DC’s sales experts Bob Wayne and John Cunningham have gone off on their monthly round of website chat, and things didn’t go well at Newsarama, where usually affable Vaneta Rogers somehow raised ire with hypothetical questions such as why wouldn’t they publish an ongoing series based on the Sandman canon of of Death/The Endless, etc etc.
Nrama: So if your boss came to you and asked you, “Can you give me a reason why it would not be a good idea for DC,” what would you say?
Cunningham: I don’t know. What a heck of a question. I guess I’m going to respond to that by saying that framework is weird. I’m not going to tell you what I would I would tell my boss.
Wayne: It’s a lot more expensive use of our time than interviews.
At this point, Moby’s “Extreme Ways” started playing in the background. The uncomfortable exchange prompted Wayne to coin a new phrase:
There’s no giant, creative blanket that we’re throwing over anything.
Our hypothetical question would be, can a giant, creative blanket be added to the Sandman universe, but that’s just us.
At ICv2, the conversation stayed on the rails, and alarm over the number of variants seems to have led to a more sensible policy:
Are you saying that you don’t think it’s appropriate to still do “buy 25, 50, 200-get one” variants?
Wayne: We do that where we feel it’s appropriate and I’d think there’s a difference between doing one or two of those and doing 52 of those. It would have been very chaotic if we had set threshold levels all up and down the possibility and made it where North Dakota and South Dakota were the rare chase variants, I think that would have been counter to our operating philosophy on how to use those to highlight attention on books.
Bob, we’ve both been around a while and have seen the ebbs and flows in the collectible aspect of the business vs. readership; it’s a careful balance that needs to be struck. What’s your feeling on the overall comics business right now and the degree to which variants are being used?
Wayne: Overall we’re running in the zone of Spinal Tap in that we’ve got it up to 11 on that. We’re going to pull back and drop variants from a handful of titles in the next solicitation cycle to pull back that number ourselves, where it didn’t seem the variant was making a substantial difference in the buy-in for the book or the perception of books. We’ll be looking at the remaining titles that have variants the following month.
It’s like having a balanced breakfast in the sense that if you only have variants and you don’t have other aspects of how you try to get the attention of retailers and through retailers to consumers, it would be like only eating pizza. We’re just trying to make sure we keep a balance between the different ways that we can draw attention to books.
DC has also released a few of the “52 flag” variant covers, and as you can see it’s just your standard-issue Iwo Jima riff with added state-i-ness. So you’re really not going to need all 52 covers to feel complete.
John Jackson Miller’s preliminary analysis of October is up, and reports “It’s the best month overall in the Diamond Exclusive Era (1997-present) by a long stretch. Orders topped $47 million; the previous record (set in May) was beaten by probably $2.5 million. This puts us at $394 million for the year, meaning “Gravy Day” — when we’ll surpass sales for 2011 — will likely come Wednesday. From there on, it’s all new money.”
This comes despite the “standard attrition” at DC and Marvel — indicating that sales are at a higher level and that the rest of the publishers have seen increased sales as well.
Wayne and Cunningham are happy to take credit for the expanded marketplace for all publishers, as Cunningham put it to Newsarama, before it all fell apart.
No, I guess if I have a reaction to it, it’s, I think if everybody can go back in the way-back machine for a year ago, when the October numbers from last year were published, I’m not sure it was Vaneta, but there were other journalists out there, “Will the industry be able to maintain this next year after the big New 52 launch?” And it’s very heartening to us, believe it or not, to see those other publishers stepping up and growing the marketplace.
That is really what this is all about, is to continue to find ways for everybody to grow the total number of readers out there, and that certainly seems like that’s what’s going on in October of 2012.
Yes indeedy, and DC not burning them out with needless variants is a good step at keeping them around.
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.