Everything We Know About DC's New Book Line, Wonder Comics
Recently at New York Comic-Con, writer Brian Michael Bendis discussed his brand-new, huge project with DC Comics, which is a "pop up" imprint called Wonder Comics. This new line, which he will curate, will be directed towards younger readers, playing with both new and very familiar heroes and villains.
The idea of Bendis curating one of DC's creator-lead imprints isn't a new thing. A custom imprint was mentioned among his current titles, Superman and Action Comics, right next to his creator owned project Jinxworld when the announcement of his company move was first made. But it's been a year of silence on the news front for anything imprint related--which, it turns out, was all part of the plan.
Bendis and his collaborators have had plenty of time to organize their plans in secret. This is an initiative that has been brewing, Bendis explained during his spotlight panel at the con, since before the ink on his new DC contract was dry.
The first line of releases will include four titles with three familiar names and one original title. Young Justice by Bendis and Pat Gleason, a huge return for a team that hasn't been around since the pre-New 52 years in the DC Universe--so, over seven years for those of you playing along at home; Wonder Twins, yes, those Wonder Twins by Mark Russell and Stephen Byrne; Dial H For Hero, another vintage DC concept that hasn't been around in a while by Sam Humphries and Joe Quinones, and Naomi, a book focusing on an original character developed by Bendis and co-writer David Walker with art by Jamal Campbell.
These four books will only be the first line of Wonder Comics, according to Bendis, and the second wave is "already planned and ready to go." But don't go expecting more book announcements for a while--probably not until San Diego Comic-Con next year, if we had to make a guess. First issues of these newly announced series aren't going to hit shelves until January 2019.
But back to the important stuff: what do we actually know about Wonder Comics today? What are these books, where do they fit and--more importantly--what can we expect to see in them?
Here, we're going to break down everything we learned about Wonder Comics while at the con, from plot points to major character returns.
These books are in continuity
The entire Wonder Comics line will be in continuity for the Rebirth-era DC Universe. These are not, Bendis assured during his panel, alternate realities, new timelines, or any other comic book mumbo jumbo that would put these books outside of the mainline DCU.
This means two important things--yes, you'll need to read these books if you're a completionist trying to keep tabs on every corner of the DCU as it stands right now in Rebirth, and yes, these stories will connect and relate to other books outside of the Wonder Comics umbrella. While Wonder Comics is borrowing some of its methodology and spirit from DC's other "pop up" imprints like Young Animal and the new Sandman Universe, it isn't creating its own universe or continuity to keep tabs on. Think of this as something similar to the "DCYou" initiative at the end of the New 52, which included titles like Grayson and Starfire.
Conner Kent is coming back
One of the biggest pieces of comics news to drop at NYCC: fan favorite Superboy Conner Kent is making his triumphant return to the DCU for the first time since 2016--or, depending on how you count it, perhaps even longer.
Conner's story is a tricky one. While he did, technically, exist during the New 52 continuity reboot that held sway over the DCU between 2011 and 2016, major parts of his backstory (and the bulk of his relationships with other characters) had been fundamentally altered. Fans of the classic, pre-New 52 Conner have been clamoring for a proper return since the Rebirth era arrived.
Conner, along with Tim Drake and Bart Allen were core members of the original Young Justice team, a team that filled the Teen Titans niche after characters like Nightwing and Cyborg had been aged up into their mid-twenties and dropped their team's "teen" prefix. Young Justice eventually gave way for a new generation of Teen Titans, lead by Tim, Conner, and Bart who were existed alongside the older Titans for the bulk of the early 00s, garnering a massive fan following.
The wait for Conner--and Young Justice proper--is finally over, Bendis assured, and he's been paying attention to the constant campaigning on social media since the ink dried on his DC contract. "This is something we've had in the works from the start," he laughed, "but I couldn't say it until the right time." Bendis also went on to assure fans that this was Conner from the main DCU, not a clone and not an alternate reality or alternate timeline doppelganger pulled into the mix--so where he's been all this time, how he'll be coming back, and what of his New 52 stories will be coming with him into the Rebirth era is still very much a mystery.
Jon Kent isn't being retired to make room for Conner
Fans of DC's current Superboy, Jon Kent, can rest easy: Conner's return doesn't mean Jon is going to be benched any time soon. Bendis stressed that Jon's story will continue to unfold in the pages of the mainline Superman book, and that it's a big story that carries some real weight--not something threatened by the reappearance of the Superboy who reigned supreme for most of the 90s and 00s.
However, it's unclear whether or not Jon will begin going by a different identity to avoid redundancy with Conner--or if Conner will have some way to distinguish his Superboy name from Jon's.
