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May 31, 2011

DC Renumbering Everything From The Beginning; Will Include Day And Date Digital Releases

Here's the PR. My hunch from asking around the last 36 hours after I heard the rumor is that a lot of people that closely follow or work in mainstream comics knew this was coming for a while now. Part of the announcement is a couple of flagship titles. Some people will split the news into two and stress the digital element; I'm not sure if that's a better way to look at it or not.

imageI have to admit: my personal, initial reaction is that this sounds completely idiotic. There's going to be some buzz in the short-term, but on a really fundamental level I'm suspicious of there being a market that can handle 50 new titles right away and I'm dead-on certain comics lacks an infrastructure that can maintain this many titles as they move forward past the initial sampling and buzz period. I think both of those things are true even with the element of digital comics added in. (There's an argument that these are replacement titles, and it's one worth noting. I don't think you will see the traditional effects of flooding the market; my worry is drought as you discombobulate ingrained buying habits for new ones that will be hard to establish and even harder to maintain.) This sounds like something you do to take something that's fresh and new and buzzing and teetering on the edge of success to the next level, not how you engage with an industry that's bleeding readers and operating under mature but decaying paradigms. In other words, I detect no mass audience out there just waiting to jump on board in a way that merely setting up for business somewhat closer to them is going to bring a rush of business.

Further, I have to think this has the potential to be a creative disaster. DC has soft re-launched their titles a few times now in a way that has never worked because the titles they put out there didn't engage with people. That was a much smaller group of titles, which makes me doubt that a larger group is going to get over any more effectively. Plus restarting everything again diminishes the creative juice that should come with such a drastic move. I'm also not sure they have the horses. DC's talent development in general gets shit on in nearly every single discussion I have in convention bars or on-line with people who play close attention to this kind of stuff, including creators that work at that company and others like it. It seems like DC has enough creators to barely handle the books they're doing; there's no surplus from the creative side that feels like it's demanding a bigger stage.

I guess this once and for all justifies the desire of mine and some others in the commentary class that the DC reintegration into Warner Bros' plans pay dividends with some game-changing moves to justify the long round of in-the-company high-fives we had to suffer the last couple of years. There's always been a big Slim Pickens on a nuclear bomb element to that wish, though, and I have to think there are a lot more people out there in the industry feeling queasy than feeling pumped. Maybe I'm wrong about that.

It's also hard for me to envision how they walk this one back if it doesn't work out.

As I noted initially, you'll probably see some pre-spin separating the day-and-date digital news from the publishing line revamp news -- partly because people genuinely believe that one is more important than the other, partly because it allows for a hook to discussion that's also a positive spin on things, partly because different sets of careers are at stake. I'm taking them as a combined announcement in my initial reaction here because 1) that's how they're presented and how we're going to get it, 2) I think the combination actually makes this a more difficult, intractable mess if it doesn't work.

But even if you divide the two initiatives, I'm not sure I see a significant audience waiting for digital versions of existing comics, either, even for ideal DC books, unless they're executed a certain way -- the same way I'm doubtful a significant audience is waiting for yet another version of Superman. Whether this specific part of the overall initiative forces or encourages the industry (by which folks basically mean Marvel) to follow suit in some way is a fine question. Again I think that's tied into how it's executed. If DC has solved what seem to many tricky problems of price point and format and is correct that there are tens of thousands of people just waiting until these problems were solved in a way that benefits an entire line not just this Fall but into 2015, they should do fine. Others will certainly follow. They may anyway. And one might say it's about time someone tried this. I still have my doubts and worries about this specific program's facilitation. I'll remain open to someone convincing me otherwise. And eventually we'll know.

Overall, this sounds to me like that time when the older, dependable brother in a respected family gets sick of always being the source of stability and flips the fuck out and does something slightly nuts, with the knowledge that ultimately the family money takes care of him even if his crappy decisions goof up a few sets of lives tied into his own. I've thought in recent years that publishing entities companies like Marvel and DC should be concentrating on core readerships rather than mass ones, that growing their existing audience by 200 percent was a lot more reasonable a goal than somehow matching the heat and flash and cultural buzz that comes with something like that last Batman movie.

For the sake of the industry, I hope to God I've not been right about that.

I hope that the image of Mr. Pickens above has enough broad cultural currency that I'm okay in using it as an illustration in this fashion; I certainly claim no right to it
posted 2:00 pm PST | Permalink

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