For want of a five-year-old child, the industry was lost…

It’s one thing to think that the “new #1 issues” plan that DC Comics is launching is a bad idea.  Reasonable people can disagree about the wisdom of redesigning classic costumes, or of purging some continuity.  There may be regrets about casting aside original titles that were reaching extremely high numbers all for the sake of slapping a “new #1″ on the cover.  Maybe the guys at DC are geniuses and innovators, men of daring who have made a huge grab for the brass ring, and it’s gutsy and worth a salute.  Hey, it’s their company and their characters, and I’m just a fanboy and wanna-be.

But when it comes to the economic side of things… I can’t help but think that they didn’t think this through much at all.  I just don’t see how retailers can make this work. How do you order enough copies of these books when the spin on the content is new, the writer is new, and the artist is new?  How do you preorder so much product for one budget-killing month when most comic shops lack the ready cash?

That can’t be, right?  I mean, they’re publishers!  I’m not.  (Well, technically I have published comic books, but you know what I mean.)  This is their business.  They had to have thought these things through, right?

Brian Hibbs writes in his “Tilting at Windmills” column that this is an unmitigated disaster for the retailers.  A single highly-demanded comic that needs to be ordered in the quantity of dozens or even hundreds is a huge financial commitment for a comic shop in the best of times, let alone during an economic downturn.

A new Batman #1?  Big commitment.  A new Superman #1 in the same month as a Batman #1?  How does one afford to stock the shelves with both?  And that’s just two comics, with fifty titles more all coming out in the same month.

What about shelf space?  We’ve all seen those popular books ordered in such mass quantities that they take up 2, 3, 6 slots on the shelves.  If a single book came out with a new #1 and it had to take up  shelfspace, that’s okay… but what about 52 comic books taking up five rows each?  How does one make that work?

There’s another problem:  Issue #2.  Oh, it won’t get the numbers that #1 did, so  the retailers can apply their time-worn rules for what the drop-off is like for an issue #2, and then for 3, 4 and so on.  So that helps, right?  Actually, I see that as another problem.  52 titles all hitting that “dropped book” slump at the same time?  That could make for a lean Christmas.

Did these guys think long-term?  If fifty-two books all hang in there for 50 months, then they will ALL have their double-sized, extra-costly #50 issue in the same month.  That means retailers are trying to stock extra-expensive comic books on their shelves all at the same time.  That portends to be even worse than the new #1s month!

In fact, from a production point of view, every 50 months there’s going to be a run on the bank in terms of creator talent.  Every comic book writer and artist will be hired to fill out the larger issues… and then that’s followed by 49 months of lull.

This production calendar seems unwieldy.  Can it really be possible that no one at DC has thought of these things?  My friends and I are all talking this to death, and we’d never presume to know more than the people running the industry.

Perhaps DC Comics needs to borrow a rule from the Evil Overlord list.  Specifically, #12:

“One of my advisors will be an average five-year-old child. Any flaws in my plan that he is able to spot will be corrected before implementation.”

UPDATE: I’m reminded by Dave Anderson that, as devastating as this is for retailers, it makes total sense as a strategy for getting people to switch to digital comics.  Of course, that assumes that every person whose comic shop can’t cope has a tablet or at least a smart phone.   It’s also, well, evil.

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