Robot 6

The Grumpy Color | Carla and Tom dig into the DC relaunch, Part 2

[After three solid weeks of coverage, you’d think we here at Robot 6 would have run out of things to say about September’s all-new, mostly-different DC Universe.

[Okay, maybe we have -- but when fearless leader JK Parkin suggested that DC blogger Tom Bondurant and retailer/Marvel blogger Carla Hoffman could do a back-and-forth about it, we were happy to oblige. The following was conducted via email from June 17 through June 22.]

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[When we left off yesterday, the question was whether long-established characters or relative newcomers were easier to sell.]

Carla: I know DC has said there will be new characters, but how do you think that’s going to go? Will these be the next Booster Gold or the latest Chase? (P.S.: I sort of remembered that last name so I just looked that up and I was right! There was a character called Chase! I started selling comics when Chase was on the stands!)

Now, as for what I’m going to emphasize to customers as they look up and shout “Save us!”… and I’m going to have to whisper “no” on this one, Tom. The whole point of this re-something is to let a new reader pick up a book with a fresh start and a feeling of confidence that they are beginning at the beginning. Now, if someone wanted to read a Superman issue before, well… where did one begin? That’s where your LCS should factor in; clerks should be there to help people find the book they’re looking for. Most times, one of us at Metro will have read something that a customer is looking for. In this way, we can ask what they like in general (‘What movies do you like?’, etc.) and then direct from there. Does this make sense?

So if you’re going to start out with a entire line of fresh new books, well. I’ll turn off the light on my way out. There’s almost nothing I can emphasize outside of conjecture and gist. There’s no taste to make. New Coke– I mean, New Clark shouldn’t taste like Old Clark, that’s the point of this exercise. Long-time fans are going to come in looking for old friends and new fans are going to have to fend for themselves. I can say that “Oh, man, I loved Generation X back at Marvel, so maybe Lobdell is going to do great on the Teen Titans,” but I just can’t know until I see it.

I’m making a long list of all these titles for customers to use as a checklist so they don’t miss out on all the hot #1 action and it’s been a hard decision on whether or not to have pictures by the titles, creative teams, and descriptions. If you’re unfamiliar with comics, the picture is probably the best selling point, because that’s what the cover is there for: to judge the book.

Tom: Well, you’re not entirely starting clean with the Green Lantern and Batman books, but you probably don’t have much trouble selling those anyway….

I have wondered how a relaunch consisting entirely of B- and C-listers, and a mix of new characters, would be received. Again, DC isn’t going to stop publishing Superman, Batman, etc., so why not build up to their return? I know what you’re saying about letting the next generation take over, but I think that’s just too much of a break with the past. Likewise, I’m eager to see what DC does in terms of new characters, but at this point I think they need to establish a certain “footprint” in the marketplace — see if it’ll handle 52 ongoing series first, and then decide whether there’s room for anything new.

It’s funny, because DC is actually doing some things with this relaunch that I’ve wanted them to do for a while, like increasing their diversity of genre (even if it’s all superhero-flavored), focusing on ongoing series, and (hopefully) getting its schedule in order. However, in all the talk of the relaunch, I haven’t managed to ask, “where are the humor books?” Not necessarily “superhero humor” like Giffen & DeMatteis, but something whose primary purpose is to be funny, like you’d see from Evan Dorkin, Ty Templeton, or Roger Langridge. I don’t have a question there, I just had to get that off my chest.

In any event, I’m sure we’re all going to be hearing more than we ever thought possible about each one of these 52 books over the next two-and-a-half months, so I hope you guys have enough info to help your customers make informed choices. Right now, though, what looks good to you, and what looks like you’ll have a hard time moving?

Carla: Batwing. I know, that’s mean, give it a chance, I’m sure he’s awesome in Batman Inc. but man. I have no idea who to sell this book to. Has there really been a clamor to see a Batman in Africa? Again, who knows, it could be the break out hit of the fall, but based on design and concept I can’t say. Already I’m talking to a lot of regular customers who will be stalwart and follow their favorite heroes into the unknown; no one has completely cancelled their pull and declared they’ll never read comics again after the announcement. Everyone who’s still smarting from hearing the changes will hopefully be healing nicely by the time the comics actually arrive on the shelves, so I don’t know if we’ll be ordering that differently from the norm.

