Update: As noted in the comments section, Cullen Bunn took to his Twitter last night to announce that Green Lantern: the Lost Army has indeed been cancelled.

Looks like bad news comes in droves.  Hot on the heels of DC’s announcement that Omega Men, Doomed, and three other series have been cancelled, DC solicited the final issues of Digital First titles Batman ’66 and Sensation Comics featuring Wonder Woman.  Both of these series will conclude in December, with Batman ’66 making it to a healthy 30 issues and Sensation Comics sliding home at #17.

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No Mercy writer Alex de Campi voiced her dissatisfaction with Sensation Comics‘ cancellation on a blog post today, praising its successes and using it as a springboard to add fuel to quickly growing fire of sexual harassment allegations surrounding a number of prolific comics creators at DC, Marvel, and elsewhere.  She claims that DC is continuing to “coddle” a known sexual harasser, allowing the individual to foster an unhealthy atmosphere for female creators in the Superman editorial office, where Sensation Comics is edited and, according to her, where no females are employed.

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While The Beat cannot confirm de Campi’s allegations, her broader message is one we should all take heed of:

DC and Marvel are not the Augean Stables. There are many, many good people at these companies, and things have gotten immeasurably better over the past decade for readers who are not cis/het white dudes. But we’re not done. Diversity isn’t a fad senior management can get away with giving lip-service to. You can’t celebrate black culture and not employ black people. You can’t hold up female heroes while coddling male harassers. WE SEE YOU.

DC has had a hard time over the past few weeks, from the disappointing performance of the DC You Relaunch to co-publisher Dan Didio’s mutiny against books that “Batgirl.”  Prez, originally a 12 issue miniseries, was re-solicited as a six issue miniseries, causing fans to revolt until the creators, rather than publisher representatives, took to social media to clarify that the title would now be two six-issue miniseries.  Another new title, the “meat and potatoes” Green Lantern: the Lost Army, had its sixth issue solicited for November 2015 but is now missing from the December 2015 solicits.  The Beat has reached out to DC reps for comment on this title, but have received no reply as of yet.

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Some fans are feeling particularly hurt about the cancellation of Omega Men, which was originally solicited as a 12 issue miniseries but will now conclude with seven issues.  A Twitter conversation between @TalesofRacShade and Justice League Group Editor Brian Cunningham (@bcunningham71) reveals that, with all of these reneges, many feel as though the “circle of trust” between DC and readers has been broken.

The general gist of the conversation goes like this: @TalesofRacShade believe DC didn’t give Omega Men an honest college try, cancelling it before “the first trade drop,” while Cunningham discloses that the series has “likely been unprofitable” since issue 3. We don’t have sales numbers for issues 3 and 4 yet, but issue 2 sold around 17k units, so a further drop and sales and thus a dip into the land of unprofitability is not impossible or even unlikely.

Cunningham responds to @TalesofRacShade’s tweets by promising to keep trying to take risks, but the incensed fan is not placated by what sounds like “empty promises.”

Things start to spin out wildly from this point in the conversation, but some notable moments:

The gut reaction is to villainize DC in this situation, but it seems like they’re just as scared as everyone else.  The market is, indeed, very tumultuous right now, and someone needs to show confidence in something, whether its readers backing a book that may not have longevity or companies having faith that a niche audience will eventually make its way to an initial slow performer.  Neither readers nor DC Comics seems willing to take the lead at this point, so we’ll have to wait and see if something bends.

32 COMMENTS

  1. That was…really too long an exchange of Twitters to digest for an article. I would have found a summary with one or two excerpted tweets more effective.

    And, not to ignore the wider problem this article presents but enquiring minds (well, mine) want to know…will Batman ’66 and Sensation will continue to be released digitally, or will they be cancelled as well as the floppy reprints?

  2. Hi John,

    Thanks for your comment. I got overzealous with the tweets– didn’t realize how long the conversation was because it seemed much shorter in my head! I’ve parred them down some.

    According to solicits, the December issues for these titles will be the final issues for all formats. I will look into this further and clarify if I hear anything to the contrary.

