Warren Ellis on demographics

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201108190327 Warren Ellis on demographics
As usual Warren Ellis says what everyone else is thinking (or maybe blogging) — the fact that age 40+ comics fans think the New 52 is a horrible idea may be a sign it’s working.

The New DC comics stuff looks so much like stuff I would never read that it oddly fills me with hope that they are targetting the core audience they want. If a 43-year old man looks at most of this promo stuff and goes meh, then that’s very probably a good sign for them. Best of luck to Dan D, Jim L et all for the imminent relaunch.

Comments

  1. Charles Knight says:

    “As usual Warren Ellis says what everyone else is thinking (or maybe blogging) — the fact that age 40+ comics fans think the New 52 is a horrible idea may be a sign it’s working.”

    I doubt it – it’s the sort of differences that people who follow a hobby notice but to everyone else it’s just more of the same – it’s still Batman, Superman, WonderWoman delivered by the same management, the same creators.

    Nothing important has actually changed.

  2. I think they should have done an across the board reboot; have the courage of their convictions and give clean[er] breaks to the Batman and Green Lantern books as well.

    That said, I wish them luck. The younger they get the “buy in” age for the comics audience, the better for everyone.

  3. Steve P says:

    The thing is – there’s no reason why new audiences *shouldn’t* like comics.

    The success of movies like Dark Knight and Iron Man proves people like superheroes.

    The success of shows like Lost proves people like long-form, serialized, complicated storylines.

    The success of books like Twilight proves people can get attached to stories regardless of whether critics approve of their quality.

    The fact that it’s not a total reboot, or that it’s the same old creators, may be immaterial — the people theoretically being targeted here aren’t reading the books now, and probably haven’t looked at them in years, if ever.

  4. What’s so amusing about this is, any 40+ comic fans who think rebooting the DCU is a horrible idea are old enough to remember when the DCU rebooted after CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS.

    Back in the Stone Age before the days of the internets and fire was discovered, there was plenty of concern about John Byrne relaunching Superman (Ma and Pa Kent are alive? BLASPHEMY!) and George Perez relaunching Wonder Woman (Diana and Steve Trevor aren’t romantically involved? BLASPHEMY!). That seemed to turn out pretty well, all things considered, so there’s no reason the Post-FLASHPOINT DCU won’t work out as well.

    Okay, there’s that godawful Harley Quinn skanky hooker costume, but still…

  5. Jerry Smith says:

    Charles, I agree with your insightful comments. The people in charge of this reboot are the people who broke things in the first place. What sense does that make?

    I buy about 7 DC books a month. I’ll try a few more titles in the reboot to check the quality, but I imagine I’ll collect fewer after, not more. Nothing–and I mean not one title–is something I’m really looking forward to. I love DC characters, but since DiDio took over, not their comics. Who knew Paul Levitz was such a force of sanity and quality?

  6. Hey, I’m only 34! Although, I don’t think it’s a bad idea, just completely insane (And, like, maybe completely insane like a fox with rabies that wins the lottery, but insane nonetheless).

    I read a lot of kids comics and stuff produced for teenagers, so I don’t THINK this is quite that, but Ellis is right that maybe people who have been reading/following DC for a couple of decades SHOULD be turned off by a lot of it. (That said, I’d be more hopeful of that rabid fox’s ability to pick the right numbers if I knew it wasn’t the exact same pool of creators, plus a few X-Men and Spawn guys, doing the same characters in new costumes)

  7. Well, speaking as a casual reader of DC’s superhero output, I’d find the relaunch more enticing if it were a clean break.

    The fact that lengthy FAQs and “talking points” sheets for retailers and explanations as to why this isn’t a “reboot” and which past stories are still “in continuity” and which ones aren’t are evidently required doesn’t make me very hopeful that anyone BUT those 40+ long-term fans Ellis mentions will find something enjoyable to read here.

  8. Steven Taylor says:

    As a 50+ fan of DC Comics who has spent a TON of money on their products across the decades, I for one am feeling slightly betrayed and although I am willing to hold my judgement until actually reading the books, I greet the new “Image-age” of DC Comics with more than a little trepidation. I mean,….SO many kneepads,…

  9. Warren Ellis doesn’t work in DC’s marketing department, and I think that’s a good thing for Dc Comics.

    “If a 43-year old man looks at most of this promo stuff and goes meh, then that’s very probably a good sign for them.”