Other than that, there’s just so many books. I think everyone will pick up at least one of everything they’re offering, like when you fill up your plate with just like a tablespoon of the full buffet? The real question is Great Scott, what are we going to do with ordering #2? When they ask for those orders, #1 won’t be out yet, it’s just the nature of the business. I get the chills just thinking about it and I don’t even do the ordering for the store, yikes.

I hear you on the funny books. No offense, but DC takes themselves a little too seriously sometimes.

Speaking of which, I don’t know if you saw but I read a selection of Midnighter issues a few What Are You Readings ago because they are awesome and I really do like the character. I have had a sort of love/hate/adoration relationship with the Authority and have come to treasure that Damn the Man/We are the Man look at superheroes provided under Warren Ellis and others. I especially enjoy the Midnighter because he’s something we’ll never see (or I thought we’d never see) in your reglar superhero genre: a Batman with a strong and consistent personal relationship. Yes, he’s badass and can kill you a dozen different ways and wears black and is angry, but an essential characteristic is that he’s in love with another man. The Wildstorm universe could mix it up some in an HBO kind of way when it wanted because that’s what it was there to do. And then I saw the Martian Manhunter standing on the cover to Stormwatch #1 and I was like whaaaaaaa?

Vertigo is not for superheroes anymore and DC doesn’t have a MAX imprint like Marvel, so how do you think DC is going to handle having Wildstorm characters next mixed in with the regular gang?

Tom: Honestly, I think the WildStorm characters will fit into this particular DC universe pretty well; and yes, I know the implications of that statement.

In fact, the WS books may predict how well a truly new character might do. This is mean to say, but no one seems to have bought the last WS relaunch, so they might as well be new characters. I liked the Ellis/Hitch Authority well enough, and I bought all two of the Morrison/Lee issues, but by and large I haven’t been jazzed enough about those characters (even Midnighter) to pick up the book regularly.

That’s a great point about ordering #2 when #1 won’t be out yet. Isn’t there a returnability policy for the first few issues of each title?

As for Batwing, you’re the retailer; but I guess I’d base my orders on some percentage of Batman Incorporated. Just substitute Judd Winick for Grant Morrison and a regular Bat-counterpart for Bruce Wayne and assorted guest stars. Simple, right? :-) *

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*[Note:  Tom knows full well it is not that simple.]

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Comments

25 Comments

While I wouldn’t mind some humorous titles published by DC(like ‘Mazing Man & Funny Stuff), don’t forget that they publish Mad Magazine. That’s the king of all humor titles imo.

Again I ask, did DC plan any alternatives to this “relaunch” before implementing it? Do they have any back-up plans incase this thing bombs?

Hey
i was wondering whether or not anyone thought that an easier solution would have been to do more dc earth one books that cater towards new readers because that would be a easier to market since its a move everyone understands them doing.

Having been in college during the early seasons of “Real World,” I never thought I’d live to read Judd Winick and Grant Morrison’s names in the same sentence. Sigh.

The Teen Titans reboot does have promise. That’s the only one that’s caught my eye thus far.

Googam son of Goom

June 24, 2011 at 10:32 pm

DC stands for Dead Comics or Dead Concept. I’ve been reading since 1972and that’s all folks. New generation take it and run .I’d rather play Zelda.

the only way fans will know if dc is really right to do the reboot is to buy the books and try them. for have to admit curious to see what a rebooted dcu is like. espically swamp thing back .though was hoping for a ragman reboot in the mix finaly.

In the vein of the classic Bob Hope and Jerry Lewis titles, DC really ought to do The Adventures of Conan O’Brien.

@Acer “Again I ask, did DC plan any alternatives to this “relaunch” before implementing it? Do they have any back-up plans incase this thing bombs?”

They’re claiming not to have a back-up plan:

“They collectively stated the titles would be give more or less a year to perform and would be canned according to sales if need be, and creators were being held responsible for meeting deadlines more so than ever before, that changes will be made in a quicker fashion and that they were committed to this initiative and not planning to go back on it or have back up

(Per Randy Myers’ write-up of the Baltimore DC Retailer Roadshow)

CARLA: Batwing. I know, that’s mean, give it a chance, I’m sure he’s awesome in Batman Inc. but man. I have no idea who to sell this book to.

