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CSBG Archive

Friday from the Cheap Seats

So, have we all calmed down a little bit about DC now?

I keep having thoughts and reactions to the whole hullaballoo, and I have jotted a few of them down. Some speculation and spitballing and kibitzing from the sidelines. In no particular order.

First thought: This sounds eerily familiar. Then I realized it was because I pretty much dared them to do it in this column from 2007.

Second thought wasn’t mine, it was from sometime CBR writer Beau Yarborough. But I loved it so much I’m putting it up here: “Now we’ll get to see what Crisis on Infinite Earths would have looked like with the internet.”

Third thought: Can we please not do origins again?


Seriously. Please let's not.

Fourth thought: All the online chatter is about the books, costume changes, Grant Morrison. Seems like the digital app is the bigger story here, but even USA Today was geeking out over costume changes.

But the digital thing seems like the more important piece. By rolling out digital comics on the same day as print, DC is effectively undercutting the retailer network they depend on. Of course, with piracy and torrenting such a part of online culture, to not put the digital books out the same day as the print versions would invite any guy with a scanner and a willingness to share the goods to undercut the new digital line.

So DC is betting that the hardcore fans are such creatures of habit that it won’t hurt retailers too badly to do simultaneous release of print and digital — at least, not as badly as it would hurt DC themselves in the digital market to give print retailers a day or two of advance sales room. Is that a good gamble? Is DC so sure of the 60,000 Wednesday faithful that this seems like a good move to them? Guess so.

Fifth thought: I’m seeing a truly amazing amount of criticism about “DC abandoning loyal fans.” Stop a minute and let’s break that down.

I’m Diane Nelson, or whoever, a DC/Time-Warner publishing bigwig. Here are the puzzle pieces I have to work with:

* I have control over the intellectual property rights to some of the most recognizable and beloved fictional characters on the planet Earth.

* Despite the first item, my line of publications I have telling stories about those characters is foundering. Sales continue to drop and a significant number of folks out in the public at large don’t even know those publications still exist.

* My cash flow is dependent on roughly 60,000 or so hardcore hobbyists and collectors buying my books from a relatively low number of specialty retailers who order those books three months in advance based on what my distributor tells them I’m going to be doing. I have some other income from bookstores for collections of previously-published material but my day-to-day choices have, of necessity, been largely governed by catering to this specialty market.

* My staff and creative talent, for the most part, is drawn from this same narrowly-defined demographic, the hobbyist pool. They are fans-turned-pro and this is all they know.

* No matter what I do, that specialty market continues to get smaller. Year after year, long-term, I lose more readers than I gain. I know that I’ve put all my eggs in a steadily-shrinking basket but I had no choice at the time, and now it’s too late.

* Paper and production costs continue to go up. I have tried raising prices but I seem to have hit a ceiling of what people will pay for one of my regular monthly magazines at $2.99. This means that, again, no matter what I do my comics magazines will cease to turn a profit at that $2.99 price, probably within five years. I price my books higher than $2.99 and I lose readers in droves. It’s a no-win.

* Creator rates also are going up, and worse, a rock-star hierarchy has evolved where both myself and my rivals are forced to try to lock up proven talent with expensive “exclusive” contracts. This is more money in overhead that I have to somehow get back by selling stories to the specialty hobbyist market of readers… that is shrinking, that won’t pay more than $2.99 for a comic, that eventually go away no matter what.

* Meanwhile, while I struggle to get someone besides obsessed hobbyists to even read my books, I see movies about my characters and their equivalents from competing publishers make millions of dollars in revenue all over the world. Moreover, I can see from bookstores that there are genre-fiction publication series with continuing characters that have a staggeringly huge readership compared to mine.

If I'm DC I have to be thinking...'While I'm killing myself publishing for hobbyists, these other continuing character genre franchises are making money hand over fist. How do I get a slice of that??'

The San Diego Comic-Con has become a cultural phenomenon. The hunger for the kind of fiction I publish has clearly never been greater. Yet despite this, not to mention a name familiarity with my characters that is planet-wide, somehow I can’t ever seem to shift any of those millions of fantasy-craving readers over to what I actually publish. My entire house of cards is dependent on the steadily-shrinking number of hardcore fans. The last decade of my publication history has been a series of increasingly desperate attempts to keep them hooked on my comics.

All right? That’s what Diane Nelson-slash-DC-bigwig sees when she looks at her balance sheet. You tell me any way she has to try and turn the ship around and bring reader numbers up without abandoning the fan market in favor of opening up new ones. If I’m Diane Nelson I am going to be looking actively for ways to shift my focus away from those fans and try to somehow get my cash flow coming from some other income stream…ideally more than one. But I have to try to do it in such a way that doesn’t completely alienate and piss off those hardcore-fan readers that currently finance my publishing house while I’m trying.

You look at it that way and what comes out?

* A major ‘event story,’ something the fans seem to want every year, but this one is designed to wrap up the specialty-style of telling stories and replace it with a line of accessible comics for the general public. Letting the fans down easy, in a way that invites them along for the next phase.

* A new way of delivering those new, replacement comics to a mass audience.

Is digital the best option for this new delivery system? Probably not — I think successful digital comics will be formatted differently than print ones, so just selling print scans is probably not the best way to do it. (Imagine trying to read something like JSA All-Stars with its color-coded captions and scratchy art on an iPhone.) But on the other hand, it’s insane to start a new line of digital-only books with no ties to the print ones, it would be a whole second publishing operation. If I’m DC, I’m thinking it’s best to somehow repurpose my print line for digital distribution.

In other words, DC is trying desperately for mass distribution of some kind. I imagine the reasoning is that someone’s going to crack the digital market and why not them? Digital may not be the best choice overall but it seems like it’s the only one left to reach a mass audience.

So really, what should DC do differently? I may quibble with the execution or the personnel involved but the plan seems sound. Print distribution options and publishing overhead are such that this plan is the only choice left, really.

Therefore, if it’s a new market they are going after and not crabby old guys like me, DC needs a new line of stuff to offer them.

I want to aim my culturally-well-known characters at a mass audience. Do I do a new chapter in the old story or do I just start fresh? What choice USUALLY works with a young audience?

Think about it. In practical terms DC has the resources to publish one line of superhero comics. (Remember, looking at the record, we have many, many examples of failed attempts to publish multiple lines…. starting with the New Universe on up to Minx and Marvel’s Ultimate line.) Who would you go after? The “loyal fans”? Or all those other potential readers out there? I don’t see any way where the fans don’t take a back seat to a general readership.

Oh, yeah… which reminds me…this is how it works in virtually every other form of popular fiction. Only in superhero comics do we have things the other way around, where hardcore fans are the majority of consumers. Generally, in popular fiction, you toss a couple of bones to your fans when you reboot, but it’s the general audience you go after hard.

Is anyone going to tell me these genre series reboots would have done better at the box office by dismissing the general audience and writing strictly for the hardcore fans instead?

And honestly, if we still want DC and Marvel superhero comics ten years from now, I think it’s going to have to switch back to general-audience-first for the approach to creating those comics as well. Sorry, loyal fans, but those are the hard facts. We need the mass audience if we want the books to stay alive.

Sixth thought: The last time DC tried this was in 1985 and 1986, the early “post-Crisis” years if you like. Those were amazing times for DC. The whole line seemed energized with possibility.


To all those complaining that this is just the 1980s all over again, I reply: FINE WITH ME.

It wasn’t just Crisis on Infinite Earths itself. It was the corollary that now it was permissible to try new things at DC with the old characters. Yeah, sure, for continuity-minded fans it was a nightmare to try and figure out what ‘counted’ and what didn’t, it often seemed like the different editors weren’t ever checking with one another, it was a mess if you were looking for a consistent history of the DC universe.

But the vast majority of us didn’t care because we were having a great time. It wasn’t just that DC was suddenly doing things like Dark Knight and Watchmen. It was that we also were getting amazing stuff just on the monthly books. Green Lantern Corps and the new Wally West Flash and Justice League International and Suicide Squad and The Question and…. criminy, I could go on and on. It was a renaissance.

If nothing else, this new initiative looks promising to me simply because of that same vibe, the idea that DC is looking to really take some chances in a good way. There’s an intangible morale-building factor in there for creators who’ve been given permission to genuinely try new stuff without worrying about offending longtime readers. That alone, the “Really! A genuine fresh start!” feeling that goes with doing something like this that you don’t get with just a “One Year Later” or “Brand New Day” or whatever, could lift this effort up considerably. We might see some extraordinary work from creators who we’ve previously dismissed as merely dependable second-tier journeyman writers and artists.

Seventh thought: Props to longtime CSBG commenter T., who predicted that Flashpoint was DC’s way to get back to the “Big 7″ Justice League (or the “real” Justice League as some of us think of them.) Good call there, T.

I’ll see his prediction and raise it by saying that this is going to be DC’s way to walk back everything that is inconvenient after decades of continuity. Probably we’ve also seen the last of movie-unfriendly ideas like the Lois and Clark marriage, and anyone other than Bruce Wayne being Batman, and quite possibly even the multiple Flashes. If you’re going to have yet another Crisis, even if you’re calling it “Flashpoint,” use it to do all your housecleaning.

Eighth Thought: If DC is serious about its digital initiative being the new way to get a general readership, they better get their editorial heads around the idea that this will mean hitting deadlines no matter what late-running prima donna rock star creators they have on the books.

Seriously, digital audiences want their updated content on time. Look at what Brian goes through just to make sure we have fresh content here all the time. A stable of five or six regular writers, a Month of this, a Year of that, all sorts of rotating regular features just to make sure we’ve got new stuff up here every day.

DC better realize that the first time they miss a week with all these hot new titles, they’re in trouble. The days of letting the genius take an extra three months on the fourth chapter of the epic are over.

And one Final Thought: Conceptually, all the new titles announced so far sound very promising.

However– there’s always a “however”–

–I’m not at all sure these particular creators have the chops to pull off another 1986-style DC renaissance.

We are talking about THESE guys, after all. Are they the best choice to usher in a new general-audience-friendly DC renaissance?

Especially looking at the record of the various skeevy arrested-adolescent ultraviolence and misogyny-driven misfires we’ve seen at DC in the last five years. I’m still optimistic, but I’m cautiously optimistic.

I certainly hope that along with titles and delivery systems and formats and character histories, some DC editorial policies are going to change too, or this is going to tank harder and faster than Marvel’s New Universe. Imagine what that late 1980s comics event would have been like with the internet.

Can you imagine a fumble this big today? It would create a comics-internet-snark HOLOCAUST.

All that being said…. I’ll always have a special place in my heart for DC and their stable of characters. I grew up with them. I wish them well. I am hoping for the best.

So after all that back-and-forth it still comes down to, “Let’s wait and see.” I wish it was something more profound than that, but it is what it is. Sometimes that’s all you’ve got.

See you next week.

118 Comments

Great post. I’m not going to comment on all your thoughts, because then this would be as long as your post, but I do want to say that in regard to your Third Thought – Hell yes. DC has an almost fetishistic love for re-telling and re-telling and re-telling origins. And every time they have to reveal some Shocking Change that we never knew about. And as an offshoot of that you have people like Geoff Johns telling the origin stories of Barry’s tie and Hal’s jacket and Batman’s nightstand. One that usually involves some ridiculous tragedy. If DC could actually go 2 years without one of those types of stories, I’d be pretty damn impressed.

Great read and very true I am awaiting September with bated breath.

Your invocation of the Abrams Star Trek is a particularly good example, Greg, since the previous film in that franchise, Star Trek: Nemesis, was pretty much directed only at the hardcore fans who hadn’t already dropped the franchise after the shit-trifecta of Voyager, Insurrection, and Enterprise. And we all know how well Nemesis turned out, creatively and financially.

This may be the finest thing written on the whole subject, Greg. I intend to build statues in your honour.

The pricing on the digital side means they don’t have that much faith in it, though, does it? In that letter to the retail outlets that is making the rounds, shortly after explaining the (too high) pricing structure is this line – “Keep in mind that our goal with our 52 new #1s will be to ensure that the physical comic book is more compelling than ever!”

Doesn’t that sound like they KNOW they’re sabotaging their own digital initiative???

I want to like this. I DO like this. In fact, I may even end up picking up stuff I never have before, depending on who’s doing what, but it doesn’t mean there aren’t some major problems.

After reading all this, and based on some other quotes I’ve seen around the place, I’m beginning to think this new age of DC includes editorial mandate to keep the books separate. (Except maybe small groups of Green Lantern, or Bat family books, etc.) No more line wide crossovers. If the focus is “new-reader friendly” this is the first thing that has to change, right?

Also, keeping the characters isolated and building them up as their own brand certainly makes for more possible TV/Cartoons/Movies, doesn’t it? I get the feeling this is the result of that thing they said AGES ago when Diane Nelson took her new position, in that they will be looking closely at their stable of properties and focusing on the ones with legs.

Here it is, I think. Bring it on. :)

Best thing I’ve read on the subject all week. Nice job.

I bet you wish you really WERE Diane Nelson.

Hey, I’ve enjoyed what I have read of the New Universe (limited to Star Brand and Nightmask, but still). I read it in the last four years, not in 1986, so I don’t know if that makes a difference.

