As many... no, all comic book fans know this month will mark the last issue of the Old DC Universe as they reboot the entire line of comics which has been dubbed The New 52. Catchy right? What's also happening is that DC Comics will be the first company to go day and date with their digital comics. What's the goal of all this? To sell movie tickets. Okay, that's only part of it. Really DC and their parent company got tired of coming in second in the sales to #1 competitor Marvel. That's not what DC would have you think in their LA Times business piece. Instead they paint a picture of the dying comic book store that no longer hooks the casual reader and instead is reliant upon the hardcore buyer.
“The walk-in, casual fans have gotten away from us,” DiDio observed. “We are down to just the die-hard buyers.”
When DiDio said this he was standing in a New Jersey comic shop on a Saturday at an undisclosed time and was shocked that only two people came in. You'd think the guy in charge of DC Comics would know when new comics come out. Is it really that surprising that people aren't there on a Saturday when 80% of the business happens on Wednesday? Really there is only a few ways to fix that, change the distribution days of comics to be spread out or get a better location for your comic shop. You can't expect people to pop in if you're next to a liquor store and a dry cleaners can you?
The article continues to talk about the publishing side of DC's role with a quote from Jim Lee:
“Publishing is the engine that creates and incubates ideas for the other divisions of Warner Bros.,” said DC co-publisher Jim Lee. “We need to streamline our comics so new fans can come in and know exactly what’s going on.”
The gist of it? Comics need to do well so that the movies will do well, but the publisher still views each movie-goer as a potential comic reader.
There's two other quotes, both from Rob Liefeld (one of the men responsible for the comic bust of the 90's, the another ironically being Jim Lee) and really I had to wonder why the hell anyone was talking to this black sheep of comics about the future of comics. After all Liefeld's art style has changed since the day he broke into the industry and hasn't had a hit comic in who knows how many years. Regardless his thoughts are... interesting.
“There is a generational opportunity to get new readers,” said artist Rob Liefeld, who is drawing DC’s new “Hawk and Dove” series. “The industry has been stagnant, and it’s the right time to hit the reset button.”
“The stunts have run their course,” Liefeld said. “This is the biggest one in the past 25 years, and nothing else can come close.”
What's really interesting is Didio's sentiment towards current comic readers, which becomes evident in this quote:
The worst-case scenario for DC’s new strategy is that few new readers stick around and existing ones are alienated by the changes. But the re-launch’s architects said it’s a necessary risk.
“The truth is people are leaving anyway, they’re just doing it quietly, and we have been papering it over with increased prices,” DiDio said. “We didn’t want to wake up one day and find we had a bunch of $20 books that 10,000 people are buying.”
I would like to imagine that I'm reading into those two statements, but it's clear that if the re-launch alienates current comic readers DC doesn't care as long as they keep the new readers it attracts. The second part is what I have the biggest problem with, we all know that pricing is an issue with comics, but let's not forget that the digital version is going to be the same as the print version and this is for obvious reasons. They don't want to put the brick and mortar shops out of business and to do so they need to be priced the same. Here's the problem, I can get a digital magazine with more content and for a cheaper price than 2.99, or even 1.99 in some cases when the digital price drops for the issue. $20 dollar books is ridiculous and if that was there business model then they need to get someone else to stir the ship. I bet if you asked any comic fan if they would mind five more pages of ads if it meant keeping the price the same they would say, "Go for it."
That's the biggest problem with this reboot and re-launch, DC the company that always wanted to show it cared about the fans has done nothing but lash out at them since the company’s restructuring and now it seems that they content to say, "We don't need you." They want the Wii money of the causal spender rather than this subculture of shoppers that reign over their product. Well I have a simple solution... tell better stories. Stop killing characters because you don't like them. Stop undoing marriages and relationships that have taken decades to build because a five year old may not "get it." Basically DC is telling comic readers that their money is less important to them than that five year olds.
So here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to read the issues of this new 52 that interest me, but I'm only going to buy them in print. Then I'm going to take my scanner and with the use of photoshop create my own digital comic for just me. I'm not going to share it on the internet or email it to a friend, nope I'm going to pop it on my iPad and use one of the many digital readers that recognize .cbr files and ta-da I'll have my own digital comic. After all I hate the Comixology interface (try finding anything without having to result to a mediocre search) and this way I'm supporting the print version and telling DC that a "hardcore die hard buyer" doesn't want their causal app and isn't going to give them one casual dollar.
Nope I'll reserve that causal dollar for some independent book in a store front with a much better interface and that doesn't tell me I've been a fan for too long... time to move on. Hell, I might not even bother with the reboot (make no mistake that's what it is no matter how much DC doesn't want you to call it that) after all why would I want to relearn everyone's origins and powers and really doesn't this just seem like the Ultimate Universe all over again, you know that sub-title of comics from Marvel that's on its third reboot due to declining sales... not the best blue print to follow after all.