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Saturday, July 23, 2011

DCnU? More like DC Screw You!

I was reading about the San Diego Comicon anticipating the reveal of the next wave of DC Universe Classics.

Warner Bros Wants Mattel to stop producing These characters everyone has known for years...
  Then I read the bad news: The DC Universe Classics line is ending at Wave 20.

The line of six-inch action figures based iconic characters from over 75 years of Dc Comics history is ending because DC editorial and Warner Brothers management are mandating Mattel relaunch the DC Universe action figure line focusing primarily on the DCnU characters from their poorly planned comic book launch this September.

To produce action figures based on designs no one has seen or reacted to before. Good Business sense or just plain stupidity?

It’s a ridiculous risk that will cost Warner Brothers huge market share of the declining comic book market. The Classic DC characters have worldwide brand recognition and a strong core audience of fans nationally and internationally.

But instead of continuing to invest in a sure thing license wise that would continue to reap them profits for years, Warner Brothers management is hedging its bets on licensing a new group of untested unproven version of its classic characters.

Untested unproven versions of characters who haven’t established an audience yet. Who have no TV show or other media outside of comic books to introduce them to casual buyers.

Untested unproven characters who no one knows about outside of comic fans on the internet and local comic shops, many of which are closing due to the bad economy.

Untested unproven versions of characters who haven’t established a presence at retail.

No one knows how well these new versions of DC’s Comic Book characters will sell at retail at the comic book store, or how the general public of casual buyers will respond to them, but Warner Brothers Management is insisting Mattel produce action figures for them as a condition of the license they bought.

And I thought the managers who ran the Borders Group into the ground were imbeciles.

The insanity from the comic book industry has turned into madness. Clearly, the inmates are running the asylum in the comic book industry.

And now they’ve taken over the Warner Brothers Corporate offices.

And eventually they’ll run the entire comic book business into the ground with their twisted logic.

I love how DC Comics editors Dan Didio, Bob Harras, Jim Lee and Warner Brothers senior management are rushing to shove untested unproven versions of characters down customers’ throats at mass-market retail instead of waiting a year or two to see if these new characters can build enough of an audience in the comic book marketplace to support carrying a licensed product line on its own at retail.

In order for these new versions of characters to gain any type of significant exposure to a mass-market audience that would sustain long-term brand recognition, they need to prove they can sell 250,000-300,000 units a month for five to ten years.

Currently, the best-selling comic books barely sell 50,000 copies these days. There’s no mass-market audience available to build that type of brand recognition around a commercial product yet.

What’s even more insane is the fact that Warner Brothers is insisting Mattel produce large quantities of action figures of new versions of untested unproven characters who most people won’t know about and most will never see.

With the current comic book retail distribution system still not offering returnablility to retailers like drugstores, supermarkets, and big-box retailers, it’s doubtful large audiences of customers will ever see these new versions of DC Comics characters at retail to recognize them. And with the current cycle of cancellations and reboots, revamps, retcons, and new costumes in the comic book industry every two to three years it’s even more doubtful these designs are going to be around long enough for them to establish the type of brand recognition needed to support a mass-market toy line at retail long-term.

Given the low comic book sales numbers and the limited exposure these new characters will have in the commercial marketplace, there aren’t enough customers to sustain a mass-market retail licensed product of DCnU action figures at this time. While these untested unproven versions of DC charcters could support a limited-run line of comic shop exclusive action figures like DC Direct, there is no possible way a DCnU toy line can sustain a mass-market commercial line with a minimum 250,000 units per action figure of a character worldwide for Mattel.

On the high end of 50,000 comic sales there’s going to be a 4:1 ratio of toys to customers in retail.

That means for every four action figures based on a DCnU character there will be only one person who recognizes them compared to EVERYBODY who knows who the old iconic Superman, Batman Robin and Wonder Woman are.

That’s wonderful brand recognition. Brilliant business strategy.

So brilliant it’s going to lead to a load of pegwarmers at in places like Wal-Mart and Target. So brilliant it will strain relations between Mattel and its retail network. Without a movie or a TV show to establish some type of strong brand recognition for these new versions of DC Comics characters in the public eye, it’s going to be a tough sell at retail for customers, especially longtime superhero toy collectors.

Seriously, where’s the demand for product if the audience doesn’t have a reason to buy the supply? Where’s the collector’s incentive to continue to spend money collecting action figures when the previous toy line they’ve been supporting for years is discontinued by a corporate mandate from Warner Brothers?

