Op/Ed: 52 #1s And Counting? How Much DCnU is Too Much DCnU?

Op/Ed: How Much DCnU is Too Much DCnU?

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Of all the potentially worrying comments to be found in the interview tour of DC Executive Editor Eddie Berganza and Editor-in-Chief Bob Harras last week (read our own here) - and there were many, whether it was the repeated insistence that The Killing Joke and A Death In The Family were still in continuity (AKA "Please keep buying our backlist") or the mention of one of the reasons for wanting the three month window for creators being that it allows content to be "tweaked" - the one exchange that sent chills up my comic-loving spine was this one from Comic Book Resources:

[CBR:] So through October, November, December and into next year, can we expect some more titles to continue to build out the line?

Harras: Yes! Mark that as an emphatic yes! [Laughter]

Oh. God. No.

It has to be said, launching 52 DC Universe titles in September only seems like an avalanche of DCU material; even before the relaunch, DC was publishing something in the region of 50-odd DCU books a month... It's just that that included mini-series, annuals, oneshots and double-shipping issues of the same series, not 50-odd completely different titles. That DC is "emphatically" planning to add more titles to "build out the line" beyond that is... somewhat worrying, to say the least.

It's not as if we didn't think that more titles were more than likely on the way - September's solicits are curiously missing the 100-page DC Comics Presents reprint books, which had previously been coming out three issues per month, as well as any DCU mini-series whatsoever (not to mention some prominent heroes and prominent creators), neither of which seemed like an entirely sustainable state of publishing affairs even in the short term (If/when they do return, though, will they also be same-day digital?). The question is really "How many more titles are coming in the next few months?" Or, perhaps, "How big can the DCU line get before it becomes unwieldy for everyone?"

Once upon a time, there was such a thing as a Marvel Zombie, and a DC... well, they never really had names, did they, the obsessive DC fans who'd buy everything in the DCU each month? But that almost doesn't matter now, because they're things of the past - the number of people who could even afford all the DCU books every month has to be minimal, after all (never mind Marvel, who are putting out 70+ titles set in the Marvel Universe alone each month - many of which ship more than one issue per month - plus Ultimate books, Indexes or the like, with many at a higher price point than DCU books). But, when squeezed out of their comfort zone by increasing numbers of series and increasing costs, does that obsessive gotta-get-em-all customer decide to only get some titles, or just stop buying the titles altogether?

It gets worse when you consider how much risk the retailer is having to face for the next few months from DC - Not only do they have to essentially guess the demand for DCU books between now and, say, October (The first month is definitely going to sell-through more copies than the norm, just by dint of people trying new books out; even October might be too early to actually be able to understand what the customers are actually looking for long term), but launching more and more titles on top of that isn't allowing for any sense of stability anytime soon. How much money are retailers going to have to, essentially, blindly gamble on the DCU between now and the new year - and where, exactly, is that money going to come from? Somehow, I doubt that any retailers had spare money lying around just in case DC increased their output, just as I doubt any retailer is really going to feel comfortable cutting their Marvel order to make some space in the bank account (Sorry, indie publishers). If retailers can't afford to bring the DCU to the 70 title range the way Marvel is now, then how can fans? Worse, how can DC Comics?

Ultimately, I've got no problem with the idea of DC continuing to launch new titles to bolster their line. It's just that I'd rather they didn't rush them out before everyone else - the fans, who're likely to be overwhelmed by all 52 new series in September anyway; the retailers, equally overwhelmed by the 52 new books and unlikely to know what books to increase orders and what books to lower orders on, the imaginary story of "new readers to comics" who won't have a clue which of the 52 comics they "should" be reading (but then, that could be the point; they can truly just choose the ones they want) - was ready. I'd much prefer DC to hold off with the additional new books until the beginning of 2012, at which point some of those new titles could replace the lowest-selling of the 52 September launches. Otherwise, I dread to think what might end up happening, instead if this backfires or implodes...

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