DC's First Wave line ending?

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201102231254 DC's First Wave line ending?
There are some well-sourced rumblings out there that DC is ending its First Wave line. The First Wave books centered around several pulp heroes, including Doc Savage, The Spirit, the Blackhawks, and Rima the Jungle Girl.

The reason isn’t entirely clear, but the standalone DOC SAVAGE and SPIRIT books were selling below 10K copies, which is well into the danger zone on today’s comics.

First Wave was spearheaded by writer Brian Azzarello a few years ago as a way to expand the DC Universe with some classic adventure characters. The line kicked off with a Batman/Doc Savage team-up and has continued with a First Wave miniseries by Azzarello and Rags Morales which just wrapped up. JG Jones was recently announced to be taking over the DOC SAVAGE book, and he sounded pretty enthused, so it would be a shame if this is true.

UPDATE: This is now being reported and speculated upon in many places. There is some indication that there may be a rights situation involved, as well as low sales.

Comments

  1. It’s to bad cause the books were solid, but no one was buying it in my stores.

  2. As much as I’ve enjoyed this line of comics, this launch has been a mess since the word go. The original mini-series has yet to finish (next week?) and the two spin off series have had rotating creative teams. Now both Doc Savage and the Spirit have lost their back-up stories, so the writing is on the wall.

  3. Too bad, if The Spirit is going to get the axe- all the First Wave nonsense aside, David Hine and Moritat are delivering a solid read every month, and in my opinion they’re doing the best take on the character since Eisner walked away.

  4. Snikt Snakt says:

    Never knew anyone that read them, much less had ANY interest in these old pulp heroes.

    This was destined to fail IMO.

    Ah well, at least DC made some kind of attempt at something beyond superheroes, even if it was half-assed…

  5. LobsterDragon says:

    Not a shock, these were made of fail.

  6. Sorry to hear this, if true. That Spirit series was really solid stuff.

  7. “Ah well, at least DC made some kind of attempt at something beyond superheroes, even if it was half-assed…”

    Batman, The Spirit…sure seemed like superheroes to me.

    Anyway, it was too much too soon. Why a whole line? Why not just the Azzerello miniseries, and then see where things go?

  8. Tom Spurgeon says:

    someone will publish a story soon, but at least one of those books was chopped (sorry, Johnny Bacardi) and probably several more. no one tells me anything, though.

  9. The Doc Savage launch was one of the worst comics I’ve seen in quite awhile. Reshuffling the line-up for the second arc was a vast improvement, but I can’t blame people for not taking a look after how amazingly bad the start was.

  10. Unlike some commenters, I have no problem with pulp heroes, but I did find the line quite muddled, and I HATED what they did with the Spirit, Blackhawk and Batman (packing a sidearm?). The whole thing seemed unfocused, and the creators seemed bent on change for no reason other than making a change. Not exactly solid plotting.
    The redeeming spot for me was the B & W Spirit backups. I will miss those!

  11. Joe Lawler says:

    “Batman, The Spirit…sure seemed like superheroes to me.”

    Didn’t Eisner add a mask to The Spirit as a concession the popularity of superheroes?

    Beyond that and Frank Miller’s belief that he’s Wolverine, The Spirit doesn’t seem too super heroey.

  12. The question isn’t why they were canceled, but why they were started. What was the market for these books? It doesn’t matter how good/bad they are if there isn’t an audience for them, one which can easily find them.

  13. “these were made of fail”

    Did anyone notice the talent on the back-up black-and-white Spirit stories?

    Harlan Ellison, Walter Simonson, Jordi Bernet, Denny O’Neil, Bill Siekiewicz, Kyle Baker, Michael Uslan, Marv Wolfman, Phil Winslade, David Lapham, Michael Wm. Kaluta, Brian Azzarello, Jan Strnad, Richard Corben…

    DC failed to promote the co-features, which was basically “Batman: Black and White” with the Spirit.

    Meanwhile… what’s happening with the Red Circle heroes?

  14. Charles Knight says:

    “what’s happening with the Red Circle heroes?”

    They shuffled back off to nowhere after nobody cared about them or their books.

  15. Tom Spurgeon says:

    Rich is first with an actual story, not hedging their bets with a rumor-story:

    http://www.bleedingcool.com/2011/02/23/first-wave-crashes-dc-to-cancel-line/

    Question marks count, Heidi.

  16. I was waiting for the first trade of Azzarello’s series to check this stuff out. It is scheduled to be released in hardcover in July 2011, seventeen months after issue #1 (of 6) was released. The paperback sometime thereafter.

    That said, I doubt delays were the problem.

  17. Chris Hero says:

    Ever since Cooke left, it hasn’t felt right to see anyone else do The Spirit. His work was *amazing*.

  18. B. Clay Moore says:

    There wasn’t an audience for them, no matter how good they were?

    Nice indictment of the entire industry and its readership.

    -BCM

  19. The launch was completely bungled. The fact that the “launch” series still isn’t finished, the weak teams on the first arcs of the spin-offs and the general sense of aimlessness didn’t set the world on fire.

  20. Tom-

    “Did anyone notice the talent on the back-up black-and-white Spirit stories?”

    No. No one noticed. Probably because DC never really PROMOTED these titles, or whoever was doing the work inside.