    Interesting … I am a 43-year old man, and I’ve been following comics since I was 5 … I don’t buy much these days. Rent, utilities, food, career … all these inconsequential things can distract you from comics.

    Anyway, I think this is interesting marketing. They’re not aiming the product TOWARD new readers … but AWAY from older readers. “I don’t want those creepy 43 year old men buying my comics!” (After all, everyone over the age of 35 is creepy, right?)

    Do the folks at DC share this short-sighted sentiment? In light of their marketing, maybe they’d be happy if everyone over 40 simply crossed DC titles off their list? If so, it would be interesting to see how sharply their sales dropped … and how long before they were begging those “old geezers” to come back.

  10. saipaman says:

    As a 50+ fan of DC Comics, I’m actually pleased that the new DCU will allow me to keep more of my money in my pocket.

  11. Spike says:

    I’m 40 and I’m excited about it. I agree that it could have gone further. Interested to see the changes and how it affects the back history. Fun to retell some stories.

  12. “They’re not aiming the product TOWARD new readers … but AWAY from older readers.”

    That’s a good distillation of my reaction: failing to appeal to current readers is no indication that you’ll appeal to new ones.

    Now, my antediluvian experience in a comics shop (in a very different time, the 1980s) leads me to believe that younger readers *are* turned off by high issue numbers. As a tendency, they like to think they’re getting “the whole story”. So that’s an indication that this might be good move to attract younger readers. But taken to a reasonable conclusion, it would actually argue for a very different publishing model–e.g., issue number rollovers every year and a story-telling structure to match. (And keep the “whole issue number” for us geezers.)

  13. Max G says:

    The problem is not the age demographic, it is making kids aware that comic books exist! I taught at an arts camp this summer and John Romita, Jr. stopped by for a brief visit. After the lecture I handed out some comics for John to sign for the kids (age 12-15, boys and girls). The kids were ecstatic with their signed treasures, but many confessed to me that they never read a comic before. This was the first comic book they possessed! If DC is relying upon the younger market (if there is such a thing) for this re-boot, then these books will be gone faster than another Archie superhero re-boot.

  14. As usual, Warren Ellis talks out of his rear, and people pay attention to it. The DCnU doesn’t have even one of his ideas in it anyway, so he’s got no stake in it’s failure or success, just like most of the other online critics.

  15. Chris B says:

    I’m 34 and this relaunch has brought me back to comics. I would only follow the medium through news sites , but I hadn’t bought a new issue since January. Now, with the relaunch, I’m topping out at 10 due to budgetary issues. I honestly want to start with about 40 of them. This clean break was exactly what I needed. I’m very excited for DC right now.

  16. Torsten Adair says:

    Nope. As a new fan in 1984, I wasn’t turned off by the issue numbers. What got me hooked was Spidey’s new suit, which was pretty damn cool. That issue was #254. Then I bought Marvel Tales #166 the same day. (And eventually bought up all the back issues reprinting the Ditko/Lee stories.)

    Shooter’s Maxim was in force, and it was easy to understand what was going on.

    A few weeks later, Superman #400 hit, which I still consider the best ever anniversary issue ever done. (Hey, DC, howzabout doing an “Ali” edition for that issue? Add the black-and-white portfolio of the pin-ups!) I wasn’t a big Superman fan, so I waited until the relaunch. That’s when I began reading DC on a regular basis (Superman, JLI).

    (What? Justice League slapstick?! With Batman? How dare… “One punch.” ha!)

    And then I eventually got hooked on Sandman in 1991, at about the same time I got bored with Marvel.

    What I would like to see? More comics like “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?” Two stories, unrelated, with no continuity. Nobody cares who writes or draws (although I enjoy the stories), so you can use new talent. Deadlines are easy to meet since everything is an inventory story, so you can try out new talent’s professionalism. Immediately accessible, since it’s not part of a bigger story, so casual readers can enjoy it without worry.

    I’m reserving judgement.
    Until September 2012.
    Let’s see how this sells, and let’s see how Diamond Digital (the other big story for September) works.

  17. john layman says:

    Anybody over 40 should be shot.

