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Attention-Deficit Saturd– OOO! SHINY!

Okay, I wasn’t going to comment on this, but after the announcements DC has made this week, I can’t help myself.

Literally just a few days after I noted that the problem DC is having with consistency and follow-through on their comics titles is starting to seem like Attention Deficit Disorder, they made their big announcement about re-shuffling creators and canceling some books and launching other new ones. At a time when many of the just-launched “New 52″ ongoing titles haven’t even concluded their first story arcs, DC has decided a fresh start is in order.

Seriously?

A publisher has every reason to cancel books that are under-performing, of course. Some of them might be hidden treasures artistically, but big publishers aren’t in it for the art, the books need to make money. This has been going on as long as there have been comics. It’s not really news that DC took a look at its sales figures and decided to thin the herd. Comics aren’t just about art; they are a business. I get it. I do.

Artistic just isn't a consideration. The whole effort hinges on finding an audience. If you can't do that, your book's gone, even if you're Grant Morrison or Jack Kirby.

But here’s why it strikes me as more of this ADD silliness.

Let’s recap. DC made a huge, huge deal out of its “New 52″ relaunch. They are so committed to this that, as Brian noted a couple of days ago, they replace however many titles they cancel with new ongoing series so as to keep their “52″ schtick going. Okay, fine.

But no matter what you put in the books or who’s doing them, fifty-two standard ongoing 32-page monthly comics is a huge investment to ask of readers– and readers don’t actually buy the comics from DC, they buy them from retailers. Remember, comics publishers are wholesalers.

So the way it’s set up, a retailer has to somehow look two months into the future and estimate what he thinks he can sell to the people that come into his store, and then he orders that much from DC. Those are the “sales figures” we talk about so much in the comics press.

It cannot be stressed enough that the 'current sales figures' DC is looking at are the retailer GUESSES based on these two catalogs. Mostly the November one. From over TWO MONTHS AGO.

But that gives DC a built-in sales problem with their much-ballyhooed 52-book line. Because no matter what they publish on that basis the mathematics of it guarantee that most of the line is going to under-perform.

Think about it. For the retailer it’s a zero-sum game. He has a fixed number of dollars to invest each month in his order, and looking two months in the future he really only knows two things. Readers will show up sight unseen for a favorite character (Superman or Batman) or a hot creator (Grant Morrison or Geoff Johns.) He can invest heavily there if he wants. But there’s no way in hell he’s going to be able to tell what else might hit or miss with his customers. You don’t need to take my word for it… look at DC Comics’ publishing history.

There's simply no way the Conventional Comics Wisdom of the time could have predicted the success of any of these titles. All three were based on (or at least named for) comics with a history of failure. Even the creators who launched them have each said that, at the time, they thought the experiment was probably doomed.

So our hypothetical retailer would order conservatively on mid-listers like The Flash or Green Lantern Corps, and even more conservatively on total unknowns like Batwing or Voodoo. Moreover, every dollar he spends ordering a new DC launch that might or might not stick is a dollar he’s not spending on Marvel or Dark Horse or IDW or whoever. Zero-sum game. No wonder most small-press guys just skip trying to get shelf space in comics stores and go straight to the internet.

Okay? Those are the ABC’s of comics retail. Most of you reading this already know that stuff, I imagine, but it’s helpful to remind everyone of it because it emphasizes why these panicked cancellations and revamps of creative direction and personnel are so ridiculous.

Because what all of that means is that the sales figures DC is looking at and canceling books over are based on the retailer guesses of over two months ago. When all the stuff on the stands was at #2 and virtually all the available reviews and reactions were still mostly concerned with the “New 52″ first issues.

Even with the internet facilitating word-of-mouth among comics fans, I think it’s too soon for DC to be freaking out about what’s working and what’s not. Retailers were still just guessing. Hell, they’re still guessing now.

What’s more, none of that takes into account those of us who prefer to read comics in book form; there are quite a few trade collections of DC’s New 52 coming according to Amazon.com, but none of them exist yet. No way to tell which of these new titles might sell better in trade collections. (I can tell you flatly that’s where I do most of my sampling of new titles these days.)

Pretty sure it was the trade paperback market that kept Kate Spencer and Jonah Hex going.

So if these decisions are based on sales, then clearly DC is going on, if not technically bad information, then at the very least it has to be incomplete, premature sales information.

By the way... the Swamp Thing revival had been around a year and a half before Alan Moore got hold of it. Same thing for Grant Morrison and the Doom Patrol. Under the current DC panic policy both of those famous runs, both still in print and creating income for DC, would NEVER HAVE HAPPENED.

But if it isn’t sales, then what is it?

DC is reshuffling everything based on… what? Internet gossip? Retailer grumbles? Blogger reviews? Can’t be. There’s no way you look at the internet and conclude, “From what fans and retailers are saying, clearly the thing to do is to give Rob Liefeld more books.”

