Launched in summer 2016, Rebirth is an editorial reworking of DC Entertainment’s entire superhero line that has proven enormously popular with fans. Since the launch, sales of DC Entertainment comics have soared, thanks in large part to the restoration of a number of significant character relationships and plot points that had been dropped in the New 52, an earlier editorial revamp. Now DC is looking for similar success for the Rebirth series in the book trade.
After Rebirth’s successful introduction in the comic shop market (also known as the direct market), DC Entertainment is in the process of releasing 25 trade paperback Rebirth collections between January and May. The series includes Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman, as well as iconic DC heroes such as Batgirl, Cyborg, and Harley Quinn, and features such star DC creative teams as writer Scott Snyder and artist John Romita Jr., writer Jimmy Palmiotti and artist Amanda Conner, and writer Hope Larson and artist Rafael Albuquerque.
Rebirth periodical comics ship to stores twice per month (rather than the usual once per month), and new trade paperback collections come out every four months. Trade paperback collections are to be followed by multivolume hardcover compilations of each series, giving fans a chance to collect “sturdier editions,” a DC spokesperson said.
“Rebirth was a game changer in the comics market,” said John Cunningham, senior v-p of sales and trade marketing at DC Entertainment, noting that the series shipped 18 million copies in the five months after it debuted. With that much interest, Cunningham said, “Rebirth is the best opportunity in years for booksellers to grow their graphic novel business.” He noted, “These are the superhero stories both core fans and casual fans want to read.”
Cunningham added: “We continue to put additional focus and resources on servicing the book trade. Graphic novels are now the largest portion of our business, showing double-digit sales increases year after year.” He also emphasized the power of a strong network of comic shops—DC’s primary retail channel—working in tandem with other channels. “We see the symbiotic relationship between success in the direct market and success in the mass arena,” he said. “The rise in readership then transfers over to the book market. When the comics deliver, the readers will come.”
DC is mounting an aggressive marketing campaign to support the book collections, and retailers can expect to see a wide range of online advertising, co-op ad placement, samplers, galleys, and swag for fans. Eddie Scannell, DC v-p of consumer marketing, said the support campaign began with the initial launch of Rebirth at WonderCon 2016 in Los Angeles. Next came TV advertising, he said, and there are plans for in-store marketing, print advertising, and social media campaigns “to drive consumers to the direct market and book trade.”
DC has partnered with National Cinemedia, a national movie theater advertising network, to offer comics shops’ co-op dollars to advertise DC Rebirth titles in theaters planning to show the Wonder Woman and Justice League films coming in June and November, respectively. Scannell said the company is also working with PlayStation to reach gaming fans via PlayStation Now magazine and ads in certain video games.
“The total ad campaign is unlike anything DC has done before,” Scannell said. The overall campaign, which began last summer and continues into the fall, is already paying off for Rebirth titles released since January, he said. He took note of Batman Rebirth, Vol. 1: I Am Gotham and Nightwing Rebirth, Vol. 1: Better Than Batman, both of which made the BookScan graphic novel bestseller list after their January releases.
“DC continues to hone its strategy to maximize the value of our stories—superhero or other [genre]—from concept to periodical sales, collected editions, and original graphic novels,” Cunningham said, outlining DC’s expectations for the book market. “We believe there is a diverse mix of publishing formats through which our stories can be told, and sold, successfully.”