Thursday, July 19, 2007

Count Down

According to DC Comics' October 2007 solicitations, which you can view at Comic Book Resources, the publisher has 62 new periodicals on schedule for that month from its mainstream DC Universe line. Is DC trying to swamp the market?

For an answer, let's look at the solicitations for the months leading up to October. In June 2007, DC's planned output consisted of 41 DC Universe titles. (Due to delays, only 37 of them were released.) In July, the number remains the same. In August, it climbs to a whopping 55 - presumably because five Wednesdays fall into that month instead of the usual four. So far, so good.

In September, things start to look odd, however. Despite only having four Wednesdays to sell their output that month, the number of DC Universe books remains at 55 - before climbing to the aforementioned 62 in October. So, indeed, the trend is clear: DC are massively ramping up their output volume. In fairness, October is another month with five Wednesdays, but an increase of a whopping 51% over June is still excessive by any standard.

So, now that we've established that they are swamping the market, let's look at how they're doing it. In August, Countdown to Adventure starts, an eight-part limited series spun off of Countdown, the publisher's current big event series that isn't doing very well commercially. Also launched are the 52 spin-offs Booster Gold (ongoing), Black Adam: The Dark Age (limited series), 52 Aftermath: The Four Horsemen (limited series) and Metal Men (limited series); the weekly Outsiders: Five of a Kind (five issues, all out in August); and Batman/Lobo: Deadly Serious (limited series). Additionally, there's a Batman Annual, as well as five issues of Countdown, three issues of Action Comics and two issues each of Green Arrow: Year One, Black Canary and Amazons Attack, the publisher's other current big event series that isn't doing very well commercially.

In September, DC launches two more Countdown spin-off limited series with Countdown to Mystery and Countdown Presents: The Search for Ray Palmer. Connected with the marriage of DC characters Green Arrow and Black Canary, there are The Black Canary Wedding Planner, a JLA Wedding Special and The Green Arrow/Black Canary Wedding Special. Also on schedule are a Wonder Woman Annual, Wonder Girl (limited series), the 52 spin-off Infinity Inc. (ongoing), as well as the limited series Suicide Squad: Raise the Flag, Tales of the Sinestro Corps, Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters and JLA/Hitman and two issues each of JLA: Classified and Green Arrow: Year One.

The October schedule, finally, includes the launch of four more Countdown spin-off limited series with Countdown Presents: Lord Havok and the Extremists, Captain Carrot and the Final Ark, Death of the New Gods (with two issues out in October) and Gotham Underground, two more limited series with Crime Bible: The Five Lessons of Blood and Metamorpho: Year One (two issues out in October) and ongoing titles Batman and the Outsiders, Green Arrow/Black Canary and Simon Dark. Also on sale: The DC Infinite Halloween Special, a Robin Annual and two issues each of JLA: Classified, Superman, Action Comics and Tales of the Sinestro Corps. And, of course, five issues of Countdown itself.

If you're not keeping count, that's a total of 14 issues of Countdown alone, plus 19 new limited series, five new ongoing titles, seven one-shots, six issues of Action Comics and five issues of JLA: Classified, among many, many other books, spread over a mere three months.

Theoretically, this means that audience and retailers have to pick and choose what they're ordering. Considering that DC are hellbent on approaching their superhero line as one big crossover event that never ends, however, flooding the market like this seems tremendously imprudent; if the audience can't get the whole picture, they tend to rather have none of it. The direct market is pretty unforgivable in that regard, particularly given that the response to the Countdown and Amazon Attacks event titles which anchor or connect many of these books has been mixed, at best. With dozens of interconnected books starring B- and C-list characters and tying into not particularly well-received stories vying for attention, the resulting sales performance is bound to be a disaster.

Unless the picture painted by the sales numbers available so far is entirely misleading, throwing that much material at an audience that's already growing more reluctant to pick up your books every month isn't just excessive. It's utterly insane. It makes you wonder what on earth they're thinking.

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