Thursday, October 10, 2013

Meanwhile, at Robot 6...

I've only got one piece of writing up at places that aren't EDILW this week, but it deals with maybe the greatest thing I've seen with the words "DC" on the cover in years, a book that could hardly be more directly targeted towards me personally if it had a big, fat "Dedicated to J. Caleb Mozzocco, The Most Radical Dude Who Ever Lived" on the first page: The DC Super-Pets Character Encyclopedia by artist Art Baltazaar, writer Steve Korte and foreword-writer Geoff Johns.  You can read my piece on it at Robot 6, where you'll see profiles of about ten more of the 200+ pets and animal characters detailed in the book.

Since I don't have any other Caleb-writing to link to at the moment, let me instead link to a few things of note that I read in the last 24 hours or so.

First, here's too-infrequent-comics-critic, outspoken retailer advocate and guy who sells comic books Brian Hibbs on DC's Villains Month, listing the numbers of the special $3.99, 3D-ish cover-bearing issues that the publisher printed along with the estimated sales numbers of the last issues of each title they printed before them.

Here's my favorite bit:
JUSTICE LEAGUE #23: 104k (I’m going to round from here on, look to those links in previous paragraph for “real” numbers)
Darkseid: 78k
Secret Society: 44k
Lobo: 36k
Dial E: 26k
Those last two are insane, as the 2D VERSION HAS HIGHER ORDERS FILLED — 39k on Lobo, and 34k on Dial E. DIAL H #15 (the August issue) was 11k.
The "Dial E" issue of Justice League always intrigued me because it seemed almost impossible for a retailer to guess how to order on it: It was technically an issue of Justice League, one of the publisher's best-selling titles, but it was actually more like an epilogue issue of Dial H, one of the publisher's worst-selling (and already canceled) titles. Apparently, DC had no idea how many issues of such a weird hybrid book people might want either...?

If you care about this sort of thing, do read the whole column, as it seems to reveal a bit about what DC thinks of its own line in terms of what they think is or will be popular.

Given the number of Villains Month issues that were printed at lower levels than August's order, it seems like DC expected to sell fewer issues rather than more, which isn't even logical; if they really expected to sell fewer issues, than they probably wouldn't have done it in the first place (the only other benefit it offered was giving regular creative teams a month off), and they certainly wouldn't have done it in the way they did, choosing to publish multiple issues of the most popular titles like the main Batman books and Green Lantern rather than lower-selling spin-off books like Batgirl, Green Lantern: New Guardians and so on.

The more logical explanation, one that a commenter brings up, is that DC ordered fewer copies on purpose, knowing all along they could and would publish the 2D versions to meet the demand they were intentionally not meeting. Why? To turn the books into collectibles and spark a early-nineties like boom of speculation, and the attendant attention and coverage that would come with it. (I do think there's some evidence that DC wanted this to be the case, although I don't see any real long-term benefit to it, and it seems like one of those things that ultimately does more harm than good).

Hibbs rejects the notion though, as he doesn't want to cast sinister motives on the publisher when "incompetence" seems to explain it just as easily.

I don't know. The whole thing is weird—not as weird as the announced but ultimately aborted WTF? Certified month, but close!—and the more you learn, the more weird it becomes.

If I were DC Comics,  I don't know what I'd find the more troubling accusation: That I was incompetent or that I was manipulating the market and deceiving partners for my own benefit. As a business, I suppose the latter is actually a better thing to be, isn't it?

As for future DC projects, two of note were announced at the New York Comic Con, apparently.

First, the current, second volume of Detective Comics will soon hit its twenty-seventh issue, which is a magic number for the series, given that Batman first appeared in the original volume's twenty-seventh issue. They're going to have a bunch of different Bat-creators from various eras contribute to the new Detective Comics #27, including EDILW-favorite Kelley Jones. But where's Norm Breyfogle? I'm sorry, I meant WHERE'S NORM BREYFOGLE?!

The issue will introduce the new creative team of Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato, The New 52 Flash creative team, which explains why those guys are leaving The Flash after so long (In The New 52, where bold, new eras can last as few as a single issue, and some writers' runs on titles literally end before they begin, Manapul and Buccellato's Flash run was the equivalent of a five-year run in the old days).

I can't imagine the gig will be all that terribly creatively satisfying for the pir, given the fact that TEC is clearly the B-title and Scott Sndyer and Greg Capullo have already done so much to re-create Batman, his allies and enemies and his city that they won't be able to create as much as they did with their rebooted Flash. On the other hand, they'll be making a lot more in royalties, so good for them.

The bigger Bat-news is that DC is going to launch their first new 52-issue weekly series in a few years, a Batman book featuring Scott Snyder as the head-writer and different artists drawing different arcs. It will be entitled Batman Eternal for some reason, probably because no one at the publisher seems to be able to think of titles that aren't dumb anymore (This is right up there with Superman Unchained, right?).

DC has tried a couple of different methods when it came to creating their weeklies, never repeating the same method twice.

The original 52-issue weekly series, 52, featured a "rock band" approach to the writing, with four writers writing everything together-ish. And then a single artist handled layouts and different artists drawing different parts of the books, usually rather willy-nilly. That was their best-written weekly book, and neither the best nor the worst-looking book (I think we all cut the art a lot of slack on 52; partly because the writing was so damn good and partly because it was such a new format).

That was followed by Countdown, perhaps the nadir of DC Comics' entire publishing history (From what relatively little I managed to read; tellingly, I've never had any interest in reading the rest of it in trades, which, remember, are absolutely free to borrow from libraries). For that one, they used a TV model, with a "showrunner" writer plotting the story, a rotating team of writers handling the scripts and the art drawn by right-handed chimpanzees that were only allowed to draw with their left hands (If I recall correctly; it's been a while).

And then there was Trinity, which featured a single writer and just a handful of artists, with one of them—Mark Bagley—pencilling the majority of each issue, with back-up features featuring art by Scott McDaniel and...I don't know, maybe someone else too...? Or was it all just Bagley, McDaniel and inkers? All I remember are Bagley and McDaniel. That one featured the best and (obviously) most consistent art, and told a pretty great story that only suffered from being written by one great comics writer (Kurt Busiek) rather than four (Grant Morrison, Mark Waid, Greg Rucka and Geoff Johns), as was the case with 52.

Batman Forever Eternal will follow the least successful of those three writing models, the showrunner one from Countdown, but this showrunner (Scott Snyder) will be one much more engaged and familiar with the setting and cast the book is featuring, so hopefully it will work out much better than it did on Countdown.

Using a single artist for distinct story arcs is a pretty good idea, and seems to be what Amazing Spider-Man was doing early in its weekly-ish phase, and as long as the creators have enough lead-time on the book, this sure sounds like it could be closer to a Trinity or a localized 52 than a Countdown.

I do hope it does well though, as the New 52 could use a new 52, complete with revised, two-page origins for all the characters. Of course, before DC can really do that, it has to figure out its own rebooted continuity, and that still seems to be very much a work in progress.

1 comment:

SallyP said...

Hmmph. 52 was naturally, DC isn't going to repeat it. That sort of thing leads to expectations, and we can't have that.

Man, I'm getting bitter.