SELL IT TO ME OR ANY OF THE OTHER 70,000 BATMAN READERS.

I can’t believe you own a retail store. I’m a retailer and I’ll make sure ALL of my customers are well informed and all of these titles get a chance. It’s good for the business, definitely goo for me, and if DC is walking the talk, it will be a great read.

WHAT IS GOOD FOR DC OR MARVEL OR IDW OR IMAGE IS GOOD FOR THE INDUSTRY. Anti-DC rhetoric by MARVEL – ONLY fans, and industry pessimism is so childish.

Numbers DON’T LIE, and this relaunch will be a big boost top sales.

The only difference between DC and Marvel is that Marvel kills 4 people a year, and 10 new renumberings every 6 month, and DC said let’s just do it all at the same time, and REALLY make an impact.

Ballsy

While I would have enjoyed DC letting a new generation take over , it was never going to happen. This reboot/relaunch thing really has me excited, especially the “dark” titles.

They had to do something, I’m not predicting millions of people suddenly comng into comic stores but its a start in the right direction…

@Michelle

Why wouldn’t they do that? There’s always going to be the need for a contingency plan. If out of all the titles, Batman and Green Lantern are the only succeeding ones, what are they going to do if the majority of them (and that includes the Superman titles) fail? Canning low-selling titles is just one branch cut off an overgrowing tree.

@Michelle

Based on his comments posted on Bleeding Cool, Dan Didio himself stated that they’re giving the books 6 months to perform. If they don’t, they’re out and replaced by something else. He wants 80+ books a month across the various lines and they’re tightening up on creators who can’t get their work turned in on time. He said he wouldn’t hesitate to replace the ones who couldn’t perfom within the timeframe they’ve established.

hebitudinous1

June 25, 2011 at 1:36 pm

+1 @ballsy
A more informed and involved consumers is going to be buying more titles.

@michelle @acer
When you guys talk “backup plan”, why don’t you start by defining what “success” or “failure” means? As @David points out, DC is speeding things up and disciplining creators who can’t get their work turned in on time. Is this a bad thing in your view?

These days, companies have got to be prepared to “fail fast”. No media industry has 100% hits – not music, not books, not movies, not TV shows.

Chris,seriously here, I applaud your stance as retailer and what you feel is good for readers,stores,and industry alike but who did ask for a Batman in Africa? I know people have been wondering for a long time what happened to a proposed JLA Africa. As much as I could care less about another JLA book I would follow it because it would incorporate a number of under used characters I can’t get anywhere else.The Bat titles are too numerous in this relaunch and will cancel each other out. How about adding a Batmite and Bat Hound book to this mess?.Give me another shot at Black Lightning or Cyborg anyday. What was said here you glossed over. With a completely new take and unproven creative teams there is no pre existing premise for fans to advise other fans or new readers let alone retailers. Just buy this it’s a number one?

I have to agree with Chris in his comments about anti-DC rhetoric. It’s just sad that the Marvel blogger has to be as rah-rah about giving DC shit with little jabs as those that actually run the company. A retailer (really?) that falls in line with the “limp dick” insult mentality is just bad for business. I couldn’t help but notice that the DC blogger never resorted to thinly-veiled digs in kind. As an industry, we’re losing ground. There’s no place for partisanship when everyone is trying to keep the ship afloat. The New Coke comment was just childish, as was the “too seriously” mention. Here’s a clue: When someone begins a sentence with “No offense, but…” they know it’s offensive. It’s right up there with “I don’t mean to sound like a dick, but…” I’m not too happy with this reboot, either, but a retailer should pimp COMICS not MARVEL comics. If you can’t work with that, it’s time to find a new job. Hmmm. I wonder if Batwing will sell more copies to Batman fans than Savage She-Hulk sold to Hulk fans. Guess a retailer should have a reasonably good idea, wouldn’t you say?

I’m a huge DC fan so I’ll keep reading because I care about their stable of characters. The comic numbering doesn’t mean anything to me, I primarily read trades now. It’s about the stories and the art, both can be hit and miss no matter which imprint you may prefer. It’s like your favourite TV show, not every episode is going to advance the story in the way you wish it would. I agree with Carla that launching 52 number ones at once feels a little like throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks. It feels almost desperate. Will all 52 titles be succesful? No. As a trade collector I can’t even imagine what the trade schedule is going to look like.