  3. I doubt that the Digital First comics will continue.
    The numbers seem to have been calculated from “can we sell enough via digital + paper + graphic novel?”
    If those numbers don’t add up to a profit, then it’s not going to continue with just one format.
    In the old days, it was “newsstand + direct market + subscriptions”. Many marginal titles had better profits when newsstand copies were omitted (Ka-Zar, Micronauts, Moon Knight).

    How well did DC market these new titles?
    Why did Ms. Marvel become an overnight sensation, but not Prez?

  4. I see the point TalesOfRacShade is making — I’m one of (I assume) many people who pick stuff up late, or purchase and then read late. I picked up a couple of the relaunched titles in June and didn’t get to reading any of them until Labor Day. (That’s what happens when your to-read pile is taller than the nightstand it sits on.) Now I’m going back to catch up on the ones I liked, but the damage has been done and the books that didn’t show strong interest by August will be canceled. Because most books simply don’t get a fighting chance, they’re often gone by the time their audience finds them.

    It’s just the nature of the beast, though. I think it’s more of a general issue with monthly superhero comics and its sales channels than any bad decisions made at DC.

  5. A lot of ground covered here:

    Sad to see both Batman ’66 and Sensation Comics go. I bought both occasionally, but they were pretty confused packages.

    The Batman book had the trappings of the TV show and good likenesses of the actors involved, but *unlike* the show it was played straight, not camp. So what audience was this for? I assume the nostalgia crowd (and in this day and age, that can’t be a very big crowd), but then it didn’t go all in. Sort of like putting on a production of Grease and taking out the songs. The stories were fine, but without the parody, it ended up being pretty mild (though the Kevin Smith/Ty Templeton mini with the Green Hornet was fun and the Len Wein/Harlan Ellison/Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez special was quite beautiful.)

    Sensation Comics had a similar schizophrenic profile. Some of the best, accessible, all-ages Wonder Woman stories in a long time, unfortunately behind covers that often portrayed The Amazon Princess as a crazed warrior splattered with blood. I know covers in comics have a long history of not reflecting the exact contents, but I can’t imagine the audience for either one of those types of books being satisfied with that combination.

    It makes me both sad and angry to hear these stories of sexual harassment behind the scenes. Especially when it involves people who are working on characters that are supposed to be heroes — examples of our best ideals, not our worst demons. DC, if this is going on, please get to the bottom of it and root it out. Not only for the sake of your workplace, but for Superman, Wonder Woman and all the other inspiring icons that the world looks up to.

    And Torsten, I think Ms. Marvel had the advantage of a lot of media coverage outside of comics *and* being a superhero comic in the Marvel Universe. Prez is on its’ own in its’ own little corner of the world with no capes and tights.

  6. The problem with DC is that they don’t give the smaller books a big marketing push. Although, I did notice that there was some attempt for The Omega Men with it having a big spread in the back pages for a month or two. Hopefully this is the kind of title that does alright in TPB and warrants a new miniseries in the not too distant future.

  7. All of the Digital First titles have had limited lifespans, such as Adventures of Superman and Legends of the Dark Knight. Sensation had 48 digital weekly releases. That’s no small potatoes. After each one wraps up, a new one with a new character comes around the corner. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Flash or GL anthology Digital First series next up to bat.

  8. @Hardy: Ouch. So Lost Army wasn’t just cancelled; it was stealth cancelled. That must hit hard for the creators, to say nothing of readers who invested in the story.

    Yeah, the Omega Men news hit me kind of hard, particularly after having been geared up for a twelve-issue run with a clearly laid out beginning, middle, and end. Add my voice to the choir of being cheated as a reader to be paying money for what will never be more than half a story.

    And Alex DeCampi’s remarks just make me sad as a consumer. I loved Sensation Comics for its diverse storytelling, its introducing me to the work of a number of spectacular creators, and its being the iconic Wonder Woman book that I’ve felt had been missing from the stands since Gail Simone’s run on the title ended. (Azzarello and Chiang are a good “alternate” take, but separated from their storytelling, the N52 character is Generic Warrior Woman #49, not Wonder Woman.) Agreed with the poster who lamented the covers never matching the tone. That’s been a real sticking point for me with the book.

