It may be the strangest element of the modern rise of billion-dollar superhero blockbusters: that while the money and awareness rolls in, with heroes bigger and more recognizable than ever before, both Marvel and DC are having trouble linking that success to more comic sales. As a result, both companies have relied on some massive events and relaunches to pursue a modern audience - but with the impending DC Rebirth, the publisher is trying something a little different: bringing new stories and titles, but framing it all as a throwback to the company's (and characters') roots.
The company-wide rebirth (NOT a reboot) begins with a single issue, penned by DC Entertainment Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns himself (one of his last writing jobs before reportedly taking a larger position coordinating DC Films). And even though "DC Universe: Rebirth" #1 was leaked ahead of its release date - well-guarded secrets, returns, deaths, and all - Johns is so proud of the issue and what it means for the DC Universe going forward, he's personally promised to buy the comic from any reader left unsatisfied.
The promise was made in an interview with ComicBook.com, with Johns stating that not only does he think the issue should do well, but that it will, based purely on its quality. However, in the event that the 80-page launch issue doesn't meet the expectations or standards of the reader, he's got them covered:
"It’s $2.99 for 80 pages. It’s not a lot. If anyone wants to check out comics, wants to check out DC Universe Rebirth #1 and doesn’t like it, they can mail it to Warner Bros., to me, and I will send them a check, I literally will, for both postage and for the book. I will buy all these books back because I believe in this issue a lot. I think it’ll do very well. I hope it does well. But I seriously will, I’ll buy back this book."
Skipping over the trolls who usually pounce on such claims, Johns' statements should encourage those hoping that the "Rebirth" launch issue is one to remember. There was little doubt that the writer of "Green Lantern: Rebirth" and "The Flash: Rebirth" would bring the same level of quality and fan service to the "Rebirth" entrusted with launching the company's entire initiative, but it's this kind of dedication that has earned Johns significant credit among the comic community.
And judging by almost all of the reviews, he shouldn't have to shell out too much cash when all is said and done.
It's no coincidence that Johns' pledge is framed in belief that readers will enjoy the story, as opposed to any financial stake. In truth, his obvious affection and reverence for the best of DC's catalogue of characters is what helped him shift from, at least superficially, a fan-favorite comics writer to an executive, giving input and direction in various TV, film, and video game productions. And with word that his experience will be put to use by Warner Bros. in offering the same guidance for feature films, Johns goes on to frame "Dc Universe: Rebirth" as something of a farewell - although the fans (and surely he, himself) hope it isn't for good:
"The only reason I write these characters is because I love them. The only reason I want to spread the gospel of these characters is because I love when – like, when Blackest Night happened, suddenly a lot of people were like, ‘I like Mera!’ I was like, ‘Me too, that’s why I put her in there!’ And New 52 launched and people were like, ‘wow, I like Aquaman AND Mera!’ (laughs).
"It’s all about connection. I think a lot of people who are into this stuff like us, when I was in school I met my best friend because he was reading comic books. We made a connection through comics, and then I had a best friend in high school, who I’m still friends with. The chance to write a love letter, to put so much into this, it really felt like, ‘okay, if I have to take a step back from writing comics for a bit,’ I felt like this was a great opportunity to say thanks through a comic book. I think the compass of Hope and Optimism is in DC’s DNA and it’s important to get that out there."
The moment of satisfaction in "Rebirth" #1 will obviously be a bittersweet one, but Johns has spent the last months personally meeting with the creative teams entrusted with DC's new slate of titles, with the simple goal of "telling the best story possible" for each hero, in their own unique way. It will hopefully result in some memorable comic storylines - and the price drop to #2.99 USD won't hurt - and readers can only hope that each writer and artist has the same confidence and pride in what they're putting out in the months to come. Fingers crossed.
"DC Universe: Rebirth" #1 launches on Wednesday, May 25, 2016.