No Such Word As Superhero – DC's Retailer Roadshow Hits Baltimore – Collectors Cornered #2

No Such Word As Superhero – DC's Retailer Roadshow Hits Baltimore – Collectors Cornered #2Randy Myers of Collectors Corner in Baltimore writes for Bleeding Cool;

This Issue of Collectors Cornered will focus on the DC Comics Road Show in Baltimore, Maryland.

I (Randy – Owner) attended the roadshow with my store manager Dave in tow, we talked about what it might be like cynically on the way to the show but had no idea how cool it would be.This entry will sound a lot like a fluff piece, or us kissing DC Comics collective asses so be warned. I went into this thinking it would be 50/50 Lip Service/ Useful Information and came out of the event 100% Behind DC and all the guys involved in the DC Relaunch. Let me explain and break down the three hours plus meeting and bar chatter to the points we took away that won us over as a store as we drank the proverbial Kool-aid.

Sidenote : Didio & Johns both complimented our store shirts, that helped.

At the meeting  representing DC were John Rood, Bob Wayne, Dan DiDio, Vince Letterio, Jim Lee and Geoff Johns. A screen and podium as well as con style table with mics and a mic for retailer to ask, as well as a dozen or more Diamond Comics employees, since the meeting was held next door at a hotel near Diamond's home office.

The meeting started with John Rood who explained that the relaunch was a much need "Shot in the arm". As he then explained that something was needed to turn around slipping sales and reinvigorate the line.

Dan Didio then matter of factly added "That comics had become too talky, too quiet & less exciting. That comics were losing ground too video games, movies and TV, and that it was time to plant a flag in the ground!, That when new customers or lapsed customers walk into our stores that more action and better accessibility would be ideal. That comic book movies were doing comics better than comic books."

As an aside, around this time, he joked that he read a comic that had 15 pages of 9 panel grids of heads talking. I wonder what issue that was?

Didio for all the heat he gets, was the most passionate of the bunch in explaining this initiative. He really won us over with some of this generalizing about the trend in comics to write for trades and to bet on the eventual sale or perpetual sale of of collected editions. We sell a lot of trade, but waiting for the trade syndrome is not helping us sell periodicals ultimately.

Didio stated "Were not building for trades with this, were building for periodicals.  Jim Lee added "Comics needed to jump into immediate story, ramping into action."

Jim Lee then talked a little about design elements with JLA & Team books and having a unified or team look using piping and collars etc, and how they wanted to update a freshen up certain looks. Dan DiDio added that "They felt that as readership aged so did the characters, past their Prime and that this was attempt to restore them to being less experienced where they haven't defeated their greatest foes and are closer to  their Prime age to reach a wider audience and that the last thing they wanted was for them to be encased in ember."

As they were discussing JLA they went into the 52 titles one by one slideshow and some interesting quips and insights were given about most including off topic anecdotes about planning and plotting this initiative. Of the 52 all but four will be $2.99. Action, All Star Western, & Men At War will be $3.99 each.

"The higher the sales, the less is changed"

Dan Didio said "They had an unofficial curve chart no one would see in the offices where the higher the sales the less is changed." This is why the Batman & Green Lantern titles will re-launch relatively unchanged story wise.

Some interesting tidbits of info about books we managed to shorthand from this :

The word Superhero doesn't exist yet.

Geoff Johns stated "Three key elements to his JLA are "Heart, Humor & Heroics", Lee & Johns added that the word Superhero doesn't exist yet and that Batman at this point when the JLA first meet in the first arc of his book is more or less an Urban Legend that has been working behind the scenes for years." Arc #2 would take place years later in the current timeline. JLA would be the book that is kind of the start of the DC Superhero universe.

Sawyer from Lost in a superhero setting.

Batman & Robin : Damien Wayne is Robin.

Batgirl : Killing Joke and Oracle stories happened, Barbara dealing with being an hero again. (Note- this is the retailer's own words and summary. Only things in quote marks are… quotes)

Batman : As Urban legend, has been around a little longer than Superman coming out to the world.

Nightwing : Dick Grayson, Red Symbol, Cully Hamner's design Jim Lee felt more striking than the old blue.

Catowman : Jim Lee "Those are goggles on the cover, not big enough. Don't know why they are pink."

