There’s always a reason why a company does things differently. Some want to set themselves apart from their competition. Some see an empty niche that can be filled and exploited. Some are answering the requests of their customers. No matter the reason for doing things differently, ALL companies are in business to make money. Therefore, logically speaking, companies do things differently to raise their bottom-line; to make more money. This is certainly the goal of DC Comics, and the thing they are doing differently is launching several series of comics that will be released each and every week, instead of the traditional once per month. While DC Comics has tried the whole weekly release comics in the past, the sheer number of weekly books DC plans on releasing in 2014 shows that the publisher is putting a lot of its eggs in this basket. Here’s a rundown of DC’s weekly release strategy and some reasons it’s going to fail.
It all begins in April as DC releases the brand new title Batman Eternal on each of the 4 Wednesdays after the first one. That’s 4 more Batman comic books a month to go along with Batman-proper, Detective Comics, Batman/Superman, and the Batman and… title that’s starred a revolving cast since Damian Wayne’s untimely death. The writing staff for this book is immense with Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, Ray Fawkes, Kyle Higgins, John Layman, and Tim Seeley all on the book. Whew, that’s a ton of writers! But for a weekly book I guess you need a ton of help. Jason Fabok, on the other hand, will be doing the artwork in the first 4 issues, but 4 (count ’em, four) different artists are doing issues #5 though #8, making this an all-inclusive title when it comes to creative force.
But is this going to be a successful book for the long-haul? With 6 writers and 5 artists working on just the first 8 issues of Batman Eternal it won’t be hard for this title to get away from the creators and, more importantly, an editorial staff with a weekly deadline. And with 4 other Batman titles on shelves every month for readers to pick-up there’s plenty of opportunity for readers to simply get their Bat-fix elsewhere; an elsewhere without the 4 issue a month investment; an elsewhere without the inconsistency in creators.
The New 52: Futures End
May brings us another weekly comic debut from DC, The New 52: Futures End, which is promising to give readers a look 5 years into the future of the DC Universe, where the impacts of the war with another world that was Forever Evil are still being dealt with, and Batman Beyond comes to help a huge cast of DC’s finest save the day. This book too has a big creative team, with Keith Giffen, Dan Jurgens, Brian Azzarello, and Jeff Lemire on writing duties, and 7 (count ’em, 7) artists on just the first 4 issues. Batman Beyond making his New 52 debut and keeping up with the continuity of an event as good as Forever Evil are the shining gems on what is looking to be something that could have a mass appeal across the various flavors of DC readers.
But is this going to be successful over the long-haul? This book has the same problems with consistency and editorial pressure of Batman Eternal, and that could damage some of its overall success. Beyond that (pun intended), because of the introduction of Terry McGinnes and the robust cast, this is going to be the most successful of the weeklies DC plans on releasing in 2014, and, at 4 extra books a month, that’s quite enough. But they ain’t done yet!
Unnamed October Weekly
Remember Villain’s Month? When every single issue of every single DC comic book changed and became about the villains for an issue or three? Well, DC is doing it again in September, and each book will jump ahead 5 year into the future, giving readers insight on what “might” happen with their favorite characters. And in October, they’re launching a weekly series to follow-up this Future Month event that will be connected to the previously mentioned weekly released title, The New 52: Futures End. Little else is known about this particular weekly title, for obvious reasons, but it’s worth recapping: DC is releasing a weekly in May, that will include a month long event that will take over each and every DC comic in the month of September, followed by another weekly comic debut in October. That’s a lot of books!
But is it going to be successful in the long-haul? Odds are, for this book, the answer to that question is “NO”. Villain’s Month was successful for one reason and one reason only: Cool covers! The month-long takeover part of this whole thing will certainly provide that, but afterwards the thing that will ultimately sell this book week in and week out is quality which leads me to my overarching opinion on why DC Comics’ weekly release strategy is going to backfire.
Why It’s Going to Fail
I’m not completely against going against the grain and doing things a bit differently. No matter how much I hate the practice, Marvel Comics has been renumbering and relaunching comics for years in an attempt to boost sales numbers and grow readership, and they’ve reached a certain level of success with that recipe. I’m of the mindset that if a comic is a quality read it will gain the readership it deserves, but the sales figures show that #1’s sell more books. The sale charts ALSO show, however, that quality, above all else, is what sells comics, with only temporary sales boosts coming from those relaunches and renumbers. Now, I don’t want to have the discussion about comic shops ordering more first issues with most of them still sitting in their back-issue bins compared to readers trying but simply not falling in love with a #1’s, although both will be part of my reasoning for believing DC will ultimately fail with their own unique method.
So, we’ve established that issue #1’s sell, but, as Marvel’s technique has suggested, it’s difficult to bring new readers to a book once the numbering gets too high. If you get behind in a story it’s hard to catch up. So I find it quite illogical for DC to put all their eggs into a single month or two, which is basically what they are doing. I have no doubt that the first issue of each of these weeklies is going to be stellar, but it’s going to be tough to make each issue, each week, live up to the value of the investment. There’s far too many books to choose from each and every week to stay devoted to something requiring such a huge investment if it doesn’t stay entertaining or, more importantly, consistent. And with so many creators needed for this kind of release schedule it’s hard to do that. There are a lot of reasons to drop any of these titles along the way to their year-long, 52 issue+, ends, and not much reason at all to start reading them once they get just a month or two in. I can see picking up four issues of a run if I hear it’s an absolute must-read, but if it’s two months in, I cannot possibly swing that kind of investment in a single purchase, and I doubt many comic readers can. And there’s no guarantee readers are going to jump on any of these titles from their starts.
Batman Eternal, one of the weeklies in question, is the hardest sell for me. Batman already has SOOO many titles that a weekly is almost too much. I’m sure the Batman diehards, and I know there are plenty of them, will buy it, but it’s a tough sale for the comic fan on a budget with so much to choose from on Wednesday afternoons. It could be argued that the other weekly titles hitting in 2014 have a steeper road to climb because of their close association with some DC events, but I think this works for them. World-building is great for the publisher as a whole! I just don’t think it’s an easy sell for readers either way. If you include the month-long event, this is an even bigger investment than getting all the Batman titles, including the new weekly. It goes back to the same problem that has suffered the industry for years: Stagnant market growth. And that’s really the bottom-line.
I think each of these books is going to have a fantastic initial launch. The launches of each of them for a month, maybe even two, will fill out the Top 5 to 10 spots on the sale charts for those months. But this is going to quickly drop off, followed by steadily dropping month after month until the finality of the title. And what’s worse is that readers will just stop buying one title to make up for the cost of any weeklies they pick up. Granted, some of those titles may be Marvel or, perish the thought, Image titles, but the spike to overall market share will be slim to none over the stretch of the whole year. The one thing that throws a wrench into this whole crazy thinking of mine is quality. If the books are great they’re going to sell, and that’s a good thing! I hope I’m wrong! But, like I said before, if the books DC was currently putting out were of a higher quality, and there are plenty of them out there, there would be no need to do anything differently at all.
Of course, DC’s plan is a direct counter to Marvel’s current renumber/relaunch strategy, a method unavailable to DC due to the painting themselves into the New 52 corner, but I give them credit. Their embracing their brand by building on what works (ie. Batman and events) and keeping up with ideas that aren’t really that new. 52 and Countdown to Crisis weren’t necessarily failures, but DC wasn’t as invested in those then as they appear to be investing now. Time will ultimately tell, and I want these books to be great, I honestly do! I just have the sinking feeling, and some evidence, that it’s going to be a huge dud.