Business of Comics LinkBlogging: Praise, Downfall, and Tough Ethical Questions

DC Relaunch a Success

Nationally known retailer Brian Hibbs calls the DC relaunch an “overwhelming, thundering, success” based on “intense consumer interest with actual humans buying comics to read (as opposed to speculate on)”. I’m sharing this because Hibbs is not easily swayed, so this is very good news for the effort. I’ve been negative about it in the past, so I thought it was only fair I point this out.

His column continues by noting how customers are being selective, based on what they expect to like, and how he’s seeing lots of returning lapsed readers as well as buyers who are trying other comics by other publishers as well. The only downside for him — he believes DC fell down on having enough copies available, even though every issue has gone to multiple printings so far. Hibbs states, “DC did not have enough inventory on hand in case this was as big of a hit as it became.”

He goes on to ride a favorite hobby horse — that print, serialized comics are still the most important product, downplaying digital (which we have NO real indicator of numbers on). I think that remains to be seen, not really able to be determined until we’re several months in, but some of his other points, such as this possibly being even more successful with fewer books and the importance of consumer marketing, are right on. I do hope (as he does) that he’s wrong about Marvel trying something similar.

Update: For another retailer’s deep dive into the questions behind how to evaluate ordering the DC relaunch, here’s Mike Sterling from earlier in the month.

Does Newsarama Matter Any More?

Former Newsarama contributor Kevin Huxford points out that Newsarama’s stats are horrible, in terms of ranking comparisons with competitors. Huxford attributes the fall to Newsarama getting rid of their forums, which drove large amounts of traffic but which were widely considered one of the cesspools of atrocious fan behavior. I resent that removal because, when they eliminated them, they also dropped a bunch of their history into the memory hole, and I’m still cleaning up the broken links that resulted. (Past versions of their site were eliminated, but copies of some of the articles were still posted in the forums. Now they’re all gone.) Anyway, times change, the popular hangouts change.

CBLDF Sells Ability to Hide or Promote a Story

I fully support the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, and as soon as they get their credit card payment processor glitches worked out, I’ll be renewing my membership. Yet I found one of their current fundraisers a bit iffy. Let me quote:

The bearer of this card gets the chance to remove a story published on Bleeding Cool (which will be replaced by this card) either after it has been published or, if they are aware of it, before. It has a one time use and can be used by publisher or creator alike. And it must be used within a year. Alternatively, the card can also be used to get INTO Bleeding Cool and will guarantee favorable coverage of a project of your choice. This item is available on eBay now, and the opening bid is a $500 membership in the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

I know site operator Rich Johnston has long claimed that he’s just putting out entertainment, not journalism, but this really strikes me as strange. Why not just sell slots on the site, if you’re going to give someone space to run “favorable coverage” of anything you like, even if it’s for a good cause? And if you’re willing to yank a story (and let me remind you, that’s their word, not mine) for a good cause, what else are you willing to bury and for what?

More importantly, even to raise money, should a comic charity be encouraging manipulation of the media for money?

12 Responses to “Business of Comics LinkBlogging: Praise, Downfall, and Tough Ethical Questions”

  1. Thad Says:

    Adding a personal anecdote of my own to the pile, my LCS has been PACKED every Wednesday since the relaunch. (Granted, the relaunch coincided with the sudden closure of the biggest comic seller in the state.) The owner told me he’s never had a month like this, in the ten years he’s owned the store or the years prior where he was an employee.

    The big question is whether it’s sustainable. Obviously there’s going to be SOME reader dropoff from here on in, but I’m hoping that a sizable number of the new readership will stick around.

    And I think part of that will be holding DC’s feet to the fire when it messes up, whether it’s with a book that’s not as accessible to new readers as they seem to think it is, or, well, that other stuff they’ve been getting bad press for. I want to see DC succeed in this — and I want to see them do it by putting out books that are GOOD.

  2. Johanna Says:

    That’s great to hear. I hope these new/returning readers are finding things they like and will keep coming back.

  3. Ralf Haring Says:

    I don’t check Newsarama anymore. Ten years ago I checked it daily. I follow the rss feeds of a few dedicated comics sites mostly run by a single person (the Beat, Bleeding Cool). I also check the rss feeds of some of CBR’s group blogs and subscribe to a list of all their columns although I read almost none of them. If I don’t see something myself, I’m fine with missing it until someone somewhere points it out. It’s not hard to find other comics-interested people to subscribe to on twitter, google+, facebook, etc. (never mind real world comics friends) so that things can be shared and viewed in a flash. If over time I see that I’m consistently checking out certain shared items from a single source, that’s when I see if I want to follow them myself.

