Monday, June 02, 2008


From a Publisher's Weekly interview with Dan DiDio:

PWCW: The recent 50-cent special DC Universe 0 has taken some heat for being fairly inaccessible to people who weren’t hardcore DCU customers already. How did that issue end up being presented as a jumping-on point?

My opinion is that DCU 0 was accessible to the people who understand and read comics and understand the stories and characters and world.

No, but seriously --

If the income generated from monthly floppies are not the bread-and-butter of a company like Time Warner -- if it's the intellectual property generated from the floppies that is the prize -- and DC fanboys and fangirls provide steady numbers and dollars for the floppies, how would it benefit the current regime to deviate from that?

I mean, seriously, if the comics themselves were selling millions of copies, and DC said -- "no, we don't want your millions, we want Kamandi!" -- then I could see how they were willfully screwing themselves.

But they are selling to people who in some instances buy $300 replica "museum quality" DC Direct items. They buy $100 absolute editions and $50 omnibuses and they go to Midtown Comics on a Wednesday and just pick these comics off the rack like they were grapes, a stack of new comics to devour the size of two phonebooks.

And they will buy anything. As long as it has the characters they love -- in the versions they loved as younger collectors -- in the comic.

That sort of readership feeds not only the DCU monthly floppy machine, it feeds the DC Direct machine and the DC Backlist machine.

Now, do I think lighting a fire under the DCU's ass on the level of what happened in 1999, 2000, 2001 at Marvel -- with Axel Alonso and Marvel Knights and making Captain America strong again and all that great new talent -- would benefit the company? It very well might.

But --

It's not necessary. I know it may seem, from where we sit, necessary that DC beat Marvel in sales. But, that is not what is really important to The Powers That Be. What is more important is that Marvel is kicking DC's ass in movies. That's what the Powers That Be care about.

Now, the movies are the macrocosm. Let's go back to the microcosm, the comics industry.

Is DC going to risk that nice, steady income from their monthly floppies by doing anything that might alienate the fans? Are they going to take that chance? Are they going to go with the "devil" they know, or the "devil" they don't?

It's like the Buffy The Vampire Slayer universe. It's not for everybody. And the comic is very successful -- but I don't find it that new-reader friendly either. You really have to be familiar with that mythos to understand and appreciate and, frankly, stomach it (it can be sooo emo!). But, how to make Buffy more new-reader friendly? Explain every issue, either explicitly or implicitly, all the bits and pieces of that tortured story? You alienate the hardcore fans this way. The hardcore fans just want to dive into the story like a mosh pit and get their rocks off.

That's what books like Final Crisis appeals to. It is a sticky yummy mosh pit of continuity and story for hardcore DC fans. It will have its ups and its downs, but it will be purchased.

As for courting new readers, that's what the other imprints are for -- far easier to experiment with webcomics and manga than it is with that Justice League comic that brings in the steady numbers every month.

But don't get me started on how they offered a second printing of DC Universe 0 for $1.00. That's where, for me, the sidewalk ends and I get cranky.


  1. Final Crisis is the worst of both worlds though.
    It both requires you to intimately understand continuity to know what the heck is going on, but at the same time, it breaks continuity in confusing and unexplained/unjustified ways. It appeals to completist continuity freaks but then gives them things to be pissed off about. I mean, I feel bad caring about continuity with the awful Countdown, but since when was the "orrey of worlds" an important part of them? Not that it's not a cool concept but...

    I can already see that the story Morrison wants to tell is too big for seven issues to tell it well. When issue 1 is a disjointed mismash of quick cuts, and that's just the setup...

  2. "But don't get me started on how they offered a second printing of DC Universe 0 for $1.00. That's where, for me, the sidewalk ends and I get cranky."

    Thanks. This made me chuckle out loud, just like I did when I saw it in the shop. I just had a very perplexed, amused response to this when I saw it. Maybe they are courting the George Perez completist (there's far worse things to be)?

