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Wait, What? Ep. 44: Our Man in Havana

Jeff Lester

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Yes, it’s episode 44 of the podcast but it’s also a first for Graeme and me — as in, our first interview. As you might infer from the graphic above, there were some minor technical difficulties to be had, but we didn’t let that stop us from doing the interview with….Mr. Brian Hibbs! It’s something we’ve been meaning to do for a long time, and it seems like news of the DC reboot was the “best” time to do it.

This was recorded on Thursday, June 9, so I guess we had just about all the info from DC at that point.  Mr. Hibbs walks us through his brave new world of accountability, tiered discounts, and the challenges facing comic book retailers in the coming months.  It should be floating around on iTunes already, and you can also listen to it right here:

Wait, What? Ep. 44: Our Man in Havana

We hope you enjoy it, and definitely give us some feedback below if you’d like!

13 Responses to “ Wait, What? Ep. 44: Our Man in Havana ”

  1. The advertising for the reboot is what really scares me. I pre-order my comics, which means I am making the decision to buy these in 3 weeks. DC shows absolutely no intention of giving me anything but 3 lines of text and a cover to base that decision on for most of the Bottom 40. (Creators used to get a one page ad or a least 200 words on the editorial page to make their case, what happened to that? Of course, the smart creators are out there giving interviews to anyone who will listen.) If it’s this much of a hassle for me, what’s it like for shops?

    If they hadn’t been so worried about the Internet Ruining Everything they could have put out a nice glossy folio to convince us. Hell, if they were smart, they’d have put it out in free digital form right now – get people excited and teach them the tools at the same time.

    Interesting discussion on the 25/75 split in readers. Creators like to diss the internet crowd and how non-representative we are, but aren’t we the only ones actively listening to them? I wish somebody would do a comparison of buying habits – I imagine the 75% as walk-in customers getting their info from guys like Hibbs and making their decisions based on what they can pick up and read, but that can’t be right, can it?

  2. Doesn’t doing an extended roll out of the titles have its problems that might be just as bad as launching all of them in month one? For example, how would you convince potential new readers to go to shops over of the course of several months to sample a couple of titles a week instead of once a week for a month to see if they find something they like? If DC schedules this right, doing 13 books a week does allow them to offer something from their Dark, Justice League, Edge, etc. titles every week and wouldn’t that make it likelier that new readers might find something they like on a given week?

    Also, wanted to say that is was an excellent podcast and wanted to in particular point out Brian’s explanation about the problems with the returnability offer since it hasn’t been explained particularly well elsewhere.

  3. Had to laugh at the notion about not mentioning the old DCU for at least a year, when I realized that the Wolfman/Perez TITANS: GAMES hardcover, as deeply mired in the old DCU as you can get, is still scheduled to ship in September, right in the middle of the re-launch.

    As I understand it, the variant cover incentive for top-tier books is actually designed to boost the lower-tier books, not cannibalize sales from them. The number of variants a retailer can order is tied to their orders for the lowest selling book each week. So if they want to get 5 variants of FLASH #1, they have to order at 5 copies of BLACKHAWKS #1 (or whatever their lowest selling book that week would be). And those lower-tier books will be returnable (with the 10% charge). I know Hibbs doesn’t really do variants, but for retailers who do it might be worth it for them to bump up their lowest books (which their instinct might be to not order at all), knowing in the worst case scenario they can return those books, and serves DC’s interest in having the store carry the entire 52 book line.

  4. [...] 5. While fans can navigate this mess, new readers who want to try out these great new comics they’ve read about (and that hopefully have been marketed and advertised by DC) are much more confused. They don’t come into the comic shop mid-day on Wednesday, so they don’t see the books in stock, and they don’t want to have to come back a week later to fulfill an impulse purchase (when reorders might arrive). For this new market — which is the whole point of this exercise, from one perspective — DC has to get more copies out there. To that extent, DC is providing variant covers, additional discount on key titles, and most important, limited returnability (at a cost to the retailer) in order to encourage increased orders from stores. However, retailers don’t seem to find that enough of a cover to their gamble. What would better help them is free overship, something like “buy 5, get 5 free” offers. DC made the decision to tip over the apple cart — should they take more of the risk? (For more detail on the incentives to retailers and a store perspective on this mess, check out this podcast with Brian Hibbs.) [...]

