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DC’s mainstream push for New 52: ‘Even the haters are curious’

DC Comics: The New 52

Ahead of the release on Wednesday of Flashpoint #5 and Justice League #1, signaling the beginning of its line-wide relaunch, DC Comics has kicked off a promotional assault in the mainstream press to sell “The New 52″ to a broader audience. While USA Today, with a circulation of 1.8 million the second-largest newspaper in the United States, looks to be the hub for coverage, DC has also reached out to publications like the New York Daily News, the New York Post and the Boston Herald. Here are the highlights so far from the 11th-hour push:

• A spoiler-heavy preview of Flashpoint #5 in USA Today lays out how the dystopic, casualty-strewn world depicted in the crossover got that way.

• USA Today takes a broad overview of the relaunch, talking with DC Co-Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee, Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns, and a couple of retailers. “There are plenty of angry customers over this,” says John Robinson, co-owner of Graham Crackers Comics chain in Illinois. “I’ve heard the usual ‘I can’t believe they’re doing this,’ ‘They’ve betrayed us,’ etc. I’d say about 60% to 70% of those protesting the loudest will still end up buying the stuff. There’s just too much hype and interest — even the haters are curious.”

• The newspaper also hones in on the publisher’s new same-day digital strategy, which debuts Wednesday at 2 p.m. ET when Justice League #1 will be available for purchase digitally. Hank Kanalz, senior vice president for digital at DC Entertainment, acknowledges the challenges of getting the initiative off the ground: “Some books are working really far ahead of schedule, some are down to the wire, and it’s just a matter of coordinating and about overcommunicating. We have to make sure it goes off without a hitch, which is why we’re not sleeping right now. We’re going much wider to a mass audience than ever before, so it’s a matter of making sure we have everything ready to go.”

• A longish feature in the New York Daily News begins with the changes to Superman — no marriage, no living parents, no red trunks — before widening its net to include fan reaction, Cyborg’s addition to the Justice League and Barbara Gordon’s return to the Batgirl identity. “By making these kind of changes, we would restore a lot of the things that we wanted to have in the characters and also set the stage for really cool stories that we couldn’t do before,” Lee says. “And that we could achieve by rolling back the experience on the characters, so they’re not in the prime of their careers, they haven’t battled their arch-nemeses a million times, saved the world countless times. We felt that was a richer, more fertile ground to mine for all the characters.”

Batgirl #1

• The New York Post, meanwhile, focuses entirely on Barbara Gordon, touching upon the controversy surrounding her move from Oracle back to costumed crimefighting as Batgirl. The article is accompanied by a preview of Batgirl #1, which includes a flashback to the events of The Killing Joke.

DiDio gets blunt about the motivation behind the relaunch in the Boston Herald: ““We wanted a shock to the system to get people reading.”

• Talking with Complex, writer Judd Winick delves into his titles Batwing and Catwoman, as well as the challenges in attempting to reshape the DC Universe: “This is a cataclysmic shift. If there is a point that I wanted to make it’s that this has not been easy. I mean, it’s fun, no lie, but it’s really been hard, hard work. Everyone has had to rewrite scripts, check outlines, do it again, all with the edict of ‘Just make it better. It’s just not there yet. It’s just not doing it. It’s not fun enough, it’s too convoluted, too much like the old. This should feel fresh.’”

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19 Comments

I’m sure there are absolutely no haters whatsoever in the comic book community…(snicker)

“It’s not fun enough, it’s too convoluted, too much like the old. This should feel fresh.”

If the resulting stories are, in fact, new, fun, and not convoluted, then this relaunch business will all be worth it. But the powers-that-be at DC and the creators they’ve put in charge of these books haven’t really proven themselves capable of new, fun, non-convoluted stories. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.

I don’t hate the relaunch because I haven’t yet seen it to know if I hate it or not. I hate the idea of it. I hate losing the books I love and having my favorite characters changed or de-aged or otherwise made unrecognizable. Better they should have started everyone from scratch.

I’m not really curious anymore, either. I’ve read enough about the DCnU to realize it’s not for me. After reading DC for 5 decades, it’s time for me to focus on what other publishers are doing.

