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Diane Nelson, the head of DC Entertainment, WB Consumer Products and many other things at the studio, gave a talk at an industry confab the other day, and it’s probably the longest public talk she’s been quoted at. Most of it was about TV and movies, things that Nelson doesn’t oversee, but the comics were mentioned:

But at its core, DC is a publishing company. The titles published by DC Comics and the Vertigo imprint are the “foundation of the (DC) business,” she said. She credited DC publishers Jim Lee and Dan Didio with reinventing the publishing business starting in 2011 when the pair instituted “a total reboot of our publishing line — it’s been hugely successful in the past four years.”

The print comics — which are increasingly paired with digitally published titles — are a vital content source for DC and Warner Bros. at large. Vertigo, which focuses on stand-alone fantasy stories, is an engine “for getting original IP into the company and feeding other businesses as well as our publishing business.”

Nelson acknowledged that the are growing concerns about whether Hollywood is becoming oversaturated with superhero fare. The growth in the amount of comic-based fare only heightens the pressure to ensure that the storytelling at the heart of DC properties is strong and distinctive.


It’s good to know comics are a vital content source for the WB—but this is not just idle talk. DC related properties make up 50% of the WB’s video games business, while bringing in some $8 billion in consumer products sales and over $3 billion in home video. That is a lot of Batman and shows why DC Entertainment isn’t going anywhere.

Nelson also mentioned that the TV and movie versions of DC’s various superheroes won’t crossover — what happens in Gotham stays in Gotham and will have no impact on the movie Batman. For now anyway. Comics fans love that continuity.

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Photo: Chelsea Lauren/Variety/Rex Shutterstock

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21 COMMENTS

  1. ‘She credited DC publishers Jim Lee and Dan Didio with reinventing the publishing business starting in 2011 when the pair instituted “a total reboot of our publishing line — it’s been hugely successful in the past four years.””

    she is not paying atention to publishing side of bussiness

  2. Yeah, you can’t only look at DM periodical sales charts — here is last year’s BookScan: http://www.comicbookresources.com/article/bookscan-numbers-show-big-book-market-growth-for-comics-in-2014 — that shows them up almost 19% in the book market in 2014 — they’re the #1 comics publisher in the book market.

    Here’s what might be your nut graf from that to your specific point: “It might be worth noting that sixty-two of DC’s 131 placing books are “New 52” branded titles, and while one can certainly give a lot of weight to the success of the Snyder / Capullo “Batman” within that, it does appear to me that this branding and ease-of-entry that it implies from lower volume numbers, has had a certain level of success as a result — only forty-nine “New 52” books were in last year’s chart. We’ll see, in a decade or so, what goes on to be a true perennial title, but at year five of the branding, it’s very hard to argue that it doesn’t appear to be working in the bookstore environment. (I’m talking to you, Torsten!) — 8.3% of the Top 750 are “New 52″!”

    -B

  3. “She [Nelson] credited DC publishers Jim Lee and Dan Didio with reinventing the publishing business starting in 2011”

    Authors words, not a direct quote from Nelson but still….

    It might be de rigueur at things like these to be self-congratulatory and hyperbolic and I’m kind of just missing the point but this is the part where reality begins to melt for me. Did Lee and Didio really reinvent the publishing business in 2011?

    The Vertigo: Feed the Beast Mode description seems like it’s a good spot for creators who are not interested in owning some of their work and want to focus on stand-alone fantasy stories that fuel an engine “for getting original IP into the company and feeding other businesses as well as our publishing business.”

  4. ““We’re so talent driven,” Nelson said during the Q&A with Variety co-editor-in-chief Andrew Wallenstein. The focus on a single universe of characters with connected storylines “could end up handcuffing our creators into trying to work with the same storyline or force them to hold back characters or introduce certain characters. Ultimately it hinders the ability for someone like (showrunner) Bruno Heller to come in and create ‘Gotham.’ “”

    That’s the DNA of DC Comics: imaginary stories, Earth-Twos, Elseworlds…
    While some fans do enjoy the shared universe, some do despise crossovers.
    I would not be surprised to see self-contained character titles… Superman has his universe, Batman has his, and while versions may appear in each other’s titles, the headliners won’t meet. That way, you can just read the Superman titles, and not miss anything.

