Today, DC Comics revealed a new imprint that will have the trade-waiters and prestige series fans among you very excited.
DC Black Label is an imprint designed to allow “an all-star lineup of creative teams” to “craft their own personal definitive DC stories.” According to DC’s official press release, the imprint is inspired by some of the publisher’s most successful prestige titles including Batman: The Killing Joke, The New Frontier, The Dark Knight Returns, and Watchmen.
According to DC co-publisher Jim Lee, Black Label books, much like the predecessors that inspired the imprint, will be creator led, rather than continuity driven, takes on the DC universe. He said:
“Many of our perennially best-selling, critically acclaimed books were produced when we unleashed our top talent on standalone, often out-of-continuity projects featuring our most iconic characters…creating DC Black Label doubles down on our commitment to working with all-star talent and trusting them to tell epic, moving stories that only they can tell with the highest levels of creative freedom.”
When thinking of DC Black Label, longtime fans might turn to DC’s “Earth One” graphic novels as a point of comparison. The Earth One comics, like Black Label’s future books, do away with the intricacies of the standard DC Universe continuity, choosing to focus on making their stories accessible to readers outside the direct market. Indeed, the Earth One line has produced a number of evergreen hits for DC in the bookstore channel, so it seems like Black Label may well be another attempt to gain a larger foothold in that marketplace.
That said, unlike Earth One, the DC Black Label imprint does not commit to publishing only original graphic novels (OGNs). According to DC, each of the Black Label books “will have a unique format and release schedule to best serve the story and creative vision.” This opens the door not only to standard single issues and OGNs under Black Label, but less standard formats such as Euro-sized comics as well. DC has recently been experimenting in that space with titles such as Marini’s Batman: The Dark Prince Charming.
The first two titles to be released under the Black Label are two previously announced books. Frank Miller and John Romita Jr. will begin publishing Superman: Year One as a prestige three-issue series beginning in August 2018. Then, in winter 2018, John Ridley’s The Other History of the DC Universe will begin to hit store shelves as well. That title still does not have an artist confirmed.
Among the new titles DC has announced for its initial Black Label slate, there are sure to be some names that will turn heads. Bitch Planet writer Kelly Sue DeConnick will team up with Phil Jimenez on Wonder Woman Historia: the Amazons. In keeping with her past body of feminist works dedicated to empowering women, this three book oversized format series will “span history from the creation of the Amazons to the moment Steve Trevor washes up on the shores of Paradise Island, changing our world forever.” More details on the book’s format will be made public as the release of the title grows closer.
Additionally, writer Greg Rucka, who recently finished his latest acclaimed run on the current single issue Wonder Woman title, will return to DC to write Wonder Woman: Diana’s daughter. This dystopian book posits a future where superheroes no longer help those in need and “the powers that have risen have every intention of keeping things that way. Amongst a scattered, broken resistance, a young woman seeks to reclaim what has been forgotten, and on the way will learn the truth about herself, her heritage, and her destiny.”
Rounding things out, DC announced two Batman books to round out their Black Label roster. Fan favorites Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, famous for their Batman run and currently wrapping up their Dark Knights: Metal event, are teaming up to create Batman: Last Knight on Earth. This title, also a dystopia, sees Batman awaken in a dessert with no memories of how he got their and the Joker’s living disembodied head beside him in a jar. As Batman enters this new world, he sees that the villains have taken over and “society has liberated itself from the burden of ethical codes” in what seems to be a permanent state of anarchy. The title is billed as “the last Batman story ever told.”
Finally, Dark Knight III: the Master Race co-writer Brian Azzarello and artist Lee Bermejo, the two of whom previously collaborated on the graphic novel, Joker, are teaming up again to create Batman: Damned. After the Joker’s body is found on a bridge, Batman teams up with John Constantine to go on a journey through Gotham’s supernatural corners to find his killer. According to DC, “the Dark Knight’s descent into horror will test his sanity and the limits of rationality, as he must face a horror that doesn’t wear a mask.”
DC Executive Editor and current Vertigo head Mark Doyle will oversee DC Black Label. Asked about the mission of the imprint, Doyle said that:
“DC Black Label offers leading writers and artists of any industry the opportunity to tell their definitive DC stories without being confined to canon. We are carefully crafting each series to fit the vision of the creative team. All of these creators are masters of their craft. I’m psyched to be working on a Wonder Woman story with Kelly Sue and Phil, helping to bring John’s vision of THE OTHER HISTORY OF THE DC UNIVERSE to life and reuniting with some of the greatest Batman talents in the industry.”
Check out the full solicits for these Black Label titles below and let us know what you think:
SUPERMAN: YEAR ONE from Frank Miller (THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT: MASTER RACE) and John Romita Jr. (ALL-STAR BATMAN, SUPERMAN)
A groundbreaking, definitive treatment of Superman’s classic origin story in honor of his 80th anniversary. This story details new revelations that reframe the Man of Steel’s most famous milestones—from Kal-El’s frantic exile from Krypton, to Clark Kent’s childhood in Kansas, to his inevitable rise to become the most powerful and inspiring superhero of all time.
BATMAN: LAST KNIGHT ON EARTH from Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, the creative team behind DARK KNIGHTS: METAL
Batman wakes up in a desert. He doesn’t know what year it is or how The Joker’s head is alive in a jar beside him, but it’s the beginning of a quest unlike anything the Dark Knight has undertaken before. In this strange future, villains are triumphant and society has liberated itself from the burden of ethical codes. Fighting to survive while in search of answers, Bruce Wayne uncovers the truth about his role in this new world—and begins the last Batman story ever told.
BATMAN: DAMNED from Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo, the creative team behind JOKER
On a deserted Gotham City bridge, a body is found. Whispers spread the news: Joker is dead. But is this a dream come true or a nightmare being born? Now Batman and DC’s outlaw magician John Constantine must hunt the truth through a Gotham City hellscape. The city’s supernatural recesses are laced with hints about a killer’s identity, but the Dark Knight’s descent into horror will test his sanity and the limits of rationality, as he must face a horror that doesn’t wear a mask.
WONDER WOMAN HISTORIA: THE AMAZONS from Kelly Sue DeConnick (Bitch Planet) and Phil Jimenez (INFINITE CRISIS)
A Homeric epic of the lost history of the Amazons and Queen Hippolyta’s rise to power. Featuring monsters and myths, this three-book saga spans history from the creation of the Amazons to the moment Steve Trevor washes up on the shores of Paradise Island, changing our world forever.
Wonder Woman: Diana’s Daughter (working title) from Greg Rucka (Wonder Woman, BATWOMAN)
It’s been 20 years since the world stopped looking to the skies for hope, help, and inspiration. Now the world keeps its eyes down, and the powers that have risen have every intention of keeping things that way. Amongst a scattered, broken resistance, a young woman seeks to reclaim what has been forgotten, and on the way will learn the truth about herself, her heritage, and her destiny.
THE OTHER HISTORY OF THE DC UNIVERSE from John Ridley (12 Years a Slave, THE AMERICAN WAY)
A compelling literary series analyzing iconic DC moments and charting sociopolitical gains through the perspectives of DC Super Heroes who come from traditionally disenfranchised groups, including John Stewart, Extraño, Vixen, Supergirl, Katana and Rene Montoya, among others. At its core, the story focuses on the lives of those behind the costumes, and their endeavors to overcome real-world issues. It isn’t about saving the world, it’s about having the strength to simply be who you are.
Alex is the New Media Editor of the Comics Beat. He is also a freelance comics editor with previous credits at First Second, Top Cow, and Papercutz. He primarily covers DC Comics and Magic: the Gathering.