For those who don’t know (partly because I am particularly terrible at self promotion), I do an irregular column over at a site call The Beat about comic book retail. As you can probably guess, it is usually filled to the brim with finger-wagging at backwards looking comic shops and fans who would drag this industry backwards rather than forwards.
Whelp, I finally wrote a new column – this time about a lot of the big moves that DC Comics has been making lately – and it went over as well as you’d expect.
I’m not 100% sure, but this person was probably mad about lines like this:
There’s a toxic idea that the direct market is owed something for it’s place in history and… I don’t know. Maybe there is. Maybe I’m too new that I can’t see it. I didn’t work in those trenches. But from where I stand, the direct market is owed nothing. As a retailer, I would laugh in the face of Marvel if they told me I owed it to the X-Men to place more orders for their books because they once helped float comic shops. All ideas have their time. All delivery methods do as well.
It’s as though the business is constantly evolving or something. Wild!
Anyway. Instead of just cross-posting these and walking away, I’ll be tossing a few “extras” your way in these posts, in the form of ideas that were either cut for space, or didn’t quite fit the narrative I was going for. Which is to say, for every article I write, there’s anywhere from 500-5000 extra words I wrote and discarded, depending on the day.
Writing is fun, and I am tired. Let’s get to it.
- Comics have the power to change your life: I wanted to hit this idea a lot harder. As a medium and a force for change, comics can do so much. In terms of this article, it crystallized how I looked at the outside world, and at comic book retail. Comics made me who I am today.
- It’s always the end of the world: If you take a look at the history of the comics industry, you’ll find doom around every corner. Portents of the medium’s demise occur frequently, but they’re usually stymied by a shift in how comics get into the hands of readers. When I say “the direct market is doomed”, I don’t mean that the comics industry is doomed – I just mean the current system has been dying for a long time, and delivery system needs to change. Retailers equating the death of the direct market to the death of the industry as a whole seem to forget that they are not the industry, they are a delivery method.
- It’s about respect – or so I’ve been told: I can not count the amount of times I’ve been told that I do not respect where this industry has been, because I want to build for it’s future. Asking for change doesn’t mean I’m discounting the importance of structures that once saved an industry – it just means I want you all to be around for the next phase, and digging your heels into the past is just going to leave you there.
- Out for blood: What is really gross about the retailer reaction is the fact that if Catwoman had been murdered in the final pages, nobody would be complaining about a lack of a wedding. As it happens, Batman #50 ends with Selina making a conscious choice on her own volition. She is in charge of her destiny, and has agency. Let’s not pretend this outrage is about the story – it is about that cheap event money that retailers would have be just as fine earning with blood.
Hey, were you wondering if Variant Edition was going to get dressed up in Nazi collaborator paraphernalia?
We aren’t. But you can hear Danica talk about it a bit more over at The Daily Dot, where she summarizes things quite succinctly with this line:
“People shouldn’t be cosplaying as Nazis. Period.”
You think that wouldn’t have to be something that should be said, but 2017 has been one hell of a year. Can the bullshit stop now? That would be great.
If you’ve hit the comic book news sites lately, you’ve probably heard rumblings about something called Rebirth. A quick explanation: DC will be supposedly relaunching their line-up in June with brand new first issues. Over at The Comics Beat, I elaborate on the potential shape of things to come, and what DC should do if they are aiming for a relaunch.
I’m more than a little afraid that DC’s big Rebirth announcement will be born more from a place of panic than laying the foundations down for a better tomorrow. The confirmation of twice-monthly shipping is a bit of a tip off for that. While I can’t argue with the financial boon having Batman shipping twice a month would provide, I can argue that doing so does more long-term harm than it provides short-term gain. All one has to do is take a look at Marvel’s current publishing line to see the effects of this publishing practice. While having your flagship Avengers title ship twice a month ensures a certain sales level that books like, say Vision won’t ever hope to hit in a million years, it also softens the highs that a book like Avengers can have. People are often more shy about taking a chance on a book that will cost them $8 a month (or $11.20 Canadian) to keep up with, which shaves down the audience. In addition to that, retailers are a little more gun-shy about ordering above and beyond for books that routinely circumvent the Final Order Cut-Off process. Currently, if a book ships monthly, you’ll usually have at least 4-11 days worth of sales data before you have to finalize your numbers for the next issue. Shipping twice a month means that orders for issue #3 will be due around the time numbers for issue #1 are finally rolling in – and armed with zero sales information for issue #2, most retailers will play it safe and keep things tight on the shelf. So yes, sales would be fairly stable, but there would be no chance to grab new readers, which is what DC so desperately needs to do at this point.
