Go big or go home.
If there’s a motto going around the hallowed halls of the DC Comics editorial office these days, that must be it.
It’s been a few weeks since the controversial announcement. Details have been revealed – I’m not a fan of them all, but that doesn’t mean the move isn’t a good idea. The protest that threatened to derail Comic-Con 2011 never happened. Dan Didio – DC’s grand poobah – managed to sound like a jerk, and then the company apparently bowed to fan pressure.
But I’m not here to complain about the change. On the contrary, I believe DC’s “new 52” is a good move. Here are a few reasons why:
1. DC has nothing to lose
The publisher has played second fiddle to Marvel for as along as I’ve been watching the monthly sales figures. In June 2011, for instance, they owned 30% of the market, behind Marvel’s 40-ish%. (Image Comics and Dark Horse Comics are duking it out for third place, which is actually a more interesting fight to watch.) This as month-over-month sales of comics continue to decline.
Yes, long-time readers will be pissed. But the sales trend is downward. It will take a significant shake-up to make an impact (if at all). If you want to be a winner, you need to take risks.
2. Warner/DC owns the top-grossing comic book brands
That’s right, despite their second place in sales, DC boasted five of the top 6 superhero properties for the first three months of 2011. Revenue breeds complacency (just ask the top-earning hockey team, and perennial losers, Toronto Maple Leafs), so it’s impressive to see the company decided to roll the dice and take a chance restarting all their titles at issue #1.
But it’s not really taking a chance, is it? Everyone in the industry knows re-numbering comics boosts sales in the short term. And despite all the posturing and noise from DC fans and collectors, they’ll snap up the new books. The bigger question: can DC pull in enough new readers (aka consumers) – be they print or digital – with this grand move?
3. Ride the PR wave
Mainstream media love to write about comic books when it comes to big changes with well-known characters. And DC owns the lion’s share of recognizable characters amongst the general population – Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman. But to be honest, the company has never really capitalized on the past coverage, unlike Marvel who play the press like Puppet Master.
Prior to the “new 52” announcements, the press picked up on Wonder Woman trading in her star-spangled shorts for pants (thanks @jimlee00) and Superman renouncing his US citizenship in Action Comics #900 (which was a pretty good read overall – the issue, I mean). But there needs to be more meat on the bone for (new) readers to commit to a monthly purchase.
Bonus reason: Comic book readers win with retailer incentives!
My local comic shop is offering all 52 #1 issues for $100. That’s $2 per issue. In my books, that’s a deal. I’ve read on Twitter #comicmarket that some retailers are pairing an indie book with one of the 52. That doesn’t cut it for me, but I figure I’m an exception: I dig into the back pages of Previews each month looking for books. And I’m always looking for a deal. $2 per issue is right up my alley.
I also hear that DC’s variant policy depends on their lowest title order. (Is this true?). and I’m happy to help out my local retailer when possible.
I am happy to take on the challenge or reading 52 #1 issues…before New Year’s.
I’m just sorry Xombi and T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents – two of my favourite DC titles – aren’t part of the relaunch. Oh well.
(If you’ve read this far, you might also be interested in: What I’ll miss most about the “old 52”)
Superman image by Rags Morales