And yet, that’s what DC is doing. Hell, to many jaded onlookers it looks like that’s the latest installment of DC’s master plan of trying to re-create the superhero comics scene of mid-1992. Certainly, that era is what springs to mind for most comics people when they see names like Bob Harras or Jim Lee or Rob Liefeld, especially when you couple those names with the launch of a bunch of new #1 issues that (according to press releases) are being promoted as “pushing boundaries” and “edgy.”

Sure DC sold a lot of comics then. Everybody did, even a bunch of hack small-press outfits that folded a year or two later. It was almost impossible to lose money publishing comics in 1992. Strictly in terms of business, it’s natural that a corporate publisher looking at a balance sheet is going to say, “What did we do then that we’re not doing now? Get those guys back here.”

Look. If you’re a businessperson running a corporation of any kind that deals in the creative arts, you’re always looking to hedge your bets. Corporations go back to the well because it works. The new Mission: Impossible movie is the fourth in a series of successful movies based on a television show that was itself successful not once but twice. It’s a better bet for Paramount Studios and Pocket Books to keep putting out Star Trek stuff than it is for them to invest in some new science-fiction space thing. Marvel never loses money putting Wolverine on the cover of a comic book. That’s just the way popular culture functions. It’s why it’s called “popular” culture.

You can roll your eyes all you want, jaded comics readers-- you still buy more of these than anything new or different, and Marvel still gets to keep your money.

So DC looking to the comics boom of the 1990s as a model is understandable…. to a soulless accountant.

But it’s obvious that if that’s the strategy, they’re not looking at the whole picture.

I don’t mean the artistic part of it where most of those comics stunk. (Although they mostly did.) No, you only need to look as far as the business perspective of the retailers DC sells their comics to.

Whatever part of the entertainment business you might be in– creative or administrative or financial– it’s always guesswork. There’s really no way to tell what’s going to hit with a general audience. As William Goldman famously said, “Nobody knows anything.” But there are a couple of things that even a cautious old geezer like me would be willing to bet on, if it was me making these business decisions.

The first is that if a series of any kind is going to succeed, it ought to be around long enough for people to find it. Superhero comics are now a publishing business that’s on a six-month cycle for the most part… story arcs generally last that long, six issues is the standard for a trade paperback collection. Internet or not, word of mouth on a cool comic book takes about six months to spread far enough to have an actual retail impact. That’s the point when wholesale orders from retailers start to reflect actual reader preferences. So freaking out and shuffling everything around in a panic because a book’s not an instant hit after only four months is silly, especially since those sales figures are based on Conventional Retailer Wisdom from last October.

The second thing is that if your wholesale business depends on retailers to guess what’s going to work for them two months from now, you might not want to work so hard at re-creating what most of them bitterly remember as the time they got screwed by the industry’s most infamous failure.

Whoever’s getting misty about the early nineties at DC needs to take a harder look at those sales statistics. Yeah, sure, publishing comics was like free money for a couple of months there in 1992. It was a boom. For about ten weeks there, you couldn’t lose. Everyone was trying to duplicate the million-dollar success of Image and some publishers were fast enough to ride on the coattails of that success. Suddenly there were a lot of really crappy “Collector’s item #1!” comics coming out from everybody and quite a few of them made money…

…wholesale. For the publisher.

But there was a catch. All those retailers making publishers rich right and left by investing heavily in those new #1 books guessed wrong. Not just wrong but spectacularly, disastrously wrong. It proved to be almost impossible to for those retailers to make money when they tried to sell those same crappy comic books to readers.

Believe me, comics-shop owners remember the early 1990s and how it looked on their balance sheets. It put a lot of them out of business. They remember the solicits for books that never showed up, the unsold copies of Youngblood and Brigade that they’ve had rotting in the three-for-a-dollar box for years, the publisher promises that were routinely broken. And they’re not going to fall for that again.

Honestly? I’m kind of hoping it is just a case of ADD fueling DC’s publishing decisions over the last month or so. Because the idea that this might be a deliberate strategy? One that’s based on the cynical cash-grab publishing mentality of the early nineties? That’s just flat-out depressing.

See you next week.

45 Comments

Attention Deficit Disorder, eh, Greg? Great Article!

i have ADD so i couldn’t read the whole article. Here’s the comment that i put on another website about this.

If i ran DC, i would let all my new 52 books run 12 months/issues. After 6 months, i release TPBs of all titles [4-6 issues of each] and then, look at all the sales numbers & decide what to do. Some titles, i cancel and some i revamp or combine. i don’t understand why before a year that DC is cancelling anything. This is the biggest relaunch that i can remember & DC should be letting all their titles play out for at least a year.

i love your comment about the Moore & Morrison revamps that happened at 20 & 19 issues in. These are two of the greatest revamps ever & DC should be letting books simmer a bit before they kill them.

i have ADD so i couldn’t read the whole article.

Guess I was asking for that one…

I could cry. I really could.

