Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Definition of Insanity: DC To Spend Millions Preaching To The Choir

I saw some things in this Bleeding Cool post about the yesterday's DC Comics Roadshow in Texas that made me shake my head, and others that made me want to slam it against my desk.

At the show, DC told retailers that they have a seven figure marketing budget to spend on the Relaunch, which includes everything from the previously Bleeding Cooled TV ad campaign, including the Cartoon Network ads to USA Today, Facebook, movie theaters ads, conventions and promotional materials.

Wow, that's a lot of PR firepower you're bringing to the table, DC! That must mean you're casting a wide net to capture as large and diverse new reader demographic spectrum as possible. It has to mean that!

The target audience are men age 18 to 34 though they do realize that they have readers in other demographics.

Or not.
Translation: "We really care about the 18-34-year-old men, but maybe we can make a half-assed effort to reach some other demos as an afterthought."
Here's the thing: Isn't the current superhero audience already predominantly composed of men aged 18-34? This demo counts as "new readers" how, exactly? Won't DC be, in effect, spending millions to preach to the choir?
The truth of the matter is that the Big Two have been catering too much to this demo since the advent of the direct market, becoming increasingly insular, to the point of driving away readers of other demos.
One of those demos? Readers under 18. Here's a question for you readers: At what age did you first get into comics? It sure as hell wasn't 18 or higher. In fact, I quit comics for a while when I reached 18 to focus on college. I'd started reading them about 11 years earlier.
But where are the jumping-on locales for younger readers on mainstream lines today? Not at the 7-11's or toy stores or drugstores or supermarkets as in the older days. The direct market replaced that. And as the creators gradually made books darker, coarser, grittier and more "kewl", they also made them less accessible. We had more beheadings, rapes, and dismemberments, but vastly fewer younger readers. Excessive use of events and crossovers also made the books more expensive to follow.
Another large, potentially lucrative demo that got thrown under the bus? Female readers. Starting with the 90's we saw more and more "butt floss" outfits. Breasts grew impossibly bigger, while waists grew smaller and outfits skimpier. The Big Two breached more "mature" topics like rape, but often did so with all the maturity of a 14-year-old accessing his dad's liquor cabinet.
And now it seems like DC's still treating this audience like an afterthought. But they're overlooking a large source of revenue in the misguided belief that women and girls don't read comics.

You won't be seeing Donna Troy yet in the new DCU, nor the Stephanie and Cassandra Batgirls. They haven't been killed off though, just benched.

Yes, that "Stephanie" getting benched is the same Stephanie Brown whose death inspired hordes of female readers to deluge DC with requests that she either be resurrected or get her own Batcave trophy case, so much so that DC opted for the former solution.  But she's getting benched while Jason Todd, whom a majority of comic readers voted to have killed via a 1-800 number, gets his own ongoing series. What's wrong with this picture?

Here's a hint for you DC big-wigs: You know how you see a glut of TV commercials that portray men as complete idiots, apparently unable to even breathe properly without the help of their wise, all-knowing
wives/girlfriends? There's a reason for that, and it's NOT truth in advertising. It's because women have vast quantities of purchasing power, and advertisers, rightly or wrongly, feel this will make women feel better about themselves and encourage them to buy their products.
Now, I don't think DC should ape the commercials and make all their men that stupid (except maybe Hal Jordan). But they should do something to try to grab that female demo.
Here's another quote that really troubled me:
Many of the new 52 books will have six issue story arcs.....
You know what's that's code for? Decompression. Writing for the trades. Fewer self-contained stories. Just what we need more of in modern superhero comics.
And yet DC indicates they'll be quick on the cancellation trigger:
"...and Dan DiDio states that if sales are bad on a title, they won't wait very long to cancel it. He wants strong sales across the line."

In other words, books with potential won't be allowed to build a following before they get whacked. Think back on Chase. Or The Power Company. Or Black Lightning. Or Aztek. Or the Milestone books. I'm sure you can all think of more.

In other words, DC's promising more of the same things that have wrecked superhero comics over the years.
There's an old expression I've used several times in my blog: The definition of insanity is repeating the same action and expecting a different result. Not only is DC repeating the same actions that led to their comics hemorrhaging readers, but now they seem to be doubling down on them.
It reminds me of an old David Letterman Top Ten list. It was "Top Ten Chicago Cubs Excuses". One of them was "We thought lower scores were better, like with golf."
I suspect DC execs may believe the same thing about their comics' sales figures.


At 8:02 PM , Blogger Shelly said...

I started reading comics when I was 7.

I was one of the folks who voted to kill Jason, so you know I won't be reading any book he's starring in.

I think DC's competition, and no, I don't mean just Marvel, might benefit from all this. I'll be looking at books from companies other than the big 2.

I think I'm now over my fury and am starting to get excited about the new comics I'll be discovering from companies not called DC or Marvel.

At 1:44 PM , Blogger notintheface said...

Any specific ones?

At 1:44 PM , Blogger SallyP said...

What is it called, when you keep doing the same thing, and expecting a different result? It...it's on the tip of my tongue.

At 1:37 AM , Blogger The one letter wonder said...

Reading this post makes me want to print up a bunch of shirts that read I steal Jason Todd comics with the old "kill him" 1-800 number on the back :) I totally agree that DC is shotting themselves in the foot with this "reboot"

At 2:17 AM , Blogger James Ashelford said...

Of this strategy is worse than I thought, I just heard about the target demographic none of the other twaddle.

I started reading comics at, I think, about ten or eleven.

And think of other titles? I can think of dozens and that's just the worthy ones (dear, dear Arana: Heart Of The Spider).

At 1:22 PM , Blogger Saranga said...

Gah. My understanding of this is that Dc are going to be absolutely fucked in the creative department soon. They aren't interested in developing good stories, they are interested in making money. Surely they can do both?

At 10:30 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I begin reading comments at 16, my parents were not fans ofthe genre so once I could drive I begin buying them and sneaking them in.

My son is 6, I have been getting him comics since he was 4 -the DC superfriends...which DC cancelled.

He had issues with Kid Devil in tiny Titans after a 5 minute question and answer session with a 5 yearold on how can he be good ifthe devil is bad and god doesn't like the devil...we threw it away.

Since the last revamp of Batman the Brave and the Bold we have selectively read it and as of last week we are trying Super Dinosaur. We also get Super Hero Squad and have tried a few of the other kid focused marvel comics over time.

His focusnow is on Marvel, they appeal to him because Marvel takes the time to make their characters accesable to him.
He is thrilled


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