DC Comics hopes revamped heroes and digital will save the day

Aug. 22, 2011 | 6:45 p.m.

DC Comics co-publisher Dan DiDio was at a comic-book store in New Jersey when he noticed something alarming. Over the course of an hour, only two customers came in. And, this was a Saturday — the busiest day of the week for most retailers.

“The walk-in, casual fans have gotten away from us,” DiDio observed. “We are down to just the die-hard buyers.”

Comic-book stores have become increasingly barren, with sales dropping consistently over the last three years and down an additional 7% so far in 2011.

Theories abound as to why. Some blame convoluted story lines, while others point to cynical publicity stunts like killing key characters only to bring them back a few months later. But the main culprit more likely lies beyond the page: Today’s youth is far more interested in spending its leisure hours in the digital worlds of YouTube, Xbox and Twitter.

The generational shift is not lost on DiDio and his associates at DC. For the first time, the comic-book company will now make each of its issues available on digital devices such as iPads the same day it arrives in stores — a jarring departure for many retailers that only have to look at the fate of record stores to see the dangers that digital downloads present to brick-and-mortar merchants.

As part of a two-pronged strategy to try to revive its moribund business and draw newer, younger readers, the nation’s oldest and best-known comic-book publisher has also decided to start over from scratch. Beginning Aug. 31, DC launches its “New 52,” with well-known titles such as “Wonder Woman” and “Batman” as well as more obscure ones including “Static Shock” and “Blue Beetle” starting at No. 1 and featuring a mix of new costumes, new origins and simplified story lines.

The strategy is a calculated risk by the Warner Bros.-owned company to keep superheroes alive in comics as they become more important than ever on the big screen and in other media.

“Publishing is the engine that creates and incubates ideas for the other divisions of Warner Bros.,” said DC co-publisher Jim Lee. “We need to streamline our comics so new fans can come in and know exactly what’s going on.”

It’s crucial to Warner that the gambit succeeds, but not because the tiny publishing business makes a big difference to the bottom line of Hollywood’s biggest studio or its corporate parent, Time Warner Inc.

Warner in 2009 reorganized its comic-book business into a new unit called DC Entertainment, headed by the studio’s former “Harry Potter” guru Diane Nelson, and moved its headquarters from New York to Burbank, down the street from the Warner lot. The move came just a few weeks after Walt Disney Co. agreed to acquire DC’s larger competitor Marvel Entertainment Inc. for $4.2 billion.

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"Green Lantern." (Warner Bros.)

The goal for both entertainment giants is to build on the success of such superhero blockbusters as “The Dark Knight,” “Spider-Man” and “Iron Man.” Despite the failure this year of the costly “Green Lantern” movie and an aborted “Wonder Woman” television pilot, Warner has multiple DC-based movie projects in the works, including next year’s “The Dark Knight Rises” and 2013’s Superman film “Man of Steel.” There’s also a slew of planned video game releases, animated series and direct-to-DVD features.

Warner needs DC’s comics to stay culturally relevant and generate new ideas. At the same time, the millions of movie fans are seen as potential comic-book buyers.

“There is a generational opportunity to get new readers,” said artist Rob Liefeld, who is drawing DC’s new “Hawk and Dove” series. “The industry has been stagnant, and it’s the right time to hit the reset button.”

ac cv1 final DC Comics hopes revamped heroes and digital will save the day

Action Comics, one of the titles to be released in DC's "The New 52." (DC Comics)

Some of the biggest changes are being made to DC’s 73-year-old icon Superman, and they go beyond replacing the red Speedo part of his costume with jeans. The hero will be “aged back” to his 20s, and Clark Kent’s marriage to Lois Lane, which happened 15 years ago in the comic books, has been erased.

“We want to return to that classic love triangle of Lois, Clark and Superman that people know so well,” Lee said.

More accessible stories are one part of DC’s game plan. The other is getting comics into readers’ hands. In the 1990s, there were 7,000 to 9,000 retailers that sold comic books, including newsstands and drugstores. Today there are a little more than 2,000, most of which are specialty shops.

“When I was growing up, there were three places I could walk to and get comics,” said Marv Wolfman, a veteran writer and former editor in chief of Marvel. “Today a kid might never see a comic book.”

Digital downloads are an obvious solution, but until now most publishers have only experimented with back issues online, fearful of upsetting the retailers who generate nearly all of their revenue. DC is the first to put the Internet on equal footing.

“Comics have lagged behind other media for so long in embracing digital,” said David Steinberger, chief executive of leading digital comics retailer ComiXology. “I about fell out of my chair when DC told me what they were planning.”

lpzgnbnc DC Comics hopes revamped heroes and digital will save the day

DC Comics co-publishers Dan DiDio, left, and Jim Lee. (Mariah Tauger/Los Angeles Times)

To salve retailers’ concerns, DiDio and Lee have gone on a “road show” around the country touting a plan to let them set up their own digital storefronts and collect 30% of revenue. Gerry Gladston, co-owner of New York-based Midtown Comics, acknowledged that there’s been plenty of angst among his fellow retailers.

“We’re not at all convinced that digital will attract a lot of new readers,” he said, “but we hope that it will drive people to our stores.”

heroicdecline DC Comics hopes revamped heroes and digital will save the day

Others, however, believe DC’s new digital strategy may mark an inflection point for an industry that will soon be paper-free.

In the short run, it seems everyone in the comic-book industry will benefit. DC’s flagship title, “Justice League No. 1,” has pre-orders for more than 200,000 print copies, which would make it the bestselling title of 2011. Six other new DC No. 1’s already have more than 100,000 pre-orders.

“Fan interest is huge — much of it positive, some negative, and some very cautious,” Gladston said.

But much-hyped events and reboots have boosted comic-book sales before without much long-term effect. Wolfman wrote one of the earliest in 1985 with “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” which was originally intended to result in every comic book restarting at No. 1, before editors decided against it. Since then, events, crossovers and reboots have become a near annual occurrence for DC and Marvel.