  3. "I mean, I feel bad caring about continuity with the awful Countdown, but since when was the 'orrey of worlds' an important part of them? Not that it's not a cool concept but..."

    This is definitely a concept that should have been introduced in Countdown, if only they hadn't last their way so early on with it. This and so many other stage-setters could have been given a couple of pages over the the last dozen or so weeks.

    I think you're right - we're going to get a lot more condensed set-up in the first couple of issues than should have been necessary.

  4. Both FC and SI are "wait for the trades" for me, which is sad. Summer "events" used to be like summer blockbuster movies to me. Thor versus Surtur, Galactic Storm, Evolutionary War, etc. All stuff I looked forward to on some level.

    I hate sounding like Dana Carvey's grumpy old man from SNL, but I've really become that.

    Yeah, Buffy is probably my least favorite character in the Buffyverse, oddly enough. She's a little too tragic for me.

  5. Agreed that DC may need new blood to complement the successes they do have and replace amny of the failures of the past 2 years. It seems an attempt was made post Infinite Crisis to get that kind of fire going that you describe, but OYL and the many mini's, new series, etc... ended up going over like a lead balloon.

    When DC DOES try to do something... anything... like Final Crisis, commentary sites like Occasional Superheroine take exception. If they try to move forward its new and confusing. If they stick with what occasional readers might know, they're mired in 30+ year old glories.

    It seems to me that commentary like this is unhelpful except as a "let's bash DC forum". DC tried new and different with OYL, and it was met with criticism and poor sales (see: Martian Manhunter and Aquaman).

    Increasingly on this site, its become unthinkable that anyone might actually enjoy a DC book on its own merits. DC fans must be sad readers living in the past. There is no other option. Any seeming narrative step forward such as Final Crisis is really just a step into the past.

    Blogs are for calling them how you see them. And that's fine. But I'm not sure you can point to DC's sins and not find similar behavior reflected in Marvel creators and fans (Marvel's brave move forward in mega-narrative is to bring in the Skrulls and the cutting-edge plotline of cold war paranoia and stories that were printed ten years before I was born? Characters that haven't been relevant since I was in middle-school...? How is that not continuity porn and living in the past?).

    But mostly I am not sure how a DC fan can win in your scenario. If they show enthusiasm and discretionary income to purchase omnibuses of comics they'd like to read, in your description, its sheep-like, laughable behavior. And somehow absolves Marvel readers of any similar behavior (seriously, was there a huge market for the Bowen Sasquatch bust?).

    What is the Occasional Superheroine test for acceptable comic/ ancillary product purchasing?

    And, moreover, what WOULD DC do to produce work you found acceptable? (Show your work, and your answer may not be: be more like Marvel). And should DC fans hang their heads in shame for enjoying their Green Lantern instead of Spider-Man?

  6. Crisis - A money making machine for completists (like most of us)That "lost" me as a buyer because of all the spin-offs...

    Buffy "lost" me somewhere between the end of the series and the comic book continuation...

    Oh but I do like the TV show "Lost" err if that makes any sense ;)


    Err.. PS "right on Mike! Explain that 1.00 reprint of DC Universe 0! Way to make the story more accessible DC!!!"

  7. I think the reason why you don't cater to hardcore fans can be summed up by noting that I'm almost 33, and I'm one of the younger hardcore fans. I have a mortgage now, I've got bills to pay, and I can't afford to drop thirty or forty bucks a week on comics like I used to. It's a hobby for teenagers and young adults with tons of disposable income. You know, all the people who are out there buying manga. :)

    By not taking the time and effort to breed new readers, they're consigning themselves to an eventual slow death as they whittle their target audience down to a handful of rich obsessive collectors. DCU #0 is an example of the kind of comic that should breed new readers (whom you can then ensnare in the net of continuity slowly, with things like footnotes telling them what back issues to look for)...instead, a new reader picking this up would immediately put it back down and go read some manga. :)

    (I don't mean to harp on the manga thing, but seriously, go into any bookstore and look at their "comics" section. It's six solid shelves of manga, being read by teenage boys and girls of exactly the species that hardcore fans insist don't read comics anymore so there's no need to make comics accessible for them instead of pandering to the hardcore fans, and one or two dinky little shelves of Marvel and DC somewhere towards the back. Kids still love comics just as much as they ever did, a new audience is out there waiting, but the fans are running the companies as well as reading the books and they don't want to let anyone in.)