  18. Synsidar says:

    I have to object to Ellis’s use of terms. Given the historically high turnover rate among superhero comics readers, there is no “core audience,” unless that audience is the older, long-term readers. If comics were impulse buys, like, say, People and US Magazine, the direct market wouldn’t exist.

    The changes in appearance, clothing, etc., will have very few effects on the actual storytelling. It’s like supposing that recasting a soap opera part will drastically change the character.

    DC has relaunched and rebooted titles so often that these latest efforts should have practically no effect on readers who value the hero over the stories he appears in. The marketing methods might offend them.

    Is there any possibility of DC attracting new customers who will buy issues casually, one at a time? That’s not the customer base the direct market has been built on. Digital customers might buy comics that way, but wouldn’t they prefer single-issue stories?

    Ellis might be projecting his own reading preferences.

    SRS

  19. I’m 32 and am not planning on picking up any of this stuff. I am a huge fan of the “classic” Superman and Batman mythos, core characters, and costume designs. I follow the movies, cartoons, and buy the old comics if there’s an interesting story. But I don’t buy any new superhero stuff regularly.

    I think their problem is trying to build some kind of ongoing continuous mythology instead of worrying about maybe publishing shorter self-contained stories told in 6 issue arcs. The casual fan doesn’t want to have to buy Action Comics for two years and get a small part of some ongoing narrative. We want a well written story with good art.

  20. Torsten said: “Nope. As a new fan in 1984, I wasn’t turned off by the issue numbers.”

    Your experience was not universal. As I said, I was working in a comics shop that year, and for the 8 years that followed, and there was a definite appeal among younger superhero buyers to the idea that “I can get all of these from the beginning.” It wasn’t the *only* factor, not by a long shot, but it was definitely a factor. This was before the soft-relaunch/renumbering frenzy that dominated Marvel publishing in the 1990s, so for all I know it’s been completely burnt out.

  21. Nick Jones says:

    “If DC is relying upon the younger market”

    From every single thing I have seen DC put out, the “younger market” they’re going for is men in their 30s, while the actual potential growth market of kids and teens is being ignored. I can’t think of a single title that is coming out with in this reboot that I’d feel comfortable putting into the hands of an eight year old.

  22. Justin H. says:

    Quote: That’s a good distillation of my reaction: failing to appeal to current readers is no indication that you’ll appeal to new ones.

    Couldn’t agree with this more.

    Why exclude anyone? The mandate should be to appeal to as wide of an audience as possible.

  23. The real question is: how old is the average Warren Ellis reader?

  24. Apollo9000 says:

    For all the talk, I still don’t feel that the biggest problem with the comic industry has been broached- getting the word out to the general public.

    If you want people to buy your product, you need to let people know you exist.

    The problem is that a lot of people in the demographic that DC is aiming for grow up with comic book characters, not comic books.

    Of course, some may remember the “Image” style that is being used but they don’t really remember them from the books they were used in.

    As comics became less available on the news stands and conveince stores, the characters became a more frequent presence on tv and video games.

    Now when a certain ( younger) generation hears the words ” comic book”, that’s what they recall.

    Key word “recall”. A whole ( young) generation doesn’t even know that comic books are still being produced.

    So a large portion of a demographic that DC wants to target is in the dark about what their relaunching from. In that regard, that makes it an easy jump on point with only the basics.

    But again, the “style” being used to sell the “new” DCU is one based off of a day gone by.

    DC has to get the name out in the public eye.
    Having a motion comic ad with bad music played before movies during the tail end of summer doesn’t seem like the ideal spot.

    If the ads are going to have the visibility of a Geico ad, then that would be something.

    But if you feel that that would be overkill, then it only hints that you’re slighty embarassed by the product you’re trying to sell.

    And if that’s the case, there’s no reason to try and sell the product.

    Perhaps instead of trying to sell the DC superheroes, try selling DC universe. A more diverse slate of genres would make this effort a hell of a lot easier but what do I know.

    I’m simply a young male in that 18 to 34 demographic.

  25. Image didn’t launch 52 comics all at once.

  26. The more corporate DC becomes, the less I care.

    Placing bets now that two years from this date, half of these titles will be canceled and the other half will have different creative teams and even lower sales figures than they do now.

    The definition of insanity is attacking the same problem over and over and over again in the same exact way. Events and reboots aren’t cutting it. They haven’t for a long time now. This will be no different.