“I can tell you flatly that’s where I do most of my sampling of new titles any more.”

You mean “these days” or “lately,” not “any more.”
“Anymore” can only be used with a negative statement, like “I don’t really sample titles any other way anymore.”

The only one of the six cancelled books that might’ve gone on to great things was “Men at War”. Maybe “OMAC” if they revamped the creative team and gave it to someone to have fun. But those other titles were going nowhere and were never going anywhere but.

SHOW THIS TO THE BIG TWO!!! THEY NEED TO SEE THIS AND REALIZE THEIR FOLLY!!!!!

I don’t really like comments like Jack’s any more.

Does that work? :)

Great points, Greg. I have a feeling it’s probably more that DC wants to bring in these new titles, particularly promoting Batman Inc, JSA, and HERO, and as either T or Dean Hacker (I think) mentioned on Brian’s post, it’s a smart strategy to bring in several new books at once to get “synergy” in promoting them all at once (rather than introduce them one at a time). And as Brian surmised, they apparently feel locked into this 52 number, so they’ve got to trim some dead weight.

They’ve obviously had ADD going here, look at the creator shuffle they’ve got going on with a bunch of books. Liefeld. Writing. THREE! Books! W! T! F!

One thing I don’t think you’re taking into account, though, is the digital sales. I assume those numbers show up for DC a lot quicker than print numbers/actual hard copy sales (and they are ACTUAL sales). Perhaps coupled with the DM sales, the digital sales are showing certain trends that we aren’t seeing in the DM numbers (and of course, DC isn’t releasing those digital numbers). I wonder, too, (because I haven’t gotten any digital comics) if it’s easy enough to get “back issues” online — maybe there are titles that are starting to pick up sales digitally because it’s (theoretically) easy enough to find the back issues and start at #1. I know there are certain titles I’d like to look at from #1 that I just haven’t found in my area (and I have access to 3 comic shops within 5-10 miles of me). If you can sample “back issues” digitally fairly easily, or even “subscribe” to upcoming issues (and if DC doesn’t have this option — “you just bought I Vampire 4, would you like to prepay for issues 5-10?” with the click of a button — they’re missing out), I can see where digital sales will both drive your business more and give you better indicators of what is or isn’t selling.

Anyway, I think you’re just mad they cancelled Mr Terrific :)

Jack Norris, Last Defender of English, readied his pricksword. “I understood exactly what the writer meant,” he mumbled to himself. “But. . . that’s not enough.”

Actually, the shortsighted-ness from a business perspective is worse than what you are letting on. Let;s go with your two month lead example and I’m a retailer. I could reasonably expect that with the hype that DC dumped into the event and the press coverage it generated, the new 52 line for the number 1′s could generate a return for that first month, so I order up more, especially as it is a “get in on the ground floor thing”. Than I cull the list as you suggest based on knowing my business and what fan’s may like. Fine. Seems reasonable.

Now, that probably resulted in inflated figures for the #1′s based on the retailer expected hype of the launch and what not, which was significant across multiple media. So the question is, where will orders for these new books stand right out the gate WITHOUT that hype machine or “ground floor” hook? Will the sales be worse on the new books out of the gate, and will we see them fall behind and get axed 6 months from now? If I’m a retailer, am I even bothering over ordering a book (#1 or not) like Dial H or Ravagers (sure, WF, Bat Inc., and JSA may make it and get a boost on name, but the rest? I’m not so sure).

My gut feeling is the non-name books getting launched will be done in under a year, creative team being good or not. That just seems to be the way it goes.

BTW, I’ve stopped looking in cheap bins because it’s freaking disturbing how many solid comics that I paid cover for at the time are in there being unloaded. That speaks volumes for where the retailers are at.

Hmmm NO Wildstorm titles got cut, and actually it seems like we are getting another one (basically a Gen13 remake).
Even the new DC logo looks Image-esque.
I guess Jim Lee wont stop until half the 52 are crappy wildstorm books, sales be damned.

D Eric Carpenter

January 14, 2012 at 6:51 pm

There are a lot of valid points that are raised in the article, however I don’t see ADD in a lot of the decisions so much as what DC is committed to (and, based on reports concerning the next issue of Justice League, may be failing for the first time): keeping the product coming out on a regular schedule.

The primary business promise that DC made with this relaunch to the retailers is that the comics will come out on time. If creators can’t meet the schedule, they will be replaced. I think that’s been behind a lot of the creative team shifting in the last few weeks more than creative directions shifts.

I’m not saying that’s good, bad or indifferent. I think a large part of the relaunch is to be aimed at trying (in the first several months) to make things as regular as possible for the retailers. They don’t have to spend money on comic orders in advance of books that get delayed for months at a time or never arrive–when they put their money down, DC is promising to deliver the product on time–whether or not the initial creative teams are meeting those schedules. That’s a difference between the nineties and the relaunch–back then retailers were throwing money out the door in hopes of products that would be months delayed.

