DC lost $2 million over the past year, but they're not learning any lessons
Word reaches Bleeding Cool from numerous well-connected sources that, according to the books, DC Comics are down over 2 million dollars for the financial year beginning in 2015 than they were originally budgeted for, so far.Obviously, few people think their reboot and new directions have any substance. What else can you expect when the editors mandate that the superheroes all wear similar, mundane costume designs that look like a mixture of plastic and armor? When they decree that Superman cannot wear red tights and think symbolic diversity alone will impress anybody?
I’m told that it’s a mixture of excess costs from the move from New York to Burbank, over and above what was planned, as well as a reduction in revenue due to a poorer performance that was expected from the Convergence event, and a lack of a bump for the June mini-relaunch.
But has the staff learned any lessons? If this is any suggestion, the answer is no:
Here’s where the other shoe gets dropped. I understand from a number of senior sources that DC editorial have been told to “stop Batgirling” and go back to “meat and potatoes”.Translation: if they've been allowing any storytelling with optimistic and more family friendly elements recently, they intend to ditch it and boomerang right back onto darkness yet again. Without any convincing intelligence in writing.
The lesson learned is that you cannot calculate and manufacture “surprise” hit books. The reasons books like Batgirl or Harley Quinn hit – or Ms Marvel and Hawkeye hit – is because they’re doing something that the rest of the line wasn’t doing. Marvel aren’t trying to make every book into Ms Marvel. Not yet, anyway. The audience it seems doesn’t want the bulk of the titles like that, it’s the fact that there’s only one or two that make them special and it does well.Once again, they insist on using the Muslim Ms. Marvel as a talking point, and it only misses the irony: a superhero title like that is only allowed to be bright and shiny if it involves politicized propaganda. That's unfair and does no favors for mainstream. Nor does it help that they're not being honest about the low sales levels, which don't prove success at all.
Comic book audiences are a lot more conservative than some people give them credit for.That's why they don't buy mainstream superhero books anymore. They've come to realize there's no point putting their money into the pockets of people who force repellent politics into the books they're writing.
Now, page reduction counts and other cutbacks are becoming clearer:
That DC recovery plan will see the publisher double down efforts on selling trade paperbacks, pursuing custom publishing projects for other clients, upping ad sales and, of course, Dark Knight III.I'm sure plenty more are on their way to 5 dollars. Sooner or later, thanks to the incompetence a lot of the apologist news sites still aren't fully willing to admit took place, they'll go up a lot more in price, inevitably. It won't be a big loss if they go under. But they could at least get rid of men like DiDio from their staff before their time is up.
Page rates are also likely to take a knock. DC Comics are famed for paying higher page rates than other publishers and often offer to beat rivals to get creators on board. Expect those to be negotiated downwards.
And then there’s the price of the comic books to bear in mind.
Update: The Outhousers has an important reminder:
But we've seen all this before, back in the nineties, when the entire comic book industry almost went under due to similar shenanigans. One retailer called Marvel's October All-New All-Different Marvel NOW relaunch "approaching the Heroes world debacle," and we've been preaching about the dangers of gimmick-based sales boosts for years now. What makes the current speculator bubble particularly egregious is that it isn't that publishers are unaware of history, and so doomed to repeat it. Everyone knows what happened the last time comics were more about variant covers, super-mega-crossover events, and constant #1 issue relaunches; they just don't care, because they want that short term profit anyway.Exactly. Yet neither company has any interest in learning from history, or acknowledging the most truly awful mistakes they've made.
All comics have ever needed to do to grow readership is to tell engaging stories over the long term to get readers hooked on comics, but, instead, the big publishers focus on continually bilking the existing readership for more money with these gimmicks. It can't last forever. It never does. And while DC Comics is showing possible signs of a crash, Marvel is about to embark on a large-scale repeat of DC's 2011 reboot plan, which, as we are seeing right now, resulted in a short term boost and a long term loss. Constantly rebooting your line leads to diminishing returns.