  8. That's the death of mainstream comics for me. This idea that DC would be happy strictly with its core comics constituency... which is shrinking yearly... in favor of just making the comics trademark placeholders, or a venue to develop properties for the the Time/Warner movie and TV production arms.

    It's a nakedly cynical business ploy. It does get us decent flicks like Batman Begins, but it's murdering the comic book medium.

    There has to be some middle ground where continuity obsessed comic hounds and people who love quality fiction in and of itself can meet and be happy together. I don't see why DC can't BOTH increase sales and keep the hardcore fanbase happy.

    The changes involved are so small, but the obstinancy of people like Didio against making them is almost as maddening as fan entitlement rage on the Internet. Two bizarre mindsets I can't parse.

    On the other hand, I AM one of those people who thinks nothing of dropping a dime on big omnibus... of GOOD material. I wouldn't touch a hardcover of some dreck like Amazons Attack if it were a gift, but if it's some old Kirby stuff- wonky as that can be- I'm all over it. It's still fresh despite its age... fresher now in a world of stale repeated epic crossover plots and nihilism masquerading as "meaning."

    Or, to bring Marvel into the mix- any of their pre-90s stuff. New Mutants, the 60s omnibus volumes. Some of the "Visionaries" stuff.

    I can't credit the logic of a company that's happy selling 100,000 issues of a title when selling 1,000,000 would actually increase the customer base for all the ancillary stuff. Whereas those movies don't do a damn thing to get new customers into the comic book stores.

    I guess they don't want that. They want to put out obscure dreck for just hardcore reflex buyers. And someone like me, who wants good stories and art, will get his fix from Love & Rockets, Dan Clowes, Charles Burns, some other small press stuff and... yes... from JAPAN.

    If I want a DC fix, I can always get a "Showcase" reprint or one of their "Archives." But quotes like Didio's are why they've lost me as a reader of the current stuff and why they'll continue to shed readers.

    Where is the influx of the next generation of comic readers? What do you think they'll do when it's not there anymore?

  9. One more thing- I fully understand comics (that's for Mr. Didio) and what that quote ultimately parses to me as... is, "We here at DC don't want your money or your brand loyalty. Specifically you, Joel Bryan."

  10. Buffy has “Vampire” right in the title. Of course it's going to be emo! :)

    From a business perspective, I can't see that a property that steps down from millions of viewers to thousands of readers just to continue its story has any choice but to appeal first to the hardcore who have followed the story for 7 Buffy and 5 Angel seasons of episodes. Add that to the fact they're being written for the trades, making early floppies too slow and later floppies too fast. This gets you floppies that are really causal reader unfriendly, and yet still sell well. Which sounds a lot like the DC model being described, so Val, I think you’re right.

    Season of Buffy from Amazon? 32 bucks. Trade of Buffy from Amazon? 16 bucks. Sheesh, I’ve spent quite a bit of money on this series and I’m still starting to eye Omnibus editions even though I know they’re not as good.

  11. I think that's kind of why I liked the Angel series over Buffy. It seemed like it was more comedic and didn't take itself as seriously as much. But I stopped watching Buffy seriously I think about halfway through, and then I tuned in again after a long hiatus and Buffy was crying and it looked like Spike had tried to rape her and I wasn't very happy. I mean, I don't mind an evil Spike (my favoritest memory is when he gets up out of his wheelchair and puts a hellacious beatdown on Angelus), but that's just too much for me.

