Thoughts on the Future of DC ComicsPosted by buddyscalera on November 15, 2020 at 2:08 am
DC Comics announced yet another round of layoffs. This is sad news for all of the good people who have dedicated their careers to make great comics.
This is not the only time comic book publishers have experienced layoffs. We’ve seen this with both Marvel, DC, and other publishers over the years.
This particular layoff comes at a very strange time in our collective history. Specifically, we are in a global pandemic.
It’s important to note that in certain areas, we see comic book sales actually increasing. Some local comic shops are selling more units, in part because of the TV shows, movies, and that people have more interest in escapist literature.
That opens the question. What are your thoughts on the future of DC Comics? What would you expect them to do? What would you do if you were in charge of DC Comics?
And, since this is a professional forum, I would invite you to dig deep with your thinking. Provide evidence, if you can, from other industries and previous layoffs. If you have data or links, share it.
Also, it is fine to say “make better comics,” but please be specific. I mean, it’s easy to say “make better comics,” but difficult to actually do so. Every publisher does their best to make better comics.
Tagging some people to get the conversation started: @maryamsmark, @videogamingtalkblog, @blakgambit, @jojabarker, @gdawkins2, @mywritinghero, @mikedoestheart, @krisburgos, @andresbriano, @philipspace, @jarrodelvin, @artsmermaid, @thesurrealari, @redheadeded,
ModeratorNovember 15, 2020 at 2:21 am
honestly at this point, I am not sure what the future of DC is or what I expect them to do or what I would do if I were in charge of DC Comics. I haven’t read a comic in months, I’ve been away for so long that I don’t know what is current or what story lines are out. if I stayed in the business, I would have a “better idea” but even then I probably wouldn’t know what to do at that point.
MemberNovember 15, 2020 at 3:54 am
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.
AdministratorNovember 15, 2020 at 10:30 am
The case study of DC comics is intriguing, to say the least… once their decision with Diamond Distributing was made public, I initially thought that my suspiscions of DC becoming more and more of just the equivalent of a well for Warner Brothers to pull from for all of their media felt justified. But this wasjust my uneducated opinion — so I just want to get ahead of that — this was my ’10 foot view’ of the situation before I researched more.
As you stated @buddyscalera, comic book sales(and manga in particular, I believe) are increasing exponentially in this very chaotic year of quarantines, in addition to a general overall popularity boost as a result of countless successful TV and movie ventures in the past decade plus.
So onto the first question: What are my thoughts on the future of DC comics?
After digging a little deeper into the supply-chain side of comics distribution, I believe I understand the decision much better and think DC’s motives are much more altruistic(albeit it high-risk). Rather than my initial opinion that DC was making a clear beeline for that goal post of eventually being a revenue maker for the tv/movie industry solely, I know see more of a calculated risk that DC feels they have the liberty to make as a result of being able to rely on their Warner Brother’s relationship. Without being able to leverage some of their success through their co-productions with WB, I do not believe DC would have ever made as bold a move as severing their business relationship with Diamond, who have been running a with an archaic, rather draconian business model for entirely too long. The ramifications of what some marvel execs deemed “an act of war” (which is an outrageous statement) are felt by all those with that Diamond relationship. But my opinion is that DC is not beholden to Marvel or vice-versa when it comes to how they want to handle their supply chain. Will the result of the split possibly put Diamond Distributors out of business? Sure. Is that DC’s problem? No.
A DC spokesperson said of the decision to cut ties with Diamond “…DC continues to be committed to providing the Direct Market with best in class service and the fans with the world’s greatest comic books.” If this means trying to free themselves from some of the oppressive mandates made by a monopolistic distributor who sets bars too high for smaller comic book stores to be able to enter the market with a high chance of success…than hats off to them. Again, that decision to make such an industry shaking move is made all the more dire with a year like 2020 and a sometimes inconsistent movie success rate.
I really don’t know with clarity if this is a good or bad move, only time will tell… but I’m going to try to remain optimistic that this could prove to be a move that may benefit the comic books industry during a really volatile time.
What would you do if you were in charge of DC comics?
That’s one hell of a question. I applaud the hard decision-making they’ve done and I don’t know that I would have thought of that, to be honest. But after trying to rationalize that decision, If that idea was presented to me I would have been in support of it for the reasons I stated above. I think that it would give the company the opportunity to also possibly leverage getting some of the lesser-known and newer IP into those smaller retail locations and possibly be able to foster a cult following for some of these stories more often. I feel that often the work comic book companies may take to introduce new characters/IP either gets lost in the attention economy of the more popular flagship characters/IP(i.e. Batman, Justice League, etc.) or have to be presented in those more popular characters as spin-off stories which may not always benefit the new character/IP depending on how they’re able to fit them in. So I’d continue to perhaps foster these new relationships they are able to build through both their new distributors and their relationships with the ‘mom and pop’ shops around. The movie production deals will ensure that there is a safety net — albeit one that, if needed, would redefine DC as a hole and signal the end of an era should it drive them out of the physical comic book business. But what do I know?
I primarily used these pages to reference my opinions and thought based on their information and whether I could confirm a lot of the information at other sites from these. Again, I don’t claim that any of my opnions are gospel, but it is a really intriguing and multifaceted situation.
If anyone has read through this, thanks for taking the time!
ModeratorNovember 15, 2020 at 7:18 pm
I’ve believed this for a long time, and I hope this answers the question, but in my opinion Joseph Gordon-Levitt said it best when he said that video games will be the future of storytelling. As you all probably know, the ps5 was recently released along with the new Spider-Man game. One thing I like to do personally and have done for years with video games is look up YouTube videos that have all the cutscenes from a game. When I watch them it gives me the same experience as a movie, and I feel like it helps develop my storytelling skills. I just finished doing this with Spider-Man: Miles Morales, and I heard there’s even a novel out that’s based off the game. I remember the Batman Arkham series also having numerous comics based off their games. I think DC Comics should put more focus on video games in the future and the possibilities they open up for their comics. I know DC FanDome announced Gotham Knights and Kill the Justice League, so it looks like they’re on the right track.
ModeratorDecember 27, 2020 at 10:49 pm
One thing that I think DC has gotten away from is the concept of free-standing stories and miniseries. My favortie DC stories (Must there be a Superman; Batman Year One, etc) where the types of stories you could follow just reading that arc or buying one TBP with minimal background knowledge and no knowledge of what was taking place eslewhere in the DC universe. I think in their recent reboots, they’ve tried to mimic the interconnected Marvel universe too much, and it’s too complicated, time consuming, to follow for most casual fans. This was always one advantage DC had over Marvel when I was growing up. I’ve heard writers like Neil Gaiman talk about it as well. In England, where they coundn’t get full runs, he appreciated that he could pick up a single DC issue and read it, whereas he would be lost in a Marvel issue bc of all the continuity and interconnectedness. I’d like to see them stop with all the reboots and just focus on small (6 issues or so) self-contained character arcs and graphic novels. These would have benefits in other mediums as well, since a self-contained story would be easy to translate into a movie. So, if I was running DC, I would try to get back to their roots and focus on those types of stories. Let Marvel do what they’re better at (their heroes naturally fit in the same world) and focus on what you’re good at–telling stand-alone, character-driven stories.