Demon Knights – Will take place in Medieval time in the DC Universe. (Sounds Cool!)

Voodoo – Sexy, Spy Thriller.

Grifter – Sawyer from Lost, in a Superhero setting.

Omac – Giffen channeling Kirby.

Blackhawks –  Like G.I.Joe written by Costa (G.I. Joe writer)

Men At War – Current Wars stories.

All-Star Western : Features Jonah Hex in Gotham City in the old west times in the DCU, also with back ups.

Teen Titans – Tim Drake is Red Robin. When discussing this book and Hawk & Dove, Jim Lee joked about the jabs of its the 1990s all over again on the net, as a bash against Image styled art. He stated "There are only five of us that are in that style, Capullo, Lee, Booth, Liefeld & Finch" and that he would put the sales on those five books with their art, up against the other 47 titles.

Legion Lost – In Current DC timeline.

Relaunch Collections to hit in May 2012

Trade Paperback Collections :  Collected Re-launch titles likely to start hitting shelves in May, and there's some discussion of Hardcovers and Softcovers depending on the titles. Also Dan DiDio and Bob Wayne said they hadn't worked out trade dress yet and that they wanted prominent numbering on the spines and them to be thicker, since many stores place them spine out.

Variants/Incentive  Covers : Four #1s (Action, Batman, GL & Flash) will have 1:25 Covers and 1:200 Sketch Incentives and #2s going forward retailer will be able to order variants equal to the amount of the lowest number of books ordered on a 52 re-launch title, so order 15 copies of Animal Man or other title, you qualify to order 15 Batman #2 Variants.

They collectively stated the titles would be give more or less a year to perform and would be canned according to sales if need be, and creators were being held responsible for meeting deadlines more so than ever before, that changes will be made in a quicker fashion and that they were committed to this initiative and not planning to go back on it or have back up, that they were committed along with the marketing portion of this to being new and lapsed readers in, using charts and going through 30-40 minutes of sales and marketing which would be a bit of a bore to go into specifics, but their was areal focus on bringing people into stores with all ads online, banner, social networking, movie and co-op, TV and Movie Theater and other programs being rolled out like Midnight Parties for certain books, chances for stores to get big names in for signing and a lot more.  John Rood stated time and time again "That we know where our bread is buttered." Comic stores were featured prominently in this sales and marketing portion and any fears we had about  unbalanced attention and more resources focused on digital was assuaged. It was made clear that if digital can bring folks into stores, that would be the best case scenario and that more so that if these advertising tactics  along with utilizing Warner Brothers to help them "Close that virtual loop" a phrase that John Rood used over and over to great effect, then this would be a success for all of us on board. That loop is what we as retailers have been asking for access to for years, CSLS at the end of popular comic films and animated DVDS and Video Games aimed at the target and non target audiences that may not read comics but potentially if made aware of them would, co-op tv ads timed with films and comic releases, reimbursement for social networking and movie adverts.

Real time comic book store news on Cartoon Network

Also little details were give but sounded intriguing about the DC Nation Block coming up on cartoon Network that will act as real time comic book store news on Cartoon Network and more possibly featuring adverts for getting things at your local comic store, or tickers letting viewers know whats going on in comic stores nationwide.

Later at the Bar drinks were had and more info was relayed. Geoff and John talked with us and expressed a real excitement and commitment to this initiative and a strategy to carry out what retailers have begged for for a very long time,  that publisher's advertise their products, show people how cool comics are, make comics we can hand to anyone to get them excited about the medium no matter what the issue number.

Maybe I'm still coming down from that high, but these are things that retailers have been asking for for years being promised. Now when they are delivered on and start to return lapsed readers to the fold and bring new faces into the store we can truly say this experiment was a great idea. We have new folks still coming in three weeks later after this news and asking what the deal is, asking about subscriptions, getting excited, asking questions, getting answers.

Collectors Corner is on board and we will make September a huge month for the store and for DC. Were working hard on letting customers know about these titles, reaching out beyond the walls of our store to find new readers as I type this up, and we think all good retailers should get behind this initiative and take a chance and show DC that we can make these books hit huge sales figures and bring people in droves back to the medium. Sure everything isn't going to be as big as JLA, but stay positive and be prepared when those new faces come walking into your stores!

The next DC retailer roadshow has just started in New York, in the Time & Life Building.

About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.

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