Tuesday, November 25, 2008

How Will They Know?

From Geoff Boucher's HERO COMPLEX over on the LA Times website:

GB: There's wildly mixed levels of excitement about webcomics. Some people shrug, others see the future, albeit one that may be difficult to monetize. There's also the huge bookstore market now for trade paperbacks, hardcovers, etc. Talk a bit about format and the future -- what is the comic book of the future?

DD: Realistically speaking -- and this is just my opinion -- we're in the pamphlet periodical format right now and we're going to stay in that for the foreseeable future. Primarily for the reason that our consumer audience is accustomed to that, understands it and they are driven by the collectible nature of it historically. It's something you buy, something you own, something you possess. As new readers come in we will address their styles and their understandings. As people get more comfortable with reading material online, we will turn toward that expectation. There is a great improvement and growth in bookstore market and that is a key area. So we have three delivery systems: Online, in periodicals and in bookstores. Realistically, one of those could collapse and we could still be strong but it does require an adjustment in who and how you sell to them. No matter what, our future is in great characters in great stories created by great talent.

As far as I know, the only real online DC Comics material is all illegal scans found on bittorrent sites. So, I'm a bit perplexed at how they're supposed to know that people are more comfortable reading material online if they're not testing the waters similar to Marvel Comics' ironically named DCU (Digital Comics Unlimited) offering.

Surveys will only tell you so much. I know they've used some online surveys regarding such things, but we're talking about the same readers that make basement dwelling titles sound like they're in the top ten and top ten titles sound like they're in danger of cancellation.


  1. They have Zuda and just about every Vertigo Number one is available on their website. That is definitely testing the waters. Is it the same appoarch Marvel is using, no, but it is an approach. Bayou and High Moon are doing so well that they are putting them in print... which to those who think that webcomics will take over, is still how those guys know they've made it, when their web comic gets to see print.
    Marvel also saw sales of comics decrease since they have pushed their online program. Yet the Diamond Charts remain the same, that means to me that they have lost subscribers... which means they have lost a hightened revenue source to a lower revenue source... probably doesn't work so well and is probably why they are trying the online exclusive books (which from the looks of the creative teams would mean risky mini series, not flagship properties.)
    DC's current online intiative actually drives publication sales, while Marvel's hinders it. Avatar has a book called Freak Angels which when published in print made the top ten Graphic Novels in a very competative month. I bet DC is happier with their move, then Marvel is with theirs.

  2. Lee, are you looking at the same sales numbers I'm looking at? Because I've not seen such a decrease in Marvel sales that you refer to. There seems to be much more imagination than fact involved in your assertion that Marvel's DCU has hurt them at all.

    And I don't get where the Avatar example comes up in a way that supports your contention, since it is serialized online for free and then sold as a print product. It's still much more than what DC is doing.

    Zuda doesn't test the waters for a different product targeted at a different customer. Neither do first issue teasers. Honestly, Marvel's back catalog offering isn't so great a method to test the waters as their original, online-only content.

  3. You should check their actual sales numbers published last month in all their books, subscription numbers are down! Last quarter Marvel reported a loss from its publishing division, something it had not done in two years. This is data not made up numbers from Diamond. Hulk is a top ten book on the Diamond charts but is printing way less then what the estimations report and New Avengers is below it on the charts but printing almost twice as many.

    DC will be selling Bayou and High Moon this year. How does Zuda not test the waters with different product at different customers? I would say that is exactly what it does.

    The vertigo program seems to help sales, where as the Marvel program has had an effect on their sales outside of the direct market.

  4. You misunderstood what I was saying: Zuda doesn't test the waters for a different product (DC Comics traditional product) aimed at a different customer (the previously print-only customer). Zuda is aimed at the established webcomic market.

    Do you have a link to where Marvel reported a loss from its publishing division?

    Would you possibly be able to scan a few examples of the sales declarations from the books you cite as examples?

  5. http://www.marketwatch.com/news/story/Marvel-Reports-Q3-EPS-064/story.aspx?guid=%7BD2A86003-1A4B-4C55-B3D0-D39723DCA647%7D

    notice the actual numbers in net sales and operating income for the publishing division... it is down a little for the quarter, significantly for the year... this is with increased sales in the Direct Market. I will email you scans of statement of circulation form New Avengers #46 and Hulk #7.

  6. Lee, the link you provided shows that this last quarter wasn't as good as the same quarter in 2007, but doesn't show that they took a loss. The difference in profit between the two quarters is attributed to less TPB sales and the investment they've made up to start their digital offerings, amongst other things. The report says that their lower TPB sales were partially offset by higher sales of their traditional monthly product.

    I'll have to look into the info from the scans you e-mailed tonight. I'll post cropped scans in the blog when I'm able to comment on it.


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