Sunday, March 28, 2010

Baffling Mysteries at DC


Note to Free Comic Downloaders - Feel free to skip my musings if you are looking for today's free comics.

Mystery 1
The DC Red Circle Revival


So it looks like I wasn't the only one who thought the Red Circle revival by DC wasn't well thought out, as DC has recently announced they are going to cancel both The Shield and The Web with issues 10.

As of issue 6, both comics were selling at or below 6,000 units. With 4 more issues to go before they get to 10, I think we are going to see some history making low issues sales.

For the past couple of weeks, I was wondering exactly what was the plan with these books, but thanks to a sideways comment from the guys at the Mayo Report Podcast, I think I've figured out what happened here.

I think DC licensed these characters quite some time ago (possibly under Paul Levitz' watch) and the time span of that license was going to expire soon - without DC ever exercising their right to publish some comics with the characters - which would have meant DC paid some money for nothing.

Enter the hastily thought out JMS Red Circle revival. I also suspect the terms of the licensing deal must have guaranteed a certain amount of issues were published (else wise, why would DC continue to put on 4 more issues of books that are already selling at ridiculous levels?)

I don't expect to ever get a verification of this theory, but it strikes me as a likely explanation.

Mystery 2
How will DC become number 1 Comics Publisher?


Recently at a ComicsPRO conference in Mephsis, Dan Didio confirmed that DC was going to try and overtake Marvel as the number one publisher of comics by changing some internal policies(?) that will allow them to green light more projects quicker. If find this interesting for two reasons:

One, in the past, it has seemed like SOP for DC to discount sales numbers by proclaiming that their main concern was quality, not sales. What's behind the change in priorities? Is this Diane Nelson acting on Time Warner's desire to heighten the profile of their precious superhero IP?

Two, I wonder how is DC realistically going to achieve this goal. What exactly will more comics really do for them? If they use the same MO they've used over the past year on some new titles, I don't expect to see much of a change. Over the past year, DC launched a couple of revivals of some of their older characters (Nemesis, Azrael, Doom Patrol, Warlord, Human Target) as well as titles with completely new characters (Great Ten, Magog, Red Robin) Of the comics I just mentioned, only 2 are selling above 15K (the statistical break even point for a comic book.) The rest are selling in the 10 - 5K range.

So, if DC add 10 - 20 new mid list titles to their offerings in an attempt to flood the market and push Marvel out of the top spot, are retailers going to reach deep into their coffers and buy equal amounts of the new titles in hopes that they might sell better than the past year's mid listers? Or is DC just going to dilute the sales of their existing mid list titles?

So, unless something major changes, I don't see DC reaching that goal. Which might look bad when you get around to your yearend appraisal.

Anyway - enough of those baffling mysteries - enjoy these!

Baffling Mysteries

[ Baffling Mysteries 11 ]

Baffling Mysteries

[ Baffling Mysteries 13 ]

- Enjoy!

6 comments:

RKB said...

The red circle deal strikes me as the most likely explanation too, it still ended up being money for nothing. They might as well as tried to revive DC Focus (which I actually liked -mostly)

As far as DC comics 'quicker green light/more comics' policy goes *cough* *cough* DC Implosion Part 2 *cough* *cough*
I think they would do better by working on their mid-list titles and seeing what they could do to raise sells with them, than chasing Marvel like it was a white whale.

JimShelley said...

RKB - I think you are right - the Focus line would have been a more interesting revival (that sure didn't last very long did it?) While we are bringing out the dead, why not revive the Helix line?

Reno said...

Haha! Nice setup for today's free comics. :)

The Red Circle titles looked like they were doomed from the start. They're of no interest to new fans, and the hardcore fans of the characters don't want re-imagined versions of them (although personally I enjoyed the Impact line from way back).

JimShelley said...

@Reno - Yeah, I liked the Impact line too. I think I liked it for two reasons. One, the art was very different (as I remember it) than what was going on in other comics during the 90's (when everyone seemed to be trying hard to copy the Image artists)

Two, the tone of those Impact books seemed more appropriate - sort of like Steve Ditko was somehow guiding the entire line if you know what I mean. It had that same breezy feel to it you might see in the early Spider-Man comics.

GACN said...

Jim I totally agree with your assessment of the Red Circle deal. JMS was supposed to be the draw implying a high level of quality that simply failed to deliver beyond 'The Web' title. Archie would benefit from farming out the annual efforts to secure their character trademarks, to a smaller publisher, and by keeping these characters in their own universe. As it is, in DC's 52 separate universes, anything that has these Red Circle characters in it is not Earth-1. Ergo, what really was the point other than the trademarks? Jim, you folks should make Archie a pitch! At least you would do right by the MLJ stable.

GACN said...

Jim, the only way that DC can hope to overtake Marvel in terms of sheer sales is zip. Yes, I argue that it can not happen, will not happen, and attempts by DC to make it happen will fail and damage sales for a long time. Didio can streamline new titles, but I wager that these new titles would be nothing more that derivatives of existing properties. This is currently being done with the Justice League line. The danger will be in quality. Anyone following Justice Society and All-Stars have to honestly question where the quality went in the production of these titles. I am a life long JSA fan, but I am a footstep away from dropping the two titles in protest.

Anyone remember what happened to Marvel in the 1990s? Didio would do well to study that history and not repeat its mistakes, otherwise, he could find that in a flood of new titles, readers saying to themselves "now is a good time to cut back on DC."

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