There is a learning curve which goes along with getting into comic books.
Whether it's a person's first time picking up a comic or a reader returning after years away, there is inevitably going to be some missed history.
Most comics come out monthly. For some characters, like Batman and Superman, multiple different comics come out each month - meaning dozens of different stories get told each year. Then there's the fact that, in some cases, stories have been being told for 50 to 60 to 70 years.
Justice League is among the ‘‘rebooted’’ titles of the DC?Comics line. The company’s relaunch is a chance for experienced comic readers and novices alike to get a fresh start with all of DC’s series.
That required ''catching up'' can sometimes dissuade potential readers from picking up a comic book, and I understand the hesitance. Why pay for something if it's only part of the story? Since different writers draw on different elements of a character's past, how is someone supposed to know what backstory is necessary to understand one of today's new books? Superman died in the '90s and Batman had his back broken. Do I need to read those stories before picking up one of their current comics?
The answer, of course, is both ''yes'' and ''no'' with all sorts of shades of gray in between.
On the one hand, it is nice to have a simple, self-contained story in a comic book. On the other hand though, buying a comic book can be about more than just the current story being told. On some level, when a reader buys a comic book, they're buying into something larger than just the single comic itself.
DC Comics Reboot Schedule
Hawk And Dove
Justice League International
Men Of War
Batman And Robin
Agent Of S.H.A.D.E.
Green Lantern Grifter
Suicide Squad Superboy
Birds Of Prey
DC Universe Presents
Green Lantern Corps
Legion Of Super-Heroes
Red Hood And The Outlaws
Batman: The Dark Knight
The Fury Of Firestorm
Justice League Dark
The Savage Hawkman
Few people have probably read all comics put out by any given publisher. That's why some of the best writers craft compelling stories which are complete in-and-of-themselves yet explore and expand on a character's past. Ideally, a comic's story should simultaneously satisfy and also spark interest in both back issues and other characters. As with any other medium though, different writers will write comics differently - which means finding the right comic for you can be a crapshoot without some sort of research or guidance.
DC Comics is attempting something new this month. They're ''rebooting'' their entire line of comics. The company-wide relaunch is the focus of this month's ''Nerding Out'' and chances are, if you've made it this far, you're either a friend, family member or longtime comic book reader. This month's column is for all of you regular readers, just as it always is. But, maybe more importantly, this month's column is for people who have never read a comic or who haven't read one in a while. So once you've finished, be sure and see it gets into their hands.
DC's new status quo started last week with the relaunching of their Justice League title. The publisher will release 51 other rebooted comics this month, all of which are first issues.
The numbering of the comics is a nitpicky issue with longtime comic fans. However, the across-the-board decision to make all 52 of the company's new comics ''first issues'' is supposed to be the big attraction to all you potential new and hesitant return readers. Pick up one of these new ''No. 1s'' and you'll be on board from the beginning. This is your jumping-on point. All those years of continuity aren't going out the window, but DC seems to be scaling-back the complexity of it. I'd say that any time is a good time to get into reading comic books, but there's something especially appealing about DC's across-the-board relaunch.
It's tempting to want to say DC is starting over, and, to some degree, they are. In a number of the comics coming out this month, DC is taking the characters back to the beginning of their careers. Much of the company's history is still in tact though. It's tough to try to encapsulate everything here, but many of the company's big stories will still have happened in the current continuity, from ''The Killing Joke'' to ''Blackest Night.''
Want to know more about the reboot? Or are you ready to take a chance on a title or two? Well, in addition to this month's column, today's paper includes an additional piece of info about DC's relaunch.
Wrapped around the comics section of today's newspaper is a three-page ad placed by Chautauqua Comics. It features full-page advance artwork of some of the new titles going on sale this month. It also features a week-by-week checklist so you'll know what's coming out when. If you're not a regular reader of the Sunday comics section, make sure to check out the funny pages this week. And if you end up stopping in to Chautauqua Comics, let store owner Al Steffens know you saw the ad or read about it here in ''Nerding Out.'' That'd make his day as well as mine.
What follows are details of DC's week-by-week rollout this month, along with some comments and commentary on the titles:
Coming this Wednesday are first issues of the following titles: Action Comics, Animal Man, Batgirl, Batwing, Detective Comics, Green Arrow, Hawk And Dove, Justice League International, Men Of War, O.M.A.C., Static Shock, Stormwatch, and Swamp Thing.
DC is wasting no time in issuing its two big titles, Action Comics and Detective Comics - where Superman and Batman each first appeared in print, respectively. A man named Grant Morrison is going to be writing ''Action Comics.'' This will mean many different things to regular DC readers.