I am looking forward to some of the new DC titles – been praying for a Catwoman relaunch since GCS 1, and the Red Hood looks like its worth a try (although Starfire has never appealed to me in any way at all before).

As far as Humour goes, Stephanie Browns batgirl was pretty good, and i cant see the relaunch holding that to Babs, coupled with the whole retcon of Oracles disability thing and im dropping the book. People drop these books for a reason, not merely because its given a relaunch.

Im trying to maintain a level head in my DC buying. The one thing i will say for DC is it stands by its properties, i had both Spider-Woman and Black Widow suddenly cancelled on me!

@Acer – If everything apart from the GL and Batman group of titles fails? Who cares if they were doing poorly to begin with? I guess they could go back to the pre reboot versions – but why when they are doing so crap? And by the sounds of it, DC alreay have a fair few titles lined up for the second round come December? So that will probably cover the titles doing the most poorly.

At least its safe to say that the new JLA, Wonder Woman and Superman will do way better than the current versions, and I see Snyder’s Batman getting a large boost (from where Tec is now), what with the positive word of mouth and a new #1.

@Chris and Jeff – Agree with both of you. I’ll admit I skpped most of Carla’s dribble – I’ve read some of her previous work and try to stay clear. The digs are offputting, and she comes across as one of those Marvel Zombies. She reminds me of Rich Johnston (Johnson?). Every DC post he makes has a jab – while every Marvel post pretty much says – “bend over so I can kiss your ass”. But then again, I guess they want to imitate their Marvel idle…. guess who? haha….

DC’s biggest appeal to me has been it’s overall continuity since the original Crisis. Sure, the occasional big event like Zero Hour and Armageddon messed with things but not to the point where the “History of the DCU” was completely rewritten. I started reading regularly in 1988 and am sadden to see 25 years of accumulated history cast aside for characters such as Donna Troy, Kara Zor-L, Conner Kent, Wally West, Helena Bertinelli, the whole JSA, Stephanie Brown, Cassie Sandsmark, and most of all Clark Kent.
I enjoy witnessing the evolution of a character over time, whether it is in their own book, part of a team or as a guest in another character’s book. A major part of that enjoyment is knowing how past events influence the current story line–past meetings between characters twenty years ago still matter. Not anymore I guess.
Case in point, why do so many people love the Levitz Legion of Super-Heroes? Because Levitz’s writing provides a link across years and years of Legion history. Does anyone know what the history of the JLA is now or what it will be come September? Did Identity Crisis happen? Did Doomsday kill Superman? Was Coast City destroyed by Mongul and Cyborg Superman? If not, did Hal Jordan still become Parallax / Spectre?
Once you accept that history no longer matters then comics become a series of short stories and authors are free to do whatever they want with no regard for the past. Count me as one person who will canx the majority of his pull list in September.

I do have to admit to feeling somewhat apathetic in regards to ongoing storylines in the DCU titles I currently read. My emotional investment in characters’ lives has lessened with the knowledge that the big, shiny reset button will be pressed in a few months. For example, why does it matter to me how the ladies of Birds of
Prey are doing when the team won’t even have ever existed in a few months? Why bother with a title so rich in the complexities of female relationships if those relationships have simply been erased? It is a bit frustrating, to say the least.

These reboots have been tried before and have failed miserably. I predict it will fail once again!

Really people, keep your negative BS to yourself. This will be a raging success. If it alienates the obnoxious grease-ball who hangs around the comic shop complaining all day as if anybody cares about his opinion I could really care less. Face it, the people complaining about DC needing to be loyal to them and grousing about continuity (without having read ANY of these new books yet) are the same lame nerds who scare all of the normal people away from the comic shop! Judging from the comments I’ve read over the past few weeks it seems we need a reboot of the fanbase as much as a reboot of the books themselves. I guarantee there will be a lot of great original story telling come September and if any of the quality books fail its because of the backwards fanboy who cares more about continuity than good storytelling. Try before you judge, otherwise your opinion ain’t worth a darn.

I just want Wally West. That’s all. And that’s all I’m blatantly not getting.

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