Some of the most impactful, game-changing comics from the DC universe haven’t really been in-universe at all. Books like Batman: The Killing Joke or Watchmen grew out of resentment with the status quo, and that rebellion is something DC is looking to continue with its new publishing imprint, DC Black Label.
DC Entertainment announced Thursday that this new imprint will focus on giving iconic characters standalone stories that are off the beaten path, and certainly outside of current timeline. “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,” publisher Jim Lee said in a statement. Seeking to replicate this success means, for Black Label at least, giving creators the freedom to create “edgy and provocative” works that might not jibe with the ongoing canon.
Frank Miller’s three-part origin story Superman: Year One, out in August, will kickstart DC Black Label, while the also-announced The Other History of the DC Universe, by John Ridley, will come from the imprint as well.
Joining these two works in the imprint’s first publishing wave are four more titles: two Batman books and two Wonder Woman books.
Batman: Last Knight on Earth, by Dark Nights: Metal’s Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, puts Batman in a Mad Max: Fury Road-like desert world where villains have won, law is dead, and The Joker is a head in a jar. An alive head in a jar, but a head nonetheless. Batman: Damned, by Joker’s Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo, is a psychological whodunnit that kicks off when The Joker turns up dead. Batman and John Constantine buddy up on a case that sounds more like True Detective than Justice League.
The Wonder Woman stories are equally intense. The first, Wonder Woman Historia: The Amazons, is Kelly Sue DeConnick’s DC big-league debut as she brings Infinite Crisis artist Phil Jimenez on a three-book Greek epic exploring Queen Hippolyta’s rise and the monsters she put down. Where that series ends (Steve Trevor’s accidental discovery of Paradise Island), Wonder Woman: Diana's Daughter finds the seeds of a beginning. Greg Rucka’s comic will follow a lineage whose powers will help lead a revolt in a downtrodden world.
In addition to those descriptions, we’ve got some artwork from the imprint that also debuts its stylized logo (seen below). Its first books come out this year, which will be more than enough time for its creative freedom to woo new and exciting faces.