“The stunts have run their course,” Liefeld said. “This is the biggest one in the past 25 years, and nothing else can come close.”

The worst-case scenario for DC’s new strategy is that few new readers stick around and existing ones are alienated by the changes. But the relaunch’s architects said it’s a necessary risk.

“The truth is people are leaving anyway, they’re just doing it quietly, and we have been papering it over with increased prices,” DiDio said. “We didn’t want to wake up one day and find we had a bunch of $20 books that 10,000 people are buying.”

— Ben Fritz and Geoff Boucher


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Morrison’s twist: Wayne partners with Batman

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170 Responses to DC Comics hopes revamped heroes and digital will save the day

  1. Reginald Mizell says:

    The pre-orders for Justice League #1 are around 200,000 according to the article. In the 90s when you had Lee's X-Men #1, Spawn #1 and other seminal books, sales for those were close to a million. Just today the industry has been rocked with the demise of the Atomic Comics chain in AZ. I worry that soon there will be a time when comic books and walking into a comic book store will be memories.

  2. Baramos says:

    Why would I pay the same price for a digital copy when I could have a physical copy? Why would I wait a month to get a digital copy when it’s only price-cut by one dollar? Confusion, confusion.

  3. BAT24 says:

    how the heck are we going to value and collect digital files…..the fun in collecting, reading and containing the the perfect book in perfect shape to pass along to our kids is long gone :(

  4. Nurman says:

    This reboot, redesign and re-marketing is a good move for DC. American cape comics are dying anyway, might as well give it a shot at getting new readers. Ignore all whiny neckbeards.

  5. c b c says:

    When I heard the the Man of Steel, Superman, was no longer all about truth, justice and THE AMERICAN WAY, but rather more aligned with a United Nations global way I puked. DC gents, some icons never need changing. Return to us the being who is able to leap tall building in a single bound and save the world in the finest American tradition. After all, Jarel sent Superman, his one and only son, to America, not UN headquarters.

  6. brettghampton says:

    I wish DC all the best in their attempt to drum up interest in their comics line, but I for one am not interested in most of the half-baked, hare-brained revamps and reboots on the table. This didn't work for Marvel when Lee and Liefeld rebooted several titles a decade or so ago with "Heroes Reborn," and I suspect it won't work for DC, either.

  7. Lee Wochner says:

    When reading 20 comic books a month costs between $60 and $80, I don't think the defections are a big mystery: almost every other form of mass entertainment (including video games, movies, and home cable) provides more entertainment time for less money.

  8. Dan Graffig says:

    Keep quiet!! The art and story line behind this beautiful piece of work will be unknown to you. Stick to your playboy and pay attention to where your mind goes…As Solomon said, "As a man thinks…so is he."

  9. cesar says:

    perhaps the biggest mistake of saying is to ignore the DC and Marvel comics are sold throughout the world, in South America sell more comics that the United States ….. comics are not going away ever.

    I'm from Argentina, here you get dc comics everywhere.

  10. Rick says:

    One big reason they fail to mention is the price of comic books. Average price is $3.99 for a comic book, such as Marvel. How is the younger generation supposed to keep up with these prices if they want to buy various comics? This is the MAIN reason I had to scale down my comic book buying this past year. The other reason is the crossover events that encompasses the whole DC or Marvel universe of titles. They make readers buy other titles in order to know what is happening with the comic title you are currently reading or the story continues in another title. Thirdly, they are writing less these days. Writers from the past would write a lot and you'd get your moneys worth. Now, you see less effort. Some will only write a few sentences per page or cell and rely on pure artwork. That is just being plain lazy. And they are surprised that comics have declined??

  11. Comic Fan says:

    http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-653629 – The Digital Age of Comics

  12. someguy says:

    I used to be an avid comic collector. The reason I stopped buying them is because it's the same crap over and over again. Still making superman comics? really? no new ideas? Is the plan to continute making them forever? Why do the idea's to boost readers always involve rebooting a series? Yet another band aid fix. Come up with new original stories like film kinda tires to do. Kinda. You know what I mean. If we were up to Star Wars episde 90, do you think audiences would have gotten a bit sick of them by now and perhaps stop going to the cinema's to see it? And you can bet some bean counter out there would fix that with the idea of "maybe we should reboot the series again".

  13. mbsperez says:

    It's interesting how DC and Marvel are looking at the same problem but approach it in two completely different ways. I, however, will be throwing my hat in with DC for a simple reason: their pricing policy allows me to enjoy more comics. And when times are tough and I need to pare down, I'll still get more gang for my buck.

  14. William Hunt says:

    If you make digital down loads more affordable than regular comics you would be back at those insane numbers we had in the early 90's. Comics currently cost too much for a casual reader to get into and some of us diehards. Dc and Marvel both lost me when everything became The Ultimate war of Infinite Destiny crap, It was stupid to spend over two years destroying what they fixed in the 80's. Personally I think the collectors market for comics is really a dead thing any way you'd be hard pressed to find anything that has a true long term investment with out being over 55 years old. Sure new number 1's might jump up to 30 bucks every now and then but they drop significantly as time goes by. If comics go to a purely digital market with a 99 cent download cost and trim a lot of their fat from their budgets we would see a far more likely boom in the market and save our beloved characters that we love to read. Also they could offer a printed copy sent to their door for 4.99 for a limited time after a book is released say 30 days to sign up and pay for the hard copy that way its like a pre-order and you save as a company millions a year in printing costs. The comic industry needs to wake up and smell the coffee people will not buy forever because the market has changed the world is going digital this will not stop memorabilia sales, posters etc, artists will still be able to attend cons and sign and draw what ever you like still sell the original pages and their sketch books. The biggest difference would be that the cons would get a lot larger because you will be hitting a bigger market of fans rather than those of us that all ready know the product.