Still undecided on the DC non-reboot, but I think I’ll be reading Atomic Robo instead.

I wish you’d moved that penultimate section up. If I’m Diane Nelson, and I look at my comics division and see it underperforming, I don’t reward the guys who got me there by giving them shiny new cars and telling them “do anything you want.” I fire their asses and bring in new people who can get me a larger market share and a new customer base.

All Didio seems to understand is violent events. Johns is good at resolving disparate character elements and energizing them — his “Superman” excepted, because it fell into the usual thrall of holding the Donner movies up as the ne plus ultra. Lee creates flashy art, but couldn’t tell a story if you stapled Mother Goose to his arms.

This whole thing is equivalent to the financial meltdown: reward the people who drove you into the ditch by giving them more horsepower to dig even deeper.

It’s nice you can write a piece about things you yourself have said you don’t read. Great insight.

hebitudinous1

June 3, 2011 at 3:15 pm

Great post on the subject – refreshingly free of snark.

I spend a lot of time looking at other media businesses and their struggles with making the transition from print-only to electronic. Despite fanboy criticism, I look at DC as being the company willing to make big bets, from non-superhero imprints (Vertigo) to massively multiplayer videogames (DCU) to speeding up the production process (52) to electronic comics (Zuda). And it is in that spirit that I believe this announcement is important, not because it reboots DC canon, but because it provides a critical inflection point that could help 20th-century comic stores make the leap into the 21st century.

Ye local comic shoppe needs to be competitive for all the reasons you provide, and then some. At the end of the day, it is all about revenue. Digital, if done properly, can enable better sell-through of back issues. A customer who just discovered Flash for the first time can purchase complete collections all at once, as opposed to the scattershot here-and-there situation you have with longboxes. A healthy videogame market provides additional jumping-on points to hardcore gamers that may have abandoned comics long ago. And a commitment to a diversity of monthly titles and creator environments is like paradise to creative types who may have built up franchises in the print world or elsewhere, and are looking for new ways to monetize their works. So while I understand your reticence about “particular creators,” I believe that DC’s commitment to creators will be welcomed and if anything, help inspire the renaissance of which you speak.

scotty@home.net

June 3, 2011 at 3:18 pm

This is a nice piece of writing and I agree with pretty much everything in it. However….

I think all the gallons of digital ink that is being spilled over DC’s semi-reboot misses the most basic point: NO NEW READERS ARE GOING TO BE WILLING TO WADE THROUGH THE COMPLEXITY OF DC’s CONTINUITY.

What’s the point of launching 4 new Green Lantern books (as was announced today) if new readers can’t follow the story? Orange Lanterns? Red Lanterns? Black Lanterns? White Lanterns? WTF?

Remind me again how many Flashes there are?

Wait, so Robin is Batman now but Batman is still Batman and there are a bunch of Batmen all over and Robin is Batman’s son but he hangs out with the Batman who used to be Robin? I remember Batgirl but who is Batwoman? Oracle? Huntress? Red Robin?!?!?!

New readers won’t have a clue.

Ignoring the jackass above me (Know one, if this posts late), there’s one element of the digital push that I haven’t seen anyone really discuss.
Comics are a difficult medium for a lot of new fans to read; not due to continuity, or bad writing/artwork, or any of the usual complaint, but simply because the way a comic plays out on a page requires more effort to interpret than most other mediums of expression. As comic readers, we’re pretty used to it, but there are elements of this attitude even inside the community; just look at how many people refuse to read manga because it’s “backwards.” Comics are hard to read if you’ve never read one before.
As far as I know, DC is going to continue to sell through Comixology, which has the very important addition of a Guided View option. This will run the reader through each panel in order, rotating and zooming for them. It doesn’t always work (I’ve got an issue of Atomic Robo with one page that completely loses coherence due to the layout and the order the panels are presented in) but it usually does, and that could be a beneficial factor for a new reader.

I’m cautiously optimistic, I think it’s bold, gutsy, and absolutely necessary for the long-term health of the industry. I don’t know if they can pull it off – but for their sake, they have to.

@ scotty@home.net “New readers won’t have a clue.”
Isn’t that the point of the whole reboot? So new readers won’t have to “have a clue”?

hebitudinous1

June 3, 2011 at 3:58 pm

Dear CBR,

Please add a ‘Bozo’ button to your forums so readers can skip the trolls and get right to the good stuff.

Thank you.

I think we are still see fumbles like the New Universe from Marvel. The Ultimates lines has been shrinking, and new attempts continue to fail or struggle—such as the new Atlas line and the Valiant/Gold Key revival at Dark Horse and DC’s First Wave.

I do agree that anything greater than $3 is unlikely to succeed (I stopped buying $4 Marvels a while ago), and I don’t have any suggestions as to how to resolve the increasing costs issue. One thing that may help: a continued consolidation in the industry may result in fewer offerings per month. That situation could eventually lend to increased sales on a lot of books. Volume could solve this issue, but the trendlines say otherwise…. But, as a longtime fan, I hope that this could be the eventual solution, as I could continue the hobby (and afford to do so).

scotty@home.net

June 3, 2011 at 4:06 pm

@ scotty@home.net “New readers won’t have a clue.”

Isn’t that the point of the whole reboot? So new readers won’t have to “have a clue”?

Well, it should be the point. But from the early announcements, it doesn’t look like that will be the case. And even if they did simplify things somewhat, anyone who doesn’t jump on board with issue #1 will quickly be left behind because these are the same writers and editors who have overcomplicated the DC universe beyond all reason the past few years. Within a few months of the reboot, we will once again have story lines and character family trees that are as complicated as they are today.

It’s always possible that a leopard can change its spots and DC’s creators can streamline their storytelling. But I’m not holding my breath.

The other problems they are going to have, and Greg alludes to this above with two of his images, is a problem with pseudo-adult content (gore and kinky sex). There’s little chance that will change under the same creators either.

If DC was really going to plow it under and start from scratch, I think that would be great. I’d love to see Wonder Woman and Superman meet for the first time, or the JLA form. But I fear that there are too many Wallys and Kyles and Tims and continuity-requiring concepts that have a loyal fan base that DC will half-ass the whole thing and we’ll get just another crisis.

As to the whole digital thing; when you buy a comic online, do you own it? Can you read it again next year?

Now, a few things I don’t understand about comic book publishing:

How can there be 8 different magazines about jogging or knitting on the shelf at Walmart each month, but a monthly about Superman can’t make a profit?

Why don’t Marvel and DC publish magazines?

I’ve seen some really slick, content-heavy, FREE weekly papers and monthly magazines. If they can make it on advertising alone, why can’t comics?

Why aren’t there comics on spinner racks in convenience stores anymore? Loss and damage?

Why isn’t there a line of 99 cent reprint comics to put on those spinner racks?

Is slick paper and printing worth the cost? Everybody was fine with pulp for decades.

Do DC and Marvel have their own stores? If so, why isn’t there one in every airport?

I’m not being snarky here. I really don’t get it. All I really know about publishing is that I like to read. It just seems to me that if you can’t make money publishing a Superman comic, you might be as clueless as I am.

As far as I can tell, DC isn’t doing anything daring except maybe renumbering titles that have been running since the 30’s. It all looks like same old same old superhero comics to me. If you’re not getting rid of ALL previous continuity baggage/garbage, it’s just another fanboy event. If they’re not killing off/erasing from history Robins and Flashes and Lanterns, it’s same old same old with v-necks.

hebitudinous1

June 3, 2011 at 4:23 pm

@The Mutt

All good questions. You should talk to the owner of your LCS, the average owner is much smarter than I am and could probably answer all of your questions appropriately. Also, you really should try out ComiXology; I think you’d like it.

When you download a comic, you own it. The big question is what happens if ComiXology goes out of business. DC needs to take the lead on this and do a lifetime access guarantee or something along those lines.

Magazine publishing is different than comics. Magazines have tons of ads, and until recently, comics had very few. I’m kind of annoyed at how many ads Marvel stuffs into each comic — the ad/edit ratio is almost 1/4. Also, comics are serial in nature. People can skip a month of knitting and live.

I’m not sure what kind of magazine you’d expect to see from Marvel or DC. There have been experiments with black-and-white story compilations, but they really haven’t sold well.

Weekly papers and monthly magazines are often supported by entrepreneurs that dream big. Very few of them have lasting power. DC has been around for 75+ years.

Spinner racks in c-stores don’t earn enough revenues, period. Candy bars make more money, that’s why they get lots of space. Also, magazines don’t do well in most c-stores.

The price differential between slick paper and cheap newsprint is negligible. On the other hand, print quality makes a substantial impression. The old Baxter imprints in the 90s proved that.

Have you checked out airport rents? Better yet, do you know how much red tape is involved in getting a store in an airport?

And finally … the issue isn’t that Superman isn’t making money. Superman is profitable. As the author of this piece rightly points out, the comics business is unique in that a lion’s share of the revenues come from a highly devoted fan base. The golden goose has been dying by degrees for years, and ignoring the problem is like a politician ignoring reality.

Why are my comments such a threat. Let me know before you erase me

Your comments were not a threat. They’re just odious.

They were deleted because you are being a jerk to everyone here, which really takes a hell of a nerve considering you are charged nothing at all for what you get at CBR. You don’t like the free content, go away. You can’t converse politely, you’ll be deleted. It has nothing to do with your content and everything to do with your presentation. When you stop calling names and being a prick, we’ll stop erasing you.

I agree with skotty@home. When I was a youngling, after Crisis, I would read Captain Atom.. The suicide squad. Even Batman & Detective Comics…. until there were 5 ongoing monthlies!!! And a slew of one shots, and limited series. I could now no longer invest the money, time, nor effort into reading the then, current Batman lore. Superman was the same. Why read DC without Batman & Superman. I loved comics, but I stopped buying DC. I could get the same thrill at half the price by reading the goings on in The Comics Journal. Marvel is doing the same now… with 4 freaking Avengers books. Are the Avengers worth 16 bucks a month, to follow a story that will very soon be retconed by a BIG EVENT TO GARNER SALES FOR AN ANTIQUATED DIRECT SELLERS MARKET?
When I was 12, back in 1982… the Bullpen Bulletins had a checklist of maybe 20 comics… and disregarding the master of kung fu, Conan, and Crazy Magazine… we are talking about an easy 16 or so comics for the new populace the get into. There was an intriguingly tight continuity to follow…. an expansive universe to discover, and a lack of gluttonous menucha to have accidentally purchased.
I’m a fan boy who stopped reading X-Men 4 years ago, and now I couldn’t begin to understand where to jump on. I only know that the line continues to interrupt an otherwise excellent David written X-Factor.
This seems to be the trajectory of the current DC push. Restarting 50 titles? (I think I read this..) Instead of trying to gouge your 60,000 fan base, you should try shrinking to a level where your brand of entertainment is more accessible to the mass audience.
Two Justice league’s my butt!

hebitudinous1

June 3, 2011 at 4:56 pm

The “Daniel Craig” solution is really a good read and quite relevant to today’s situation. I had exactly the same reaction to “Civil War” — there are only so many ways to present a deux ex machina before you start seeing (and resenting) the puppeteer’s hand in your wallet.
http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2007/08/31/friday-at-the-big-bang-maybe/

(And as far as “genuine sense of surprise” — I suspect many readers shared my expectation nearing the end of Flashpoint #2. I had an involuntary snort when my expectations were so clearly subverted. Signs like that give me a little bit of hope that This Big Event won’t be like, you know, The Last Big Crossover.)

Reading the tea leaves, it looks like the DC is going to be organized into “families” of books. New readers will have the core “JLA”, “Batman”, “GL” titles, and if a fan finds something they like, each core title has a logical grouping: “Green Lantern Corps”, “Red Lanterns”, etc. It’s a bit like what DC had years ago with its “Superman Family” and “Batman Family” line of books.

Do I want this to succeed? You bet — because if the industry is going to be around for another fifty years, it absolutely cannot continue going down the path that it has. And we as fans need to speak truth to power — if there’s something we do or don’t like, now is the time to talk to our LCS.

does politely = know-it-all? Seems to here

It means using a name that’s not insulting, it means replying to people without accusing them of things that you have no clue about, it means not being a jerk. How hard is that? If you have an argument to make, make it. Use, you know, logic and facts and stuff. If you disagree with something, explain why. Can you do that without using words like “nazi” and “clit” and “blows sheep”? Everyone else seems able to. Show me you can be a grown-up and you’ll be welcome here.

why don’t you put my comments back. Does the truth hurt?

I’ve explained why. Twice. I’m not putting back all the jerk posts where you spluttered and called everyone a bunch of names and carried on like someone with Tourette’s. Use a name that’s not insulting and say what you have to say without calling names. What part of that are you not understanding?

For the record, what this person apparently objects to is that I dared to speculate about DC Comics without reading all of them every month, which is I guess a violation of the DC loyalty oath or something. If there’s more to the argument, I haven’t seen it yet. If I’m mistaken, I’ll happily let him correct me if he can do it without insulting everyone around here.

hebitudinous1

June 3, 2011 at 5:11 pm

To heck with graphic violence — I was just thinking,

“Gee, what we really need are ______ ______s who only live to ______ up civilized conversation!”

