Well, That’s The Bathwater Gone. Wait, Where’s The Baby?
Sigh. This is one of those columns I don’t want to write, one because it’s probably a bit early to be talking about this, and two, I don’t want to have a bunch of ‘TOLD YOU SO!’ comments come September. I remember everyone nay-saying The Ultimates launch and I feel like I’m going to be charting similar territory.
Nonetheless, we’re just a week removed from the initial new story of DC relaunching all of their books come September, and more news has come in that Uncanny X-Men will be finishing quite soon too. This is a very large broom, sweeping away decades of history and I want to believe that this is just going to be growing pains. Unfortunately, literally nothing good has come out of it thus far.
Speaking from my own bunker, and having talked to various retailers via Twitter and Facebook, all we’re finding is that people are using this as the excuse they’d clearly been waiting for to cancel their standing orders on titles. By suggesting that Flashpoint is the end of the story that started back in 1939, they’re saying ‘well, that’s it, then.’ For the ENTIRE DC line. People, who would routinely buy every crossover, every spin-off, are done.
At 1st, I put this down to ‘Old Men Whine About Anything Syndrome.’ No, these are kid’s characters. They need to be reinvented every few years to keep them fresh and new for the next generation. If we choose to carry on reading Green Lantern, Batman, The X-Men, that’s our business, but the themes of the story shouldn’t be aimed at people at over the age of 18 or so. Theoretically, anyone ought to be able to pick up this month’s issue of Ultimate Spider-Man and be able to jump straight into it.
What’s happened since, ooh, the rise of the Direct Market, I’d say, is that the superhero stuff shifted in content to meet the needs of an aging audience without also ensuring that a window was created to bring in the new audience necessary to sustain the medium, so sales have dropped so drastically since the 70’s to the point that what are high number books now have the sales figures that would have lead to cancellation a couple of decades ago.
So, the idea is: Start again. The loyal readers will obviously just carry on reading regardless of reboots and such. Plus sales will be boosted by this new generation of fans just champing at the bit to get in on the ground floor. Double win, right?
Again, all I’ve heard (And I admit, this is only what I’ve heard. There may be results elsewhere that contradict this.) Is ‘I’m done with DC. Cancel my standing order for all of their superhero stuff.’ That’s a lot of books! Back of a beer mat maths and a copy of Previews tell me that’s around 150 quid a month. Per customer. So if 7 standing orders per shop have done this, that’s a best part of a thousand pounds, gone this September. Sure, some of it is just posturing. People were never going to buy a Marvel comic again after Spider-Man: One More Day. Or Civil War Or The Death Of Captain America, but they did.
That’s fine, the new generation of readers will pick up the slack and everything will be okay, right? My question is this: WHAT new generation? Is DC of the opinion that there’s an army of kids who’ve been dying to get into their books and just waiting to dive into the store each Wednesday to pick up each of the 52 new comics they’re launching? And if so, could they tell me what they’re basing this on, because the most positive reaction to all this I’ve read ANYWHERE thus far is a variation on ‘I might pick up 4 or 5 of the new books.’ That’s from people who’re already into it.
So, yeah. There was the news story in USA Today last week, but a week is a long time in news. If DC are expecting the USA Today story to have the same effect that the news story on Cap 25 did (Punters stormed in, bought all the copies in stock, left. Cap 25 was the biggest selling title of the year. Cap 26 wasn’t. They don’t come back, guys.), then they’re barking up the wrong tree. People from the real world aren’t going to remember this in four months. Heck, a broadcast journalist on the BBC couldn’t remember if Green Lantern was a Marvel or DC character this morning.
I’m praying that I’m wrong on this, but even if this hypothetical relaunch works, is this new generation trained enough to wait a whole month between issues? Assuming it is a month. This is not to be rude or cheeky, but check out some of the names on the line-up: Jim Lee, George Perez, and Rob Liefeld. Your opinions and mine on the quality of their work will vary, but for whatever reasons, these aren’t names I’d link with ‘Deadline-Meeting.’ Sure, assurances have been given that the work’s going to come out on time, but actions speak louder than words. Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds took about a year to finish, All-Star Batman came out every 6 months, maybe. Did Image United even finish? Did Smash! even start?
Sure, there are a variety of kosher reasons for not turning in your book on time, but frankly, this stuff ain’t art with a capital A. If your book has come in, the punter usually thinks ‘Well, that’s $2:99 less I have to spend this week. Do I even want to buy this at all?’ Considering the incredibly poor value for money comics represent compared to other forms of entertainment, (Buying all of ‘Fear Itself’ will cost you roughly 120 quid. Or you could buy an Xbox 360.) The last thing you want to be doing is giving readers a reason to kick the habit.
Again, I don’t know what the future’s going to bring, although I’m hoping it’s something a bit more optimistic than ‘Uncanny X-Men to reboot itelf with 2 new books!’, ‘Aquaman to get new comic that’ll do as well as all the previous incarnations.’ Or ‘Superman to get new shoes, lose pants.’. Because, right now. All this big news to change the industry is doing nothing but costing us a hell of a lot of money. Feedback, Positive contradictions to my point welcomed.
And this month’s Book You Should Be Reading is The Lengths’ by Howard Hardiman. If your retailer doesn’t stock it, bug them until they do!