The New 52

"The New 52"

Cover of DC Comics The New 52 #1, July 2011.
Publisher DC Comics
Publication date August 31 2011 – present
Genre Superhero
Main character(s) Justice League, DC Universe
Creative team
Writer(s) Various
Artist(s) Various
Collected editions
DC Comics: The New 52 ISBN 1401234518

The New 52 is a 2011 revamp and relaunch by DC Comics of its entire line of ongoing monthly superhero books, in which all of its existing titles were cancelled, and 52 new series debuted in September 2011 with new #1 issues.[1] Among the series being renumbered are Action Comics and Detective Comics, which had previously retained their original numbering since the 1930s. Touted as a large publishing event following the conclusion of the "Flashpoint" crossover storyline, DC's relaunch entails changes to both the publishing format and fictional universe to entice new readers.[2] Publishing changes include same day release of physical comics with digital platforms, all DC Universe titles being cancelled or restarted at a new issue 1, the former Wildstorm imprint being absorbed into the DC Universe, and new titles being released to bring the number of ongoing series being published on a monthly basis up to 52. A number of in-universe changes are intended to make characters more modern and accessible, though the scope of the changes varies from character to character.[3]


Publication history

Jim Lee and Geoff Johns at the August 31, 2011 midnight signing for Flashpoint #5 and Justice League #1 at Midtown Comics Times Square.

Following the "Flashpoint" storyline, all DC titles were renumbered and relaunched with new #1 issues.[4] The new continuity features new outfits and backstories for many of DC's long established heroes and villains. An interview with DC Comics executive editor Eddie Berganza and editor-in-chief Bob Harras reveals that the new continuity does not constitute a full reboot of the DC Universe but rather a "soft reboot". While many characters underwent a reboot or revamp, much of DC Universe history will remain intact. Many major storylines such as "Blackest Night", "Brightest Day", Identity Crisis, "Batman: A Death in the Family" and Batman: The Killing Joke are still part of the continuity. DC editorial has also constructed a timeline that details the new history and which storylines to keep or ignore.[5]

Each first issue included interviews with select New 52 writers, discussing what they hope to bring to the new comics.

On August 31, 2011, Midtown Comics Times Square held a midnight event in which they began selling Justice League #1 and Flashpoint #5. On hand to sign the books were DC Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns, who is the writer on both titles, and Co-Publisher and writer/artist Jim Lee, who is the illustrator on Justice League.[1][6]

Changes to the DC universe

Scott Snyder and Ivan Brandon at a September 21, 2011 signing for Batman #1 and Men of War #1 at Midtown Comics.

In late July, DC released The New 52, a free preview book giving solicitations and previews of all of the new titles launching from August 31. A preview of the new Justice League of America origin story shows Batman being hunted down by Gotham police and being saved by Green Lantern. Other notable changes shown include Superman's two new looks, one wearing jeans and a blue t-shirt with the iconic 'S' logo and another in battle armor, and the introduction of the Wildstorm universe characters as part of the DC Universe, confirming that Martian Manhunter will be recruiting the new Stormwatch in the opening origin story of the title Stormwatch.[7]

The initial run of first issues show a universe in which superheroes have appeared only in the past few years, and are viewed with at best, suspicion, and at worst, outright hostility, with Batman pursued by the Gotham police while on the trail of an alien, revealed to be an agent of Darkseid.[8] While running from the police, he teams with Green Lantern.[9] Superman is being hounded by General Sam Lane and Lex Luthor.[10] Others seek to exploit the new superheroes, such as with a weak and easily swayed, Canadian Booster Gold being put in charge of Justice League International.[11]

Various other changes have occurred: Jason Todd has had training with a whole new sect of warriors, before he became Red Hood. Roy Harper never had a daughter or lost his arm. The Tamaranean view of Earth has been changed, while Starfire has had an altered origin and a personality change.[12] In Batgirl, Barbara Gordon has recovered from the paralysis inflicted upon her by the Joker's bullet in The Killing Joke, and has returned to fighting crime as Batgirl.[13]



Pre-orders for Justice League #1 exceeded 200,000 copies.[14] Justice League #1 has been sent back to press at least four times and all of the New 52's first issue titles sold out by September 24, 2011.[15] For the month of September 2011, DC had 8 of the top 10 comic books for the month, in spite of Marvel's heavily publicised replacement Ultimate Spider-Man, Miles Morales launching the same month.[16]

Justice League #1 is currently the top-selling DC comic of 2011.[17]

Writer Warren Ellis was unimpressed with the relaunch's sales, stating that it garnered DC a half-point lead in dollar share and a five-point lead in units sold over Marvel Comics. Ellis also pointed out that the units DC sold are returnable.[18]

Columnist Heidi MacDonald stated that while the market share comparisons are correct, the sales figures for single issue books do not take into account the fact that returnable comics are downgraded by approximately 10%, and that DC's sales are about that amount lower than the actual sales, in order to allow for potential returns. MacDonald opined that while the sellouts and reprintings make returns unlikely, the sales will remain 10% lower throughout the books' returnability period, which will last through December, and that actual sales will be adjusted for this factor in Diamond Comic Distributors' end of year figures.[19]

Writer and ComicMix columnist Glenn Hauman wrote that relying solely on Diamond's numbers, to the exclusion of newsstand, overseas and digital sales, does not provide a complete measure of the relaunch's success. Hauman emphasized that the long-term availability of infinite digital editions will mean that sales will continue on the books for weeks and months afterwards, and that the market share for that market is uncertain.[20]