    Basically, what made Sensation distinct is that between its covers, it was a feminist book. De Campi’s revelations about the Superman office at DC… I sincerely wish I could say I were surprised to hear her statements out loud. And it saddens me. The DiDio / Lee / Harras regime needs to topple. It feels to me like they set this new direction up for failure from the get-go, between the timing, the horrifyingly awful marketing, and now the company’s failure to see through on their own promises to their readers…

    Is there any good news to come out of DC? I mean… Batgirl, Black Canary, and Doctor Fate are cool, and they’re still going. There’s that, right…?

  9. What I find disconcerting is that from the sound of things, they had no intention of following through with any of these series.
    They were throwing stuff at a wall to see if something would get Star Wars or Secret Wars numbers.

    And I agree with the poster about them being set up to fail.
    Or rather, to be used as the scapegoat for all their financial problems this year.

    DCYou sounded like it was an idea that sprung from outside the Didio clan, and got greenlit because it was the perfect opportunity to show “it doesn’t sell” so they can go back to the New52 way of things and look better for it.

    I mean…
    They already had the debt from moving to Burbank.
    The Star Wars movie comes out in December and Marvel started their series in January, with spin-offs along the way. That was just going to get bigger and bigger the closer we get to the movie.
    Secret Wars is a major event that’s leading to the All New Marvel that was teased in the Diamond Retailer calendar late last year.

    Anything they did this year would be going against a juggernaut.

    It’s best to do something unorthodox or “different” so it can be blamed for not measuring up, instead of their favored direction taking a blow.

    Omega Men, King, and the readers are the real victims here. This is a book that DC knew would be a slow-burner. With a 12-issue plot layout, including a three-act structure. By reasonable thought, #8 would fall near the eand of act two. Which means either there will be no ending, or it’ll be re-written to have a one-issue final act.

    The best alternative now would be for readers to just forego floppies altogether. Just wait for the trade. At least then you’ll know what you’re getting.

    Meanwhile, I also want to say that I’m truly sad about Batman ’66 being cancelled. I’ve really been enjoying it. I guess they’ve made all they could off the DVDs so it’s not needed anymore.
    Hopefully the Man from U.N.C.L.E and Avengers crossovers will sell good enough for them to consider relaunching it.

  10. In regards to diversity and progression at both publishers, I’ll say this: being reactive is not progression, nor is it sincere. It’s offensive, quite frankly, and the motivations to suddenly try diversity are suspect. I believe some fans recognize it- and other fans rationalize and ignore it. After all, they get so little happiness from comics anymore- they don’t want logic to spoil it.

  11. Lee, I wouldn’t worry much about Batman 66. To me, the UNCLE and Avengers crossovers show to me that the book is still a viable product, they’re just doing things a little differently. They may now just keep doing mini-series format stories for it rather then a regular ongoing. I mean it is already a dollar cheaper at $2.99 instead of $3.99.

  12. I think the DC You nooks are being made to be the fall guy for the entirely craptastic event that was convergence. It was a truly awful event. As long as Didio and Harrah are in charge, people like Lonely are given the benefit of the doubt while writers like Bunn have their series cancelled after six issues.

  13. DC kind’ve hit a perfect storm it seems. Moving west, retiring the New 52 brand, using Convergence as the event to band-aid and however fraught with peril those propositions would be–all in the midst of a Marvel version of a reboot and the Star Wars Golden Goose as well as top industry talent decamping for independent work–seems like DC missed a lot while they were away on their vacation.

    It looks like they’ll double-down on Batman (Robin War, weekly, TMNT) and what sounds like a money-making retail structure for DKIII to make out no matter how it reads, another Harley book, and raise some prices as a strategy to get back in the game.