    Two questions that publishers never seem to answer these days are:

    “Who is the target audience for this comic?”
    and
    “How do we reach that audience?”

    If a publisher asks the first and the answer is “We don’t really know,” then the series is doomed before it begins.

    Who WAS the target audience for these books?

  21. Oops, I meant,

    Torsten-

  22. Well, actually I’m the audience for a Doc Savage book. Then again, since I’m barely buying anything by DC these days, I’m not sure they want me as a customer.

  23. The Beat says:

    The question mark was answered in the story, as it was in the previous post with a question mark. Rich’s “seems” and
    “I’m told” are not exactly Mike Wallace level reporting.

    BTW for those who asked, Tom is responding to a private email which I sent him.

  24. Tom Spurgeon says:

    I’m sorry I don’t read Beat-ese. A question mark in a headline and a citation of rumblings is a rumor story, not a story-story. I can’t be alone in thinking this, as people qualified their responses to your article with “if true.”

    I’m sure tons of people were curious to ask about the nature of my post in a comments thread but all private, nobody in public. But yeah, it was brought on by an e-mail she sent me, in the exact same way she seems to have answered you curious, nice folks in public rather than in private.

  25. There was some really good work in the Spirit book, both in the lead and back-up stories. The back-up stories in particular were amazing! The Harlan Ellison/Kyle Baker team up from issue 2 was fantastic, as was the Kaluta illustrated one from issue, um, 5? I think? Ladronn’s covers have also been gorgeous.

    Doc Savage seems to be changing art teams every other issue, which has been disconcerting. I was really looking forward to seeing what JG Jones was going to do with the book. Ah, well…

  26. LobsterDragon says:

    big name talent alone won’t sell a book. Witness Millar and Hitch on FF. Certain characters just have sales ceilings, and pulp heroes are gonna have a damn low one.

  27. Tom Spurgeon says:

    And who the heck says it’s Mike Wallace reporting? Sheesh. I went with the story without a question mark in the headline.

    If you’d like to vet my links, I’ll have Jordan send you a password.

  28. As both a Doc Savage and The Spirit fan, I was the target market for this book. The whole concept had great potential.

    It’s a tough market out there.

  29. The Beat says:

    I’d like to suggest this thread be used for discussing the First Wave fail and not comics journalism. Hoping that Tom has had his say, I will delete further posts. We can all try again in the morning, okay?

  30. Tom, I don’t believe that at all. I’ve been known to use a question mark, often to keep sources obsfucated. I didn’t see Heidi’s piece before writing my own, but I’d bet her sources weren’t far from mine.

    She beat me to the story on this. Nice one, Heidi.

  31. By the way, who is Mike Wallace? Okay, okay, I know, off to Wikipedia I go…

  32. Laird says:

    Tom Spurgeon must be high….
    The question mark was obviously a tease into the depths of the article. It was quite clear and obvious to me that Heidi broke this story.

    Why are you so stuck on semantics, Tom? That’s exactly the kind of long-winded overanalysis that bogs down the writing on your blog, IMO. Your overwriting never quits!

  33. Tom Spurgeon says:

    I can’t help you if you don’t believe it, Rich, but that’s how I operate. I run question marks in headlines, too, but I expect people to treat the ones where I don’t run question marks differently than those I do. Because questions and statements are different! I’m not sure why this is a difficult principle to parse.

    If there’s no difference between your question mark-headline stories and your statement-headline stories, I’m glad to know it and will adjust accordingly.

    If neither of you likes my incredibly baffling strategy, you can run your own sites any way you’d like, and I’m sure you do.

    No fair deleting this one and keeping Rich’s, Heidi.

  34. Tom Spurgeon says:

    Laird, thank you for playing. I’m sorry that you don’t like my writing, but appreciate your apparently having given it a try. I do overwrite, and wish I could write much more effectively. I’m continually grateful for those who find some value in what I do.

    I’m still not sure how on earth thinking question mark = rumor; statement = not a rumor is over-thinking things, while sitting down and parsing the content of the two stories for my off-hand link isn’t just over-thinking but borderline insane, but I realize others may disagree with me and clearly you do.

  35. The Beat says:

    Well since no one will respect my wishes, I have since found out that a technical glitch confounded my burning desire to break this story — usually when a story posts it goes out on my twitter feed but since Twitter has been on and off all day, in this case…dum dum dum…THE TWEET NEVER POSTED. I was wondering why I had no retweets but was too busy to investigate until Question-mark-gate broke all over the web.

  36. Tom Spurgeon says:

    Much more importantly, I’m very sorry for the creators that lost their gigs today, and I hope every one of them will do well in a tough freelancing market finding a gig to replace this just-ended one. I wasn’t aware of most of the books, but I like Moritat quite a bit and enjoyed the Spirit work of his I’d caught. I look forward to hopefully reading someone with a better sense of mainstream comics than I have and with specific knowledge of these books to dig into why the line failed, because there were a lot of talented folks involved and a lot of those characters are all-time greats. Hopefully the next bunch of books will do better for these having come before them.

  37. I love pulp characters, but this was a misfire from the get go. First Wave itself became such a delayed book that it couldn’t serve as a viable launch/spine for any spin-off series that were meant to result from it. It’s what … a six issue series … that STILL hasn’t finished? Ridiculous.

