Retailers on the Story So Far with DC Comics’ DC YOU Initiative

It’s been a hell of a time if you’re a DC Comics fan, especially for those fond of their DC YOU initiative. Last week, the publisher canceled 8 books, and while one – Omega Men – was uncanceled, it’s still been a pretty topsy turvy time for the publisher.

What we do know is many of these books were not selling well to retailers, according to Diamond’s sales charts. However, given the very loud support some of these books received on social media, I was curious to find out if the books were selling well in the shops themselves. Are people buying DC YOU, or are they not? I reached out to several comic shops to find out how they’re performing in their stores, and you can see the results below.

Omega Men #1For DC You, what were your expectations going into it, and how did you order the new books relative to the books that were continuing on from before?

Steve Anderson, Third Eye Comics, Annapolis, MD: We ordered stronger on the #1s than the ones that had continuations in numbering. I REALLY wish they had relaunched FLASH and GREEN ARROW at #1 — both books have seen a slight bump with the new directions, but with the immense attention on these characters — they would’ve benefited the most from a #1 relaunch to capture new readers who’re into the shows.

Ralph DiBernardo, Jetpack Comics, Rochester, NH: With the number or relaunches (and) reboots in the last few years we had zero expectations going into it. What I mean is, we ordered conservatively knowing that if a book was a hit, DC would go back to print with it.

All of our numbers were based closely on the same or like titles. A decent creative change warranted a second look.

Robert Harris, Space Cadets Collection Collection, Oak Ridge, TX: For our store, the expectations for DC You were low. And we were not surprised or disappointed. We were able to meet the ordering incentives for complete returnability so we were able to invest in the #1 issues without worry. After the #1 issues, we went back to really low numbers.

Chris Thompson, Orbital Comics, London: At times it can be hard to separate your feelings about comics as both a retailer and a fan, but it’s one of the most important lessons to learn. After much disappointment (and diminishing returns) from DC’s New 52, I wasn’t overly optimistic about their new DC You initiative. Fortunately DC are keen to work with (and encourage) retailers when it comes to ordering their books, so there were a number of incentives to entice us into taking a chance. The key initiative was to offer returnability if you ordered a certain number of the new books based on what you ordered of other, more popular titles. It’s similar to what Marvel do in terms of the Skottie Young and Hip Hop variants but, instead of penalising retailers by pressing them to order more than they need in order to qualify, DC encourage you to order higher by allowing you to return some of the excess. Sadly we’ll be taking them up on that as the opportunity arises, but it was very much a case of us being able to meet each other halfway and take the risk together – and we didn’t have to worry about selling out of anything if it proved to be amazing.

Scott Tomlin, Comics Dungeon, Seattle: Our expectations were low, but optimistic, if possible to be both. We wanted the titles to do well however we tempered our ordering just a bit, basically just enough to hit return-eligible levels. As for the books continuing we did not change our ordering practice on them at all, no significant increases or decreases, truly based on pre-order levels.

Black Canary #1Now that the books have been running for a couple months, what have you seen as far as reader interest? Have the new DC You – specifically the just canceled and then uncanceled Omega Men – books been selling well?

Anderson: Some are doing well, others aren’t as well as I would have hoped. I think that with books like OMEGA MEN (which is really good!), as well as the ones that are doing a little better like BLACK CANARY, DC has to just have patience to let those books find their audience.

BLACK CANARY isn’t doing gangbusters like I had hoped, but I can see a similar trend with it that we’re seeing with BATGIRL; the initial single issues didn’t move a lot when the new direction began — but the trade is flying, and I can see it flying for a long time to come.

Robin: Son of Batman and We are Robin may be the two big stand-outs of the DCYou. Cyborg is also doing very well.

DiBernardo: There were no surprises to how well any of the books. No, Omega Men is not a decent selling book. It sells in the bottom tier of all of our lowest selling DC books. Not trying to be mean. The sales numbers are what the sales numbers are.

Harris: The books have been not selling well at all. Doctor Fate, Doomed, and Starfire and great books and we have a few readers on those. But overall, nobody would miss many of these books getting canceled.

Thompson: I wish I had better news, but the response hasn’t been great … Interest in DC Comics has continued to drop and I don’t think the DC You initiative was enough to reinvigorate it again. Some of the title choices were pretty odd to begin with (Bat-Mite & Doomed anyone?) and I think they dragged down the whole line as a result. Black Canary was an obvious stand-out that did really well, but that’s more thanks to books like Batgirl and Spider-Gwen than anything related to this new initiative. I did like the way they took a chance on books like Omega Men & Prez though – I just don’t think the market was ready for that from DC just yet. It’s a shame as both have been really good. It doesn’t help that DC have cancelled these books so soon, despite the promise of a certain length. I know Omega Men is apparently un-cancelled now, but this kind of flip-flopping doesn’t generate confidence on the part of retailers or consumers. It’s similar to the way I won’t invest myself in a new Fox TV series as chances are it will be cancelled just as I’m getting into it.

