Wildstorm's Worlds of Warcraft, Starcraft switch to graphic novel format

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Via IGN by way of The Beat comes news that DC Comics' Wildstorm imprint plans to cancel its ongoing Worlds of Warcraft and Starcraft series in favor of, you guessed it, ongoing graphic novels.

The release does not indicate whether the graphic novels will share continuity between the volumes. This is key, in my opinion; if they don't share continuity, then this isn't much different than IDW's line of unrelated Star Trek miniseries, for instance -- just a bunch of "specials" under the banner of "original graphic novels."

If they do share continuity, then hold on to your horses, Mary -- that would mean another comics series released solely in trade format by DC Comics. If once is a chance and twice is a coincidence, I'm looking for number three ...

You can fit what I know about these two series on the head of a pin, but here's upcoming World of Warcraft: Panderans and Starcraft hardcovers which might be these projects (shipping sooner than Superman: Earth One, too!).

The Wildstorm blog The Bleed has a brief mention of the graphic novel switch; ComicBookResources' Robot6 blog also weighs in on Wildstorm and the Superman: Earth One details.
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22 comments:

  1. Interesting. DC seems to be getting a bit serious about making OGN's a workable format for them. I hope it works out; more variety in the publishing methods can be a good thing, even if some aren't as instantly gratifying monetarily as the monthly floppy.

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  2. There's no doubt in my mind that while it may take a few years to get there,ALL comics are going to be graphic novels released a couple times a month. It's just way more convienent to the reader,and I think most people would rather look back on the last hundred bucks they spent and see 4 or 5 books,rather than 20 pamphlets. Comics fans may be used to the floppies,but let's face facts:if comics are to survive,they need to go for the same expanded audience that reads manga or Twilight or Halo novels,not just neckbeards who smell like fundraiser subs.

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  3. Mm, twenty years from now let's meet right here and see if you're right. To me, of course, trades most certainly seem the way to go, but I take to heart Brian Hibbs' statement in the latest Tilting at Windmills that the public has predicted the death of monthly comics before and likely will again, and yet monthly comics still survive. Maybe fewer, maybe with one-shot stories, but I think monthly comics will still be around a while, just like I don't think we're anywhere close to the "death of print." That's not to say there won't be some innovation, of which I think Earth One is a first step, but I don't know about "all."

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  4. What's often forgotten is that manga is also regularly serialized in Japan and - like American comics - does not see collection for months. The big difference right now is that Americans are in something of a manga kick at the moment. Even the ones that are garbage are being eaten up; manga's kind of the in thing right now.

    People who think monthly comics are going away don't seem to understand the business very well. Things like OGN's are not really financially sound decisions by any stretch of the imagination. You see no monetary return until it hits shelves, of which there's a six month gap between start and finish, it's new only once and you've still got to pay those artists and writers. On top of all that, there is never any guarantee AT ALL that a graphic novel is even going to be a success; and if it's not, all of that money just went down the toilet. Not every comic is going to be Watchmen, hanging out on shelves for twenty years. Plus, most folks want their monthly - or weekly - fix and may well ditch a lot of comics entirely if it went OGN only. Which means all pressure would be on gaining a new audience, at which point there's a ninety percent chance comics would sink or revert back to monthly.

    Montly comics are a far better point and this is why I don't believe they're ever going away. They bring in quicker cash flow, can be collected in trade again down the line and find a new audience. The trade market is taking off and becomng a new venue, but this is in addition to the montlies.

    Everyone likes to talk about "the death of comics", but if comics really did go trade only that would be the point where the industry collapsed.

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  5. Haha. I just read that "Tilting at Windmills" entry. He basically said the same thing I just did, which considering it was linked already makes my post moot.

    Oops.

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  6. two things-
    Obviously I meant the OGNs would come out a couple times a YEAR,that was a typo.

    It's true that manga is serialised in Japan,but it's a whole different ballgame. They're big anthology magazines sold at a realistic price to a large fanbase at regular 7/11s and such,not 4 dollar pamphlets sold to a loyal but ever-dwindling group of people who frequent specialty stores.

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  7. They're also in inferior formats, typically. Black and white, stock looks, bland layouts and routinely in small chapters. They cost what they do typically because the quality in presentation isn't there. Doing black and white comics on cheap paper is relatively inexpensive. Comics done in similar formats typically sell like ass; things like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Walking Dead are the exceptions that prove the rule.

