Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
Students of DC Comics’ publishing history can probably rattle off at least a few editors from the company’s first few decades. Whitney Ellsworth edited the Batman and Superman books in the 1940s and ‘50s before becoming a producer on the Adventures of Superman television series. In the Silver Age, Mort Weisinger presided over an exponential expansion of Superman’s mythology, including all those varieties of Kryptonite, the introductions of Supergirl, Krypto and the Legion of Super-Heroes, and ongoing series focused on Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen. Similarly, as editor of the Batman titles, Jack Schiff supervised one of the character’s most recognizable periods, filled with colorful mysteries and giant-sized props.
Of course, the phrase “Silver Age DC” is virtually synonymous with Julius Schwartz, who worked with writers Gardner Fox and John Broome and artists Carmine Infantino, Mike Sekowsky and Gil Kane on rebuilding DC’s superhero line. One could argue fairly reasonably that without them DC Comics as we know it today might not exist (and neither would today’s Marvel).
However, while Ellsworth became DC’s editorial director in 1948, Schwartz Schiff, and Weisinger weren’t in similarly lofty positions. Today we readers hear a lot about “editorial control” and the dreaded “editorial interference,” charges aimed largely at the men at the top: Editor-in-Chief Bob Harras, Co-Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee and Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns. We hear a lot from them (illuminating and otherwise) about the general direction of the company. We also hear a good bit from various writers and artists, including Johns and Lee, regarding specific titles.
Nevertheless, on the management tier in between are the books’ editors themselves; and that’s the area about which I’ve become rather hazy. Therefore, I started looking through New 52 credits boxes, and supplementing this research through the Grand Comics Database, to see who was editing what.
With the departure of Vertigo Executive Editor Karen Berger, speculation has been rife that DC Comics may be closing the door on its nearly 20-year-old mature-readers imprint. Not so, say the publisher’s Senior Vice President of Sales Bob Wayne and Vice President of Marketing John Cunningham.
They’re the two who make the rounds of comics news sites each month to frame DC’s direct-market sales performance, and in their conversation with Comic Book Resources they even managed to sound cheerful about the November chart, in which Marvel had eight of the Top 10 titles.
So take this any way you like, but when asked by ICv2.com about the future of Vertigo, they were pretty upbeat. Here’s what Cunningham had to say:
Comics | The Dundee, Scotland, city council has approved a proposal by publisher DC Thomson to name a street in the city’s west end to honor the Bash Street Kids, stars of the long-running comic strip in The Beano. Dundee already has statues honoring comic characters Desperate Dan and Minnie the Minx. [BBC News]
Comics | Laura Sneddon continues the New Statesmen’s week-long series on comics with a look at children’s comics in the U.K., including the digital relaunch of The Dandy, the continuing popularity of The Beano (which sells a respectable 30,000 copies per week) and the new kid on the block, The Phoenix. [New Statesman]
DC Comics is certainly in no hurry to quash rumors that celebrated Batman writer Scott Snyder is working on a Superman series that would tie into Warner Bros.’ Man of Steel. In fact, company executives appear to be encouraging the whispers — even if they stop just short of confirming them.
Rumblings of a possible Superman comic teaming Snyder with artist Jim Lee arose late last month out of Fan Expo Canada, and followed the publisher over the weekend to Baltimore Comic-Con, where DC’s Senior Vice President of Sales Bob Wayne is said to have sidestepped questions on the subject. But in ICv2.com‘s monthly Q&A with Wayne and Vice President of Marketing John Cunningham, the duo was a little more forthcoming. A little.
Asked to confirm that Snyder will tackle a Superman: Man of Steel series in 2013, Wayne replied, “I certainly won’t confirm that, but I will say that it is reasonable to assume that given the release of Man of Steel next summer, we will come up with a publishing program that will both augment and take advantage of that opportunity.”
If that weren’t clear enough, Cunningham added, “I think that ]a Scott Snyder Superman series] would be great. I’d read that.”
Clearly, DC thinks a lot of people would. With Zack Snyder’s franchise reboot opening June 14, 2013, the publisher still has plenty of time to announce a new series — y’know, if there is one.
