PHILADELPHIA - DC Comics' heroes are going to zeroes.
In September, DC Entertainment will publish a zero issue for its 52 titles, a move that co-publishers Jim Lee and Dan DiDio said this week will help explain the origins and effects of its rebooted characters a year after it erased decades of history and continuity to start everything from scratch.
But, the duo said, zeroing out for the month will create new plots and wrinkles for the likes of Wonder Woman, Batman and Superman, among others, and see the debut of some fan-favorite characters as well as set the stage for more ongoing stories in the months to come too.
When DC relaunched its characters in September 2011 with 52 titles, the rebooted heroes and villains weren't starting from zero.
"We started at different points for the different series," DiDio said, adding that having every title go to zero with stand-alone stories helps readers, established and new, "find a level playing field and creates another jumping on point."
Lee said each of the books will help fill in the blanks of some characters' origins or present a full origin story.
"We underestimated the hunger and appetite that readers would have for this backstory when we launched," he said. "The readership has been very intrigued in finding out the backstory in the five years since the emergence of the Justice League."
It's also a chance to bring four new titles to comic shops, too, said DiDio, who added DC plans to keep 52 titles publishing no matter what.
"We want to keep it new and we want to keep it 52 all the time," he said. "We're constantly going to be refreshing the line."
After zero, all the titles will go back to their regular numbering, though each of the 52 "zero" issues will end up in a bound omnibus edition in fall.
Dubbed the third wave, the new titles include "Talon," which spins out of the pages of Batman and is written by James Tynion IV and Scott Snyder and illustrated by Guillem March.
"Sword and Sorcery" is written by Christy Marx and drawn by Aaron Lopresti. It sees the debut of 1980s fan favorite Amethyst, whose alter ego Amy Winston comes to realize she's the lost princess of Gemworld. The title has a back-up story written by Tony Bedard and drawn by Jesus Saiz that brings Beowulf versus Grendel to a post-apocalyptic wasteland.
"Team Seven" sees the formation of a team designed to counter Superman.
That title, written by Justin Jordan and illustrated by Jesus Merino, has ties to many of DC's current comics because it includes characters like Steve Trevor, Dinah Lance, Amanda Waller, John Lynch, Cole Cash, Alex Fairchild and Slade Wilson.
The fourth, "The Phantom Stranger," shows its namesake learning more about his true origin, his ties to Pandora and his role in creating The Spectre, long a mysterious and powerful hand of vengeance.
"I always loved the mystery and horror aspects of The Phantom Stranger," DiDio said. "The mystery works for and against him and, as a supporting character, the mysteries are really interesting.
"But as a lead character in his own series, that becomes a huge challenge - you want to know more about him and how he acts and behaves," he said of the title, which he's writing and Brent Anderson is illustrating.
Lee said Phantom Stranger will become "a really pivotal part in the New 52. Not just going forward, but going back, too, in the scheme of things."