There’s quite a bit more where that came from, and you can head off to the full article for more, including a tidbit or two about how the Canadian dollar is affecting things as well.
When we were looking to open Variant Edition, we had a very short list of areas we wanted to open in – and one of them (which seemed a little out of our reach) was the 124th Street Area. As luck would have it, we found a great location nestled in behind 124th (and still in the business district) and we couldn’t be happier. The area is filled with great local businesses and restaurants, and being able to work and live this close to all that awesomeness is pretty great.
Fun fact: a few weeks ago, Danica was asked to be a part of a video showcasing a lot of the great food 124th Street has to offer. You can see the video starring Brittney Le Blanc above, as well as Danica and Robyn Wilson.
Brittney has a companion piece to the video on her blog right here.
Last week over at Comics Beat, I wrote about DC’s recent DC You initiative, and how their current marketing structure failed the books that were coming out. Then DC went and announced the cancellation of a significant chunk of their line with their December solicitaitions. So that was fun.
Here’s a bit from my retail article:
Now that the company is attempting to push outwards from its formerly narrow viewpoint, it is essential that they learn how to market accordingly. Having lost a good source of implied retail vocabulary in Bob Wayne, they are attempting to do without any style or verve. What retailers need to see – especially in terms of their line outside of their mainstay superheroes like Batman and Wonder Woman (and hell, sometimes even Wonder Woman) – is a projection of confidence from the company, whether that’s implied by the incentive structure, or by the language they use to solicit the books, and a perceived interest from their readership, which can be done by mobilizing social media buzz and doing sustained pushes during final order cut-off weeks. Some companies are particularly good at providing previews of their upcoming books during the FOC period, alongside promotion from the creative team and editorial. DC doesn’t quite have a handle on that, as evidenced by the haphazard way they scheduled the 8 page previews of all of their DC You titles in May. Very few of those (if any) lined up with the book’s actual final order cut off date, so retailers weren’t hearing whispers of excitement right before they adjusted their numbers. What’s more to the point, all of these previews were consistently released in a chunk, instead of staggered out over a several hours and days – which would have provided the company with sustained and building noise across a longer period of time, instead of a jumble of noise created all at once.
What’s really interesting about all of this is the fact that it sets up a very interesting January for the company. With a bunch of DC You mini-series wrapping in November, and quite a few books dropping off the schedule in December, the decks are clearing – and not matter what happens in January, it will essentially be a statement on where the company will head next. There’s definitely an article in that line of thought, so more on that in the next few days…
Oh hey! It’s Brandon on your television! Or more accurately, on your computer.
So hey, I was on the local CTV Morning Live program this past Monday, and when the video went out, I placed it on all my social media outlets… and forgot to post it to my vanity site. Like a dummy. Anyway, if you click on that handy link above, you should be able to see me being awesome, representing Comics! The Blog and the industry. It was a lot of fun, and I’m hoping to get invited back some day. If that happens to be the case, I will keep all of you posted!
The first of two big announcements: in two short weeks, I will appear on CTV Edmonton’s Morning Live show.
Basically, if you turn your dials to CTV Edmonton on December 1st at 7:50am MST, you’re going to see my smiling face representing the world of comics. Probably. I mean hey, sometimes news happens and these segments slide. So that might be a thing. But right now, we’re good to go.
Stay tuned to this space in the next couple of days for another big announcement. I know I said I’d be dropping more news today, but I’ve been offered some other options I have to think about.
