Ok, so there’s really no escaping this story. At all.
DC is rebooting and launching day-and-date digital publishing. And I, for one, believe they absolutely have to do this.
Say what you will about the artistic side of this move, but the business end of it makes a whole lot of sense. The industry is dying a slow death trying to appeal to the same old core audience, of which I am a loyal member. They could eke out a living for the next decade or so by going from stunt to stunt, crossover to crossover trying to excite a dwindeling older fanbase or they can do something truly dramatic and different in hopes of capturing those oft discussed, much fabled new readers.
I know you hate to read those two words, true believers. We’re all sick of hearing DC and Marvel say that they’re “trying to draw in new readers” or “trying to appeal to a broader audience”. As a group we wonder aloud what the hell is wrong with the current audience and bitch that these newbies never materialize and that the effort was wasted.
Well, get prepared to be annoyed agian because the cold, hard truth behind the DC reboot is that they really don’t care what the existing fanbase thinks about this move. They don’t care because we are not its target audience. Would they like to sell to us too? Absolutely. Our money’s still green, but we’re not spending enough of it anymore for them to justify continuing to focus solely, or even predominantly, on us. They’re hunting bigger game this time, the movie audience.
Try as I might I could never get any of my college friends to read a comicbook. But when the movies came out guess who were the first people in line for the midnight showings. Unfortunately, that’s the way it is. Comicbooks and comicbook shops have a stigma about them. There are people who are interested in these characters enough to go see Green Lantern on the big screen (maybe that’s a bad example considering the weekend gross), but completely unwilling to step into a shop like The Stack. But think about the potential profits if DC can get the people who would go and see a Wonder Woman movie to check out Wonder Woman #1 on their iPad.
DC has had enough foresight to see that if they can’t attract some new readers they’re going to become irrelevent. They hold the second highest market share of a dying market; not a good place to be. The numbers are down across the board year in and year out. Kids aren’t reading comics and slowly but surely the old fans are starting to move on. For years DC and Marvel have been sitting pat, hoping against hope that the sales charts would somehow right themselves. Praying that the readers would come and trying to survive off of the shrinking fanbase. Crossovers make existing readers purchase books they otherwise wouldn’t read. Which leads to Event Fatigue, a clinically diagnosed disorder that keeps me from reading just about anything Marvel these days. Seriously, I crapped out somewhere around Secret Invasion and never really came back to most of the titles I had previously been reading. Raising the price of comics allows for more profit from the same low sales, but drives out the segment of fans unwilling to pay an extra dollar for the comic. These are stopgaps, they’re not solutions. Someone had to do something different. Someone had to make a change. Not a minor cosmetic change, but a huge, foundation shaking change. Comics need to take the next big leap if they’re going to survive and thrive in the future.
Is day-and-date combined with 52 new #1s that leap? I can’t say, but I certainly hope so. Yeah, I’m going to miss Power Girl (who, perhaps unsurprisingly considering her convoluted origins, appears to be one of the casualties of this new streamlined timestream) and the Secret Six. But I’m going to give the new take on Supergirl and a new lineup for the Suicide Squad a shot. Not the same books, but hopefully some similar flavors. Yeah, I’m bummed that Stephanie Brown is getting bumped out of her spot as Batgirl just as I was beginning to like her in that role. But I get it. Barb is a bigger draw than Steph both inside and outside the current audience. She’s the smart play here. I think it’s much more important that there are still Batgirl comics around for my (purely hypothetical at this point) kids to read than having DC continue to strain to keep me happy.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I love comicbooks. I love them so much that I want them to outlast my readership. I want comics to reach those new readers and find a sustainable market; even if they end up losing me in the process. Which probably won’t happen anyway because I’m never going to stop wanting to know what Batman is up to this week. But they need to do something drastically different if they want to grow their market. This is definitely drastically different.
DC is swinging for the fences. It remains to be seen whether they’ll strike out or hit a dinger, but at least they’ve worked up the cojones to swing the bat.
Nothing can happen until you swing the bat.
For Mike’s Thoughts.