    And the two series — Doc Savage and the Spirit — were variable in quality. The Spirit wasn’t bad, but “wasn’t bad” will not go far in today’s market. Doc Savage, on the other hand, has been horrible. I LOVE the character, but cannot stand this particular iteration of him. There’s been nothing worth getting excited about, which is a true pity since Doc Savage should be experiencing Tom Strong type of larger than life adventures, not the meandering deconstruction of the character that the first arc introduced, and has cast a pall on the stories since.

    If the First Wave fades, it won’t be a surprise. A disappointment, though, given the history of the characters.

  38. Sorry Heidi, I didn’t see your post before I posted. Apologies.

  39. I LOVE Doc Savage, own all the PBs & a couple pulps. I was looking forward to introducing my 12-year-old to the character. Then came the $3.99 cover price w/mediocre art. I thought, “Maybe I’ll wait for the trade.” I barely picked them up after that, though the issues I did were unimpressive.

    I agree w/those who said a slow roll-out made more sense. Oh well. Gotta wait another decade before anyone else gives him a try.

  40. Nick Jones says:

    Before clicking the link, I had no idea what “First Wave” even was. So much of what comes out from DC or Marvel in the press is hype for the big (bloated, poorly-written) line-wide events that they keep pushing, and the fact that there is something like a Doc Savage comic out there too is easily lost in the shuffle.

  41. mpneeb says:

    >>I was waiting for the first trade of Azzarello’s series to check this stuff out. It is scheduled to be released in hardcover in July 2011, seventeen months after issue #1 (of 6) was released. The paperback sometime thereafter.<<

    I was trade-waiting, too. But since I never saw a TPB solicitation I forgot the line existed.

    I mean, did DC really think characters that had sketchy publication schedules since the 1940s were going to sell? And did they think drawn out publication schedules would endear them to readers?

    What's up with the culture out there in New York?

    And since the Red Circle heroes were mentioned… No one cared about them before the were introduced into the DCU (a process that took almost 2 years from announcement to introduction). No one cared about them during their (brief) runs. No one cares about them now.

  42. Abhay says:

    They didn’t clearly introduce the characters to new readers– the books seemed like they assumed readers would care about an endless, endless host of pulp characters who haven’t been popular in decades, dumped together all at once.

    The launch miniseries was a crossover event (!!!) with a muddled story, no noticeable narrative hook (something about a robot in South America…?), and few sympathetic characters. It never successfully gave anyone any reason to care about what was going on.

    They had barely started the launch miniseries when they launched two wildly unnecessary spin-offs. They raised the rent on readers before readers had decided if they wanted to move in…

    The creative teams on those spin-offs were in flux almost from the get-go. The writer picked to launch Doc Savage had never written a comic before of any significant length, at least according to comicbookdb. I think he’d only written a single novel, prior. He was teamed with Howard Porter.

    The comics didn’t come out on time. The comics didn’t come out on time. The comics didn’t come out on time. The launch miniseries– according to comicbookdb, First Wave #2 came out in June 2010. First Wave #3 came out in September 2010. The end.

    Some of the writers seemed to be trying; some of the books were quite nice to look at; the SPIRIT back-ups were pretty great; some of the artists were decent; a lot of work seemed to have gone into the world building; there was some unrealized amount of promise there. All that effort– well, it must be a disappointment to those involved, but hopefully they’ve learned many, many, many, many valuable lessons as to what not do in the future. And/or have a good time blaming the fans.

  43. Abhay says:

    “according to comicbookdb”

    Oh wait– those dates don’t look right; those are cover dates. Whoops– nevermind about that. Sorry.

  44. I look forward to hopefully reading someone with a better sense of mainstream comics than I have and with specific knowledge of these books to dig into why the line failed, because there were a lot of talented folks involved and a lot of those characters are all-time greats.

    I think Abhay pretty much answered that. But I can chime in with my own, outsidery knowledge.

    DC Comics has some difficulty promoting just about anything that isn’t Batman or Green Lantern, and the further they get away from that, the more likely books are to fail—Veritgo, WildStorm, Red Circle, etc—none of these do are have been doing great in the direct market as serial comics.

    These books were set on, like, an Earth-Pulp, where there were some Pulp versions of DC heroes (Batman, Black Canary, Blackhawk) interacting with Doc Savage and the like.

    The big problem seemed to be over-expansion way too quickly. There was a Doc Savage/Batman special that wasn’t very good, followed by a six-issue “First Wave” miniseries that was supposed to introduce these new versions of these characters.

    If I’m remembering correctly, they launched a $4, 30-page Doc Savage + back-up book and a $4, 30-page Spirit + Spirit back-up book immediately after publishing the first issue of the six-issue mini (And only a few months after the previous Spirit book was canceled, selling in far below 10K).

    In other words, before anyone had any idea if anyone was the least bit interested in a single “First Wave” book, let alone three of ‘em a month. I think they got their answer, but they greatly accelerated it being a negative answer by how fast they expanded the line.

    I was trade-waiting that mini, and still am.

  45. Well, it was another line of superhero books in a market that already has too many of them for the audience to buy.

    As a reader and observer, it seems to me that, if companies like DC think there’s an urge for even MORE superhero comics out there that absolutely needs to be satisfied, then the very least they could attempt would be to do something that’s very different from what’s already out there, serves as an outlet for bold and innovative storytelling options that are too risky for the established books, and GET PEOPLE TALKING about the material. Even in a worst-case scenario, that at least probably gets you a bunch of fresh, enthusiastic new talent with some critical acclaim in their corner that you can build on.

