DC Comics has always had a habit of relaunching their universes, yet few of their relaunches have been as successful as "Rebirth," an arc led by visionary comic book writer . It all started with the phenomenally successful DC Universe- Rebirth #1, and from there, Johns spearheaded a line-wide relaunch of the entire DC Universe.

The last relaunch, "New 52," proved to be something of a damp squib, and DC's main competitor, Marvel, was outpacing them in every way; DC's market share was typically more than 15% lower than Marvel's. So Geoff Johns began by running through the whole range, trying to work out just what was missing. As he explained:

"We have a writers room here with a whiteboard that covers the entire wall, and I spent hours in there listing out all the things I love about DC and the things that I thought were not in the books right now. I sat down and I read everything, and I thought, I don't feel any sense of history, legacy, hope, optimism, a cohesive universe — and by that, I don't mean crossovers every week — emotional bonds was a huge one. Over the years, some of this stuff had been lost. Not just characters, but smaller things too, tonal things that are really hard to nail."

Rejecting The Watchmen

The concept behind "Rebirth." [Credit: DC Comics]
The concept behind "Rebirth." [Credit: DC Comics]

DC tracked the change all the way back to Alan Moore's classic , published in 1986 and 1987. Inspired by Watchmen's success, DC had embraced the darkness and bleakness of Moore's comics, treating their superheroes as gods rather than men. But under Geoff Johns's leadership, "Rebirth" rejected this, relaunching the whole DC universe with an all-pervasive message of hope. It's telling that the first teaser images all showed the characters smiling, and that fan-favorite pairings like Lois and Clark were restored.

Geoff Johns's DC Universe- Rebirth #1 revealed that a cosmic force had stolen ten years' worth of love and joy from the DC Universe, and it began a quest to restore that which was lost. In a wonderful twist, the readers realized from the start that the perpetrators of this crime of temporal grand larceny were the characters from Watchmen. Yes, Geoff Johns actually dared to make his critique of the comic book industry a core part of the story. DC was returning to its roots, moving away from the Watchmen-style bleakness.

A Remarkable Success

The cover of 'DC Universe- Rebirth' #1. [Credit: DC Comics]
The cover of 'DC Universe- Rebirth' #1. [Credit: DC Comics]

"Rebirth" has proved to be one of the most remarkable successes in comic book history. By August 2016, overall comic book sales had risen to a 20-year peak; they've since dropped, but DC's sales remain healthy. DC's success has coincided with a period of difficulty over at Marvel; now, Marvel's market share is typically less than 5% higher than DC's, and the House of Ideas is desperately attempting to mimic the success of "Rebirth." Meanwhile, Geoff Johns's success actually saw him moved over to help the struggling .

The second year of "Rebirth" has kicked off with a cosmic crossover that unites DC's greatest detectives — Batman and the Flash — as they attempt to unravel the universe's greatest mysteries. They're hot on the trail of the Watchmen, and Geoff Johns has revealed that he's returning to comics in order to bring the Watchmen themselves back into the game...