The recent onslaught of critical hate-on for DC’s weekly series Countdown, not to mention the company’s recent slagging sales in general, has led some folks to wonder if the company that Superman built is in trouble. I’ll start with Andrew Hickey, who recently decided to stop blogging about Countdown every week:
Countdown may well be the biggest mistake DC have made in ten years or more. Because they’re turning Countdown into a brand, but what that brand says to me is ‘steer clear’.
If you put out Steve Gerber writing Dr Fate, I think “this is something I need to pick up.” Put out Countdown To Mystery and I think “Danger! Run away!”
That post leads Dick Hyacinth to cast a pall:
Put it all together: the critical reception to Countdown, the glut of Countdown tie-ins on the horizon, and the declining sales figures. There’s no way to look at these figures and not question the effect on DC as a brand. DC is not giving fans (of any stripe, really) what they want. Their line-wide identity is tied into a loser of a maxi-series; many of their highest profile books are perpetually late, leading to clumsy/destructive schedule-juggling; their biggest intellectual properties are selling fewer books than Moon Knight. To his credit, Dan DiDio is not so incompetent as to maintain the disastrous status quo. But does anyone expect Waid on Flash and McDuffie on Justice League to turn things around? Shit, Justice League is DC’s only consistent, monthly bestseller; if anything, Meltzer’s imminent departure will see sales drop by a significant amount.
Even our very own Graeme can’t help but sound dour:
Something that’s easier to judge is that Countdown is currently the big problem at DC. I was thinking this the other day, writing up the solicits for the latest newsletter and realizing just how many books DC is spinning out of this not-as-popular-as-they’d-like series, as if each new book that comes from it will somehow increase the core book’s popularity… And not only that, but each successive spin-off seems more and more unnecessary and existing only to take up shelf space (“Lord Havok and The Extremists”? Who wants to read that?!?) – DC is trying so hard to brand itself around Countdown that it’s eclipsing its other, better, books; we’re at an unusual point where the Superman, Batman, Flash and Green Lantern books are all pretty good, but DC still seems to be in terrible trouble because they’re forcing the public face of the superhero line to be a series that readers are practically running away from. You’d think they’d know better, but then you remember that this is comics, and nothing makes sense here.
And the folks at CHUD as the question, “What if DC Comics ended?”:
Let’s be honest: comic book publishing isn’t the best game in town. For a big company like Warner Bros, DC Comics exists for one reason: to produce licenses that can be marketed, whether they be via films, video games, toys or underwear. The real money in comics lies not in comics, but products based on them. On top of that, the monthly comic as we know it is on its last legs: the floppies are mostly only available at comic book specialty stores, and how many of those are near you these days? The real future of comic books is in graphic novels and trade compilations, sold online and at book stores. On top of that, the world of comic book publishing – especially at continuity-mad DC – is so insular that the readership of comic books today is probably made up of the exact same people who were reading a decade ago. The market is dwindling and becoming more and more niche. In ten years, who will be left to go to comic book stores?
And there’s insult to be added to injury: if you look at the recent spate of movies and TV shows based on Marvel and DC characters, almost all of them take their cues from stories and characters that are a decade old or more. The fact is that no one is creating new characters or stories that will have mass appeal beyond the comic book audience. So why even bother with it anymore? Why does Warner Bros bother continuing monthly adventures of these characters? What if they just stopped?
OK, I’ll bite. What if?