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June 22, 2006

Online Newspaper for DC Comics Series

Within the comic book medium, both DC and Marvel have proven their expertise in stretching narratives across various comic series. Occasionally, a storyline or a catastrophe is so great that it encompasses all of the fictional universes of a certain comic company, so that all characters and all monthly comic series are affected by a current event. And, for readers to get the full story, they would have to buy all the comic books that company produces in that time span, even if they are regular collectors of many of those series.

However, comic books have often used crossing media platforms simply for adaptation instead of transmedia storytelling (the difference being that transmedia requires each story to build on the other rather than simply telling the same essential story in multiple media forms). Comics have branched into film, cartoons, video games, and various other venues, but have often not utilized the storytelling potential this transmedia empire allows.

A new initiative from DC Comics proves what transmedia storytelling within the superhero genre is capable of, however. DC has launched an intriguing new comic series called 52, a weekly series produced by four of DC's best writers. The series focuses on what happened in the DC Universe that week, including the aftermath of many of the events that happen in the other comic series.

The storytelling extends to an online project, a digital version of The Daily Planet, the newspaper of fictional Metropolis. This daily newspaper mimics news sites in providing stock trackers, online ads, and other features, all utilizing companies that are part of the DC Universe. And there are several options, including a variety of news stories, updated on a regular basis.

The idea of providing a digital newspaper to cover the events happening in a fictional universe, especially as one as outlandish as the comic book genre, is a project that could extend to almost any transmedia storytelling format as an easy way to provide additional and meaningful content. For any fictional universe that is big enough to provide enough material for constant news updates, this type of project seems not only feasible but as providing meaningful extensions for fans.

This would be a more difficult fit for weekly series to pull off, but other daily series could do this as well because their fictional universe is updated often enough to make this type of product valuable. The areas I follow--such as soap operas and pro wrestling--are other potential extensions for this type of product. The WWE already has as an online newspaper of sorts in its main Web site, complemented by its magazine, which provides news on a regular basis about the WWE universe, often blending fiction and reality. WWE on-air commentator Michael Cole--a former news correspondent--has been named editor of the online news content and is working to give it a more authentic, news-oriented feel.

However, soaps have not yet branched into this area, although it's a natural extension. Most shows already have their newspaper as part of the fictional universe, so that Oakdale's City Times or The Intruder could easily become an online daily extension for As the World Turns, with AP-style reports on events that happen in Oakdale, on the show. Sure, Jack and Carly's divorce wouldn't be in the news, but it would be a fascinating way to provide background for the show and cover shocking events--murders and the like--when they happen.

I, for one, hope that the entertainment world takes notice of The Daily Planet and that the site is given enough meaningful content to realize its potential.

Thanks to Dr. Henry Jenkins for passing this along.

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