Tell me where you think this comic belongs. It's a high concept horror-esque comic written by a popular novelist with cover art provided by Brian Bolland, edited by Karen Berger and has sales in the 13,000 range. While all those are buzz words for a Vertigo series, Dial H was instead published as part of DC's New 52 superhero line. The decision to group Dial H with more traditional superhero books was questioned when the book was first debuted last year. Now that Berger has departed and the series is rumored to be cancelled, there seems to be no better time to ask whether the Mieville series would have benefitted from being published by the company's Vertigo imprint instead of as a DC comic book.
Dial H's debut issue was an uneven, rather messy affair, which put it on par with about 60% of DC's other series. However, the book has steadily improved throughout its run, despite having to participate in two linewide gimmicks, last September's "zero issue" month and April's WTF gatefold covers which coincided with an unofficial crossover with The Flash. While the latter gimmick gave the book a whopping sales increase of around 300 comics, the book is firmly in cancellation territory with April 2013 sales of around 13,000, making it the second lowest selling non-cancelled series after Demon Knights.
Even two years ago, Dial H would have all the markings of a Vertigo imprint series. Vertigo executive editor Berger allegedly recruited Mieville hard, and the popular writer even had a Swamp Thing series in the pipeline before Dan Didio pulled all DC properties back to the mainstream line, save for the recently cancelled Hellblazer series. Since Mieville has stated numerous times that he's been looking to dabble in DC properties, it appears that Berger tried to make it work, editing her first mainstream DC series since the founding of Vertigo in 1993. However, the book largely existing at arm's length from other DC series and the uneven early issues have significantly hurt sales, leading to a one year sales' drop of 67%.
I'm not going to pretend that the Dial H's technical issues would have been magically fixed by putting Vertigo on its cover instead of DC. However, the book probably would have benefitted from a more aggressive marketing push by Vertigo, which has far less than 52 books to advertise and promote. Vertigo is also in need of a hit series. The imprint's new 2012 series all experienced painful deaths (although Saucer Country may well find a home at another imprint) and it recently lost American Vampire to an extended hiatus. Even with limited series Trillium, The Wake and an American Vampire anthology to be released in upcoming months, Vertigo's ongoing series are at its lowest point since the company was founded 20 years ago. Also, while 13,000 is at the low end of DC's sales spectrum, those figures would make it a solid performer at Vertigo.
We'll see if Dial H will linger to this fall later today. However, when the book gets cancelled (either today or next month or the month after), DC needs to examine their "line in the sand" policy regarding its properties and its imprints. Publishing Dial H as a DC comic didn't help it all. Would it have experienced a better, more profitable fate at Vertigo?
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