When it comes to DC, Comic fans, comic shop owners and toy collectors haven’t been happy with the brand for close to a decade and a half. And they have good reason to be cynical about DC Comics recent “Rebirth” relaunch. I have to wonder if this is the last chance for the DC brand.
We’ve all heard it before. And the tune that Dan Didio played in 2004, 2006, 2008, 2011 and 2015 has gotten tired each time it’s been played. Each time he has promised big changes to DC fans. And all readers got was more confusion and more disappointment with each promise of a return to greatness.
Many Comic fans haven’t been happy with the direction of DC Comics for at least 15 years. All the darkness, death and depression in the pages of DC Comics have turned the reading experience of a DC Comic into a miserable one. Instead of readers anticipating the next issue they get worried about which of their favorite characters is going to be bastardized or butchered in a brutal murder in the pages of a DC Comic.
Comic fans were promised change with DC You after the Convergence. A year ago readers were told that their old universe existed. But DC continued to push the New 52 down DC Fans throats even in the face of losing 10 percent market of DC’s market share.
Seeing DC’s editorial team continue to double down after Convergence has made many comic fans cynical. Many were apathetic on the announcement of DC You. Instead of the arguing that has plagued DC boards there was silence. Even with the promise of the return of storied Action Comics and Detective Comics to their original numbers after Rebirth there was still so much silence you could hear a pin drop.
And silence is bad in the publishing business. Silence means that the audience doesn’t care anymore. That it’s moved on.
Along with the comic fans, many toy collectors haven’t been happy with the direction of the DC’s merchandising since 2011. That was the time Mattel decided to discontinue their popular DC Universe Classics line and push a new action figure line featuring New 52 versions of DC Characters. When the new line debuted at retail it was dead on arrival. Even New 52 Batman clogged pegs for months. And Batman has sold consistently at toy stores for over 25 years.
Mattel tried to appease toy collectors with a Club Infinite Earths Subscription service but in between Digital River’s high shipping costs and people still stinging from the loss of the Classic DC Universe in print, the subscription didn’t take off. By the second year many had made the plan to move past Mattel’s DC figures for other lines like Marvel Legends, WWE, and Monster High.
These days recent lines like DC Multiverse have clogged pegs at Toys R Us and Target. And DC Collectible figures featuring New 52 designs are still clogging shelves at comic shops. Many can’t get rid of them even at clearance prices.
And over the past year or so many fans are so tired of waiting DC to get its shit together that they’re dumping their collections of DC Superhero figures from both the classic and New 52 eras on eBay and are moving on. Bargains can be found on the auction site if you type in DC Universe Classics. Figures that once received $50 and $100 bids at auction seven years ago can be had for less than retail. And if one goes to a comic con, they can even find some of those carded figures at prices close to retail seven years ago.
And comic shop owners haven’t been happy with the DC Brand in the last two years. Yes, the New 52 led to a huge surge of sales in the beginning as curious casuals came in to try new titles in 2011. But over the past five years as sales have declined and DC has lost more and more market share to Marvel Comics and Indies, they’ve been stuck with hundreds of thousands of back issues and trades they can’t return or even get rid of in even the quarter bins.
And with this new “Rebirth” relaunch they may be stuck with them permanently. After a relaunch, or a reboot new readers aren’t going to be eager to head to the back issues to read older comics or pick up older trades. And older back issues are a major part of a comic shops business.
DC and Warner Brothers poor business decisions over the past have alienated fans, toy collectors and comic shops. And one has to wonder if five years has been enough time for most comic fans to finish mourning DC’s iconic characters and make plans to move past them to find other characters to like at indies and competitors like Marvel. From the indifferent response DC You got last year and Rebirth is getting now, one has to wonder if this will truly be the last chance for the brand with fans.
The DC brand is in crisis. Yeah, you’ve heard me say that before. But DC fans are so fragmented and frustrated that they find little to get excited about regarding the DC brand these days. They’re looking for something to ignite that spark and get them excited about their favorite heroes again. Something the entire collective of DC fans can get behind like Marvel fans have over the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
But honestly I don’t think Rebirth will be it.
With Didio and his gang of five still in charge at DC, many DC fans still see it Rebirth as more of the same. More promises of change with things still staying the same. So there’s no incentive for comic fans to go out and buy those new #1 issues.
At this point it looks like Rebirth will be too little too late for DC. If anything it looks like it could be the symbolic nail in the coffin for the Didio era at DC. I believe the real rebirth of DC Comics will only come only when Dan Didio is fired by Warner Brothers executives and the Post Didio era begins. Then fans can finally find a reason get excited about DC Comics and its characters again.