Thanks, you really made my day!

I chose the other names because you continue to erase my comments that have the same value as the others

I erased the ones with gratuitous insults, explained why, and invited you to try again politely. Once again, not content, but presentation. People disagree with things I write all the time around here but they manage to do it without dragging my personal life or my students into it, and they also get their point across without suggesting the admins have sex with sheep. It has nothing to do with ‘censorship.’ If you can’t see why the admins would object to someone being that kind of jerk, I guess there’s no help for you.

Am I not allowed to defend myself? Like I said all comments were directed at you and I guess the truth hurts

So this is a ‘no’ for the whole ‘try again politely,’ I’m guessing. Do you have an actual objection to what was in the column or are you just here to yell at me?

Quit responding to him, Greg. It’s what he wants.

Ask and it shall be answered. Damn, I love the internet! Thanks, hebitudinous1.

Yeah, I figured airport retail space might be too pricey, but what about malls? And don’t you think graphic novels would sell really well in airports? Why don’t we see more of them in the airport bookstores? Hell, I’d buy comics for a stranger’s child just to get him to shut up.

The magazine I’d publish? Marvel Tales Weekly. Rotate four cover features: Spider-Man, Wolverine, Avengers and Hulk. Each issue would have one new all-ages “generic continuity” one-shot story for the cover feature. Top shelf writer and artist, and often guest-starring the other feature acts. Four reprints, including Amazing Spider-Man starting at #1. Each Spider-Man reprint would be introduced by a one page text piece from a comics creator or some famous nerd you could blurb on the cover, like Neil Gaiman or Nathan Fillion. It would be packed with cheap content like Stan’s Soapbox and Bullpen Bulletins and other insider stuff. Make the Bullpen a soap opera again. Tons of house ads and teasers. Tons of ads, and hire Ricky Roma to sell them. Put it on the rack next to every cash register in the world.

“Mommy, buy me this!”

Anyway, thanks again.

Quit responding to him, Greg. It’s what he wants.

Fair enough.. it’s just a reflex, anyway. The old CBR moderator training. FYI, this is the same Enzo kid that was causing such a ruckus a while ago. Apparently he thinks we can’t see through his fiendishly clever disguise. Anyway, I kicked it upstairs to Brian and Jonah, so they can figure out what to do with him.

scotty@home.net

June 3, 2011 at 5:37 pm

I can understand why bloggers are loathe to delete posts and ban people. Western Civ has made something of a fetish out of letting everyone have their say and all that. Personally, I’m not so tolerant. I’d delete any post that showed such blatant disrespect for others and, if the software allowed, I’d ban the poster.

I can understand why bloggers are loathe to delete posts and ban people.

I didn’t like doing it even when I was a CBR message-board admin. Really, I don’t. The rules are pretty simple — keep it about the issue and not the other guy. Mind your language. There’s ten thousand sites on the net where you can be a foul-mouthed tool, but Jonah’s asked that CBR not be one of them. Even at that we let a lot of stuff go. But enough is enough.

Anyhow, we’re off to the movies. The kid is right — I DO have better things to do.

See This is the kinda angst destroying a universes continuity creates…. Ignore my previous post, as I was placing 3 decades of comic book frustration into a few short paragraphs.
Crisis on Infinite Earths Introduced me to the full DC universe (previously I was only a New Teen Titans reader and, ironically, this was the one book seemingly destroyed by the Crisis).
The afore mentioned books were wonderfully crafted…. but then came Millenium. And Invasion, and Zero Hour. Characters died, became evil, had their backs broken. Some could be defined as simple glitches in the continuous story telling format of comic books… others though, involved massive story crossovers, and many a wasted dollar spent, with little aestetic value returned.
My only chagrin to this new Flashpoint reboot (and if they make it work, kudos to DC) is that we just went through 4 years of Infinate 52 countdown to finest brightest day DC Universe in chaos. Can we see a bit of stability?
If kids wanna experiance non stop action and chaos, comics are never going to compete against modern video games and films. The niche for DC needs to be an enriched development of characters and story lines that lead it’s readers to come back next month.
Morrison on Superman is btw awesome! (He wrote the best ‘Event’ ever with DC 1,000,000. Every title contributed, without having to sacrifice their own storylines. Hitman and Supergirl 1,000,000 were the best)

“I want to aim my culturally-well-known characters at a mass audience. Do I do a new chapter in the old story or do I just start fresh? What choice USUALLY works with a young audience?”

The BBC’s The Doctor seems an exception, with his variation regenerations allowing some continuity over the years.

Oddly enough, not too many prose series since the days of the pulps such as Doc Savage, the Shadow, the Spider, etc. have lasted under multiple authors. Print series comparably open-ended stand as a bit rare.

In print, other than Germany’s Perry Rhodan series and a few other German series, I cannot think of too many others.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/LongRunningBookSeries

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/PrintLongRunners

hebitudinous1

June 3, 2011 at 6:14 pm

I’m looking at the variant cover for Flashpoint #2 — that can’t be Mera on the cover.

Mera is taller.

Speaking of pulp fiction, the only other thing that springs to mind where hardcore fans are the majority of consumers is serial detective novels.

I stopped buying new comics mainly for the price. There’s such a large secondary market for comics, through ebay, conventions, online swaps, flea markets, etc., that $3 for a new comic started seeming like a foolish purchase. For a long time I’ve had a semi-flexible ceiling of one dollar for a comic and seven bucks or so for a trade. I’m the same way with prose books. Why spend seven bucks for a paperback or thirty for a new hardcover when I can pick one up for a miniscule amount at a book fair or online, or use the public library?

Another deterrent to my buying new comics (or prose books, as well) is somewhat counterintuitive. As I’ve learned more about comics and been exposed to more, I’ve realized that there is so much to read that I can be just as happy catching up with all the great works of the past as I can staying abreast of new stuff.

Off topic, I’ve never been a fan of that DKR cover (it always seemed, y’know, ugly), but wow, it makes quite an impression presented along with those other covers. It looks like Batman can barely be contained by the book, and signifies that there’s something different waiting inside.

Hadn’t really thought about if they’d mandate out the “sex and violence”. They should, it can only make sales go up.

They should consider offering yearly same-day digital subscriptions at a lower rate than singles. $24 per year or something. Not sure why I’d go digital for the same price as physical. The reason music sells better digitally is because buying a CD at a music store is crazy expensive. I also wonder if their trade prices will go down, $10 for 5 digital issues versus $15 for print.

Does anybody buy 2 issues anymore? 1 to read and 1 to collect? I can’t imagine a lot of that happens these days, but hopefully they’ll buy one digital and save some trees if thats the case.

Good article Greg.

Right now my only concerns with the DC relaunch are essentially cosmetic – the redesigns in the Jim Lee Justice League promo art, specifically Superman. I’m not a Superman fan but as the original Super Hero I think his costume is a design classic. Yes there have been tweeks, particularly the shield design but the trunks are a fundamental part of his look. It’s a throw back to the circus/vaudeville strongman and IMO comics are poorer for loosing that linkage with it’s working class/everyman antecedents.

I can see why the choice has been made, but is it necessary to deflect the ‘what’s so super about wearing your underpants on the outside’ flak? it’s up there with ‘Daleks can’t climb stairs’ and ‘fast-food restaurant staff aren’t the sharpest tools in the box’ in terms of demonstrating that ‘observational comedy’ can easily be the refuge of the intellectually impoverished.

Apart from that I hope Xombi will continue to be published after September (or at least Rozum & Irving are working on a title of some kind) and I’d really like some info on what’s going to happen with Grant Morrison’s Batman story.

I’m curious to see how many of the #1s have blood on the cover. There was a month back in 2010 where I counted around 50% of that month’s DC covers had blood — several of them quite copious amounts of it.

Digital app, who cares? Im all about the COSTUMES!!

@Dan Felty: Yeah, so beautifully ugly. I was really put off by how ugly the characters in TDKR were at first, but it’s come to be one of my favorite things about the comic.

Price got me out of comics as well. Not out of comics completely, just off the monthly Marvel/DC Superhero Train. I spent decades buying tons of crappy comics just because I had to know what happened next. Now I can get that on the net, and not even by buying the download. Just give me a recap or review.

The Avengers was one of my mostest favoritest comics forever. I can’t imagine how much it would cost my younger, completist, obsessive fanboy self to try to follow The Avengers franchise today.

Travis Pelkie

June 3, 2011 at 7:23 pm

Yeah, props to T on the JL thing.

I think your last point is one of the most important — is THIS the bunch of people to reboot/relaunch your universe? Even if Morrison’s on Batman AND Superman, the rest of it…eh. Too many of Bob Harras’s old ’90s employees, from what I’m seeing.

And DC’s being coy about whether it’s a reboot or a relaunch or what. That, I think, is getting people in a tizzy. If it’s not a full reboot, or at least major tweaking of EVERYTHING, why do it, and why do all new #1’s if you still need to have read stuff in the past? And if it is a reboot, why does so much of the stuff seem to just continue from where things are now?

One thing that should be done, to tie into your column 2 weeks ago, is that DC should have ads at the start of the GL movie — like this? then join the DCU in September! 4! GL titles!

The Mutt has a lot of interesting ideas that should be taken into account. Too bad no one will try them…

And I know I shouldn’t laugh, but just reading Greg’s bits from the jerk poster is funny. However, that is something I like about this site, even though sometimes we get a bit rowdy, overall, Greg and Brian et al keep things pretty civil.

The movie examples only sort of work because they are a ‘once every handful of years’ phenomenon, not a monthly one. TV is a better example given the more serial nature. But don’t use Hawaii 5-0 which had decades between reboots with no stories in between. A better example is the old Dallas show … ‘all last season was a dream, Bobby is alive’. We know how that went over. To this date, it is the butt of jokes.

Imagine if after the 3rd season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Joss Whedon said he was rebooting, everything that happened in the first 3 seasons didn’t happen, that Buffy will meet Angel again for the first time, meet Xander for the first time, defeat The Master again. I don’t think the ‘core’ Buffy fans would be happy.

I am a child of the Crisis. I loved that renaissance period of the 80s, especially The Question and the Wally West Flash. The think about reboots for me are how quickly they come now. It is can be hard to stay invested. And when this ‘other market’ doesn’t come calling … what then?

The BBC’s The Doctor seems an exception, with his variation regenerations allowing some continuity over the years.

Doctor Who is just like superhero comics, except it does everything right. It usually charges ahead, rarely looking back except for a quick in-joke or wink to the longtime fans. It always targets wider audiences and new viewers. When it threatens to disappear up its own ass, the entire show explodes in a ball of light and completely changes. New ideas, new adventures, new faces, with just enough return appearances from old enemies to sate nostalgiaholics. It’s figured this shit out. Why can’t DC and Marvel?

Dark Leviathan

June 3, 2011 at 8:18 pm

Excellent post overall. I think it’s been clear for a while that something needed to change, especially since the Great Recession. I remember several years ago when you had multiple issues selling 100,000 copies, and now, the highest comics are only selling around 80,000. A blood transfusion at this point is becoming more and more of a necessity.

But comic book fans are the absolute best at accepting new creators and concepts. We pretty much invented it.

Burn it down. Start over.

hebitudinous1

June 3, 2011 at 10:00 pm

@Bill Reed
Great points about the way Dr Who manages to handle continuity gracefully. The idea that a person can “regenerate” into an entirely new person has been tried many times (Resurrection Man, Dial “H” For Hero, Hawkman, Aquaman, Superman, Wonder Woman, etc.).

@Travis
From interviews, it seems this is much less of a hard “Heroes Reborn” reset and more of a soft reset, keeping most of the existing storylines intact and focusing on the way stories get told. There is much awareness of the dropoff that happens after the third or fourth month of a traditional reboot.

@Anj
I found myself nodding in agreement with your episodic TV analogies. The issue is truly “how to stay invested” in an era when there are many more choices that compete for our time. That is the core reason why comicdom has been shrinking. DC has led the way in moving heaven and earth to (1) speed up production processes so comics can synch up with the marketing activities of other entertainment products, (2) building a digital circulation model built to support the LCS (and not **** it in the *** as others have tweeted), and (3) making major investments in transmedia to create additional jumping-on points. If “the other market” fails to materialize, then DC will try again.

If DC fails to find a solution, quite frankly I believe the whole industry will go the way of buggy whips and fax machines. I just don’t see Marvel as having the corporate culture to take the risks necessary to get out of this cycle, and no one else has the clout to impact distribution.

Man, I came to this party late (one of the disadvantages of being 9 time zones away from Greg), so I missed most of the fun – and even an obnoxious troll! Anyway, I don’t have much to add since I’m one of those nostalgic fans who does not follow any ongoing series, other than to say if this is a ploy to generate a wider reading public and keep DC and its raft of characters afloat, I hope it works.
I do have to say I totally agree with Mutt’s suggestion on something like “Marvel Tales” weekly – I made a similar proposal about 2-3 weeks ago in the comments to one of Greg’s other columns. Just let me add, it should probably be in a smaller format, like digest sized, and does not need to be printed on the highest quality paper – so you could hopefully have a higher page count and a lower price. In fact, if Marvel started to do something like that, I would probably become a regular buyer…

I do have to say I totally agree with Mutt’s suggestion on something like “Marvel Tales” weekly – I made a similar proposal about 2-3 weeks ago in the comments to one of Greg’s other columns. Just let me add, it should probably be in a smaller format, like digest sized, and does not need to be printed on the highest quality paper – so you could hopefully have a higher page count and a lower price.

