DC’s big announcement today was pretty damn cool and pretty much a “what the heck” are they doing kind of thing for me.
The announcement is DC is planning a series of OGN about Superman, Batman and maybe other heroes with continuity that starts today.
It is the Ultimate Universe idea being done as a series of graphic novels and it has some incredible talent attached to it for the first two offerings. The Superman novel is by J. Michael Straczynski and Shane Davis, the Batman book is by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank (who have become one heck of a team).
The cool side is the fan who likes seeing characters made new again and this is the best way to start over. This gives them a clean slate with no prior continuity to weigh it down. Ultimate Spider-Man had a great run and was usually a lot of fun. Of course Bendis made him 15 forever and was just rehashing old Stan Lee / Steve Ditko ideas by mining them for gold by twisting them a little, but even with those feelings I had about the book, it read well and was often a lot of fun.
So, on the plus side we have an OGN which should mean complete stories being told and some extremely strong talent behind these books which should mean some highly entertaining reads.
On the “what the heck” I have some questions. First we are still having Johns and Frank redoing Superman’s origin story in comics. Once this is traded and put on bookshelves won’t the JMS product and this be confusing to people. I state this because doing this as a series of OGN mean that DC is playing away from the direct market stores and is trying to gain entry into the regular book store market. I can assure you that Twilight, Harry Potter and other series are doing far better monetarily then Superman and Batman are in the comic stores. This is a big move away from the direct market and another nail in the coffin for that market place.
Now that I type this the whole thing actually makes a hell of lot of sense. The future of the market and the best way to exploit these characters is in the larger market place. A $25 hardcover with application for e-readers and the possibility of putting these out on the worldwide market makes a lot of sense. Putting high quality talent behind these books also makes senses as if you are going to go for the gusto. If they can generate sales in the hundreds of thousands and then do a soft cover version and e-reader version and then release a new one every six months or so, they could make more money on one OGN then they could on 12 months of the comic book.
If I’m close to being right this is DC’s move to get away from the direct market and try to strike it big in the wider publishing arena. As always they look for the direct market to underwrite their endeavors, as we comic fans will order enough to at least cover the cost of paying the creators page rates and publishing costs for the direct market edition of the books. Digital comic delivery, moving to OGNs, a tough economy the direct market place has its work cut out for it to survive 2010.