Meanwhile, back at Publishers Weekly, Calvin Reid interviewed DC’s Co-Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee for the More to Come podcast. And oh my, but did he get some choice bits and explanations from those guys.
It’s always better to hear it coming straight from the horse’s mouth, but here are the highlights of what was discussed.
The Direct Market vs. Bookstore Market
If you’ve been reading The Beat, you’ve heard us talking about the growth in book trade. In the book format specifically, but also in the bookstores. Dan DiDio sites the book market at the biggest growth area since he’s been at DC… and he’s been there something like 15 years at this point. He referred to the Direct Market as having “finite dollars” and seemed to view the bookstore market as where the growth potential is.
OK. Time out before heads start to simmer. This is where we might want to take a small grain of salt because DiDio is on a podcast with a bookstore-centric publication. HOWEVER, the DM is a closed loop where DC is probably aware of what the saturation point is. For there to be what corporate folks would consider growth potential, the DM would probably need to start adding more stores. Nobody seems quite sure what a saturation point in the bookstore market would look like, but all the publishers are keenly interested in finding out what that is.
Further down the book path, though not strictly talking about bookstores, DiDio notes that the New 52 collected editions sold better than the initial collected editions for Rebirth. It’s not that he thinks Rebirth is doing poorly in book form, New 52 just really sold well. Particularly out of the gate. DiDio attributed that partially to it being a “starting point on the ground floor” and noted that the refresh process is “accelerated” these days. It’s no longer 10-15 years and then you have a reset event. Now its almost like every 2-3 years.
Jim Lee noted that there’s another difference in that people now follow characters in different mediums and it’s potentially a choice for people if they’d rather watch The Flash on TV or read his comic.
As to the question of how to sell more comics when a movie comes out, DiDio points out something that’s often glossed over on the publishing side: the key is focusing on any books the film is based on. The closer to movie is to the actual book, the better the sales. See: Watchmen and Walking Dead.
Jim Lee walks a real tightrope addressing some initiatives that everybody knows DC is doing, but that they haven’t formally announced. “There are programs afoot.” Yes, DC is looking at some new programs for young readers and girls, among other things. Yes, they’re currently hiring. They’re looking at it as needing to build an infrastructure for the new offerings and they’re looking to bring in new talent. (Which many of us industry observers have been interpreting as bringing in talent from outside comics.)
That Superhero Girls initiative? The prose novels are handled by a different division of Warner, but the first volume of the graphic novel version is over 100K in sales. (Obviously most of that isn’t in the DM.)
Milestone is targeted for a Spring ’18 debut. It will be on Earth-M, a world in the DC multiverse and conforming to the multiverse rules. Which is to say that while the initial intent is to focus on the Milestone characters, there could be analogues of other DC characters popping up here and there as is normally the case with multiverse stories and one supposes that leaves the door open for a potential “Crisis on Earth-M” type story.
Milestone will be a combination of classic characters and reintroducing new ones.
When Calvin makes note of the involvement of Alice Randall (best known for writing, The Wind Done Gone, a Gone With the Wind parody written from a slave’s perspective), Lee teases that Reggie Hudlin has been talking to a few more “new voices” like Randall, so they may have a couple folks they aren’t quite ready to announce yet.
DiDio says that the difference between Before Watchmen and Doomsday Clock is that with Before Watchmen, they weren’t looking to move the Watchmen story forward, just expand on it and play in that universe. Doomsday Clock takes place after Watchmen, moves the story forward and highlights the differences between the Watchmen universe and the DCU. Doomsday Clock “will have an effect on the DC universe upon its conclusion.”
The word DiDio uses to describe Metal is “bonkers.” He sees it as the opposite of Doomsday Clock in many ways. Metal takes the idea of different worlds in the multiverse and then Snyders pushes that in different directions. Where Doomsday Clock is a self-contained series with no one-shots or crossovers, Metal is all over them and is actively spinning off books. (Although one does suspect Doomsday Clock will spawn a few books in its wake, but that’s a long way off at this point.)
Speaking of Metal spinning off books, DiDio gives us a little clarification on the “Age of Heroes” initiative. The short version, it was indeed supposed to be launching in December, but the folks at DC thought the messaging had gotten lost in the midst of the Metal hype. (And they would be correct.) So they decided to pause it and rebrand it, emphasizing both the ties to Metal for the new titles _and_ their interaction with other characters in the wider DCU. The goals being to add some new characters and a bit of diversity to the DCU. They also want to emphasis the creators working on the books, perhaps similarly to an old school Image roll out. While this was originally going to be all launched in a smaller window, it’s now going to be a year long roll out.
Get ready for some bombs to drop. Jim Lee explained that Mark Doyle is now the Executive Editor, which everyone already knew. What everybody didn’t know is that they want to take a “pop-up imprint approach” and do more things like Young Animal with “key creators” having a sort of mini-universe to play in. There will also be new stand alone titles from some Vertigo usual suspects and new creators. With the 25th anniversary, there’s a sort of line in the sand of August 2018 to get things reconfigured, so definitely things moving behind the curtain there.
Todd Allen wears a lot of hats. At various times he’s been (alphabetically), a bouncer, college professor, humor columnist, Internet producer and an NBA/WNBA Beat Writer, among other things. He’s the author of Economics of Digital Comics. You should probably read it.