Today marks the biggest development for DC Comics since 1985 and Crisis On Infinite Earths. It may, in fact, be the company’s biggest development ever.

At the end of August – following the current comic book crossover Flashpoint – DC’s entire line of books will be rebooted with 52 number one issues, starting with Geoff Johns and Jim Lee’s newer, younger, redesigned Justice League.

How will this reboot (and the redesigns) affect the upcoming DCU feature films – especially Justice League? Keep on reading.

Here’s the press release, courtesy of the DCU Source Blog:

“On Wednesday, August 31st, DC Comics will launch a historic renumbering of the entire DC Universe line of comic books with 52 first issues, including the release of Justice League by New York Times bestselling writer and DC Entertainment Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns and bestselling artist and DC Comics Co-Publisher Jim Lee. The publication of Justice League issue 1 will launch day-and-date digital publishing for all these ongoing titles, making DC Comics the first of the two major American publishers to release all of its superhero comic book titles digitally the same day as in print.

“DC Comics will only publish two comic books on August 31st: the final issue of this summer’s comic book mini-series Flashpoint and the first issue of Justice League by Johns and Lee, two of the most distinguished and popular contemporary comic book creators, who will be collaborating for the first time. Together they will offer a contemporary take on the origin of the comic book industry’s premier superhero team.”

Soon after the initial release, DCE Senior Vice President of Sales Bob Wayne sent out a letter on the matter. Below are the more interesting sections (via Bleeding Cool), underlined for emphasis:

“[T]he new #1s will introduce readers to a more modern, diverse DC Universe, with some character variations in appearance, origin and age. All stories will be grounded in each character’s legend – but will relate to real world situations, interactions, tragedy and triumph.

“We think our current fans will be excited by this evolution, and that it will make jumping into the story extremely accessible to first-time readers – giving them a chance to discover DC’s characters and stories.

“We have taken great care in maintaining continuity where most important, but fans will see a new approach to our storytelling.

“Some of the characters will have new origins, while others will undergo minor changes. Our characters are always being updated; however, this is the first time all of our characters will be presented in a new way all at once.

“Dan DiDio, Bob Harras and Eddie Berganza have been working diligently to pull together some of the best creative teams in the industry. Over 50 new costumes will debut in September, many updated and designed by artist Jim Lee, ensuring that the updated images appeal to the current generation of readers.”

Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s version of the JLA

Additionally, USA Today talked to Geoff Johns and Jim Lee about the announcement. Again, here are the more interesting sections:

Justice League will begin its first year with an updated secret origin reflecting DC’s new initiative, giving the group a reason for coming together that it lacked when the league first appeared in 1960. And while it will ultimately boast 14 members, at its core will be DC’s A-list do-gooders: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern and Aquaman.

The characters also are getting a makeover. While most of the specifics are still top secret, Lee says he worked with both staff and freelance artists to redesign costumes in a contemporary way as well as alter the physicality of many heroes and villains to modernize the DC Universe.

The recent emphasis on diverse characters such as lesbian superheroine Batwoman, Hispanic hero Blue Beetle and African-American adventurer Cyborg (who will be a core member of Johns and Lee’s new Justice League) also will continue.

Regardless of what you think of the various announcements today, “haters” and “fanboys” alike (of which there are many on both sides) can agree that it’s a pretty damn bold move. Though some are calling this DC’s version of a canonical Ultimate Universe, it’s more akin to the original plan for Crisis On Infinite Earths – which was to enact a full, in-continuity reboot.

It seems, at the outset, that this change was done for a few major reasons:

  1. To gain new readers by offering comics, characters, and stories unburdened by a massive amount of continuity and backlog (I call this the “Ultimate Universe” approach)
  2. To dive head-first with fresh content into the digital arena – a much-needed move in an increasingly digital world, where comic books are losing money and print is dying fast (you can pretty much guarantee Marvel will announce a similar digital move in the next few weeks and pretend like DC’s announcement had nothing to do with it)
  3. To streamline all their characters/properties across all media so fans of, say, a Justice League film won’t be confused when they then pick up a Justice League comic book (I call this the “Business first, artistic merit second” approach)

That’s right, if you want an idea of what the Justice League film might entail, Geoff Johns and Jim Lee’s Justice League #1 – like Johns’ Green Lantern: Secret Origin and Superman: Secret Origin influenced Green Lantern and Man of Steel movies before it – is probably the best place to start.

Check out the first image for Johns and Lee’s Justice League #1 below:

Note: Flash’s baby-sized head looks strange atop his massive and muscular frame.

As you can see, the main Justice League roster is: Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Aquaman, The Flash, and Teen Titans‘ Cyborg (one of the stars of Flashpoint), all of whom have movies in development, save for Cyborg. (I guess if this comes off without a hitch, we can assume a Cyborg movie’s on the way, as well?)

Essentially, it’s “the big seven” Justice League minus Martian Manhunter.

Alex Ross’ version of “the big seven” JLA

It’s worth noting a few things about the new costume designs:

  • First, with the exception of Batman, The Flash, and Cyborg, they all have a vague uniformity with regard to the collars. (This is very important!)
  • Second, Batman’s comic book costume now resembles his cinematic counterpart’s more than it ever has before. Compare the above design to that of the bat-suit in The Dark Knight. The similarity is no accident.
  • Third, Jim Lee obviously isn’t a huge fan of the Green Lantern film’s character design either, as the new one looks just like the old one.
  • Fourth, Wonder Woman’s widely-mocked new design from last year has been replaced by the one above — though similar, it looks about five times better.

Recently, our very own Rob Keyes discussed the (at the time) upcoming “big announcement” by Johns and Lee and wondered what it meant for Warner Bros.’ tent-pole Justice League film. Rob said it seemed strange that a Justice League film would utilize different actors for characters that will already have their own movies – i.e. Ryan Reynolds/Green Lantern and Henry Cavill/Man of Steel.

Now, today’s move doesn’t really explain why it would be necessary to use all new actors (after all, this Justice League will incorporate younger, twenty-early thirty somethings just like the forthcoming Green Lantern and Man of Steel films will). However, it does explain what Johns and Lee meant when they referred to a “bombshell announcement about the future of Superman and the entire DC Universe.”

The most interesting thing that will come of this – besides how it will affect the future of superhero cinema – is how Marvel will respond. Because rest assured, they will respond. The last time DC made a big announcement (circa New York Comic Con 2010, regarding comic book pricing), Marvel scrambled to announce something similar but less impactful as if they had planned to do so all along.

Expect more information about this line-wide reboot and how it will affect the future of DC superhero movies to come out in the next few days, weeks, and months, but especially at the Hero Complex Film Festival next month (via @LATherocomplex):

“Yes you will be hearing (and seeing) a LOT more about that DC news at the Hero Complex Film Festival”

Can’t wait.

Green Lantern hits theaters June 17th, Man of Steel hits theaters December 2012, and Justice League hits theaters 2013.

Sources: DCU Source Blog, Bleeding Cool, USA Today, Hero Complex Twitter

Follow me on Twitter @benandrewmoore.