Reply To: Thoughts on the Future of DC Comics

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#2022
philipspace
Participant

I come back to this topic quite a bit.

Part of the problem is that DC is an imprint for Warner Media, and the guys counting the beans view comics as a low-margin, high-cost, time-intensive form of entertainment to produce. Now, relative to television and film it may be peanuts, but television and film is put into millions of people’s homes and communities, whereas comics are sold in specialty stores that often cannot keep their doors open on book sales alone. Large corporations are unlikely to expend extra resources trying to sell low-margin products, it’s not a big enough piece of their pie. Honestly, if they don’t see results from the people running the operation, it’s less of a gamble to replace the folks who aren’t growing the business and replace them with some who might.

Comics haven’t been a mass media format for a long time, and distribution of the product is a problem too. Not every community can support a store. I live 70 miles from the nearest comic shop (without taking a ferry over to Canada), and there are communities more remote than mine. Between the time of X-Men #1 selling 8 million copies and now we’ve seen a serious drop in places where people could even go to look at and buy books, online sales and digital books notwithstanding. Obviously it’s had an impact on readership.

Bear with me, but I sold bread for a living for 15 years in various grocery stores, and one thing that I learned about people’s buying habits during this time was that if you want to sell something you need to put it in front of the people who are looking to buy it. Period. It doesn’t matter how good the bread is, it doesn’t matter how fresh, it doesn’t matter the cost. If you make your product hard to find you will sell less of it, whether it’s a staple like bread or a luxury item like comics. Some buyers are proactive and will seek you out, most will simply not.

On top of all of this is the issue of who the product is even being marketed to. The most viable demographic, traditionally, are 7-12 year old early readers. Where are the books for them? There’s a reason why Disney Adventures can sell millions of issues monthly, there’s no reason why the Marvel or DC lineups haven’t followed suit, save that kids aren’t tripping over them when they go to the grocery store with Mom and Dad. When you have something like “Dog Man” outselling every other form of printed media, you can’t claim that it’s because the market isn’t there. I think that a lot of the Marvel Adventures books are sitting on some seriously untapped sales potential, especially with the characters being presented in other media. This isn’t at all a problem with quality, it’s a problem with placement. Arguably we have the highest quality books ever produced available at this point in history.

I suppose my biggest concern is that the major publishers, who still wield the greatest potential to leverage their cultural recognition and market presence, will take a diminished role in their respective corporate landscapes overall. This would cause great harm to the industry at large. As individual titles are increasingly reliant on crowdfunding to generate revenue it will draw a greater number of creators to self-published imprints, which may be lucrative in the short term but reduces the cultural relevance of comics as a medium down the road.

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