It’s the week after New York Comic Con. You would think Comics Disassembled, my look at ten things I liked or didn’t like from the week of comics, would be loaded with material from it! You would be…sort of correct in that assumption. The first five points are from NYCC. None of the rest are, though. Let’s get to it.
1. Joe Q? Joe DC!
At New York Comic Con, it was revealed that Joe Quesada would be drawing some upcoming Batman covers after his recent departure from his leadership role at Marvel. I saw a fair few people making this out to be an enormous deal, and sure, it might prove to be that. But as of now, it’s an artist taking cover work, a big name providing work for an interested publisher. I don’t imagine Quesada’s reason for departing Marvel was a deep desire for drawing covers for the other half of the Big Two. I suspect this is more a product of Quesada’s new found freedom rather than a full out move to DC, with whatever he ultimately has planned likely being a bigger swing than…I don’t know, a 20 year run at DC following his similarly long one at Marvel.
That doesn’t make it not cool! I have to give Joe Q credit: these are some dynamite looking covers. They’re striking even for Batman works, and find the artist digging deep into his tool belt after being out of the rotation for a good long while. I won’t be upset if these end up heading home with me when they arrive at comic shops everywhere. But do I think this is a massive deal, or prelude to Quesada taking up extended residence at the Distinguished Competition after more than two decades at Marvel? Not really. I imagine it’s Quesada having fun after his pal Jim Lee pitched him on drawing some covers after he decided to leave. That’s not to say there won’t be more from him.
As noted in Popverse’s write-up about the panel it was announced on, Quesada did say, “Right now, it’s just covers for you guys but I’m working on some other things… it felt like unfinished business coming back to Batman.” I could see him tackling a Black Label Batman series or something. But this feels more like the move before the move rather than something truly seismic.
2. DC Universe Ultra, Now a Month Behind!
Speaking of potentially much ado about…well, a little something, DC Universe Infinite figured out a way to get users to buy in to their digital subscription app finally: by adding another word to the name! Okay, that isn’t really the hook, but they did announce DC Universe Infinite Ultra, a new subscription tier that will cost $99.99 a year – instead of $74.99 – and will net you access to “expanded” Black Label and Vertigo releases as well as access to new comics after just a month instead of the standard six months. That came after Marvel revved up their release schedule on their comparable product, Marvel Unlimited, from six months to three. Your move, Marvel.
There are two main questions related to this topic, and they’re both connected. One is “How will this move the needle for the product?” and the other is “How will retailers respond to this?” The latter was speculated to be a combination of “significantly” and “poorly.” While some – the usual suspects who believe DC doesn’t really care about them anymore – did not take it well, most I talked to were largely more on the “meh” side of things. After having digital in the mix for this long, it seems as if the general assumption is that digital customers are not the same as regular single issue customers. There’s overlap, of course. But they’re not necessarily perfectly overlapping products. The perception was, generally speaking, that this won’t make much of a difference in their businesses. I suspect that’s the correct take.
That’s at least in part because I don’t think this move will create a lot more consumer interest in the product. Again, there’s skepticism that digital customers = comic shop customers, so for all intents and purposes, when these comics come out relative to initial release is irrelevant. When you’re dealing with upwards of 32,000 comics, almost everything is new to these readers. If anything, the delay of new releases arriving on the service is a construct that exists entirely to make worried retailers happy, which is the funniest part of all of this. If DC truly didn’t care about retailers, they wouldn’t have reduced the delay to one month; they would have reduced it to zero months. It’s only fear of upsetting the applecart entirely that ensured that gap’s survival for now.
All this is why it’s not quite much ado about nothing in my mind, but much ado about…not much of anything. I don’t think this will lead to a significant increase in subscribers. I also do not think this will result in major losses for retailers. I do think it’s worth DC trying something, but as a former subscriber to the app, I think their focus should be more on improving user experience and actually rolling out planned international launches than this.