Retailers Reax to Rebirth: what’s behind that curtain?

201603010409.jpg

All we’ve seen of Rebirth is a big blue curtain, and there’s a lot of anxiety about what’s behind the curtain. You may recall the game show Let’s Make a Deal where contestants had to pick the prize behind one of three curtains. Will Rebirth be a new car or a box of macaroni and cheese?

The entire comics industry benefits from a strong DC Comics. A lack of customers who are eager to read the exploits of some of the medium’s best known characters is a concerning thing to retailers and even other publishers, who know that the Big Two are the core of the existing business. I’m told even some at Marvel are worried about the effects of Rebirth. DC execs faced many tough questions at the ComicsPRO meeting where it was announced, and skepticism and hope were felt in equal measure, sometimes by the same person.

I’m also told that the reason creative teams weren’t announced is that many were still being decided on. This kind of seat of the pants roll-out worked for the New 52, but not as well for DC You. The anxiety among observers is certainly understandable, and internally there has been a lot of disagreement as well.

As usual David Harper has done the heavy lifting of reaching out to retailers to see how they feel, in a lengthy roundtable. As usual you’ll need to go read the whole thing, but here’s a sampling. The concerns are frankly stated, along with a great deal of optimism:

Patrick Brower, Challengers Comics + Conversation, Chicago: Our initial reaction is optimism. Unfortunately, DC Comics sales are a fraction of what they have been, or have the potential to be, so any change can be a good change. We hope. And now that we have had time to digest it, we are still optimistic. I mean, it’s not like their sales can be any worse…

Ralph DiBernardo, Jetpack Comics, Rochester, NH: Well let’s start with the fact that there are absolutely no secrets in this business. I first learned about this two to three months ago. I was psyched when I heard about it then in hushed “rumors.” I was PRAYING it was true. DC’s New 52 relaunch was a financial boon for comic shops, distributors, licensors and more. Both DC and the industry need another such thing. Given the amount of commitment that DC is giving this I expect big things and lots of happy stores and comic fans.



Jennifer King, Space Cadets Collection Collection, North Oak Ridge, TX: The reality is that DC has been in trouble for quite some time. The industry knows that. Store owners talk about it in the forums often. Do we want them to fail? Quite the opposite, but they never ask us what works and what doesn’t. Wouldn’t we be a great resource, as we are the ones hand selling every week, reviewing their comics and listening to customer feedback? My first reaction was not positive. After decades in this industry, I have become cynical about relaunches, gimmicks and variants having seen the way that my regular customers (not speculators) react to it. For example Secret Wars became a jumping off point for many of my pull box customers. They just wanted a consistent story and great art.

201603010439.jpg

One of the biggest worries stated here, and in conversations I’ve had, is that Rebirth is being brought to you by the same staff and creators who brought you some of the flops of the past, as stated by Comics Dungeon’s Scott Tomlin:

My biggest concerns simply boil down to storytelling. DC has some great talent, but the current staff is part of the problem in the new DC universe. If the stories are good they will sell. Can the creators that brought some of the worst DC stories really turn the universe around? This is DC’s last big bet for a while, it needs to land on two feet solidly or it could be a rough several years for DC and retailers.


I’ll tell you one thing about comics: people don’t forget but they forgive quite easily. Comics is a tribe, and even when a tribe member messes up, they’re allowed to come back and give it another go. For all the mockery over “Has DC Done Something Stupid Today?” if they fix things up, everyone will be happy. If Rebirth works—and “works” here is defined as improving sales and reigniting the enthusiasm of the fanbase—everyone will heave a sigh of relief. 


And what if it doesn’t? I’m asking that not to be a Debbie Downer but just because I’ve heard a LOT of very frankly expressed concerns over this. The rising tide of the New 52 lifted a lot of boats, and every retailer would like a repeat flood of curious customers to come check out the new offerings. The world is very different than it was 5 years ago, however. The fanbase is incredibly different, and DC hasn’t shown a knack for reaching out to these new readers.


As I’ve stated many times, nothing will kill comics, despite the nagging belief in many creators for the last 70 years that the industry was about to die. If DC limps along at its current levels, comics will evolve, just like they always have. Other publishers will step into the breech in one way or another: Image and Valiant seem poised to pick up different segments of the audience, and other publishers are upping their game, as well.