    You make a point about distribution, but it's a point that's not lost on me or some others. It's comics main problem. It doesn't reach a large enough audience. Comics used to sell in large quantities too, but then they went Direct Market and through the Dark Age of Comics, which it's still crawling out of.

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  8. But the problem is monthly comics can't and won't "crawl out of" the situation. They can't be put back in the 7-11 spinner rack,because 7-11 replaced the spinner rack with a rack of rental DVDs.
    Keep in mind,it costs less to rent a 2 hour DVD that tells a complete story than it does to buy a 22 page chapter of a comic book story.

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  9. It also costs less to rent a DVD than it does to buy a magazine in the store. Or buy a newspaper. People still gobble 'em up. I once saw John Byrne talk of an issue during the Golden Age of comics - the fourties - costing as much as a dinner, yet selling damn well. Truth is that cost difference rarely factors into purchases. Especially if you're talking in bigger stores or pharmacies - where they should be again - where over half of what you get are impulse buys. Besides that, it's not like they couldn't make room just because there happened to be a DVD rental thing nearby.

    Comics can crawl out of it as well as any other business, it's just a matter of changing tactics or perhaps taking a risk or two.

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  10. Brian Hibbs' argument, and what dl316bh writes above, seems to describe book distribution as I understand it -- a company works on a book, puts it on the shelf, and only then finds out if it succeeds or fails. Random House does it, plenty of places do it. So to say a comics company couldn't survive on OGNs I think ignores a viable (if seemingly risky) business strategy already in place.

    Maybe the current growing pains in the comics industry are a question of identity. Are they a weekly magazine publisher, are they a book publisher? I don't imagine the mindset in the two places are the same. Of course, there's different departments at DC to handle monthly issues versus collections, but now you've got Earth One, something that's more a book than a monthly comic, but isn't a collection -- maybe this is the rise of the DC Book division?

    I agree that monthly comics aren't going anywhere for a long time, whether because of profit or consumer preference or stories better told in that format. But I remember when you could buy a comic from a spinner rack at a B. Dalton in a mall ... so much for that anymore. At least the trend seems positive toward those who prefer trades, and not away from it.

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  11. People still "gobble up" magazines and newspapers? I thought the market for periodicals was getting smaller.

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  12. Well, maybe not "gobble up". But they still do well enough last I was aware. Many magazines I know of or have interest in take a dual approach - that is utilizing both the internet and typical monthly issues - that seems to work for them. Typically by choice. If nothing else, the old magazine rack in pretty much all stores don't seem to be dwindling.

    Newspapers are, well, newspapers. They may rise and fall, but they'll likely always be around. They've pretty much weathered radio, television and the internet at this point; if they aren't dead yet, they're not going to die completely.

    Same for your monthly comics.

    To be fair, I'm not saying things are ever going to be like they were or are now. The industry IS changing, make no mistake. Comic companies have discovered the potential in collections and have been turning that into a profitable venture. Marvel is giving an honest shot at cracking the online nut; if that works out, that will be a new revenue stream. Frankly, I see these as becoming more and more integrated as parts of the whole; you have your revenue from single issues, online, subscriptions and collections.

    If the time of anything is passing, I think we're starting to see the death of the importance of sales numbers. At one point, your main factor for anything involved simply sales of issues. That's changing slowly with collections becoming such a big thing and there are other avenues just over the horizon.

    So I don't think monthlies will ever hold the importance in the industry they used to, but I highly doubt they're ever going away.

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  13. Also, I wonder if comics companies can ever stop publishing monthly comics as long as they (or their owners) want to turn their books into movies. That is, for there to be a Batman movie, I think the public likes a sense that Batman is "out there," else maybe the property seems stagnant.

    Also, after almost seventy years of non-stop monthly Superman comics and properties, can you imagine if DC one day said, "OK, no more Superman comics, just Superman graphic novels." It would be sheer pandemonium -- and I can't imagine what editor would want to go down in history having made that decision. I agree, I think the death of monthly comics is a long, long way off ...

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  14. Does anyone feel that this parallels tv? For example, let's take the show "Lost." There's a weekly show, where tv ratings are important and they're supported by advertisements. Then there's the DVD collections of entire seasons, which have no ads (similar to comic collections not having the print ads that monthlies do) and make their money from sales. But the show is also available "on-demand" on the ABC website, again supported by ads.

    Then there are tv shows like Family Guy, which was famously un-cancelled after the DVD sales were strong.