  27. Why are we all assuming that Ellis is talking about DC pissing off the over-40 fans? This reads to me as if he thinks the fact that he, 43-year-old Warren Ellis, has no interest in the rebooted material is a positive sign for DC.

    I’d be very surprised if he intended to use himself as a metaphor for over-40 comics fandom.

  28. 20, here. I’ll try to at least flip through the first issue of every New 52 title – thanks, place of employment! – and plan/hope to put money down on at least a dozen. (Seriously, if the Static Shock comic is even halfway worth reading I /will/ destroy my paycheck for it.)

    And I’m not someone who previously bought a lot of DC, or even superheroes in general – heck, part of the reason I’m diving in is to better help customers who ask “so what’s going on with (say) Batgirl lately?”

    If nothing else, the relaunch is perfectly timed for me!

  29. I’m in my 40’s and excited for the changes. Guess I’m the exception.

  30. Al™ says:

    The New 52 for Fall reminds me of the TV network launches of all the new shows. By Christmas at the latest, the strong shows stay, and the rest are cancelled.

    I would like to know how many issues these new titles will be guaranteed before the execs start pulling the plug.

  31. Jon_in_Austin says:

    I’m in my early 40s and find much of DC’s output unreadable, although I very much want to read it. Marc-Oliver’s sales analysis demonstrate that there’s a dwindling interest level for most of DC’s output. The talent and management are pretty much the same in September as they are today…why exactly are we expecting different results? Does Warren Ellis know something about the talent involved that the rest of us don’t?

  32. Synsidar says:

    I would like to know how many issues these new titles will be guaranteed before the execs start pulling the plug.

    What are the alternatives? Fans routinely dismiss changes as being temporary, but if the status quo has become unacceptable, there’s nowhere to return to. Comics titles which are losing money or barely breaking even aren’t worth publishing, regardless of the potential profits the characters generate in other markets.

    SRS

  33. Bill K. says:

    I’m under 30(just barely). I’m also a casual fan who already buys comics on a regular basis, but rarely DC superhero material. I LOVE DC’s characters, and have faithfully spent money on them in other media. I’m going to wait and see (and sample) but I’m not particularly enthused by what I’ve seen. I was excited by the idea of the relaunch, but have been left cold by most of what DC’s released so far.

    I work in marketing and this is looks to me like something I’ve seen all too often. Executives imposing some combination of what they want and what they think the customer wants and dismissing any objections (your design is very 90s dated, you’re confusing potential customers with mixed messages, you’re not communicating any clear overall vision) as fear of change and “not understanding the target market”.

  34. Thomas Wayne says:

    Ellis may be on to something, but my biggest problem with the entire DC relaunch is it is completely unecessary.

    If you want to bring in new readers…or keep old readers happy…try this…WRITE GREAT STORIES…that’s the secret…it just seems to me that both DC and MARVEL have forgotten that over the years.

    WRITE GREAT STORIES….plan and simple. It works everytime.

    You can ‘relaunch’ until the cows come home and it will only sustain any reader, new or old, until the newness wears off if the stories aren’t great or the characters aren’t worth reading about.

    Why is this so hard for the BIG TWO to understand.

    I’m 39…I’ve been reading comics since I was probably 8 or 9 years old. I was a ‘new reader’ in 1979 or 1980…they didn’t have to relaunch to get me…all they needed was to tell cool and good stories. Kids can get hooked on super heroes really easy…just like they get hooked on wizards and aliens and robots or whatever…do you think Harry Potter will relaunch with different source material in ten to fifteen years from now….which will be summer where in the neighborhood of it’s 25th or so anniversary?

    Will a new generation of kids have to be shown Harry Potter as young and brooding to make him appealing. No chance in hell. When I first read Superman as a kid I never once thought…wow…if this guy was only a little younger he would appeal to me…

    No….I thought..wow…what a great character, period, and when you take a great character and give him great stories you don’t need to revamp anything..only make small adjustments.

    All this relaunch is is DC relying to heavily on non-comic geek type focus research for their business model and not enough on simply telling great stories.

    If WB and Zack Snyder had decided to produce a Superman movie set in the 1950’s, with Jon Hamm of MAD MEN fame as Supes, and they had him battling giant robots and aliens and what not, guess what…if the story and visuals are good or great (story and visuals being the key componets of a comic as well) people would come out in droves to see it.

