DC Comics' approach to handling its multiverse is distinct from most other comics publishers' approaches because of the way it includes a set of iconic stories that, technically-speaking, aren't considered canon. If you like that sort of thing, their new Black Label should excite you. And well, if you're a comic fan, you'll probably also be excited to hear names such as Kelly Sue DeConnick, Scott Snyder and Greg Rucka, just a fraction of the talent involved.
Batman flying across the Gotham skyline in Batman: Damned. Image: Bermejo (DC Comics)
DC's Black Label, announced via The Hollywood Reporter today, will launch this August with Superman: Year One from Frank Miller and John Romita Jr, a retelling of Superman's origin story that promises to re-contextualise everything we know about the Man of Steel with the revelation of new information about his past. The other two-thirds of DC's trinity are also coming to the Black Label with two series each to their names.
Batman: Last Knight on Earth, from Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, will follow Batman and a decapitated Joker as they trudge through the desert on their way to a strange and lawless post-apocalyptic future. In Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo's Batman: Damned, the Dark Knight and John Constantine team up to fight their way through a Gotham city that's been overrun by the occult.
From left to right: The covers of Batman: Damned, Wonder Woman Historia: The Amazons, Superman: Year One. Image: Lee Bermejo, Phil Jimenez, Greg Rucka (DC Comics)
Kelly Sue DeConnick and Phil Jimenez are partnering on Wonder Woman Historia: The Amazons, an epic history of Themyscira that begins with the very creation of the Amazons and closes on the day Steve Trevor first sets eyes on Diana. In Wonder Woman: Diana's Daughter from Greg Rucka, a young woman discovers that her own destiny was first set into motion by long-forgotten heroes that people once looked to the sky for.
But the first wave of Black Label won't be entirely focused on DC's headlining characters thanks to John Ridley's The Other History of DC's Universe, an expansive and literary series that will highlight the perspective of DC's heroes who come from traditionally marginalised groups.
Many of the core ideas that have shaped characters such as Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman over the years have remained generally static in DC's mainstream comics. But it's in a number of out-of-continuity stories such as The Dark Knight Returns and Superman: Red Son in DC's old Elseworlds imprint that we've seen creators deconstruct and rebuild these characters - remixing them to tell stories that reveal new depths and complexities to their identities.
DC's Elseworlds officially ended back in 2003, but the new Black Label imprint looks to be designed to let artists and writers flex their creative muscles in fresh and interesting ways. Executive DC editor Mark Doyle emphasised to THR that the Black Label was conceived specifically so that creators could tell the kinds of stories that truly light them up without worrying about running into the kinds of roadblocks adhering to a larger canon can create:
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.
It's clear that DC's betting on its Big Three being enough of a draw to pull new readers in, but what remains to be seen is just what all the Black Label imprint ends up becoming down the line. Is this something you'll be picking up?