The best case scenario, of course, is that these improved efforts catch hold AND Rebirth works. The majority of the tribe is sincerely hoping this is what happens, but they’re making some plan Bs just in case. 

201603010439.jpg

Comments

  1. catsmeow says

    DC lost me when they threw away 25 years’ worth of history, relationships, and character development for the New 52. If they want to win me back as a reader, they need to restore the pre-New 52 continuity, or at least publish a line of books set in that universe (alongside New 52 books, for those who like it). But DC keeps saying this is not a reboot, so that’s not encouraging.

    I read DC for over 20 years and felt like I was tossed aside in favour of newer, younger readers who can’t be bothered to care about what came before. Adding pre-New 52 elements to the New 52 continuity is not enough. It’s still the New 52. They need to bring back the entire world that I love, not just elements.

  2. Rikk Odinson says

    I’ve read DC Comics ( and others, of course) for over 40 years and I’m looking forward to “Rebirth”.

    I enjoyed the DCU after the original COIE and I liked it after the New52 started.

    Hopefully this will set DC continuity up for a good long time.

    Plus, you can’t go wrong with cheaper comics. That alone is pretty cool.

  3. Catsmeow says

    It’s neat that you like DC no matter what, but the fact is, they lost a ton of longtime fans due to the New 52. Their priority should be winning us back by giving us back the DC they took from us.

  4. zach says

    I’m really more concerned about the talent involved. DC has a really weak bench at the moment, so rolling out a ton of books at once seems foolish. I’d much rather see a small slate of books with great creators.

  5. says

    Catsmeow, you steal the thoughts from my mind and the words from my mouth. I loved my DC heroes in their post-Crisis continuity. I tried the New 52 but ended up hating it. I haven’t bought a DC comic since 2011. I never envisioned a world where I didn’t buy a Batman or Superman comic. But here we are.

    If DC went back to pre-Nu52 continuity, I would at least try their books. Or, as you suggest, perhaps they could do an anthology book set in that continuity, with the real characters and costumes. But the real problem is the leadership of DiDio and Lee. They broke it, then failed to fix it. Time to get new leadership. Until that happens, I’m afraid DC will continue to disappoint us. And not get my money. I do miss DC Comics.

  6. lenlenlen1 says

    The lower price is actually NOT lower. They’re going to publish most of their titles twice a month so its not $2.99 but rather $5.98 that we’ll have to pay to get Batman. $5.98 to get Detective. $5.98 to Superman. $5.98 to get Action. $5.98 to get Wonder Woman. And yet another $5.98 to get Justice League. That’s $47.84 a month,
    Twice as much as I usually paid helps them, not us. That’s what they’re really doing.

  7. Catsmeow says

    I’m not denying their initial launch was a success. But as you can see, 5 years have passed and without the support of their long-time readers, sales have plummeted. Winning back our trust is the way they need to go to be successful.

  8. Jer says

    Will Rebirth be a new car or a box of macaroni and cheese?

    I believe that the actual bad prize behind the curtain was a goat. The lame prize under the box was a year’s supply of Turtle Wax.

    I’m worried that Rebirth will be the goat. I suspect that the best we can hope for with the proven track record of the staff at DC for the last decade is that it’ll be a year’s supply of turtle wax. I’m not too hopeful that I’m going to be getting that new car this time around.

  9. SR says

    I am bummed to hear DC might be going back to pre new 52. I enjoyed the new 52 very much. What made it tough was books I liked got sucked into unnecessary crossovers and rewrites and plots that made no sense. Convergence really put me off. Rebirth sounds retro and old and conservative like Convergence and frankly I feel based on what I am hearing it does not sound as if it wants to get new readers. Good stories are good stories regardless of the continuity. Else why are people interested in AU? eg Injustice or DK3. Or TV and movie verse? To say you have to have one version only to enjoy comics is a fallacy and a mentality like spoiled kids wanting to have all or nothing. They should be trying to build on the new 52. Maybe tweak stuff to bring back some old characters but no way undo the current verse and versions as if they were some mistake. This will just be a bandaid if they go back to pre new 52. It will hold only for so long. They will plummet again because pre new 523 had huge problems. Readers who want modern creative writing will migrate elsewhere.

