Sunday, February 21, 2010

What DC Needs To Do...Or Doesn't Need To Do?

Tom Spurgeon put together an article on the moves that DC Comics needs to make coming out of their restructuring. There is a lot in there to like. Spurgeon comes up with some heady stuff.

But in his third and final part of the list, he breaks out its own three part list.

1) a commitment to stricter schedule-making in a way that de-emphasizes crowding similar titles on certain dates, doesn't stack potentially series-strengthening runs into mini-series for a reason that isn't clearly obvious and builds an expectation in the audience for when certain books come out

In a paragraph after this, Spurgeon starts listing the ways companies have dominated the market and how DC needs to pay attention to that. One of the ways Marvel has managed to be the lead dog right now (which Spurgeon doesn't cite) involved a commitment to large stories that placed more emphasis on similar titles coming out on certain dates.

It can currently be argued that the customers want an emphasis on an immersive world where the continuity between titles is strong. Marvel made a huge commitment to just that approach with Civil War and hasn't looked back since. This includes several times where books had to miss their scheduled releases for the greater good of the story.

Don't get me wrong: I really think scheduling needs to be a focus. But doing it to the detriment of other aspects the consumers seem to like that contribute more directly to the product itself seems to be a perilous course.

2) an aggressive program facilitating comic shop store openings that favors neglected areas of coverage and a variety of store models, focused on opportunities provided by the current economy that has led to more people than ever looking towards franchising and small business opportunities

Ten years ago, I'd be all behind this one. But now? Especially given what follows this suggestion?

3) a move towards a proactive digital strategy that involves transparency so that decisions made in terms of price point and timing could be an industry driver and not just a series of in-house contingency plans based on some ill-defined, anticipated event that may or may not ever happen

Move towards a digital age, while encouraging new folks to get into the Direct Market game? Really? I think that would be irresponsible.

There's a lot of talk about what might or might not happen to the DM as publishers start to embrace digital offerings of their product. I've known so many DM retailers that have struggled and either had to shrink their business or fold altogether.

That is without prominent, legal competition via digital downloads. That's without having a LongBoxDigital or iPad to compete with. Yes, independent bookstores still exist with there being a Kindle and other digital delivery options. But less and less independent music stores are left after the move to MP3s.

I'd argue that the push to digital would make collected editions represent a much larger percentage of the physical product they sell. Collected editions are readily available through the big chain bookstores and online booksellers. The only way a DM retailer stays in business 5-10 years down the line is by their focus being on one or two non-comic-book products. A store that sells comic books in addition to their main focus on collectible card/miniature gaming might survive, but is that the sort of business major comic book publishers should make a concerted push to prop up?

But that's just me. I feel for DM retailers, but am against all the push for publishers to find ways to keep them in business. It's like saying petroleum companies should have tried to keep leaded-only gasoline retailers viable. Technology is forcing the publishers to evolve, but we're making them responsible for keeping alive the organisms that lack the traits needed to survive on their own in this new world. Of course, I don't think all the people the health insurance industry employs is a good argument against moving to single payer, either.

But what do you think?

1 comment:

  1. They could also cancel less titles or at least solicit the B-list titles not as monthlies but as maxi series. Power Girl is a perfect example, the creative team behind the launch is gone after issue 12. Now you got someone else coming on board who's going to take the story in their own direction that may differ radically from the original artist and writer's intent. More lost sales and the cancellation bell tolls for thee.

    Marvel is also doing awful with this sort of thing. I'm wary to read anything by that publisher. They cut through B-list and lesser titles with like a butter through knife in the past year. Granted some are directionally influenced with imprints like Dark Reign but others make even less sense. They are all about money and movies now or their "hottest" commodity at the moment, Deadpool. Heck even, Frank Castle is on the outs and he's probably the toughest cookie in 616 being reduced to a B-movie monster comedy plot device. Its ridiculous.


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