Was going to joke about newsstand reprintings of Watchmen with Dr. Manhattan having little bikini briefs edited in, but that’s probably what’ll happen in Rebirth.
BobH has a few things on his mind, in reaction to my oddball analogy in a recent post:
“I wonder if, in retrospect, the direct/newsstand plan DC did was considered a success or a failure? The reprints lasted about 30 issues, which isn’t too bad, but they only added one other book to the plan, OUTSIDERS, and that one only lasted 8 issues into the reprints.”
Without going back and check exact dates on various titles (well, okay, I double-checked Omega Men) DC was experimenting quite a bit with “direct sales only” (i.e. only available in comic shops and your slightly more comprehensive newsstands*) titles in the early-to-mid 1980s. This was slightly before I entered into my lifetime of comics retailing, so I don’t have specifics on sales numbers and customer reactions and what have you to this turn of events, beyond anecdotes like BobH’s own. The “hardcover/softcover” plan, which, as previously described, was DC publishing stories in the direct market first, then reprinting them in their newsstand titles a year later, was a way for DC to establish a greater foothold in comic shops, using their biggest title (New Teen Titans) and the comic with a then still-strong fandom (Legion of Super-Heroes) while hopefully not abandoning their newsstand-only fans.
Now, was it a success? In the short term, if my memory of the sales charts in the Amazing Heroes magazine was correct, the direct-only NTT and LSH did sell quite well, and each series did last a long time (over 100 issues each, back in those “we don’t have to reboot a title every dozen issues” days), and the newsstand reprintings lasted about 3 years for the Titans, a little less for the Legion. I guess that’s not too bad on the newsstand reprints, though I suspect print runs were pretty low on those later issues. I wonder how many fans of either property bought both versions, just to keep their runs going? Even so, there must have been, at least for a time, enough people just buying the newsstand versions to keep them going even that long.
Also, was reminded of one of Marvel’s attempts (or only attempt? I’m drawing a blank) to duplicate the hardcover/softcover plan, the short-lived Dreadstar and Co.. That was a weird choice (an oddball creator-owned sci-fi book, though Marvel distributed other creator-owned books to newsstands, like Groo and Elfquest) though I don’t know that Marvel had enough big name direct-sales-only titles that would really fit this particular type of publishing/reprinting program.
“I always get the feeling that it ended up disrupting the momentum of TITANS and (especially) LSH, taking them from DC’s flagships to more fringe books. But I’m not sure how much of that was the publishing plan and how much was the quick change in artists (Perez only lasting two issues as full artist, three more as penciller and then gone, Giffen only two as penciller, three more co-plotting and then gone).”
At the very least, this seemed to be the beginning, or the middle-ing, of the abandonment of newsstands, by splintering the fandoms these titles in this way (in addition to the many direct-sales-only titles both Marvel and DC were producing). The newsstand reprints, though holding on for a while, were probably doomed to eventual cancellation as sales shifted toward comic shops and the folks who could only buy comics at newsstands were left behind. Widespread casual sales and awareness of these particular characters gave way to the “preaching to the converted” sales in the specialty comic shop, where people who were already comic fans were going anyway. …That’s a huge simplification (yes, of course there were some new people going to shops and discovering titles) but I think I’m reasonably on target.
Creative team changes probably didn’t help a whole lot in the direct market end of the equation, but New Teen Titans and Legion of Super-Heroes still had some solid artwork even after the departure of the artists most associated with each title. I’m sure some people were disappointed and stopped reading, but these comics still remained quality titles for quite some time. Again, I wasn’t there at the time except as a reader/buyer of funnybooks, but my sense is that sales probably were still doing fine after losing part of the creative teams that started ’em all off.
My own memories of the time are a little hazy, what with being 48 years old now an’ all, but I suspect I can ask former boss Ralph how sales were going on these comics at the time. Lemme get back to you.