  15. Rassler says:

    The flaw in DC's approach is that they are trying to do something new and different that will fix the comic book market, but the people in charge are the same ones who broke it in the first place. This is like Obama relying on Larry Summers and his gang to fix the economy. We all see how that worked out. For a promotional event of this size 200,000 for the top book is an OK number but not a good one. The patient remains on life support, maybe opens his eyes for a while but that's it. The other question to ask, is, what are the average sales of the 52 new books. Are the top books lifting all boats or are retailers going all-in on a few and letting the rest die?

  16. Gerard says:

    I would be interested in the DC Universe if the reboot wasn't being handled by the very same leaders who drove customers away in the first place. WB has no clue. They didn't 'get' it with the Green Lantern movie (and that cost them 300 mil) and they don't get it with these two jokers heading the comics arm. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result. Listening to Jim Lee and Dan Didio (no more Geoff Johns? I guess WBs faith in him is no more since it was Johns who was supposed to be guiding the Green Lantern movie ship — and we all saw how that turned out) is like listening to the wily used car salesmen who sold you a lemon. But now they are going into the ALL NEW car business. Would you buy a car from a company that sold you a lemon? Most normal people wouldn't. Comics aren't dead, they'll revive when you get rid of the cancer that's killing them in the first place: Dan Didio and Jim Lee.

  17. Atomic Kommie Comics says:

    Comics as a publishing format are far more popular in the rest of the world than in the US!
    Because they cover many more genres than just superheroes!
    Funny animal! (Disney makes an incredible amount of money overseas on comics based on Mickey, Donald and the rest! But their US sales suck!)
    School-themed (from elementary thru college!)
    Sci-fi/fantasy (which is NOT the same thing as superheroes)
    One of the biggest genres in Japan is "salaryman" manga (comics) about average working stiffs and their day-to-day problems!
    In the rest of the world, comics aren't "ghettoized" as "kid-stuff", but treated as a legit art-form!
    Adults read them on public transit without shame or scorn!
    Ironically, until the 1960s, the American comics industry was equally-varied, with some weird hybrids like "Space Western Comics". But since then, comics have been almost entirely superhero-based!
    Until that changes, the audience will gradually diminish.

  18. Brandon says:

    Comic companies want to know why sales are down?

    How about the fact that most of America doesn't have a comic book store located near them, and the direct sales market as handled buy Diamond (the sole distributor of the big two comic companies) makes comics unavailable in places like convenience stores, newspaper stands and grocery stores, places people might stumble on an interesting looking comic book and get hooked.

    Today people have to seek out comic stores to buy the books. You don't gain new readers by asking people to go to a specialty store to seek out a product they may not have heard of. This is why Batman comics didn't take a significant sales bump from The Dark Knight.

    It's not the quality of the books, or the continuity that's keeping readers away… it's a half brained distribution model that's keeping comics out of the hands of potential readers and hiding them in places people will only find if they seek them out.

  19. fleiter says:

    comic books cost too much. That's the real problem the industry has. You can buy real books for the price of some of them.

  20. SirBeshnen says:

    As long as comic books cost $3.50 and up, the buyers are going to be limited. I had been an avid comic book collector for more than 30 years, but they started costing more and more, so eventually I gave up on them. I still enjoy reading one every now and then but they priced themselves out of the collector's market. I am a DC fan and now they are screwing around with the origins of the characters that have existed nearly 70 years. I may try a few of them, but the price will keep me from getting back into it.

  21. johnrj08 says:

    Comic books flourished before and at the beginning of the television era, when kids had an imagination. Ultra graphic high definition video games have ruined that. No matter what comic book publishers do, they'll never regain their previous numbers. In the process, they will kill off these timeless characters for future generations who might have otherwise enjoyed them. What they've done to Superman is a joke.

  22. John says:

    Well, I’m a superhero lover, but only by what I have researched and WATCHEd not read, but i’d love to get into all sorts of comics simply because they seem so cool!! But here in SOuth Africa where I live, its not that easy to get the latest comics when they are released AND the variety is poor!!! Fortunately digital comics make it way easier to keep track, I’m planning on getting a tablet so that I can enjoy all the comics that I like without having to find obscure ways to get them here…..

    If I’m honrst I’d much rather have the paper copy, but due to real world issues, its unrealistic and expensive…..I know that a lot of fans are not that into the digital side, but maybe just maybe the digital route is the best way to get casual readers to become more hardcore, therefore generating more money for the industry……….Just my blurb anyways…..

  23. Jesse says:

    It will be interesting to see if this experiment (and make no mistake, that's exactly what this is) will last past the first few issues. Of course there is going to be an initial spike in sales, but 200K, not really that impressive for all the hype and hoopla that DC has generated for this "event".

    I think once the numbers settle down, that they will be either about the same as they were before or lower. Though I pray to God I'm wrong, because I've been a faithful DC reader for 40 years, and would hate to see these characters go the way of the Dodo … but then again, these aren't those characters anyway right?

  24. Jesse says:

    It will be interesting to see if this experiment (and make no mistake, that's exactly what this is) will last past the first few issues. Of course there is going to be an initial spike in sales, but 200K, not really that impressive for all the hype and hoopla that DC has generated for this "event".

  25. Larry Dickman says:

    There's nothing wrong with the characters. Better stories and art will win every time. A restart and costume change is not the answer.

  26. Ditto says:

    "This didn't work for Marvel when Lee and Liefeld rebooted several titles a decade or so ago with "Heroes Reborn," and I suspect it won't work for DC, either. " bingo.

  27. googuse says:

    I quit buying comics when they went up to a buck back in the 80s.

  28. Mick says:

    I am a really big supporter of The brand fell in love with batman at a young age but being in Australia were i am not kidding was forced too pay upwards of 8 – 12 dollars a book if u could lower price there u would have so many more fans hope this fixes the problem

  29. JimMacQ says:

    “The walk-in, casual fans have gotten away from us,” DiDio observed. “We are down to just the die-hard buyers.”

    Dude, that happened in 1985. Way to pay attention to your own industry.