  10. NotHelpfulDude says

    Hiedi – Yes, sales doubled. And now the sales are very bad.
    hard to say withotu any market research – but it looks like teh core base was alienated and isn’t buying comics.

  11. Green says

    new 52 is mostly badly stories. Sorry to say that but it is. Only Snyder batman and some bat books to save it (batgirl, gotham academy, grayson), Azzarello wonder woman that got butchered now, and johns on Aquaman and JL. very few selected books from +80 books launched from new 52.

    what i can say to new 52 fans? well get used to the way DC treat their fans,

    I’m 24, started reading months before flashpoint. I really prefer a pre-flashpoint because the universe was already build: relationships, teams, everything was there. It was a cohesive universe, new 52 feel like a poor replay of the old one and very artificial. Characters are completely different.

    I hipe that Rebirth will bring the pre new 52 familiarity and world building/relationships

    Of course new 52 had big sales on the beggining: variant covers, new #1s, speculation. But that started to wear off pretty quickly and the results are that DC is in worse shape now than in 2011 with retailers/readers.

  12. says

    I want DC to succeed. I really liked a lot of the DCYou books but they bombed. They were good but they bombed. I think there needs to be an investigation on what happened to those books. Was it that the creators were not the big names? Superman has been good for the last year, so it can’t just be that the stories are bad or that the characters are too minor.

    Just reading the comment, it just seems like DC is under the wrath of retailers right now. Maybe the current regime without Bob Wayne is not giving them everything they want.

    But Marvel seems to be in a bad position as well – and there isn’t the same wrath. Marvel launched about 80 issues a month (many of which are $3.99/$4.99 each and twice per month), yet there isn’t the same anger. However, the sales numbers continue to dip there too.

    I think there is a trust issue but I don’t know if DC is the only culprit and that retailers and the audience need to take a closer look at themselves as well. It says a lot about the current state of the industry and the current audience that DC is having its second major relaunch in five years and Marvel continues to create #1s every eight months or so. Even Image and Valiant and the other publishers are doing only “seasons’ basically to relaunch with #1s.

  13. says

    I think if DC wants to succeed, they need to do away with editorial driven comics. You’ve got creators, let them create. Also, don’t mess with their stories by demanding they tie into an “event” that will only create a small bump in sales, then bleed away readers from the title immediately afterwards because of the interruption. You should also consider getting ahead of the deadlines so we don’t see these last minute changes to the creative teams on the titles. Creators aren’t widgets you can just swap in and out and get the same results.

    Until they do this, I expect more of the same. A bump, then falling sales.

  14. V wiley says

    It was plain from the start of the new 52, DC, the emperor, had no clothes. Their fortunes and marketing skills carried them as far as they could, and now we’re here, at Rebirth. I’m not sure all the mad skills that Didio, Lee, and Johns possess can carry them much further, unless they have a miracle in their pocket.

    I can’t see them losing any further market share, considering where they’re at now. By simplifying their line of books and doubling their output, they will keep their share most likely for six months or so. The quality and popularity of the books will either grow the readship or not from there.

  15. Skottie says

    “The lower price is actually NOT lower. They’re going to publish most of their titles twice a month so its not $2.99 but rather $5.98”

    For twice as much content. Therefore, the price is actually lower.

  16. Skottie says

    All you people whining about good stories, why are you still reading corporate-owned franchise comics? These things are all editorially driven. Stop wasting your money and support creator-owned work.

  17. Skottie says

    “I think if DC wants to succeed, they need to do away with editorial driven comics. You’ve got creators, let them create.”

    Then why the hell are you reading Batman comics? Do you expect anything new from Superman or Green Lantern? If a creator has a new, original idea, are they going to hand it over to a huge corporation like Warners, or sell it themselves at Image? Think, McFly.

  18. says

    I’m not reading Batman comics, Biff. I agree that if creators have new characters, they should do them elsewhere. A creative team can take an existing character and do new things with them creating great comics. EG Mark Waid and Chris Samnee on Daredevil. That’s makes for much better comics than line wide editorial “creative” decisions that require creators to perpetually attempt to make lemonade out of lemons.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *