It’s been a rough couple of months for DC Comics.

With the launch of the new DCYou initiative, their hopes were high that they might regain some of the market share they’d lost near the end of The New 52.

Well, it didn’t turn out that way.

FIRST, SOME PERSPECTIVE

The New 52 was a big deal as far as sales go, particularly when it started. A relaunch of nearly all the DC characters (except for Batman and Green Lantern, which were already successful), this event began with lines waiting at local comics shops on Wednesday mornings. Collectors went nuts especially with changes in Superman’s and Wonder Woman’s costumes.

Of course, when the second issues came, there was less enthusiasm, which is always the case. With each succeeding month, sales numbers continued a steady decline to where recently DC decided they needed to stop the bleeding.

One bad effect of The New 52 was that fans who had collected DC for years felt abandoned. After all, all the stories they’d known and loved had been basically declared “invalid.” Many decided to only buy Kurt Busiek’s Astro City and the like since they were still in the universe they remembered.

So DC decided to attempt to bring those folks back, among other things, by saying that everything that was ever published with their logo on it was indeed “real” – at least, as real as a comic book story can be.

Secret Wars, Marvel, DC, Batman, Green Lantern, Superman, DCYou, New 52, Dan DiDio, continuity, Kurt Busiek, Astro City, Convergence, Wonder Woman, Bat-MiteAfter the Convergence event ended (which took place to allow the company’s offices to move to California), DC launched several new books and miniseries’ such as Bat-Mite and Batman Beyond. They’ve announced that the Superman from Convergence will be back as well. Successful titles like Batman and Green Lantern will continue. In fact, there are very few number one issues coming out (unlike the “Marvelous” competition where just about everything is a number one for the next couple of months).

It was a risky play, and unfortunately not all risky gambles pay off. Sales have been down, and the number of DC titles in the top 100 comics last month totaled only 33. Yikes! But those are the facts, and we need to face them head on!

“Whatever happened to DC Comics?” and such has been the response on the Internet. People have been calling for some folks’ heads and noting that DC can “never recover,” something I’ve read more times online than I can count.

Thankfully, the folks at DC responded via an interview at the Los Angeles Daily News.

“If you’re trying to build a fan base, a new audience, you’ve got to nurture it. You’ve got to take your time. You’ve got to take your losses,” Dan DiDio said. “Sooner or later, it’s going to take hold and hopefully be a leader in the business. Right now, our goal is to try and feed out as much product that’s as different as possible to try and attract the widest audience possible.”

Jim Lee said, “We had some hits, we have some things that are under-performing. What we (did) in June is definitely step one towards this sort of transformation of the (comics) line. And I think that story is still being written.”

In other words, not everything is a big success out of the gate like The New 52 was.

CONTINUITY THE KING

One of the biggest changes DCYou is making has to do with continuity, which can be defined as making sure every moment of every comic falls in line with every other comic you make. DC’s no longer making continuity “king.” Instead, they’re hoping good stories will matter more than continuity.

This is quite a big gamble because there are comics buyers/readers who read each book they purchase (if they actually DO read it before they bag and board it) is consistent with every other book DC produces or has produced when it comes to being in sync with each other.

All this makes sense to me because with so many comics being sold these days (Marvel’s Secret Wars has like 60 related books coming out) that it’s near impossible to keep up with it all. This way, if you’re a Batman fan, for example, you buy the books with Batman in them and don’t worry if Superman says something that contradicts what Batman just said in the latest issue he stars in. Although DC would love for you to buy all their product, if you can only buy Batman’s comics, they’ll happily take that much of your money if they can’t get all of it from you!

But I’ve already read online posts from people who point out on such-and-such a page in Bat-Mite, he says something that conflicts with something that happened Batman #42. “THAT’S IT! I’ll never buy another DC Comic as long as I live!” that person declared. Of course, that’s your call, but that’s likely a very, very small minority of comics folks who honestly have been controlling the industry for years! DC (and really every company) would be better off appealing to as many people who love their characters and stories they can rather than serving the Great God Continuity!

MY EXPERIENCE

I buy my comics every week, and I noticed that after Convergence ended, I was taking home and reading fewer books on Wednesdays.

Secret Wars, Marvel, DC, Batman, Green Lantern, Superman, DCYou, New 52, Dan DiDio, continuity, Kurt Busiek, Astro City, Convergence, Wonder Woman, Bat-MiteI buy some Marvel comics, but not nearly as many of those as I do from DC. There was no change in the books I get from the rest of the industry, so it was clear that what was coming out at the beginning of DCYou wasn’t appealing to me as much. (If I’d paid closer attention to my order form, I’d have figured this out sooner, I’m sure!)

And that’s okay to me! Several of the new offerings were mini-series were released to test the waters, I’m sure. If they didn’t make it, okay, they gave it a shot.

I applaud DC’s efforts to try and broaden the market by producing war comics and supernatural comics and other books that were once sustainable but haven’t been successful for several years. I like it when comics companies take chances by bringing back older lines of books as well as trying something new that’s consistent with the characters.

In this era of “I want it NOW” thinking, if something is not a huge success immediately, it’s a total failure. Thankfully, I’ve never bought into that. But it’s funny to me that many of the people now declaring DC “dead” wouldn’t do the same if Marvel’s post-Secret Wars numbers fell the same way that DC’s has. Double standards, I love ya!

If you’re a DC fan ready to chuck the entire comics experience, slow down and take a breath! (By the same token, if you’re a Marvel fan overwhelmed by the sheer volume of Secret Wars, hold on a month or two!) The industry is growing, trying to adapt to an evolving fan base. Unlike newspapers, I think print comics will remain viable for a long time to come for more reasons than I can elaborate here today. Don’t give up the ship!

My advice is to “buy what you like so you can like what you buy.” Get the books that appeal to you, but also have friends you can talk with who can point out comics you might want to try. Or read reviews here at MajorSpoilers.com! There’s still a massive amount of quality in comics today that engages my imagination and delights me, and I hope you feel the same way!

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The Author

Wayne Hall

Wayne Hall

Wayne Hall creates the Wayne's Comics Podcast. He’s interviewed Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, John Layman, Kyle Higgins, Phil Hester, Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray, David Petersen, Christos Gage, Mike Grell, and Matt Kindt. Each episode also includes reviews, news and previews. On this site each week, he writes his "Comics Portal" column (general comics comments and previews) and reviews comics.

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3 Comments

  1. Thomas Jackson
    August 31, 2015 at 11:18 am — Reply

    I was in the process of dropping more than a few DC books before Convergence. Now, I only read Justice League, Justice League of America, Superman-Wonder Woman, and Injustice.

    The main problem I have with DC is that after every reboot, they come out with titles no one in their right mind would ask for. And then they are perplexed when people don’t read them.

    DC’s main problem is that they have too many damn characters and a confounding inability to do anything with them. That’s why continuity became a problem for DC because they felt the need to shoehorn in 50 million characters into one timeline and then create unnecessary legacy characters.

    And another point of contention I have with DC is their incessant need to constantly retell Batman’s and Superman’s origin story every time a new writer takes over a book. Looking DC, a person can see how it’s a perfect example of what happens when the inmates run the asylum. They need editors and a publisher who isn’t afraid to tell creative Teams”NO”.

  2. HipHopHead
    August 31, 2015 at 12:28 pm — Reply

    Great article Wayne!!! I am in the “Astro City” DC Boat along with Gotham by Midnight.

    I know there are a lot a factors that go into the success/failure of the comic book. Image was just that 20 years ago…”IMAGE” very little story content, but beautiful graphics. Now Image provides creators an outlet for some amazing books, many of which are not in the super-hero genre.

    Could a factor be, DC to a greater extent is telling stories to a consumer of 25 years ago (or more). With a few exceptions (Scott Snyder/Geoff Johns), the stories told are not appealing to a more sophisticated client.

    In contrast (IMHO), Marvel employed some writers who told more sophisticated super-hero stories pretty much since the arrival of Brian Michael Bendis.

    I wonder if the Marvel $3.99 cover price that includes the digital copy appeals to fans more than the DC option, which requires an $1 for a $2.99 or $3.99 book to get the digital copy?

    To be fair, I am dropping the Marvel titles that carry a $4.99 cover price, regardless of the included digital copy.

  3. Zar
    September 3, 2015 at 11:07 am — Reply

    My problem with DC’s comics is that they aren’t worth the cover price. It takes them six $4 issues to tell luke-warm stories. I’ve had enough of it. And when they make these drastic changes to the characters, I just don’t want to spend the money to find out more about them. They need to re-learn how to tell a story in a single issue of a comic as well as add to a grander story arc much like they do on their TV shows. I finished reading Superman/Wonder Woman #41 and I felt like it is moving at a snail’s pace with no action and very little plot development. And if each comic is supposed to all stand on their own why are there three lines all about a superman who lost his powers but can’t be bothered with finding out why?

    Also, they need to reduce the prices if they want a younger generation buy. I am constantly deciding to skip their comics just because I think 4 dollars is too much. People are voicing their opinion by not purchasing . DC needs to figure out that changing everything up won’t help if the price tag scares us off.

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