OPINION: Hey DC, What and Where Are Your “BLACK LABEL” Comics? by Ryan Lower


Hey DC, what’s the BLACK LABEL?

No really, I’m asking for a friend.

Before I start getting all snarky, let’s rewind to March of 2018, when DC announced their upcoming “Black Label” and how it was giving creative freedom to some of its most talented writers and artists…

Many of our perennially best-selling, critically acclaimed books were produced when we unleashed our top talent on standalone, often out-of-continuity projects featuring our most iconic characters, a prime example being Frank Miller’s THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS. Creating DC Black Label doubles down on our commitment to working with all-star talent and trusting them to tell epic, moving stories that only they can tell with the highest levels of creative freedom.

That sounded like music to my ears, and I wasn’t alone.

Included in this announcement were the teases of new Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman stories — kicking off with SUPERMAN: YEAR ONE from Frank Miller.

Oh, how everything changes in (nearly) a year!

First off, BATMAN: DAMNED #1 kicked off the line (selling over 100k issues), Black Label was slapped onto the trade paperback of Sean Murphy’s (excellent) WHITE KNIGHT, we haven’t seen (or heard) much of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s LAST KNIGHT (though I can’t wait) and DC Daily JUST dropped some artwork for SUPERMAN: YEAR ONE (thanks to BOF’s Ryan Hoss for the head’s up on that one).

In other words: nobody knows what the BLACK LABEL is.

I’m all for creative freedom and understand when companies need to intervene. DC has some of THE best characters in the world, and they should definitely be careful with how they’re treated.

That being said, making an announcement is like making a promise to the fans. In this case, I felt like DC was telling me “Hey, we are allowing some really gifted talent to go crazy with our characters. No strings attached” and that sounds great to me.

Pure creative freedom can give us THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, SUPERMAN: RED SON, and other great tales that don’t have to fit into continuity. In that same announcement, the heads of DC even recognized that these types of stories sell and are what fans want.

So what’s the holdup?

I don’t have an answer.

When BATMAN: DAMNED #1 was released, it made international headlines for how much of Bruce Wayne we got to see. DC then backtracked, saying they weren’t reprinting the physical copies, and even made “adjustments” to the digital versions. Now, I personally found the original “addition” to be unnecessary. But, I’m fully against censorship in the right regard.

BLACK LABEL was initially announced as a mature line, even putting it on the front cover of the issue. That, with the creators’ promise of artistic freedom, should allow anything to happen within the 40+ pages. But DC blinked and went into repair mode.

What’s got me all up in arms? Well, issue #2 of DAMNED was delayed a bit because (remarkable) artist Lee Bermejo had to redo pages that had already been approved (*cough* DC *cough*).

Then, issue #3 (the finale) was initially scheduled to be released this month….but got delayed to March.

Now, DC has reportedly canceled orders and are “saying” the book will be out in May.

I’ll believe it when I see it.

Look, I complain about all of this with love. When I go to the comic book shop, my money goes to DC. That’s not a slight to any other company, I just love DC characters. I bleed Batman. But these delays and mysterious disappearings are getting tiresome.

Lest I remind you how long it took us to get 10 issues of ALL-STAR BATMAN AND ROBIN in the early 2000’s, before it just went off the map?

Or how BATMAN: EUROPA was announced in 2010, but didn’t see the light of day until November 2015?

Or the current delays of DOOMSDAY CLOCK (a book that I adore…read my reviews)?

Sometimes, things just don’t work out.

That’s OK, I can understand that. But stop pussyfooting around with us fans and just give us the truth. It’ll earn you more respect than shoving announcements under the rug and distracting us with something new.

I love DC Comics, but I don’t love what they’re doing.

Fix it, and us fans will reward you for it.

Then you can call DC the $GREEN LABEL$. – Ryan Lower