  30. Ori says:

    The reason I can't get into buying comics is that there's just way too many comics out there of the same character or it's just too late to "jump in" since I missed so much story.

    Why can't there be one comic series per character or group? It's a shame because I love comics and its characters and stories but just always felt overwhelmed whenever I stepped into a comic store. I don't know where to begin since the starting point is a bunch of issues or tradebacks in the past. Even, if I decided to to "jump in" buying back issues or tradebacks would cost a fortune. Not to mention some of them are priced higher like issue #50 's or #100's.

    The only comic I got into from the beginning was Spawn since that first issue came out when I started getting into comics.

  31. DG! says:

    What I don't get is why DC doesn't offer digital downloads at the same price point as the print copy but INCLUDE a digital copy with the physical book. The prices have been driven so far that margins wouldn't be touched, it would increase enthusiasm, preserve the condition of the books for collectors, increase the sales and culture of the brick and mortar's, and give digital readers incentive to get up and go to a comic book shop and maybe, who knows talk to other people about the stories. That said the reboot and renewal is a good idea. Changing the core of Superman is a risky one. From a literary perspective being as overpowered as he is becomes uninteresting. What makes his character compelling is that he is noble despite his power and he does that through his ethical upbringing (ie. being the boy from Kansas). If they take that away from him they had better have something incredible up their sleeves and it better be more than jeans and Kryptonian armor.

  32. David says:

    I stopped buying comics when I stopped liking the way they were drawn. You don't need to emphasize EVERY SINGLE MUSCLE the human body has just to make someone look athletic! I much prefer the way they were drawn in the Carmine Infantino days compared to how they are drawn now. It's just…ugly.

    Even worse is that nowadays comics do not give you the value they used too. Less pages for more money. It's no wonder why so many fans just download them off torrent sites and read them for free.

  33. Alex says:

    I never read comic books as a child. I've recently taken a liking to them. How would I ever start reading them? I can't go into a comic book shop and pick the latest issue because I'd have no idea what was going on. I tried buying sets like Batman Year One and then was told the next one to buy was The Killing Joke which is set years and years after.
    To be perfectly honest I hope DC grows a pair, stops catering to the winging fan-base, sells digital comics a lot cheaper and advertises them.

  34. Old School Reader says:

    I collected comics for 20 years. I collected tons of comics, my favs were: Daredevil,Green Lantern,Green Arrow. Reason I stopped is because stories were dumb/price of books/terrible artists/writers (that means you Bendis)Once they changed Daredevil's costume(i'm out), killed Oliver Queen(i'm out) and then Hal Jordan( out again) that was it for me. I only collect trade paperbacks now, this way if i don't like it, i can put it on ebay :) In my opinion, the writing has taken a turd, besides Geoff Johns, I don't think that writers can come up w/new material and the real reason comics are a dying breed: 4 words: Lee, Liefield, Portacio, McFarlane.

  35. daitexas says:

    Given that super hero movies are largely still box office gold at the movies, I think it's safe to say there is a market out there. Certainly a new younger generation would respond positively to the DC relaunch. The problem is accessibility, and it's something we see time and time again with all forms of entertainment (books, magazines, comic, movies, TV, sports) – the big businesses which control the rights are stuck in their old ways and refuse to move forward. Publishing digitally is a wise (albeit overdue) move by DC, but it's a shame they hadn't though to expand distribution beyond the core comic shops before into venues such as Borders, etc.

    Similarly, DC has shown an extraordinary lack of imagination in how they've publicized this epic revamp. They're preaching to the choir when they should be aggressively marketing to potential new readers. I really hope that this brave experiment is a success for them. I've subscribed to 5 of the new titles to begin with the brand new number ones, and I'm really excited. I just hope that this isn't a damp squib of a stunt, and that they actually do fulfil their promise to start at the beginning so as to benefit all new readers that have signed up for the ride.

    If what I've said interests you, please check out two of my blog entries where I discuss both DC's marketing specifically https://daitexas.wordpress.com/2011/08/02/dc-comi… and entertainment distribution more generally https://daitexas.wordpress.com/2011/06/20/futurta

  36. C. D. Johnson says:

    Printers and production firms have been artificially inflating the price of manufacturing comics since the 80s. The cost of production has fallen, but the price per printed volume has continued to rise. The comic book industry has done nothing to curb these costs or confront the printing industry about their inflated prices. They just pass the expense along to the customer by raising prices themselves. This is what's gong to kill the comic book industry.

  37. Carl says:

    I think if you're going to reboot your universe, then you need people who truly understand what your universe is about. I don't believe that's Jim Lee and Dan DiDio. I do believe it could have been better handled by Paul Dini and Alex Ross and Bruce Timm. They seem to understand the hearts of these heroes and what makes them iconic. I'm not saying they should just redo their Animated Universe but they sure hit the nail on the head with Batman TAS all the way to Justice League Unlimited.

  38. Maty says:

    Looking forward to the new Batwoman series- the last couple of stories were great!

  39. avraam jack dectis says:


    Then they would sell because everyone would be exposed to them.

    Avraam Jack Dectis

  40. Richard says:

    There are many reasons why the industry is in trouble.

    It all starts with too many titles.
    Before the black and white explosion of the 80's (following the success of TMNT), the number of titles produced by DC and Marvel were very few. I seem to remember it was about 20 or so each. After the independent comics came out Marvel and DC decided to attempt to remove shelf space
    to starve the competition as well as pick up any money that might have been left on the table.

    Well, lets just say the era of Jack Kirby is long gone. So, the ability of one artist to create and fill
    a universe is just not going to happen. The independent artists that jumped on board the Image
    publishing band wagon often made as much money selling a single issue as they did with a year
    of production at Marvel and DC and, oh yeah, they did not need to surrender their creations or
    credit as Kirby, Ditko, and company did in the bad old days.

    Well, sadly, having money kind of saps the motivation of some of the creators. When was the last
    time Todd drew Spawn? Actually, many of the titles died from neglect. Sad, really.

