Cancelled Trade Cavalcade: REBELS: Starstruck and cancellation musings

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Cancelled Trade Cavalcade -- where the Collected Editions blog looks at some trades that never quite made print. Big news last week was the cancellation of DC Comics's REBELS: Starstruck (which you can still see listed at the link on DC's site even though they've announced it cancelled).

So big was the news about REBELS that despite that we've lost Doom Patrol: Fire Away, JSA All-Stars: Puzzle Men, and the Weird Worlds collection officially, and good money says Nick Spencer's Supergirl: Good Looking Corpse is going to go soon, too, this is the first time the recent cancellations have scored mainstream comics news coverage, with an article posted at Bleeding Cool.

Fan Joe Kontor posted about the cancellation to Dan DiDio's Facebook Wall, and Dan replied, "Sorry but the sales were not there to support this book going to press."

On the Collected Editions Facebook Wall, reader Matt Adams shared anecdotally that he heard from his local comics shop that the "print slots" are being used for DC New 52 reprints instead.

I can't say if that's actually the case or not, and I do understand that DC Comics is a business that has a responsibility to make money, and that if they complete an equation that says the REBELS trade (or Doom Patrol, or Manhunter way before it) isn't going to be profitable, they have to cancel it. I don't believe anyone's out there thinking, "Let's pretend we're going to publish it and then snatch it away just to make people mad." I'm sure that's not what's happening.

Two items I'm wondering about, however:

First, why was REBELS the cancellation that seems to have brought wider attention to this, at least for the moment? Is it that while Tony Bedard has not necessarily been writing comics longer than Doom Patrol's Keith Giffen, for instance, Bedard has written more "high profile" titles of late like Green Lantern Corps and seemingly does more work for DC across the board than say Manhunter's Marc Andreyko, and therefore the cancellation of one of Bedard's trades is a larger shock (and if so, wait'll DC axes the Supergirl trade!)?

Or did REBELS achieve a level of fan favoritism greater than Doom Patrol (or, certainly, JSA All-Stars) with its Starro storyline and the inclusion of Lobo, Starfire, Adam Strange and others? I know I enjoyed the space opera and the chance to see the LEGION characters in action again; you can read all the Collected Editions reviews of REBELS at the link.

Second, DC solicited REBELS: Starstruck in August for December release; the book came available in most stores for pre-order in September, and then was announced as cancelled at the end of October. That's not much time for readers to get their acts together -- and literally no quarter given to what I'd imagine are the large majority of readers who don't want to pay ahead of time for a book they won't receive until four months later, and instead want to walk into a comics shop or bookstore like a normal person, see what's out that week, and then make their purchasing decisions.

We all know the old chestnut that "pre-ordering is your friend," but now it seems more like "pre-order or die" -- apparently, the only guarantee that a book will reach the shelves is sufficient pre-ordering ahead of time. Is this tied to reprintings of the DC New 52, as Matt Adams suggested? Or have DC's benchmarks for sales levels of trades changed (and does that suggest greater difficulties on DC's part)? Certainly, I don't believe we've seen such week-to-week, higher profile cancellations previously.

I'm not sure I like a system where I have to put down my money early in order to certify a book even gets printed (like the Groupon approach to comics buying), especially when book contents have had a tendency to shift and change sometimes from solicitation to arrival.

Quick glance at the latest DC Comics solicitations, for January 2012 ... anyone want to place bets whether Hawk and Dove: Ghosts and Demons, Power Girl: Old Friends, Justice Society of America: Monument Point, Xombi, or Titans: Broken Promises won't make it to the stores?

UPDATE: Another fatality from DC's November 2011 solicitations -- along with Weird Worlds, REBELS: Starstruck, and Supergirl: Good Looking Corpse, David Hines and Matt Sturges The Spirit Vol.2: The Clockwork Killer is also on the chopping block.


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25 comments:

  1. PREORDER PREORDER PREORDER

    I was SHOCKED to see Giffen's 3rd DP and Spencer's SUPERGIRL get canceled BUT I can't say I'm surprised that R.E.B.E.L.S. got the axe. That book's been on thin ice from the jump.