That's Tim Drake and yes, he's Robin
Similar concerns about alternate realities or parallel universes were raised with the promotional image of Tim Drake on the Young Justice team. It's not that Tim hasn't been around during the Rebirth age--quite the contrary, in fact, he's actually been pretty busy--but his stories have taken him outside of space and into alternate futures. He's met versions of himself from dark timelines. He's "died" and come back to life. The potential for a version of him from another universe showing up and joining a team is a very real concern.
But a fruitless one, Bendis promised. "This is Tim Drake," Bendis said to the crowd, "Regular, main universe, main timeline Tim." And, what's more? He's going by Robin for this one--not Red Robin, the name he's used for nearly a decade. What that means for the current Robin, Damian Wayne, is still up in the air.
Naomi will "fundamentally change" the DCU
The only totally new character and concept to be introduced in Wonder Comics so far is Naomi, a book that will focus on the titular Naomi, a young girl from a small town in the Pacific Northwest who is inspired to look into her adoption by a chance encounter with Superman.
She may be the new kid in town, but Naomi's quest for her own truth is going to uncover something major. "She's going to unlock something that has never been seen in the DC Universe before," Bendis teased, pointing to major repercussions that will herald some big, big changes for the DCU at large.
What, exactly, those changes will be is still anyone's guess.
Dial H For Hero will have an "actual dial"
For the uninitiated, the original Dial H For Hero concept is a bit of a wild ride. The story revolves around a magical rotary phone (or, excuse us, a rotary phone-like device) that allows whoever holds it to literally dial the word "HERO" and be instantly transformed into a superhero for an hour. The caveat is, of course, that whoever holds the dial has no control over what hero they become or what powers they get. You dial the number and then hope for the best--all while praying the dial doesn't fall into the wrong hands.
Bendis stressed that this new incarnation of the concept was going to bring an actual dial, not an app, not a cell phone--and that that was part of the fun. He was inspired by a recent move he underwent with his family where his children weren't able to identify a flip-phone that came out of storage, so the idea of a magical rotary phone became specifically interesting. What happens when you give a modern kid a piece of technology they don't understand, and also that piece of tech can give you superpowers?
Even Bendis can't believe Wonder Twins is happening
Easily the weirdest title in the Wonder Comics line up, the classic Saturday morning cartoon duo, Zan and Jayna aka the Wonder Twins, are coming to the DC Universe once more. And yes, they're bringing their pet monkey Gleek with them.
Apparently, Bendis originally pitched the idea to some major resistance from DC co-publisher, Dan DiDio, who was worried that the project was a little too ridiculous to publish. However, Bendis brought the creative team of Mark Russell, who made some serious waves with his topical Flintstones comic last year, and Green Arrow alum Stephen Byrne into the mix to win him over.
Now, Bendis laughs. He's just elated the book is being made and printing anything more than one copy that goes straight into his hands is just icing on the cake. But that doesn't mean the book isn't meant to be taken seriously--Bendis assured fans that Russell has taken the campy ideas of the original cartoon Twins and ran with them in ways that are going to surprise everyone, even DiDio.
Gemworld is returning
This one might be a deep cut for newer DC fans. Bendis teased the return of an entire corner of the DC Universe within the pages of the Wonder Comics line. Gemworld, an alternate dimension populated by magically empowered gem-themed beings is making a come back, and with it is coming one of Gemworld's most popular faces: Amethyst, a hero who has anchored her own on-again-off-again titles in both the main DC universe and under the Vertigo umbrella.
Unfortunately, some of Gemworld's most terrifying villains are also making a comeback so fans can keep an eye out for Dark Opal, one of Amethyst's most brutal foes, to start popping up as well.
Young Justice won't have a real base and their roster will constantly evolve
While Conner, Tim, and Bart Allen are the corner of the Young Justice line up as it stands right now, the team will be constantly evolving and growing from the moment it kicks off. Bendis explained that they won't be operating out of a Hall of Justice analogue and instead rely on the instant communication of their phones and social media to set up impromptu meeting spots when and where they need them.
They'll also be pulling in any and all young heroes across the DC Universe as they need them, which means the team's roster will be virtually limitless and endlessly flexible depending on what the situation may call for.
No, Static won't be part of Young Justice...yet.
During his spotlight panel, a fan asked Bendis whether or not we could expect to see Static Shock in the mix for this new Young Justice team but the answer was an unfortunate "not yet." Apparently, Bendis made the call to Milestone the moment he learned he would get to make a Young Justice team, but Milestone wasn't ready to loan Virgil Hawkins out to another book just yet.
That doesn't mean there won't be a spot for Virgil in the future, but don't expect him right away.