Tomlin: None of the new titles are doing well at all, while we like a couple of them, none seem to be resonating with our readers. Specifically on Omega Men, this is close to the worst performer, we order under 5 copies per month. Starfire, Dr. Fate, Bat-Mite and Batman Beyond are the only titles that have any interest but they are well below 15 copies per month.

Starfire #1As a whole, what do you think has caused these books to perform how they have for you, and what would you say the general sentiment is towards DC right now amongst your customers?

Anderson: You know, it’s weird — but, I think there’s just a lack of cohesion amongst the books. The DCU books always seemed to do best when they tapped into the thing that their fans, both old and new, love — and that’s the “operating system” of the DC Universe.

I’m not saying there needs to be a very continuity-heavy approach, but when looking at DCU TP and GN sales, the strongest eras seem to be the books that came out during the late ’90s / early ’00s and then the second wave of stuff from the mid-’00s to the late ’00s. Your Geoff Johns LANTERN stuff, your Morrison BATMAN / JLA stuff, etc.

It’s funny, but the RED ROBIN series to me kind of symbolizes DC’s at its strongest.

DiBernardo: I do not think their performance warrants the attention they have received. Almost EVERY comic book gets a fair shot at Jetpack. Full frontage facings in their appropriate family of titles or alphabetically if there isn’t a family for them (Omega Men).

If one of our staff enjoys the book they can make it their pick of the week and/or write a review of it, but the book has to speak to the staff for this to happen. We do not mandate any books to our staff.

That being said DC sales are still very stable and solid. While they have tapered off from this time last year, the strongest sellers are as strong as ever and the new influx of titles has captured the attention of a younger generation and (a) different type of reader. That is still not saying they are knockouts, sales-wise, but there are new people reading these books. That definitely says something for DC. I just hope they can maintain and increase their sales so this handful of new readers stays around.

Harris: People are just sick of relaunches. And the talent on many of these books is, quite frankly, subpar. For our store, the new titles and creative teams was launched with a thud and has not gained any steam. The general sentiment towards DC seems to be the same. Convergence was a waste of time and money for most of our customers and possible soured some opinions of DC.

Thompson: I think there’s almost a vote of no confidence against DC these days. There are a few stand-out titles that continue to sell well regardless (Batman, Justice League, Batgirl) – it just seems like things aren’t quite working overall. Part of me is almost hoping we get to issue 52 of all the original titles and they declare the New 52 is coming to an end, but I don’t see that happening. Convergence looked like it might address these issues and launch something amazing out the other side, but it wasn’t to be … Considering the excessive renumbering Marvel have done over the past few years, I think DC could get away with it at this stage – especially when you look at the numbers. There’s a lot of us who love the characters and remember how great DC can be, so there’s at least an optimism that we could one day get there again.

Tomlin: I think these books have performed the way they have is because I don’t think they truly hit the storytelling that the new comic reader is looking for, Starfire comes close, but in doing so has alienated the old fans of the character. I am afraid that DC has lost its loyal core over the past couple years, they removed a core concept in the DCU that they had built over 75 years and that is the concept of legacy and history, now they have books and characters that don’t maintain the loyalty they had built. The new titles are missing the mark and it does not seem like editorial is fully supportive of the new direction, so why would a customer invest time in something the company isn’t behind?

We Are Robin #1Lastly, from your experience, do you see these books – which DC has been truly trying different things on – selling better as collections than they have done as monthlies?

Anderson: On some, definitely – BLACK CANARY will be an evergreen book; I see huge potential there. STARFIRE will also be one that does well for a long time collected.

DiBernardo: That’s tough to say. You want to apply a SAGA situation to a super-hero universe. Overall, it’s tough to break that typical mold. I’d like to see that happen but am not convinced it will. Of course we’ll stock it all and keep it in stock as we always do. We want to see this succeed and continue drawing in a different audience.

Harris: I don’t see these books selling better as collections. Why would they? A bad book is a bad book.

Thompson: I’d like to say yes but, since a lot of them have been cancelled, I’d say no. Perhaps I’ll be proven wrong, but short runs of what was intended to be an ongoing series don’t do that well after the fact. Worse yet, they’re the kind of books retailers will easily forget (and not get asked for), so the chances of them eventually selling out and not being restocked are quite high. Why bother chasing up a TPB of Doomed when you need to make sure you have enough Saga, Wic/Div, Sex Criminals, etc.? Larger retailers like us can keep on top of such things, but for the little guys it’s a big deal. I think Black Canary should do well though, and I still remain optimistic that DC can eventually turn things around … It’s just a question of when.

Tomlin: No, I don’t think the new titles will sell better in the trade, it is very rare that any title sells better in the trade than in monthlies. The ones that do are also strong sellers on their own. The new titles are just a miss for our customers.