As for the orders, I’m actually surprised the cancellations hit at issue 8. I was honestly expecting issue 6 to be the end for the low sellers. I can see the initial push on creators that they produce six issues that could sum everything up for a trade and cancel the low sellers at that point. Based on the orders, issue eight cancellations would come around based on issue seven orders. That would mean four to five issues on the racks and selling and retailers making their future order guesses based on how issue four or five sold.

In addition, I can see DC getting proposals and new series underway behind the scenes to prep for the first cancellations. So instead of trying to shuffle creators to save failing titles (such as in the case of Swamp Thing and Doom Patrol), they instead launch new titles in the pipeline to try to find a new Animal Man or Swamp Thing (from the new 52) that are hits and help solidify the line.

Good, bad or indifferent, I think the first couple of years of the relaunch are going to be exactly like this: 52 titles launched, the low end cropped and new titles launched to try to keep the impression that the line is fresh and changing and to try to catch a hit title that they weren’t expecting. What might be a better thing is to have a Showcase like title to test out new titles and then create new titles from successful runs.

I’m probably giving too much credit to the way DC is thinking. I understand that. I’m not speaking to the QUALITY of the titles either–only the way DC is regarding their production line. I’m not defending, I’m just saying I can see (or at least make up) some logic behind the moves of the last month or so.

A couple of points…

1. The “two months ahead of time” thing is no longer how retailers work. DC, Marvel, IDW, Image and Dark Horse are all adjustable right up to three weeks before a book comes out. So it is “three weeks ahead of time.” It is a pretty notable difference.

2. 1992 was a great year for retailers. It was later in the 1990s that things fell apart. 1992, though, was an amazing year for the ledgers. I mean, the Death of Superman was practically like printing money for retailers. 1992 was the reason so many stores continued to pop up in 1993 and 1994.

This reminds me of my favorite comics ordering analogy. I was working part-time at a local shop, moonlighting after my full-time grocery store gig. The owner of the shop had a great analogy that, while I don’t remember the exact words, could be summarized like this:
“When you order peanut butter, it’s the same thing every time. You know how much will sell in any given week or month, with little variance. When I order peanut butter, every month the product changes. The company uses almonds instead of peanuts, or decides to market jelly instead. Sometimes they make the can bigger and charge more, or smaller and charge the same. Sometimes the label is green, other times it is purple or red or blue. Yet, despite all of these factors, I am expected to order the product to the exact quantities I actually need without being able to return any of it.”

While the analogy is striking, it also leaves out a great point that you make, Greg, and that is the time frame presented to retailers in the industry. Are Diamond and the printers so technologically inept that it takes two months to get from initial ordering to the actual sales floor of a comic shop if the book is on time? It seems like yet another problem facing the comics industry forced by the evolution of the industry’s parts.

…and as I was responding, Brian wrote:
“1. The “two months ahead of time” thing is no longer how retailers work. DC, Marvel, IDW, Image and Dark Horse are all adjustable right up to three weeks before a book comes out. So it is “three weeks ahead of time.” It is a pretty notable difference. ”

This is a fair point. However, does anyone here (outside of the big five-ish and DIamond) know whether initial order information is shared with the publishers? Are they capable of tracking the changes from initial to final orders?

I would think that this information, combined with reorder activity (which, again, should be transmitted from Diamond to the publisher in a reasonable amount of time, including for reorders that cannot be filled), would give publishers a very accurate projection of future sales if they keep their products relatively stable (same creative team, direction, etc.).

If this were true, wouldn’t DC see the increase in interest in OMAC? You can’t possibly tell me that, if the reviews and buzz were reflected at least partially in sales figures, that OMAC was among the six worst-performing titles. It boggles the mind, quite frankly. I’m not one for just hanging these problems on Dan Didio (and now Jim Lee, apparently) but a personnel change somewhere in the company might be the only real resolution to this problem.

And yet it still makes more sense than the Nielsen ratings.

“I understood exactly what the writer meant,”

Nothing to do with that, and everything to do with the way a messed-up usage like that grates on the old neurons…
Especially since I’ve seen it crop up here and there online in recent months.
Also, please drop dead, D. Druid.

A couple of points…

1. The “two months ahead of time” thing is no longer how retailers work. DC, Marvel, IDW, Image and Dark Horse are all adjustable right up to three weeks before a book comes out. So it is “three weeks ahead of time.” It is a pretty notable difference.

2. 1992 was a great year for retailers. It was later in the 1990s that things fell apart. 1992, though, was an amazing year for the ledgers. I mean, the Death of Superman was practically like printing money for retailers. 1992 was the reason so many stores continued to pop up in 1993 and 1994.

Fair points. This is what I get for writing a column in a burst, off the top of my head. Should’ve taken the time to look up the dates. (And check the grammar.)