Critical reception

The Christian Science Monitor's Rich Clabaugh has cited the relaunched Action Comics and Detective Comics as the strongest of the first week's releases.[21] Forbes, The New York Times and the A.V. Club have seen the New 52 as a good editorial move from DC.[22][23][24]

In terms of the books themselves, Keith Phipps and Oliver Sava of The A.V. Club praised the art in Justice League #1, but thought its writing and structure was a weak point.[25] In all, Sava named O.M.A.C. and Captain Atom his favorite books of the relaunch, while Phipps singled out Animal Man and Wonder Woman.[23] They also singled out Batman for high praise,[26] and also both enjoyed Action Comics, Animal Man, Swamp Thing,[27] Batwoman, Frankenstein Agent Of S.H.A.D.E., Demon Knights, Batman and Robin,[28], Captain Atom,[26] Nightwing,[26] Aquaman, The Flash, All Star Western and Voodoo.[23] However, they both disliked Detective Comics, Hawk & Dove,[27] Legion Lost, Red Lanterns,[28] Legion Of Super-Heroes, DC Universe Presents: Deadman,[26] Superman, Batman: The Dark Knight, The Fury Of Firestorm: The Nuclear Man and The Savage Hawkman.[23] On the remaining titles, the reviewers were either split, or exhibited mixed reactions ranging from lukewarm or indifferent to cautiously optimistic or intrigued.

Accusations of sexism

Lack of female creators

During a panel at San Diego Comic Con 2011, DC Comics co-publisher Dan Didio was asked by a fan about the drop of female creators on DC titles from 12% to 1%. Didio responded:

"What do those numbers mean to you? What do they mean to you? Who should we be hiring? Tell me right now. Who should we be hiring right now? Tell me."[29]

In an editorial responding to Didio, ComicsAlliance editor-in-chief Laura Hudson wrote, "Women are half of the world, and a significant percentage of the DC Comics character stable, and yet only 1% of their creators. And the way that you treat and represent half of the people in your world—and by extension, half of the people in the real world who might potentially buy your books—should be more than a marginal concern."[30]

On July 29, 2011, DC released a letter addressing the lack of female creators on their official blog, highlighting notable female creators currently being published by them and promising more in the future.[31] Hudson called the letter "an enormous and very positive departure from how DC Comics has dealt with controversies about gender and race in the past, which was almost uniformly not to comment", adding "While it remains to be seen what sort of meaningful changes in either attitudes or hiring practices will follow, it certainly leaves me feeling more optimistic than I have in some time, or maybe ever."[32]

Portrayal of female characters

DC has also received criticism for its handling of certain female characters during the relaunch, sparking discussion of misogynistic and anti-feminist overtones in titles such as Catwoman #1 and Red Hood and the Outlaws #1. Laura Hudson of Comics Alliance and Andrew Wheeler of Bleeding Cool criticized the relaunch for oversexualized characterization of its female characters, such as Catwoman, Starfire and Voodoo, and for cancelling books with female leads like Power Girl, and relegating the star of that series to the status of Mister Terrific's girlfriend.[33][34] Keith Phipps and Oliver Sava agreed with the observations of Catwoman and Red Hood and the Outlaws, but opined that Voodoo was a positive example how to incorporate a female character's sexuality as a relevant aspect of the story without appearing exploitative.[26] Wheeler also complained that retconning Barbara Gordon's paralysis as a temporary injury from which she recovered,[35] and restoring her as Batgirl, to the exclusion of Cassandra Cain and Stephanie Brown, made the DC Universe less diverse and inclusive.[34]


Justice League

These are titles featuring characters related to the Justice League[36][37]

Justice League was the first book of the relaunch. Geoff Johns and Dan Didio indicate that the first story arc takes place five years prior to the present, during the dawn of superheroes, and details the first meeting of the Justice League members.[5]


Much of Batman's history and timeline remains intact. With the exception of Stephanie Brown all of the Robins have been accounted for and Barbara Gordon has spent time as Oracle, recently returning as Batgirl. The stories build on recent developments, and Bruce Wayne is again the only Batman.[40]

Grant Morrison's short-lived Batman Incorporated is absent from the Batman relaunch. According to Morrison, the title will relaunch sometime in 2012 to complete the "Leviathan" storyline.[45]


These titles feature the "Superman Family" of characters. Superman's marriage with Lois Lane has never happened, he is a bachelor, and his adoptive parents Jonathan and Martha Kent have died. Storylines will emphasize his alien nature and how it isolates him from humanity.[46][47][48]

Action Comics' first story arc details Superman's rebooted history, while Superman features his present adventures. Superman's new costume is explained as a ceremonial battle armor that pays tribute to his Kryptonian past.[50]

Green Lantern

The Green Lantern line is not undergoing a reboot. The new storyline instead builds on the aftermath of "War of the Green Lanterns". Sinestro again becomes a Green Lantern taking Hal Jordan's ring, Abin Sur's connection to the Indigo Tribe will be explained, and Kyle Rayner will headline a new team whose members represent each light of the emotional spectrum.[51][52]

Young Justice

These titles feature teenaged characters whose books do not fall into the other groups of titles.[55][56]

The Edge

These are war, science fiction, western, or crime comics, including titles formerly belonging to the WildStorm imprint.[57]

The Dark

This is the billing given to the more supernatural comics, an area that in recent years had been covered more by the Vertigo imprint.[65]

Collected editions

DC is collecting all 52 #1s into a 1216 page hardcover collection in December 2011, to be called DC Comics: The New 52 (ISBN 1401234518).


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  3. ^ Siegel, Lucas (May 31, 2011). "DC UNIVERSE Reboots in September". Newsarama. 
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