  5. [...] listened to an interview with Brian Hibbs today, one of my favorite people, as well as a very knowledgable comic retailer, talk about this [...]

  6. You lot were way nicer to the plan than I was.

    And good catch on the DCU online game. I’m sure Ryan Higgins could tell me better, but the sort of resources needed to remake a game are not inconsiderable. My guess is it’s going to be left to drift. But I’m not sure what relationship the publisher has to DC/WB, if they’re just licensing or if there’s another wrinkle to it.

  7. Interesting point about the massive exodus from Mighty Thor. As you mentioned, if GL bombs at the movie theaters there could be a negative halo around DC and comics in general that would make the meltdown following the Batman TV series look like a day at the park.

    But I don’t think that’s how this is going to work.

    We are becoming a visual generation. When Google routinely uses comics to launch new products you know something is up.

    This spills over to videogames, movies and TV. Every business is a crapshoot. One in seven TV series survives to see a second season; only three out of ten songs creates any meaningful revenue; and movies are an enormous gamble, even with proven stars and previously successful franchises. It costs much less to trial new series via digital comics than any other mechanism, and when they hit, they have the potential to become hit TV series or movie franchises, whether they have superheroes or not.

    As far as the DCU online game — everything I’ve seen about 52 suggests they understand that comics need to be closer to real-time, and that digital comics represent inexpensive jumping-on points to the game. If you’ve seen how World of Warcraft grew, the DCU product could be freaking huge. DC could make tons of money by giving away comic books to get more videogame subscribers.

    Also, lessons from other media suggest that media, once it becomes digital, rapidly moves towards a single enormous market leader. DC needed to make a ridiculous gamble to shake up the status quo, and staying the course would mean a long, slow decline to obscurity.

    I know the tendency is to view what is happening through the lens of every failure from the past. But when I see what Barnes and Noble is doing to increase shelf space, when I see how people are using their mobile devices, and when I see the newer generation of comic book readers — I am impressed, and as optimistic as I’ve been since COIE.

  8. Day and Date with 99c and subscriptions, line subscriptions and universe subscriptions. That’d be bigger.

    Or do something really rash like ‘hey, let’s let people read comics on the web’.

  9. I think the biggest thing from Bob Harris today is that this isn’t a “reboot” so the continuity is not invalidated…just “changed.” I don’t know what that means, so we’ll have to see, but I don’t think this will affect beach towel sales or anything like that. Comics do not wag the tail of marketing. Its the other way around. So even if we have Superman without his drawers in the comics, he’s going to have them in other forms because that’s the way DC rolls.

    I believe it was Didio’s founding moment when marketing came back to him and said, “Hey, we sell a lot of stuff that are golden, silver, and alternate continuity Batman stuff. You’ll have a larger market if you diversify the character and sell all types of Batman-related stuff, regardless of whether or not it is in continuity.”

  10. It is pretty disconcerting to hear that DC didn’t even consider that these moves could have an effect on their backlist. That seems to imply that they’re so focused on getting the actual damn things out – which must be a huge task for the editorial staff – that they’re not putting a lot of thought into the unexpected long-term implications.

    It’s also weird hearing people’s voices for the first time when listening to podcasts – they rarely sound like you think they are going to. But Hibbs sounds exactly what I always thought he would, just like Jeff and Graeme did. (Probably because you’ve all got distinctive writing voices…)

  11. Thanks, Bob! Yeah, Hibbs’ voice is so non-surprising, it’s practically surprising, isn’t it?

  12. Thanks for a really entertaining and informative hour+ of DC “reboot” information. I always enjoy Brian’s commentary on the various sites, so it was great to hear his take and thoughts. I definitely hope this works out well for all of the retailers. I’ve been going to my store in the Chicago area for about ten years and don’t want that to change. Keep up the fantastic podcasting!

  13. [...] for the best discussion yet on the DC Relaunch, all should listen to Episode 44 of the Wait, What podcast. Hosts Jeff Lester and Graeme McMillian bring in comics retailer Brian [...]

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