Today’s big DC news story is WAR OF THE SUPERMEN, the big Superman event for 2010 everyone has been speculating over. James Robinson and Eddy Barrow kick things off with a Free Comic Book Day issue.
While surely notable, the announcement of a new crossover storyline has failed to ignite the website-crashing uproar that yesterday’s Earth One, aka “Ultimate DC” announcement did. And now the retailer perspective — via Brian Hibbs and Chris Butcher is coming in. If this were just another reboot, people might be a little interested, but the fact that it’s a GRAPHIC NOVEL LINE reboot is what has people sitting up.
Hibbs — a pamphlet man to the end — runs numbers and concludes that the revenue stream for an OGN series is less than the revenue stream for a periodical-to-collection model. Actually, it’s a little hard to argue with this — it’s the TV-series-to-DVD argument. Both delivery systems work, and make for two separate revenue streams. Yet no one releases long, complicated stories as a series of direct-to-DVDs. They do however release the occasional standalone story.
But on some matters, it seems to us, Hibbs misses the mark:
The bottom line is that customers are much less likely to plunk down for a Big Ticket item than they are for a periodical, which is one of the reasons that the OGN doesn’t, to my mind, make a ton of sense. And while it is possible that the “bookstore reader” will flock to superhero-OGN work… well, I kind of don’t think that will happen… and, even if it does, I have a hardish time picturing them wanting it again and again — because this theoretical 2x a year strategy IS a periodical, just much slower than usual.
Go into a bookstore and you see that book series are an extremely lucrative staple of the publishing world, albeit mostly, these days, for women and YA.
Now, we DON’T KNOW any of the business details of the Earth One books. Are they YA? Are they $9.99? Are they tankoubon? Or are they $30 deluxe packages? If the former, it’s a very, very different publishing model from the latter, and one that is a proven success — just not yet with superheroes.
Butcher comes at it from a slightly different angle, while also pointing out the lack of format information that would make this line’s target much clearer. Butcher offers informed speculation:
It’s pretty clear to me that DC is attempting to develop a continuity-light series of graphic novels featuring their core characters, to introduce new readers to their IP, and re-capture the attention of lapsed readers. They’re phrasing the move in terms that their existing, painfully hardcore readership can understand, like “new continuities”, in the hopes that the Direct Market-shopping fans of their IP will still support this new format, to give them a large non-returnable sales-base with which to expand their mass market sales. (As a refresher, book sales through comic stores are “non-returnable”, and 10,000 non returnable sales (my prediction) is a great base from which to set your print-run and distribute the work to the larger market, which can return unsold books for a full refund (and which sticks publishers with lots of unsold books).)
Hibbs’ post has a long and lively comment section which interested parties should read.
Bonus: J. Caleb Mozzocco speaks from a reader’s perspective.