Yesterday, ICv2 ran a three-part interview with DC co-publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee which is, if not the most substantial comics business site-run interview with the duo ever, then the most comprehensive since the reboot. Brigid runs down all the high points but in case anyone missed it, here’s Part 1, Part 2 andPart 3. It covers everything from the obvious “Why ARE you doing this?” — to questions on mass market, digital, and so on. The net effect, as seen in mainstream interviews of late, is that things weren’t working — the price decrease didn’t bring in enough new readers, stories were flat and piracy is hurting. But there are some familiar themes as well. Asked about The Way Forward, they respond:
Didio: We’re trying to keep the number of products that we’re doing to a manageable base. One of the things that we’ve also seen is the need to overproduce to compensate for weakening sales and that’s something that we’re trying to stay away from. And across our entire line, between the DC Comics products, the Vertigo product as well the support books that we do with the kids’ books and the license in product. We don’t want to put out more than 80 to 85 titles a month, which is less than what we’re doing now, but we feel it’s a sustainable amount for quality and with the level of interest that we hope that we get from the fans.
Lee: Our strategy is not to garner as much market share as possible. I think our approach is to give creators the most bang for their buck both financially and creatively. When we start thinking about events the guiding rule at hand has to be if you create an event, it has to be creatively driven. You can’t just decide you’re going to exploit a book across all these titles to have no impact upon what you’re trying to tell on a story level. I think if we stick to that approach, our readers are ultimately going to be happier and our events are going to be ultimately more successful.
One of the answers that Brigid singled out that we also circled with a highlighter is this exchange:
In these new initiatives you’re undertaking, how is DC changing its approach to getting kids as comic customers?
Didio: Right now we’re determining kids as being teenagers at this moment and that’s where our focus is with the New 52 books. But we’re also still publishing a kids line for 11 and younger, and that hasn’t changed at all. We continue to try to find ways to get those products into other marketplaces as well in order to get them into kids’ hands.
DC’s lack of enthusiasm for building a strong kid audience for their characters is a longstanding tradition, a fact which is puzzling in the extreme, especially given the greater corporate mandate at Warner to exploit these characters in cartoon, toy and tie-in form. It’s also the fastest growing segment of the comics market at this grim time — but then nothing Didio or Lee says gives any indication that they know who their audience — actual or potential — really is in more than a wadded up spitball sense. Lee mentions that digital seems to be reaching a new customer who doesn’t have access to a comics shop and he’s excited by this. Comics retailers are right to be concerned that the laser-focus of digital demographics gives anyone smart enough to use them a powerful tool.
But on the print side, it’s still all a big question mark. And even the frequently-enthusiastic DiDio isn’t sure where the train is going:
Anything we didn’t ask you about that you’re excited about over the next 6-12 months?
Didio: No. Have to see where we stand six to 12 months from now, actually.
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.