  14. I always love people who are all “fire Didio!” Yeah? A replace him with WHO exactly? I can’t say that I love his aesthetic, but there just isn’t a back bench of trained folks who have the chops for that kind of game. And that’s putting aside the many and multiple masters one is expected to serve in that kind of position.

    No, the real problem was that Paul Levitz was right to keep DC *comics* as far away as possible from Warner Bros, where that company’s need to exploit creates the wrong environment for making the best possible comics. But that cat is out of that bag, and there’s not a lot of hope of ever going back to what it was.

    -B

  15. I don’t actually think DiDio is the problem right now; from where I stand, the problem is…well, there sure are a lot of them — Harras as EIC (when I mention the trio above, he’s at the top just because of how ineffectual he is; an EIC who can stand up to his superiors instead of being a puppet is what is needed; DiDio’s a fine liaison and PR guy), the vacuum left in the wake of Bob Wayne’s departure, the joke of a marketing department that spearheaded DCYou…

    And as far as replacing anyone who gets canned goes? Well, that’s what an interview process is for. I certainly don’t envy whomever follows, though. Heck of a mess to clean up, assuming DC even stays in the publishing game after these next couple years. I can easily envision a future where their comics division is scaled back to nothing, save for “essential” backlist to feed into bookstores. From a corporate standpoint, what are they *actually* bringing to the table right now, other than bad word of mouth?

  16. Thing about Sensation Comics is it’s a Digital First. Print helps, but it’s not where the title is geared. For comparison, we have Arrow Season 2.5 #11, ranked at 215 with 8,225 units; Flash Season Zero #11 is at 194 with 9,577 units; it’s certainly not doing Injustice numbers, but by Digital First standards, it seems to be chugging along all right in Direct Market print. Maybe the digital numbers aren’t up to snuff; maybe someone’s getting chop-happy; maybe the higher ups are viewing Bombshells as a replacement. It’s all speculation on this book without knowing what’s going on through Comixology and various other platforms.

    All I can say regarding that one is I’m disappointed personally.

  17. it’s been pretty clear for quite some time that 15K is the threshold for DC to start axing books (especially those priced at $2.99 — so lets assume $45,000 a book) — with somewhat lower thresholds for Vertigo books (as Astro City falls under that line). So Sensation isn’t hitting that mark in the print version sales, so that shouldn’t really be a surprise.

    DCs positive from this is that a number of books are still above those lines and should make it past issue 6 but maybe not past issue 8 (I’m looking at you, Dr. Fate and Midnighter…)

    it’s almost impossible to figure out what Marvel’s cut-off is currently as the constant relaunching of titles — even after 5 issues! — gives them a guaranteed push with a new #1 over and over. The flood of Secret Wars mini-series certainly isn’t helping DC (even though I think the DC books are a *lot* better than all of Marvel’s new “what if?” Secret Wars stories…)

  18. @Brian Hibbs: Remember back when Levitz was pulping issues of Alan Moore’s ABC line and toning down the Authority, and everyone was vilifying him? I’m not going to defend those decisions necessarily, but as the post-Levitz years continue their downward spiral, I wonder if a lot of fans are rethinking their opinions of Levitz, for the reason you cite. The DC You initiative sounded like a return to the days when DC would take more risks with its creative, but the quick hook on many of the new titles gives the opposite impression. I read some DC books and enjoy them, but they really do seem to be lurching from one initiative to another, with no effective grand plan in place.

  19. I always think of the X-Files, and while during it’s first couple of seasons the ratings weren’t horrible, they were in the “cult hit” status during that time, until the show slowly became the huge phenomenon it was. New comics aren’t even given a chance today. I mean, geesh, I bought Green Lantern: LA, Gotham by Midnight (the new creative team), and JLU. They barely even got going. What a waste of talent (and my money.)

  20. From my perspective, if I enjoy an issue of a comic, I didn’t waste my money…whether it lasts three issues or twenty. Heck, those couple of issues that Ales Kot wrote of Suicide Squad are still my favorite since the Ostrander days. It’s a shame the good books don’t last longer, and I despair over the publishing direction and reader preferences for things that don’t match my own…but I’ll continue to enjoy what I enjoy when it comes out. And if it stops, well, that’s one less thing I feel compelled to spend money on.