    Mr. Hibbs does raise an interesting point.
    I wonder if the trades follow the same model as the periodicals… Does v.2 sell fewer copies than v.1?
    Does a series cancellation hurt the reprint volume which collects the last issues?
    I’d only have the ICv2 numbers to look at, but ICv2 did notice that Walking Dead’s first-month dominance is shrinking.
    Brian, when do you stop reordering the older volumes? For backlist of lengthy runs, do you just shelve the first volume?

    Even if a volume does go out of print, does the ebook?
    Does ebook availability help spur the continual sales of trades?

    I do hope that the volumes remain in print, no matter what the title.

  5. “I wonder if the trades follow the same model as the periodicals… Does v.2 sell fewer copies than v.1?”

    Yes…. with an asterisk! Ongoing trade series *tend* to sell “in the hammock” — that is to say that sales on the first and latest volumes tend to sell the best, decreasing from both ends until they meet somewhere in the middle. Here’s THE WALKING DEAD pulled from the 2014 BookScan (Hopefully this will not post all jumbled):

    31,525 WALKING DEAD V 01 DAYS GONE BYE
    18,938 WALKING DEAD V 02 MILES BEHIND
    14,174 WALKING DEAD V 03 SAFETY BEHIND
    10,652 WALKING DEAD V 04 HEARTS DESIRE
    8,880 WALKING DEAD V 05 BEST DEFENSE
    7,549 WALKING DEAD V 06 THIS SORROWFUL
    6,408 WALKING DEAD V 07 CALM BEFORE
    6,155 WALKING DEAD V 08 MADE TO SUFFER
    5,586 WALKING DEAD V 09 HERE WE REMAIN
    5,607 WALKING DEAD V 10 WHAT WE BECOM
    5,446 WALKING DEAD V 11 FEAR THE HUNT
    5,123 WALKING DEAD V 12 LIFE AMONG TH
    4,751 WALKING DEAD V 13 TOO FAR GONE
    4,789 WALKING DEAD V 14 NO WAY OUT
    4,709 WALKING DEAD V 15
    4,996 WALKING DEAD V 16
    13,464 WALKING DEAD V 17 TP
    16,264 WALKING DEAD V 18
    25,878 WALKING DEAD V 19
    45,316 WALKING DEAD V 20 ALL OUT WAR
    36,303 WALKING DEAD V 21 ALL OUT WAR
    24,459 WALKING DEAD V 22 A NEW BEGINN

    (For v 20, that represents nine months of sales, for v 21 it is five months of sales, and for v 22 it is a mere month; You can see that v15 is the low point of the hammock)

    Once a book ENDS, however, it goes straight downwards from v1, here’s SANDMAN

    16,435 SANDMAN VOL 01 PRELUDES & NOCTU
    8,302 SANDMAN VOL 02 THE DOLLS HOUSE
    6,077 SANDMAN VOL 03 DREAM COUNTRY NE
    4,777 SANDMAN VOL 04 SEASON OF MISTS
    3,788 SANDMAN VOL 05 A GAME OF YOU
    3,568 SANDMAN VOL 06 FABLES & REFLECT
    2,954 SANDMAN VOL 07 NEW E
    2,865 SANDMAN VOL 08 WORLDS END
    2,702 SANDMAN VOL 09 THE KINDLY ONES
    2,599 SANDMAN VOL 10 THE WAKE NEW E
    479 SANDMAN THE DREAM HUNTERS

    (I threw that last one in there to show that OGNs are actually less viable long-term then numbered series — I could provide an identical example with FABLES two OGNs….)

    But, yes, there’s pretty much always an “issue to issue” decline, regardless of staples or spines.

    -B

  6. >>>Brian, when do you stop reordering the older volumes? For backlist of lengthy runs, do you just shelve the first volume?<<>>Even if a volume does go out of print, does the ebook? Does ebook availability help spur the continual sales of trades?<<<

    The only reason a book ever goes out of print is because the publisher doesn't project enough return-on-investment to make it worth. THAT usually (though…. probably not ALWAYS) indicates that there's not any real demand for a work. Most likely the "ebook" sales for *unpopular* (which is WHY they went out of print) comics will be truly trivial numbers of copies in a year (single or double digits) — so I would believe the answer to your second question is "No"

    -B

  7. Gr, and first question in that last one was supposed to say something like “we stock books as long as they turn, we allow for a once-every-18-months turn on some stock, and some series we’ll only stock v1 & v2.