Well, that is certainly a kick in the pants. It’s totally in keeping with the way Johns has written Barry. Which is in turn makes me glad that Geoff’s run in Central City is over. It’s as if all the things he did right in revamping Hal were done wrong in revamping Barry.

It does lead me to call the new DCU the Barryverse. Or to commission a new version of the “hand holding a nebula” image with the hand in a red glove with a lightning bolt motif at the wrist.

I’d simply love to know if DC has done any actual market research to discover who the most likely new readers are. Are they adults? Teens? Kids? Outside of press and media releases what is their motivating message to get non-readers to buy a new DC book?

Personally (and as the father of a comic-hungry eight-year-old) I think kids (and their parents) need to be a huge focus of communicating the “READ COMICS!” message. When I was 8 (in 1978) I could safely read any comic on the stands. Are any of the new 52 going to be appropriate to share with my son, or are they all still aimed squarely at the current — shrinking — fanbase?

I want this to be a fresh start and want this to help energize a struggling industry. But I’ve worked in advertising & marketing for twenty years and know that you can’t just create something and hope that it motivates the target audience to act…you have to strategically tailor your message to that audience and communicate to them where they’ll see/hear it.

My fingers are crossed that somebody up there is thinking about all this stuff.

“Just make it better. It’s just not there yet. It’s just not doing it. It’s not fun enough, it’s too convoluted, too much like the old. This should feel fresh.”

The best way of ensuring all that would have been an approach that doesn’t require deciding which past stories still “happened” and which ones didn’t.

“an approach that doesn’t require deciding which past stories still “happened” and which ones didn’t.”

Which is the negative thing about continuity. Sure, a shared universe is fun but when you start talking about stories that “count” and “don’t count”, it stops being fun. I’m a Marvel fan from waaaay back and G.I. Joe was the first comic that I started buying from #1 monthly. It was a book rooted in the 80′s. I continue with that continuity in the IDW title which means that the characters would have to be in their 50′s, 60′s, and 70′s. If I obsessed on this point, I would find the book to be a very unenjoyable experience. If DC wants to acknowledge previous continuity, they need to do so sparingly.

That Batgirl preview is pretty much rendered unreadable by the Post’s small image viewer. PREVIEW FAIL!!!

Yeah, they’re really bad about that. They did the same with the introduction of Lois Lane’s new beau.

I would really love to see something unconventional. I would love to see something experimental, something “next level”, something that takes the experience of reading a comic into new, fresh, modern places. I’m not seeing any of that in these DC comic relaunches. I’m seeing a heavy hand being taken to history and continuity, which are the two things that we are able to use to identify with these characters and invest in their stories. I am not seeing exciting in terms of craftsmanship, design, storytelling style, etc. – just a jumbling of soap opera plots. I’m interested in Batwoman, but it was already distinct and special before all of this DCnU business. I want to see more comics like Marvel’s recent Daredevil reboot. That is a fresh, fun, modern looking comic that pops off the shelves. I want to see the PRODUCT evolve, not just have the fictional universe scrambled up and rebooted. There’s nothing new or original about that. I’m not a hater. Just a “been-there-and-over-it”-er.

I think I’d be more interested in the New 52 if it were really a straight-up reboot instead of this halfway “some things count, others don’t” thing they have going on.

New readers still have to sort out decades worth of continuity, but now they get the additional task of trying to figure out what did and didn’t happen.

I want the stories and characters to evolve, too. So far, looks like DC’s getting cash (my cash, that is) for 8 of the 52. Might jump ship on some, but I can safely say I know for a fact I’ll stick with at least five of the titles. And as for the target audience, as far as what Dan said in creating new interest in comics, my wife, who’s never cared in least about Flashpoint, any type of Crisis or any of Marvel’s arcs, really is interested in “All-Star Western” and “JLA: Dark.” So to catch the attention of someone who doesn’t give a damn about comics much by offering a chance to get in on the ground floor, I’d say they accomplished their mission.

