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Is DC’s Renumbering A Good Thing?
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By now, if you are a comics fan, you’ve heard that not only is DC Comics going to be re-launching all of their series with new number one issues come August/September, but they will also be releasing all of these new issues digitally on the same date that the printed versions arrive in comic book stores [read Entire DC Comics Line To Be Renumbered and Get Day-and-Date Digital Release].

This is a big deal as they are the first major company to do this for their entire line of superhero books (no mention is made of whether DC’s Vertigo line will also be released in the same way). With the rise of the iPad and other tablet PC’s, digital comics have come to be seen as the future of comics. They are seen as a way to get people who don’t normally go into comic book stores to try out the world of comics publishing. Whether this is actually happening is hard to tell. Exact numbers for how many copies of books have been sold digitally are split up between any number of companies, and it’s impossible to get everyone to combine their numbers. All we can really tell is that people are not going into stores in numbers that they used to.

Now we have to wonder, will day-and-date release (as it is commonly known as) and new number one issues get new readers into comics in general. In all honesty, I don’t believe it will, at least when it comes to the digital release part of the equation. The incentive to move to day-and-date release is more important to current readers, who are looking to read books digitally the same day as their store-buying brethren. Readers who are not as into comics as much the hardcore among us do not care what day the books are released. If they read a book a week, or two, or more after it has come out, do they honestly care? The quality is what they are looking for. One of the great things about digital distribution is that companies are no longer restrained by shipping or holidays or when stores are open. If DC wants to release their books on Monday, and Marvel wants to release theirs on Friday, what’s to stop them? The only incentive for day-and-date release is to current readers who are looking to change over to solely buying their books digitally.

As for the number one issues, this is a questionable move. Number one issues historically do well, and I’m sure once the numbers are in, DC will have a great September in terms of sales and market share. DC has not beaten Marvel in terms of market share since 2002, and I’m willing to bet that September will see them in the lead for the first time since then. However, October will be a different issue. Just as number one issues historically sell in great numbers, second issues historically sell half as many copies as number one issues, and third issues sell half again as many. Number one issues work great in the short term, but unless the quality is there, people will not stick around. The other question is, will old readers come back for the new beginning, or will they take this chance to drop off those very series?

It’s also important to note that number one issues have been done in the past, and it has not made a difference in the long term state of the comics industry. To say that new readers have been put off because Action Comics just passed issue 900 is missing the point. I was explaining DC’s plan to my brother, who does not read comics currently, but is not opposed to reading them. Basically, he is part of the ideal target audience that all comic companies are trying to reach. When I explained the plan to him his reaction was, “That’s stupid.” Is that the reaction that DC is looking for? I have the feeling that my brother’s reaction will be the common response to this. New readers do not care about the numbering one iota. They care about good stories, same as everyone. Renumbering is only important to current readers.

I keep seeing people saying that Marvel needs to respond to this and I’m wondering, why? Certainly, they will have to respond to the day-and-date release of content, and I’m guessing that it won’t be too long before Marvel follows suit (they’ve already done this with some titles, read ‘Death of Spider-Man’ To Get Day and Date Release For The iPad and iPhone!). I have seen many creators today saying that day-and-date release was coming, and that’s certainly true. It just so happens that DC gets to have the honor of being the first company to fully commit to this aspect of digital distribution. But are they going to have to renumber? I highly doubt it. I mean, they do that every other month anyway, so why would they change what they are doing. They have been the leader in market share since ’02. All they need to do is ride out this storm, and adjust their digital release schedule.

So, what does this mean for the comics? Are you going to buy all of these first issues when they come out? More importantly, does anyone who is not reading comics currently care, and will they buy these first issues when they come out? I have seen many people saying that DC had to do something, and this is certainly something. I don’t want DC to fail in this. More new readers in comics is good for the industry, and good for me personally because I love comics and I want them to stick around for a long time. More importantly, I hope that we get some good stories out of this. Am I hopeful that this will happen? Not necessarily, but I am a jaded comic fan and I have seen this kind of thing before. The most important thing is the story, and if DC focuses on that, then yes, they will get the new readers they are looking for.

10 Comments »

  1. I loathe the rebooting that the industry feels so inclined to use to jumpstart sales…the reasons listed are all valid and honestly, I completely agree.

    Comment by Waerloga69 — May 31, 2011 @ 10:20 pm

  2. I have to agree with your brother… this is stupid. All the “specialness” of a #1 issue is going to be buried when there’s FIFTY of them hitting the market within two months. And what happens after issue #1? They’re back to the same old “problem” again. I KNOW! Let’s just make EVERY issue be #1!

    What’s going to make a difference is things like Jim Lee returning to pencilling on Justice League… but that excitement would have happened no matter WHAT the issue number would have been (any bets as to how long that lasts? Six months, maybe? Then what? TIME FOR ANOTHER #1!). Bleh.

    Comment by David Simmer II — June 1, 2011 @ 3:26 am

  3. I have to disagree. I’m part of the “new readers” audience DC seems to be targeting, and their strategy is going to work brilliantly on me, although it really has nothing to do with the renumbering per se. That’s just part of their PR tactics — it helps them get media coverage.

