201008101649.jpg Late last year, DC announced a new line of graphic novels called Earth One. The idea was a line of standalone graphic novels about major characters with new continuities. It was kind of like the Ultimates line but in the new format — GNs — instead of periodicals. Books for Superman and Batman were announced — SUPERMAN by J. Michael Straczynski and Shane Davis, while Geoff Johns and Gary Frank took on Batman.

While this sounds like an interesting project — a new series of updated continuity standalones theoretically aimed at new readers — it has been somewhat back burnered since the initial announcement back in December ’09, with no additions to the line announced. The Superman book is due in October, while the Batman book isn’t on the schedule for 2010 — not a big surprise, given Johns’ busy, busy calendar.

However at San Diego, a vigilant blogger noted — and Johanna promoted — that JMS was talking about his book and seemed to hint at some kinds of multiple formats. According to Newsarama’s account:

Last question concerns the format of Earth One, which JMS reports will come out as a hardcover, then individual issues, then be collected again. Fan: “That’s extremely confusing.” “To both of us,” JMS said with a chuckle.

And CBR’s:

The last question went to Straczynski. The fan asked whether the writer plans on continuing the “Earth One” stories. The writer revealed that the hardcover release will be followed up with single issues, which will later be collected.


It’s very unclear from either of these reports just what is going on with the format or continuation — are the periodicals new stories? Or just a periodical reprint? Or what? So we asked DC! And they responded with a statement from co-publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee:

“Our plans regarding the EARTH ONE line of original graphic novels have not changed – they will serve as new, unique and compelling reinterpretations of our key characters in original graphic novel form, by some of the biggest names and brightest stars in the industry.”

…which didn’t really answer the periodical question at all. But does seem to indicate support for the original graphic novels.
So…developing. Sort of.


  1. Not sure why they’d want to go manga-sized – it’s a generally unpopular format for superhero books, excepting maybe some of the all-ages stuff (Marvel Adventures, Superfriends, etc.)

    Obviously there’s some confusion going on at DC, but original hardcovers or standard-sized trades are probably the best bet on this line for both fans and DC’s profit margin.

  2. Based on their response I must assume one of the formats is a chipmold patch you slap on your neck which feeds images of the book into your optical nerves, inserting the information into the signals your mind converts into visual perception and rendering the comic onto the surfaces of the world around you as a stream of sequential images making the reader a part of the comic book experience like never before as their favorite heroes leap from the side of a bus onto the wall of school!

    And I have to say its about damn time. I’ve been waiting for this almost as long I’ve waited for hoverboards.

  3. I was listening to the DC SDCC podcasts a week or two ago, and JMS was asked about this. He admitted that even he was confused, but my recollection is that he said that the first OGN will come out, and after that there will be single issues with new stories. The new stories will be collected after the floppies come out.

    I don’t recall if he said whether the initial OGN will be serialized in floppies.

  4. Not sure why they’d want to go manga-sized

    I seem to recall that part of the reason they were doing these in the first place was to try to pick up some new readers–people who buy stuff at the bookstore rather than the comics store. Seems to me going manga sized (and if possible getting shelved with the manga) would increase sales. Maybe it wouldn’t, I don’t know. How well did that Wolverine manga thing do?

    But releasing it as a hardcover first and then a TPB later isn’t going to pick up new readers. Oh well.

  5. I’m still dumfounded DC named a book marketed to the general non-comixgeex audience”Earth One.”
    “Civilians” don’t know other earths! or care!!! When trying to break out they use an insular term from the comics ghetto!
    earth one! WTF does that mean to someone who just saw the movies?

  6. I really doubt changing the format of a book can convince a person into buying the book. Trying to camoflauge a book to look like a manga for the sake of tricking a reader will never work. Although it would be fun to see dc use these ogn’s as a chance to have the artists experiment with different formats. I also feel like these books are sort of doomed to fail. Bookstore readers know what tpb’s are, I feel like this might make continuity even more confusing and potentially turn off even more readers. If dc wants to publish ogn’s, that’s great, but do it with original characters and stories.

