It’s a world with heroes — but no superheroes.

The first issue of “First Wave,” a six-issue miniseries from DC Comics, arrives in comic book shops this week, ushering in a whole new universe.

The “First Wave” universe has its roots in the pulp adventures of yesteryear. There is a Batman, but there’s no Superman, no Wonder Woman — the “First Wave” heroes are merely mortal.

Standing above the rest of those heroes is Doc Savage — sort of “Superman with a lowercase ‘s,’” said Brian Azzarello, who crafted the “First Wave” universe and is writer of the miniseries. Doc Savage may not have powers like Superman, but “physically he’s the best, mentally he’s the best,” Azzarello said

Batman, meanwhile, is the new hero on the scene.

Typically, the way Batman has been portrayed, “he comes to the job fully formed,” Azzarello said. “And I don’t want to do that, I don’t want him to have a clear idea of what he’s doing. I want like a rookie cop. He’s going to learn on the job.”

And this rookie isn’t necessarily trusted by the others.

“He wears a mask,” Azzarello notes. “He’s got something to hide.”

This Batman is also armed — with a pair of .45s. Though Batman in the regular DC universe has long loathed firearms, he did carry a gun in some of his earliest appearances


“I’m staying very true to the character’s roots,” Azzarello said. “I’m just taking him in a different direction than he was sort of forced to go in back when all these superpowered characters came on the scene.”

Rounding out the “Big Three” in “First Wave” is the Spirit, created by legendary writer-artist Will Eisner in the 1940s.

The Spirit is detective Denny Colt, who appears to come back from the dead after going into suspended animation.

Though he’s a masked vigilante like Batman, “everybody knows he’s Denny Colt, even with that little mask he wears,” Azzarello said.

Solo series starring Doc Savage and the Spirit will spin off from “First Wave” in April. Other colorful heroes, meanwhile, also will populate the “First Wave” universe, including the Blackhawks, the Avenger and Rima the Jungle Girl.

“First Wave,” Azzarello says, is about “basically taking some of the old pulp characters and reimagining them in a more modern light.” But the universe they inhabit is a timeless one, one in which tommy guns and cell phones co-


“I wanted to take some of the sexier design elements of the 20th century and kind of just throw them all together,” Azzarello said.


It’s up to artist Rags Morales to illustrate this world.

“I hate it when writers say, ‘The artist that I’m working with, it’s the best work of his career,’ because it seems that everybody says it,” Azzarello said.

Nevertheless, he said, that’s the case here.