuity, and I'm thinking of relevance in terms of sales relevance. Superman: Earth One sold because it offered a new take on a younger Superman making his appearance in a world without superheroes. Guess what? That's the status quo for the DCU starting in September, and readers can get 52 servings of that entertainment meal every month. The element of "specialness" that made the graphic novel a surprise hit is now gone; it's just a lackluster, continuity-less retake of the soon-to-be-current status quo.