DC’s Crazy Gamble

Pardon the interruption from the usual Chasing Amazing content, but DC Comics – also know by some Marvel fans as “those other guys” – made a potentially industry shaking announcement yesterday that’s sure to trickle down the line in due time. As of September, DC is renumbering every single one of their comic books back to #1. So in September if you’re a fan of such DC legends like Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, etc., all of those comic books are being relaunched and rebooted as issue #1s. I have never seen something like this before.

Not to bury the lede, but another somewhat epic announcement from DC is that they’re going to release all of these comic books in digital format the same day as the print edition. That’s big news, but for different reasons.

First the renumbering. It takes real stones to do something like that to your readership – to basically turn around and say to the long-time readers, “we know you’ve been loyal, but readership is down and we have to do something to draw in new readers.” Because that’s the only real justification I can come up. Many of these DC comics have a lineage and history in terms of numbering that goes back more than 60 years. A renumbering effort of this size and scope means storylines are going to be altered, characters will be changed, and some may cease to exist. It’s a browser refresh for the entire universe.

It’s also gimmicky and somewhat desperate from a collecting standpoint. To this day, an “issue one” is still considered a valuable commodity (though, some are obviously worth well more than others). For collectors of DC, you got 52 of them to parse through come September.

But I’m also curious to see how DC’s top competitor, Marvel, will respond. Tom Brevoort, senior vice president of publishing for Marvel, was tweeting up a storm last night, calling the move “bold and daring” but also cracking: “There’s no point buying any DC Comics until September, since none of them will ‘count’ anymore.” Of course Marvel has pulled similar stunts of lesser magnitude. In the late 90s, they rebooted Amazing Spider-Man after 441 issues (huh) only to go back to the original numbering in time for ASM #500. And some may consider Marvel’s “Ultimate” line of comics a major reboot, though that’s technically a separate “universe” from their traditional comic lines like Amazing Spider-Man, Incredible Hulk, etc.

Bottom line, he who casts the first stone and all. If Marvel were to follow suit, I’d be frustrated, bordering on livid, which is why DC’s actions have caught my attention.

As for the digital comics side – this is another big, bold move. The transition to digital comics could ultimately save the industry, especially since there’s a growing part of the population that just seems to resist the idea of reading a hard copy of something (trust me, I worked at a newspaper). But digital comics will destroy the collecting aspect of the hobby. There’s something about taking a hard copy of a comic and placing it in a protective bag that I don’t think will be matched by a growing number of pdf files on my iPad.



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