IGW examines the good and bad of the New 52 and points out what DC needs to do to ensure the relaunch's success.
The first month of DC's much-hyped New 52 has come and gone, leaving everyone with an opinion as to whether or not the comic book publisher's gambit succeeded. DC's certainly happy with the short-term results, which included a line-wide sellout, tons of press coverage from both industry and mainstream press sources and higher sales than Marvel for only the second time this year. However, others believe that the relaunch was a poorly executed mistake that will only hurt the company in the long run.
While it's far too early to make a final judgment about the success of the New 52, it's never too early play armchair quarterback and point out what DC did right, what they did wrong and what they need to do to make last month's success a permanent affair.What DC Did Right1) Strengthening the Line.
One of my initial arguments in support of the reboot when it was first announced this summer was that restarting everything at least offered the possibility that DC could produce better books than what they were releasing currently. At the time, DC's comics were really struggling and the company had very few books that could compete with Marvel's flagship titles. Books such as Justice League of America
, Wonder Woman
and Action Comics
were filled with mediocre stories written by creators who seemed to be going through the motions instead of actually producing fresh, creative stories. The fact that every single part of the DC Universe was rebooted, with the exception of Green Lantern
, is a telling sign of how stagnated and static DC's universe had become.
DC recommitted to their biggest books by giving them to their top creative talent. Justice League of America
, Wonder Woman
and Action Comics
are all now helmed by some of DC's strongest creative teams who have the ability to produce content that can compete (sales-wise at least) with Marvel's top books. By reconsolidating the line and strengthening their flagship books, DC can build a solid core of titles around which they can continue to grow their new line.2) Scott Snyder
Is DC crushing the competition?
DC made another smart decision by pushing Scott Snyder to the forefront of the DCnU. Scott Snyder's been a moneymaker for DC since American Vampire
launched and he's long been due for a chance to show what he can do with DC's biggest properties. Snyder has a knack for telling stories driven by characterization instead of plot or continuity, which is precisely what is needed to redefine an entire universe. By putting Snyder on a marquee title such as Batman
, DC has exposed Snyder to a wider audience with hopes that he might be able to gain a wider fan base on par with creators such as Geoff Johns or Brian Bendis.3) The Dark Line
Out of DC's five new categories of books, DC's new horror line is easily the strongest group and gives DC a set of books that could very well wind up in regular Eisner conversation. Written mainly by a set of young creators with success in indie comics and featuring characters that have seen time in DC's Vertigo imprint, books such as Animal Man
, Resurrection Man
, Swamp Thing
, I, Vampire
and Demon Knights
give DC an extra level of quality titles that doesn't rely on flashy superheroics and big explosions to sell.4) Batman
Batman's still the top dog at DC as far as sales are concerned. With all four of Batman's solo series among Diamond's best-selling titles last month and Batman
both earning top marks among Multiversity's Rotten Tomatoes-style review aggregator, it appears as if DC's decision to dedicate 20% of their books to the Caped Crusader and his cohorts was a wise one. 5) The Variety
One of the best things to come out of the relaunch was the variety of books. In addition to traditional superhero comics, DC released horror, war, fantasy and western books as well. Even the many superhero titles had different feels and tones that prevented many of them from being forgettable. While I saw very little universal agreement on any one title, just about everyone had at least one book they enjoyed.6) The Hype
Although there were more than a few complaints about the hype and attention DC received over the last few months, it was nonetheless impressive to see how many avenues DC used to spread the news of the relaunch. Between an internet blitz, mainstream news coverage and an actual ad campaign, DC at least made an effort to ensure that people outside of the local comic book stores would at least know that something was going on.What DC Did Wrong1) The Controversy
Or is DC endangering kittens half-naked?
Anyone following the comic book news in September noticed that DC always seemed to be caught up in some new controversy involving their books. Whether it was the use of a title from a notorious piece of propaganda, an obnoxiously contrived sex scene, the transformation of a character to a emotionless, oversexed amnesiac or the use of regional homophobic slur, several of DC's books were caught up in controversy whether the issues were intentional or not. Many of these controversies were easily avoidable and could have been prevented simply by giving the book another look over. Of course, with the number of controversies started by Rich Johnston and Bleeding Cool, perhaps DC should just let Rich take a look at them before they go to print to make sure that there's nothing in their books for him to pounce on.2) Quality Control
Another disappointing problem with the DCnU was the amount of typos missed by editors before the books went to print. While I know firsthand how tricky it can be to catch typos (every column of IGW has had at least one typo found after it's been posted to the front page), there needs to be a little more accountability on the part of the professional editors whose mistakes made several comics look like they were published by amateurs.3) Crappy Comics
While I didn't expect DC to produce fifty-two Watchmen #1s
with the relaunch, I was still a little disappointed at the number of mediocre titles put out during the relaunch, especially those that focused on individual characters. Hawk and Dove
, Green Arrow
, Fury of Firestorm
, Red Hood and the Outlaws
, Savage Hawkman
, Batman: The Dark Knight
, Captain Atom
, DC Universe Presents
, Static Shock
, Mister Terrific
, Superman: Man of Tomorrow
, and Grifter
ranged from terrible to mediocre and showed just how much DC still needs to improve if they're serious about bringing their game to the next level. The most worrisome thing to me is how many of these books were reminiscent of the sloppy and lifeless comics that DC had produced in prior months, indicating that not everyone at DC has taken advantage of the opportunity to start anew.What Needs to Happen Next1) New Readers
Perhaps the biggest unknown out of the relaunch is the actual number of new readers that DC's marketing campaign has brought in. We know that the relaunch caused a spike in DC's sales, but whether that translated into new readers is an entirely different question. Everyone has their own belief as to how many new readers (if any) the relaunch brought in and has vague anecdotal evidence to support them. Regardless, DC needs to continue to market themselves outside of comic book stores and release books that appeal to new and current readers alike if they really want their marketing to stick.2) Build on the Quality and Not the Quantity
Stop making books that make characters want to puke!