    I haven’t purchased a physical comic book in 15 years. I love iPad digital comics, but most of what’s available now from both Marvel and DC is several years old. I keep saying when the publishers get serious about providing regular, current content digitally, I’m in. The fact that DC is doing it in tandem with a major refresh — a perfect jump-on-board point — makes it even more enticing. This is what I’ve been waiting for!

    Comment by Wonderboy — May 31, 2011 @ 10:46 pm

  4. I grew up on comics, but DC comics rarely ever appealed to me. I never cared for Superman, I can’t get past Wonder Woman’s costume, and can’t get past Green Lantern’s ridiculous name. The reboot will see me buy all the new DC titles to give them a chance. From my view, DC made a bold move. As long as the quality of the books is there, I’ll be in it for the long haul. I’ll even give Wonder Woman and Green Lantern a try.

    Comment by Grifter — May 31, 2011 @ 11:15 pm

  5. New readers don’t care about the number but they do care about understanding what’s going on without having to know 5 years of continuity. #1 are just meant to be a signifier that this is a good point to start. The struggle in comics is(and always has been) can someone who doesn’t know jack shit about the DC Universe just walk into a comic shop or browse the DC iPad app pick up any issue and just start reading from that point the answer more times then not is no and that’s a big problem especially when you don’t have the market share Marvel does. I would love to see a new readers reaction to the fact that there are 2 Batmans right now could they get that from just reading Detective Comics #877 because I know the story and even I have a hard time remembering which one is which at this point. And what would a new reader would think of the Green Lantern Corps if they just picked up issue #64 because they though the cover looked cool, is it easy for them to wrap their head around what’s happening? I doubt it.  

    I’m not saying log term storytelling isn’t important but DC can build a wall of continuity so thick it seem impenetrable. When your barrier of entry is that high then you’re really hurting yourself in the log run. They need to hit the reset button like this and they need to stop writing themselves into a corner so they don’t need to hit it again in a few years.  

    Comment by sideshowRaheem — June 1, 2011 @ 4:41 am

  6. I am actually excited about this and what it means for the future. Too long it has seemed like the DCU was a bog that I didn’t want to try trudging through. Now, if they follow through with a fresh start, I will be there checking things out!

    Comment by Caffeinated Joe — June 1, 2011 @ 10:54 am

  7. How will it effect things? Well, after the reboot, I’m done.  I’m done with DC. After reading DC’s stuff for over a decade, I’m finished. This isn’t a bold move. This is desperation. After doing everything they can over the last few years to alienate anyone that isn’t a silver-age fetishist, they’re finally just giving up and giving an FU to all of us who give a crap about the characters. I don’t want a ‘new’ Superman. I don’t want to have all of the 2nd generation forgotten about. That’s what Elseworlds is for. I’m done.

    Comment by Kent — June 1, 2011 @ 2:03 pm

  8. Renumbering isn’t  how you draw people into
    the shops.

    It’s the content of the stories, media buzz and word of mouth that
    would not only initiate new readers, but keep them coming back for more. While
    the movies bring more visibility of the product to the general public, how many
    of them point moviegoers to visit their local comic shop or order books
    online?  Other than the initial splash in
    opening credits sequence, there isn’t much of anything pointing people to comic
    shops.  Maybe the studios should create
    media packages for the theaters where flyers with area comic shop addresses are
    distributed or on display after each showing for a number of weeks.  Both DC and Marvel have seen their share of renumbering
    days, and other than the initial sales spike, I haven’t seen very many noobs
    stick around for very long.  

    Comment by Kevin Agot — June 1, 2011 @ 7:11 pm

  9. coming from a NEW  DC comic book follower…

    I just started following 10 DC titles for the past year (i get every issue).  this is my first experience with comic books and i’ve fallen in love with the stories and mainly the HISTORY.  i can say this: if they relaunch as in “completely wipe the slate clean” with some of my favorite characters…I’m out.  If superman is not married to lois lane still, doesn’t have the same origin, and ESPECIALLY looks more like superBOY…then i’m really done with DC.  i think if that happens i’ll even find a marvel character to follow just to spite DC lol.  renumbering works if it’s time to redo some titles  (ex. green lantern and flash)  but not for the whole damn thing just for the hell of it you idiots.  what difference does it make to be flash #1 again.  in those terms of thinking, why not make every new flash comic #1.  each month we’ll get a new #1.  why not make superman a year younger every month.   

    seriously…idiots

    Comment by Tyrell720 — June 7, 2011 @ 12:59 am

  10. I have to admit that I haven’t read a comic book in my life because Being ignorant to all things comics I figured there were too many intertwining story lines and it was too hard to just jump in, especially since I figured there was no way I would know what was going on. Although I have to say if I was an avid follower I would be incredibly pissed that DC just wiped out 70 years of past character growth, the renumbering is the only reason I decided to jump in. So at least in one case, we know it has worked.

    Comment by DEV — August 24, 2011 @ 8:57 pm

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