As much as it may pain Dan Didio, let’s talk this week’s bookending stories, shall we?
On Tuesday, DC announced that there would be content changes (read: fill-ins) on Action Comics, and that the story originally announced for #848 – which had been originally solicited for #847, for that matter – would now run in #851, and that there would be three additional months of fill-ins before the much-hyped team of Richard Donner, Geoff Johns and Adam Kubert would return to the book. That announcement, mind you, followed the solicitations of #849 and #850 (and the revelation that those books would be fill-ins) on Monday. Geoff Johns spoke to the mothership on Thursday to explain the reason for the delay:
Lateness is a problem plaguing DC and Marvel line-wide (except for 52! Ha!)… Look, I think they’re doing the best thing that they can do – rather than ship an issue every two months; they’ll ship good stories monthly while they’re stocking up our issues. I don’t know what the better solution is without a time machine (and if I had one I don’t think making sure this came out on time would be my first stop – I’d go buy 100 copies of Action Comics #1) – obviously, there’s no one solution out there, look at Civil War and Infinite Crisis. And Civil War published like 6 or 7 specials to compensate for the lateness and I think people enjoyed them, right? But nothing will please everyone. I know that people want to read Action Comics each month, and on our side, we want to keep the integrity of the arc intact. I mentioned Adam’s timetable on the last issue elsewhere only to move the blame off Donner since it’s easy to label the “outsider” but really I should take as much responsibility for our shipping schedule as anyone and I do.
Of course, last Sunday, he wasn’t really into the “taking as much responsibility as anyone” thing:
Unfortunately, Adam Kubert is obviously taking much longer than anyone hoped. His work is beautiful, but it’s taking a long time – for the record, it’s not me and Donner.
Oops. But nonetheless, this wasn’t the worst case of “content change” for DC this week, as Friday brought the news that, really, that high-profile Wonder Woman relaunch? Kind of completely screwed:
WONDER WOMAN #5 (JAN070319), which was previously slated to feature the final chapter of the 5-part story “Who Is Wonder Woman,” will feature a new story when it arrives in stores on March 14… Chapter five of “Who Is Wonder Woman” will be rescheduled at a future date… Also, orders for the WONDER WOMAN: WHO IS WONDER WOMAN? HC (FEB070299) have been cancelled. This title will be resolicited at a future date.
I believe that translation for “will be rescheduled at a future date” is “Honestly, we have no idea what’s going on any more and we don’t even want to speculate because we’ll probably wrong. Can we just pretend this didn’t happen? That’d be great.” But, yeah – So now we have the relaunch of one of DC’s “Big Three” not even able to complete its first arc at all, which is horrendously embarrassing for all involved, and DC’s oldest title having its own scheduling snafus. Maybe that’s another reason why DC’s direct market share dropped last month. It’s not just Civil War dominating the DM, you know (Although there’s got to be some snickering at Marvel over “Civil War: The Return” being the second-best selling book of the month, considering the critical kicking that it got).
If DC wanted some good news, though, they only had to look to Brian Hibbs’ exhaustive look at bookstore sales for 2006:
2006 was a very good year in the bookstores for DC. They placed 59 titles in the Top 750, with total unit sales of 551,160, and $10,246,082 in retail dollar sales.
Of course, they’d have to ignore the manga section above if they didn’t want their mellow harshed:
The category killer, to be sure. In 2006, Manga dominates with 575 spots on the charts for 6,705,624 pieces, and $61,097,050 in retail dollars…
However, the main story for manga in bookstores may be in this part of the article:
[I]t seems to me that manga, while still growing, is no longer doing so as “explosively” as it once did. Nearly a 40% unit growth from ’03 to ’04, 22% from ’04 to ’05, and about 20% from ’05 to ’06. Factor in the differences in reporting methodologies, and it’s probably under 13% growth in 2006. Really, my supposition won’t be properly tested until next year’s figures, but I think we might be reaching a plateau for manga sales where the category becomes “mature”, and a more reasonable 5-8% growth a year is what’s to be expected.
That’s against impressive growth for superhero books – something that Brian addresses in the article and that you should just go and read there because, otherwise, I’m going to end up cutting and pasting the whole thing here and nobody wants that.
Brian Hibbs popped up earlier in the week as well, in Ian Brill’s report on the Northern California meeting of ComicsPro:
A group of Northern California direct market retailers recently gathered at San Francisco’s Cartoon Art Museum for first ComicsPRO meeting, one that anticipates the larger conference held April 11-13 in Las Vegas, NV. Both ComicsPRO members and non-affiliated members interested in learning about the organization attended. The meeting was presided over by ComicsPRO president Joe Field of Flying Colors Comics & Other Cool Stuff in Concord… One of the goals of this meeting and the meeting in April is to raise awareness of ComicsPRO and their mission so as to get more retailers on board. Benefits of ComicsPRO memberships includes discount credit card processing, discounted group health insurance, a retail mentoring program and access to a member-only Delphi-hosted forum. “We started very practical,” Hibbs said. “Get the money back in your pockets.”
Elsewhere, it was a week devoid of big announcements as publishers start gearing up for convention season (NYCC is next weekend, and WonderCon the weekend afterwards; they announced their schedule this week, which includes a special pre-release screening of 300 as well as the first San Francisco International Childrens Film Festival. NYCC is doing it for the kids as well, launching a creator tour called Kids Love Comics focusing on all-ages books) or working on toy lines, which meant that the mothership was wide open for indie creators to get some oxygen: Mainstream bookstore godfather Larry Gonick got his day in the comic internet sun, 2000AD’s Simon Fraser moves online to make it easier for his audience to find him, novelist Joe Nasisse talked about Markosia’s adaptation of his book Heretic, Hack/Slash gets an ongoing series, and we had what amounted to a media exchange student situation: Indie book Of Bitter Souls makes the move to television while the creators of upcoming movie The Astronaut Farmer move to comics.
Two indie stories rocked the internet this week, however, and both involved giants of comics. Fantagraphics announced that they’re launching a 12-volume collection of Walt Kelly’s classic Pogo newspaper strip, designed by Bone’s Jeff Smith, while Archie announced that they’re going to be parodying Marvel’s Civil War just four months after Civil War finishes, which may mark a new record for timeliness for the publisher. Only one of these two stories is important, but following Jeph Loeb’s example, I’ll leave it to you to decide which side you’re on.