More importantly, why would the collector be interested in starting a collection of brand new action figures if there’s the possibility they toy line could be abruptly discontinued by another corporate mandate in the future?

Warner Brothers management and DC Comics editorial have no idea how they’ve breached the trust of the customer with its company mandate for Mattel’s DC Comics license. Nor do they understand how their offensive their relaunch is to long-time comic fans and toy collectors. It’s an insult for a company to tell loyal customers who bought over 300 straight action figures over the course of a decade to just start over.

What Warner Brothers and DC comics editorial are forcing Mattel to do with its company mandate is the equivalent of Mattel telling loyal Barbie customers over the past 50 years to instead start buying a new doll they’re offering called Sandy, or Coca-Cola telling its billions of customers over the past 80 years to buy New Coke.

This is the kind of boneheaded business practice that turns loyal customers into buyers of competitors’ products. It’s the kind of business policy that alienates companies like Mattel and makes their employees not want to have anything to do with superheroes or buying licenses to produce superhero products. And it spreads the kind of word-of-mouth that makes people think twice before buying a DC Comics product.

I personally believe Dan Didio, Bob Harras, Jim Lee and Warner Brothers management live in their own world. They produce what THEY like without regard for the customer, patting themselves on the back for a job well done and paying themselves millions of dollars while the comic book industry continues on its rapid decline into irrelevancy. Right now if it weren’t for the licensing of character images to other businesses for retail products, the DC comics catalog wouldn’t be worth a dime to Warner Brothers. The only thing allowing them to pay for the printing costs and keep the trademarks relevant for those 52 plus brand new comics titles was the licensing of over 3,000 characters from their catalog.

And if they start alienating licensors like Mattel, it’s going to be hard to find the money to keep paying for those printing costs on those 52 plus brand new comics titles.

With this Mattel mandate, Warner Brothers and DC editorial are getting close to killing the goose which lays DC Comics’ golden eggs and deep frying it with the Colnel’s 11 herbs and spices.

It’s sad to watch as this group of incompetent managers take a top franchise and a multibilliondollar franchise like DC Comics and mismanage it into oblivion. Once a customer walks away from a product, nine times out of ten they’re GONE FOR GOOD. It’s harder to win a customer back after they’ve left, which is why it’s important for a company to stay on the public’s good side. Business 101 and no one at DC Comics or Warner Brothers gets it.

Sometimes I hate being a brotha on the sidelines. Sometimes I wish I could take action. This is fixable, and I wish I could get involved. But no one wants to listen to anyone unless they have an MBA from Harvard these days. If only common sense were a qualification to be an executive.


  1. This post is ridiculous rantings of a fanboy. Now I know exactly who Superboy Prime was based on. You wrote that DC comics is a multi-billion dollar franchise. No it isn't. Not in the present. If it was producing the profits needed to sustain itself, DC would not have made this change.

    Untested characters? It's the same
    Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman we've had all along. at the beginning of their careers. There are modifications on the suits, but anyone on the street could identify the characters at first look.

    The movies t-shirts toys tv shows etc based off the characters is a whole different story. The are the real moneymakers, not the comics. If the DCnU fails, Warner Brothers may shut down the comics line. DCnU just bought DC monthly comics a few more years.

  2. DC's publishing division has never been profitable for Time Warner in its 40 years.

    These are new versions no one has ever seen. They are untested. Unproven and have not been seen in any marketplace. To the casual customer who knows the classic version these versions are just STRANGE.

    And that dark subject matter in today's comics is a turn-off for most small kids and most adults. Comics haven't had new readers in almost 20 years. and the audience is shrinking every day. DCnu is the nail in the coffin for print comics in America.

    The real money is with the kids but the industry refuses to learn how to write for them. Oh Well, Stephanie Meyer and J.K. Rowling can enjoy the billions of dollars they make on Harry Potter and Twilight on millions of readers worldwide while DC and Marvel struggle to make 50,000 sales to a bunch of over 35 males.

    The Comic Book industry is dying. And sadly everyone is in denial about how BAD things are. Worse no one wants to change things.

    Maybe everyone will wake up when DC and Marvel comics are available at fine retail outlets like Gimbel's, W.T. Grant, Montgomery Ward, Mays, Alexanders and Woolworths,