Wednesday, 7 August 2013


The Evil of Villain’s Month Part 1


Placing an order with Diamond is like the slow bullet in Final Crisis that moves backwards in time to kill Orion, although the bullet’s moving forwards and you’ve loaded aimed and fired at yourself.

September 2013 will be the 2nd anniversary of the New52.
The deadline for placing initial orders for September shipping product from Diamond was last Friday.
How are these two events connected?
Indulge me…
I will offer that it is good etiquette to send a simple card or gift to a loved one upon a Birthday.
DC are no different but this year they have made all the presents themselves and wrapped them in very expensive paper and asking us to settle the bill.

DC is too proud to admit that they like to ‘win’ September whether it’s the Market share or the Dollar share or both.

No gold doubloons await the market share winner more like a little bag of chocolate coins.
The Mercurial Market Share.
The number of titles published in the market place expands and contracts and so the size of the market exists in flux from month to month.
So by publishing 52 Superhero books (more or less) DC gets a simple but critical aggregate of exactly how their Superhero Universe is performing.
If Marvel decides to aggressively over ship in any given month the playing field gets very stony indeed
Throughout 2010 DC watched sales take a tumble so they buckled tight the straight jacket of ‘Holding the Line at $2.99’. This altruistic act unfortunately results that in the race to win dollar share DC not only gets the outside lane it runs in flip-flops.
So with a fixed amount of product and a self imposed fixed price point DC have to fight exceptionally hard to gain both dollar and market share for any calendar month.
To even the playing field they DC have been adding an awful lot of Digital first titles at $3.99.
 Vertigo has taken a dip into the Lazarus Pit and Neil Gaiman has woken the Sandman up.
               Despite requests DC steadfastly refuses to sterilise the incestuous Batman Family of titles…
And that fixed Price point? Well we have new titles launching at $3.99 and the anniversary issue price point of $7.99( we’ve got Amazing Spider-man #700 to thank for that)
Nobody wants to be a loser especially in an industry where the Chicken Little comments of caustic commentators are as common as the daisy upon the lawn.
Am I not guilty of biting the hand that feeds though?
Surely as a shop we need lots and lots of comics just to keep the lights and air conditioners on?
I’m not needy but…
We need a steady stream of solid creator driven titles that offer variety and value to the market place.
Like Saga or Killjoys or whatever your favourite title is
What we don’t need is a tempest of titles, an act of a petulant God delivered with unconscionable force raining down from upon high.

Last years September promotion was a month of issue Zero’s editorially designed to cast light upon the revised origins of the de aged heroes post the hardest ‘soft’ reboot in 25 years.
This year’s promotional event is a 400lb Gorilla Grodd compared to last years Atom.
Very soon the most ambitious stunt since the relaunch will start hitting the shelves and I do wonder if this could be the Bane that breaks DC’s back.
Over the next few weeks in the run up to the first week in September I’ll post a few thoughts about the incoming storm known affectionately as Villain-nado!
Pain and Gain

Currently running across the Justice League family of titles is Trinity, a six part event that has been teased at since the 2011 launch all the way through last years free comic book day offering and as of today we are at the crucial half way point.
Turns out that this event is actually a prequel to ‘Forever Evil’ that ships in the first week of September and in one of those odd comic theme synchronicity The Villains have won! a trope seen recently in Marvels ‘Age of Ultron’ (not to be confused with Avengers 2).
Forever Evil is by the current Justice League of America team of Geoff Johns and David Finch and if one was to follow its genealogy I’m sure we would soon be knocking at the door of Blackest Night arguably DC’s most successful critical and commercial event since the original Crisis in the 80’s.

