Thursday, June 9, 2011

The OTHER Problem with the New, New, New (We Really mean it This Time), New DC Comics

So yesterday I ranted a bit about the reboot of the DC Universe although, for the most part, I'm so jaded by events and reboots and being told by comic book companies that "Nothing Will Ever Be The Same Again!!!" only for everything to go back the way it was a year or two later that I could really care less about this latest reboot. All that being said (and yeah, that's a bit of a run on sentance there isn't it? Sorry) I still feel some things need to be said from a practical point of view. And, from that practical point of view, I think the reboot is just going to end up boomeranging and coming back and biting DC in the backside in a few years. I could be wrong but honestly, I don't think so.

But there's something else DC is doing with this reboot that I think is also pretty wrong-headed and that's keeping a lot of this under wraps.

Now I understand the value of surprise and shock announcements. I understand the usefulness of keeping people waiting on the edge of their seats to learn more but in this case it's just not really a good idea.

Here's why.... Pull Lists.

For the non-comics initiated... most comic book fans get their comic books from comic book shops... or online comic book retailers. Back in the old days you got your comic books off of spinner racks or magazine racks at the local convienience store or grocery store or the like but as the comic book market became both incresingly specialized in focusing on comic books and yet more diverse with small press publishers and mature readers titles comics left the convenience store and went to the comic book shop.

Most comic book shops offer to their regular customers a "pull list", also called a "reserve list" or a "subscription list" among various other names. By whatever name you want to call it, it amounts to the same thing -- You tell the owner/manager/guy behind the counter at your local comic book shop what titles you want then, every Wednesday when the new comic books come out, the owner/manager/worker will pull out one copy of each of the titles you requested from the shipment and set it aside for you. Then, when you go in to your comic book shop all you have to do is pick up your stack.

This service has several benefits -- for one thing it saves you time since all you have to do is go in, grab your stash, and pay for it. For another you don't have to scour the shelves looking for the latest issues of whatever titles you're interested in. It also means that you don't accidentally forget a title you meant to pick up. For another thing it insures that you get a title that you want if it's something that your comic book shop doesn't regularly carry they will usually special order it for you. And finally, if a title ends up being hugely popular and sells out before you can get to your comic book shop it guarantees that you still get a copy of the sold out title.

The thing is that most comic book shops also have to place their orders for which titles they want and how many copies of those titles three months in advance. A lot of comic book shops pass this deadline on to their customers -- meaning if you want a new title you have to have it added to your pull list three months before the new #1 launches.

So this entire DC reboot will be taking place in September -- about three months from now -- and what is DC doing? They're doling out information in drips and drabs. For the most part we're being informed of the titles and the people writing and drawing those titles but aside from that we're getting nothing.

Back in the 1990's and to a certain extent still today for some people just hearing that a writer or an artist was going to be working on a comic would be enough to make some readers rush right out and put it on their pull list sight unseen. And I suppose there's nothing wrong with that... but I and many like me have been burned before; a good writer or a good artist who is just not a good fit for the character they're writing or drawing. I don't read comic books *just* because of who is writing or drawing them. I read for the characters and the stories.

And so, we get to the heart of the problem of DC's trying to drum up excitement by telling us nothing... those who are like me have no idea if we want to put ANY of these comics on our pull lists because we don't know what they're about! I need to be making these decisions now for my pull list in September and yet I don't have all the data I need to make those decisions. It isn't enough to tell me that Voodoo #1 will be written by Ron Marz with art by Sami Basri -- I need to know what it's going to be ABOUT. What is the premise? Who is the title character? What does he/she do?

I've been burned by bad comics before and at the prices now being charged for single issues I'm not about to put something on my pull list without a better idea of what it's going to be about. And I'm not alone out there. So DC Comics again gets a failing grade on not understanding that it's all well and good to try to drum up excitement by withholding information but that all comes with a downside as well.

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