Looking back over a year of growth, DC Comics executives point to the continued popularity of The New 52, the wildly successful relaunch of its superhero universe, increased sales of print and digital comics, sales of its controversial Before Watchmen periodical series and a growing list of bestselling hardcover titles as the year comes to end. Moving into 2013, fans and booksellers can expect new book releases of The New 52, volume two of Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and the Before Watchmen series as well as a much-anticipated graphic novel adaptation of Quentin Tarantino’s new film, Django Unchained.
“We’ve had a great year overall for our hardcover publishing, said John Cunningham, DC Entertainment v-p of marketing, speaking to PW during a conference call along with Bob Wayne, DC Entertainment senior v-p of sales. Cunningham pointed out Bill Willingham’s Fables: Werewolves of the Heartland and Fables: Fairest, Denise Mina’s graphic adaptation of Steig Larsson’s Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and DC’s Earth One series, updated origin stories of Batman and Superman, all released in hardcover and landing on the New York Times bestseller lists. Cunningham pointed out the Superman: Earth One, Vol. 2, on both the Publishers Weekly and New York Times bestseller lists, calling it a “linchpin release for next summer’s release of Man of Steel, the next blockbuster Superman movie, and a lot of tie-in marketing.”
Both executives highlighted The New 52 relaunch—DC revamped its list of super hero comics with updated storylines and costume changes and initiated simultaneous print and digital release—citing its continued success, “it’s sustained itself far beyond anyone’s expectations,” Cunningham said, noting the New 52 book collections, a raft of 2012 hardcover and trade paper Batman titles and the Before Watchman book collections—print collections of the controversial prequels to Alan Moore superhero classic Watchmen—coming in 2013. DC Comics released volume one of The New 52 book collections (18 hardcover, 34 trade paperbacks) in a “compressed cycle” to get them all out in 2012, but said they don't want to do that again in 2013. Volume 2 of the popular book collections will begin again in January 2013 in both trade paperback and hardcover.
Wayne and Cunningham also cited popularity of giant hardcover omnibus collections, priced at $150 and often well over 1,000 pages. Titles include The 52 Omnibus, a $150 1200-page hardcover collection of DC’s 2006 weekly periodical series; DC Comics: The New 52 Zero Omnibus, a 1300-page $150 collection of special 2012 “zero” issue prequels to The New 52 relaunch; The Invisibles Omnibus, a 1500-age $150 collection of Grant Morrison’s acclaimed superhero series released in August and continued sales of the 2011 DC Comics The New 52 Omnibus, a 1200-page $150 hardcover collection of all the #1 issues of The New 52.
“We’ve seen a strong market for these all-in-one collections,” Cunningham said, “it’s become a reader demand.” Both executives also cited The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, a hardcover comics version of Stieg Larrson’s international bestseller adapted by Scottish crime novelist Denise Mina and artists Leonardo Manco and Andrea Mutti, also on the bestseller lists. Volume 2 of the The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo adaptation will be released in May 2013.
Moving forward into 2013, DC Comics will look to replace Karen Berger, the highly regarded executive editor of Vertigo, who is leaving the company after running Vertigo, the nonsuperhero imprint known for a list of acclaimed comics creators like Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore and Grant Morrison, since its launch in 1993. In December DC/Vertigo is also releasing the first issue of the comics mini-series adaptation of Django Unchained, a new film by Quentin Tarantino, starring Jamie Fox, Samuel Jackson and Leonardo DiCapria. Tarantino has adapted the screenplay into a graphic novel, art is by R. Guera and the book collection is likely to be hot title when its released later in 2013. Vertigo had its own share of bestselling graphic novel collections (among them Scalped, Sweet Tooth, The Unwritten and Spaceman) and Cunningham said Vertigo had “a good sales rhythm in the direct market and we’re working to extend its sales in the book trade.”
Looking back over the biggest events of the year for DC Comics, Wayne cited the continuing Earth One hardcover series (featuring updated origin stories of Superman and Batman), “sales and marketing has had a lot of very positive discussions with editorial and the potential for more Earth One titles is a pretty safe bet.” DC took a leadership position on digital release in 2011 that has carried over into 2012. The company relaunched all its New 52 titles as “day and date,” —comics industry jargon for simultaneous print and digital release—despite the fears of comics shops retailers that digital might undermine print sales. A year later, comics retailers report sales of print and digital comics are up in virtually every category and stores credit digital sampling for attracting new readers to physical stores.
A Barnes & Noble boycott of DC Comics physical graphic novels that began in late 2011—in reaction to an exclusive deal with Amazon to offer DC digital book collections on the Kindle Fire—finally ended in 2012 with DC book collections on B&N’s Nook tablet devices. And this year DC Comics extended digital release of its periodicals—previously DC periodicals versions were offered only through Comixology and DC standalone apps—to all digital platforms, including the iBookstore, Kindle and Nook.
“Digital really capped off the year,” Cunningham said, “our goal is to be on every platform and there’s still room for growth in digital out there. We sell more of everything when we do digital and digital sales are totally additive. We know because we monitor digital very carefully and there is no evidence that digital hurts physical stores. We’re very committed to supporting our partners in the physical store market.”