    There must be a very good reason that I’m not aware of why they opt to do more plot-driven and redundant things like First Wave, the last eight years’ worth of WildStorm Universe and Red Circle instead.

  46. Some folks wonder why publish a book with no target audience. Some folks are idiots.

    You could argue that there is no target audience for any character, until said character debuts, or unless it’s a spin-off of an existing character.

    DOC SAVAGE was/is popular among people who read novels. I think his stories are too complex for people who like to look at pictures, hence the spotty history in comics.

    Then again, none of these comics looked intriguing enough for a died-in-the-wool pulp fan like myself to pick them up. The artwork for the AVENGER back-up feature (in DOC SAVAGE) was wretched.

  47. William O'Brien says:

    What they probably should have done is just have the Batman/Savage one shot serve as the first issue of an ongoing Batman:First Wave and (gradually) spin-off the other characters from that. Batman sells, and why put him in the line if you aren’t going to exploit that?

    As for the books themselves, I’m agreed with most that the Spirit backups were the strongest material. Just like DCU Legacies, the backups were the selling point rather than the main feature.

  48. moritat says:

    i have to say i’m having a ball reading all this. i want to thank all of you for the nice words.
    i had a blast working on the spirit.
    it was a honor to have been picked to do this series. But, spending long hours researching and getting the feel for the historical lower eastside(and parts of chicago)is, was a dream job.

  49. Charles Martin says:

    Could you journalist/blogger/reporter types try keeping your childish personal sniping to yourselves and let the grown-ups talk about comics? Your petty problems with each other aren’t as interesting as you seem to think. Thanks.

  50. john layman says:

    Get back to more Elephantmen, Moritat. That stuff was wonderful!

  51. mauvecanary says:

    “DOC SAVAGE was/is popular among people who read novels. I think his stories are too complex for people who like to look at pictures, hence the spotty history in comics.”

    That’s a great point. It’s too bad First Wave didn’t really have that kind of writing because the art in the main stories sure didn’t hold my attention.

    I love those old pulp characters, have plenty of the paperback reprints of the pulp characters such as The Shadow, Doc Savage, The Avenger. And the one shot that launched this series showed great promise and energy. But the series had none of that same lever of energy. It was pretty bland writing.

    But this isn’t a problem exclusive to First Wave. The old Denny O’Neil Shadow and The Avenger comics from the 70s were equally inconsistant and bland (but the Kaluta art was killer). I always hope these pulp characters will catch on and whenever they’re dusted off I always try to be supportive. But with the exception of the First Wave one shot, the series just didn’t have that old fashioned, fun sense of adventure. It was a bit of a drag actually.

    But I liked seeing golden age, gun toting Batman again. I’d actually like to see a series about batman (and the other more “pulpier” characters) that takes place in the 30s. I thought the first few issues of DC Legacies that took place in the 30s was a lot of fun and I’d like to see the idea of “period” stuff explored. It worked well with Sandman Mystery Theatre and Roy Thomas’s ww2 era stories that he did for DC and Marvel during the 70s.

  52. Laird says:

    Spurgeon,

    Seriously, you have your own site to over-analyze and over-write on, do you have to come on this site and Spurge-splurge all over it, too.
    Hey, your postings here only expose how petty you are to sweat Heidi over her story when it’s not even the point who broke it first. You totally derailed the entire thread of its real topic, like you do your own thoughts on your own site.
    Whine and self-deprecate away, but when was the last time YOU broke a real story?
    You’re more blowhard than writer and on top of your woes, you’ll never, ever get an “A” from Kool Mo Dee for sticking to themes. FLUNK!

  53. “Rich” (not Rich Johnston) said – “The artwork for the AVENGER back-up feature (in DOC SAVAGE) was wretched.”

    I found Scott Hampton’s artwork to be hauntingly breathtaking and enjoyed his unique artwork on the Avenger immensely. Such a shame that his work doesn’t appeal to more folks.

  54. Tom Spurgeon says:

    Abhay, Marc-Oliver, all: thanks, that’s very enlightening. Thanks, Moritat; that’s a lovely grace note.

    Laird, I do get my share of stories and some of them I get first, but it’s not a specific priority of mine nor do I believe it’s worth calling special attention to that fact, let alone e-mailing people to complain and make accusations about how I’m linked to. I’d rather have that discussion in her house than in my inbox, which may have been rude, but it was not a discussion instigated by me. It has been recently brought to my attention that it’s good to bring people traffic, so hopefully I’ve done some of that.

    I’m sorry you don’t like my work; you’re welcome to write long letters to my site about how much I suck if you’d like to follow your own advice not to talk about that stuff here. You’re also welcome to contribute to the First Wave discussion any time.

    As for First Wave, I’m astonished that it seems so fundamentally poorly executed — the initial mini-series never completed? — and am kind of baffled that this kind of thing seems to happen over and over. The line someone used above that there’s an expectation for this sort of creative effort to have a natural audience seems telling to me, a potentially willful denial about the shape and size and nature of the audience, which is interesting for DC because I thought their marketing changes of the last five years were in part to bring better information over who buys their comics and why.