I am suffering from so much event burnout I have gone beyond “hater”. I have entered the realm of total indifference. I no longer have any interest in buying DC comics (or Marvel for that matter) and when people try to talk to me about the new 52 or any other of the DC/Marvel events I usually reply with a polite “that’s nice” and go about my business.

All this press still begs the question: what if this DOESN’T work? What happens then? What will they do?

I’ve stated this before, but for now, I’m not buying into any of this. I’m just going to sit on the sidelines and see what happens. And if they do fail, then at first, I’ll be doing what the devil did in that one lyric to Don McLean’s American Pie: laughing with delight. Then I’ll offer a hand to try and salvage the situation.

Seriously, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to try and see who reads and how old they are. Did DC actually go out and survey? Did they hold focus groups? Did they do anything that lends to their credibility? Did they do ANYTHING????

Wow the same article about the birth of a new line of comics gives us the death of the word “hater”. Circle of life.

What a mature response Acer! You sure are wise!

I will be buying 42 of the new 52! I applaud and love this idea. Friends of mine who have never bought a comic book and live in other countries, are going to purchase at least a couple of DC offerings with the digital initiative.

So I cross my fingers for success.

@Mathdespair
To quote the Transformer Omega Supreme: “SARCASM-NOT APPRECIATED”. But I do ask what can you refute about my queries.

Acer – the saviour of comics!! Bow down before him! Focus groups and surveys – why isn’t every comics company paying you the big $$$$$ to run their company? Maybe they’ll come looking for you after your finished ‘laughing with delight’ at their demise. Or they may not like that approach from someone they hire to be on their marketing team.

All 52 titles could be as good as your precious Daredevil reboot. They have a wide variety of titles thats for sure (although there are certain minorities with alot of disposable income that they are not taking advantage of, I have to say!), but you’ll never know because your ‘sitting on the sidelines’.

@Faust
Look, all I’m saying is that if the industry suffers, maybe either company could benefit from being guided by a hand that is only partially immersed in the comics. And I am saying that I could be that person, if I had the chance; modern comics are so low on my Top 10 that I could bring a balanced, almost Solomon-like perspective to getting them out to the masses. As the old saying goes, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. Seriously, if either DC or Marvel had REALLY bothered to take a closer look at why comic sales are down, they’d notice all the following:
-Barely any kids in the United States of America ACTUALLY READ COMICS, because of distractions like videogames, the lack of comic book racks in grocery stores/drugstores (they could always sell kid-friendly material there), and the fact that most comic shops in this country can be really uninviting places.
-Growing disillusionment (despite purchases) of either older or longtime readers fed up with constant events, rehashes, and character deaths that, while do show increased sales, only delay the inevitable.
-The growing prescence of indie comics and manga.
-Constant executive meddling in almost every property in their stable (which is what ruined many comic books for the past 18 years), sticking thorns in the potential for any NEW comic book character to become popular.
-How the majority of the output of the 90′s was made up of REALLY, REALLY big mistakes.
-How their marketing departments really don’t know anything about what people want in a comic book.
-People are barely READING, period. Thanks to the ever-increasing dominance of the digital market and the entertainment industry’s insistence on chasing its own tail (resulting in constantly recycled ideas and tapping toys, old tv shows, and remakes of movies for source material), not every person is actually READING. Soon enough, maybe we will live up to Brian and Stewie’s song lyric:
all the garbage on the airwaves is a vital thing indeed
‘Cause without it then Americans would have to learn to read.

In short, maybe for once comic companies should actually sit back and listen to their consumers/constituents VERY CAREFULLY. It’s like two people having a conversation; it wouldn’t hurt for comic companies to stop and actually let the other person speak. Both people should each get their turn to have their say. Maybe they should stop hiring speechwriters; perhaps their publicity department should be more honest and do less spinning. They should actually see if the intelligence of the people they’re trying to sell something too ISN’T insulted.

Why do I say all this? Because I’ve made those mistakes myself (well, not the business stuff, the conversational stuff).

(When I said the whole ‘laughing with delight bit’, I was exaggerating. It came from the fact that ever since the New 52 was announced I’ve been humming “American Pie” in my head.)

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