Publishing | Bob Wayne, DC Comics’ senior vice president of sales, and John Cunningham, vice president of marketing, discuss May sales figures, which show the publisher edging closer to Marvel in market share and Batman topping Justice League. Wayne also explained why DC won’t change its practice of publishing collected editions first in hardcover, then as inexpensive paperbacks: “While certain titles do get a deluxe or an Absolute Edition at some point, we think our retailer would be leaving a lot of money on the table if we didn’t give consumers the chance to buy hardcovers first on select titles. The sales we are having in both channels on Batman and Justice League in the month of May indicate that we don’t have that many people waiting the trade, looking for that cheaper edition. A lot of people seem to want a nice durable hardcover and we plan to follow this model for the foreseeable future.” [ICv2]
Piracy | Manga scanlators (and proprietors of other bootleg comics sites, such as HTMLComics.com) have argued that reading manga on their sites is no different from checking it out of the library. Librarian and graphic novel expert Robin Brenner explains why that just isn’t so. [About.com]
Less than a year after Dan DiDio indicated that DC Comics wouldn’t alter the sexual orientations of existing characters in the New 52, the co-publisher revealed Saturday at the Kapow! Comic Convention in London that he’s changed his position.
When asked by a fan during a convention panel why race or age could be changed in the relaunch but not sexual orientation, Bleeding Cool reports DiDio responded that a previously established heterosexual character will be reintroduced as “one of our most prominent gay characters.” Bob Wayne, senior vice president of sales, added that like President Obama, DiDio’s stance “has evolved.”
ComicsPRO, the trade organization for direct market comic book retailers, held its annual meeting last week, welcoming retailers from all over for presentations and discussions with various comic companies and other industry reps.
“Advocacy is a vital and important cog in the ComicsPRO machine. Too often, the retail segment is absent when industry plans are formulated and partnerships are forged,” says Joe Field ComicsPRO president, on the group’s website. “As ComicsPRO grows, our goal is to give retailers an equal voice with our other industry partners, so we can take an active role in the decisions that affect all of us.”
Although the meetings are typically closed to the press, some information from the three days in Dallas has come out:
Libraries | A middle school library in New Brunswick, Canada, has been asked to remove Joann Sfar and Lewis Trondheim’s Dungeon series for review after the mother of a 12-year-old student complained about the depictions of sex and violence in one of the volumes. The CTV News reporter goes for the easy gasp by showing the scenes in question to a variety of parents, all of whom agree they don’t think the book belongs in a school library, and in this case the mom has a good point: The book received good reviews but is definitely not for kids. [CTV News]
Publishing | John Jackson Miller has been looking at the fine print in old comics — the statement of ownership, which spells out in exact numbers just how many copies were printed, how many were sold, etc. One of the highlights is Carl Barks’ Uncle Scrooge, which sold more than 1 million copies, making it the top seller of the 1960s. “It’s meaningful, I think, that the best-seller of the 1960s should come from Barks, whose work was originally uncredited and who was known originally to fans as ‘the Good Duck Artist,'” Miller concludes. “Fandom in the 1960s was bringing attention to a lot of people who had previously been unheralded, and Barks is a great example. He changed comics — and now comics were changing.” [The Comichron]
DC Comics Executive Vice President of Sales, Marketing, and Business Development John Rood and Senior Vice President of Sales Bob Wayne try not to gloat too much as they discuss DC’s October sales numbers over at ICv2. (Actually, ICv2 did the gloating for them with the headline “DC Crushes Marvel.”) Thanks to strong sales of the New 52 line, DC took over 42% of the dollar share and 51% of the unit share in the direct market, pushing Marvel down to about 30% in both measures. And the pie got bigger: Single-issue sales were up 24% compared to October 2010. “We’re excited to see the reports from Diamond that we’ve won the month in dollar share and in unit share,” Rood told ICv2. “I consider that ironic as hell, since we don’t price our comics to win any dollar share battles, and we don’t pump out a lot of inventory to win any unit share battles. So the fact that this is happening accidentally just speaks to the readership of the New 52, and the support from our retailers, which we’re so appreciative of.”
In Part 2 of the interview, Rood says that he sees the sales increase coming from new and returning readers, who are in it for the long haul, as opposed to speculators buying issue #1s in the hope that they will become valuable collectors’ items.
He was a bit less forthcoming on the details of DC’s deal to put their graphic novels on Amazon’s Kindle Fire e-reader, refusing to discuss how long the exclusive agreement would last and whether DC was aware that Amazon would price Alan Moore’s Watchmen at $9.99, half the price of the print version.
As for the trade collections of the New 52, the chief difference that readers will see, Wayne said, is a more unified trade dress; the graphic novels are definitely being presented as a jumping-on point for new readers. As to quantity and schedule, he said that the graphic novel releases will be spread out a bit, compared to the fairly concentrated launch of the monthly comics. While DC is publishing fewer comics titles than last year, the number of graphic novels will remain the same because they will be reaching into the vaults to publish older material, and movie tie-ins, in graphic novel form.
