The Bigger Picture Behind DC’s Latest Moves

enhanced-buzz-28554-1359568093-14.jpgDC announced a few more cancellations and creator switches yesterday.  That’s not unusual in the days leading up to releasing the next batch of solicitations.  A six-title cancellation is a little larger than we’re used to seeing, but there’s a slightly bigger picture on the business side of things.

First off, the titles that were cancelled were selling poorly.  Very poorly.  By the numbers, some were overdue for the chop.  Some of the titles, DC has given every possible chance.  Firestorm, in particular was given a lot of leeway.  If the powers that be liked canceling titles, that one would have been gone a long time ago.

If you look at DC’s overall sales, everything’s been pretty stable for the last 8-10 months.  DC’s been recycling failed series and launching new ones.  It evened out.  More importantly, the Batman family crossovers are selling huge numbers for DC and that really been papering over the free fall at the bottom of the charts.  A free fall that has been partially addressed by the latest culling.

Why now?  Actually, the better question is why didn’t they cancel those titles for April?  April will be the start of a lull between Batman Family events.  Sales will inevitably drop across the board.  While it will be interesting to see if a title like Suicide Squad, which roughly doubled its sales, drops back to pre-event levels or gains a little, all that papering over the bottom of the chart is going to be curtailed.  That may be why DC started talking up April as “WTF Certified” after the April solicitations went online.  Six cancellations mean six new books in June and DC needs some new books.

One of the problems has been too many titles aren’t lasting a full year.  When you’re canceling a book when issue 4 is hitting the stands, you’re replacing the replacement title instead of replacing a book that’s merely suffered from attrition.  That drags everything down.  We’ve got 6 new titles coming in for June for the May cancellations.  I, Vampire and DCU Presents were cancelled in the April solicitations, which should be replaced in the upcoming May solicitations.  That’s 8 out of 52 in 2 months.  15% turnover in 2 months.

DC has not been having a lot of luck pushing the 2nd and 3rd string characters and even less luck with war comics.  They probably need to go back to more commercial properties.  That probably means milking Batman even more than they milking him now.  We know there’s a very commercial Jim Lee/Scott Snyder Superman comic waiting to be scheduled.  There’s no Robin comic yet.  No “traditional” World’s Finest / Superman-Batman teamup comic.  They’ve been scheduling Shazam! and Martian Manhunter as backups in the Justice League titles, so those seem likely to spin-off soon.

Rob Liefeld had some insight on that, not too long ago:

A Batman team-up would seem like a pretty safe book right now.  DC Comics Presents… I want to question what kind of a market there is for another Superman book right now, but Lee and Snyder are heading to that franchise and if (when) there are Superman family Events, an extra title will help, if they can replicate the Batman family experience.  It also wouldn’t surprise me to see a Damien/Robin comic in addition to a Red Robin comic.

I also half expect to see a Warlord revival, since there’s a clear effort to try and get something going in non-superhero genres.

At any rate, DC really needs to launch a few more titles at 30K+ (preferably 50K+) that can run a couple years and concentrate on finishing overhauling the bottom of the chart.  That’s the business reality of it.

As all this is happening, Kevin Tsujihara has been tapped to be the new Warner Brothers CEO.  When there’s a new CEO, there tends to be an assessment of the unit for the new guy to look at and frequently there are some changes.  If I were Diane Nelson/Dan DiDio/Jim Lee, I’d want my numbers nice and polished and consistent by the time the DC unit gets its time under the microscope.  Now, given how recently that announcement was made, it isn’t likely that it directly caused a wider cleanup of the lowest sales tier.  Don’t discount the watchful eye of corporate transition as DC makes more announcements between now and SDCC.

Let’s face it, if a Jim Lee / Scott Snyder Superman comic sells like Batman, that’s the same sales as roughly the bottom 10 of the “New 52″ core.  That makes the numbers go up all by itself, and there’s something wrong if that doesn’t do Batman numbers.  They do need to address the problem with the rapidly sinking bottom 10-25% of the line, though.  You can cancel forever, the trick is getting the replacement to stick.

Comments

  1. Donnie says:

    How to give New 52 a kick in the shorts: tell stories FASTER. Twice the story, half the time. I read Earth2 last night and good god, talk about padding and plodding. Get to the point, throw in a bunch of subplots, resolve, move on.

  2. jonboy says:

    Please note: Liefeld worked on Hawkman, Hawk and Dove, Deathstroke, DCU presents, Grifter. All cancelled.

  3. I want DC Comics based on the animated DC universes and also the DC live action tv/movie universes!
    Where is my Superman comic book based on the George Reeves tv series?
    Where is my Superman comic book based on the Christopher Reeve movie series?
    Where is my Superman comic book based on Curt Swan and Julie Schwartz comic book?

    Those were the Superman I loved, and not that fraud that is pretending to be Superman in the new DC 52!
    I hope Jim Lee`s version is not going to be based on the new DC 52 version!
    respectfully
    “The Amazing Spam”
    Make Mine Marvel

  4. The only interesting character in the DCU doesn’t have his own book. You would think a Robin title starring Damian would be a no brainer…

  5. @ Ron – he’s basically the main character in Batman and Robin, and has a large role in Inc. Plus the current Batman/Robin dynamic has them working together a lot more often than Bruce/Tim did.

