Dan Didio Discusses The Organic Future Of DC Comics

With Blackest Night and Wednesday Comics winning over con-goers, we spoke to DC Executive Editor Dan Didio about summer events, weekly and digital comics, and why personal stories are best when it comes to giving superheroes something to fight against.

How's the convention?

I got in just Friday, I got in late so I hit the ground running, and it doesn't matter what day you arrive now, every day seems sold out, every day is packed. Every day is Saturday as far as I'm concerned. It's pretty intense, the reactions to everything we've got going on from Wednesday Comics to Blackest Night to Superman to Batman has been extremely strong for us. You put a lot of time and energy into working all year to get to this point and to get people having that level of excitement and wanting to know more, and keep reading what's going on right now, gives you a renewed feeling of energy to just dig back in when you get back in to the office.

So what is the most successful thing, or the most popular thing, from the reactions you've been seeing so far?

Without question, it's Blackest Night. I mean, if you walk around the convention floor, you see all the shirts. And I think now, I can honestly say that, with all the colored Lantern shirts, we've finally found a way to knock out Superman and Batman as the most iconic shirt walking around the convention floor. From my standpoint, that is an incredible validation for all the efforts that Geoff [Johns], Pete Tomasi, Ivan Reis and all the guys have put into getting us where we are right now.

What about Wednesday Comics, how do you think that's going over?

Dan Didio Discusses The Organic Future Of DC Comics

I absolutely adore Wednesday Comics, naturally. You know, it was a big risk for us, we took a lot of chances on it. So, for us to hear people coming back not only critically applauding it, but we also have very strong sales, better than we were expecting. Honestly, we walked into it with a lot of hesitation, we didn't walk into it saying 'This is going to be a great money-making book for us,' but we knew it had some weird potential.

I have to admit, it stymied everyone internally, from publicity to sales to marketing, everybody embraced it, everybody got excited about it, but everybody wasn't sure how it was going to do. The first issue exceeded our expectations, and we continue to stand higher than we thought we were going to on the book.

Do you think it's because there's good value in doing non-continuity tales that offer new readers a better opportunity to come into?

You know, I get the new reader question a lot, but I don't think this is about new readers. It's about an interesting format, I think it's a different way to tell stories. Honestly, if you read all the stories, are you getting the origins of everyone? Are you getting all the backstory on everybody? You're not seeing that. What you are seeing are just good, fun stories.

I think new readers can come into comics reading Blackest Night as much as they can come into comics reading Wednesday Comics as much as they could come in reading all the relaunches on all the new Batman books. As long as we tell something that feels exciting, something that feels compelling, something that makes you want to pick up the next month's books, I think that's how you get new readers, that's how you get more readers, and just as importantly, hold onto the readers that you've got.

Do you think that Wednesday Comics is something that you could do again, or is it a one-off?

That's probably the most asked question right now. As I like to say, we still have another nine issues to come out, and the reality is, the only way we can go out there and do a second series of these is to go out with a better arrangement of talent, you know, one that's more high profile, more energetic, and hopefully try to exceed what we've accomplished on the first one.

Which is a tall order, considering what's been accomplished in the first one.

Yeah, yeah. So what I want to do is sit back, and see how this performs, see what it does as a collected form, we're still discussing how we're going to release that, so from my standpoint, once we achieve that, we're going to be able to stand back and think about what we need to accomplish next.

Any teases as to what the next weekly comic will be? Or is there even another weekly comic coming down the line?

Yeah, as a matter of fact, we're discussing a couple of projects right now. One we thought was going to hit this year, but we moved it to next year. I really enjoy the weekly format, I think it's the way to go, it always has relevance to what's going on in the line, or there's something that feels unique about it. There will always be strengths to it. You can look at every one we've done in the weekly format, from 52 and Countdown [To Final Crisis] to Trinity and you can see the strengths of each one, what they've accomplished. The hard part is always coming up with a way to one-up yourself, like I said. I think it's something we've accomplished with Wednesday Comics, but more importantly, I think [weekly is] a valuable format, especially with the buying patterns and type of audience that we have.

