With the majority of my focus this month directed toward Marvel’s “Infinity” event, I haven’t had a whole lot of time to sit and digest what has been going on in DC’s “Forever Evil” event and “Villain’s Month.” Now that I have, I kind of wish I hadn’t…
I tried my very best to avoid Trinity War spoilers before reading, but it’s kind of hard when every comics news source is talking about the ending weeks before it hits shelves. I was really excited to see the Crime Syndicate again, and it made “Forever Evil” make sense. I actually tore through Forever Evil #1; it was a lot of fun! The Syndicate is almost silly-evil, and that’s why it works so well. When Ultraman busted into Lexcorp, crushed Lex’s kryptonite supply into dust, and then snorted it like a drug, I couldn’t help but giggle. It’s so crazy, it works. (And apparently, DC has a special kind of malice toward their Robins past and present since they are either doomed to terrible lives or are ruthlessly killed. Poor Dick…) For the first time in a while, there was a glimmer of hope for the New 52, but then Villain’s Month actually started.
Taking a page from Marvel, DC released multiple sub-issues for all of their books using decimals for the number. DC’s biggest titles had four releases this month, while the others had one, two, or three across September. So, for example, we had Aquaman 23.1-23.2, starring Black Manta and Ocean Master respectively, and we had Batman 23.1-23.4, each starring a different Batman villain. On top of all this, each book had a “wizard” (I’m bringing it back!) 3D lenticular cover! How could DC lose? Well, technically they didn’t. According to a letter to retailers from Dan Didio and Jim Lee, Villain’s Month of was one of the biggest sales month’s DC has ever seen. Still, I have to wonder if this success may have come at too great a cost.
Before Villain’s Month began word came down from DC that they had underestimated the amount of 3D cover issues that they needed to print. Retailers were informed that they would not be getting their entire order of issues. My shop experienced this first hand. He didn’t even get enough issues to cover all of his customers’ pull lists! To make up for this DC printed 2D normal covers, but, even then, they weren’t able to print enough in time. I had actually requested the 2D cover (I wasn’t paying an extra buck for a crappy looking gimmick cover), but wasn’t able to get them on some of my books. But don’t worry, DC will be doing a full reprints of all the 3D covers this winter.
This wasn’t the only problem retailers faced. Normally, shops have to keep their orders pretty tight. They have their regular subscribers, and then they have to make an educated guess on how many more issues to order for the shelves. As I have learned from discussions with my local comic shop’s owner, it’s a rather tricky feat to hit that sweet spot for an order. The goal is to have as few issues as possible left on the shelf, especially if it’s for an obscure or unpopular book. But how is a retailer supposed to gauge its monthly orders when DC is shipping multiple issues of each book within a given month? It’s not like there were a story arc carrying throughout Villain’s Month: by design, each issue was a character one-shot. Sure, you order a ton of Joker issues, but Joker’s Daughter? Who the hell knows?! Taking a shot in the dark is not a wise business decision, but that is what many retailers were probably forced to do.
Aside from the logistical problems, DC faced a crisis of content and oversaturation caused by their sub-issue numbering this month. As I mentioned earlier, the bigger the title, the more releases this month, up to four – and my pulls were part of three or four issue tier. When Marvel double-shipped some books at the start of Marvel Now!, I didn’t mind. It was only a couple of books, and the stories were damned exciting that I was glad to have the next issue each week. But by this week, I would be happy if I never saw another DC book again. Not only was it expensive to get all of these releases, but it was also exhausting. Reading my DC books became a chore. Even more so when the quality of some of these issues was factored in. There were a few gems like the Rogues (Maybe they will take a page from Superior Foes of Spider-Man and make a Rogues book!), the Riddler, and Darkseid but for the most part these books ranged from mediocre to terrible to a waste of paper. If I am paying $16 for a month’s worth issues that would normally spread over four months a $3 a pop, they had better be good. Most of these issues weren’t even written or illustrated by the host book’s creators!
I am going to be straight with you, DC, Villain’s Month caused me to drop all but two of my DC subscriptions. You say that this was one of the biggest sales months you’ve ever had, but I will be more interested to see what kind of hangover you are going to run into. I am sure I’m not the only one who dropped books because of this. I really wish DC would get its shit together. I know hating on them is en vogue right now, but they make it so easy. I actually wasn’t all that surprised when I saw they wouldn’t have a traditional booth at NYCC this year. Why in the new gods’ name would they want to interact with a horde of potentially disgruntled fans?! Hopefully, I can find someone from DC to talk to about all of this. I would really like to know what they thought of this whole thing. If I do, I’ll be sure to report back! But for now, I am awaiting the return to normalcy and for the Villain’s Month hangover to fade.