If you watch the cable newsers these days, you know that instant analysis and punditocracy of the kind once confined to sports is now the only way to analyze anything of import. Sound bites, gotchas, double backs, keeping em honest…analyzing what people are saying about what people are saying is way more productive than actually identifying and solving problems…so everyone does it. And while it isn’t quite as entertaining as 2011’s Republican primary debate analysis, say, comics have developed their own “Counterpoint Arena” in the last few months, as executives from DC and Marvel come out and give their play-by-play on the just released sales charts. And so we have DC’s Bob Wayne and John Cunningham commenting on the March sales, a month in which they lost their 10-for-10 status and were the the #2 publisher. DC began these kinds of victory laps when they had a victory to lap, so it was interesting to see how a (very successful) but still second place month would be treated. One misses the devastating zingers of John Rood—I guess we only get him in victory months so order up, retailers!— but anyone who knows Bob Wayne, which is to say just about everyone in the comics business, will add his inimitable Texan inflections to the following gracious statements:
It’s interesting that in March Marvel got three titles in the top ten after getting shut out in February, but still DC closed the marketshare gap by over a point in March?
Bob Wayne: We are pleased that we gained share, and we never expected that we would hold ten out of ten at the top of the chart for ever. I think it is better for the business if everybody is firing on all cylinders, that our competitors are doing interesting things, and we are doing interesting things. It keeps everybody on their toes and it keeps enthusiasm in the readership. The retailers remain involved wanting to make sure that they have enough of everything. I think it’s a good thing all around.
“A good thing all around.” Nice gracious note. But what about that whole AvX thing?
Bob Wayne: Well there’s a different approach in how we sell to retailers and what we use as incentives to encourage them to order extra copies. Marvel offered the possibility of getting very deep discounts on these titles, certainly deeper than any of the discounts that we’ve offered on the launch of the “New 52.” We tend to use other tools to get retailers’ attention and get our books on the shelves. DC and Marvel just have different philosophies at this point on how to do this.
“A different approach.” One could say that.
Cunningham is only quoted on one matter, the aforementioned flat GN sales, and had this to say:
John Cunningham: In that forward-looking way that we have to employ when we look at book publishing planning, given the requirements of that side of the business, as we look at the rest of 2012, graphic novels looks like a huge category for us. The “New 52” collections beginning in May and running through the end of the year, plus the Batman: Earth One and Superman: Earth One Vol. 2 in the fall, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo in the fall, the Fables: Werewolves of the Heartland original graphic novel in the fall. I think that our business, looking down the rest of 2012, will be extremely bullish in that category.
In a previous answer, Wayne mentioned the Chip Kidd BATMAN: DEATH BY DESIGN and Geoff Johns BATMAN: EARTH ONE OGNs.
What’s interesting about these answers is that DC actually has been putting out original graphic novels for the last few months….with barely a peep of promotion: Douglas Rushkoff and Goran Sudzuka’s A.D.D., RATCATCHER by Andy Diggle and Victor Ibanez, and just last week GONE TO AMERIKAY by Derek McCulloch and Colleen Doran. These seem to be among the last books to come out from what was once Vertigo’s pretty ambitious OGN publishing slate, although we’re always running into people at parties who tell us they’re working on a graphic novel for Vertigo but can’t say what it is…so unless it’s one big anthology, there seem to be more in the pipeline. Is the Vertigo Crime line still going? Even that FABLES: WEREWOLVES GN has been in the works for a long time and was originally supposed to come out last summer.
GET JIRO, the Anthony Bourdain graphic novel, is finally coming out this summer; SHOOTERS, by Brandon Jerwa, Eric Trautmann, and Steve Lieber, is due later this month.
Wayne does mention that BATMAN: THE BLACK MIRROR which collects a DETECTIVE run by Scott Snyder, Jock, and Francesco Francavilla is in its fourth printing. So add Scott Snyder to Brian K. Vaughan as a potential savior of the GN.
And of course the DRAGON TATTOO adaptation. GNs adapting genre novels at other publishers have sold really well—books based on James Patterson and Jim Butcher spring to mind—but licensing is no substitute for original material that can really drive the category.
As for the New 52 collection program? Looking forward to those total March numbers on Monday! We’ll be back with more then.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.