    People better get their asses out there and order CHASE and RESURRECTION MAN while they still can.

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  2. Sure economics are the main factor here but I can't be the only one who sees the longer term economic hit this sort of cancellations will cause DC. Cancelling the final trades in these series makes it very difficult for a trade only reader to trust that DC will complete anything. This is seriously having me reconsider bothering with DC tpbs (and Marvel is in the same boat).

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  3. Agreed; I don't underestimate the hit that fan morale takes from this, either. I still maintain that the majority of DC's customers don't read solicitations, aren't on the Internet, and basically buy their books week by week or when they read about them in another magazine and don't miss anything that they don't know died on the vine.

    But from the educated, Internet-reading fan perspective, solicitations of late seem like so much fluff -- why ought I get excited for a CHASE or RESURRECTION MAN trade (excited though I am), when the the solicitation is not a promise of the book arriving in stores, but instead the comics company timidly asking, "Hey, how many of you out there want to buy this? Just checking."

    I'll grant, with the New 52, DC's in a time of transition right now. When all the pre-Flashpoint trades are out of the system and only the New 52 books remain, hopefully there's less of this solicit-and-cancel action.

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  4. I think it's going to continue until they find the bottom. Marvel has been doing this quietly for years, soliciting and then never releasing the books.

    The whole preordering thing grew out of creators telling readers to take ownership in books they want to read. I understand the "wait for the trade" angle but at the same time, if they don't read it on a regular basis, they are partially to blame for cancellation. It's like someone saying, "yeah, I watch that TV show but only on DVD" - if the show gets no viewers every week because they want to watch it later, it's not the network's fault if it gets canceled.

    The problem is with High Profile books like SUICIDE SQUAD having noticeable cancellations. 'Fans' have been clamoring for for years and then didn't put the money where their mouth is. Look at MANHUNTER: how many chances did that book get and how many people DIDN'T preorder it?

    I'm annoyed with DC about it BUT I can't blame them for doing it. I don't know about the "slots at the printer" thing but I can see the through line of low numbers equaling a money loser. I support the books I want to read and hopefully they will get to see extended life in collections down the line.

    I *am* curious to see what the collections plan is for the New52 books. A mix of tpbs and HCs? Only HCs to start? Not all books getting collections?

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  5. They'd *better* not cancel that Chase collection. (And yes, I have pre-ordered it.)

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  6. "Fan Joe Kontor posted about the cancellation to Dan DiDio's Facebook Wall, and Dan replied, "Sorry but the sales were not there to support this book going to press." "

    I hate this justification.
    I hate it because it's DC's half-assed alibi for their own inability to read the market and adjust accordingly.
    Did they really think that a trade to a cancelled cult-hit series (which I believe REBELS was) would sell six months after the END of the series? My guess is no, but they published the solicitation as some sort of gonzo PR sop to avoid any more bad press from the recent reboot.
    If they were really interested in sales and the needs of the fan community, the last REBELS TPB would have been out no more than two months later. Instead, they waited more than six months; and those were a big six months.
    Which is DC's loss. The people that buy REBELS TPBs are exceedingly loyal and willing to spend money when the time comes. The ones buying OMAC... aren't.

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  7. If it was just a matter of "pre-order or die", that'd be harsh but manageable. This is worse. I pre-ordered and paid for Suicide Squad v. 2. I pre-ordered and paid for Azrael v. 2. I pre-ordered and paid for several other books that are not being published. Eventually I get my money back in the form of a credit to my DCBS account, but I'm without the use of my $ for howeverlong that takes.

    No reasonable person expects DC to continue publishing books at a loss. As a professional publisher, however, DC has to be aware that every publishing venture contains an element of risk. This policy by DC is their attempt to not only eliminate their own risk, but pass it along to the consumer. It's a hideously anti-consumer move. They're essentially taking my money and THEN deciding if they want to give me what I paid for.

    That is unacceptable to me as a consumer. My reaction is to stop pre-ordering their books unless I'm 99% sure they will be published. I'd love to read Xombi, but I will not order it b/c there's no way in hell it will be published. If others react as I do, then DC's pre-orders go DOWN, and they publish even fewer books.

