“We’ve had a lot of internal discussions about how to put the emphasis back on periodicals.”
That was really the only particularly relevant piece of information that came out of the fan-creator love-fest that is the DC Nation Panel at C2E2 yesterday.
(I mean—seriously! Even the fan who stood up to the mike to deride James Robinson’s creative abortion Justice League: Cry For Justice was won over by Robinson’s dubious excuse that he “always planned” for the gore-covered ending of the book and that in the DC Universe apparently you have to blow up a city and rebuild it from the ground up in order to give it character. I mean, really, James? I seem to remember back in the day someone could take a fairly blasé place like Opal City and make it really sing just by fabricating a backstory and a sense of shared identity and civic pride in the characters who lived there. I guess there’s nobody like that at DC anymore. Note to creators: Not every community can be Coast City…and in fact, after Bludhaven, Montevideo and now Star City, we really don’t need any more DC cities to try.)
Anyway, I’m getting off-topic. It seems to me that Dan DiDio and Jim Lee’s determination that, even in the face of eReaders and a burgeoning trade market (my girlfriend works for Barnes & Noble and has told me several times that while most sections in the store are sinking as people warm to eReaders and just generally buy less in our crappy economy, the comics/graphic novels/manga section is consistently growing not just at her store, but at the numerous stores where she’s been called to assist in the last six months.), DC needs to focus its energies on shifting the focus to periodicals seems a little dated and more than a touch naïve. Do they really think that they can manage the way their customers choose to enjoy their product, sheerly by force of will? Let’s ask the music industry how well that’s worked out for them in the last decade or so.
It does, though, paint a pretty distinct picture of their company. Even at a time when mainstream retailers are accounting for an increasing amount of revenue (those guys don’t stock many floppies, by the way) and the New York Times is finally recognizing graphic novels with their own bestseller list, they want to convince everyone that there’s “something special” about holding that 32-page floppy in your hand. But the phrase “shifting the focus back to periodicals,” along with the phrases “The Return of Barry Allen” and “Fear of a Black Firestorm” suggest to me a company which has ceased trying to court new, young customers and has resigned itself to the conclusion that their target demographic is Geoff Johns and James Robinson: white, immersed in pop culture, young in the corporate sense but quickly aging in the biological and decades behind what’s new and cool when it comes to their personal tastes. These are the guys who still resent John Byrne’s Man of Steel as a slap in the face to the pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths continuity of their youth.
This is hardly a surprise; the promotions of Geoff Johns and Jim Lee fairly cemented in my mind the idea that the company was not interested in exploring editorial, creative or distribution directions into which they weren’t already fairly entrenched. They’re going to continue pimping the same five creators until their hands fall off or enough of their stories fail to sell that the whole company has to be radically reconfigured—a move that will be much harder to pull off now that they’ve installed a pair of co-publishers, one of whom is an ideologue (Johns—it honestly seems to me that Lee is just trying to help the company, and/or in it for the paycheck).
Personally, I’ve got nothing against the floppies. I read most of my books that way, and the only ones I pick up in trade are the ones that I fell badly behind while reading and/or didn’t start buying until a trade or two had already been in print. But almost everyone I know in the industry has been talking for some time about how the writing is on the wall for most floppies (nobody seriously thinks that Superman, Batman, Spider-Man or Archie will ever go trade-exclusive). I’m not sure how a few higher-ups, whose point-of-view seems very narrow, can expect to change what has been broadly perceived as The Future Of Comics.