  6. Al™ says:

    I think DC needs a title to test their new 52 ideas before launching them into their own series. Like the old Silver Age title Showcase. Once the sales figures come in strong, a character gets a mini arc book.
    In other words, build an audience for something, don’t just launch new titles and then kill them a few months later from lack of sales.

  7. v wiley says:

    I don’t see DC fixing their Supes problem with Jim Lee. His time is pretty much over as a “big” artist and his inability to draw keeping deadlines is no way to start a new book. Most of DC’s line is dull, featuring characters nobody asks for. It is truly amazing to witness the lack of a true “direction” for DC. The schizophrenic round robin of creators leaves no fan happy, and takes away what little momentum a book may of had. Very sad.

  8. Scott says:

    They have some good books and I like that they are doing “new” things and trying different genres, but I can really tell what the editorially-mandated elements are in the books I read and they are the elements that make me drop the books for a few issues until I’m bored and flip through the latest issue and see that the writer has been able to pick up his story again. I’m specifically speaking of STORMWATCH. It’s a fun book, but that zero issue was so dull and stupid and unnecessary and unentertaining that I had no interest in continuing with the series. I picked up last couple issues and Milligan is back to telling his pretty awesome story about the team. What am I saying? Stormwatch kicks ass! But Milligan will soon be off the book. Firestorm will soon be cancelled. Red Lanterns is crossing over with books I don’t read. Superman is totally stupid and makes no sense. Action Comics is unreadable and the worst stuff I’ve ever read. Reis is off Aquaman. JLA is crap. JLI is canceled. Superboy and Supergirl are no longer the Karl Kesel/Peter David characters I knew and loved. Eh… there are spots of good stuff. I like the Joe Kubert Presents a whole lot!!!

  9. DC has some good books and I like that they are doing “new” things and trying different genres, but I can really tell what the editorially-mandated elements are in the books I read and they are the elements that make me drop the books for a few issues until I’m bored and flip through the latest issue and see that the writer has been able to pick up his story again. I’m specifically speaking of STORMWATCH. It’s a fun book, but that zero issue was so dull and stupid and unnecessary and unentertaining that I had no interest in continuing with the series. I picked up last couple issues and Milligan is back to telling his pretty awesome story about the team. What am I saying? Stormwatch kicks ass! But Milligan will soon be off the book. Firestorm will soon be cancelled. Red Lanterns is crossing over with books I don’t read. Superman is totally stupid and makes no sense. Action Comics is unreadable and the worst stuff I’ve ever read. Reis is off Aquaman. JLA is crap. JLI is canceled. Superboy and Supergirl are no longer the Karl Kesel/Peter David characters I knew and loved. Eh… there are spots of good stuff. I like the Joe Kubert Presents a whole lot!!!

  10. “And THE BEAT hates DC…

    you all have some serious issues…”

    Sorry trabo, but paraphrasing Fox News bots isn’t going to win you any credibility points. DC Comics is still in serious disarray.

  11. Rich H says:

    @ v wiley – those characters probably could work, if DC editorial would just leave writers alone to tell good stories… or better yet provide positive editorial direction. Maybe that’s what DC needs to fix the most: their editors.

  12. These characters were working before the reboot …

  13. Chris Kelly says:

    Ron, the fans who used to buy a lot of second tier books did so because they liked the history they had in the old DCU. With that gone, so are we. When I couldn’t bring myself to buy a comic with Blue Devil in it, DC days as we loved it are numbered.

  14. gloryhound says:

    My disgust with DC goes towards their treatment of Vertigo. The contract changes they did in 2010 allowed the imprint to be reduced down to almost nothing. I’m sure Karen Berger left for a lot of other reasons we don’t know about, none of them good. Interesting how she announced her exodus almost immediately after HELLBLAZER’s cancellation was announced. Hmmm. But all the stuff I hear about the “New 52″ makes me glad I stopped buying superhero books. To me, they just stopped being worth all the hassle.

  15. It’s like DC forgot everything they knew about making good comics. It’s like they’re creating books based on market analysis instead of just good story telling. And it’s not super-heroes as Marvel is putting out some pretty cool books these days. Maybe if DC stopped treating their characters and creators like shit and started emphasizing stories instead of promoting intellectual property with gimmicks people would get excited about DC Comics again. Until that day I can’t see wasting another cent on their books.

  16. Jesse says:

    The Snyder / Lee Hail Mary play is fascinating. Geoff Johns is Didio’s little Dutch Boy running around on titles plugging holes in dykes. And he just rebooted the whole Superman origin etc not but a few years ago. It will be interesting to see Snyder come down to reality when he is not on the sales impenetrable Batman. John’s could not fix Superman, could luck Snyder.

  17. Let me write an ongoing title featuring Arm Fall Off Boy and the Plaid Lad and I will save the empire.

Speak Your Mind

*