    The horrible thing is that if you criticize an initiative like this, and if such criticism leads a company like DC to further circled the wagons and further focus on its absolute core characters, the industry loses a bunch of great gigs that are right for a lot of talented artists, in addition to the value of the books that are created. I wonder if this isn’t the natural outcome of a value system that stresses merchandising and licensing success over publishing success, that it’s a natural tendency to want to gravitate to or attach oneself to the bigger properties and their synergistic success rather than the hard work of building what might only be a modest success. I hope not, and I hope these kinds of things keep on being done.

    Thank you for this discussion, and I apologize for the ways I detracted from it.

  55. “I was trade-waiting that mini, and still am.”

    Same here. The collection of the launch miniseries seemed like a good way to check out if this line was something for me. Oh well.

  56. Tom Spurgeon says:

    Scott Hampton’s work is generally great and I look forward to tracking down the Avenger work.

  57. A comic line featuring characters that are over 50, 60 years old and haven’t been popular since the last 40 years fails?
    I am truly shocked!!

    This was to have the IP’s of those characters active and see if Warner’s would be tempted to develop one or two into movie. Right?

  58. I would have liked a First Wave serialized anthology. However, hearing about all the talent involved has me interested in the trade. Maybe promoting your trades by cancelling on-going series could be a new strategy.

  59. JG Jones says:

    I got a call from my father this week. The house I grew up in as a child exploded and burned to the ground. No one was hurt, and I’ve not lived there since I was a kid, but it seemed an interesting bit of sychronicity, as I also received the news that Doc Savage, my childhood hero, was going to bite the dust, as well. Ashes to ashes. All fall down.

    I knew this was coming, but had been promised that my six issues would see print before the franchise folded. The second axe came down a few days ago, and all the FW franchise books were on the block.

    It was hardly a surprise, as the books sold miserably. It’s simple economics. If it doesn’t have a green ring or pointy ears, no one is interested. Still, it’s a bitter pill to swallow for someone who has a great love for these characters, and who slaved over the details of making a really fun, pulp flavored romp for Doc Savage and his crew.
    That’s show biz, boys and girls.

    I’ve been at this a while now: I closed down two companies with Jim Shooter, bounced over to Crusade with Billy Tucci, before moving on to Marvel Knights and beyond. There has never been much security for the titles or creators in comics. You can be the flavor of the month one week, and out on your backside the next. And now, with the endless speculation of the bloggity bloggosphere, you get to read about how much you suck, as well.

    Nothing to do but dust off and move on.

  60. Sphinx Magoo says:

    Truly, a line like this deserved better publicity, but DC rarely if ever publicizes anything in its own books anymore. The only time I see publicity for DC books is within the DC Kids line where ads try to lure my kids into reading their “more mature” versions of Batman, Superman and Teen Titans.

    Please.

    As if.

    A line like First Wave deserves web banner ads with cool retro graphics, all over WB’s websites. Heck, so do all the video game tie-in books, and those should be hitting sites like Gamestop and IGN too.

    DC’s gotta get with the game. How are books going to sell if no one knows you put them out? That line of thinking killed Jinx and Wildstorm and CMX. Everyone agrees it’s good stuff, but how will anyone buy it?

  61. As silly as the above blog sniping has been (are we really arguing about a question mark?) I really appreciate the First Wave creators popping in to give their perspective.

  62. Al™ says:

    I know I’m in a minority, but I’m a sucker for Golden-Age-tinged pulpy tales. But I have a very low tolerance for tinkering with icons, and something about this First Wave didn’t sit well with me.

    Okay, those are vague comments, but the bottom line is that I was a possible buyer for this concept. But I only picked up an issue or two early on, then stopped buying in.

  63. I’m just disappointed that my friend Bob Larkin was never given an opportunity to provide a Doc Savage cover painting for the series. After James Bama, Bob is the artist most associated with the character.

    And it’s not like the idea wasn’t presented to DC…

  64. I didn’t contribute to this conversation because it’s been said many times over: love the pulp characters but evidently they’re not commercial enough in this day and age, when comics have become so marginalized that Spider-Man sells in the 60K range (so how can Doc Savage or Spirit, not mainstream, household name characters really, sell even a smidge of that?)

    The Spirit is a special case, though. As good as it is on its own terms, trying to recreate Will Eisner is like remaking a Billy Wilder film: pure folly!

  65. KillJoy says:

    This line started with a one-shot which I bought.

    And then it was supposed to be followed by a mini-series which I planned to buy.

    Before the mini-series it was announced that the mini would also tie-in with 3 or 4 other series and that everything would be $3.99 due to back-ups or something.

    I can follow a mini for fun. I can’t follow 5 books at $3.99. They gave me an opt out in their press releases and I took that opt out and haven’t looked back.

    The market probably could have sustained a mini-series or one on-going. But 4 or 5 books in a separate line? No way. We’re all hurting enough as it is cash wise trying to follow the main-line DCU.

    It was financially impossible for most people to buy that many books, so people didn’t.

  66. Jeez, after reading some of these comments, now I wonder if there ever even WILL be trades of some of this stuff…

  67. KillJoy says:

    wow that Abhay guy had a great analogy for what I felt.

    “They had barely started the launch miniseries when they launched two wildly unnecessary spin-offs. They raised the rent on readers before readers had decided if they wanted to move in…”

    Yeah. That’s exactly what happened.

