-Via Comics Comics: A possible photo of Jack Chick! Man, that is not how I pictured Mr. Chick. I don't know if I expected someone wearing, I don't know, chain mail and a shirt emblazoned with a giant red cross, but I really didn't expect Chick to look so much like, well, a cartoonist. And a wacky cartoonist at that!
-This month's DC sales analysis at the Beat yields a couple of point of interest. First, in his analysis of the surprisingly low sales on All-Star Superman, Marc-Oliver Frisch takes criticism of the All-Star line to a new level:
"...All Star titles garner respectable sales and trigger the occasional rave review or outrage whenever they happen to come out. But they seem to be forgotten immediately after, carrying no impact whatsoever on the rest of DC’s line-up. In retrospect, the publisher seems to have abandoned the All Star line before it was even launched."
I think this is about as negative as I've seen anyone go: Frisch is arguing the line was stillborn, rather than simply mismanaged. I think it's a meaningful distinction, in that indicates that there was no hope of success from the get-go. I'm not sure I entirely agree--the Wildstorm re-launch (which Frisch is even more critical of), was undeniably an abortion. You could look at the schedule and see (a) the entire line was dependent on the buzz which Grant Morrison's two titles would generate, and (b) there was no way these books would ship on time. All-Star, however, had some hope of succeeding; in fact, I would go so far as to say that the incredibly stupid decision to schedule Jim Lee on WildCats, and the ensuing havoc wrought on All-Star Batman's schedule, is really what crippled the All-Star line.
But what if there were no All-Star Batman and we were only talking about All-Star Superman? How different would the conversation be? I suspect that we would still be viewing the line as a failure, in that the relatively light delays on All-Star Superman would have been immensely magnified if it were the only title for the entire line. In retrospect, it really makes DC's decision not to slap the All-Star label on Alex Ross' Justice all the more baffling. That book has shipped pretty much on time (right?), sold well, and generally reflects the spirit of the line. I wonder if Alex Ross was unwilling to adopt the All-Star branding, or if DC thought three titles would be too many for an imprint dedicated to prestige products.
What about future All-Star books? Titles for Batgirl (Geoff Johns and JG Jones) and Wonder Woman (Adam Hughes) have already been announced, but (as Firsch notes), have all but fallen off the radar. I thought I remembered hearing that Neal Adams would be drawing the next round of All-Star Batman, with Frank Miller writing again, but that was a loooong time ago so I might be wrong. Assuming the lack of news reflects a lack of progress on these projects, DC really needs another All-Star series in the interim, or else it runs the risk of fans forgetting about the line altogether. One wonders which appropriately prestigious talents could be relied upon to churn out a mini within the next 9 months. Remember when DC was trying to steal John Romita, Jr. away from Marvel? Boy, I bet Dan DiDio wishes he would have landed that fish. Or maybe kept some of those Seven Soldiers artists who Marvel signed to exclusives--Simone Bianchi and Pasqual Ferry both seem to be able to hit their deadlines, and have distinctive enough styles that DC could probably convince fans of their prestigiousness (if they were paired with the right writers and characters).
In any event, I'll be disappointed if the All-Star line fails. I think it's DC's best chance to insure themselves against event fatigue, and it gives them a chance to reach bookstore readers with attractive, distinctive, and accessible products featuring their most valuable intellectual properties. Hopefully the next wave of titles will launch more smoothly--unfortunately, in order to get a sufficient backlog of issues, DC might have to wait until late next year before resurrecting the line.
-Also worth noting from Frisch's analysis: There aren't a whole lot of books selling in the 75,000-90,000 range. I assume that this partly reflects a talent/money drain, as both Marvel and DC are funneling more resources (talent and marketing) toward the big event comics. This seems like a poor decision in the long run. Event comics bring in the big dough in the short term, but are they big backlist sellers in TPB form? Which do you think sells better right now--Bendis' Secret War or his Daredevil? Furthermore, investing in a (relatively) creator-driven run is essentially an investment in the intellectual property. It strengthens the character as an independent entity, expands its mythos/backstory, and provides material that might later be recycled in other media.* I'm not in any position to make these decisions, but I would certainly take two consistent 80K sellers over a five issue mini averaging 200K.
*I think this will be increasingly important in the realm of video games. We're already seeing some crossover--I was kind of amazed at how much Ultimate Marvel Alliance referenced recent plot developments like the Winter Soldier. I mean, it did so in an incredibly clumsy way, but I expect this sort of thing to get more sophisticated in the very near future.