    -B

  8. We’ve got two comics store here.

    One, the much older one, was steadily decreased its trade ’til they’re down to roughly twenty percent of what they carried a decade ago. The newer one carries every in print trade paper (I asked), all of the hardcovers of a reasonable price (roughly up to fifty dollars and will special order anything else no money down). The second shop also orders heavily for the major publishers as well as an impressive number of the small publishers.

    Guess which I do business with when I buy trades? Or upgrade to hardcover editions when they become available?

  9. I know it’s not going to happen anytime soon, but… wouldn’t it be great if WB and Marvel would offset the costs of comics with the profits from using the characters in other forms? Instead of $4 and $5 comics, how about $3 or even $2 a pop. This is how you get new readers to go with the new fans of the movies. If I’m a parent who sees an Avengers movie with their kids and then the kids desperately want an Avenger comic but it takes X amount of time to find a shop/store with comics and then the comic is $4 or even $5, forget about it. Maybe one comic to shut the kids up but that’s it. No monthlies for me. Stop with the greed. You say you want new readers. So lower the ridiculous prices. There is enough money in Hollywood now for comic book characters in so many mediums. Make a kids possible lifelong obsessions start with a fair price.

  10. I’m sorry, but I can’t take anyone seriously when they say that DC Comics has been “hugely successful” for the past four years–or that Didio & Lee reinvented the publishing business.

  11. I’ll trust the person that actually sees the sales numbers and presides over a multi-billion dollar company instead of “TonyLA” who can’t see his dick under his enormous gut and resides in his parents’ basement.

  12. @Carlos – as much fun as it is to attack people for no reason, your logic is as flawed at TonyLA’s. Nelson may see numbers that we don’t, but she also has a clear bias in favor of spinning DC’s story as a success.

  13. I don’t want to seem like a DC apologist–I much preferred their comics pre New 52–and yes, Nelson has an incentive to play up and exaggerate the success of DC’s publishing line, but the truth remains that internet commentators are relying on little more than conjecture and their own gut feelings. We do not get accurate sales figures, and those that are reported here and elsewhere are inaccurate and do not include digital sales, newsstand sales, trade paperbacks. We do not know what the overhead is to produce a particular DC book-what the page rates are for the creators, what the salaries of the editors are. The only thing we know for certain is that Dan Didio and Jim Lee are still publishers after five years. I am inferring from that that Nelson is satisfied with their performance. I think a lot of comics fans cannot imagine that it would be possible that someone that has changed the comics they once loved into comics they no longer love could be doing a good job, but current evidence suggests that Dan Didio’s bosses obviously feel differently.

  14. Carlos – It is possible to be critical of someone’s opinion without making it personal and nasty. Many times, the loud squeaky wheel (i.e. the internet) is not even close to representative of the actual reality of a situation. The fact that many times the internet comics community (press and fans included) end up being a wall of noise that serves to reinforce it’s own opinions over and over again can blind people to the reality of a situation. Hell, even Deadline was reporting the demise of DiDio at one point, despite admission from it’s reporters at the time that they didn’t have as much knowledge of the comics business as they could argue to have now. This demise being reported immediately before he re-signed for another multi-year contract that lead eventually to his being promoted to co-publisher.

    The facts as they lie, whether you want to admit to the impact or not, consider it coincidence or not, is the risk DC took in re-launching their whole line, I really don;t think it can be argued at this point, raised sales on a global scale for all comic publishers. Whether it was entirely or greatly successful for DC as a company I think is certainly up for debate, but them doing what they did at that time, like or not, opened up a surge of new readers in the market that allowed companies like Image to take a lot of the risks they’ve taken, poaching prime talent from people who had built their audience at the big two in a sort of stagnant swamp that had become standard attrition. I’m not sure Image takes on that risk of launching all these new titles with relatively successful names without DC taking a risk and showing there’s a bigger audience out there than just the standard attrition reader who jumps from launch to relaunch in a readership of diminishing returns.