I love this idea too, but speaking as someone who’s worked in and around pre-press and commercial printing since 1984, there are technical issues with it. It’s not as simple as ‘just go back to the shitty paper and lower the price.’ The print industry itself has changed, to the point where the presses you need to even do that kind of book are getting harder and harder to find. Most are owned by newspapers.

What’s more, the setup for the printing itself — the plates and camera work and separations and so on — are now done by computer, usually in Photoshop exported to PDF. The kind of coloring comics fans have grown used to over the last 20 years isn’t possible on newsprint, nor are the current 4-color process overlays that are the industry standard.

Archie is the only publisher to lick this and they did it by refusing to evolve, I think — they still print old-school, they stayed on newsstands and raised their prices with everyone else, and they don’t have rock star creators. For DC or Marvel to emulate that model they have to trade away stuff like creator royalties and etc. as well as teach all their pre-press people a whole new kind of production… for a scheme that might work. What’s more, I don’t think DC or Marvel have ANY idea any more how to even run a publishing business based on a magazine model where you do returnables and print twice what you sell. They publish books for a specialty market… on the installment plan.

But you don’t have to take my word for it. I can’t find the article right this second but Mark Waid at BOOM was very eloquent on why the idea wouldn’t work and DC or whoever still ends up having to charge six or seven bucks for a magazine that might only sell 30% of its print run. I think as close as you get is the Green Lantern book I talked about here a couple of weeks ago… and that was right around ten bucks. For a REPRINT.

I am cautiously optimistic. Like some others, I have for large part given up trying to read new superhero comics because I don’t have time and dedication to try to keep up with the excessive continuity, the few new comics I have been into are the ones which drop occasional references to what is happening in other books but for the most part everything you need you get within one title and run. So if they are getting more loose about that, good.
Digital initiative I still don’t care about, but i don’t read paper monthlies either. See the point above about time and dedication to follow things? That means I read trades (or have also bough bigger piles of monthlies when the comic store has conveniently packed longer runs in one bag). Just give me that damned story.
I’d also welcome the mid-to-late 80s DC back. Not in terms of stories and art, I’m not that into retro nostalgia, but in terms of what happened.

But in many ways this also sounds like an abusive spouse who once again claims to be sorry and promises never to hit you again…and when you once again forgive the spouse, onlookers keep shaking their heads wondering how you could be so stupid…

Travis Pelkie

June 4, 2011 at 1:27 am

That GL book was 10 bucks when I saw it. just saying.

DC and Marvel are showing up at newsstands, I’ve said multiple times my one local grocery store has a spinner rack. And looking at bleeding cool, there are pictures now of Barnes and Nobles with big shelves of comics. Dunno how returnable any of these are, however, but I’d be interested to see the sales numbers on these. Marvel’s been doing the separate price/cover on newsstand comics for — jeez, nearly 5 years, I think (from at least before New Avengers 30, the one before the Elektra Skrull, as I own that one in newsstand version, but I know they’d been doing it for awhile before that). DC hadn’t ever changed the price, but it’s clear that only certain things (Batman, Superman, WW, Teen Titans, the kids line, etc) are sold via newsstand.

As someone who works in a newspaper facility, I’d say that certain plants, like where I work, might have presses capable of doing a newsprint comic. We’d need either different trim sizes or something, and better stitch/trim equipment, but I think it’d be possible. And if comics companies wanted to go that way, I’m sure the facilities would want the work. ANY commercial gigs are highly coveted.

I’m not as familiar with the actual printing and prepress stuff, but I’d guess that if certain concessions were made (“lesser” color or even B&W, different page size/trim, etc), it’d be POSSIBLE. However, I doubt either Marvel or DC would be LIKELY to do this when they obviously are both looking to put their eggs in the digital basket.

Speaking of digital, I’m not too up on that stuff, but I would imagine that the process of taking the page files and making them print ready is similar if not exactly the same for making them digital ready, so if digital doesn’t have the costs involved with print, why is digital costing the same as print? I’m guessing down the line, there will either be extras involved, or prices will drop.

Or something. I don’t know what I’m talking about, so I should probably stop.

Kind of interesting that this reboot trend does not often appear in literature-authors of new Conan stories and novels try to fit them into Robert E. Howard’s timeline, with Robert Jordan as an example-but the ERB estate will allow a Tarzan reboot.

That GL book was 10 bucks when I saw it. just saying.

Fixed. I gave the book to Lilian because she loved it, so I keep referring to it depending on my memory, which is not what it was. I should take the extra ninety seconds to look things up. But DC rolling it out to newsstands with a price THAT high makes the point.

I would imagine that the process of taking the page files and making them print ready is similar if not exactly the same for making them digital ready, so if digital doesn’t have the costs involved with print, why is digital costing the same as print?

Huh? Seriously? I had no idea. I’d written the whole column on the base assumption digital would HAVE TO be cheaper. Same price as print… man, that’s just asking for it to fail. You might as well sell those Marvel compilation CDs of back issues for the combined cover price of the 500-plus comics copied on to the discs.

Hmm, I figured there were some caveats involved vis-a-vis my suggestion that I did not know about, so thanks for setting me straight. I suppose my thinking is clouded by the fact that I’ve been living in Europe (Croatia) for quite some time now, and pretty much all of the comics here, whether locally produced or translated American stuff, are usually printed by newspaper companies or by publishers who lease printing presses owned by newspapers, and they roll out reasonably priced, mainly digest-size, higher page-count books on paper that is not super high-quality or glossy (although still better than newsprint). That just shows how out of touch I am about these things (in fact, I still find it mind-boggling that the super-hero comics of my youth are now basically a niche product sold in specialty shops for what I think are outrageously high prices…)
Also, if digital comics are really the same price as the hard copies, what’s the point? Greg’s example of pricing for those (awesome, by the way) DVD compilations is spot on.

hebitudinous1

June 4, 2011 at 8:38 am

Price parity is essential if you want to get the LCS involved.

Pricing is relative. I’ve seen the product in Eastern Europe where the gold standard is decades-old Asterix. I’ve also seen Asia where comics are booming, not just for super-heroics but for teen literature and even company brochures. Comics are used as an alternative to books in those markets, and a sub-$5 offering compares favorably.

Then again, as a fan I’ve thought WTF when I thought about how much it cost to invest in five vs ten titles a week. This is where a Netflix-style subscription for loyal fans might make sense: trade in your longboxes for the digital versions, and get complete access to older archives for say $12/month.

For the industry to grow, people need to think bigger by growing the pie. The initiative will fail without something that gets retailers and fans alike to imagine that just maybe anything is possible.

Greg, I like the way you think and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

…That cover for Flashpoint #2 does NOT make me want to pick it up. No, not even to find out who the hell this woman is holding up Queen Mera’s head. I’m pretty sure it’s Mera, most of my recent DC has been from the Young Justice cartoon.

But really, I’m tired of the massive company wide resets and huge projects and turning the damn worlds upside down thing. I don’t want to find out who that woman is and why she’s beheaded the Queen of Atlantis and what they’re going to do about it–I’m going to pass on it because I’m tired of depressing or angsty stories. I don’t have the energy for it. It’s the same reason I stopped reading the New Jedi Order series. I got tired of seeing all the heroes I liked dying and the odds getting darker and the heroes who didn’t die (or just hadn’t yet) being twisted by events into broken, screwed up, mean and nasty, or evil people.

“DC better realize that the first time they miss a week with all these hot new titles, they’re in trouble. The days of letting the genius take an extra three months on the fourth chapter of the epic are over. ”

I think that DC should actually plan for this. I think they should re-think the entire “monthly” thing.

You drew comparisons to Harry Potter, Twilight, the Bond films, and the new Star Trek. All very good comparisons. And they all have something in common: you had/have to wait years for the next installment.

There’s no real reason that DC couldn’t do the same thing. So Morrison is writing Superman. Give him some lead time and let him get the story written and have whatever glacially paced artist he’s paired with get it drawn. And then release it-either all at once or weekly or monthly or whatever. Then announce that season two is coming same time next year. Meanwhile check out the new Wonder Woman series that will be starting up next week. And the new Legion of Super-Heroes that will be starting after that. And over on this other release track you’ve got Vertigo-y type stuff. And the more “adult” oriented type stuff is on a third release track.

The pressure in this situation is making sure that the talent is up to the task. If you’re only doing one or two Superman stories a year they better be good stories. Maybe this could lead to weekly anthology titles as ways for existing talent to mentor and nurture new talent.

I think the possibilities are kind of exciting when you start thinking outside the comics mode. I don’t think DC is really doing that with this reboot- at least not from what I’ve seen- but it’s a step in a more interesting direction.

Firstoff, I want to say that this article is quite possibly the BEST discourse on the DC story. Very good choice of words and phrases, and good job making all those connections to other aspects of franchises and the entertainment industry.

Secondly, after much thought regarding this…I’ll give DC a chance. ONE CHANCE. Just like I gave Disney when they bought Marvel Comics back in ’09. If either of them messes up each of their respective gambits, they WILL hear from me, and I will NOT be happy. Until then, I will keep singing Don McLean’s “American Pie”, even at SDCC this year.

@TheMutt
You have a great idea for a magazine. Right now, they have a Spider-Man and a Wolverine Magazine, but even then they don’t look like what you describe.

Chad, so you are suggesting basically the classic French-Belgian model (used also by e.g. 2000AD)? Tintin, Asterix, Lucky Luke, Spirou & Fantasio, Smurfs and so forth appeared originally in short installments in anthology titles but no story was running in every issue (except maybe the strip gag comics like Gaston Lagaffe). This did allow a bit slower pace for creators, one story collected to one 44-page album per year was quite typical for many of these…

Might be interesting, yes, but requires quite different business model…

Greg: Congratulations, yours has been the best analysis of DC’s point of view over the relaunch I’ve yet seen. And yeah, seen that way, it makes sense that they’d want to switch over to digital as soon as possible. About the only problem I see with this is that they’re risking alienating the readers they *already have* for the new ones that *may or may not* come. I’d phased things more subtly, eg, instead of same-day online posting, wait a period such as a month and then upload the digital versions. Or do day-and-date with SOME titles only. And then after the result with the experiments come out, make their plans for the whole line. It just seems like a big gamble to just shift the whole thing at once.

As for continuity, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it’s not how much you have, it’s how you present it. You can have decades worth of characters or stories but readers will only be confused if you bring them in with little explanation. And with the right storytelling, you don’t even need to use a lot of exposition. EX: Cable is, as far as most people in-universe know, a badass mutant mercenary, and he gets used (mostly) that way in the stories. The facts he’s Cyclops’ son and time travels and was created to kill Apocalypse and isn’t really a cyborg etc. etc. only needs to be mentioned *when the story requires it* and not every blasted issue, or even all at once. A casual reader would not be confused until the really complicated stuff comes up, and when it does a text box or even an online link could help with it. Besides most people probably just shrug and continue reading since they’re there for the story, which SHOULD be self-contained as often as possible (running plots are OK, though, as they bring interest in coming issues.)

Oh well there’s one caveat, but it’s the writer’s problem, not the readers: they should be careful not to contradict each other. I can understand, say, Batman writers wanting to focus only on Batman characters, but if they come up with ideas like No Man’s Land, where Gotham is left in ruins for a year, not having bothered to check that only shortly before Metropolis had been similarly destroyed only to be rebuilt by the Justice League IN ONE DAY, they can’t blame the readers if they complain about the it. It’s the price you pay for using a shared continuity (which IS a big selling point even today).

What will change on the New DC? Not much I’ll bet. The heroes may be younger but only so that you can’t say that Batman is in his forties or such (and why is that a big deal?) I doubt most major storylines would be undone; even Dick will still be Nightwing. If anything all the embarrassing mistakes of the last half decade will be eliminated. The new creators will be given a lot of leeway however and I’m OK with that, as long as a) they don’t contradict each other *again* and b) they rely less on the gore, sex and just plain mean-spiritedness. Though given that this is for all purposes Geoff Johns Comics now, I’m not very hopeful.

And I WANT to be hopeful. I miss reading DC comics. There’s been some good stuff in the past few years as well, but I won’t buy any series until I’m convinced that I won’t stumble into graphic deaths on comics where they are not supposed to happen (I wouldn’t mind them in say, Batman, which is all about gritty crime after all, but not Superman or Teen Titans.) Which reminds me: how is DC’s self-rating system going to be applied to their comics now, has anyone mentioned that?

AS-
I’m thinking of the big titles and the anthologies as two different beasts.

For the big name characters/creators I’m envisioning a 120-140 page story that would be released once a year- either serially over several months or as a single “issue”.

I’d see anthology books as a different stream- a place to tell done-in-one stories and to nurture new talent.