  68. Shawn Kane says:

    I loved the concept and was bored by the execution. The Spirit worked for me on its own but Doc Savage and the actual First Wave mini just had me question why I was spending $3.99 for each issue. DC also unloaded the Red Circle characters and the Milestone characters at the same time. Once again more potential but the price and pure quantity of titles made it impossible for me to keep up and continue buying my usual stuff. It was poorly planned.

  69. Sean Ruprecht-Belt says:

    A viable marketing plan for these books seems like a no-brainer and I’m surprised that DC couldn’t manage it. Most of these characters have huge name recognition and a sizeable following already. Expanding it should have been easy. A rational strategy would seem to have been to get the word out to buyers within the comic book community (which they did pretty well with in Newsarama, CBR, etc.) and reach out to the larger potential audience with advertising on entertainment websites, Facebook, and other outlets that WB is already using.

    Of course, once you’ve got the interest of the buying public, you’ve got to deliver the product, which DC didn’t manage well. It would have seemed that the better strategy would have been to skip the mini-series altogether and to have published, in fairly rapid succession – maybe over two months, the Batman/Doc Savage one shot and then the mini’s material as a graphic novel instead of a series of floppies.

    Once the graphic novel is out, then you can diversify the line with a slow roll out of monthly series (these would have to have high quality writing and artists as well as staying on a regular schedule or you’d lose whatever audience you’ve built) or a series of graphic novels on a twice yearly schedule. If these stories were visually appealing and dynamic as well as being fun (and reasonably on time!) I would think you’d appeal to a wide range of ages and incomes. Sort of like the pulps did in the first half of the 20th century!

  70. KillJoy says:

    Huge name recognition? Seriously?

    I’m 29. My DAD wasn’t even alive when Doc Savage was popular.

    Seriously.

    I only know who Doc Savage is cause I got curious about Axel Brass in Planetary and stared googling to try to figure out who he was based off of.

    Superman has “huge name recognition”
    Doc Savage has vague out-dated recognition among an extremely small sub-set of consumers.

  71. I have to say, I’m grateful for the line introducing me to the art of Moritat. I was very resistant to any new Spirit stories after Cooke left, but his art really drew me in.

  72. Nick Jones says:

    “If it doesn’t have a green ring or pointy ears, no one is interested.”

    A few years ago this would have been an S on the chest and some similar reference to the Justice League that I cannot come up with off the top of my head. People want Green Lantern and Batman right now because DC has made a concerted effort to get people to read books featuring those characters. Hal Bor… ahem… Jordan and Bruce Wayne have been the focus of almost every (obese, ill-conceived) major event for a while now (Green Lantern: Rebirth, Sinestro Corps War, Blackest Night, and Brightest Day on one side, with Death of Bruce Wayne, Battle for the Cowl, and Return of Bruce Wayne on the other), with DC Comics advertizing the hell out of them and telling people that those stories were important. If First Wave, Doc Savage, or the Spirit had gotten the same sort of attention from the company producing them, the results would have been a lot different. I don’t doubt that there is a modern audience for retro stories and pulp heroes, but DC utterly failed to reach it.

  73. It’s sad to say this, but if the launch of the First Wave line had gotten as much attention as canceling it has, it’d have been a hit.

    DC should have sent a press release:

    DC LAUNCHES FIRST WAVE?

    That would have done it.

  74. @Kurt – LOL! Thanks, I needed a good laugh today.

  75. Joe Lawler:
    “The Spirit doesn’t seem too super heroey.”

    Sure: a guy with a distinctive costume and mask, who has a secret hideout and various gagets, and a sidekick, who spends all of his time fighting crime, who has a frickin’ secret origin, is absolutely nothing like a superhero.

    How ridiculously restrictive is your definition of “superhero,” anyway? The Spirit is essentially Batman in a different outfit.

    rich:
    “DOC SAVAGE was/is popular among people who read novels.”

    The word you want is “was”; there hasn’t been a substantial Doc Savage book-publishing operation since at least the early ’80s, and it was teetering then. There was a boom in the late ’60s and early ’70s, but that was forty years ago — a lot of things were popular forty years ago. And even that was an echo; Doc Savage’s real surge of popularity was seventy-some years ago.

  76. nWoJeffDW says:

    This series needed to get a trade out faster as that is what I was waiting for. Also the price was too high for people to try it out.

    It also needed the Shadow.

  77. I suspect as long as (a) Marvel and DC remain the best chance creators get at a page rate and a steady paycheck and (b) neither the two companies nor the creators they hire feel they have much of an incentive to create new properties and be bold in their approach to storytelling in that context, we will keep seeing lines like this one: half-heartedly promoted and treated as surplus to requirement by the company, with real creative or commercial success a happy accident at best.

    I’d love to see more talented people do the comics they want, as they want them. But as long as creators need to eat and feed their families and the big publishers don’t feel inclined to focus on anything but their existing core franchises, my best hope for that right now rests with digital publishing.

  78. Kid Kyoto says:

    What’s sad is DC has a viable format for books like these – the presitge format. 64 pages, no ads, card cover and a spine. This would make it look like pulp magazines and their reprints.

    Then they could market them to the small but very loyal pulp fan community and they’d feel like they’re getting a reasonable product. they could even throw in a 2-4 page illustrated text story as a back up.

