BROOKFIELD, WIS. — Can the power of plastics stop the world's worst supervillains?
Comics fans will find out in September, when DC Comics releases 52 special issues featuring lenticular 3-D motion covers made of amorphous PET film. The issues are part of DC's Villain Month promotion, in which the bad guys take over the good guys' comics.
(The Joker takes over Batman, Bizarro is featured in Superman, Darkseid dominates the Justice League. … How will our heroes prevail?)
"We look for an opportunity every year in September to do something big that really redefines the line and invites anyone who hasn't been following comics to step right in," DC Entertainment co-publisher Jim Lee said in an interview with Buzzfeed.com.
The covers will be the first commercial products made using a 200-line lenticular lens designed by National Graphics Inc. of Brookfield. The covers will be printed in China before being sent to Canada to be placed around the comics, National Graphics spokeswoman Devonne O'Gorman said in a recent phone interview.
Despite the line using six to eight layers of images, the plastic covers won't be much thicker than typical cover stock, she explained. When viewed from different angles, the covers will give the appearance of depth and movement.
"We're really excited about the DC project," O'Gorman said. "This is a great way to launch our 200-line level of detail."
Typically, a lenticular item might have 100 lines of detail, although some previously went as high as 150. And while the DC covers max out at eight layers, as many as 12 can be used at once with the new technology.
The lenticular process often is used in advertisements or on cups or promotional items.
"The lenticular look grabs the attention of anyone who sees it," O'Gorman added.
DC Entertainment co-publisher Dan DiDio described the covers' appearance as "an incredible 3-D effect that shows depth of field."
"It's the full cover stock, so it's not anything that has been glued on," he said. "More importantly, it's actually pliable and soft to the touch. It's a brand-new technology and we're going to be the first ones debuting in this fashion."
"They're amazing covers," DC's Lee added. "Any time in the past that [a comics company] has done specialty covers, you would only get like a small, trading-card-size image on the cover that was a hologram or lenticular bit of technology."
"This is the whole cover and it's amazing," he added. "Let's say the Joker is taking over. It'll be the Batman title in the background, and you'll see the Joker title splattered on top of the Batman logo itself."
"It really sells the concept in a very visual way."
The first wave of issues with the amorphous PET covers will arrive in comic shops Sept. 4. Lenticular covers coming out that week include issues of Superman, Batman, Justice League, Flash, Green Lantern and Green Arrow. Other titles receiving the lenticular treatment by the end of the month include Aquaman, Teen Titans and Swamp Thing.
Some comics are receiving several lenticular covers. Multiple issues of Superman, Batman and a few other titles will be published in September.
National Graphics bills itself as the world leader in lenticular technology. The firm was founded in 1976 by Donald Krause to produce color separations for local printers in the Milwaukee area. In the mid-1990s, the firm's engineering and development team created its patented Extreme Vision software. National then made the move from color separations to lenticular production.
DC's Villain Month promotion also should benefit from the success of Man of Steel, the blockbuster Superman film that through July 22 had registered more than $635 million in global box office revenue.
But bad guys seem to have their own special kind of appeal.
"One of the strengths of the DC Universe has been the strength of the rogues' gallery," DiDio said. "Often times they're as famous — if not more infamous — than our heroes."