But, yeah, it would still require a new business model. And the pressure on the creators to produce would be a lot more intense.

beta ray steve

June 4, 2011 at 6:02 pm

I don’t think this is aimed at the general non-comic reading public. Those people are never coming back.
It is aimed at the Marvel crowd, people who might have checked out DC comics, but were deterred by like, a million years of Batman history.

“For the big name characters/creators I’m envisioning a 120-140 page story that would be released once a year- either serially over several months or as a single “issue”. ”

Maybe something like how Dark Horse handles the Hellboy and B.P.R.D. books, perhaps? I always liked the ‘series of mini-series’ approach that they’ve taken with those books.

[…] CSBG: Friday from the Cheap Seats […]

Greg:

” You tell me *any* way (Diane Nelson) has to try and turn the ship around and bring reader numbers up without abandoning the fan market in favor of opening up new ones. If I’m Diane Nelson I am going to be looking *actively* for ways to shift my focus away from those fans and try to somehow get my cash flow coming from some other income stream…ideally more than one. But I have to try to do it in such a way that doesn’t completely alienate and piss off those hardcore-fan readers that currently finance my publishing house while I’m trying.”

The way she has, is she should dictate the elimination of all serialised comics, and force all the books to be self-contained stories, so that they can be properly marketed to the general public while maintaining stories for the hardcore readership.

Let’s face facts, Greg, a fair percentage of hardcore readers are now tradewaiters or are dropping out of collecting altogether because the prices of books and following all these ridiculous spinoff series and events has gotten out of hand. And even those of us who buy singles are complaining about it more than being happy with our purchases. This is why there is no new readership. If the current market stronghold is late 20s to early 50s in age and we’re all (to varying degrees) disappointed in the product, are we going to be allowing the next generation – our kids, grandkids, students, godchildren – into the market knowing they’re going to suffer the same disappointment, or are we going to keep them out? Most are keeping them out, Greg. When I do have kids at shows coming to my table – and I do get them, oft times far more than any other artist on the floor – they aren’t fans of the comics. They’re fans of the cartoons, or they’re fans of the movies. And their parents often won’t let them buy the current comics. And honestly, who can blame them?

“* Paper and production costs continue to go up. I have tried raising prices but I seem to have hit a ceiling of what people will pay for one of my regular monthly magazines at $2.99. This means that, again, no matter what I do my comics magazines will cease to turn a profit at that $2.99 price, probably within five years. I price my books higher than $2.99 and I lose readers in droves. It’s a no-win.

* Creator rates also are going up, and worse, a rock-star hierarchy has evolved where both myself and my rivals are forced to try to lock up proven talent with expensive “exclusive” contracts. This is more money in overhead that I have to somehow get back by selling stories to the specialty hobbyist market of readers… that is shrinking, that won’t pay more than $2.99 for a comic, that eventually go away no matter what.”

Number one – it’s not that the price has ‘hit the ceiling’ at $2.99, it’s that $2.99 doesn’t get you a story anymore, and audiences have wisened up as opposed to when comics were under a buck to $1.95 up through the late 1990s. If for that $2.99 comic, the reader got a self-contained short story every issue, and they had the knowledge that they could pick up whatever caught their eye without any further commitment to the title or creator, or pass on their ‘regular’ books any given month because the story or creative team isn’t appealing that particular month and try something else without the worry of having to try to afford multiple books ad nasueum, both the hardcore fan and the casual non-fan would change their buy habits accordingly and probably buy significantly more books. Especially if DC and the retail community actively went on to market this aspect properly.

Number two – no publisher is forced to lock up any talent with exclusive contracts. I don’t know why or how that B.S. started (I’m guessing it had to do with the Image Seven, but we didn’t have exclusivity contracts for a decade beyond the formation of Image, so I don’t understand the mentality behind it whatsoever), but it needs to be stopped, once and for all. Half the reason we’re driving readers away is because people are sick of the exclusive creators working on everything, and they’re not interested in the ‘new’ creators because the books are still tied to the “superstars” on one level or another. If the book cannot stand on its own every single issue, then it’s not good enough to publish. That has to be the motto of the modern comics publisher.

Chad is close to the way comics needs to be. We need the monthly 22-26 page story that is a short story, and it SHOULD be done by 12 different creative teams, one a month. This allows for veterans to come in for a quick spell, lets newcomers play in the sandbox with the big kid toys if they have a good enough idea, and you can always let 1-3 of your A-Listers write / draw an issue per year. Then you add in larger one-shots (96-144 page ‘miniseries’ stories as one-shot TPBs), about 6-8 a year, and one “EVENT” OGN that runs 200-300 pages annually for your “Big Gun” A-Lister book.

Here’s how one year of BATMAN might look under such a publishing structure:

January:

32 page monthly (22-26 pages of story). Writer: Doug Moench. Artist: Paul Gulacy. $2.99

February:

32 page monthly. Writer: Greg Rucka. Artist: Steve Lieber. $2.99
96 page TPB One-Shot. Writer: Greg Rucka. Artist: Dale Eaglesham. $9.99

March:

32 page monthly. Writer: Steve Englehart. Artist: Kyle Hotz. $2.99

April:

32 page monthly. Writer: Gail Simone. Artist: J. Califiore. $2.99
96 page TPB One-Shot. Writer: Gail Simone. Artist. Nicola Scott. $9.99

May:

32 page monthly. Writer: Denny O’Neil. Artist: Michael Golden. $2.99
144 page TPB one-shot: Writer: Denny O’ Neil. Artist: Yildiray Cinar. $14.99

June:

32 page monthly. Writer / artist: Matt Wagner. $2.99

July:

32 page monthly. Writer: John Ostrander. Artist: Tom Mandrake. $2.99
96 page TPB one shot. Writer: John Ostrander. Artist: Jan Dursemma. $9.99

August:

32 page monthly. Writer: Fabian Nicieza. Artist: Marcus To. $2.99
96 page TPB one-shot. Writer: Fabian Nicieza. Artist: David Finch. $9.99

September:

32 page monthly. Writer: Gary Reed. Artist: Guy Davis. $2.99

October:

32 page monthly. Writer: Gerard Jones. Artist: Gene Ha. $2.99
144 page TPB one-shot. Writer / artist: Jerry Ordway. $14.99

November:

32 page monthly. Writer: Grant Morrison. Artist: John Cassaday. $2.99
256 page “EVENT” OGN. Writer: Grant Morrison. Artist: Frank Quitely. $24.99

December:

32 page monthly. Writer/Artist: Walter Simonson. $2.99
96 page TPB One-Shot. Writer: Peter J. Tomasi. Artist: Aaron Lopresti $9.99
144 page TPB One-shot. Writer: Paul Dini. Artist: Rick Burchett. $14.99

Now, I purposely tried to put a good listing together on the year. I don’t think there’s any glaringly bad creative teams listed. I went old school, current roster, and even brought in a creative team that’s never worked on the character (Gary and Guy), but who would probably be well suited, with the right story, given their past work together.

But putting that aside – you can plug in whomever, it really doesn’t matter – the point is, this is all the Batman (or Superman, or Wonder Woman, or Aquaman or Flash or Justice League or whatever) product you need for one year. Now, you can do more one-shot TPBs any time aimed at the hardcore audience, if you want, but your gateway book – the monthly – That needs to be maintained as one self-contained short story a month.

Chad,
mixing of big names in anthologies does get the people to read those anthologies and on the side notice the newcomers. There are people who pick only those issues where their favorite character shows up but if the reader likes several of the regular series pretty much every issue is worth getting…
DC hitting the newsstands with just, say, three or four weekly or biweekly anthologies of 40 to 60 pages, and collecting the more popular series in books sellable in bookstores?

Sijo,
agree with continuity, a lot of it is about how it is presented.
Cable=bad-ass half-cyborg mutant (somehow related to Cyclops but it is a bit of mystery).
Wonder Woman=warrior princess from the island of amazons.
Establish the big concepts and give occasional nods to what happened in the past but neither expect all the readers to know those and don’t see the need explain those things except when strictly necessary. The problem of course is if the writers and editors are fanboys who do their work in fanboy manner…
About Metropolis rebuilt in a day while Gotham City lying in ruins for a year…normal people chuckle over it that “those JL guys couldn’t give a helping hand to Gotham?” and there’d be a Cracked article about it linked around, but they’d move on and keep reading if the story is good. It’s like those L-shaped bedcovers or slow unmonitored deathtraps James Bond gets put in or lack of traffic in major cities…it takes a dedicated fan to get their knickers in a knot over stuff like that.
And of course if the fan culture supports that sort of thing, they might amuse themselves trying to come up with explanations how to fit those conflicting parts together, in the manner of early No-Prizes (on other forum there was e.g. a discussion why Huey, Dewey and Louie have been living with Donald Duck for all these years, what’s up with that? Most agreed that it is actually because Donald is secretly their father but several options were offered on the identity of the mother…)

Greg, you write good columns. you obviously put a lot of thought in. Totally agree, the comic industry needs to look to other entertainment industries to update their business mode. A couple of my thoughts

Thought 1: Monthly publishing of FICTION does not work in the 21st century.
Life moves far to fast now for people to remember story developments from 30 days ago. The two release schedules that the mass consumer can digest are
TV weekly episodes for 6-8 months, with a break of 4 months or longer
Books published long form – you referenced Twilight and Harry Potter as exampled.

Compare 1 comic book issue to one TV show. It takes A LOT more effort and manpower to produce the TV show. Yet they find a way to bulk film and post-produce these in a rolling format, working on episode 5 while episode 2 airs, kind of situation.

Thought 2: Comics are not well suited to current digital formats.
The thing NO ONE mentions with digital formats, YOU CAN”T RESELL THEM!!! Legal precedents are moving towards any digital content whether music, comics, or software being a “license to use” rather than ownership. So the entire used resale market is completely obliterated, either via specialty shops or the eBays of the world. And then there are the technical limits, it only works on one platform, once computer, one device. I could never e so adventurous in my buying without being able to offload a bunch of stuff I bought and didn’t care for.

Thought 3: Reading comics is not intuitive
This was mentioned in the comments. When you read a book, its linear. Same for watching a video. But comics are somewhere in between. It can be very confusing to the novice reader to pickup an issue and go, where do I start, read right to left, or up to down, do you read the text first or look at the pictures, do you look at the whole page or just each panel? Comic Books 2.0 needs to be the digital auto-scroll guided experience to engage the mass market.

Imagine if after the 3rd season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Joss Whedon said he was rebooting, everything that happened in the first 3 seasons didn’t happen, that Buffy will meet Angel again for the first time, meet Xander for the first time, defeat The Master again. I don’t think the ‘core’ Buffy fans would be happy.

I was going to reply to this earlier but kept forgetting. That’s almost the situation here but not quite. The DC thing is more analogous to what’s going on with the Buffy franchise right now – you have the comic-book Buffy Season 8 being produced for the hardcore faithful by Whedon and other members of the original creative team, while the movie studio people that actually own the rights are talking about doing a new Whedon-less version and fans are freaking out.

So it’s not like there’s no precedent. My experience has been that, until the new version is actually out and fans can judge it on its actual merit, the default setting for speculation is always, “The new version will suck.” Because despite claiming to be very tolerant and ‘just wanting good stories,’ we fans tend to be really, REALLY grouchy and territorial and conservative about these things. (See: organic webshooters. See also: Star Trek The Next Generation. Battlestar Galactica. Etc.)

You can speculate based on the track records of the people involved, but even that’s not a sure thing. I loathed Judd Winick’s stuff, everything I’d seen of it, until his work on the Batman: Reborn launch with Dick Grayson taking over, and also his animated Red Hood screenplay. Those I liked a lot and was a little surprised it was the same guy who wrote them that had done all the other books I thought were awful. Realistically, the new Buffy, or the new DC books, or the new whatever, has the same odds of NOT sucking as any creative endeavor once it’s proposed. Fifty-fifty. There’s no way to judge it beyond that until you actually see it.

Joss Whedon actually did a ‘Reboot’ in season 5 when he introduced “The Key”, and the introduction of a sister who has always been did not detract from re watching the previous seasons, but invigorated the current one with an excitement and uncertainty definitely missing from season four.
Morrison was the first to decry the deconstruction and reconstitution of our suffering characters during his Animal Man run. A comment on Miller & Moore’s re-imagining of more ‘sophisticated’ heroes, loaded with angst over the ever present suffering of the world. Morrison always counseled taking a higher road, and produced imaginative adventure books, filled with existential wonder, spiced with avant-garde references and a strong Pop sensibility, Alan Moore finally came around when he created ‘America’s Best Comics.’
The fear, and it has been an ongoing trend with DC, is that any re-set will veer towards the low art expectations of the suits in charge towards the masses they are trying to appeal to. Comic books are a form of escapist fantasy, best enjoyed when read with an expectation of an optimistic closure. Juxtaposed to this style, a Born Again, & a Watchmen can stand out and be appreciated. If the whole line is written with a nihilistic feel, it all reads like depressing drek… or like the first Image Comics (Also best parodied by Morrison in Doom Force.

Morrison was the first to decry the deconstruction and reconstitution of our suffering characters during his Animal Man run.