  21. “New comics aren’t even given a chance today. ”

    Nathan, were you around in the 1970s, when Marvel and especially DC were routinely canceling new comics after 3 or 4 issues? Even Kirby’s New Gods and Forever People only lasted 11 issues. The chaos of the Infantino regime seems to have returned.

  22. ​”​While The Beat cannot confirm de Campi’s allegations…​”​

    Have​ you tried? If so, how? If not, why not?

  23. Brian Hibbs: “I always love people who are all “fire Didio!” Yeah? A replace him with WHO exactly? . . . And that’s putting aside the many and multiple masters one is expected to serve in that kind of position.”

    Thom Boyer: “And as far as replacing anyone who gets canned goes? Well, that’s what an interview process is for.”

    Thom, I think you’re missing part of Brian’s point. He’s suggesting that on some level, it might not matter all that much who occupies DiDio’s position. They would still have the same kind of mandates from the same people that DiDio currently answers to.

    At my workplace, we used to cheer every time somebody in a managerial position would leave… after a couple of rounds of that, we came to the realization that the new managers really have the same marching orders as their predecessors b/c the bosses at the very top aren’t any different than before. So while the new managers may serve up a slightly different flavor, it’s still the same old $#!†. I suspect that it would be a roughly analogous situation if you replaced DiDio but not his bosses.

  24. @comicsatemybrain: Yeah… I think you missed the part where I said DiDio was pretty good at the part of his job that doesn’t involve creative direction (namely, most of it), and I’m not calling for anyone’s head. My initial post that Mr. Hibbs responded to was admittedly knee-jerk. And I know the part of Time-Warner that cares about comics outside of “Is this division profitable?” pretty much ends there. I’m fairly certain Diane Nelson is far more concerned with DC Entertainment’s films and television; heck, toys and statues probably generate more revenue than the comics division. I don’t know… It’s the reality of corporate comics, no matter the publisher, and it’s depressingly fatalistic when you take a step back to look at it.

    @DonkeyDroid: I suppose you’re looking for video footage? If you head over to Bleeding Cool, you’ll find confirmation of a good part of Ms. De Campi’s claims, as several of the incidents referenced took place in public venues, on con floors in broad daylight. She doesn’t name names (and neither does BC), but that’s her prerogative, and I’m sure that’s also the victims’ prerogative so as to prevent a Gamergate-esque witch hunt, which the comics industry obviously so desperately needs right now.

  25. Maybe this diversity obsession is driving away readers of all kids. Maybe people don’t like to be pandered to with bad art and second-hand characters. The sales charts seem to prove that out. Take away the Star Wars books and you have a depressed market. The diversity books are dogs- if Batgirl is your yardstick for success then you’re in serious trouble.

  26. “Nathan, were you around in the 1970s, when Marvel and especially DC were routinely canceling new comics after 3 or 4 issues?”

    When did that happen at Marvel? I don’t recall books not getting at least 8 to 10 issues, and that was publishing bimonthly. Marvel even kept Machine Man going for several issues after Kirby left.

    Mike

  27. @MBunge: Marvel of the 1970’s had a couple of books with runs of less than eight issues: Black Goliath (5 issues), The Cat (4 issues), Night Nurse (4 issues), Shanna, the She-Devil (5 issues). And they also published a number of Showcase-type books which featured short runs of characters that never graduated to their own books: The Beast in Amazing Adventures (7 issues), Ant Man in Marvel Feature (7 issues), It The Living Colossus in Astonishing Tales (4 issues), Brother Voodoo in Strange Tales (5 issues), Tigra The Ware-woman in Marvel Chillers (5 issues).

  28. Publishers today would kill for the “low sales” that got comics canceled in the ’70s!

    Even Marvel’s New Universe comics of the late ’80s, widely regarded as a debacle, sold an average of 150,000 copies each (according to Sean Howe’s book on Marvel). That would be more than respectable today.

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