    There are only so many compelling stories you can tell in a coordinated manner using a set
    number of characters. A bad writer can kill a series, though a good writer might be able to save it
    ala Frank Miller way back when.

    Want to save the industry? Blow them up.
    Cut down to a manageable level of books, produce them with quality art and stories and people
    will return even at today's higher price points. And stop with the politically correct crap and make
    the stories fun. America is not the only market, but it is the biggest one, and we still are the trend
    setters. Kiss a bunch of foreign butt to try to expand and you may lose your base.

  41. rjhemedes says:

    I have been reading comic books since the early 80's and have never stopped reading them. I like what DC is doing even though I'm biased towards hard copy comic books. I do know that eventually digital comics will be the way to go because they will be cheaper to produce and distribute. I'd rather see the comic book industry evolve with the times and dive into the digital format and fully embrace it. I don't want them to fight it and see what happened to the music industry after Napster and Apple shook up the distribution model happen to them as well.

  42. third3ye says:

    When it costs $4 to $5 per comic and you only get about 15 pages out of it, it's easy to see why younger generations aren't interested especially in a recessionary environment. Also, from a storytelling POV, every good story needs an ending… rebooting or introducing new versions of the same characters, themes, and stories over and over again is not creativity, how about these publishers challenge themselves to come up with new universes and characters?

  43. gerasco says:

    200,000 copies does not mean 200,000 readers. Out of those 200,000 books, how many will end up sitting on shelves unsold? How many will be bought by collectors who generally buy multiple copies with the hopes of getting a return on their $3 or $4 investment? The actual number of readers is probably far less than comic companies would have you believe.

    Comics are too damn expensive and several generations of potential young readers have moved onto more dynamic (and sometimes cheaper) forms of entertainment. Kids, in general, don't read as much as they used to. Why read a Spider-Man, Batman, or Young Justice comic when you can turn on the tv and get your weekly fix? The stories have motion, sound effects, music, and it's mostly free. I'd be willing to be that even repeats of those shows have more viewers than readers of the paper comic versions of those characters.

    It's the death cycle… readership goes down… cover prices go up which causes more readers to drop titles which leads to another price increase…. you can guess what happens next. The water in the pond is drying up and there's no way to replace it.

    The average age of the comic reader is going up, which means that younger kids are NOT replacing the older readers who drop the habit. Yes, there are other issues such as the dysfunctional nature of distribution, and mediocre storylines, but it's hard to ignore the reality that you're not going to get many new readers interested in comics that are $3 and up every week and every month.

    The comic book industry is on life support and the prognosis for survival is not good.

  44. Kenneth says:

    Here goes. We live in the information digital age. Comics, especially when avavailable digitally, will mirror the decline in some form of other media, i.e. music, print, tv and movies. Comics must move to the digital format. Distribution becomes effortless and cheap. I would make digital stories shorter, offer them via a subscription, include to cross promote games and movies – with special offers and discounts, and probably offer the option of music and narration. With each digital version the consumer would receive gamer tips. I would charge one dollar for this format and release bi-monthly. Movie trailers would appear first to subscribers. At the end of the year you would receive a full high gloss compilation! @50% off. I would reduce the print page count my one third, reduce the art by the same, butno reduction in story text. but the same amount of writing – reducing the price like wise by one third If you reduce print production and distribution cost via digital delivery you can migrate the consumer over and provide a sense of exclusivity to the hardcore fan and the gamer. And I need a job.

  45. Leonel A Umana says:

    All business must adjust to changing markets, new economies, and evolving technologies or die.
    The question is now is it enough changes or did the changes come soon enough?

  46. cleareye1 says:

    The new publishers do not get it. Batman and Superman never were meant to be real. I read these as a boy in the 40s and saw them clearly as fantasy characters i could never be but liked to pretend they were friends of mine who could settled problems for me. The new look where they appear threatening and fearsome with al the exaggerated muscles etc simply misses the point. Frazetta would not do a Batman or Superman.
    By the way, how come Marvel doesn't exploit Captain Marvel? Billy Batson and Shazam!

  47. kez says:

    ITS CLEAR. people are BORED of the same characters. the classics.. start some NEW characters, use need ideas! such as maybe superman finds another earth with new hero's and they start a new team maybe even a united avengers of the galaxy? lol. Go nuts and take a risk, start new hero's, new villians.. even have contests for kids or even freebies! start a DC mag in news agencies that is like Manga, girl power etc. so much u can do. EVERYTHING comes back into fashion in time, u just wait ;)

  48. kez says:

    I know a reason why they are not selling/as popular. Because the stories are too complicated.
    example; The Flash, there are just too many of them and they go back in time and marry different people etc etc its just nuts and kids/adults dont want to read stuff that go on too deep.

    the reason why teen titans is so popluar is because its just about a team in TODAY not future or past or going back in time its original and fun. make them simplier, keep the reader understanding whats actually happening. dont make the comics so graphic! no more demons etc.. keep it clean! :) bad guys like joker and dc oct are perfect clean hero's. then characters like spirits etc are just too annoying.

    we want to be able to read a comic and feel excited, not lost, to feel what the character is feeling. their emotions. make it about the characters not about the fighting or the costumes.

    but i love comics forever, and im a girl that will become a comic book artist.

    try making more characters.
    make a new hero team with NEW hero's. eg; a girl hero team thats different from birds of prey..
    make it fun! not scary or sexy or deep.

