Before DC Comics had envisioned the New 52, their 2011 relaunch, they announced a new Original Graphic Novel (OGN) imprint called Earth One. While, generally speaking, most comic books come out as a 20-30 page monthly single issue magazine format, an OGN comes out as a 150-200 page soft or hardcover book. The added page count gives the writer and artist more time to complete the project since they don’t have to meet a month by month due date. Graphic Novels, in general, also reach a much wider audience than the average comic book issue since they can be sold through book retailers like Barnes and Noble and Amazon, making them more favorable to the less hardcore collector.
Now ten years later, almost to the month, there have been 11 Earth One entries, from 5 different creative teams tackling 5 different characters. The imprint launched officially with the release of Superman: Earth One, by J. Michael Strazynski and Shane Davis, which successfully attempted bringing Superman into a more modern, and sometimes, more realistic world. That was followed two years later with Batman: Earth One by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank, which was, again, successful.
A sequel to Superman: Earth One, Teen Titans, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern would soon follow but the sporadic releases of these OGN’s would sometimes leave people to believe that the line was abandoned by DC Comics. Sometimes years would go by without an announcement of when the next one would come out, and then DC would announce the release of one by surprise, a few months before its release date.
Fans gravitated to these OGN’s because they liked to see top creators such as Grant Morrison, Jeff Lemire and Geoff Johns tackle characters they haven’t worked on before in a way that allows them more creative freedom than your average comic book. A perfect example of this approach was 2018’s Green Lantern: Earth One by Gabriel Hardman and Corinna Bechko. This book took the expansive Green Lantern mythology and threw most of it out the window in favor of something more visceral and original.
DC Comics has put a lot of faith in their graphic novel lines for many years, so it’s curious that they wouldn’t release more Earth One titles. Often years go by before fans hear of another earth one book. Batman: Earth One – Vol. 2 was released in 2015 and it wasn’t until 2018 that a third volume was announced. Now, two years later, and Geoff Johns (the series writer) says the book is done, fans and retailers still have no idea when it’s going to be released.
Like most everything in the comic book world, consistency is important in building up hype. For example, a major comic book event will lose audience attention if it’s a few months late between issues. One of the most popular independent comics of all time, Saga, kept a consistent schedule for many years and was able to keep fans coming back every month. Now that Saga has been on an unusual two year long hiatus, it remains to be seen if they can restart the same hype they had in the beginning.
Consistency is key. Many fans don’t feel that DC Comics has a lot of interest in these books and therefore fans ask whether or not they should either. 2015 was the most consistent year for the line with three titles being released that year, Batman: Earth One-Vol. 2, Superman: Earth One-Vol. 3 and the first volume of Wonder Woman: Earth One by Grant Morrison and Yannick Paquett. That followed a pretty consistent track record with the Earth One volumes being released, roughly once a year beginning with 2012.
Consistently releasing volumes three times a year is probably not a viable strategy for OGN’s, but one or two a year would be enough to keep fans engaged with a line that has offered more creative freedom then most of the mainstream comic companies allow these days. For example, in 2018, after more than a year without new entries, DC announced it would “revive” the imprint with Green Lantern: Earth One and a second volume of Wonder Woman: Earth One, which were released that year. Fans were led to believe they could expect a more consistent run of these fan favorite books, but, after a year and a half of no announcements, it seemed DC went back on old habits.
Now it’s 2020, and the second volume of Green Lantern: Earth One has just been released and there are no announcements of new OGN’s outside of Geoff Johns saying that they’ll release Batman: Earth One-Vol. 3 “eventually.” This is a line that has a lot of potential still to explore. Why not release more characters? In 2015, they announced they would be expanding the line to include Aquaman by Francis Manipul and The Flash by J. Michael Strazynski, but after five years, there have been no updates on those titles.
Sparse updates for years are not how you build hype for a line of Original Graphic Novels. Saying “surprise, here’s another entry” is only going to get the book lost in the deluge of new comics that come out every Wednesday (or Tuesday in DC’s case.) DC needs to start giving concrete answers as to when these books are coming out. They need to make it clear that the line is still something that they’re interested in promoting and something that fans should be interested in reading. Otherwise, why should we care?