Friday, November 30, 2012

Comics Companies Run By Clowns

I noted in a post a few months ago that the venerable comic book company DC had as its longest running title Hellblazer, a series that only started in 1988 and starred a magician named John Constantine.  This was due to numerous relaunches of series dating back to the 1930s such as Action Comics, home of Superman.  By relaunching a series, the company hopes to goose sales with a new number one issue.  DC's big competitor Marvel has recently been doing the same with their Marvel NOW! initiative (I suppose the ultimate end of this logic is just to have every issue of a series be a number one, but so far no one's done that).  Such sales spikes, however, often are very short term and the new series usually sinks back to levels below what the previous series was selling before the relaunch.  Last year, DC revamped its entire line as the "New 52", referring to 52 new series they were publishing.  Of course, DC did publish a bit more than 52 series, one of which was Hellblazer, but because it was under the Vertigo imprint, it didn't get relaunched, leaving it to be their flagbearer in an odd sort of way.

Now, DC has gotten around to relaunching Hellblazer and canceled it to be relaunched as the DC New 52 title Constantine.  Saleswise short-term, this is a wise move.  DC titles sell better on average than Vertigo titles.  However, when viewed in the long term, the relaunch is a mistake.  With the advent of digital publishing, publishers can keep single issues "in print" basically forever.  Many comics readers are collectors as well and want to have every issue of a series they collect.  So though Constantine will likely sell better than Hellblazer for a couple of years, DC will be missing out on selling twentysome years' worth of back issues of Hellblazer.  Logically, they might think that new Constantine fans will not only buy the new series but pick up the back issues of Hellblazer as well, but not very many collectors think that way.  The majority of them will just collect the new series.  Psychologically for a collector, there's something about breaking the numbering of a collection. 

John Constantine might say it's magic.

2 comments:

  1. Honestly, I don't think it's that bad a decision. Vertigo started as a "mature readers" imprint for DC owned properties like Swamp Thing, Sandman, Doom Patrol, Animal Man, and of course Constantine (under the "Hellblazer" title). At least at first, all these characters and books technically existed in the same universe as Superman and Batman. That became downplayed in later years, but it's still where the characters came from.

    As the years have gone on, Vertigo has morphed into being DC's creator owned imprint, with no ties to the main DC Universe at all. In that context, 'Hellblazer' has been sort of the odd book out among titles like 'Sweet Tooth', 'American Vampire', 'Northlanders', 'Scalped', and the like.

    DC had already brought Constantine back into the new 52 via the 'Justice League Dark' comic, which has been pretty solid since Jeff Lemire took the writing reigns a few issues back. Meanwhile, Vertigo John has been aging in more or less real time to the point that he's now in his 50's, I believe. That seems to me a good opportunity for a solid wrap up to an often excellent book. When you have a character aging realistically like Constantine, it's obvious that at some point the book has to end, and a character like Constantine just isn't the sort one would expect to die in his sleep of old age. He's arguably lived longer than he should have already.

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  2. Hi Bob! Thanks for commenting! I do like seeing Constantine in the DC universe again, but I've been less than enthused with the New 52. I loved the concept of Justice League Dark but found both Milligan's and Lemire's issues to be disappointing. I'll give Constantine a whirl. I don't have high hopes for a PG JC though.

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