  49. The Walkin' Dude says:

    Dc is going after the wrong demographic, digital lovers are in their mid-teens /early 20's…..This demographic is FICKLE, they can't decide what they like fro one week to the next…both companies NEED TO BE TARGETING YOUNGER READERS…and not with stuff like Brave and the Bold or Marvel Adventures or Super-Hero Squad…9-10 year olds are far more savvy than the industry gives them credit for, kids know when they are being dumbed down and homogenized for their "tender" little minds…I didn't read "kiddie" books when I started reading at 9 or ten and I fell in love with these characters and stories all the same….getting them hooked early is what creates future (and loyal) readers

  50. Mark says:

    One way for DC to make at least the digital reboot work is to adopt a pricing strategy Marvel has been using. You can buy a marvel subscription for $59 which gets you digital access to everything Marvel puts up for a year. Now, they still have to work things out with Apple so the utility of this subscription is a bit limited – no iOS access, meaning no iPad, but still not a bad idea and they claim to be working with Apple on a potential solution. I suspect that Apple is demanding to big a cut to make it profitable.

    The price issue is a real one both in the digital world and the paper world – at $50-$60 per month to keep up with just the newly launched titles it's way out of the range of most people not too mention the kids they claim to be aiming at. Better to come up with some sort of subscription policy at least for iOS editions, Acknowledge that iPad editions are the real future but make it affordable for current and future fans – who knows, you must just save your franchise.

  51. Zryson says:

    The comics industry keeps making the same mistakes. Essentially chasing all those 'new readers' they are convinced will save them. Research has shown, that yes new readers do come in the short-term attracted by hype and marketing but they dont stick around. Also comic books are too expensive. They need to be cheaper and up the content if they want to last.

  52. Lex says:

    I think it looks really cool and DC has some great writing going on. I’d rather pay for DC Comics than get most of the stuff on television for free, too.

  53. Rick says:

    I'm wondering why the article didn't mention $3.99? I quit a little over a year and a half ago. I was spending around $100 per weeek on books, then, with no increase in quality, or relevent story pages, they jack up the cost 30%. Rather than the digital age, I think it's the pricing that turned many away from purchasing books.

  54. Bill Smith says:

    Price and availability is the problem in the comic industry. When I was a kid you could'nt help but bump into a comic book rack when you walked into the neighborhood corner store. I mean it was stategically place right by the store entrance. You would walk in and the cover art would do what it was meant to do. Grab your attention to the point that you had to know the rest of the story. If they could get comics back into the mainstream of daily life and get the price down to a buck or a buck and a half they would see a resurgence in comic interest across the board. At least I'd like to think so.

  55. TTTTTTT says:

    Interesting how you listed two of DC's most popular minority characters as 'obscure'. I would have personally said 'I, Vampire' and 'Resurrection Man' when it came to naming obscure titles, but that's just me.

  56. thrutheseasons says:

    The SEC should never had approved the merger of DC with Marvel. This monopolization of everything is counter to any idea of a free market. Corruption.

  57. emdub says:

    This is nothing new…DC wiped out entire universes during Infinite Crisis to trim the fat. As brettg mentioned, Marvel did it with Heroes Reborn. I think it does work for a little while, until the next hot-shot writer comes along and convolutes things…again.

  58. shasler says:

    About five or six years ago, when my son was eight or nine, I thought he might have an affinity for comics. So I looked online to find a title that might fit his interests, hoping that maybe I could get him hooked on it, and give him a reason to love reading, too. I was shocked that I seemingly couldn't subscribe to comics and have them mailed to our home. I figured the industry must have been doing this to protect their traditional distribution channels.

    So I finally found a shop not terribly far away and brought my son along. We bought a few titles, which he read and liked. And went back twice more. But it never became a habit. He was hardly hooked. Even though his video game interests remain very aligned with comic-like themes. Also, as a younger patron, he seemed a little intimidated by the scene inside the shop, too.

    I think the industry has made it difficult for new, younger customers to discover a love for the art form. I don't know any of my son's friends who ever had interest in comics, even though they all look the part to me.

  59. Patrick says:

    Glad to see DC taking charge. I have confidence in them and their efforts. It's always good to put a fresh coat of paint on things. I don't know if digital is the answer but it's a step in a positive direction. In honor DC's efforts I've been creating 52 new cover illustrations. I post a new one each week: http://www.supersiblingscomics.com/2011/08/20/new

  60. herogirl says:

    I know a reason why they are not selling/as popular. Because the stories are too complicated. they are too adult based.. kids wouldnt enjoy them.. if i was a kid, i would skip every page until i found one that was colourful or had the main character fighting

    when i was young the comics that got my attention were the funny ones, the ones with cool art, a happy ending and the hero's were actually 'COOL'. it used to be able the hero's style their personality their powers and talents their friends etc.. now its just about power and getting adults addicted to the comics..

    its a comic not a book, its meant for young people. Get them hooked, not adults. trust me, adults will be hooked anyways.

    Just make some new YOUNG fun characters and make it colorful, funny, cool and original! the comics that I loved were teen titans, justice league of america and spiderman :) i always found xmen too hard to read as a kid (too gory, too deep, i got lost) so i read the ones that were fun to read.

  61. Henderick says:

    One thing no one mentions is that the comic book publishers continue to market comics like collectibles with gimick events "Death of Captain America", multiple covers, dealer incentive issues , foil covers, etc… when they shouldn't. They still haven't learned their lesson from the 1990's when they did the same thing and the market crashed! Comics became nothing more than the next "Hot" collectible item and a lot of people got burned "Death of Superman" anyone. They got away with good storytelling. Comics were meant to be cheap disposible entertainment. They still don't learn. Shame. I'll stick to old comics.

  62. Rick says:

    I think comics went down when they "grew up." At one time, a person could actually buy a comic and give it to a kid. Now, you have to look at the book and make sure there's not something in there you may not want a kid to read. Plus, they are pretty expensive nowadays, but I remember Heavy Metal magazine was expensive, and it still sells. Not for kids, though. From what I understand, that's why they aren't in drugstores or Wal-Mart anymore. If kids got exposed to them like in the past, sales would probably increase. Plus, why not advertise like non-comic booksellers do to get people interested. These kids know all the characters from movies and video games, but they don't read the comics. Digital is probably the answer, but I hope the hard copies don't stop being made.