Dan DiDio noted that DC had published fewer comics in September 2011 than in any other month during his ten year tenure with the company. The fact that DC outsold Marvel despite releasing a significantly smaller amount of comics shows that the standard industry practice of saturating the market to beef up sales isn't needed to keep the companies viable.
A small line isn't necessarily a bad thing. DC should focus on refining its current line and replacing weaker titles with better material, instead of trying to add superfluous secondary titles with fill-in creators and no clear vision. Starting new books for the sake of starting new books is a poor way of doing business that helped lead to the watering down and weakening of DC's line over the last couple of years.3) Keep On Recruiting
A few months back, it was suggested in IGW that DC needs to recruit new blood if they wanted to strengthen their pool of creators. While DC made a good first step in recruiting Josh Fialkov and Nathan Edmondson, it's still not enough. There are plenty of creators out there capable of writing quality stories on a timely basis and no reason that Scott Lobdell, J.T. Krul and Tony Daniel all need to be writing multiple titles when their books are consistently panned by fans and reviewers alike. There are plenty of great rising creators breaking into the industry and looking for a mutually beneficial relationship with one of the major publishers, and DC would do well to keep bringing them in to try their hand at superhero comics.4) Find a Viable Digital Solution
For all the bluster that Marvel and DC throw at the media about the relative success of their digital comics, it's well known that digital sales are inconsequential compared to hard copies. DC needs to step up and find a better way of making their digital options more marketable. Whether it's making select titles available at a lower price point (I'd suggest books like Animal Man
, I, Vampire
and All-Star Western
all could benefit greatly from a lower digital price point) or bundling their comics at a discounted rate, DC needs to find a way (besides idiotically making some of their titles exclusive to a particular piece of hardware) to continue to grow the digital market.5) Keep the Relaunch Fresh
A good chunk of comic book fans and industry insiders believe that despite the current spike, DC's sales will eventually drop back to their pre-September levels. We know that DC has a "Wave 2" planned for early next year and has a possible event involving the mysterious red-hooded woman that popped up in all of DC's first issues that could keep readers' interests, so let's hope that DC has a solid plan in place to keep interest up for more than a few months.So...DC Relaunch: Good or Bad?
There's a lot of things that DC did right in September and more than a few things that the company did wrong. However, DC's Relaunch was still a success, not because of increased sales due to hype and favorable retail incentives, but rather because DC's putting out a lot more good comics now than it has in months, if not years.
I read Aquaman now. Aquaman is cool. (He's really not.)
When deciding whether the relaunch was a success, I took a look back at my feelings about DC prior to the relaunch and how strong their line was prior to the reboot. To put things into perspective, I keep track of what books I read every month and usually jot a thought or two about them to give me some easy notes for my column and the other stuff I do on the site. I also pick out a few of the titles that I considered to be the strongest month to provide some easy comparisons and to help me remember certain books for the inevitable awards discussions that'll take place early next year.
Prior to the relaunch, there were very few DC titles that I consistently considered to be among the best titles in the industry. Batman Incorporated
, Detective Comics
and maybe Secret Six
were the only titles that I'd really consider to be in the upper echelon of comics released in 2011. The rest of DC's books usually fell somewhere in the "okay" to "mediocre" range, with quite a few falling in the "forgettable" to "terrible" category.
Comparatively speaking, out of the 108 comics I read in September, I'd put three of DC's New 52 (Animal Man
, I, Vampire
, All-Star Western
) in my top ten books of the month and another four books (Wonder Woman
and Demon Knights
) in my top twenty. Four of those books (Animal Man
, I, Vampire
, Demon Knights
) were new titles that had not been part of DC's line up prior to the relaunch, and two more of those books (All-Star Western
, which is the continuation of the Jonah Hex
series, and Wonder Woman
) were not on my pull list prior to last month.
While seven out of twenty might not seem like a lot, consider that Marvel only managed to land one title (Daredevil
) in my top ten and three books (Daredevil
, Annihilators: Earthfall
and Captain America and Bucky
) in the top twenty while the rest of the list is populated with Eisner contenders such as Morning Glories
, Optic Nerve
, Locke and Key
After one month, probably about two-thirds of DC's books would have stayed on my pull list had I not made the switch to mail order, compared to the around fifteen titles that I had been picking up before September, many of which I had only been picking up to finish the current arc. When a company can double the amount of books I plan on purchasing from them in a month, I'd consider their new direction to be a success.
So, in my eyes at least, DC's New 52 is doing its job. Whether they can keep it up is anyone's guess, but at least as of now the relaunch looks to be moving in the right direction. Feel free to share whether you think that DC's relaunch is working or not in the comments!
Written or Contributed by: Christian Hofferhttp://220.127.116.11/index.php/columns/idiots-guide-to-comics/16614-igw-is-the-new-52-doing-its-job.html/