    Once DC had 3 or 4 of them they could collect the books into normal TPBs.

    The ad-filled monthly pamphlet, especially at $4, and especially when it’s shipping super late, is just a death sentence.

  79. The Beat says:

    Busiek wins.

  80. SvenJ says:

    “Huge name recognition? Seriously?”

    thank you Killjoy!!

    “It’s sad to say this, but if the launch of the First Wave line had gotten as much attention as canceling it has, it’d have been a hit.”

    so, Kurt, are you confusing 78 comments on a Beat article with a viable audience for product?

  81. Nick Jones: “advertizing the hell out of them and telling people that those stories were important.”

    That’s the key thing: lots of DC & Marvel readers care mainly about whether a book is “important” to the overall universe. If it’s off in a side corner of reality, they don’t care unless it’s a character or creative team they like, but if it’s IMPORTANT, they care about it no matter who’s writing, drawing, or starring in it (sometimes to the extent that they’ll complain about all these extra books that they’re being “forced” to buy).

    Even big events aren’t immune. I’ve seen a lot of comments along the lines of “If Flashpoint is really just an Elseworlds, I don’t care,” despite DC’s effort to insist that no, really, this is the real DC Universe that’s being affected, so it’s IMPORTANT.

  82. Mike Hansen says:

    mauvecanary, if you like Sandman Mystery Theatre, I highly recommend Green Hornet: Year One (also written by Matt Wagner).

    Not much to add to the above, except to agree that the line’s failure wasn’t the creators’ fault (the Spirit and its backups were especially good) – the blame can be laid at the feet of DC Marketing (for terrible promotion) and Editorial (for pumping them out before an audience was developed).

    I hope the new executive in charge of DC’s marketing will fix the company’s ever-growing pile of sales disasters soon.

  83. “That’s the key thing: lots of DC & Marvel readers care mainly about whether a book is “important” to the overall universe.”

    It takes two to play that game, though. Both big publishers have been training their audience to look for that kind of “importance” for the last five years.

  84. This is absolutely the kind of project that called for super-sized done in ones or OGNs aimed squarely at the likely audience, that being older readers who have more disposable income (in a hobby that demands a pretty high degree of that to begin with.) To have the characters and creators’ work on these book thrown out in the DM without regard to this is mind-boggling.

    But no more mind-boggling than comics as usual.

  85. Laird says:

    Let’s face it, these characters have no chance. Again, if Superman and Spider-Man, with their global recognition, can barely sell a percentage of the comics they once did, what chance do these characters from the ’20s that only people of a certain age remember?
    Nobody under 45 or 50 is going to go nuts over a revival of Doc Savage and Rima….even the Spirit is questionable. Not saying they’re not great characters, the audience is just not there. It’s fringe at best.

  86. Steve says:

    1. I only having been buying Doom Patrol and the Astro City Specials from DC over the last eighteen months. I knew of the First Wave from a preview in Doom Patrol. DC marketing did do something.
    2. Back in 2000, the third issue of Orion had a lead story by Walt Simonson and a back-up by Frank Miller. The book did not crack the top 100. Great classic creators don’t seem to help properties that have been historically weak sellers. In the First Wave case, even the 80s books did not sell well. It’s not the creators, it’s the properties.
    3. It is a pain in the rear end to find low selling DC titles. My ability to find a shelf copy of Doom Patrol on the day of release was 50/50 in well stocked stores in Chicago and its suburbs. So unless you are a pull-list customer who adds these books to a list, you are going to have a hard time finding and buying a line. Conversely if you already are buying a line of comics, were you going to add a line in the last year and a half in the bad economy?
    4. To Heidi, Rich and Tom: I feel like Wonder Woman, Batman and Superman are fighting. Rich, if you want to do an Infinite Crisis parody comic send me a comp.

  87. “It also needed the Shadow.”

    I think the gun-toting Batman was a side-step around paying an additional licensing fee for The Shadow.

  88. >> so, Kurt, are you confusing 78 comments on a Beat article with a viable audience for product? >>

    Clearly.

    Just like I was seriously suggesting that putting a question mark in the headline of a press release would have affected sales.

  89. I strongly encourage the notion of more question marks in DC’s press releases, for what it’s worth.

    “Nick Spencer to take over SUPERGIRL?”

    “Marc Guggenheim new ACTION COMICS writer?”

    “Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason to follow Grant Morrison on BATMAN AND ROBIN?”

    “David Finch to launch new monthly BATMAN title?”

    “Straczynski to pen SUPERMAN and WONDER WOMAN?”

  90. My take on this whole fiasco is that you can’t just set Doc Savage and his Amazing Five in contemporay times. They are period dramas set in the thirties and forties- plain and simple. Running around with cellphones and Doc Savage bantering with kids over baseball teams doesn’t work.

    I blogged about the current Doc Savage series do’s and don’t last month (dated January 20th)on my myspace blog:

    http://www.myspace.com/purplepinupguru/blog

    I know Doc Savage like the back of my hand- been reading the paperbacks since I’ve been in training pants, but did DC ask me to contribute an arc? No.

    But then again, I would probably have had Pat Savage running around as a clingy $50 an hour crack whore if I did.

