It’s been a furious few weeks of action here at Stately Beat Manor and around the comics intertubes as everyone scrambles to cover the DC Relaunch and What It Means. I’ve been as obsessed as anyone, although some of the fruits of my labor have yet to be posted. And of course, San Diego Comic-Con is just around the corner (less than four weeks) so things are about to get even busier and even crazier is such a thing is possible.

And it is.

I will admit to feeling some guilt about the amount of coverage being given to the DC Relaunch. I know it has been diverting my attention from far more enjoyable and lasting comics news — small press, indie cartoonists and delightful ephemera. And that is part of the problem — personally speaking, the new DC books are not aimed at me as a reader — I know I will check them out, in some capacity, but it’s not where my main reading interests lie. But you can’t deny it’s a Big Story.

Part of the reason for the relaunch is for DC to gain the #1 publisher spot, and there no doubt that they’ll do that in September. It’s possible that all the media attention the Relaunch is getting will adhere to the “rising tide lifts all boats” principle that has marked much of the history of the direct market. But, perhaps more likely, it will suck all the air out of the room and leave smaller publishers struggling even more for the retailer dollar. DC’s aim is to bring back lapsed readers and gain new readers, not just claim every dollar in the marketplace, but whether that can even happen is the question that everyone is debating nonstop.

My own interest is a little more dramatic. The DC relaunch is in many ways the other shoe that people have been waiting to hear plunk down ever since Marvel and DC both announced their massive changes two years ago. There is no “business as usual.” This could be either comics Ragnarok or the dawn of the new business model. That a new business model will arise is obvious. Whether it can be developed by will alone, remains to be seen.

In the meantime, I’ll try not to get too carried away in my coverage. The ephemera is still the best part of the day. To that end, I’m trying to switch over more quick hit things to my Tumblr, which also links up to my Twitter and so on. That, like the direct market, is sort of evolving as we go.

BTW for all you haters out there, I’m taking questions on my Tumblr, so give it your best shot!

Today’s cover image is from SMASH COMICS #1, and I don’t know if James Kochalka had seen this when he wrote MONKEY Vs. ROBOT, but it proves that this eternal struggle has raged for eons with no clear winner. This first issue came out in 1939 and the covers features Bozo the Iron Man by an artist named George Brenner about whom little information is available on the internet. SMASH was published by Quality Comics, the outfit which employed the Iger-Eisner studio, and produced such characters as Blackhawk, Torchy and Doll Man.

If a cover like this were to appear today you’d expect it to be on a book from Pigeon Press or PictureBox, presented as some deconstructed pastiche of corny commercial comics – whoever he was, Brenner was hardly a draughtsman., but his work presents the directness that you only find in indies these days. And yet although Bozo is hardly a household name among comics folks, of course, Grant Morrison had a plan to resurrect Bozo, and other versions of this Golden Age character have appeared in recent James Robinson comics and so on.

What do you all think? Is Bozo the Iron Man ripe for a relaunch, perhaps in the DCnÜ?


  1. “Part of the reason for the relaunch is for DC to gain the #1 publisher spot, and there no doubt that they’ll do that in September.”

    They might hold the top spots but do you think they will sell more comics than Marvel? Won’t Marvel be selling 30 to 50 more titles that month? I’ve seen some dealers talk about expecting a down month over all because there will be so many fewer titles.

  2. “Part of the reason for the relaunch is for DC to gain the #1 publisher spot, and there no doubt that they’ll do that in September. ”

    Oh, I actually think that, barring some sort of change of incentive, there’s every doubt of that.

    In May of ’11 (the most recent month for which we have full figures), within the Top 300 comics, Marvel sold ~2.6 million pieces, while DC sold ~1.5 million pieces.

    So, assuming that Marvel has a flat month, DC would need to increase circulation by about 73% just to reach *parity*.

    If we’re assuming, instead, that DC *steals* Marvel market share (which would be a TERRIBLE outcome for the market as a whole, robbing Peter to pay Paul) that’s still over a half-million units, or a gross increase in circ of about 37%.

    I DO think that DC *could*, in fact, double circ or better, but I do not believe that the Market will do it, naturally and in and of itself — there just isn’t enough capital on hand at retail to do so.

    DC itself is only tying the returnability component to a 25% increase in circ which is NOWHERE NEAR ENOUGH to beat Marvel, even for a single month.

    Sorry to do math so early in the AM.


  3. One other note: historically, Diamond treats returnable books different than non-returnable ones — they actually only report roughly 80% of sales (cf: 52, COUNTDOWN, etc).

    With 41 of the 52 DCnU titles having a returnability component, this could well make it even harder for DC to beat Marvel for the month, even on paper!