DC: Will they save the direct market or destroy it?

Justice League #1 (due 8/31) by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee will probably be a massive hit for DC, but it's the first of 52 title reboots.

There’s a lot of talk today about the news of the restructuring DC Comics is making to their line of DC Universe titles in September. There’s a lot we don’t know about the DC reboot, but there’s a few specific details which are a mix of good and bad for the foundation of local comic book shops that keeps the Direct Market going – and seeing as how 2011 has not been the greatest year for many of those retailers to date, what I’m reading is making me concerned.

The Good: A new Justice League #1 by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee. That’s a POWERHOUSE creative team that will automatically put the Justice League at the top of the sales charts. It’s the kind of head turner that, combined with the right publicity, will bring people back to comic shops to buy Justice League.

The Bad: All of DC Comics line will be getting new #1 books. 52 new first issues to be exact. Now knowing the superhero market, people will be curious and in September, they will want to know the new status quo and many (or at least those with a couple of hundred dollars to spend) will purchase all of the new first issues. Speculators will want full sets, or at least that’s what DC and many retailers will assume they will want. As retailers attest regularly, it’s a risky business ordering books sight-unseen, and sadly, if the rumours are correct about some of the creative teams these books may be dead in the water before they start. I see retailers ordering even more conservatively on the second issues of the new books by concepts that have never been sales successes as a result – and hopefully they won’t take a bath on the first issues if they order too heavily, but we’ll see a big drop on orders in October as speculating on new books is dangerous in this economy. No company has ever had a hugely successful partial line reboot. Even those successful DC revamps of the 1980’s post-Crisis were staggered and creator focused (Byrne on Superman, Perez on Wonder Woman) – it was confusing then and never a total line reboot (some may see that as the problem with what happened then and in subsequent years, and they may be right) – but this seems to be confusion x 52 – a full on ‘Heroes Reborn’ (the Marvel reboot of the Avengers titles into an alternate universe while the other Marvel titles soldiered on). If it fails, then what? Back to Old Coke?

The Good: A great jumping on point for new readers. You want an entry level point for the DCU, here it is.

The Bad: A new continuity means a complete disconnect for older readers, who will use this as an excuse to walk away.I’m not convinced that the current market wants to start fresh when they’ve been reading Batman, Green Lantern, Flash, Justice League, Wonder Woman and Superman stories that have been percolating for years under the same group of writers and editors who are overseeing these changes. If certain characters get to keep their histories intact, it will be even more confusing to see them interact with new incarnations of characters that are receiving major revisions, such as Superman (by what’s been discussed over at Bleeding Cool, Newsarama and Comic Book Resources).

The controversial: Day-and-date digital publishing. This is the game changer, really. There’s tremendous opportunities here for retailers who are in the position to use Comixology to profit from this, but there’s more concern that the many retailers who don’t will eventually lose out… if you can read it on your iPad on new release Wednesday, what’s the incentive to travel to your local retailer and buy a copy? It’s definitely forward thinking but also a nail in the coffin for some retailers if the print readership rejects the reboot. Day and date digital definitely changes the way we work here at the JSAs. What if some titles are digital successes and print failures (or vice-versa)?

I’m curious to see which Canadian creators are part of the revamp. With 52 series, all with different creative teams, no doubt some Canucks will be on some of these books. Francis Manapul, for example, can’t discuss what he’s working on… at least not until the solicits come out in a couple of weeks for the September titles. There is definitely an “accident on the highway” feel to all of this, so it will nonetheless be interesting to see how this works out.

We would also be interested in hearing what people think about it, especially retailers.


3 thoughts on “DC: Will they save the direct market or destroy it?

  1. 11 titles have now been announced, one of which is the Flash by Francis Manapul. There has been additional talk based on the announcement that things are not that different than before, and the release of this set of books was most likely done to calm fans down who are concerned and/or angry about the changes. These characters don’t seem that different, and that’s because on the surface the premise behind each isn’t.

    The new DCU is quite simple: If you were to take the pivotal event of the arrival of Superman as the start of the age of heroes and then jump ahead five years into that timeline, you have the new DC Universe at the time of the reboot.

    The old DCU was set approx. 15 years after the debut of Batman and Superman and their compatriots (Zero Hour was 10 years in for example). In the new DCU, in theory 2006 was the year that Superman first appeared. If Superman was in his early 20’s, he’s only in his mid-to-late 20’s in the new books. Certain characters debut earlier here than in the previous order – Cyborg, for example, has been bumped up the ladder as have other characters they want to use. Some are just debuting.

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