If there are any lingering concerns that DC Comics’ sweeping September relaunch — re-branded this week as “The New 52″ — is actually a reboot, the publisher is working doggedly to stomp them out, tackling the issue head on this morning in an email to retailers.
Titled “The New 52 and You,” the message from Senior Vice President-Sales Bob Wayne wades into the thorny issues of continuity, devoting three of the email’s 10 “general” questions specifically to why the initiative isn’t the dreaded R-word. It’s familiar territory for Wayne, who insisted to those same retailers in early June what the New DCU is not. “It is not a ‘reboot,’” he wrote at the time. “I think you will soon discover why that is.”
Why that is, Wayne now explains, is that “a reboot is typically a restart of the story or character that jettisons away everything that happened previously.” That probably amounts to hair-splitting, if not a convenient redefinition of the term, but okay.
“This is a new beginning which builds off the best of the past,” he continues. “For the stories launching as new #1s in September, we have carefully hand-selected the most powerful and pertinent moments in these characters’ lives and stories to remain in the mythology and lore. And then we’ve asked the best creators in the industry to modernize, update and enhance the books with new and exciting tales. The result is that we retained the good stuff, and then make it better.”
The same argument probably could have been put forward in 1986, with the conclusion of Crisis on Infinite Earths, which restarted characters like Superman and Wonder Woman, wiped others out of existence and left still others relatively untouched (but caused many, many problems down the road; see Wonder Girl, Justice League and Justice Society history and the All-Star Squadron, for starters). Similarly, 1994’s Zero Hour scrapped Legion of Super-Heroes continuity, monkeyed with the various Hawkman characters, and changed aspects of Batman’s and Catwoman’s origins while leaving the most powerful and pertinent moments in these characters’ lives.
“It was in DC’s core DNA to protect and serve physical comics stores. To the point where every 18 months or so they’d pay for a hundred comics retailers to attend a special DC conference, where the retailers could moan at them for two days and then go home and order more Marvel comics. (In broad and crude terms, DC were the attentive suitor, while Marvel Comics treated retailers mean to keep them keen.) Now, there is a fascinating situation where DC will polybag special issues of JUSTICE LEAGUE #1 with a digital-comic download code, a book that will cost an extra dollar. Comics are done on firm sale. Which means, as far as I can see, that the retailer is being charged extra money on each copy of that edition too. Maybe I’m wrong, and comics retailers aren’t being offered a reach around while getting a mild pegging. But it’s an interesting kind of support. DC are offering support to retailers in other ways and are making sympathetic noises, but other quotes from this roadshow — one from Bob Wayne, DC’s head of sales, boiled down to ‘if you’re not selling enough of our comics you’re not doing your job’ — tend to suggest that someone at the company has realised that the comics retailers already have a girlfriend and never liked DC anyway.”
The sweeping line-wide retooling of DC Comics’ superhero titles that will see the debut of 52 first issues introducing “a more modern, diverse DC Universe” has been referred to in a number of ways — a renumbering, a relaunch, a revamp. But what it isn’t, apparently, is a “reboot.”
“This is the launch of the New DCU,” DC’s Senior Vice President-Sales Bob Wayne explains in a letter to retailers. “It is not a ‘reboot.’ I think you will soon discover why that is.” Note also that it’s “New DCU” and not, thankfully, “DCNu” (so cut that out).
What differentiates Tuesday’s announcement, with its across-the-board No. 1 issues, promises of new origins and new (younger) ages for some characters and minor changes for others, from a reboot, of course, remains to be seen.
DC revealed the first wave of titles yesterday — 10, plus the earlier announced Justice League by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee — including Wonder Woman by Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang, The Fury of Firestorm by Ethan Van Sciver, Gail Simone and Yildiray Cinar, and Aquaman by Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis, followed this morning by the four Green Lantern books. That leaves 37 more series and creative teams to be parceled out between now and Tuesday, June 13, when the publisher’s September solicitations will be officially released.
Bob Wayne, DC Comics’ vice president of sales and marketing, has been promoted to senior vice president of sales as part of the company’s restructuring.
The announcement was made this morning at the Diamond Retailer Breakfast at New York Comic Con, Bleeding Cool reports. It was also revealed that DC’s sales department will remain in New York City rather than move to Burbank, Calif., like most of the publisher’s other business and administrative operations.
Wayne, former owner of the Fantastic Worlds store chain in Texas, joined DC in 1987, and has been vice president of sales since 2006. It was revealed over the weekend that Wayne’s current supervisor, Senior Vice President-Marketing and Sales Steve Rotterdam, is leaving DC as part of the shakeup.