“This is an initiative to build and reshape an industry we all love…” Dan DiDio, DC Nation June, 2011.
“This is a great opportunity for people to come in and start collecting comics .. We’re trying to get new fans, people who never even bought a comic before to get excited about the medium .. We’re here to grow the industry and we’re going to do everything we can to do that.” Jim Lee, New 52 video, June 2011
As part of a two-pronged strategy to try to revive its moribund business and draw newer, younger readers, the nation’s oldest and best-known comic-book publisher has also decided to start over from scratch. Los Angeles Times, August 22, 2011
“There is a generational opportunity to get new readers,” said artist Rob Liefeld, who is drawing DC’s new “Hawk and Dove” series. “The industry has been stagnant, and it’s the right time to hit the reset button.” Los Angeles Times, August 22, 2011
“The launch of DC COMICS-THE NEW 52 galvanized the traditional fan base for superhero comic books: male readers, who were already—or have at one time been—comic book fans.” DC Comics the Source, February 2012.
I said this morning on Twitter that I have never been more depressed about comics. The last few days it has become clear that despite the greatest make-over over at DC Comics in history, a “generational opportunity”, there was really no change at all. There are few new readers and the demographics haven’t changed. Not that we didn’t know they wouldn’t.
In the end I can’t even be mad. I am just sad, very sad. Sad that with the opportunity to revitalize an industry and put it on a path to a healthy, vital future it seems as there have been some some deck chair moving on a sinking ship.
An industry can’t grow if the audience does not grow and bring in fresh blood. Stealing share from your competitors can help your bottom line but doesn’t help the overall bottom line of the industry.
For years, there’s been lots written about how DC (and Marvel) need to expand beyond their traditional fan base. God knows, I’ve written plenty about it.
In the last few days with the results of this survey, there has been more written, not just by me but by other outlets. They point to the lack of young readers and the untapped potential of the female audience.
Over the last few days I have received notes telling me “STFU, see you don’t matter.” And “women DON”T read comics”. It’s not unexpected and doesn’t bother me. It’s not as if most of these people need a reason to belittle women.
But I admit these results have bothered me and have left me asking myself, “Do I bother to try any more? Is the industry ever going to look outside their base? Do I try and recruit more readers to club where they are not really wanted except as a “nice to have?”
I honestly don’t know anymore. I really don’t. Earlier this week when DC announced the new digital comic Smallville, I was ready to write a post about how this was an excellent opportunity to bring female readers into comics.
But I’ve written that post so many times. And so many times, nothing happens. There’s no push, no marketing, no follow through.
So, yes, Smallville is an opportunity. But I doubt it will mean anything if things don’t change. And if they didn’t change in the biggest rebranding event in the history of the company, why would they now?
I hope I am wrong, but I suspect I am not.
When it comes to superhero comics and the opportunity of the female demographic it is like banging one’s head on a brick wall for all the change that comes.
I don’t know about others who share my view but my head is sore and the wall looks the same.
So, do you get a helmet? Or do you blow a kiss for luck and walk away?
I think it’s time to think about that.
I bought my first comic at the age of 11. I was the only girl, let alone little girl, in the comic book shop that had just opened up in our mid-sized suburban Maryland town.
I now work in the business of selling comics as a store manager. I help with initial ordering and do 90% of our reorders. I’m gonna be 28 this year, which means I’ve been reading superhero books for more than half my life.
But I am, and always have been, an afterthought to the people who create these books.
I can’t tell anymore if they honestly don’t care, or if they just have no idea who is reading their books. I suspect it’s a mix of both.
Here’s the thing. It’s gonna be 10 years I’ve been working around comics, and the one thing I know for sure is that this entire industry is wildly unorganized. From the publishers and creators who can’t seem to get their shit together to put books out when they say they’re gonna be out, to the distributor who sends us damaged books that we can’t sell, and sometimes forgets to send us product in the first place, on down to stores who are poorly lit, and still running on 20-year-old computer systems that can’t even begin to handle more complicated and organized programs.
People come and get comics from my store from out of town all the time. We’re one of the two shops left in DC, and with a high business travel rate and tourist market, there are constantly people from all over the country (sometimes the world) wandering in for their comics. And do you know what one of the most common things people say to me is? “Wow! Your store is so bright, and so organized! This is great!”
And do you know what that tells me? That where they’re from, their comic shops (if they have them), are just as disorganized as the rest of the industry.
So how can this industry ever hope to implement change when things are run like this? Their business practices are so wildly disorganized and ridiculous, of course their marketing is crap. Of course they can’t appeal to Women, PoC’s and Children. They don’t know how. They don’t really seem to know what they’re doing. All they know is how they’ve been doing it all along, which is stumble around blindly and market to white, straight men.
That’s what they do. This industry, as it exists right now, and has for the last god knows how long, is slowly, slowly dying. Because they don’t know any better, and they don’t care to learn.