So unless you’ve been hibernating under some mossy rock, you should have heard about the DC “reboot” of their entire product line. I’ll not go into ranting screeds about the complete disappearance of their old Earth-2 characters like the JSA including Power Girl and Dr Fate, a JLI with a freaking Great Ten character shoehorned in, some frankly asinine character designs that seems to come straight out from the 90s Jim Lee stable, the complete devaluation of decently written (at least in recent times) characters such as Steph Brown, Tim Drake, Cassandra Cain and Wally West nor the probable and insane decision to persist with the abomination that is Cry for Justice on the continuity map. There’s also THE major sticking issue, trying to pretend The Killing Joke never happened (it’s only been what, 23 years?) However, I haven’t really seen any significant articles discussing the actual economical viability of the DC relaunch, which is why this writeup by Brian Hibbs over at CBR examining the brick and mortar consequences is badly needed.
It’s only basic economics in hindsight, but every SKU obviously needs a basic level of sales to amortize the product sufficiently that it makes bean counter sense for every player in the supply chain to continue producing, distributing and/or selling it. Considering some of the ridiculous levels DC has sunk to get the 52-book launch (seriously, resorting to using Liefeld again for a critical launch period? How long is Hawk & Dove going to last?), it’s pretty much a mockery there’s any economies of scale on their end as well when they’re spread so thin. At the end of the day, it seems that the retail front of the industry is simply going the way of the dodo, and this is less a bold new direction and more a desperate last throw of the dice to find some new casual readers, basically the group that impulse buy iTune tracks here and there.
The risk of course is that they alienate the core customer base which might use this moment as a stepping point in these uncertain times to get rid of an expensive habit, but fail to generate a significant increase in new sales to make up for the drain, or at least long term readers that will continue reading (or paying!) beyond the short initial sales bump. Then there’s the delicate issue of pricing with regards to online buyers, who are once again given the shaft with regards to equal pricing to retail store SKUs. not to mention the elephant in the room: a potential problem in 0-day releases if Apple is your gatekeeper, who can complete fubar any release schedule if and when they feel like it, and they also have a rather egregious censorship policy that might throw spanners into the writing/drawing works when self-censorship has been the norm since the de facto abandonment of the CCA.
All in all, these are uncertain and (and to me) very dark times for the comics industry. And that’s not even considering the eye-rolling bandwagon effect.