I do think the larger concern is valid, though. Even shaving a month-plus off the advance ordering doesn’t change the larger picture THAT much… the retailer still has to guess what readers will commit to, and guessing’s harder when publishers themselves don’t seem terribly committed to staying with a title or a creative team.

Jack – you’re not related to another poster calling himself “Grammer Nazis” are you? If not, you sound a lot like him. What’s the point of pointing out grammatical mistakes on a blog, outside of the fact that it gets on your nerves? Who cares if it bothers you? And don’t give me that tired old line about “just trying to help out”. Sincere constructive advice is best given through a private note to the author of the blog, not in a public forum. The rest of us come here for the content. Heck – I’m annoying myself right now just by wasting time by responding to you.

What’s the point of pointing out grammatical mistakes on a blog, outside of the fact that it gets on your nerves? Who cares if it bothers you?

Guys, really, it’s okay. It bothers me too. I teach writing. (I’ve even been known to fix typos in the comments because I can’t bear looking at a badly-placed apostrophe. THAT’S being a grammar Nazi.) If I mess something up I appreciate knowing. I know Jack’s not being sniffy about it.

Yeah, I actually didn’t realize the “any more” went with negative comments. I hope Jack realized I was just funnin’ a little. I learned something, and that’s (usually) fun. (Although I am one that thinks that some grammatical issues are mere pedantry….)

I don’t like that “Grammer Nazis” that Awinst01 brings up. Why don’t they like Frasier?!

(side note to Greg, your comments aren’t popping up in my email. Probably that “going right to spam” thing that Kelly had for a while. FYI)

DC culled the bottom of their list, and with everybody waiting for them to “return to normal” as everyone expects, DC has chosen to be proactive… they’re taking lower selling titles and trying something new. Certainly with a Grant Morrison title replacing one of the axed titles, net sales will be up. It may be that they’ll just keep tinkering until they have 52 (or as close as they can get) strong titles. And why not?

Not every book needs to be “ongoing,” not every book needs to run for years. If DC finds that sales of OMAC trades are through the roof, well, they can bring it back for another run. No big deal.

I do think the larger concern is valid, though. Even shaving a month-plus off the advance ordering doesn’t change the larger picture THAT much… the retailer still has to guess what readers will commit to, and guessing’s harder when publishers themselves don’t seem terribly committed to staying with a title or a creative team.

Oh sure, any kind of advance guessing is ridiculously difficult, no doubt about it. It is basically more of an art than it is a science. Just noting that the “big” five companies have all significantly increased the odds of retailers guessing right in recent years with the current “three weeks before release” ordering system. For instance, under this system, you are practically guaranteed to have the sales figures for the first week of a title before having to order the following issue (and since almost all single issue sales at stores occur in the first week, that’s big – seeing how Batman #4 sells before you order Batman #5 is a huge advantage over the days when you had to base Batman #5′s sales on Batman #3 – sometimes even #2!). In fact, I believe DC actually recently skipped a week of adjustments because of their recent fifth week where no “52″ titles were on sale. So DC held off for a week to get it back to the point where retailers would have the first week sales figures for all the “52″ titles before ordering the next issue.

Also, from what I understand, a lot of shops around don’t order a lot of comics for the shelves — they order what their pull list customers want, a few “guaranteed” sellers, and presumably the smart retailer orders a few things that they think will be picked up.

DC, with this new 52, did second prints of… all of the #1s, right? Hell, I think they did up to 5th prints of some things. Presumably, they got sales figures of those too, and could note any “surges” or massive drops in the numbers.

If a retailer isn’t getting people adding books to their pull lists in any significant numbers, they sure aren’t going to start ordering more of them out of the kindness of their hearts.

I’m guessing too that some behind the scenes creative team juggling played into which books got axed, too. Static Shock probably had this factor, and I’m guessing Hawk and Dove had Liefeld’s changing roles play into that cancellation.

I’ve forgotten my point, so I think the ol’ ADD got a hold ‘a’ me.

I really enjoyed this article. I hope to one day open a comic shop of my own, and I love trying to theorize what I will do in the face of these situations. Maybe in 8 years or so, when I retire from the military, things will be so different that it won’t even matter, but a man can dream.

As a reader, I’m seriously going to miss OMAC. Fortunately, we have China Mieville on Dial H!

as a pun aficionado, i just want to point out that I saw what you did there, with the “saTURD-” joke in an article about what you find distasteful. I laughed. My compliments. Also, to D. Druid, i found your comment to be insightful and hilarious. well played, sir.

i first thought when dc decided to relaunch their entire universe from scratch that some of the execs must have a bad case of comic add or are on the nostaliga kick to try and get new readers. figuring start over and fans will read again. only sooner or later dc indea may wind up blowing up in its face and retailers are going to be scrambling for a new way to not watch their bottom line hurt from dc screw up

"O" the Humanatee!