    I did not notice they eliminated their forums, but that will be a growing problem for every site. It can’t all stay up forever and archive sites also can’t store it all. A decade ago Google could buy previous decades of usenet history and host it all. I don’t see the same kind of thing happening in the future with all the contemporary big content hosting sites.

  4. Keith Bowden Says:

    I was thinking the multi-printings were kind of overblown – the shop I visited Saturday had first printings of Justice League #1 even. I can’t believe Brian didn’t order enough copies. (Doesn’t DC basically print to order? If DC ran out, it’s because retailers underestimated demand, isn’t it?)

    I do think it’s still too early to call it overall a success, but it got people back into shops – including me. But I still haven’t liked the majority of what I’ve seen.

  5. Ralf Haring Says:

    “The big question is whether it’s sustainable. Obviously there’s going to be SOME reader dropoff from here on in, but I’m hoping that a sizable number of the new readership will stick around.”

    I don’t think it’s sustainable. DC got a bigger push than normal from rebooting every series at once, but ultimately I think there will be standard large dropoffs in the second and third issues. I expect quite a few cancellations around issue six or twelve for many of the lower tier books that will necessarily have been drowned out. And I expect people to drop many of the series when they realize that they frequently aren’t particularly good or different from what DC was producing before. You can’t hire from the same pool of creators and expect the direction of your comics to be new and different.

  6. Chris G Says:

    Another issue for DC is the creators on these books. Does anyone really think Jim Lee will still be drawing Justice League in 6 or 12 or 15 months? Or that George Perez will still be inking one book and writing and doing breakdowns on a second for more than a year or so, tops?

    On top of that, the relaunch is not a trigger you can pull twice in close succession. If DC or Marvel announced it was scrapping everything and starting over any time in the last couple of decades or so, of course there would be a huge interest in it early on. But if this sputters out in a few months, well, there’s going to have to be some other thing that DC does to renew interest. My bet is a great big crossover event…

  7. William George Says:

    Crowing because a huge publicity stunt brought in more people than the rock bottom number he’s used to dealing with on a weekly basis and claiming this in no way is related to speculation?

    Sounds like a Hibbs article alright.

  8. Johanna Says:

    Ralf, great point about technology options changing over time.

    Keith, I feel as you do about coming back but not enjoying it. I just hope there are more people not like us, or things could get weird very quickly.

  9. James Schee Says:

    The relaunch has certainly peeked my interest, as I’ve gone from reading 0 DC comics a month to 5 or 6 I will want to read every month. And another 6 or so that I’m wanting to check out more of.

    Being able to read them on my IPad has been a big boon as well though.

    I know when I see the news of the sellouts and reprints my first thought was “sheesh , the process is screwed up.” Even with all the incentives and stuff no one still understands what the audience wants, be it retailer or publisher.

    I really don’t check out many comics sites these days, CWR not withstanding. Usually if I read an article its through a link on twitter.

    The BC thing is odd. Other than DC & Marvel, unless you’re murdering your employees is there a controversy from any other publisher that anyone would care enough about to cover? (Archie sexual harassment about only thing I can think of) And is Bleeding Cool visible enough that anyone from DC or Marvel would care to have them remove something?

  10. Jaylat Says:

    Great point re: CBLDF. I’m a big fan and member, but what were they thinking? An organization that exists to defend the first amendment os raising funds by selling the right to censor, or propagandize?


  11. racercanuck Says:

    “should a comic charity be encouraging manipulation of the media for money?”

    That’s funny. Wait, were you being serious? This is about as close to “media manipulation” as tearing out a page of the national enquirer while in the check out line at the supermarket cause you need something to spit your gum into.

    It sounds like you think this ranks up there with the New York Times pulling a story for cash. Comic blogs…all comic blogs are about as relevant as some anonymous persons face book page. Comic blogs are not journalism. They are a comic book fan with way too much time to spend on their laptop.

  12. Kevin Huxford Says:

    Thanks for taking notice of the entry about Newsarama’s popularity having fallen.

    That cesspool part…to my mind, it had that quality at one time because it had the largest gathering of enthusiasts, so it stood to reason it would have more of the terrible posters than some other sites.

    I know they changed how front page articles would blend right into the forum postings to help appease publishers who were put off by the “cesspool” comments that would pop up RIGHT under their precious PR. But, while simply having the articles link to the forum instead of flowing into it was a bit of selling out (IMO), pulling the forums completely was a totally different deal.

    The archives for the ages is, indeed, an interesting point made by Ralf, but even purging the old stuff and keeping the new would probably still have kept a lot of the readers they’ve shed in falling behind CBR.




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