Excuse my pedantry, but really, it’s a shame most people missed it. I think the FIRST time anyone mentioned this was Alan Moore himself in Pictopia, done with Don Simpson. First appeared in Fantagraphics’ ANYTHING GOES back in the 1980s. Check out this bit followed by this one and it really sums it all up.

I have one simple question for anyone who wants to answer it. Do y’all think that, new numbers on the cover and the same-day digital sales aside, is anything about the STORIES going to change? Or is it going to be the same people writing the same kinds of stories with the same delays and/or fill-in artists for (most likely) the same dwindling audience?

I have one simple question for anyone who wants to answer it. Do y’all think that, new numbers on the cover and the same-day digital sales aside, is anything about the STORIES going to change? Or is it going to be the same people writing the same kinds of stories with the same delays and/or fill-in artists for (most likely) the same dwindling audience?

Well, I tried to address this in the column because it’s THE question as far as editorial policy is concerned. (The numbering is an idiot issue anyway, discussing that is like discussing whether or not you buy a car for the odometer. The content is what sells the book.)

Boiled down, I think the answer still has to be: “Let’s hope the stories change.”

To take another example — there was a time when Marvel, and specifically Stan Lee, were absolutely convinced that the Silver Surfer was the key to an adult general audience for comics. They kept hammering away at it. The 70s bookstore graphic novel original with Kirby. Epic #1. The graphic novel with John Byrne. The one with Jean Giraud. Etc. Etc. Stan was SO SURE that if he just got the Surfer in front of the right group, it would unlock a whole new audience. And it didn’t, because the story never changed. Instead the adult comics revolution arrived in bookstores via indies, undergrounds, and manga. Superheroes weren’t the right vehicle then.

They could be the right vehicle now for a mass audience, there’s enough people out there that like the stuff; but they need to get closer to what the mass audience clearly is digging in the movie theater, that Indiana Jones/Star Wars swashbuckler-with-effects vibe.

Look at it this way — in genre terms, I think one of the most amazing superhero series of movies in the last couple of years is Jason Statham’s TRANSPORTER franchise. Those are better superhero movies than at least half of the ACTUAL superhero movies that have been done. Hit that spot, that tone, of superhero storytelling and you’re golden. The question isn’t whether the audience is out there, it’s whether or not these creative teams can hit it. I guess we’ll find out in September.

“Boiled down, I think the answer still has to be: “Let’s hope the stories change.””

I just wonder if the current writer/editor creative teams are even capable of writing the kinds of stories that would bring in new readers, or if continuity-heavy carnage and sleaze are all they know how to do. Let’s supposed for a moment that there is incredible pressure from Warner Bros. to right this ship and make more money. Are the current writers and editors even capable of that? We’ll see. If not, DC Comics may be left as nothing more than a bunch of intellectual property for movies/animated shows/toys.

Economists use the term “opportunity cost” to refer to the money you spend on something as opposed to what you could have spent the money on. Warners may decide the money spent to publish comics for such a meager profit may be better spent elsewhere.

This has been a great conversation.

But I have to disagree with the Buffy responses to my comment.

1) Greg said “‘Hard core’ Buffy fans have the comic while the studio reboots with a film.” And if I am a ‘hard core’ fan of the current Birds of Prey book, where do I get to go after this relaunch. No where. I am happy Buffy fans have some options. But fans of the current DCU don’t.

2) WackyWally, the reboot with Buffy’s sister was a ‘soft reboot’. All the other seasons still happened. All those stories still happened. We just added Dawn to the mix. We weren’t reinventing the universe, just deepening it. And I agree, soft reboots can invigorate things. But this sounds much more like a hard reboot. Superman not with Lois. Barbara Gordon walking and acting as Batgirl. Titans meeting each other for the first time.

It just seems to me that this is a risky maneuver. You can fail in your outreach to new fans AND lose your long time fans. But as everyone said including me, good stories trump everything. I am a huge Superman fan and have watched those comics languish a bit in the last few years. And while I think there are aspects (especially the Lois marriage) are worth keeping, I am ready for Superman stories that are good.

But if there are bad stories AND the things I liked about the old universe are gone, then I might be gone too.

Thanks again for this great discourse.

@ AS: As I noted, the problem with No Man’s Land (well, the one we are discussing now, it had several others) was that the people working on the Batman family of books were acting like the rest of the DC Universe didn’t matter except when they wanted it to. And this wasn’t the only example. The mandate (which came after the Zero Hour reboot) that “Batman was still an urban legend” (never mind that he’d been openly active for years at the time, including with the League) was even more moronic. This kind of things just snowball later on- there was even one story where Bats threatened Jimmy Olsen for trying to take his picture! Not to mention that one writer can leave a title and its up to his replacement to figure this things out. It’s just unprofessional.

@ Greg: The Transporter as an example of superhero tone? Uh, I don’t think so. Great action movies, to be sure, with some interesting moral-questioning moments- but that’s hardly true heroism. If anything, the obsession to make *all* superhero comics like that kind of movies is the real problem they have today.

A better example, in my opinion, is the new Anime series “Tiger and Bunny”. On the surface, it’s a comedy that mocks the concept of the American superhero (as opposed to the Japanese ones such Super Sentai aka Power Rangers) In it, the heroes are for all purposes, Corporate Mascots. Yet despite the humor, the characterization is serious, the action is solid and the concept of true heroism is argued but never shown as false. The show is also peppered with as many subtle references to Western comics as they can get away with. I recommend it.

Dark Satanic Hayley Mills

June 5, 2011 at 5:04 pm

Excellent article. Well played.

Travis Pelkie

June 5, 2011 at 6:11 pm

Ooh, In Pictopia! Yes. Anyone who hasn’t read it needs to.

Anj, I haven’t heard anything solid about the Superman/Lois marriage, Titans meeting for the first time, Babs walking again as Batgirl — so far, I think those are all rumors. (And the Batgirl thing, maybe I’ve missed it and they’ve followed up on this elsewhere, but in Batman The Return, Bruce shows Babs a picture of her “avatar” for internet 3.0, and it’s Batgirl. Perhaps this is where she’ll be “walking and being Batgirl”.) Everything I’ve seen that’s directly from DC indicates it’s a soft reboot.

Which may be a problem. Like people are saying, if it’s just the same stories by the same artists/writers, well, what’s the point of the renumbering?

I do think more “done in one” stories would be nice, but that’s not too likely. I hope it will happen. However, these creators are trained on doing arcs/megastories any more.

Which is part of why I don’t think Louis’s idea about a monthly book with rotating creative teams would work as well as it might be thought. One complaint I hear about comics as they are now is that rotating creative teams are annoying. Plus, if every month someone new is on the book, does each story “matter”? If something that is done in March might get undone in July, why keep picking it up? And also, if there’s not that “hook” to keep readers coming back, why would they come back? As people have been saying, with the Harry Potter/Twilight/etc books, and new seasons of TV shows being the new big thing — book publishers want new series, not self contained books, TV shows (on cable, more, I suppose) want continuing story arcs — the monthly comic book model is a good one, it’s just not a good value for many people. They either want their weekly chunk of story for “free” on TV, or buy up DVD season sets, or get the big books as soon as they come out every year or so. A monthly comic is inconvenient for the mainstream, because it’s a small chunk of story (even a self contained issue is basically a short story, or a 30 minute TV show), and it’s “costly” for that small chunk.

And annual comics/big event things wouldn’t work either. The artists and writers can’t hit deadlines period, it doesn’t matter if they’ve got another 6 months to do something. It just means the ONE book they’re doing all year will be out later than it’s supposed to be, instead of all 12 books they’re supposed to be doing out late.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

June 5, 2011 at 8:21 pm

Doctor Who is just like superhero comics, except it does everything right. It usually charges ahead, rarely looking back except for a quick in-joke or wink to the longtime fans. It always targets wider audiences and new viewers. When it threatens to disappear up its own ass, the entire show explodes in a ball of light and completely changes. New ideas, new adventures, new faces, with just enough return appearances from old enemies to sate nostalgiaholics. It’s figured this shit out. Why can’t DC and Marvel?

I think superhero publishers ignore all the good lessons they could learn from the Doctor, because it’s British and a tv show – never mind it’s ran longer and more successfully than most superhero books.

The real one that bothers me, is that the publishers don’t pay any attention to their cartoon shows – Batman TAS, Superman TAS, JLU and Batman Brave and Bold – all use characters who have appeared before, or reference comic book story lines, but they streamline it, and make it totally accessible to new, and young, viewers.

Travis:

Again, the monthly book is not geared strictly for the fans; it’s the gateway book for the non-fan who just wants a story to read without further commitment of purchase. The larger stories are geared for the hardcore fans.

Now, you’re fearful about ‘continuity’ – can Writer X undo what Writer A did six months ago? In a perfect world, no. But things will undoubtedly be imperfect and when such mistakes happen, that’s what they will be. “But what if you WANTED to undo…” Nobody gets an undo / redo just because fandom or some writer didn’t like what was done. That’s fanboy wishful wankery and unprofessional. Do you get to undo / redo stuff in your life that didn’t turn out the way you wanted? No. So stop trying to make it happen in the damn comics. Simple. If the writers stop trying to recycle their damned comics collections and make the comics world the way they wanted it to be, and just moved the characters FORWARD TO THEIR FINAL CONCLUSIONS (and yes, you DO need a FINAL CONCLUSION at some point- every character eventually must grow old and retire from adventuring, or die, or whatever*), we’d all be a hell of a lot better off.

“The artists and writers can’t hit deadlines period…”

If that’s the case, fire the entire roster and replace them with creators who can meet their deadlines, and they’ll be experienced veterans that fandom knows and appreciates, if you really think there’s THAT much of a problem with creators hitting deadlines. The minute a publisher stops taking shit off the creators and axes them or penalizes them page rate for being late without valid explanation, trust me that b.s. behavior will cease feal damned fast. (That being said, things DO happen – illness, death in the family, physical injury, house was destroyed by fire / flood / tornado, that sort of thing – that we can forgive a creator for missing deadline for. It’s this crap that you’re too busy working on other projects because you took on too much work that’s unacceptable.)

And given that you’re not soliciting any work that isn’t already done and in house, there’s not much reason for a finished book to ship late (maybe a problem at the printer, but that’s about it), and no reason for fandom to even know about a book being late. Ever. But just to be safe, you always order 3 additional inventory pieces for the monthy, 2 additional 96 – 144 pagers, and 1 additional “event” story by a separate creative team as your backup.

Preparation, Travis.

Now, I hear what you’re saying about fandom moaning about not liking rotating creative teams. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a joke. That’s like saying you only liked the BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES episodes that Paul Dini wrote, and Alan Burnett, Stan Berkowitz, Boyd Kirkland, and Bruce Timm all sucked. And then you only like the “original” Dini episodes- anything that was an adaptation from a comic was bad, too.

You notice how stupid that sounds? “But at least the art style remained consistent! You want to change the art style, too!” *Shrugs* Again, I don’t think it matters one whit.

Did I stop reading UNCANNY X-MEN when John Romita, Jr. got replaced by rotating art teams for about a year until Marc Silvestri took over and stayed for a while? No. I didn’t quit UNCANNY until Romita Jr. came back to the book with UNCANNY #300 (not because JR jr. came back, but because Claremont had been axed, the entire X-Line had gone to hell, and #300 was a perfect cut off point – it’s just coincidence he was the returning artist).

Did I stop reading WONDER WOMAN when George Perez stopped drawing the book and Jill Thompson took over the art chores? Or when George left the book entirely? No. I didn’t stop until a year into John Byrne’s run at #112, whereas I was glad to stop at #100, but gave JB a year to try to keep me on. He failed. Simple as that.

Did I quit NEW WARRIORS when Bagley or Nicieza left? No. I quit at #50 because I was tired of it. (Bags had already left but Darick Robertson was drawing, and Nicieza didn’t leave until #53) I eventually got all of Vol.1 with Evan Skolnick and Patrick Zircher’s run, too, when I was interested and it was cheap.

Did I quit GREEN LANTERN because they changed from Gerard Jones and various artists to Ron Marz and Darryl Banks? No, I quit it at #50 because I disapproved of the handling of Hal Jordan, but not because Ron and Darryl were incompetent storytellers. While I’ve never particularly cared for the Kyle Rayner character, I’ve read subsequent adventures featuring the character by Marz and Banks and they were okay.

So rotating creative teams are not a valid reason to quit a book out of some misguided self-servitude. Sure, if the book turns bad, drop it. Come back to it later when there’s a team you like trying their hand on it. “But I won’t have a complete collection, then!” Boo hoo. Cry me an ocean. You’re supposed to be collecting stuff you LIKE TO READ, not just to have as a completist. Because you’re never going to have every appearance of the X-Men, or Spider-Man or Batman or Superman or whomever anyway. So why make yourself obsessive and sick in the head over it?

FunkyGreenJerusalem

June 5, 2011 at 11:02 pm

But just to be safe, you always order 3 additional inventory pieces for the monthy, 2 additional 96 – 144 pagers, and 1 additional “event” story by a separate creative team as your backup.

Although there was a lot wrong with Crossgen, one of the smarter moves they made, was setting their regular artists ten issues a year, with two planned fill-ins.
That way the artist wasn’t as rushed, and the writer knew to prepare for a different artist – it also gave the editor time to find the right artist, not whomever was available that day.