January 15, 2012 at 2:26 pm

Sorry if it bugs anyone to return to this tangent, but on the subject of “anymore”:

“Positive anymore occurs in North American English, especially in the Midlands variety spoken in parts of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kansas, and Missouri; its usage extends to Utah and some other western US states.

“Positive anymore also occurs in parts of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

“Some linguists theorize that the North American usage derives from Irish or Scots-Irish sources.”

(From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Positive_anymore)

So its usage is dialectal. It bugs me as a non-speaker of that dialect, and it doesn’t belong in formal written English, but for a lot of people it isn’t “wrong.”

Now back to your regularly scheduled discussion of comics.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

January 15, 2012 at 4:53 pm

Could DC perhaps be using the sales figures from digital comics as a barometer as well?
I imagine these would come in quicker, and there’s no return-ability at play, artificially boosting sales numbers, for instance.

I dunno, it does seem a little sudden to get rid of these books.
I’m losing Mr Terrific, Static Shock, Hawk & Dove and OMAC. In exchange, I’m going to try Dial H and War That Time forgot, along with some series that I would have already tried out anyway – Batman Inc and JSA – so in one sense, DC’s losing out with me.

That said, quality could come into play with these cancellations – H&D I only get for a laugh, SS has been on shaky ground since the get-go with great art but a story that is all over the place, and Mr Terrific has so much potential but is rather uneven.
OMAC is pretty sweet, but hard to justify keeping the bosses book when cancelling others.

Funky, I totally brought up digital sales in my first comment! At least we’re on the same wavelength. Good to see you around here too, I haven’t seen you as much lately.

I have no problem with DC shuffling series in and out. Keep things fresh. It is pretty much the only advantage they have right now. That also doesn’t mean they can’t bring some things back. Rotate in and out.

Just don’t do when Marvel is doing and keep piling more and more books on their better selling lines.

Marvel is the blockbuster company. DC is the diversity company.

An interesting poll would be: how many of the cancelled titles did you read, how many of the new titles will you be picking up? To see if the trade off worked…

randypan the goatboy

January 17, 2012 at 6:32 am

I dont remember who it was that said this…but if there is ever a Jack Norris and his pricksword comic…I will buy it. his first story arch could be 12 issues long and just deal with the horror being done to the english language on yahoo posts alone. Easily the best laugh I have had in a day or 2…In the immortal words of captain hector Barbosa ” thank ye kindly Jaaack”

Squirrel!

Ahem,

I am interested, as a spectator, to see if DC’s going to keep with the “six months to prove yourself” that we heard about early on. I’m also curious about how they’ll handle their IP going forward.

Personally, I think moving Static to NY was a mistake. I’d rather have had him still in Dakota/Detroit, in the DCAU version. (but I think both of the big 2 need to look at Flyover country and outside New York and its fictional sisters. Maybe not as hip and gangsta as some people wanted, but Static Shock was a successful cartoon.)

Right now, no one is getting my money, budget’s too tight (exception, I do have the last trade of Secret Six on pre-order, and hope to finish up the New Mutants reprints (at least up to/through Inferno and the aftermath))

randypan the goatboy

January 17, 2012 at 6:52 am

In all fairness I have seen a lot of DC comics go tits up in a year. At one point I could actually smell blood in the ink and see the buzzards on the Diamond truck as it showed up every thursday[ this has been a long time ago since I had my shop, and No i was not one of the 93-94 era johnny come latelies. i started my shop in 1985 thank you very much] After seeing so many failures in the comic world[since i no longer have a shop i guess that includes me] i just kinda knew who wouldn’t be here in July of 2012 and Mr. terrific and Hawk and Dove were on top of the list. Giving more comics to Rob liefeld is the worst idea since Nicholas cage wanted to play Superman. Sure he still has a soso reputation[he is either beloved or hated and that depends on who you speak to and the age of whom you are speaking]. i see large swords and Guns in the future of Both Hawkman and Deathstroke follwed by either a quick death or an evacuation by MR. liefeild and then the quick death. For some reason Rob liefeild still has a draw to him, but i honestly believe that it is 50-50 on who wants him to fall on his ass with bad artwork[there are a few people who go see the catwoman movie based on its awfullness alone] and the people who are still fans . maybe 60-40.
I see more blood in the ink and many more cancelations in Dc’s future[ Im looking at you weird war comics and batwing]…surely ye shall be ne’er heard from again…RIP

They’re cancelling OMAC?! That’s the only one of the New 52 I liked!

It’s not attention deficit disorder, Greg. Just business as usual at the Big Two.

Even before they solicited the first issues of the DCNU52, there were reports of creators being fired / replaced. And the whole concept reeked of their merely rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic to start with.

So it’s not really that unexpected or surprising to see them continue to shuffle.