    DC was certainly well-aware before soliciting the most recent REBELS trade that the readership of REBELS wouldn't fill a small college basketball arena. They have data indicating how the previous volumes sold. If, despite that information, they solicit another REBELS trade, then they should publish it. Otherwise why should I or anyone else pay attention to what they solicit at all?

    - matches

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  8. I saw that DC changed the contents of THE SPIRIT v2 a few weeks back. When did it get canceled?

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  9. Its not the consumers fault that they release comics in 5 formats.

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  10. DC has posted their New 52 collection list on their blog:

    http://dcu.blog.dccomics.com/2011/11/09/dc-comics-the-new-52-hardcovers-coming-in-2012/

    The big guns (Justice League, Batman titles, Superman titles, Green Lantern titles, Flash, even Aquaman) are hardcover, while the rest are paperback.

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  11. And spread out over the next year... That's surprising.

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  12. Brian, I don't think this statement is quite true:

    The whole preordering thing grew out of creators telling readers to take ownership in books they want to read. I understand the "wait for the trade" angle but at the same time, if they don't read it on a regular basis, they are partially to blame for cancellation. It's like someone saying, "yeah, I watch that TV show but only on DVD" - if the show gets no viewers every week because they want to watch it later, it's not the network's fault if it gets canceled.

    You're right, as someone that never bought the R.E.B.E.L.S. floppies, it's partly my fault this series got cancelled. But I'm not complaining about that-- I'm complaining that already completed (and presumably paid for) material is not being released in a format where I can read it. I am supporting the trade series, and despite that, it's been cancelled.

    I miss the level of commitment that Dark Horse has to its Star Wars line, where literally every publication ends up collected somewhere.

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  13. Between Nick Spencers sudden departure one issue into the story and the sudden irrelevancy of the whole thing with the New 52, it probably wasn't a hard decision for them to axe the Supergirl trade. I was actually looking forward to it when Spencer was going to be writing it, but then Marvel snatched him up just as his DC output was beginning to pick up steam. Going by comments on his books elsewhere though, it seems Marvel wasn't a good fit for him.

    A lot of these books and their sudden cancellations probably owe it to the New 52 initiative. DC often seems to put a trade out of pretty much everything, or it's seemed that way to me (Azrael aside, but that book had all of three people reading it). Going by what we know of how the New 52 came about - and how sudden its onset seemed - I'd bet dollars to donuts the canceled trades were largely put to solicit when everything was still business as usual. Now they've probably figured they may as well axe some of them, especially with the new crop hitting bookshelves next year.

    They probably figure that, but it's still a dick move. I agree with Matches that if they solicit it, they should print it. It wasn't a secret that REBELS and Azrael had bad sales numbers. If the sales numbers don't justify it, that's fine, but in that case, you shouldn't be soliciting your collected edition of said horribly selling book ahead of time.

    Didn't know Suicide Squads second volume went into limbo. Very unfortunate. I don't get that one. DC seems committed to getting through Hitman this time. I'm pretty sure the Question series was collected in full. I doubt either - especially the latter - set the sales charts ablaze. What makes Suicide Squad the black sheep?

    Name recognition, perhaps? Garth Ennis IS a known commodity these days. The Question team have been for a long while.

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  14. @dl316bh:
    No, they didn't collect the entire output of QUESTION, neither the O'Neil/Cowan series nor the Rucka/Hamner series. The earlier collections left out the Annuals and the quarterly collections (by the same team) while the later back up feature from Detective Comics (collected in THE QUESTION: PIPELINE) left out the last 3 issues worth.

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  15. Ooh, nice to get a namecheck. Further to what I posted on FB, the impression I got was that some of the more high-profile books which appear to have been cancelled without any notification will turn up eventually, once the excitement over the New 52 has calmed down and DC isn't putting out two or three printings of the same book. I'm wondering if that's what will happen to Suicide Squad... Anyone know what the stats were like for the first volume? But with apparently all New 52 books being collected at this stage (even WW eventually I guess), what will that mean for reprints of older series? Will DC's focus be purely on the new line or will we still see "classic" runs collected?