    ~

    Coat

  91. mauvecanary says:

    “there hasn’t been a substantial Doc Savage book-publishing operation since at least the early ’80s”

    That’s not entirely true. Nostalgia Ventures put out a great series of pulp sized trades reprinting Doc Savage, The Spider and The Shadow. Each trade had two stories with one of the stories original pulp cover used as the trades cover art. They were printing them for 5 or 6 years pretty steadily between 05 and 09 and selling them on their site and on amazon.

    @Kid Kyoto, I like that idea. I wouldn’t even mind a cheap format instead of prestige.

    @mike hansen, thanks for the suggestion. I did buy Wagners hornet and it wasn’t bad.

  92. “That’s not entirely true. Nostalgia Ventures put out a great series of pulp sized trades reprinting Doc Savage, The Spider and The Shadow. Each trade had two stories with one of the stories original pulp cover used as the trades cover art. They were printing them for 5 or 6 years pretty steadily between 05 and 09 and selling them on their site and on amazon.”

    That’s Anthony Tollin’s Sanctum Books. Sanctum had a deal with Nostalgia initially, but are currently publishing the books themselves: Doc Savage, The Shadow and The Avenger. The Spider is by another publisher. These books are still being produced every month (a bit longer for the Avenger). In pulp circles, these are mana from heaven. Great stuff.

    http://members.cox.net/comingattractions3/docsavage.html

    http://www.shadowsanctum.com/pulps.html

  93. >> “there hasn’t been a substantial Doc Savage book-publishing operation since at least the early ’80s”

    >> That’s not entirely true. Nostalgia Ventures put out a great series of pulp sized trades reprinting Doc Savage, The Spider and The Shadow.>>

    I’m not sure that’s really the kind of “substantial Doc Savage book publishing operation” he means. I’d guess Andrew was referring to the kind of publishing operation that gets books widely on shelves and makes the name prominent to new would-be readers. The Nostalgia Ventures series sounds like a hobbyist-oriented line aimed at people who are already pulp fans.

    Nothing wrong with that, of course, but it’s not the sort of thing that reestablishes a project in the public consciousness.

  94. Just for the record, every time I think of the headline “DC Launches First Wave?” I burst into uncontrollable giggles. Thank you, Kurt Busiek!

  95. Laird says:

    G-GET G-GET G-GET GET BUSIEK, Y’ALL!

    Wiki-wiki-SCRATCH!

  96. Kurt – The Nostalgia Ventures line of Doc Savage and Shadow reprints used to be heavily promoted in all the Border’s bookstores. I bought the first dozen or so Shadow ones from there.

    ~

    Coat

  97. “There wasn’t an audience for them, no matter how good they were?

    Nice indictment of the entire industry and its readership.”

    It is “nice” in that it’s entirely accurate, just as it is in every single other branch of media. Quality doesn’t necessarily equal success, in any medium, ever. There’s nothing special about comics, so why should anyone pretend otherwise?

  98. “I’m not sure that’s really the kind of “substantial Doc Savage book publishing operation” he means. I’d guess Andrew was referring to the kind of publishing operation that gets books widely on shelves and makes the name prominent to new would-be readers. The Nostalgia Ventures series sounds like a hobbyist-oriented line aimed at people who are already pulp fans.

    Nothing wrong with that, of course, but it’s not the sort of thing that reestablishes a project in the public consciousness.”

    Hi Kurt! Don’t mean to be too contrary, but the Doc and Shadow books by Nostalgia are just an Amazon click away… and there are a LOT of ‘em now. Cheap and out on a regular basis. Featuring the real deal and not a fractured reinterpretation. So if someone outside of pulp or comics wanted to dip a toe into the original stuff, it’s out there and very easy to get. Just the kind of ground-level publishing initiative that reestablishes a project (or character/s) in the public consciousness I would have thought. Or have I missed your point?

  99. Are we talking about scale of distribution and marketing budget alone?

  100. The best thing about this thread is that the whole world can read it and see that “Journalism Nerd Court” is in every way as tedious as “Comic Book Nerd Court.”

  101. >> Don’t mean to be too contrary, but the Doc and Shadow books by Nostalgia are just an Amazon click away… and there are a LOT of ‘em now.>>

    This is one of the perils of the modern day world. Something can be “a click away,” but that doesn’t mean anyone’s being exposed to it who isn’t already looking for it.

    Being available an Amazon to people who already have enough knowledge to go looking is not the same thing as a publishing program that’ll make the titles popular again with a new generation of browsers. Being on bookstore shelves doesn’t seem to have done it either — which isn’t a knock on the publisher, merely a recognition that the publishers who repubbed the books in the 1970s were able to make a bigger noise with them.

    It’s good that they’re available. But that’s not the same thing as them being in the public consciousness.

  102. I think the only reason the 1970s publishers were able to “make a bigger noise” is because the paperback industry was still strongly oriented then (as it is not now) to providing the readership with tons and tons of throwaway novels with the same pulpy air as the old magazines.

    Now, other factors played a part, too: Doc’s gadgety SF elements helped sell the series while the Shadow reprints floundered, apparently unable to compete with modern mundane adventurers like the Executioner and the Death Merchant.

    Still, I lived through that period and I had the impression that Doc Savage paperbacks were as much a niche venture as the current magazine-sized reprints. Did people not involved in fantasy-fandom recognize Doc’s name the way they knew that of James Bond? I tend to think that most “outsiders” back then heard about the George Pal movie and immediately said, “Doc who?”

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