“But why can’t they give creators more time…?” Because it’s about the Four Horsemen of the DC-Tatorship, and their agenda and their “spots” in the pecking order. If they don’t like what you’re doing, if you’re not following their regimen of what the ‘vision’ is, if your sales aren’t making them look good, then you’re outta there. Gotta keep the illusion up that you’re ‘cutting edge’ and ‘always looking for the next big thing’, when the reality is, they’re producing the same bullshit by the same boring creators we all got tired of ages ago, and not because they’re ‘bad’, but because they’re overused, and there’s too much homogeneity between the titles.

Marvel suffers from the same thing, Greg. And everybody knows it. That’s why they keep shoveling out as much of it as they can to flood the market and keep any diversity from outside their companies off the shelves, and when anything from outside rises above their attempts to keep it out of stores, they hire the creators away so that they don’t have time to do their own stuff.

@Louis Bright-Raven: your comment confuses me. homogeneity? really? that’s not something i’ve seen this latest initiative accused of. and as for the “Four Horsemen of the DC-Tatorship,” you do realize that Didio wrote one of the cancelled titles, right?

Joshua:

What’s there for you to be confused about?

Yes, I am aware of the fact that Didio CO-wrote one of the cancelled titles, and that the other co-writer, Keith Giffen, was moved up to higher profile titles as certain people left / were pushed out. The only reason people were buying OMAC was for Giffen, so if he’s moved on to taking over the writing on Superman or other higher profile characters and doesn’t have time for it, Didio sure as hell isn’t going to be a selling point and you’d have to replace Giffen as the artist to boot, so it’s more profitable just to cancel it. Duh.

And yes, homogeneity. As in “of the same structure, design, or quality”. Given that at least a third of the artists on the payroll doing these books are former Wildstorm, Top Cow, and/or Todd McFarlane Productions employees, and those houses have certain stylized design for the kind of art they want, then yes, DC is looking pretty damned similar in their product line, I hate to tell you, Joshua.

And if we’re going to look at the writing, Joshua, then we’ve got Geoff Johns writing four books and directly has his fingerprints on at least four others (the three GL books he’s not credited with writing and the Flash). You’ve got Dan Jurgens writing / Co-writing at least three titles. You’ve got Scott Lobdell writing three titles. You’ve got Keith Giffen writing / Co-writing two, three titles, Tony Daniel writing two titles, Paul Jenkins writing / co-writing three books, Paul Levitz writing three books, Jeff Lemire doing two books, Paul Cornell doing two books, Morrison doing at least two books, Judd Winick doing two books… it’s the same damned writers over and over again.

So yeah, homogenous is a good description.

i really don’t want to be a DC apologist here, there are a LOT of things i’d like to see them do differently, but i thought it was quite admirable that they decided to try their hand at some different genres, which as far as i can recall, they haven’t done since they split vertigo off. western, fantasy, war, sci-fi – even the attempt for a company that has only done superheroes for so long is something that i think deserve at least a grudging golf-clap. and of course some of them didn’t succeed, but the replacements still include non-superhero offerings. it looks to me like DC is committed to diversifying the stylistic range of their catalog. which does not equate to homogeny, in my opinion.

as for the same writer issue, i would think (again, my opinion here) that it’s a by-product of exclusive contracts. if you’re going to forbid a writer from working anywhere else, you need to give them enough work to make a living from. so, would you rather read two (very good, in my opinion) Jeff Lemire books, or none, because he can’t afford to keep writing for a living?

also, i don’t recall reading about Giffen moving to a new project, when did that happen?

okay, a bit of googling shows me that i missed a bit of news several months ago. my bad.

Joshua:

“I thought it was quite admirable that they decided to try their hand at some different genres, which as far as I can recall, they haven’t done since they split Vertigo off…”

DC has been the most forward-thinking publisher in the industry for the past 25 years, a great deal of it developed and launched by Karen Berger and Richard Bruning. Vertigo (Horror / mystery). Paradox Press (Biographical and non-fiction). Helix (SF). Minx (OGNs targeted towards teenage female audiences). Pirahana Press (alternative). Zuda (webcomics of all genres, brought into print based upon online vote / popularity). Just to name a few.

So this stuff isn’t anything new; this is just the fifth, sixth rebooting of the DCU since 1986. And most of what they’re offering feels like recycled junk to me. Not because the creators have no ability, but because they’re trying to ‘recreate’ instead of CREATE. It makes me wonder if they have any new ideas at all whatsoever, or if they’re all just recycling content out of their old comics and DVD and SF / Fantasy book collections.

And yes, the exclusivity deals are a problem. The publishers just work the creators like dogs, or they pay a minimum salary to keep them on payroll doing nothing. It’s arguably the worst thing that’s happened to the comics industry since the Diamond monopolization of the distribution system, and it’s all playing into the fear that people have of having instability in a poor economy and taking advantage of them, when a far smarter approach would be to pay creators enough salary to focus on ONE book a month they can consistently knock out of the park and maintain their own expenses as self-employed businesspersons. You don’t need an exclusivity deal to get medical benefits – you need to be paid a consistent page / book rate that allows you to afford to buy your own medical plan for yourself and your family, plan your own 401K or other savings plan, your dental, your eye care, your life insurance, etc.

