It seems as if both the comic world press and now the mainstream media has picked up on the sales and gloom and doom that supposedly a crisis at DC Comics.
A little back story to all of this. In June DC launched 24 new titles and continuing 25 titles. While some of the new titles slipped and some were only scheduled at 6 issue series there were big incentives for comic shops to order. DC Comics told retailers that increasing launch numbers, in some cases above Batman numbers, will see them get an additional 15% discount on launch issues, on top of the 45-50% they may normally get. The numbers for the first issues of the new titles were quite high and the majority of the titles seemed to be well received by both readers and critics with only a few poorly reviewed titles. One of the reasons for the change is what is being called the Batgirl effect. When the new creative team took over Batgirl #35 and the books sales but more importantly social media buzz went through the roof. With Harley Quinn series drawing a large and elusive female readership DC took notice of these two titles and how they were received by a different audience.
Now that the sales figures for the second issues has been released the numbers range from 29% to 52% drops in books that were ordered. While on the surface that seems bad, I think the whole sky is falling mentality is being batted around rather quickly and by usual click bait over at Bleeding Cool News that has a nasty habit of trying to create stories has really jumped on the bandwagon. There has also been talk of a $2 million dollar shortfall at the company. At this point these are all rumors and speculation at this point.
While the sales numbers may not be spectacular, I have some thoughts on the situation. First a lot of the new DCYou book were never going to be huge sellers to begin with. Titles like Prez, Bizzaro, Omega Men, All Star Section Ei8ht, Black Canary, Bat-Mite, Constantine: The Hellblazer, Doctor Fate, and Midnighter are certainly not the usual superhero fair and these titles are trying to reach a different audience than the regular Wednesday comic book crowd. I have talked to a number of my friends who read a wider variety of books and a lot of them said that they are waiting for the trades of the books instead of the monthly individual ones.
We do not know how any of the books are fairing digitally because none of the comic book publishers are releasing digital sales figures. While it is doubtful that digital accounts for a huge number of readers Marvel Comics does insist that Ms. Marvel is their #1 digital selling book. It’s also too early to predict how any of the titles with do when the trades are released after the first six issues. The trade market has grown significantly over the past five years and some titles have been saved due to their trade sales.
There is also a factor that no one seems to be talking about is the fact that Marvel Comics Secret Wars fiesta started in July when the second issues of the DCYou titles were on sale. Marvel flooded the market with mostly #1 issues that the regular Wednesday comic buyers bought in droves. This certainly had an effect on the sales of the new DC titles.
Regular comic book readers tend to not usually be ones to try different things. This is why Marvel currently tends to do better by preaching to the choir, meaning they keep rehashing the same stuff and calling it new and people lap it up. Now before you say that I’m a Marvel Comics hater, I just don’t find that most of their regular superhero book are very good. They do put out some excellent books like Daredevil, Ms. Marvel, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Groot, Rocket Raccoon, Silver Surfer to name a few but most of their regular superhero book have a lot of been there and done that for me.
The other thing that none of these stories point out is where DC Comics really makes its money, licensing. DC Comics and for that matter Marvel Comics makes the lions share of profit from licensed products like t-shirts, toys, coloring books, stickers and tons of other things. Where do you think that George Lucas made all of his money, it wasn’t the Star Wars films it was the merchandise licensing. You can bet that R2-D2 on a Cheez-It box paid the bills that month.
So the bigger question that nobody seems to be asking is the fact that DC Comics is taking a bold step to try to diversify its comic line and try to get new readers. The problem that both DC and Marvel has had over the last 10 years is that they keep selling the same thing to the same group of readers. It’s comic companies like Image Comics, Dark Horse and Boom! Studios that have attracted new readers to the comic market with books like The Walking Dead, Saga, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Adventure Time, Hellboy, Mouse Guard and other books that have brought new readers including the elusive female audience to comics.
It takes a long time to build a new audience in comics today and it certainly not going to happen after two issues. If you look at the ads that are in this story they are very different from the normal comic book ads that you usually see. They are not aimed at the regular comic book reader they are aimed at a more mainstream audience who doesn’t read comics now and will it work?
The bigger question is if DC Comics is going to stand by the DCYou initiative to try to change their longterm comics market by bringing new readers to the table with less mainstream concepts like Prez and Bizzaro. I hope that they do succeed because I still like superhero books but not the same regurgitated ones that we have all read a million times before. Only time will tell.