DC relaunch – no more X-Men Comics

DC relaunch - no more X-Men Comics

DC Comics will relaunch all its titles in September 2011 and cancel the Uncanny X-Men. Well, that’s the bathwater gone. Wait – where’s the baby?

Sigh. This is one of those columns I don’t want to write. Firstly because it’s probably a bit early to be talking about this, and secondly because I don’t want to have a bunch of I TOLD YOU SO comments come September 2011. I remember everyone nay-saying The Ultimates launch and I feel like I’m going to be charting similar territory.

Nonetheless, we’re just a week removed from the initial new story of DC relaunching all of their comics title come September, and more news has come in that the Uncanny X-Men franchise will be finishing quite soon as well. This is a very large broom, sweeping away decades of history. I want to believe that this is just going to be growing pains. Unfortunately, literally nothing good has come out of the proposed relaunch so far.

Speaking from my own bunker, and having talked to various retailers via Twitter and Facebook, all we’re finding is that people are using this as the excuse they’d clearly been waiting for to cancel their standing orders on comic titles. By suggesting that Flashpoint is the end of the story that started back in 1939, they’re saying ‘well, that’s it, then.’ For the entire DC line. People who would routinely buy every crossover – every spin-off – are done.

Initially I put this down to ‘Old Men Whine About Anything Syndrome.’ I thought: well, look. These are kids. characters, after all. They need to be reinvented every few years to keep them fresh and new for the next generation. If adults choose to carry on reading Green Lantern, Batman, The X-Men, that’s our business, but the themes of the story shouldn’t be aimed at people at over the age of 18 or so. In theory, anyone ought to be able to pick up this month’s issue of Ultimate Spider-Man and be able to jump straight into it.

What’s happened since, ooh, the rise of the Direct Market, I’d say, is that the superhero stuff has shifted in content to meet the needs of an aging audience without also ensuring that a window was created to bring in the new (younger) audience necessary to sustain the medium. Because of this, comics sales have dropped so drastically since the seventies that bestselling comic titles today have the same sales figures that would have led to their cancellation a couple of decades ago.

So DC’s idea is: Start again. The loyal readers will obviously just carry on reading, regardless of reboots and such. As a plus, sales will be boosted by this new generation of fans just champing at the bit to get in on the ground floor. Double win, right?

Wrong.

Again, all I’ve heard (And I admit, this is only what I’ve heard) is the regular comics customer saying “I’m done with DC. Cancel my standing order for all of their superhero stuff”.

That’s a lot of books! Back of a beer mat maths and a copy of Previews tell me that’s around 150 quid a month. Per customer. So if seven standing orders per shop have done this, that’s a best part of £1000 gone this September.

Sure, some of it is just posturing. People claimed (and perhaps felt at the time) that they were never going to buy a Marvel comic again after ‘Spider-Man: One More Day’ or ‘Civil War’ or ‘The Death Of Captain America’, but they still did.

That’s fine; the new generation of readers will pick up the slack and… everything will be okay, right?

My question is this: what new generation?

Is DC of the opinion that there’s an army of kids who’ve been dying to get into their books and are lining up in their sleepover tents on the streets in order to dive into the store each Wednesday to pick up each of the 52 new comics they’re launching? And if so, could they tell me what they’re basing this on, because the most positive reaction to all this I’ve read ANYWHERE thus far is a variation on ‘I might pick up 4 or 5 of the new books.’ That’s from people who’re already into it.

So, yeah. There was the news story in USA Today last week, but a week is a long time in news. Perhaps DC are expecting the USA Today story to have the same effect that their news story on Captain America #25 did (punters stormed in, bought all the copies in stock, left. Captain America #25 was the biggest selling title of the year). If DC Comics really think that then they’re barking up the wrong tree – because those excited punters didn’t come back for Captain America #26,guys.

People from the real world aren’t going to remember this in four months. Heck, a broadcast journalist on the BBC couldn’t remember if Green Lantern was a Marvel or DC character this morning.

I’m praying that I’m wrong on this, but even if this hypothetical relaunch works, is this new generation trained enough to wait a whole month between issues? Assuming it is a month. This is not to be rude or cheeky, but check out some of the names on the line-up: Jim Lee, George Perez, and Rob Liefeld. Your opinions and mine on the quality of their work will vary, but for whatever reasons, these aren’t names I’d link with meeting deadlines. Sure, assurances have been given that the work’s going to come out on time, but actions speak louder than words. ‘Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds’ took about a year to finish. ‘All-Star Batman’ came out every 6 months, maybe. Did ‘Image United’ even finish? Did ‘Smash!’ even start?

Sure, there are a variety of kosher reasons for not turning in your book on time, but frankly, this stuff ain’t art with a capital A. If your book has come in, the punter usually thinks “Well, that’s $2:99 less I have to spend this week. Do I even want to buy this at all?” Comics don’t give you much bang for your buck in terms of hours of entertainment. You could buy ALL of ‘Fear Itself’ for the same price as an Xbox 360. The last thing DC Comics want to be doing is giving readers a reason to kick the habit.

Again, I don’t know what the future’s going to bring, although I’m hoping it’s something a bit more optimistic than ‘Uncanny X-Men to reboot itelf with 2 new books’ or ‘Superman to get new shoes, lose pants.’. Because, right now. All this big news to change the industry is doing nothing but costing us a hell of a lot of money. Feedback and poositive contradictions to my point are welcomed.

In less doom-laden news Ellen Linder, Howard Hardiman, Julia Scheele, and to a much lesser extent, myself have organised a Comics Fair in New Cross that happens on the 24th of July at The Old Police Station, 114-116 Amersham Vale, Deptford, London, SE14 6LG. Please come along! It’s free entry, it will be awesome and it’s Comics and Cakes, people! COMICS AND CAKES!

First published on Filthy Orphan

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