DC Universe Subscription: First Impressions

DC Universe is the new digital portal putting the many media iterations of DC, from comics to shows to movies, literally at your fingertips. Is the DC Universe subscription worth the introductory cost of $74.99 per year or $7.99 per month? I signed up for a year and here are my first impressions.

DC Universe subscription

This isn’t Marvel Unlimited. DC fans have been waiting for a DC digital service similar to what Marvel offers ever since…well…since Marvel launched Marvel Unlimited. In this early version of DC Universe, the company is offering both more and less than Marvel Unlimited. DC wants fans to have one place to find comics, television shows, films, and character biographies. They’re also attempting to build a community through discussion forums, regular giveaways, and a daily streaming show.

In the next year, DC will launch live-action shows based on Teen Titans, Swamp Thing, Doom Patrol, and Stargirl. Next year we’ll see a new Harley Quinn animated show. The promise of Doom Patrol and Swamp Thing shows is, honestly, what drew me in.

The Comics

DC Universe Subscription

If you’ve ever subscribed to Marvel Unlimited the first thing you’ll notice is DC Universe, as of this writing, is hardly comparable. DC kicked off the platform with a ton of back issues but you aren’t going to get the deep dive the Marvel offers.

DC has moved slowly on the digital comic front. Until this month, you had to go through Amazon (Comixology) to snag DC back issues for $1.99 a pop. That’s hard on the wallet.

DC does robust sales by collecting trades of popular storylines. The company likely has been hesitant to move into digital because it could cannibalize some of those print sales. That said, DC has so much content that doesn’t get collected or would be better served acting as a promotional tool for their numerous film and tv endeavors.

I have 20+ short and long boxes taking up valuable real estate in my home and I’m at a point where I’d like to start throwing some of those boxes in a fire (I live in the Bay Area, so that’s literally valuable real estate. I could probably rent out the amount of space my comics take up for $400 per month). I hang onto these comics for two reasons: 1) I occasionally like to go back and revisit old storylines and 2) I’ve been trying to complete a storyline so I can read it through from beginning to end. If I’m in a comic shop and come across a storyline run I’d like to read but hasn’t been collected ~ch-ching~ it comes home, gets read, and ends up in a box.

That said, while I love my nearly complete run of Marv Wolfman’s The New Teen Titans and The New Titans but do I really need it? Nostalgically, yes, do you know how hard I worked to pull that together? Logistically, still yes, because I can’t yet get all of the issues digitally. Couldn’t I just buy them on Comixology? Sure, but that’s $1.99 per issue and I can usually get back issues cheaper than that while supporting a local shop.

Thankfully, the first twelve issues of that series are now available with a DC Universe subscription. Will we eventually get the entire run (including when it dropped the “teen” and became The New Titans)?

The New Teen Titans is only one of many titles you can get a taste of with a DC Universe subscription. There’s plenty of Batman, Superman, Doom Patrol, Green Lantern, and Justice League. You’ll even find some oddballs like 1976 Man-Bat or Jack Kirby’s must-read Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth.

Of course, there’s room for growth and this message at the top of the comics list suggests that growth is coming next month.

DC Universe subscription coming soon

What does full mean? And what does “available for purchase” mean? Most importantly, what does that mean for newer titles?

Marvel Unlimited doesn’t put new comics onto the site until six months after they’re released. Will DC have a similar rule? Personally, I’m not against the six-month embargo because I live in an area with many comic book stores. I don’t want to add new hurdles for getting people in the door.

The other big question is will the “DC Comics digital library” includes imprints like Vertigo, Impact, and Wildstorm. The company cruelly stopped collecting Peter Milligan’s Shade, The Changing Man run after issue 19. I’ve been painstakingly buying the remaining single issues whenever I find one in a local comic book shop.

If you’re curious which titles currently (as of September 20) have the most issues and would allow for the deepest binge, I did the research:

  1. Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight: 103 issues
  2. Justice League of America (1960-): 81 issues
  3. The Brave and The Bold (1955-): 80 issues)
  4. Batman (1940-): 78 issues
  5. Green Lantern (1960-): 76 issues
  6. Aquaman (1994-): 75 issues

The Movies & The Shows

DC Universe subscription movies

DC Live Action Comic Book Shows

By golly, for a comic book shows historian, this is the place to be. You’ll find old Superman serials, prematurely canceled shows like Birds of Prey, The Flash (1990), and Constantine, classic shows like Lois and Clark and  Wonder Woman. You’ll even find some forgotten gems like Human Target.

You won’t find every DC live action show on the platform. Modern shows currently missing, likely for licensing reasons, are those from the CW, SyFy, and Fox (i.e. Arrowverse, Krypton, and Gotham). As for classic shows, where’s the 1960s Batman, the 1970s Shazam!, the 1990s Swamp Thing and 2000s Smallville?

And can we please get all of the pilots that never made it? The world deserves daily access to The Adventures of Superpup and Lou Diamond Philips as Aquaman‘s adoptive human father.

We’re still waiting for the live action Titans show. The first episode drops on October 13.

DC Live Action Movies

It looks like the live-action films currently tap out around 2008. The most recent film on this list is, surprisingly, Christopher Nolan’s 2008 The Dark Knight. That came as a surprise to me because I’d assumed those movies would still be hot properties tied up in exclusive licensing deals. Clearly, I’m a bad judge of film licensing. That said, you won’t find any of the more recent live action entries into the DC cinema experience including all of the DCEU films and unrelated movies like Jonah Hex and  Green Lantern. Even without those films, there’s still plenty to chew on.

Two notable (in my mind) omissions from the pre-2008 era are 1982’s Swamp Thing and 1989’s The Return of Swamp Thing. I’m hoping they’re just waiting to roll these out with the new series as a prank for people who click on the wrong listing. “Wow, James Wan produced this? He’s so cutting edge.”

DC Animated Features & Shows

The last DC animated original movie I watched was All-Star Superman and the last series I watched was Justice League Unlimited. The latter is on DC Universe but the former is missing. This isn’t an area of DC that I’m well-versed in, so I don’t feel confident casting judgment.

The Encyclopedia

DC Universe Subscription Encyclopedia

I’m fairly excited about a company owned online character encyclopedia. Right now, eh, it’s kind of meh. At the moment, Comic Vine and Fandom do it better, so DC needs to figure out a way to set itself apart, but that might be my outsized expectations.

When I was a kid I’d memorize The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe. and Who’s Who: The Definitive Dictionary of the DC Universe. That’s what I’m expecting the encyclopedia section of the DC Universe to eventually become. I want it to be comprehensive, in-depth, and geeky.

What would really rock my socks is an interactive encyclopedia. You’re reading a comic on DC Universe and want to know more about a character? Click the issues character list and go to the bio. I know, that’s ridiculously complicated when we’re talking about tens of thousands of issues, but a boy can dream.


The Community

I can’t review the community because it doesn’t work for me. If I click on any of the discussion blocks I come to this page. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

DC universe community broken

Final DC Universe Subscription Verdict

Is it worth the intro cost of $74.99 per year or $7.99 per month? Do you love DC movies and shows? Yes, might as well as get in now. Are you in it for the comics? There’s plenty to start digging into but there’s no rush to jump on until you know exactly what the full rollout will look like.

I’m already in because they had a sweet pre-order deal (an annual subscription plus three free months). If I hadn’t signed up early I would’ve waited until November. At that point, we’ll have a better sense of what DC Universe really looks like and there’d be a handful of Titans episodes to binge.

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