Following the initial announcement of same day digital releases of all 52 of its new titles, DC Senior Vice President of Marketing Bob Wayne has released more details of the company’s plans, most of which boils down to “price parity” for its digital releases for the first four weeks of release.
During that time, the digital editions will be offered for the same price as their physical counterparts. Following that sales window, the price for the digital copies will drop by $1.
In addition, Justice League #1, scheduled to ship Aug. 31, kicking off the relaunch of the super-hero line, will be available as individual physical copies and digital downloads for $3.99 each, and in a “combo pack” with a polybagged physical copy and a redemption code for the digital copy for $4.99.
To further alleviate some retailer concerns, Wayne announced that there are additional retailer incentives, ranging from variant covers (available at special order levels), deeper discounts on some of the new titles, and returnability on more than 40 of the new titles. Qualifications for each of these programs were given out in full to retailers and will be further explained at a series of retailer summits throughout the summer.
Retailers will also receive an explanatory video featuring some of the new series’ creative teams later in June.
Retailers contacted by CBG for reaction to DC’s announcements were upbeat for the most part about both the upcoming relaunch and the digital expansion. Flying Colors Comics’ founder Joe Field (also the president of retailer organization ComicsPro) told CBG, “In my view, this is less about DC going ‘day and date’ with its DCU titles than it is about a chance for potentially millions of new readers to get in on the ground floor of something new and exciting with some characters they will recognize and others that may be new to them.
“Given that DC will have its ‘day and date’ releases at the exact same price as the print editions, my rhetorical question to comics fans would be ‘Why would you rent (digital) when you can own (print)?’ ”
John Tinkess, manager of Another Dimension in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, told CBG, “I don’t foresee day and date digital having more than a minimal effect on direct market sales. Virtually every comic has already been available day and date through illegal downloads for years and I believe most who prefer that format are already doing so (and are unlikely willing to pay full price for them now).”
Michael Tierney, owner of Collector’s Edition and The Comic Book Store in Little Rock, Ark., told CBG, “While I don’t expect a major impact on my store, I do expect some. Even delaying digital releases by one week would have been a nice acknowledgement of the importance of bricks and mortar stores to the health and future of the industry.”
The relaunch was seen as a further opportunity by Field, who said, “The re-numbering and relaunching can definitely cut both ways. Some may see this as a convenient spot to say goodbye to the DC characters they’ve been reading and collecting. My gut tells me, though, that the excitement level will be high enough that more readers will climb aboard for the ride than will jump off.
“I haven’t heard enough from my customers yet, but I do know that my customers are savvy enough to want to be in on something if it is great entertainment. If it reads like too much of a stunt without the creative clout behind it, I’m confident my customers will respond accordingly.”
Tierney was similarly mixed in his analysis, when he said, “Finding a doorway in has always been a barrier to new readers. A fresh slate and continuity restart will certainly make DC’s line much more accessible for the next year or so.
“Number 1 issues were once a potent jumping-on point for new readers, back when they were rare and signaled the launch of a series expected to be around for years. Nowadays most books are #1 issues, and few titles last. In today’s market, #1 relaunches are both one person’s jumping-on point and another’s jumping-off point.
“I’m already hearing customers express trepidation and negative reactions to the complete DC relaunch, and how they’re done collecting specific titles. But once the books actually hit, if they’re good — that will change.
“The biggest sense of apprehension is the possible renumbering of Action Comics and Detective Comics. Everyone has really been looking forward to those titles reaching #1000. It’ll be a major disappointment if this doesn’t happen. While there is a definite opportunity here for me as a retailer, there is also great danger in a month where no titles will have a sales history that I can rely on. If this were done in spring, the event would have had a better chance for long-term success. But once we start getting into the new school year, sales traditionally take a nose dive. This will dampen my optimism.”
Tinkess offered this perspective: “As expected, many of our older customers are less than pleased by this announcement. Both DC and Marvel have spent the last two decades relaunching/renumbering so many times that it lost any meaning long ago and has become more of an irritation than anything else. It’s interesting that DC made this announcement the same week that the first four Flashpoint tie-in mini-series shipped. When DC initially announced that there would be 16 different Flashpoint spin-offs, reaction was almost unanimously negative and yet all four titles sold phenomenally well here today. It seems like people are sometimes quick to react negatively to change but will often change their stance when the final product is in front of them. Despite the hue and cry across fandom, I think that if the relaunched DC Universe features top writers and artists telling great stories, we could see a tremendous boost in sales across the entire line starting in September.”
As for any effect the digital releases will have on back-issue and trade paperback sales, all three didn’t see it having much, if any, negatives, only positives. Tinkess said, “Great stories will always be great stories. Character revamps won’t make Kingdom Come or Batman: The Dark Knight Returns any less entertaining, so regardless of whether these changes are temporary or long lasting, I don’t think there will be any effect on our best-selling trade paperbacks. We’ll probably see some negative impact on the backlist sales of some titles but we’ve already seen this pattern in the past whenever books get canceled or characters revamped.”
Field offered one final thought, echoing his earlier statement, “Since the dawn of the Silver Age, there has never been a better opportunity for literally millions of former DC readers to come back and be in on the start of a new DCU.”