  63. Hai says:

    What they need to do is get with the times and move to a digital state of publishing. This is coming from a past collector with a huge collection at home still. The collection aspect of graphic novels is only for the purists. Modern society is digital and as sad as it is to admit, physical stores are a thing of the past. Accept it as a fact, evolve and grow or die.

  64. Vince says:

    It makes me laugh how this article talks about how the industry has dropped due to quick gimmicks and technology, but maybe they should look at the radically high price of comic books these days. $3.99 for 20-22 pages worth of story is an insane price to pay. Kids these days can't spend that kind of money for multiple books.

    I understand it is due to rising printing costs and to pay the talent, but maybe they should scale that back to make the price point more accessible to readers.

  65. terrence says:

    I was at a used bookstore that had a signifigant used graphic novels section. This guy came off the street and had just seen "green Lantern" and he actually liked it.
    He started going through the novels and got confused. I had to explain to him the differences between Ultimates and regular books and what he needed to read to follow civil war. (They had a lot and he figured it was a recent thing) He walked away with just a copy of "welcome back frank" (Punisher mini) because he was too confused by everything else.
    STOP KILLING PEOPLE OFF and just tell good stories. BOTH Flashpoint and Fear Itself feel pointless.
    I totally agree they should pare down to one title per character and 52 comics is just flooding the market and its just to confusing to the average reader.
    I gave up a long time ago on singles because hardcovers and trades look more dignified than aging plastic sleeves.

    I REALLY wish they didnt cancel secret six. That was the first comic Ive loved in a long time.

  66. Hartley says:

    Whats with all the uninformed comments regarding the price of comics?
    Almost every single DC book is $2.99, not $3.50, and not $3.99.
    Even most of Marvels books are now $2.99, although they still rip off their readers by charging a dollar more on their most popular books with no increase in the quality of paper or increase to the page count.
    When DC does a 3.99 comic they have added pages.
    Not to say that Marvel doesn't provide some great deals, both the Iron Age, and the Annihilators mini-series contained 2 complete 22 page stories for 4.99 thats a dollar worth of savings on your comics.
    I think comics would have seen a far smaller drop off in sales if Marvel hadn't started the trend of charging an extra 1/3 of the price because the books sells well.
    The message they sent their fans by doing so was "your idiots that will buy anything we put in front of you" or "you'll buy it anyways"
    And look where we are now.
    If they had increased prices to a more classic and moderate price increase of .25c or .50c far less fans would have felt insulted and betrayed and stuck around IMO.
    I certainly stopped buying almost all of Marvels 3.99$ books that don't have an increased page count.
    And that meant I gave up on comics I love, but I'm not about to accept getting screwed over by a thoughtless greedy company initiative.

  67. Grimon says:

    I hate the costume with jeans as well. But if Superman as a character is depicted as he is in "All-Star Superman" then I don't care if he's wearing a pink beach shirt and shorts while filling the role of the greatest superhero of them all.

  68. tony andrews says:

    Sales are down because who wants to read these creepy comics anyway? What used to be entertainment for kids has turned into lurid, incomprehensible garbage for twisted fan boys. I loved comics as a kid, and my son loves the comics I read, as well as reprints of comics published way before I was born. But I can't even show him the superhero comics published today. And he's the future market. They "get it" with the superhero animated shows on tv these days. But the comics? Ugh. As long as the creators of these freakshows remain in charge, you can expect this downward spiral to continue.

  69. Mike says:

    One large problem is that super hero comics aren't written for kids. The last time Justice League was rebooted I was horrified to see Brad Meltzer had written and Dan Didio had apparently approved a scene where Solomn Grundy tears the arm off Red Tornado's new human body and eats it! As a parent am I supposed to feel comfortable buying that for my six year old and reading it to him? It's the Justice league after all, not The Walking Dead.

    DC and Marvel have never really embraced any other genre of comics besides super heroes and an entire generation of fans is stunted as a result. Sure, they've published some mature content like Preacher or Transmetropolitan but those projects are rare. Lots of people are giving lip service to "great stories with beautiful art" but under their breath they whisper, "as long as it's a super hero story".

    You can't grab and maintain readers if you don't provide a growth vehicle for them. Start with the super heroes but give them more mature subject matter as they grow. If you enter a cycle of attracting and retaining readers through engaging stories then you will always have an audience for your content.

  70. Virgil cole says:

    In less than a year they will be explaining to us why this didn't work and why they are changing everything around again.

  71. john says:

    when is the release date for the new superman comic?

  72. Braaainz says:

    I think moving towards digital comics is a mistake. Keep comics in printed form as they are still “collectible” that way.

    Then, produce motion comics from those comics and sell the motion comics.

    There is absolutely no way that I would pay a dollar or more for just a digital comic unless it was a full graphic novel with a beginning, middle and end.

  73. DaVeO says:

    Cut the digital price-drop from 1 month to two weeks and you'll likely see an increase in digital sales. After 1 month the comic should be no more then .99 with 1.99 for extra sized issues.

  74. Dan says:

    Local mom and pop comics shop being squeezed dry by monopoly distributor who will not return his calls because he can't order the volume of a chain, and also getting stuck with nonsense "event" crossover titles. He was trying to sell them for $1 a piece and he couldn't.

  75. Jeff says:

    I am excited by this reboot. I was a comic reader in the mid 90's but slowly stopped as it became harder to find stores that sold them. Now years later when I tried to make a come back I didn't know where to start and I didn't understand half the stories that were taking place so I started buying graphic novels that were spin offs or just original stories like "joker" which was a story all from one of joker's henchmen's perspectives. I'm a collector and always will be but paper copies are a dying breed. I've stood by DC since the beginning and if they would try to revolutionize the digital industry they might be able to justify the high pricing. Since the upcoming generation is easily distracted, it's important to hold their attention. Instead of reading the digital copy by jumping frame to frame they should add some type of movement and sound. Hell they could even add voices to the characters and have options of turning on captioning so you could read along or just listen and look. If the kids hear what they are seeing it'll be harder for their attention to be drawn somewhere else and they could focus on the comic. Always have the option to order the paper copy but I feel less money should be focused towards the paper market and more should be focused towards the digital. It'll be a sad day to see hard copies of comics go away but the day will come so if DC wants to make a splash they need to be the first to revolutionize the digital world of comics. Don't let Marvel be the first. They don't need to make the digital comics like animated series but just some type of movement and sound could really add a dimension that comics don't have. Any other ideas?

