Over a year ago, when Marvel and DC both turned into pawns of the larger game of Disney and Warners, it wasn’t too hard to see the handwriting on the wall for some massive changes as the “Big Two” at the heart of comics publishing fundamentally altered their corporate structures — including eliminating some of their unprofitable businesses and looking to save money all over. At DC, there have been lots of snippets of change coming out, including, of course, shutting down the Zuda, CMX and WildStorm lines, and more recently, a major change in the contracts for creator participation books which has made Vertigo a much less desirable destination for creators. Chris Butcher has an interesting post which mentions other cost cutting measures, including not shrink wrapping hardcovers any more. He also speculates that DC’s dropping out of the Comics Code was to save money — you have to pay to belong to the CMAA. This line of thinking is a little harder to accept as fact, since the move appears to have been in the works for some time. Butcher also points out some other little-noticed moves that point to a more robust attempt at firming up the bottom line:
Oh, and here’s a thing that hasn’t got much attention: They’re cancelling trade paperbacks. Here are a few recent ones:
DC COMICS CANCELS ORDERS ON AZRAEL: KILLER OF SAINTS TP
DC Comics has cancelled all orders on the AZRAEL: KILLER OF SAINTS TP (DEC100247). This title will not be published.
DC COMICS CANCELS ORDERS ON THE AUTHORITY: THE LOST YEAR BOOK TWO TP
DC Comics has cancelled all orders on THE AUTHORITY: THE LOST YEAR BOOK TWOTP (NOV100254). This title will not be published.
Which, I mean lets face it, those are two VERY low selling books, but time was DC would publish both of those books, despite the low sales, just because they solicited them and were following through on a promise to the customer. Now, they’re not publishing books that don’t sell well, it’s one of those things that’s both amazing and obvious at the same time.**
I’ve also heard rumblings that I cannot really talk about that DC is going back to press on fewer titles than ever right now. Basically if it’s not making a certain sales target, it doesn’t get reprinted, regardless of whether or not it’s volume 1 of a series of trades that are still coming out. So DC fans, if you want a trade paperback, I humbly suggest that you buy that trade paperback when you see it–those books might not be in print more-or-less indefinitely anymore.
There’s more discussion of canceled and unreprinted books in the comments — although more people seem to be upset about the shrink wrapping thing. At any rate, you might want to hold onto some of those periodicals, since a collection isn’t automatic anymore.
Along those lines, Bleeding Cool has a now refuted guess that Marvel was cutting the All-Ages line based on a statement by writer Brian Clevenger:
Anyway! You may recall that this was intended to be an on-going series. It was downgraded to a four issue mini-series and then two issues — you get both of ‘em in this one-shot. Captain America: The Fighting Avenger will be one of the last “all ages” issues of anything Marvel will produce for quite a while. Because they “aren’t profitable.”
Marvel Sr. VP of Sales & Circulation David Gabriel was very quick to say this was not true:
Marvel is not stopping the all ages lines! An exciting announcement is coming in just a few weeks that will expand upon this as well. Our all ages titles have great success well outside of the direct market, as well as the success they have with indivual stores within the direct market. I just like to stop rumors like this from spreading!
It is true that Marvel canceled and shrank down a lot of miniseries because flooding the market with them wasn’t working. However, the all ages material seems to be reaching a different audience than the regular books, and cutting the line would be quite a shock.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.