    Are there any comic series where the monthly sales are low, but the collected edition sales are strong enough that the publisher keeps the series going? Would these series be strong candiates for bypassing the monthlies altogether and moving straight into bi-annual OGN releases?

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  15. I'm sure there are several examples out there, but the one I remember most recently was Runaways, which was cancelled by the end of the its original 18-issue run. After the TPB sales did well, it was brought back.

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  16. The only series I can think of offhand kept alive strictly because of trades is Jonah Hex. The monthly sells pretty poorly and has been in "cancellation levels" for a while now. But the trades do well, so it's been kept alive. Speaking OGN's, incidently Jonah Hex even has an OGN story slated that was just solicited.

    In the column of "gone now" is Blue Beetle; his monthly sales were low but his solo went on as long as it did because the trades sold quite well through word of mouth about the series.

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  17. I really don't think a character needs to have a monthly title in order to have a successful movie based on him. I'm pretty sure the majority of the people who saw The Dark Knight or Iron Man have no idea if those heroes' series are still being published.

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  18. I very highly doubt that the majority of the people who went to see those movies were out of touch enough to think two of the bigger comic based pop culture icons weren't still in monthly publication. With something like a Jonah Hex which has it's own film coming soon, well yeah, there's the possibility there since Jonah isn't a huge thing, despite relative popularity. But Batman and Iron Man... kinda doubt it.

    Now, does a hero NEED a monthly title to have a successful movie based off them? I'll agree with you and say no. But it's a hell of a lot harder.

    When they have a monthly, you have the fans of that right off who will probably line up to get a ticket. It also breeds awareness of a property in other comic readers; perhaps they just didn't want to check the book out but were aware, then saw a trailer and figured to give it a shot. That's on top of your typical movie audience that a given film has to draw in through conventional means; say what you want about any given property, but a built in fanbase is more money in the pocket and helps heighten the chances of success.

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  19. I don't have the numbers in front of me,but I'm confidant that if you subtract the number of copies sold of this month's Batman from the number of Dark Knight DVDs sold,you're going to be left over with a HUGE number.

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  20. What does that have to do with anything? Comics are sold in several ways outside of the Direct Market. This site is dedicated to reviewing one of them. Considering that's a fraction of the people who buy comics in some form, that doesn't mean much. This goes back to what I said earlier about the death of importance of the Direct Market sales numbers.

    Besides that, we don't have sales numbers for this months Batman. We don't see Direct Market sales numbers for about two plus months after. The last issues I know have had their numbers released thus far are Judd Winick issues. And... well... it's Judd Winick. His Batman work is arguably among his best, but his name still carries a hell of a stigma no matter who he's working on.

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  21. Manhunter is a title that I think found a reprieve from cancellation because of trade sales, but now it looks like the co-feature may have run its course, too. But similar to my idea of Manhunter in-continuity graphic novels, I imagine the recent Solomon Grundy miniseries could have just been released as a graphic novel, still with the Blackest Night tie at the end -- I'm interested to read Grundy in trade, but I can't imagine DC made its money back on the series in monthly form.

    My original point, which I struggled to articulate, is that I think the public likes to know that Superman and Batman are still being published. Even if the Average Joe doesn't read Superman, I think he'd be disappointed to hear that Superman didn't still come out every month -- witness the uproar over the "death" of Superman, for instance. There's a collective will, I think, that will keep monthly comics being published, even if the interest lessens (but doesn't fall away completely), if for what they represent (including opportunities in other media) even if not for themselves.

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  22. I'm not sure Manhunter was kept alive by trade sales; as I recall it was the loud outcry of it's small but dedicated fanbase that kept it going all this time. Trade sales were lousy, if I remember right. The series kind of puts me in mind of Spider-Girl, which is a series that never sold well at any real point in it's publication but has been kept alive in some form or another for a long, long time.

    Either way, I'm not surprised if this really is the end of the Manhunter co-feature. Barring a miracle, this is probably it for Manhunter. It's one of those series that simply could not catch reader interest no matter how much praise reviewers and readers heaped on it.

    Still, if nothing else, the co-feature forced a larger readership to be aware of the series, if nothing else. I mean, it was in the back of a Batman book. I think co-features should be the go-to format for testing the waters for books like Manhunter; just pitching a solo of something like that out there cold doesn't always bring a lot of success. Hell, some of the most popular comic heroes started out as backups in more successful books.

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