Today, DC Comics made a big announcement about the future of the DC Universe and they way they publish their digital comics. In it are three major changes that affect the comics industry. The first being the complete overhaul and restart of the DC Universe and all the characters contained within it. Second, the renumbering of ALL of their published DC Universe titles to #1. Third, and most important to the publishing industry as a whole, the release of digital copies of the books on the same day as their print counterparts.
Relaunch and Renumbering
After 70+ years of publishing, DC’s superheroes’ continuity has become one huge tangled mess. In the mid 1980’s the attempted to get rid of all the alternate earths and characters with Crisis on Infinite Earths and over the last decade, they have had many different Crises and major events in order to tie up more loose ends. Unfortunately keeping up with the storylines was very hard, and it just seemed to alienate all but the die hard fans.
I see what DC is doing as a very bold move in the industry, and if executed properly, could help them regain the market share they’ve lost to Marvel in the past few decades. This hinges on DC’s long term game plan and not just a revamp / renumbering gimmick. DC needs to hold on to the new readers they attract, with all the number one issues, with solid stories by talented writers and artists. Of course their sales will be huge in September 2011, but when the issues hit #10, #18, #27, etc., the interest must still be there for this maneuver to succeed.
Keeping the readers interested and buying their books is just one part of the plan, but another part is even more beneficial to the comics industry as a whole. If DC can attract readers who don’t normally buy comics and keep them engaged, this increases readership not only for them, but for the entire industry. Eventually those new fans will migrate to other works they like and try other publishers – all this hinges on the success of DC’s move. That increased readership translates into increased revenue. The added revenue that DC’s move has the potential of generating, is a winning solution for everyone. My hope is that instead of just cannibalizing sales from other publishers for a short period of time, this move increases readership across the entire comics industry.
Initially my thought on the big change was “*Sigh* Here we go again.” I happen to be a collector AND a reader, and all these renumbering ploys just annoy me more and more, but I really think this is what DC needs. Their universe needs to be cleaned up and their character brought back to their roots. Many readers will be happy, but many more will be very angry with DC. This is just the way things are and you can’t please everyone.
DC has the tools at their disposal, we just need to wait and see if Geoff Johns’ and Jim Lee’s vision, along with their talented crew, can make this happen. If DC manages to pull this one off, they will not only be doing it for themselves, but for the entire comics community.
Back in March, DC announced a partnership with comiXology that allowed individual retailers to sell digital editions of DC comics through their websites, for a share of the online retail price. In hindsight, they did this so they’d have a distribution channel available when they went same day and date for digital copies.
Not only is DC primed to sell two different versions of their books on the same day, but the fact that retailers can profit from both, is a huge step in helping increase the market. With the advent of color eBook readers, and especially Apple’s iPad, the demand for digital comics has been increasing. Although many publishers make their books available digitally, there is a delay between the print release and the digital copy. If you need to read the story, you either get your print copy or wait; many readers don’t want to wait, especially on an important storyline.
DC has taken the bull by the horns in trying to increase their digital sales to those that don’t care to be cluttered by print editions. At the same time, they are trying to keep revenues flowing into the comics shops since those are still their main distribution source. I see the future of comics to be both in print and digital distribution, and brick-and-mortar stores selling digital comics through a kiosk type system.
In order for a retailer to profit from a DC digital copy, they need to sell them through their website. I don’t think every comic shop in the world has a website, or a fully functional one at that, but in order to stay in business, they need to keep up with changing technology. That would be like Blockbuster refusing to rent DVDs and only stock VHS when the format changed. Retailers who keep their eyes and ears open, and embrace the change that is on the horizon, are the ones who will survive the storm.
I’m hoping DC succeeds with this bold endeavor. In the long run, their success is everyone’s success.
– The Comic Book Critic