I actually toned down the cynicism in this post.

§ December 8th, 2009 § Filed under Uncategorized § 1 Comment

I suppose I should write something about DC’s new graphic novel initiative, establishing fresh restarts for Superman and Batman presumably to attract new audiences. Or, more likely, to give the old audiences something to complain about since they’ll be the ones primarily buying these. Unless, of course, I’m surprised and these are packaged at an under-$10 price tag and are sold everywhere and thus actually have a chance at getting in the hands of new readers. And, as Chris Butcher says, they’d better look different from the dozens of Superman/Batman books already on the shelves or they’re just going to get lost in the shuffle. I mean, it is DC, which does act like a real publisher most of the time, so I imagine they already realize the problems they’re facing.

As a funnybook seller, I do have some demand for continuity-lite standalone stories featuring the Big Two Characters, particularly with origin stories, so it’s not like I don’t have a market for it at my shop. That’s usually restricted to times when a movie featuring those characters is on the horizon, however, so I guess I’ll be set if there’s another Superman or Batman movie anytime soon.

The other thing is that, at least for Superman, there seems to be a progressively-decreasing amount of time between reboots/fresh starts for characters which is likely indicative of a fundamental problem regarding marketing and consumer acceptance, or at least a sense of desperation at maintaining a decades-old trademark in its original medium in the face of much more lucrative successes in other media. It’s the ol’ “let’s throw it at the wall and see what sticks” strategy, but it’s beginning to seem a little like the flailing arms and thrashing-about of a drowning man just before he sinks beneath the water.

Well, that was a bit of a downer. The graphic novels do seem like they’d be okay, and I do hope they succeed in “sticking” and attracting new readers. I’ve noted before that most people are good with a Batman or Superman or Spider-Man movie about once every few years or so, and don’t need to pop into a comic shop to keep up with the half-dozen monthly comics for each of these characters. A twice-annual graphic novel series seems to be a happy medium between Wednesday “New Comics Day” visits and the (at best) every three years film installments, that allows a new casual fan to follow a character they have interest in without creating a stack of periodicals in the house.

Or, as pal Dorian noted to me as I was discussing this with him, maybe this is all just a test run on publishers switching over to an Original Graphic Novel standard from the increasingly economically-unwieldy periodical standard. That’s a bit of an eye-opener, there.

At the very least, like I said at the beginning, maybe they’ll sell well to people already coming into the shop. That I can realistically hope for, and if additional interest from new audiences actually materializes, all the better. But I’m not holding my breath.

EDIT: Pal Nat and Tom note the importance of the licensing angle, as well.

Also, given who the writer of the Batman Superman [EDIT: Oops!] graphic novel is going to be, I’m going to be very disappointed if those GNs don’t have a hamfisted moral lesson at the end of each story like that same writer’s Brave and the Bold comics, because those are awesome.

One Response to “I actually toned down the cynicism in this post.”

  • [...] Mike Sterling thinks they’ll sell well if they’re under $10 each and tie into a hypothetical upcoming movie. Then there’s Brian Hibbs, who runs some guesstimates and concludes that he’ll make less money with original graphic novels than he does with serialization. This is likely true, since selling comics and then their collections gives the retailer two bites at the (often) same apple (customer). The bigger question is: is a customer that will buy the same story in two different formats just to keep their collection complete the future of the industry? [...]