    If Zack Snyder’s Superman revision sucks..and something tells me its heading that way….what will they blame it on. Kids don’t like Superman? He wasn’t young enough? Ma and Pa Kent were to young? We need a soundtrack by Lady Ga Ga to bring them in. (God let’s hope that last one never happens).

    How about (if it does suck) blaming poor story telling. That’s usually the problem no matter how hard you look at anything else.

    And thats all comics needs for a boost. TELL GREAT STORIES and people will want to read them…all ways have…always will.

  35. 52 was called that because it was the average age of the readers.

  36. X-fan says:

    If it fails they’ll launch DCU the OLD 52!

    But I hope it does work. I’m ready to try about a dozen or so titles.

  37. Louis Lane says:

    DC has to walk a tightrope between alienating current fans and attracting new readers. The most unfortunate thing about the relaunch is the lack of titles targeted at kids and/or young adult readers.

    LL

  38. Shawn Kane says:

    I’m 38. I began reading (well looking) comics in the late 70’s because my older brother had subscriptions and I wondered what came in those brown wrappers that we got in the mail every month. I’m technically a Marvel guy but I came to DC with the Byrne re-boot and stuck around for the most part the last 25 years. I hope that the new 52 keeps my interest because Marvel is not a fun place anymore.

  39. Synsidar says:

    If you want to bring in new readers…or keep old readers happy…try this…WRITE GREAT STORIES…that’s the secret…

    I doubt you’ll ever find anyone arguing against good-to-great stories, but the elements of a great story will vary dramatically with the age group the story is aimed at. Deciding which age group(s) to write stories for has been a problem for Marvel and DC since the ’70s. It’s pretty easy to argue that a publisher should target all age groups, but having the heroes tackle adult topics, speak normally, and act in ways that they wouldn’t in all-ages stories presents branding problems, might confuse readers — and teenagers would want to read the “adult” stories anyway.

    Has Superman ever used a four-letter word? Personally, I can’t imagine him ever using the “f” word, but others might be able to.

    Emphasizing all-ages stories over others might make more business sense because the possibility of a big hit is larger — more potential readers. Some readers avoid all-ages material, though.

    One change DC should make is to scrap the use of fictitious cities. The practice dates the entire universe, IMO, and provides no benefits. If any potential readers become more interested because a hero is based in his hometown, the change would be worth any inconvenience. The change wouldn’t be a continuity issue; it would be modernizing the concepts.

    SRS

  40. Actually what DC said is they are trying to get lapsed readers to come back, like Civil War did for Marvel. So if it’s not appealing to people over the age of 40 then it might not succeed.

    But it does appear that DC is actually trying to grow the pie instead of getting a larger slice of a shrinking pie. Hopefully it works.

  41. Allen Rubinstein says:

    I think all superhero comics should be number ones. All of them. Superman #1 September, Superman #1 October, Superman #1 November, et. al.

    They do realize that three years after #1 comes #36, right? If someone is intimidated by #675, why would they be less intimidated by #36? Who is going to want to track down thirty five issues to “catch up” on all the previous developments? Numbers go up.

  42. Mike Thompson says:

    I’m 46 (not that anyone really cares, but anyway…). Been reading comics since 1970.

    Why is anyone feeling “betrayed” by this DC thing? They’re just comics, and, thankfully, always will be. Relax.

    I think we take all this shit WAY too seriously.

  43. “From every single thing I have seen DC put out, the “younger market” they’re going for is men in their 30s, while the actual potential growth market of kids and teens is being ignored.”

    *ding* *ding* *ding*

    We have a winnah! Lapsed 90s fanboys please step forward and claim your Nu 52!

  44. I still think they should do away with the multiple new books and a Marvel/DC equivlent of Shonen Jump, its less overwhelming and a whole gen is used to the format already, plus I think the people who went to see the movies mostly jus like the movies. remember scott pilgrim, a great film like that was beaten by Vampires Suck in the box office.

    The fact theres multiple books throws a impulse buy off cause Shopper X jus seen Iron Man 4 and want to read THE comic and is confronted with multiple Iron Man books(they’ll be going for the trade paperback cause that looks like the better deal), more often than not they go B&N and so they second guess cause they dont know where to start. If Marvel/DC are marketing it well enough to the right audience(a commericial perhaps) then this can reap good rewards if not, then we could call this the New Coke of Marvel/DC.