  76. jeff says:

    I am excited by this reboot. I was a comic reader in the mid 90's but slowly stopped as it became harder to find stores that sold them. Now years later when I tried to make a come back I didn't know where to start and I didn't understand half the stories that were taking place so I started buying graphic novels that were spin offs or just original stories like "joker" which was a story all from one of joker's henchmen's perspectives. I'm a collector and always will be but paper copies are a dying breed. I've stood by DC since the beginning and if they would try to revolutionize the digital industry they might be able to justify the high pricing. Since the upcoming generation is easily distracted

  77. Leigh says:

    DC has one foot in the grave and is burying itself even further. I've been a faithful reader for years, but have avoided buying any DC books since the announcement came out. I'll read a few books of the new 52, because my 15 year old wants to see what's next, but don't see it going beyond that. I was invested in the characters as they were. Now I could really care less.

    Comics are too expensive and stores are too hard to find. I got into comics because I could go down the street to my local book store and buy a book for $1.00. Digital viewers and overhauls aren't the answer.

  78. Dana says:

    I'm so glad I have stored 30 years of DC comics in mylar bags to re-read them.

    There was never anything wrong with Superman, Batman and all the others. Another reeboot in 2011and a costume change tells you just the same it always told you during past reeboots:

    The writers DC hired run out of ideas, so it all has to go back to square one, to recycle old storylines. Not for the better but the worse.

    It never worked in the past, it won't work now. All it will bring DC is another short lives sales boom, and all the higher ups get their bonuses, and the DCU will drift around for a few years, and then another re-boot comes your way.

    That's how it goes. It's up to us readers to decide if we want to spent our money to finance a see through scheme like that once again.

  79. Phil says:

    Are comic book writers reading any of these comments? You aren't going to attract new readers, kids, if your stories have wives getting killed, raped and stuffed in freezers.
    How about having our heroes being heroic?
    I speak as a Rich Corben fan and EC fan. There's a time and place for "adult" stuff. And the long underwear set is not it.
    In addition, how about selling comics where kids are? The mall, the supermarket? But then why bother since the stuff is so x-rated they wouldn't be allowed to read them.

  80. Lou says:

    DC needed a change but I am dismayed by this direction.
    Bad before:
    •Too many multi-title cross-over events that last too long and are impossible to keep up with.
    •Incomprehensible storylines that go beyond most characters' core essences.
    •Way too high-priced to follow even one character much less a major arc. I would prioritize affordability and pages over premium features like paper and inks.
    Good before:
    •I love that their comics *aren't* kid-oriented. Someone was complaining that Red Tornado's arm was ripped off but I can't tell you how long I've waited for this level of intensity in my superhero comics.
    •At least they tried to create involved, adult storylines.
    •They did have an ongoing continuity and, with some titles (Batman & Robin), had reached a uniquely advanced level difficult to achieve without such a long history behind it. A lot of the time this can be confusing or alienating, I realize, but it was cool to have had for a short while on the titles I tried to follow.
    Bad now:
    •Loss of everything that's happened
    •Same prices as before
    •Same stupid writers who messed up the last universe
    Good now:
    •Lower digital prices after a month
    •Same-day digital sales
    I am a person that can appreciate well thought out change but this just doesn't seem like the right thing at all. They could have changed direction on all titles through editorial direction without resorting to blowing away all the rich history. This just seems like a cheap gimmick and there's no going back from here, so it had better work or they are cooked.

  81. Trevor Green says:

    It's price pressure combined with the desire to follow the whole story line. It's not sustainable for the real fan who has to spend hundreds of dollars on books ever month to keep up. So instead of making $20 a month subscription from me for all content. Marvel and DC makes 0 dollars.

    Digitial is not a real solution until there is a tablet that is the actual size of a comic book that is in the hands of enough buyers and there is a subscription model. The ipad is great but it still doesn't quite cut it.

    Print would be great but they have to get the cost back down to $1.50 or less.

    And that is coming from someone who has paid hundreds a month in a better economy, but I won't buy the for myself or my children until I can be a completist without being an unreasonable addict.

  82. Darryl R. says:

    Why are they skipping around the reason comics are not selling like they used to. For the die-hard collector, and for the casual walk-in both, the reason is the same. The cost. With everything else that's going on in the world, in real life, how can anyone justify paying 4 buck for a comic book? I started buying comics when they were 15 cents, and I hung in there, but when the regular cover price hit 3.99, it was time to take my money elsewhere. They can dance around it all they want, it's the cover price that's doing all the damage. Secondly, If won't cough that money for a real comic, why would I cough it up for something I can't add to my collection as an investment, or hold in my hand? You people need to get real.

  83. Ernest Oglesby says:

    Characters need to PROgress not REgress.

    DC are making a BIG mistake with this policy. Some of the best storylines they've ever done, such as Batman-Hush/Heart of Hush are being airbrushed out of existence, and readers brought on board as a result will desert DC in droves.

    I've been following Batman/Catwoman's romance since I was a child, many years ago, and now she doesn't even know who he is behind the mask???? Come on !

  84. amcjkely says:

    Risk alienating old fans? Holy crap, they went out of their way to tell us to go to hell. This is a disaster. I stopped by this garbage. Fire Dan and Lee bring back the old universe.

  85. Anthony says:

    So DiDio recognizes that “The walk-in, casual fans have gotten away from us,” and “We are down to just the die-hard buyers.” and his solution is to just let those casual fans go instead of trying to win them back? THATS JUST BAD BUSINESS SENSE AS FAR AS I'M CONCERNED!!!


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