A few of you were wondering about my thoughts on DC’s upcoming Confluence event, so I went ahead and wrote ’em all down for Comics Beat last week.
Of the two, Convergence is being built as a necessity, more than something extravagant. Even if the concept was born out of creative decisions, the execution is all business, marrying the need for DC to pump out enough books to fill out their budgets while simultaneously alleviating editorial and creative pressures during the big move. As such, it’s already on the back foot, appearing as though it’s a fill-in event, something that is decidedly not their main line of books in any way, shape or form. If they don’t tackle this perception in the marketing, April and May might be a couple of DC’s worst months as many opt out of the two months of content.
The article goes pretty deep into what the company would need to do to make the event as successful as possible. Unfortunately, I think they’ve already screwed a few points up. You can read the whole article here – and when you’re done that, you can run straight into my thoughts on Marvel’s big multiversal event, Secret Wars.
While Convergence is an event being built out of near necessity, Secret Wars is an event that’s emerging from years of planning on the part of Marvel and writer Jonathan Hickman. Both approaches have their pros and cons. While I’m really enjoying Hickman’s work on the Avengers line, it was never anything I would be able to hand to a new reader easily – and his work on the title has only gotten more complex. Now, there’s nothing wrong with this approach, especially when you have several titles on the stands that new readers can easily gravitate to like Black Widow, Ms. Marvel, and Hawkeye – but when it comes to the big event, you want to try and make that thing as accessible as possible. DC can theoretically do this with Convergence by structuring their event as a low-threshold buy-in, featuring two part stories that exist without too much connective tissue. Marvel could theoretically do this, but there’s very little known about the actual structure of Secret Warsbeyond the fact that it will be impossible to escape if you’re interested in their line.
You can read that full article here.
Sometimes I think I go a little easier on Marvel because… well, because I’m enjoying more of their line right now, but I think I stayed pretty even-handed with presenting the potential problems and positives that both events could have. As always, your thoughts are appreciated, so comment below, or on the articles themselves!
Because I love puns, you guys. I love them so much.
This week, I returned to providing weekly final order cut-off commentary at Comics Beat with a little ditty about some of the splashier variants coming down the pike.
I’m not a big fan of variants in general (a longer column for another day), but I can at least get behind variants that you can order without qualification. That says you’re offering another variety for a reader to sample, letting them choose what cover they’d like. That, I understand. Qualified variants, on the other hand, are the dirt worst. They’re a dirty manipulation of the whole “supply and demand” market designed for cheap, easy money, both for publishers and retailers alike. If a retailer wants a bigger supply, they will have to order more copies. In order to cover the cost of those copies (many of which won’t sell), they will charge a premium for that cover. And hey, even if they don’t need to charge a premium to cover the costs of extra copies, they’ll probably mark it up because of the low supply, and the high demand.
You can read the full article over at Comics Beat where you’ll also see a quote from the publisher of one of the industry’s biggest companies talking shit about variants. It’s fun for the whole family! Probably. Maybe.
Two weeks ago, I began writing a weekly column about final order cut-offs for Comics! Beat. Time for some links:
- (09.27.2014) // “So here’s the thing about this new Deathstroke book: I genuinely think there has never been a better time for DC to try and make this book happen. The character is coming off of a high profile turn as the big bad on the latest season of Arrow where he was watched by millions. The DVDs are out. The episodes will eventually hit Netflix. They’d be stupid tonot test the waters with a new series. The problem? They are testing those waters poorly.“
- (10.03.2014) // “This week’s final order cut off has the last issue of Superman Unchained, and now I can set fire my feelings of disappointment and send the whole thing off to sea. While Scott Snyder and Jim Lee put together a phenomenal book, DC could have done so much more with this series. So, so much more.”
Every week I’m not on vacation or otherwise indisposed, these’ll be running weekly, alongside a weekly shot of my regular retail column. All of this along with churning things out regularly. Or at least I hope. As always, we’ll see how this all turns out.