Travis Pelkie

June 6, 2011 at 12:33 am

Louis,

Well, my life isn’t a comic book, so no, I can’t reset things, but if they want to in comics (and of course, they have) reset the continuity every so often (hopefully at least 5 or so years apart), they can. And should. (To quote/paraphrase Crumb, it’s just lines on paper, folks.) The entire line of comics shouldn’t be beholden to some stupid story done a few years ago just because it was approved by someone in editorial. In ANY job, you shouldn’t be stuck with a bad decision just because it might be “unprofessional” to change things.

And I actually DON’T think that there HAS to be an endpoint to comics/superhero stories. Why not leave things open ended, and to continue on with a certain time period in someone’s life, even if it “doesn’t make sense”?

Hell, even all the things that do happen to any one character, if you logically tracked it all and did the numbers to figure out how long certain events lasted, and so on, it’d be absurdly ridiculous. We accept it because the story in itself is (hopefully) entertaining enough to skirt issues like that.

I get your point about deadlines (and I was making a blanket statement that I’m sure people can poke holes in), but in part, some of the people you’ve got on your list (Englehart, O’Neil, Moench) are people that aren’t drawing numbers that companies want. They certainly are “experienced veterans that fandom knows and appreciates”, but they aren’t selling the huge numbers.

See, your examples aren’t what I’m talking about with rotating creative teams, or even what your original proposal was. You’re talking in your most recent post about teams where one element left, but with XMen, Claremont was still there, WW, Perez was still there for awhile, and the others, each creative team that left was there for a while before leaving, and each creative team that took over was there for awhile after.

You’re talking about a different creative team EVERY MONTH. Which, granted, your dream list IS a good one, but again, you’ve either got to have editorial (at DC? hahaha!) take the reins and keep the continuity tight, or you’re getting a new Batman every month.

Taking Batman as an example, we’ve HAD that before — Legends of the Dark Knight. In theory, these stories, mostly Year One and around then, “counted”, but certainly contradict other things. I’m guessing the sales on LDK rose and fell based on the creative team, and I’m also guessing that other than the books that crossed over into Knightfall (and all that stuff), the circulation on LDK was less than the 2 “main” books.

More recently, Batman and Robin is sort of the title that you’re proposing — Morrison wrote the first 16 issues, but since then, it’s been 3 issue arc by different creative teams. With continuity within the title and in concert with the other Bat titles.

Also, when Action was weekly in the late ’80s, there was a similar thing to what was proposed by others — multiple stories and creative teams, a weekly book, Superman in every issue, veterans and up and comers…
and it didn’t sell enough to continue that way. And this was when comics were still big on newsstands.

I think you’re being a bit disingenous with your Batman Animated example, as well. Unless animation is a lot different from the rest of TV, the episodes with Dini credited as writer weren’t solo Dini things. Other writers pitched in. And yes, the visual style being the same from episode to episode is important as well. If you suddenly had an anime looking ep in that series, some people would have been put off, even if the quality of the writing and animation was the same.

And people DO complain about shows where certain writers have the characters seem “off”. I know in watching Buffy with the DVD commentary, several writers comment that people will tell them they loved a certain line — and it’s a line Joss Whedon came up with, not the credited writer of the ep. Even though most of the elements are the same from ep to ep, there ARE things that are noticeably different at times, and can put people off.

Which brings me to another point — if you are going to have continuity with this monthly book, then reading every issue IS necessary. I might not like, say, a Jane Espenson written Buffy ep, but I’m going to watch anyway because the characters and setting and continuity appeal to me. If this monthly book is going to have continuity, then I DO need to read them all so as not to miss something that might come into play later on.

And I think the reason behind the day and date digital stuff is so that they can hook in new readers with the monthly books. If you can download it the day it’s out in stores, it’s that much easier to follow. And I assume that there’s some sort of email or some type of reminder — “hey, Batman #2 is out this wednesday, click here to preorder the download”. So if the monthly is for the casual reader as well as the fan, there’s where they’re trying to improve things.

(Although, and I don’t think it’s on this post, our friend Funky pointed to a Brian Hibbs column that I believe said that DC made more off All Star Superman in “monthly” form than they have in trades/HCs/etc. So it’s apparently not entirely true that everyone’s becoming a trade waiter.)

(and given the new prominence Barnes and Noble is giving monthly comics, especially, it seems from the pics Rich is showing on Bleeding Cool, DC, it wouldn’t surprise me if DC might have even pushed B&N to do so, in preparation for the new DCU.)

I do want to like your monthly book idea, Louis, and I’d probably buy a book like that myself, but there are concerns that I’d have, and you know on the internet there’d be hell raised about it. If the B&N distribution pans out well, or these new titles do well outside the DM, maybe a sea change in the way titles are done might happen, but I think it’d be too big a gamble for too small a reward to change like that.

Well said, sir, well said. A voice of reason.

Very good article.

Balanced and looking at all angles. My pov, you can’t get better or different if you keep doing the same.

I agree with most of your points but I do take issue with point 9.

That’s a very subjective view. In my opinion none of them sound or look promising. It’s all so dated and tired.

They sound like the something you would get from a focus group.

If I was looking to start buying comics I don’t think there’s one title tha would t interest me.

First of all, I haven’t heard many people voice an apprehension about this being the 80s again. I think we’re all terrified that this is the 90s again! I don’t see how any of it makes marketing sense. If WB wanted something as untouchably popular as Harry Potter, maybe they should have contracted authors close to JK Rowling’s status to pique the general public’s interests. Are George Perez and Scott Lobdell (no offense to either of them), or a name extremely ubiquitous to comics like Grant Morrison, going to make the literary market all of a sudden start salivating over comic books? No. I see non-comic readers rolling their eyes at more convoluted DC announcements.

As a quick follow-up to my previous statement: if Steven King, who is now no stranger to the world of comics, had been announced as writing Detective Comics #1 instead of lame duck Tony Daniel, you don’t think DC would have people swarming the stands for that or at least sell out of the trade collections?

Jason Barnett

June 11, 2011 at 6:53 pm

I’m fine with digital distribution, though I don’t plan on purchasing it myself since I like holding books in my hands, but honestly they’re a subsidy of a massive company. THey should be able to get their books into anyplace that sells DVDs of DC products. And the movies you list as rebooting franchises didn’t switch to online distribution. Someone who can go online to read a comic book could easily take a minute to look for an answer to something they don’t know. Hell, DC could probably link right to their wiki.

Nice article…very good points, all.

I’ve said for years now that I think the comic market will continue to shrivel up and die UNLESS one of the big 2 decide to abandon the fanboy base and return to the idea of capturing a completely new audience. The problem (as I see it, anyhow) is that beginning in the mid80s, both the big two sought to capture this growing fanboy market and added “mature content” books to their lines (anyone remember that happening?). As a result, and PLENTY of years later, they’ve now muddied their BRAND so that it isn’t acceptable to the majority of non-fanboy market, a market which shrinks every year. And yet, the US population continues to GROW! We have more 8-15 year olds today than we had 20 years ago. Thus, I still contend that unless either of the two companies make the move lock-stock-and-barrel, any attempt at a “reboot” will eventually fail (there may be a temporary bump as collectors buy up the #1s).

But WHAT ABOUT THE FANBOYS?
I think the fanboys, MANY of them, will stick around because of a love for the characters. Targeting a “younger” or “all ages” audience doesn’t mean “dumbing down”…which many fanboys seem to think it means. Instead, it means writing smarter. And…as you said, can the current slate of creators deliver?

ah well…

Strong column. Great read.

My personal thoughts on the DCnU…

I am split.

I applaud the boldness of the decision. In that sense, I feel it is a brilliant maneuver, succeed or failure. I like that they want to capture what is best about these characters and their universe and go from there. Continuity. What continuity? It is already an absolute mess no matter how hard people try to explain and make sense of it all. DC is doing themselves and everyone a favor by cleaning it up. Also, no one is purging all the tales that already exist. They will exist forever (in essence), no matter what happens next.

With this medium, having changing creators, it is like folk tales. They all capture the same essence but they can focus on different aspects and play out in unique ways. What really matters is quality. That is why I feel people who are already reading these comics have nothing reasonable to worry about.

What makes me uneasy about the relaunch is that I get a sense that DC is going to make the same mistakes yet again. The same ones as always. But that is a wait and see situation and I will hope for the best.

“By rolling out digital comics on the same day as print, DC is effectively undercutting the retailer network they depend on”

I disagree, for a very simple reason. Nobody, NOBODY, has been able to succeed digitally by trying to charge the same for a digital item as they do for the physical copy. People who buy digitally are stoundingly cheap. The mindset is that digital items aren’t real things – it’s also why people are so happy and guilt-free about copying them. The eternal “would you walk into a store and steal a book?” just doesn’t wash, because a book is a physical object, and a file is a variable series of ones and zeroes, recorded in a manner that no one can really explain. It can vanish when the power goes – philosphically, it barely exists at all.

So asking someone to pay the same for a virtually non-existent batch of data as they would for a physical object is a losing prospect. Even the dollar-less-a-month-later model is too much – comic fans won’t wait a month for the books, and DC knows it. And they won’t pay the same for the file, so they’ll go to the shops. And the casual buyer will think that two bucks is too much. 99 cents s the magic number right now – songs, apps, anything you buy digitally. As soon as something goes over a buck, you start thinking twice.

DC has to accept the fact that digital comics are functionally like opening their own chain of outlet stores, with no miiddleman, lower costs, and as such, lower prices. As loyal as they are to the LCS’s, if they’re going to hobble the move to digital by protecting them, perhaps they may as well not bother.

VInny two thngs –
I would argue that for music mainly Apple has gotten people to pay the same price if not a premium for digital music compared to a physical CD. iTunes albums price out from $12 to $18 dollars equivalent to CD’s, but in lower sound quality. People are paying for convenience. However, I don”t think straight digitzation of comics will ever work as a sales method because most laptops, netbooks, tablets have a screen too small to display a two page spread at tis full comic size, so the experience is compromised.

On the flip side, as I mentioned, the reason so many people do not place value on digital items is because, they have little value to begin with. They can not be resold! There is no possible return on investment. For someone who might read 30 titles a month at $3 – $4 a pop, in this day and age of joblessness and economic downturn, there is some security in knowing you can always sell those physical comics down the road even if its only for 25% of cover. This seems to be a taboo topic here, like anyone who thinks about the “value” of their “collection” is not a real comic fan and how dare they pollute the innocent hobby.

1. I’ve tried digital comics. On my dinosaur PC, they take a long te to load. Hard to flip back and forth. I’m interested, but not enthusiastically so. Ever read the episode of ZOT! that Scott McCloud did online? That’s the future of online comics. But honestly, I think comics as static images are never going to regain what they had. Someday, someone will turn all of their universe into an animated online series of shorts. Right now, as comic book superhero fans, we look at the comic as the REAL story. All of the other stuff is pop entertainment, but we know that the comics are the ultimate truth. When someone switches to animation being The Truth, they’ll catch the general public (and kids, especially).

2. Amen to “no origins”! Isn’t that the source of so many continuity nightmares?

3. And #9 is probably the most important issue of all. I remember picking up an issue of JLA around the time the animated JLU was wrapping up. A humanized Red Tornado got his arms ripped off (on panel) by someone. Now, why would I let my kids (who were HUGE JLU fans) read that?

Bottom line, I’m skeptical. I’d love it if DC would really start from scratch, but I don’t see it happenin’…

I could learn to live with a DCU-wide reboot. I’m a fan of the Legion of Super-Heroes; one could argue that DC’s been painfully grooming me for this for many a year now.

What I take exception to is how very miserable this “DCnU” looks to be. Flashpoint is grimdark and depressing, and I don’t see any signs that the reboot will be any better. The characters look grimmer, harder, darker; the solicits seem unrelentingly grim and miserable. Apparently the world doesn’t even trust Superman any longer.

That’s not what I read books about superHEROES for.

I wish they would change the format of comics along the lines of Shonen Jump, put the families of books together in one thick monthly comic. That way I wouldn’t have to go to my LCS every week just to buy the 7 or 8 monthlies I follow. But that’s maybe a really bad idea?

regrettably, unless the industry can address:

1, the price – i agree with comments made above that although both the Big 2 cite increasing paper costs, there are many magazines out there (with high gloss paper) selling for much less than a comicbook.

2, Direct Market – as much as i love my LCS, the market is imploding due to limited outlets. Specialty shops died out years ago in the retail industry, supermarkets evolved to sell everything. But the comics industry stagnates because the product is not readily at hand to the mass market, hence the situation in point 1, where cost per item goes up because quantity sales cannot be achieved.

Selling through mass market venues will not kill the direct market! It may even increase interest in LCS’s if the general public become aware that comics still exist, and these wonderful characters do not only exist in cartoons and movies.

Terrible arguments. You elaborate on them well, but in the end it’s just flawed reasoning.

Look, it’s pretty simple. If DC had rebooted their universe, TRULY rebooted it, then yes, that would be making things new-reader friendly. They DO have to try and tap into a wider audience.