  45. TYPO! first sentence:
    “I still think they should do away with the multiple new books and make a Marvel/DC equivlent of Shonen Jump, its less overwhelming and a whole gen is used to the format already, plus I think the people who went to see the movies mostly jus like the movies”

  46. Everyone keeps focusing on the content of these books, and although issues such as whether Wonder Woman wears pants, and how many openly queer heroes there are, and the skin color of the main Green Lantern, are kinda important, the more important aspect of the New 52 is the distribution model.

    Regardless of whether Warren or I is excited about these books (I am officially curious about a few), what really matters (or won’t, if they don’t take advantage of it) is the fact that these issues will now be available in every town in America with broadband internet service, for a price (for back issues) that is *close* to the price that consumers seem willing to pay for bits of archivable digital media. That will make far more difference in getting new readers than the JLA all going to the same tailor.

  47. Synsidar says:

    Everyone keeps focusing on the content of these books, and although issues such as whether Wonder Woman wears pants

    I’d bet that content will be more important than availability. Comics shops might be specialty stores, but they’re not that hard to find if someone wants a comic book. The GNs and collections are in bookstores. Casual readers would, I think, find GNs much more palatable than monthly installments that deliver tiny pieces of stories and require tracking release schedules.

    I wonder how well DC’s various “Crisis” collections sell, compared to more standalone GNs and collections? Since they appeal more to fans than to casual readers, I’d guess that the Crisis books sell worse.

    SRS

  48. Thomas Wayne says:

    Just a follow up on my previous point that telling good or reat stories will find an audience regardless of age, gimmicks, etc.

    The number one movie at the box office this week is THE HELP. It was number 2 last week.

    Very, very rarely does a movie ever move up the charts. Once it hits a spot it either sticks or falls.

    THE HELP…I have not seen it but I have been told….is both a great book and a great movie…and of course…GREAT STORYTELLING…

    I stand by exactly what I said before and I am hard headed enough to KNOW it as fact and not an assumption…

    If Marvel and DC want new readers, returning old readers, female readers, readers young and old, and to to keep the readers who have always been there happy…TELL GREAT STORIES…works everytime.

    No reboots or B.S. is required.

    TW

  49. Thomas Wayne says:

    Yes…tell reat stories….LOL.

    Great stories was what was intended in the first sentence.

    Good day all.

  50. NadaMucho says:

    Jesus, Ellis is only 43? Christ, cut down on the booze and cigs, my man.

  51. MBunge says:

    “Casual readers would, I think, find GNs much more palatable than monthly installments that deliver tiny pieces of stories and require tracking release schedules.”

    The assumptions underlying that sentence make up many of the reasons why comics don’t sell better to the mainstream market.

    Mike

  52. wrong says:

    Warren Ellis has a point. Warren Ellis is also wrong. It’s still just a shared-universe comic book company with limited appeal. The changes are enough to get me interested, but I still know that whatever happens in one book can and will often affect the other 51. I have no tolerance for that stuff anymore.

    “The number one movie at the box office this week is THE HELP. It was number 2 last week.

    Very, very rarely does a movie ever move up the charts. Once it hits a spot it either sticks or falls. ”

    A little information is a dangerous thing. The Help didn’t move up; everything else moved down. Yes, it’s holding well because it’s a good movie, but it’s not doing better week to week. It’s just this year’s Devil Wears Prada.

    Marvel and DC are keeping themselves down, and they continuously feed the limited appeal of their product by having their “radical changes” be anything but.

    The supposed appeal of superheroes exemplified by the success of Iron Man and Dark Knight as films continues to encourage people to draw the wrong conclusions. People don’t like superheroes; they like superhero movies. Film can provide a better superhero experience than comic books because technology allows film-makers to put on screen things that were only possible in a comic book panel or in the imagination. Mainstream comics are no longer pushing any boundaries because the people running those companies want to keep their jobs more than they want to make good comics. But what do they do instead? They start making their superhero movies more like their superhero comics with share-universe b.s. and move away from what could be new and interesting territory in favor of kitsch and “inside baseball”-type nerdity.

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