    Did DC launch the new 52 perfectly? Absolutely not. It seems lots of what they claimed to want to do in the relaunch of the NEW 52 didn’t actually come to fruition until the success of HArley Quinn and Batgirl (although I’m not sure honestly DC even new what they were looking for in new directions and starts for characters when they did the relaunch – I think as is probably evident in the sameness of a lot of the launch books as well as much of the talent.) But again, I think anecdotal evidence could tell us that a lot of what we are seeing in the change of comics and readership (as is typically glacially slow in the business over the years) maybe doesn’t come to fruition unless DC takes the risk they do in relaunching the line. As far a head as Marvel continues to be in sales, I could never see them making that same kind of risk (All New All Whatever Marvel I don’t think really counts. They already saw the success of this move and tried to craft it to their own kind of business plan 4 to 5 years after the fact.) If nothing else, I don’t feel like Marvel has ever tried to play the game as an innovator. Marvel if the Rolling Stones of comic book companies.

    All this to say, you can be critical of decisions DC has made and give them some due for our current climate. There’s obviously still plenty of work to do (as witnessed by the Alex DeCampi situation last week) but progress is progress, and despite how you now feel about their line, you can’t really use revisionist history to erase what DC did a few years back not say it wasn’t historic to some degree, not if you look at the big picture of comics as it is today.

  15. Also to RTJ – I don’t think being an apologist has anything to do with it. You can both commend and be critical of the moves DC and Marvel make without a disclaimer. We are complicated people with complicated conflicting thoughts about the things we like. I don;t think any of us have to apologize for it.

  16. From the theater balcony, as I watch this all play out:
    1) DC has an aggressive live-action television slate. There’s an Arrow-verse of (soon-to-be) three series, which are introducing a large number of characters from the comics, and generating good reviews. Plus Gotham (which beat Agents of SHIELD’s numbers), Supergirl, iZombie. Coming Soon: Preacher (!) and Lucifer.

    2) While we see the ICv2 numbers every month, and we follow the drama of the DC You titles (welcome back, Omega Men!), DC seems to be doing okay. Has the number of titles shrunk from month-to-month? Or are they being proactive in trying something new?

    3) Maybe we’re concentrating too much on the comics. There are a lot of licensed books coming out (which most fans don’t see, because they are marketed to schools, libraries, and bookstores) which might create new franchises, like Super Pets. We know how much licensing and videogame revenue DC generates (and what sort of price tag you can place on DC… $11 BILLION). Yeah, I’d be pretty happy with those numbers., although they could always be better. (Plus, include WB properties like The Wizard of Oz, Harry Potter, The Hobbit.) They’re in the licensing Top Ten.
    http://www.licensemag.com/license-global/top-150-global-licensors-0

  17. After revisiting this, I believe Nelson feels it was the act of rebooting the line that reinvented the publishing business. I suppose one could argue something on the order of the New52 had never been done.

    It’s interesting she references the publishing business and not publishing itself. Business-wise there must be something about the reboot that she think Lee and Didio did that reinvented the way every publisher does business now?

  18. I would say that “reinvented the publishing business” is, indeed, hyperbole. However, by all other accounts, sales are much stronger for DC since the relaunch so it’s not that the opposite is true either. She’s exaggerating, but not lying.

  19. This was an industry speech so of course she would sound positive. The comics are a drop in the bucket as far as sales.

    Current sales figures for DC comics speak for themselves. In the long run the reboot led readers to other companies and away from DC. So yes it did help the industry, even though it was a short term gain for DC, whose comic sales are falling again.

  20. Penny Dreadful says ‘This was an industry speech so of course she would sound positive. The comics are a drop in the bucket as far as sales.’

    For both DC and Marvel, this is rule since the live action films became the most important revenue stream. Everything else amount to roundings on the account sheets. One billion dollar grossing film even after all costs including film production and advertising still leave a lot of cash. A top selling DC comic brings in a very, very small fraction of a single film.

    But the characters and story lines feed into films (animated and live), merchandise and games. So the comics are important, just not in what they make for money.

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