    It seems like DC does have more accessible stuff for people to get into. Superman/Batman, for example. It's Superman and Batman, teaming up, and punching bad guys. You don't even need to know a lot because really a lot isn't going on and there's bunching and a homosexual undercurrent I guess and all of that stuff. It might help to understand the Maximums if you know who the Ultimates are, but it's not really important. It's just a big dumb fight adventure caused by a mischievious Imp. It's like Q mucking around in Star Trek or something.

  12. I read DC 0. I haven't read any DC books in years and have no idea what the big deal with 52 or Countdown was. The last DC crossover I read was Infinite Crisis... in trade... 6 months ago.

    My point is, I'm out of the loop on the DCU.

    I found DC 0 to be just fine!

    Yes, I'm a comic book reader so I'm familiar with the universe and the main characters. But I found the teasers in DC 0 readable and understandable.

    Did they motivate me to buy more DC comics? Um, no...

    But it certainly wasn't hard to understand.

  13. Anonymous10:13 AM

    Hurray Midtown Comics! They have an incentive program! And girls work there!

  14. I read more Marvel than DC, but then there was a time when I read more Vertigo than anything else. I happen to love DC. The bizarre "irony" is that back in the day, I loved reading Batman (Jim Aparo is missed), and other teenage fans would laugh at me. "Batman? He's a joke!" And then they'd proceed to mock Adam West and make the "Bam! POW!" references. There were fans before 1989 who knew Bats was cool.

    I'm bugged that DC seems to think becoming more "extreme" and hip will appeal to new readers. But don't young people HATE when someone tries to be consciously hip? I just want to see fun stories (although I don't mind a little darkness either) in both Marvel and DC. Is that wrong?

  15. There's lots of DC stuff I'd love to be reading, like anything by Johns, Simone, Rucka, Dixon, et al. But I've been avoiding it because of all this Countdown stuff. I don't even know where to start reading anymore. It's easier to read none of it. My last comics purchase was the Starman omnibus and three volumes of manga.

  16. I always hear people complain about inaccessibility in comics, but they never give concrete examples of "accessible" books

    Do the books based on cartoons like "Tiny Titans" fit the accessibility criteria? If so, why do those cartoon books always get canceled? I don't read Manga, but if I randomly pull one off of the shelf in a bookstore will I understand everything 5 pages in?

  17. I love your blog but I hate that you call comic books floppies

  18. I always hear people complain about inaccessibility in comics, but they never give concrete examples of "accessible" books.

    That's a tough one.

    I think with the availability of trades, many series are more accessible than in the '80s or '90s. People don't have to jump into the middle of a long run--they can read it from the beginning. So in that sense, every book has a certain amount of accessibility.

    I feel that what makes books inaccessible today is when a run is broken up by tie-ins and over-reliance on events occurring elsewhere. If you're reading Flash, Teen Titans, and Captain America and they suddenly tie into Identity Crisis, Infinite Crisis, and Civil War, it can be somewhat jarring.

    The biggest problem with crossovers and tie-ins is that it confuses how we read trades and in what order we should read them. Trades are supposed to make these stories more accessible, but Countdown doesn't look any more accessible in trade form than it did as millions of individual comics.

    Marvel has been doing a better job with crossovers, more specifically keeping them simple. House of M was about an alternate reality--all tie-ins featured characters in an alternate reality. Civil War was about a violent political divide in the superhero community--all tie-ins were about that divide. World War Hulk was about HULK SMASH!--all tie-ins were about Hulk smashing.

    Infinite Crisis? It was about magic and space and supervillains and multiple earths and OMACs.

    Countdown? It was about New Gods and Amazons and Outsiders and Ray Palmer and Arenas and Mystery and Adventure and Lord Havoc and Salvation Run and your mom and my mom and everybody's mom.

    My advice to DC about making their books accessible? Stop making their events about *everything*. Make their events about *something*.

  19. Immortal Iron Fist was one...not sure how it will be post-Fraction and Brubaker, but the phrase "kung fu billionaire" pretty much sums it up and would draw in anyone, imo. :)