New readers, however, only need to know that it's a new take on Superman's early years - therefore it won't have a lot of continuity baggage but it also won't be the classic Superman some might be expecting.
Batman is largely unaffected by the company's relaunch. It will be Bruce Wayne in the costume and he'll still have his extended network of superhero associates to back him up, including a Robin and two former Robins (of which there have been five or six, depending on how you count).
Also of interest this first week are titles like Animal Man, Swamp Thing and Stormwatch. With this relaunch, DC has worked characters from its imprint comic labels like Vertigo and WildStorm back into the main DC Universe. This may or may not be of interest to new readers looking to start out in comics, as the names of the imprint labels (let alone the characters) might be unfamiliar. However, someone looking for a comic that's not the typical spandex-clad superhero will surely find something of interest in what DC's calling its dark side.
The second week of DC's relaunch will feature the following titles: Batman And Robin; Batwoman; Deathstroke; Demon Knights; Frankenstein, Agent Of S.H.A.D.E.; Green Lantern; Grifter; Legion Lost; Mister Terrific; Red Lanterns; Resurrection Man; Suicide Squad; and Superboy.
As week two shows, DC's done a decent job of portioning out its Bat-themed books over the four weeks - along with its Superman family and JLA stuff. The big one for a lot of readers in this second week will be DC's ''Green Lantern'' title, which sees a return to Hal Jordon's early years. And I believe Sinestro will be a Green Lantern again. That's enough to pique my interest, and I'm not a fan of the character by any means.
What's most interesting to me this second week though is the new Batwoman comic which features the character Kate Kane, an out lesbian. Batwoman was featured in a few issues of Detective Comics a year or so back and the artwork by J.H. Williams III, who is continuing on this series, is enough to secure my money.
On the darker side, there's Demon Knights; Frankenstein, Agent Of S.H.A.D.E. and Resurrection Man. These titles have me really curious, especially the Frankenstein book. I've been following a Vertigo series called Sweet Tooth since its beginning and this Frankenstein book (as well as the Animal Man book in week one) are both being written by author Jeff Lemire. Both look to be good stuff. If only there weren't so many to try to buy.
Week three of the reboot will see the following first issues released by DC: Batman, Birds Of Prey, Blue Beetle, Captain Atom, Catwoman, DC Universe Presents, Green Lantern Corps, Legion Of Super-Heroes, Nightwing, Red Hood And The Outlaws, Supergirl, and Wonder Woman.
I'd been following a title called Gotham City Sirens the last few years, which was just canceled in advance of the reboot. That title was a team-up book with Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn and Catwoman. Storylines could sometimes suffer as a result of having all three of those characters plus others, which is why this new Catwoman solo series seems appealing.
Barbara Gordon's return to the Batgirl costume comes out the first week of the relaunch. This third week similarly sees Dick Grayson's return to the Nightwing costume. Both are books I want, despite issues I have with seeing both characters return to those costumes. Still, there's potential there - especially with Gail Simone writing the Batgirl book. I'm optimistic, and excited.
What surely has my money (at least for the first five issues) is DC Presents, a book which will change and focus on different characters. The first arc of the series will focus on Deadman, a character I've been getting into more and more since DC's Blackest Night and Brightest Day series.
The rollout concludes on Wednesday, Sept. 28, with first issues of the following titles: All-Star Western; Aquaman; Batman: The Dark Knight; Blackhawks; The Fury Of Firestorm; Green Lanterns: New Guardians; I, Vampire; Justice League Dark; The Savage Hawkman; Superman; Teen Titans; and Voodoo.
Don't let the fact that this is last week of the relaunch fool you. There looks to be a lot of good stuff here, especially Justice League Dark - which I'll get to in a minute.
I don't think the Jonah Hex movie affected the character's popularity in comics much. And DC is adding a new twist to the character's first story here in All-Star Western, putting him in Gotham City when it was just a one-horse town.
DC's been trying to make Aquaman a popular character for a while now and I think they've got a shot with this new series by Geoff Johns. However, for my money, if there's one secondary such character to take a chance on, it's this new Hawkman book, The Savage Hawkman. From what little DC's released of the book so far, it appears to be a return-to-the-beginning for the character, which makes it appealing to people like me who know little-to-nothing about the character.
I'm going to miss Zatanna having her own monthly title, but Justice League Dark looks to be a great replacement comic - as the cast includes not just Zatanna, but Deadman, John Constantine, Shade the Changing Man and others.
I'll leave it at that this month. More from me in a month's time.
Nerding Out With Nick Dean is a monthly column about comic books, movies and more. It runs the first Sunday of each month. Comments, criticisms and/or items for submission can be sent via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling the newsroom at 487-1111, ext. 251.