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  16. Are you sure The Question: Pipeline didn't collect all 13 installments, Aalok? CE didn't mention anything about an abrupt ending in his review, and the page count seems to support it.

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  17. @Shagamu: That was what I understood from the solicitation. That's one of the reasons I haven't ordered it. Having not read the single issues, I don't know whether I'll be able to make out....I don't think it'll be an abrupt cliffhanger. Maybe someone else can confirm?

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  18. Aalok's definitely wrong; the last 3 Question: Pipeline backup stories were featured behind the "Cutter" Batwoman story in Detective Comics, and THAT was never collected, but the Pipeline stories were in that trade.

    And while it's true that the original Question series didn't have its annuals collected, I don't think that's uncommon when it comes to collections of series (unless the annual is part of an arc in the ongoing). The Question Quarterly could be seen as a separate series by the same creative team; it did not retain the numbering, after all. So, as an owner of all 6 "original" Question collections, while I would love to see another one/two books with the annuals and/or Quarterlies, the 6 volumes that were collected do form one story with what seems like a definite ending.

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  19. I was wrong, too: the Question co-feature only ran for 12 issues of Detective Comics, not 13. Still, DC got the content info wrong in the solicitation copy, and that kept Aalok and other people from buying the TPB, thinking the story would be incomplete. Whoever writes those things really should pay more attention.

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  20. I just took a look at the latest DC Comics Extended Forecast on ComicList, and not only it confirms the cancellation of The Spirit Vol.2: The Clockwork Killer, but it also informs that the first Batman Incorporated HC will be resolicited next month.

    I was actually hoping for that, because the Leviathan Strikes special, which will conclude the book's first "season", won't come out until December, and there was no way the hardcover could include it if it came out on the date it was originally scheduled for.

    And Supergirl: Good-Looking Corpse remains scheduled for 12/07. If it's really cancelled, they're taking their sweet time admitting it.

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  21. Can I also say that I'm baffled as to how Weird Worlds could sell so poorly as to warrant not collecting preexisting material... but well enough to warrant a sequel?

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  22. Bummed about Good Looking Corpse getting the axe, but I have a pragmatic view on stuff. Eventually EVERYTHING gets a reprint. Just wait.

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  23. Good. Now I can order The Question trade. I don't know why the Greg Rucka issues of Batwoman have been 'bumped' but I'd love to see them in a single, (albeit small) trade.

    I've read The Question trades 1-6, and I don't complain that the story seems incomplete; in fact I'm grateful to DC for printing such a low key series (read non superhero) in it's entire run. The annuals done by the same team crossed over into Detective & Green Arrow Annuals and made the reading experience better. While the series stands up on reading on it's own, the annuals collected would add to the experience. They aren't as critical as the Demon annual was to Hitman, but I'd like to see them collected; it gives for a more compleat experience. Something along the lines of 'We could have done without the Mist Specials or the Batman/Hellboy/Starman in the Starman Omnibus but then it wouldn't be an Omnibus'

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  24. "Sure economics are the main factor here but I can't be the only one who sees the longer term economic hit this sort of cancellations will cause DC. Cancelling the final trades in these series makes it very difficult for a trade only reader to trust that DC will complete anything. This is seriously having me reconsider bothering with DC tpbs (and Marvel is in the same boat)."
    Quite true.

    And NOOO!! They canceled the 3rd Doom Patrol? Why? It was such a fun series! Darn it, how did I miss this announcement :(

    At least we still got Chase...right?...right?

    I guess I'll be slowly leaving DC and only buying old issues/TPB off Ebay...

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  25. I guess we can know, at least, that DC will release the first trade of each of their New 52 series; it'd be rather embarassing, I think, if one of those books didn't make it to trade. But once a monthly series is cancelled (see Doom Patrol, JSA All-Stars, REBELS), that's when the trade-waiter has to watch out.

    Hopefully Chase, specifically, will be buffeted by Batwoman sales.

    The Cavalcade, by the way, will return, next month or possibly in the new year.

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