You’re asking me if I’d prefer to see Jeff Lemire three comics (two DC heroes books, and a lesser quality SWEET TOOTH), or none because SWEET TOOTH doesn’t have enough sales for him to make a living? How’s about we try a third route – pay him $100K option to make the damned movie adaptation and have him be the creative consultant on the movie in addition to the money he gets doing his own comic, and give him 1% of the gross box office and 6% off the DVD sales in royalties. Instead of giving me crap like SUPERMAN RETURNS, that excuse for a WONDER WOMAN TV series that sucked so hard they didn’t even release it, or that half-assed GREEN LANTERN movie.

Just saying.

Alright, agreed. :)

You don’t need an exclusivity deal to get medical benefits – you need to be paid a consistent page / book rate that allows you to afford to buy your own medical plan for yourself and your family, plan your own 401K or other savings plan, your dental, your eye care, your life insurance, etc

You also need to produce work that attracts enough buyers to earn that kind of page rate.

Here’s how Lemire’s sales stacked up: http://www.comicsbeat.com/2011/12/30/dc-comics-month-to-month-sales-november-2011/

Animal Man #3: 49,184

Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #3: 31,869

Sweet Tooth #27: 7,923 (“the lowest selling ongoing Vertigo book without an official expiration date”)

How do you justify paying Lemire anything but the standard rate given only his Vertigo work?

How’s about we try a third route – pay him $100K option to make the damned movie adaptation and have him be the creative consultant on the movie in addition to the money he gets doing his own comic, and give him 1% of the gross box office and 6% off the DVD sales in royalties.

What movie adaptation? Is there anyone out there panting to make a movie based on a comic that practically nobody reads?

As for his being a creative consultant on the generous terms suggested, here is what the man himself told the Wall Street Journal (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203706604574374801220473892.html):

While other comic stars have been turning to Hollywood, such as Frank Miller (“Sin City”), Mr. Lemire has already turned his back on a career in film. He says film school frustrated him because it didn’t suit his personality, and he turned to drawing small batches of comics instead. Mr. Lemire admired how small the comic process could be, finding echoes of the intimacy of the town he was raised in.

“It’s hard to communicate your vision in film, because you need a budget and you communicate through actors and a crew,” he says. “I’m quiet, so I don’t have the personality to make that happen as opposed to sitting at the drawing board. That’s why I love comics—it’s one of the last mediums where you can have complete control.”

Gift $100K to a poor communicator to act as a creative consultant on a film based on a comic with rotten — and falling — sales? You’ve got to be kidding!

Ajit:

Optioning rights for a film or TV series is not ‘gifting’ anything. I’m merely pointing out that if Time-Warner wanted to option it, they could. I’m sure they probably have first rights when they picked up SWEET TOOTH, and would have to pass on it for anyone else to option it. And sure, far less money than what I suggested could be offered. Depends on who’s interested, and what kind of project they plan to make out of it.

Jeff’s commentary is more about his own inability to function at a high level as a director / producer in filmmaking. Totally understandable. But that’s got nothing to do with him consulting others. Who said I wanted him to go make the movie? OTHERS will adapt it and handle all the ‘communications’ on set. He’s just being tapped for his ideas on character and set design, approving stuff. Giving his input on the screenplay if asked, perhaps. Giving *his opinion* on who he might prefer out of possible casting choices based on video testing or watching in person. He’s not in any position of control, and he doesn’t have to be a thoroughly engaging, active person who can command an entire crew of people. He just needs to be able to talk to a few people here and there who will ultimately execute *their* vision of his idea, hopefully along similar lines to what he had in mind. That’s what film adaptations are, you know. And he doesn’t have to worry about getting the money or what the budget is, because that’s the dilemma the parties who optioned it have to deal with, not him.

As for the sales on ANIMAL MAN and FRANKENSTEIN, AGENT OF S.H.A.D.E., I seriously doubt either of those two titles would be getting one-fourth of their current sales levels had they been released without the connection to the DC52 megamarketing campaign. Not because either book is ‘bad’, but because neither property had shown any significant sales levels in recent times, and because there’s been numerous DC heroes books produced in the past few years that have not sold particularly well.

“Is there anyone out there panting to make a movie based on a comic that practically nobody reads?”

I wouldn’t know about SWEET TOOTH, but as an example, Gary Reed’s DEADWORLD, which got about the same level of sales throughout the 90s and again when Image did a miniseries, has been optioned *FIVE TIMES* since 1996, and is currently in production to be released in 2013. Feel free to Google it.

The popularity of a property amongst fandom or the general population is not the only determining factor of what gets produced in the film / TV industry. If the right person or group shows personal interest in something and is true to it, and offers a fair sum to a creator, that’s really all anybody can ask for up front, and hope for the best in the end results.

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