  7. >>Seems to me going manga sized (and if possible getting shelved with the manga) would increase sales. Maybe it wouldn’t, I don’t know.

    As big as manga has been over the last decade, it’s starting to hit a serious slowdown right now – in effect proving to be an extended fad. Or if it’s to remain, it’s at least trending into much lower sales. The Beat’s covered the dramatic cuts in manga pretty well over the last year.

    I think it’s kind of a shame, even though I was only a dabbler in manga. I liked the diversity in storylines and readership it often engendered.

  8. DC is really making stupid stuff these days.

    I was willing to buy the OGN but now they seem to have cheated on the readers.

    OGN meand OGN, no OGN then issues.

  9. Steve, follow-ups only work well with subjects that are willing to answer them. I mean, if I could have afforded to be at SDCC, I’d have certainly followed up on it if I was at that panel to catch it. But my past experience with trying to get questions answered by DC has demonstrated that blogging about it and hoping enough others pick it up to generate a response works more reliably and efficiently than trying to ask them directly. I mean…for all DC’s response thus far has really answered.

  10. Why is it, when someone says “JMS said” no one goes back to the source to get confirmation before the wild speculation begins?

    This was the actual exchange, as I remember it.

    Someone asked me on the panel if Superman Earth One was only coming out as a hardcover or as issues at the same time or afterward. I said, as near as I can remember it, “This is coming out first in hardcover, unlike B&B, which is single issues collected into a hardcover” (which I slipped in to promote the book, which is coming out I think this week or next week). So it went in both directions, which prompted the fan to note, “I’m confused,” and I joked back, “So am I.”

    That was the entirety of the exchange. Basically, the two different subjects got conflated in the hurry to transcribe what was being said, so they got lumped into one sentence.

    Next time, could someone actually ask me for details before starting an insurrection? I’m always happy to oblige.


  11. This may not actually be DC Comic’s fault.

    If I recall correctly, the Earth One range was going to be a co-publishing venture with Random House (who usually distribute DC trades in bookshops), and if Random House has pulled out; gotten cold feet over the deal and have only agreed to publishing one graphic novel; or even just not wanting to invest as much, then it makes sense for DC to maximise costs as much as possible by releasing the material in as many formats as possible.

    And like most contractual problems, DC don’t want to worsen the situation while possible renegotiations may happen.

  12. “If I recall correctly, the Earth One range was going to be a co-publishing venture with Random House (who usually distribute DC trades in bookshops), and if Random House has pulled out…”

    Even if this wasn’t a traditional co-publishing venture (where both Random House and DC were putting up money toward these OGNs’ creation,) it’s easy to think that as part of the normal process of book distribution, Random House may have more recently been able to provide better estimates on the number of copies that they could move in the traditional book market (analogous to the reports that quantities were solicited from the comics market.)

    If recent estimates from both comics and book markets came in below expectations, it’s not surprising that DC might wind up reworking their plans for the books.

  13. Here’s what was said (you can download the podcast from iTunes and listen for yourself, at about 2:00 away from the end of the podcast):

    Fan: With your Superman Earth One story, is that gonna be like an on-going graphic novel series or is this going to be
    one and done or do you have other plans for other Superman graphic novels if that’s not one and done? [the questioner stumbled over some of his words, but I’ve edited this to simplify… if you listen to the podcast, you’ll see that the intent of the fan’s question is as reported here]

    JMS: What they’re gonna do as I understand it is [clears throat] first the graphic novel will come out in hardcover. Then it will come out in individual issues, and then more issues will follow to be gathered together in graphic novels.

    Fan: So it’s going to be graphic novel hardcover first, then single issues re-collected, then single issues again?

    JMS: As I understand it.

