Now that most of the initial hoopla surrounding the DC Comics ”reboot” announcement (or whatever it should be called) is over, I can get on to speculating how this will impact the Collected Edition market.
Let’s tackle this in installments:
Flashpoint is the entry way into September’s offering of 52 new and renumbered titles. It consists of 70 titles including the core, one-shots, tie-ins and miniseries. I think you can count on DC collecting every single book in some way or another very quickly between September and December. This is counter to their usual way of waiting 6 months after the last monthly issue. DC needs to convert us “old dogs” while gaining the new readers that are sure to come. This would be an excellent way for DC to strike the iron while it’s hot.
As I just said, September 2011 will bring 52 books; 13 a week. It’s unknown to us if every title will be an ongoing series. What is also unclear is if 13 a week will be the standard. We could see fortnightly books, which is not uncommon. In any event, if DC sticks to standard protocol, they will be collecting 6-issue story arcs. That means after the 6th issue for each book is published, in February 2012, we could potentially see 52 trade paperbacks in the month of March!
I would doubt this scenario would be the case, but you have to wonder just how will DC collect all these books and publish other collected editions and what will they be? Let’s look at that now.
DC will want to get the core titles of Justice League, Batman, Detective Comics, Superman, Action Comics, Green Lantern and Flash (and possibly Wonder Woman and Legion Lost) out as fast as possible. Please keep in mind that at the time of this post, I still don’t know what all 52 books will be. The other titles consisting of secondary and tertiary characters can wait a few weeks or even months to balance out the publishing schedule. So we could see 5 or 6 of these new trades every week from March-May 2012. Or we may not! Keep on reading.
If the former is the case, then DC could get in the old habit of Monthly → Trade Paperback/Hardcover. Or they could pull a Monty Python and do something completely different. We know that Day and Date with the new #1′s is a reality come September and I think DC will be pushing hard to sell this new way of Digital Distribution to the masses. If digital is successful, it could cut down on the need for paperback editions for certain titles. After all with 52 new books, several will not be big sellers according to the pre-order Diamond Sales Charts. These particular comics could be put on the “digital only shelf”. The model for such distribution would be an inexpensive and innovative way to experiment with Monthly → Digital, skipping the collected edition altogether. Could that model fail? Of course! But you’d be drinking Drano if you think that all 52 titles will get the top 52 spots on the chart! Some, no scratch that, many titles will be poor sellers. If there is an outcry at C2E2, HeroesCon or Comic Con International in 2012, then DC can always go back and print the books that are demanded by the public (echoes of Young Justice).
Back to the other question – What about the “old” titles? What’s to become of them?
Hmmm… Tough one to answer, but rest assured Classics like Dark Knight Returns, Killing Joke, Crisis On Infinite Earths and others will always be reprinted whether it’s part of the new continuity or not. And just think, Bane is coming to a theater near you next summer and you can bet that there will be an Absolute Knightfall (could be a new set of trades, too).
Also, by the looks of things, DC has slowly moved into Marvel’s Visionaries realm with nice books like Neal Adams’ Batman and DC Universe Archives, Justice League of America by George Perez, The Jack Kirby Omnibus Library, The Steve Ditko Omnibus Library, and the upcoming Legends of the Dark Knight by Marshall Rogers, Tales of the Batman by Gene Colon and Tales of the Batman by Don Newton. Least we forget that Geoff Johns, himself, is amassing his own Omnibus line with Flash, Green Lantern and Hawkman. Look for this creator line of books to continue. Wonder Woman Omnibus by George Perez, anyone?
As for the Absolutes, nothing is on the docket except for Sandman Volume 5 due out in November, but we are getting four new printings late in the year including All-Star Superman, Batman: Hush, Kingdom Come and Watchmen. I would have liked to of seen Absolute Astro City but I think the new hardcover printings have put the kibosh on that personal wish.
The Showcase Presents line, as I said in my latest podcast, could be on its last legs. There’s only three on the schedule right now: Doc Savage was to be out this past May but has been pushed around a few times and has been given a new date of July 6. The recent cancellation of the monthly title didn’t help things and being it’s Marvel’s Doc Savage run is a little strange in of itself. Trial Of The Flash is due July 20, an odd choice for a Black and White trade considering DC could have slotted it as part of the Classic Hardcover line. Lastly we have All-Star Comics, which is a 1970′s reemergence of The Justice Society Of America and their kids with Power Girl leading the team. Again, as I said on the podcast, would be nice to have these as a new set of color trades or one double-sized 400+ page book, it would go well along side of the 1980′s Justice League/Justice League International trade paperbacks and the inevitable Infinity Inc. trades. All-Star Squadron can’t be far behind, can it?
The DC Archives, what can I say? I’d love for my Economics professor to tackle this one: Hardcover volumes of comic books that people have either forgotten about or nobody really wants, at prices that keep rising and the page count getting smaller. Perhaps DC will gets it’s act together and get back to basics. There is still years of very good Golden Age and Silver Age Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and add your own title here to be collected.
The Archives cousin are the DC Chronicles, decent collected editions of Golden and Silver Age material presented in chronological, affordable, color trades. Lots of people love these books, but apparently DC may be waining this line, too. The only one on the schedule is Superman Volume 9 which is slated for next week, June 8. The previous one released was Batman Volume 10 last December.
What about the DC Comics Presents, $7.99, books? I think they will be staying around. It’s an easy way for DC to reprint short series or anthologies quickly and at an affordable price. Wouldn’t it be something to see all 16 Flashpoint 3-issue series collected this way? Talk about something different!
For those of you who need to play catch up, I think DC will continue to issue new printings of good comics similar to the Hitman trades and Swamp Thing hardcovers. I fully expect a complete line of Hellblazer books to fire up in 2012.
Quickly back to Flashpoint, I fully expect every single book to get collected as well as every single storyline that is being published right now in every DC Comics Superhero book. That’s a lot for DC to push out, but it’s literally and end of an era, and it should be remembered and celebrated.
With all the attention focused on the upcoming 52 monthly titles and the subsequent digital initiative, I hope DC doesn’t lose sight of the printed collected edition side of the market. Yes, it could be better and yes they could have a more diverse line of material that needs to get reprinted and shared for a new generation of readers. And make no mistake, that’s just what DC wants. As the song goes, The Times They Are a-Changin’, and DC certainly thinks that their bold, new direction is the best for their company – not necessarily the industry. But my hope is that Dan Didio, Bob Wayne, Geoff Johns and the rest of the brass keep it all – monthly, digital and reprints – in perspective and treat all publishing facets as spokes in a wheel. Jim Lee tweeted the other day, “I won’t f*#k this up” when referring to Justice League and the new #1 architecture. That’s all fine and dandy, but I wish someone from the Collected Editions department would share in his optimism.
So in closing I’ll just say: DC Comics, I look forward to September, but I’ll see you in March.