A lot of people are going digital at this convention, there's a lot of talk about digital comics, is that something you're thinking about, or are you just concentrating on "comic" comics?

I'm always concentrating on "comic" comics, because at this point, you look like the readers that we have, that fanbase is built on a very collectable mentality, that's what our fanbase is, that's why comics are succeeding while other magazines are failing. We're not advertising reliant, which is the first thing, so it's the collector aspect that keeps it going.

But to say that we're not focusing on a digital aspect would be false. We're always aware of that, we know that is the future, and that's where things are heading. But the format and when you roll that out, that's a different point.

Is part of it waiting for one particular format? There're a lot of formats, and there's a lot of conversation about which is better.

There's always a lot of conversation. This is my own personal viewpoint: Much of our audience, much of our reader base is very comfortable reading paper, you know what I mean? Once we have an audience that's built, that's learnt, on reading things on a screen, then you'll see a natural migration over to that, but things haven't reached that point in our foundation. I still think what's strong about what we do is the collectability, and that's why we focus on the publishing side we've got going on.

Right now, you've got Green Lantern, Justice Society and Batman getting a push. What should people be looking at in the next year that they may not be looking at now?

Naturally, you'll see a lot of things going on with Superman that's building to a bigger story next year, and I think it's pretty obvious where a lot of that is heading. Also, there's a storyline coming out of [Justice League] Cry for Justice that comes out of that, goes into [Justice] League and then goes into Titans, so you'll see something happening over in the group books a bit, as well.

Dan Didio Discusses The Organic Future Of DC Comics

So are you bringing all the books back together like you did in Countdown To Final Crisis?After that, you pretty much let everything breathe.

Exactly. What I like to do is set milestones, something we should hit every month and use as guidestones. Every month, something happens that everybody reacts to. It's a little bit of an osciliating effect: The stories come together, they feel the cohesion of the universe, and then they break apart and do their own thing, and then they come together again as things go on there. It gives the writers a chance to expand and fill their character base, but also continue to give that cohesive nature to the DCU, and I think that's what most people are looking for.

I look at what we have, and I always say that we have eight key franchises, and what we have is that we've always tried to build stories based around those franchises, and then make them interact. The Bruce Wayne story leading into Batman Reborn, and the Dick Grayson as Batman story is really playing throughout the whole Batman world. Much of what's going on with the World of New Krypton is playing across the Superman books. You had Rise of The Olympian that was taking place in the Wonder Woman series, which has a lot to do still over there. Cry for Justice will be feeding into Justice League of America. And then it comes to the Teen Titans books as well. It'll be an interesting way to see how those things interact.

We came out of the "Thy Kingdom Come" storyline in the JSA and now we watch JSA become a mini-franchise, between Magog and Power Girl and JSA All Stars. And Green Lantern through Blackest Night and Flash through Rebirth, you're going to see our key characters and franchises getting something that really drives them.

But you're going to keep them separate for now?

Well, I like to say that, but we have Green Lantern running, we have Flash running and we have JLA running, and you can see that Flash is playing an integral part in Blackest Night. Not that whole, 'here comes an event so everyone has to be together,' it's more about, who makes most sense for this particular event and watching what happens when we do that so that it feels more organic, and not as forced.

Are you guys changing the ways you do events? Blackest Night feels more focused, if that makes sense, in a way that <em.Final Crisis wasn't.

"Crisis" stands for it's own thing, it stands for multiverses, multiple worlds, multiple incarnations, multiple interpretations, which is all over the place. It's really a cornerstone of DC, but we've sort of played that card a lot of times now, we've decided to take a half-step back and focus on more personal stories and focus on the key characters, like we are doing with Blackest Night. But that's not to say that the next time we go through, we might not have something that's...

...Crisis-esque.

Mmm, I wouldnt say "crisis-esque," but I would say it has the scope of something large, but it still has a very personal context to it.