August 11, 2011

The DC 52: Bad Business or Just a Bad Idea?

So apparently I'm a Marvel.

   Most things in life have a dividing line, and you have to pick sides. Coke or Pepsi. Kirk or Picard. Edward or Jacob. You can't be wishy-washy. You can't just say, "Oh, I like 'em both." It doesn't sit right. It doesn't sit right with anyone else; oftentimes to the point of irrationally fierce anger.
   I'll tell you what: I've been a paid graphic designer for ten years on some level or another. I've dealt with every type of customer file that you can imagine - I won't get into my war stories but I know a lot of you can empathize. I've also worked on both PC's and Macs at different points in time and I truly, TRULY have no preference between them. To me, they both work the same, they both have strengths and weaknesses, Photoshop on one side is all but identical on the other side. To me, the Mac vs. PC debate is stupid - I can hear you screaming at your screen right now, which proves my point perfectly. My mother, also a graphic designer, is fiercely pro-Mac and irrationally anti-PC and every time she brings up any argument for her side, I immediately jump to the PC side and World War IV begins (so big, it skips over III #rimshot).
   I've read comics pretty much my whole life. Admittedly, I've always leaned more towards the Marvel side over anyone else. Pre-Image, there wasn't a whole lot else to choose from other than Marvel and DC anyway. I always felt like DC had the two biggest comic icons, Superman and Batman, so I always sort of forced myself to enjoy them. But Marvel characters were always more my bag. The humor and adventure of Spider-Man, the angsty characters of the X-Men; it always just worked better for me.
   Lately, largely because of the more recent Hollywood outings by DC: the Dark Knight saga, Superman Returns, and Green Lantern (yes, I liked the latter two), I found myself wanting to give DC another chance. I recently obtained the entire Blackest Night and Brightest Day sagas and am in the middle of those, and I'm attempting to keep up with Flashpoint a bit. I was actually a bit excited about DC 'rebooting' every one of their titles with comic art god Jim Lee (@JimLee00) and others at the helm.
   But then I got to thinking about it. I realize that comic enthusiasts these days typically have a bit of expendable income, that's clear. To purchase all 52 books, you're looking at approximately $175/month. Maybe a bit high for some, not much for others. Anyone under 16, this is a damned fortune. I personally only spend $50-$100/month, I know I'm not typical, but I'm also a cheapskate. You, of course, also have to assume that a person is not only buying 52 DC titles and nothing else. So the obvious answer to this is that after the initial "buy all 52 #1's for collector's value" is done, they're going to wind down to their 20 or 30 favorite titles. Guaranteed, the lion's share is going to stick with the flagship titles: Superman, Batman, JLA, Green Lantern - even the Fury of Firestorm, Birds of Prey, and Red Lantern reboots look interesting.
   Then you have your D-List titles like Mr. Terrific, All Star Western, Frankenstein: Agent of SHADE, and Sgt Rock that - no offense to those creative teams or lovers of those titles - are bound to get the royal screw job with their reorder numbers. It's simple comic economics (cominomics?).
  Yes, I'm fully aware that pretty much all of the titles are being rebooted - i.e. they're already in existence and they're just continuing at #1. The problem with this strategy is that, planned or not, starting all of your titles over is going to make collectors re-evaluate which titles are important and/or interesting to them. Doing that slowly or piecemeal is one thing. When Marvel makes yet another new X-Men title, but this time they add "The Crazy Awesome..." in front of the name, it gives you a chance to evaluate and decide if you're on board with it, all the while maintaining the continuity of the other books you enjoy. Or, heaven forbid, dropping a title altogether and starting up a new one, like New Mutants to X-Force (series 1). One went away and one jumped in to take its place, same creative team, a lot of the same characters.
   So my question to DC is: where's the intelligence in forcing your faithful followers to immediately completely forget about what they love and are used to, and all at once decide on a new purchase list? And at what point will you decide that a book isn't getting enough readership to let it hang around? Will there just be a mass-cancelling in six months where they drop 10 titles that weren't selling? I can't even say that the only losers here are going to be the readers, I think DC is going to feel it as well.
   The strategy has been the same since the beginning of comic publishing: every title - more or less - was sort of on it's own trajectory and was at a different point of the 'race'. If there was a problem, or a cancellation, or the story just got stupid, no harm, no foul.  Now that every runner is starting at the exact same starting line at exactly the same time, what will the repercussions be to DC and its readers? Frankly, I can't see a scenario where this is going to work out extremely well.
   Yes, I know. DC is most certainly not going anywhere. Hell, they have enough advertising dollars spent on each book where even if 100 copies are purchased off a 100,000 run, they'll still make their money. This is all clearly a gimmicky publicity stunt by a new-ish regime at DC leadership to try something that's really never been done before. I truly have to hand it to them on that level.
   I'm probably a little old fashioned, I guess. I enjoy tuning into my monthly books to see yet another world-changing event happen across multiple character lines that ultimately doesn't really effect the overall universe that much, but act like it does - just like it has for decades.

I guess that's what makes me a Marvel ;)

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