Blackest Night had it all!
Spinning out of the revitalised Green Lantern line DC had zombie heroes and villains spilling their guts over the entire DCU.
A creative team that zinged tight continuity and spin off minis that actually ‘counted’ and an ingenious plastic ring promotion echoing the decoder ring promotions of yesteryear.
Where are those rings now I wonder?
I’ve never seen anyone come in the shop wearing them I suspect most of live in the equivalent of my top draw in the kitchen where the orphan everything’s live.
If unfortunately the rings held no true magic the event it’s self performed a miraculous act of reassembling consumer confidence after Final Crisis sawed into oh so many pieces.
Oh I know we all love it now it’s been reappraised in a DK2 style.
Superman singing and the aforementioned backwards bullet, Batman breaking his oath and paying the price for it.
But wow at the time all we where hearing was hate, hate, hate!
It didn’t start well with the 50:50 split on the covers.
Chip Kidd is so talented its just not funny or fair but whatever DC pay him it clearly is not enough  because the ‘strip’ and more recently kicking the Before Watchmen home goal even further into the net with the ‘split’ covers on the collections.

Repeating past success is always difficult, just how do you win hearts and minds and dollars without pulling the same
Old rabbit from the hat?
DC attempted a cover promotion across all of its books in March with a gate fold cover that when opened had a visual ‘shock’ that they initially branded WTF month.
Obviously this was a folly from the outset evident to all but the executors.
Eventually seeing sense or feeling bruised from all the vicious snickering
DC buckled under extreme pressure from a concerned retail base who after all these years of supporting the all ages line and creating an acceptable ambiance far from the ‘Android Dungeon’
Were a little miffed that DC were suggesting (encouraging) profanity on a monumental scale let alone the absolute ‘uncoolness’ of appropriating a phrase whose 15 minutes of fame had long gone.
The real or imagined brimstone that this misplaced moniker would have caused in the less rational states in America we can only dream of…
The covers came and went with little fanfare and from personal experience meagre increased financial return.
Using the combined knowledge of the marketing success of Blackest Night with the prelude power of Flashpoint and failure of WTF  DC have decided to have another go.

Back in the early 90’s Marvel experimented VERY successfully with enhanced covers.
DC did the DC thing by initially playing wallflower but finally seeing sense decided to kill Superman inside 7 million black bags.
September 2013 has been branded ‘Villain Month’ with the entire line of heroes being replaced with Villains.
How wise is this at this very moment in time for DC?
This temporary smothering of heroism if a well worn path and both Marvel and DC used it as a shortcut plot contrivance in events of days long gone.
This apparent self awareness of the stale crust of an idea has led DC down into the vault of forbidden practises and resurrected the skeleton in the long box the enhanced cover.
It must be said I am not against enhanced covers.
Look if it was between the current po-faced ‘silent’ iconic covers that adorn every comic and a silent cover with a purple ‘gem’ stuck on it I’m with Eclipso every time.
I would be far happier having word balloons back on the cover where they belong  who on earth prefers the banana skin to the banana?
Creative uses of printing and experimentation with inks and paper stocks could be argued weapons in the ‘fight’ against digital. That wasn’t the case 20 years ago when greed replaced anniversary celebration, still who doesn’t admire the verve of the early days with Silver Surfer #50 Ghost Rider #15 and Spider-man #1?
We tend to forget that a sliver of the reading audience weren’t even born when those novelty books hit the market and we find that pretty common enhanced books fetch a pretty penny when displayed.
In recent years cover enhancements have been scarce to say the least, the poly bagging of the Brief Death of Johnny Storm sent shivers down the keyboard of many a comic journalist as if a line had been crossed.
Actually you may have noticed that across the entire Marvel line we now have anti-enhanced covers what with using the interior paper stock as the cover stock as well. Funny, they piloted this in guess what comic? Fantastic Four .

In 1953 inspired in part from a 3D photo mag and the first 3D movie Joe Kubert hit on the frankly awesome idea of appropriating this novelty for the comic industry.
One Mighty Mouse 3D comic later and a CRAZE was born.
Everyone jumped on the band wagon, fortunes where made and lost as the fad peaked and then was smothered by an excess of supply and an absence of demand.
Yoe Books has a great collection that reprints a selection of the strongest examples of 3D comics .
The cover to this book is a lenticular image of Joe Kuberts Tor and is quite impressive.
Someone somewhere gave DC copy of this book.

In 2013 inspired in part from the 3D fad currently employed by Hollywood DC have hit on the frankly absurd idea of appropriating this novelty for the comic industry.

Villain-nado part 2
Goodbye goodwill

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