DC comics Re-launch: A New Media Principle shapes the Marketplace

I do not know which group of fans are being driven more crazy right now, Dr. Who fans or DC superhero fans. I can tell you the Dr. Who fans are having  more fun with the huge plot developments in the recent episodes (see: Docbacks -“A Goodman goes to War”.   DC fans are reeling with the latest news of a cross the board re-launch in September. You can find the details on the re-launch here,  The DC Universe Reboots After “Flashpoint”! (posted by SeanTheComicGuy) and all the news and reactions at Bleeding Cool.

What this post will deal with is the evolution of a New Media Principle shaping the Marketplace. The news out of DC comics is an excellent example of  this new principle.  So the first thing to do is remind ourselves of first principles. All mass media principles in some way tie back to the first two principles:

1. All Mass Media have specific target audiences.

2. All Mass media have business interests.

When we look at DC comics and the comic-book industry in general, it is suffering from a contracting and aging target audience.  Yet in DC comics case, the have some of the most recognizable, iconic comic-book superheroes on the planet: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash,and Green Lantern.

Comic Book resources

These characters have enormous revenue earning potential, television, movies, computer games, clothing, toys, and more for the company. The company is the publishing division of DC Entertainment Inc.,a subsidiary company of Warner Bros. Entertainment, which itself is owned by Time Warner. Wheels within wheels, media within media, and the only question is how to get the largest possible target audience to receive the message & purchase the product. But unfortunately, your core target audience, the comics fan base is contracting. What to do,…. what to do…?

1. Reshape/relaunch your product to take advantage of the large audience recognition of  your iconic product.

2. Take advantage of new technology to distribute your product to the larger, less paper-print friendly audience.

3. Hopefully do not alienate your core audience of long time comic-book fans-buyers.

So this is what DC comics did.

1. It will relaunch all their comics in September, starting with Justice League. All comics will have a number one, fresh start.  Characters will be tweaked, made more youthful, and to varying degrees re-imagined to appeal to a new, hopefully larger audience.

2. Re-design the core characters to most resemble their movie counter-parts. ( for specific detail see post : The REAL Reason Behind DC’s Reboot   from SeanTheComicGuy ). This means both visually and in terms of character development and situation. For example Lois and Clark have been married in the comics for years, but not in the new movie. So Superman is free and single once again ( can you hear the comic book fans crying in the distance ? If you want to see how much Batman and friends/family are changing, check links above. Read comments from fans if you dare.)

3. Starting with Justice League, all DC comics will have a digital day-and-date for all ongoing superhero comic book titles – an industry first. That means you can go to the local comic shop and purchase a hard copy printed magazine or you can purchase it as digital print to read on your reader/computer/tablet. No waiting, same day purchase day for both digital and paper print publication. Remember that Amazon sells more digital books than paper books.

4. Since the company needs the largest target audience available, it is trying  to make the product as acceptable to the largest demographic. Female superheroes wear pants, not shorts or mini-skirts. It is the Justice League (no of a America). Include non-white and as many female characters as possible and expand the brand name. Besides the core team comic, bring back the Justice League International comic.

Comic Book Resources

So to state the new media principle: Mass media, in the past, have shared content or borrowed codes and conventions from the most dominant medium. Now in the age of digital print and the internet, all mass media business interests cross media platforms. Internet and technological integration means that a company, like DC, must view its media content/product as part of an integrated mass media that can be consumed by a global audience. The tipping point was the digital publication date. If you are going to try to persuade new buyers to purchase your product using digital publishing the old magazine numbering will not work. This has to be seen as a new publishing venture with everyone in at the ground floor.

The audience baseline for recognizing familiar/iconic characters must be broader than the typical comic-book fan. Therefore you must try to have characters conform to the larger audience’s expectations, values and beliefs. Note that Marvel has been modifying its Thor and Captain America comics to better match the movie experience of the larger audience.  What Marvel will do with its line of comics when it follows with the same day digital publishing is yet to be seen. They will wait to see how successful the DC initiative will be in the coming months, along with the rest of us.


4 thoughts on “DC comics Re-launch: A New Media Principle shapes the Marketplace

  1. The DC relaunch has me torn. From a business point of view it all makes perfect sense but the fan in me sees this as the perfect place to stop collecting. A problem with the whole plan is that Warners has (so far) not shown any consistency in how they deal with comic movies. For example, they are already talking about a Batman reboot even as they prep the next film! The next Superman film is expected to be, if not a reboot, a new tone for the franchise with yet another actor. And will it tie in with Smallville? Who knows. If they want synergy and consistency between movie and comics platforms, as well as TV, they need an overall vision. I think Dan Didio and Geoff Johns have done an amazing job making the DCU cohesive and the planning they have used is exceptional- the long term plans for GL are a great example. But if the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing, DC will be stuck with another big relaunch necessary a few years down the line, or every few years.

    • There is good news and bad news. If this works, I think the consistency -synergy you would hope to see will be there. The bad news will be an end to comic fan culture as we now know it ( bad news if you are a part of that culture). What will happen, from Didio and management’s point of view, is a widening fan base of digital-comic consumers. The end of of printed comics, we shall see.

  2. Much as I hate seeing printed comics (and newspapers, and the print medium in general) disappear, that’s the way of things. I’m sure people raged against the disappearance of the town crier as well. The slight good news is that I have no interest in the relaunch and I’ll save some money by not buyuing comics from here on.

    • It will be interesting to see if is an effective business model. The internet generation are fond of easy access and bit torrent .Perhaps, instead of monthly cycles of stories , a weekly installment will make more sense for digital serialized comics.

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