    Fan: That’s extremely confusing. [laughs]

    JMS: To both of us. So, yeah, we’ll work it out somehow… [proceeds to talk about Superman as a character, no more mention of the publication format]

  14. Erik:

    Listen to the SDCC Superman panel yourself. Single issues were specifically mentioned, Brave and the Bold was not.

    What is boils down to is that JMS made an error (for whatever reason), and is simply trying to clean up his error. Mountain out of a molehill? Yes. Journalism “jumping the gun”? No.

  15. There are a multitude of Superman lines out there on bookshelves… Chronicle covers the golden age, Man of Steel covers the post-crisis relaunch, there’s the collections of the current storylines, there’s various Elseworld spinoffs, there’s the Showcase trades…

    Thus DC had to brand this new series with some name. I suspect “Earth One” is just a series name, that there will be almost no explanation of the multiverse (although DC could always merge it in later, if the line fails and they want to relaunch those particular characters, like they did with Tangent).

    The general public doesn’t care about “multiple earths”. They also know the character, and know this is a new version unconnected to “Superman Returns” or “Smallville” or “The Adventures of Superman”.

    From a publishing standpoint, HC-CB-TP makes sense. Hardcover is published first, selling to libraries and readers who can’t wait for the cheaper edition and Must Read It Now. Either word of mouth makes it a bestseller, or reviews convince people to wait for the cheaper edition. DC has published enough OGNs to calculate how an established character will sell. Given that much of the bookstore trade is to readers who HAVEN’T read the single issues, DC can even use sales data from HC collections like Blackest Night or Camelot Falls.

    After three months, bookstores check sales and return stock back to Random House/DC.

    Three to six months after the $19.99 HC come the single issues (page count suggests six issues). At $2.99, it’s $2 cheaper than buying the hardcover. All issues sold to the Direct Market are non-returnable. Perhaps someone reads the first issue, loves it, and buys the hardcover.

    Then, after that has run its course, the trade paperback is released. Perhaps it’s priced at $9.99, like many of DC’s first volumes. Or perhaps at $14.99. If it’s like most DC scheduling, the second hardcover will be released at the same time as the first paperback. (This allows DC to market two books at the same time, and someone enjoying the first volume in paperback might immediately buy the second volume in hardcover.)

    So, DC goes from $19.99 to $17.94 to $14.99 (or cheaper). Perhaps they sell digital issues along with the DM copies, and then release an e-book parallel with the trade paperback.

    Of course, this could just be another “All-Star” fiasco. Is there a publishing term similar to “vaporware”? “Lucian editions”?

  16. “not a big surprise, given Johns’ busy, busy calendar.” – Or perhaps they’re waiting on Gary Frank, since he’s STILL finishing up Superman: Secret Origins #6.

    Since the “six-issue monthly” began September 2009, and is set to end August 2010. (Not complaining mind you. I’d always rather wait on amazing art, over quick turnaround. Just saying, that could be the hold on this OGN.)

  17. “Seems to me going manga sized (and if possible getting shelved with the manga) would increase sales”

    Yes, mimmicking the manga format worked so well for the MINX line (comics targeted at the same audience than Shojo manga, to boot), that I’m sure DC is going to do the same with Superman and Batman.

  18. MINX didn’t work because a) DC did virtually no marketing and b) didn’t give it much time to succeed. Also the books weren’t really manga format. They were smaller than your usual DC/Marvel TPB but still bigger than manga. And I always saw them shelved with DC’s other stuff and not the manga books.

  19. Torsten, do we have any reason to think the floppies would be priced at $2.99 when books are starting to skew towards the $3.99 price point? Which would make the serialized version more expensive and make even less sense?

  20. One thing I noticed as interesting, is that that Batman design (Drawn by Gary Frank, Yo.) seems to be pretty much what the REGULAR Batman will be wearing in the mainstram comics after Bruce Wayne returns. Same raised symbol with the yellow oval and no trunks.

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