“The Truth Is People Are Leaving Anyway”

So says DC Comics Co-Publisher Dan DiDio in last night’s Hero Complex blog. But could DC’s massive relaunch gamble this September actually halt the exodus?

According to the article, Justice League #1, the flagship title and debut issue of the massive line-wide relaunch of the publisher’s entire superhero universe, has received pre-orders asking for over 200,000 copies. Six other issues from the 52 titles shipping in September have pre-orders over 100,000 copies. That is fantastic news. Monthly comic books haven’t seen those kinds of numbers in years. There are also pending digital sales when the publisher starts releasing online and mobile versions of those same print comics simultaneously in September.

The full quote:

“The truth is people are leaving anyway, they’re just doing it quietly, and we have been papering it over with increased prices,” DiDio said. “We didn’t want to wake up one day and find we had a bunch of $20 books that 10,000 people are buying.”

Typically people from the major superhero publishers keep things pretty rosy in public interviews and online conversations. You know things must be dire when the talk gets this frank.

Another crucial observation made by DiDio:

“The walk-in, casual fans have gotten away from us,” DiDio observed. “We are down to just the die-hard buyers.”

Bringing back casual fans is the key. It’s a massive key to resuscitating sales. I’m still not completely convinced that what is getting published in September is a big enough break from the publishing and editorial strategy they’ve worked under in the past to bring in a casual readership, but 200,000+ copies is a sign I could be wrong (and I’d love to be wrong on this). Of course, it could be comic stores overestimating interest in their orders. It could only last a month or two. But for now, things are looking very promising.

If only they acted sooner. Over the weekend, a 4-store chain of comic book shops in Arizona abruptly shut down. Stores have been quietly dropping away for a while now, but this was a well-known and well-liked chain praised as a smart retailer. These weren’t the grimy comic store dungeons people avoid like the plague. But the profit margin of running a comic book store is so small that one car through your main store’s front window followed by an economic downturn and lost customers, and five years later you’re done. Atomic Comics was a big account for Diamond Comics, the industry’s primary distributor.

Would DC’s relaunch have saved them? Will it turn sales around across the entire industry? That’s a big job for one publisher, even the industry’s #2 publisher. After all, their material doesn’t cater to everyone. But if other publishers can find a way to join in the hype and fill in the gaps, we could be on to something. Hey, I’m trying to be positive here. It could happen.


    1. Hey Jameson, thank you for reading! Yes, the returnability is no doubt playing a factor too. That’s kind of what I’m referring to when I say that retailers may be over-estimating interest but I should’ve addressed it outright.

      But despite being returnable, no doubt the hope is most or all will sell. I would hope no store is ordering a bunch with the assumption they’ll just give their UPS driver something to drive around and that they actually hope to sell what they buy.

      (And really, don’t book publishers have full returnability? Why not comics too? Why saddle retailers with all of the risk based on ordering trends from 3 months prior? But that’s another post.)

      Anyway, Gary’s done a great job of covering Obsessive Compulsive Continuity Disorder. There is obviously an audience for that kind of material or they wouldn’t keep publishing it, but the audience has dwindled away to the extent that DC and Marvel might have to finally abandon or at least downgrade that kind of publishing strategy. Mythologies are fun. Stories about “fixing” mythologies tend to be kind of tedious, especially to casual readers. What other long form narrative even does that? Do soap operas have long epic stories explaining away mistakes or why a character looks different? He/she either got plastic surgery or they don’t address it and move on with the story. Has James Bond taken up an entire movie to explain away its inconsistencies? There’s just not enough people (audience/$$) that care that much to spend so much story time on it.

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