But what they’re doing is keeping the huge casts and sense of “decades of history” while throwing around retcons and changes willy-nilly.

Things are every bit as impenetrable for new readers. There’s still multiple Robins. Batman, Inc continues with barely a pause for breath. Heck, the Green Lantern franchise isn’t changed at all, because it’s the favorite of one of the people calling the shots.

They’re SAYING that they’re making things more accessible to new readers, but the proof is in the pudding. The advertising might make some inroads there, but in terms of the writing it’s, if anything, a bigger mess than ever. Meanwhile they’re doing things to turn long-time readers away in disgust.

The intentions might have been good, but in practice this just wasn’t planned out well.

The return of the JLA Big 7 has been talked about since the end of Blackest Night.

Taichara: THAT’S what’s been bugging me about that ACTION #1 image! That Superman looks terrifying! He might as well be Ultraman.

I wonder if he’s a US citizen?

I think there are a few issues that are at the heart of the comic book problem:

Publisher vs. Franchise Owner
– Comic book companies are simultaneously in the situation of being publishers and single-franchise owners, which tends to distort their decisions in a way that isn’t the case with, say, a book publishing house.
– The “publisher” element tends to incline DC to produce lots of different books.
– However, if it were a true franchise, like Harry Potter, it would focus on developing a single property. Would Harry Potter have been successful if it’s primary franchise (not spin off media) was a book each month, of widely varying quality, from different creative teams, focusing on each Hogwarts character and multiple different wizard schools spread across the world?
– The big problem with DC/Marvel is that the CORE franchise property – the one that should drive sales – has been diluted. (If the core was the movie and the books were the spinoff, that would be one thing, but it isn’t done that way).

So, my suggestion if retaining monthly comics:
* reduce the core super titles from 52 to about 7 core titles who you expect to see very high sales on,
and 3-6 ancillary titles aimed at a fan market that you expect to have lower sales, but generate buzz.

* 4-5 of the core books should be the company’s largest individual sellers: Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, another one maybe.

* 2-3 of the core book should be team books. One of them should be “Type 1″ soap opera team and the other a “type 2 ” Greatest Heroes team.

* Yes. there are TWO types of superhero team book.

* Type 1 showcases a team of characters who work well, but can’t hold a book individually. An example would have been the X-Men or Teen Titans, Doom Patrol, Avengers Academy, Green Lantern Corps, LoSH etc. The primary goal of this book is continuity soap opera for the readers and for the company to hope to build up new “star” characters (wolverine is an example) who can later star in their own books/movies if they become insanely popular.

* Type 2 showcases the “worlds greatest heroes” and is a replacement for the Crossover book. It should primarily star characters from core books plus a few anchors. It should not star any characters from Type 1 team books, as that messes up their soap opera. Avengers, JLA, etc.

* eliminate all crossovers! With only six core books, the goal is for everyone to read most of them if they’re a “true fan.”

* each regular book must tell a complete story in one or two episode arc. End “writing for the trade”.( Instead, publish a few Arkham Asylum/Watchmen/Dark Night whatever graphic novels each year as well).

* With core books, hire the best creative team and pay them enough that they’ll make their deadlines.

Now, publish another 5-6 other books specifically for the fan market. The publisher goal here is to provide options if a big core book goes down in flames in sales to promote it up, or if a character or creative team are successful. But pay creators on these books at a lower scale and accept lower sales on these books.

Exactly what I’ve been saying on various message boards, but the plebes are still to this day whining about costume seams, and high collars.

@DP

If they also make those comics thicker than the 20 pages I read in 10 to 15 minutes, I would consider switching back from trades to comics.

If this really was conceived by some high-level Warners suit, we’re doomed. I have no faith that someone who’s sitting their crunching numbers can come up with a solution.
As witness that none of what’s been announced so far seems substantially different UNLESS you are a fanboy: Wonder Girl is a “powerhouse thief!” Captain Atom is struggling with his humanity! The Red Lanterns have their own book (which I think rules out any drop in violence)! Babs Gordon is Batgirl again (unless they assume that having a woman in a wheelchair as your protagonist is automatically discouraging to new readers, I can’t see why this is an improvement). Even if the stories are good, I can’t see anything that makes new readers rush to the stores in droves.
As to comparisons: Dr. Who is a poor one because you can watch him for free if you already have the right cable channels, or Netflix; it doesn’t take extra money to follow the new version.
As for Casino Royale, is there any evidence that starting over from a reboot actually boosted ticket sales, as opposed to just being a good Bond film with a strong leading man? Plus, millions of non-Bond fans are still movie goers so “let’s see the Bond film” probably takes less of a switch than “I think I’ll try reading comics for the first time does.”
And a reboot can just as easily end up as Val Kilmer’s The Saint, a poor story that reworks the character for no effect. Or the 1990s Body Snatchers, which was good (IMHO) but didn’t start the Body Snatchers series the producers wanted.
I admit I’d sooner see comic books a going concern even if I’m not reading them, but I’m not sure this will succeed on either point.

The trouble with wiping out continuity is that sooner or later, it comes back: One year, two years, and there’s going to be continuity.
That’s not a problem unless it becomes impenetrable. So perhaps the proposals above to stop Big Event Crossovers and multi-issue arcs are a good idea. If they can’t sum up everything new readers need to know in a paragraph, don’t do it.

Roger Lockwood

June 13, 2011 at 7:48 am

Great article!
Thanks for standing up for Diane Nelson. It’s great to see the current economic/publishing/fanboy situation put into black and white.
Thanks also for calling us, the fans, on our current starstruck obsessions with the creators. I’m tryiong to get away from that, thanks to reading CBR reviews and such.

As Damo said, this is not a full reboot, it’s not a fresh start. People who never read a comic in their lives (and who according to DC are too dumb to google) are not going to understand what’s going on. Take Batman, for example. Four out of five Robins are still in continuity. If DC wanted to simplify things, they would have kept one, the original. But DC is not doing a full reboot, it’s keeping what the people in charge like and getting rid of the rest.

It’s unlikely that people that don’t read comics will care about the new line. And alienating your current customer is never a good idea. It’s a very risky move and to be honest, I don’t think it’ll work.

DC could to attract new readers by using other media to their advantage. Cartoons, for example. How many readers did the Young Justice cartoon attract? What about the Under the Red Hood movie? Cartoons are much easier to market than comics, especially overseas.

And for all the “we want to attract new readers and the young generation” the new books seem to cater – mostly – to Silver Age fans. Not to mention that the person responsible for the costume designs is somebody that’s stuck in the 90s. And what about the majority of people in charge of these books? Rob Liefeld? Seriously?

Just a thought.

[…] columnist Greg Hatcher makes the best argument I’ve seen for DC’s upcoming reboot not being a disastrous mistake. […]

You all are having so much fun, and frankly I’m so sick of rehashing it, that I hesitate to even jump back in at this point — but I keep seeing people accuse me of making an argument I didn’t actually make.

Quite a few people are conflating my endorsement of the concept with an implicit endorsement of its execution as announced. That’s just not so. In fact, it can’t be the case because when I originally wrote the column ten days ago almost none of the new titles had been announced. What’s more, I expressed doubts that the same outfit that thinks Mera’s severed head makes for a cool cover are the right guys for the job.

For the record, I still love the idea of an everybody-out-of-the-pool, total-do-over, line-wide reboot of DC’s superhero line. I think it’s probably necessary if superhero comics are ever going to reach a mass audience again.

But over this last week as more and more announcements and cover art have been released, the more my initial cautious optimism has eroded. I’m rapidly becoming convinced that these guys probably are not the right talent to pull it off.

Anyway, this column got put up on the CBR front page just a couple of days ago, but it’s the column from two weeks back. I stand by what I wrote and I don’t mind people disagreeing with me, but at least disagree with what I actually wrote. “You may be right about the mass audience and finding new readers but these titles aren’t the ones to get the job done” is not actually countering an argument I ever made, and it happens to be an opinion I largely share, at least based on what we’ve seen. However, I’m willing to withhold judgement until we actually have something concrete besides cover art and blurbs to look at.

hebitudinous1

June 13, 2011 at 6:45 pm

The hope is that retailers will have a big enough incentive to carry both print and digital titles, enough to help the industry cross the chasm between “no digital” and “digital”. I’m not sure what you mean by “these guys” are “probably not the right talent” — are we talking about the writers? Asking artists to double-up and write stories as well? Or is it the editorial mandate?

Most titles are like huge, lumbering ships that have problems maneuvering once they’ve left the dock. It doesn’t take much for shipping dates to slip, interrupting the reader’s “flow”. Having all of the issues in one place is one big reason why consumers like the trades, the problem of course is that you only get trades for titles that have already recouped their initial production costs and then some. So I get why it may make sense to collapse the production process and see if you can do better by having artists act as plotters as well.

As far as editorial processes, the conceit of most digital media is that there is a multiplier effect as (1) you get closer to executing in real-time, which helps you (2) better leverage transmedia like videogames and movies. (This is why the original 52 was so important, going from schedules measured in months vs the commitment to weekly releases.) Like it or not, if you’re going to try to address the larger universe of media choices and the consumers who opt-in to those choices, you need to get closer to edgier content, at least for some titles. Riverdale High-esque hijinks will not cut the mustard.

I hope it succeeds — I’ve not seen another company attempt to go digital while simultaneously stepping up to the support of their existing retail channel the way DC has.

Like you Greg, I “love the idea of an everybody-out-of-the-pool, total-do-over, line-wide reboot of DC’s superhero line. I think it’s probably necessary if superhero comics are ever going to reach a mass audience again.”

I really hope this works. But if it does, it will probably be without a “total-do-over”. The 4 Robins concern me. That’s a fairly high turn-over in 5 years . Perhaps Bats has been around for a while before Supes appears and the JL gets together. Maybe there’s enough time there to fit all that back-story. And maybe new readers can cope with the idea of Batman being sent back in time at the end of Final Crisis and his replacement by Dick Grayson and his return (and Final Crisis as well?) But my chief concern is the Green Lantern Corps and its back-story. If, as I assume, everything that Geoff Johns has built up from Green Lantern Rebirth on, is canon in the DCnU then there’s a hell of a lot for a newcomer to wrap his or her head around. Hal’s adventures from late 2004 till now have touched everything from Crisis on Infinite Earths on. The Anti-Monitor looms large in recent GL lore (e.g Blackest Night). So does Cyborg Superman and I still can’t fathom exactly what that character is and how he got to be where he is now. Yet I’ve been reading GL for 7 years solid. Will the Death of Superman be excised before that’s all transferred to DCnU. (Can it be?) I hope so… Then there’s Hal’s possession by Parallax, which is constantly referenced throughout Geoff’s run. That touches on the destruction of Coast City et al and explains the recruitment of Kyle. (OMG – he refrigerator….) You can see where I’m going with all this can’t you? Part of me says don’t mess with what’s working (or rather – selling). Leave it all there. But there’s also a voice back there shouting “Start again. Keep it simple. He got the ring. He’s fought some aliens and bad guys on earth. That’s all. No major crises yet. Even Sinestro hasn’t turned.”

Maybe, just maybe, it’s possible to leave that back story there unstated…. for a while. As long as no one mentions the war for the first couple of arcs, the new readers will be OK. Then slowly bring in a reference or two to those crises he surmounted in the past. That’s still a lot for 5 years though….

I’m trying to track down a source for this number “60,000 or so hardcore hobbyists”

I’ve seen it pop up before. Where is this number of readers coming from?

Diamond’s sales charts. That’s roughly what the top selling books are selling right now.

[…] Här är DC:s egen version av sakernas tillstånd, läs gärna bredvid Greg Hatchers kommentarer, samt naturligtvis hela listan på de nya 52 DC-titlarna. Stick sen över till Bleeding Cool och […]

I guess I have no problem with a reboot for the reasons stated, but I do wonder if its ignoring economic reality. When I grew up with comics, I could buy 25-30 a month for about a buck a book. $2.50 made me pause.

Now, I could never dream of buying that many books in a month. Not even close. And the problem is that back then, when there was a major event, I could probably follow it all the way through if I wanted to for probably an investment around $30-50 for the core and some ancillary stuff, depending on the event.

Now, something like Flashpoint, if my math isn’t off at $2.99, goes 71 issues total for everything. If you want the main titles and core stuff, you’re looking at $57 for about 19 issues. Start tacking on some of the side stuff, and that goes up. As a casual fan, I can’t afford that with everything else I have to take care of in my life even if the costs are diffused over months.

Which gets to my next point: I like the medium and would invest monthly if I could, but I have no idea how you convince someone who isn’t a fan of the medium right now to invest in it. Comics are a luxury item, and right now most people can’t afford luxury items, especially when the story lines and synopsis of most major events can be found online for free or read a few months later in a bookstore for free. What’s the incentive? There has to be something that DC or Marvel are willing to give the buyer that those that don’t buy won’t get.

Until that happens, I doubt that anything they do will do anything to improve the market long term. And no, I don’t know how to make that happen unless they went the ESPN the Magazine route and created websites with exclusive content that you can only get via subscription to the magazines. I don’t know if that would work or not, but I would think that they and Marvel may have some resources for it.

Now we can obtain all of the gifts from Habbo Website :D

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