Trade Perspectives: Here Come the New 52 Collections, Same as the Old 52 Collections ...

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Star Clipper Comics, St. Louis, MO
I'm doubly excited to start reading DC Comics's New 52 collections ever since they released the details last week. And now that DC's plans are more clear -- the Flashpoint books in March, and then the New 52 staggered about seven per month for the rest of the year -- 2012 is shaping up to be a very exciting year.

That said, when I sit back and look at it all, I find myself a bit ... underwhelmed.

Where are the deluxe editions with flashing lights and moving covers?

Where are the hardcovers?

Seriously -- where are the hardcovers? Just over a quarter of DC's New 52 books will be collected in hardcover -- less than half -- and of those, no Edge, Dark, or Young Justice books at all. In terms of collection schemes, the New 52 isn't much different than what came before; maybe just a little more timely.

I must say, I did not expect the company of Absolute Identity Crisis, of Batman: Hush Unwrapped, or the massive DC Comics: The New 52 hardcover to be so ... reserved.

Our largely unscientific poll about how you wanted the New 52 collected came back largely in favor of paperbacks. I said at the time that I thought those people would be disappointed -- further, I said (in bold, no less), "I cannot imagine that DC would release their new big name titles in paperback."

Wrong on that one, it seems.

I just don't believe a company like DC leaves money on the table. If the Batman or Green Lantern franchise can be parlayed into four or five different titles, they'll do it. If a series has gained enough steam to jump to hardcover mid-run (looking at you, Green Lantern Corps), they'll change it. If they can sell a book in hardcover, paperback, and then also Absolute format, they'll do it. So if someone out there thought an entire line of hardcovers of DC's New 52 series would sell, we'd have them. Instead, DC's hardcover line (not counting new titles) has actually shrunk.

My questions:

* I always figured the average, read-about-the-New-52-in-USA Today consumer was more likely to buy a hardcover collection in their local bookstore than a paperback. Did DC find that paperbacks were selling better?

* What does this say about collections sales overall? We've been in a boom time, to be sure, with a proliferation of books arriving in hardcover and other pricey formats. Did DC fly too close to the sun and is this a "bust" now, with collections being scaled back overall? The recent spate of cancellations certainly seems to suggest so.

* Alternatively, is this the kind of "testing the waters" that DC seemed to do after Infinite Crisis and their last (more minor) reset, "One Year Later," where many books saw initial paperback releases followed by hardcovers for their next volume -- paperback Superman: Up, Up, and Away before hardcover Superman: Last Son and paperback Batman: Face the Face before hardcover Batman and Son, for instance? Is my Swamp Thing Vol. 1 paperback going to have to sit next to a Swamp Thing Vol. 2 hardcover? Or will two Swamp Thing paperbacks, two years down the road, equal one omnibus Swamp Thing hardcover?

The winner in all of this is you -- those of you, at least, who steadfastly refused to buy DC books in hardcover and truly waited for the trade. You've won your victory now with a predominant number of first-run DC paperbacks coming out every month through a significant part of 2012 -- you'll be able to read your books in the format that you want at the exact same time as everyone else.

Only, I would ask, with your newfound paperback bounty, maybe spare a couple bucks for one of the New 52 hardcovers, if you can. We newly endangered hardcover fans need all the help we can get, apparently.
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10 comments:

  1. It's possible that DC intends to do Marvel-style oversized HC releases *after* the paperbacks. Put out the issues first, then paperback collections of 5-6 issues, then HC collections of 10-12 issues.

    IMO if they're going to do HCs they should do really cool hardcovers with lots of material, as opposed to those little skinny HCs that offer very poor value for $. Something like the Chew Omnivore Editions or the Invincible HCs would be welcome.

    - Matches

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  2. Hardcovers don't make sense to people who are just interested in reading the content and don't particularly care about presentation. The cost of hardcovers is generally higher than $2.99 per issue whereas paperbacks are less than that.

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  3. I'm glad to see so many series going straight to tpb. It looks like they are trying to keep the formats in line with the pre-New52 collections. Based on the list, it looks like it's the "top tier" books, pretty much the JUSTICE LEAGUE/movie franchise characters and the books and their compatriots. It's fairly consistent with that.

    As for "the 'testing the waters' thing post-INF.CRISIS, I think it was more of a setting the table for the status quo AND, based on the caliber of creators (Morrison on BATMAN and Johns/Donner on ACTION & Busiek on SUPERMAN) it's no surprise that they went to HCs after that. I don't think DC has the reason to make that format change with the New52 series but who knows? a few creative changes in a year or so and we might be looking at a new set of data.

    @matches

    That's probably the best idea - short tpbs on a regular basis and then thicker HCs annually or something like that.

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  4. I think your average person is more likely to buy whatever's cheaper, not necessarily a hardcover in a bookstore. Especially since bookstores tend not to mark down trades like Amazon would, and some hardcovers can be absurdly priced.

    I actually think it's a smart move to try and determine what series justify a hardcover, and which don't. I've been incredibly frustrated by some of Marvel's decisions to put out third-tier titles in hardcover seemingly just because they can. Do I really need to own X-23 in hardcover? Similarly, do I really need to own Blackhawks in hardcover? Is it worth the increased price point, or the six-month wait for the paperback collection?

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  5. I agree with "Matches", that they'll start doing what Marvel does just to make more $$$. Plus, DC will be able to better gage what they can release in Hardcover and not lose money doing it.

    The monthly/HC/tpb format is risky because you don't know if HC's will actually sell, and you still have to print and release the tpb.
    The monthly/tpb/HC format gives the publisher the "out" of not printing the HC if the tpb doesn't sell well. Makes sense to me.

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  6. First, I always figured that the USA Today newbie would go for the cheaper softcover collection. Since neither of us have anything to back up our assertions this point seems to be moot.
    More importantly I think the obvious clue to understanding DC's New 52 trade policy lies in their "Hold the Line At 2.99!" strategy. Whether or not it's moved from experiment to policy DC seems to be proceeding with the idea that they can increase profit/circulation with a value priced product. Maintaining this lower price point through to the collected edition seems to be a natural extension. I'm frankly a little surprised they didn't offer any "value" trades at a $9.99 price point like they have occasionally done with Vol. 1's of Vertigo series.

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  7. The big issue that this post seems to overlook is that as retail prices go up, sales go down. That's a general rule of economics that can't be underestimated.

    So, if the goal of The New 52 is to bring droves of new readers into DC, it would be exceedingly foolish and counter-productive to bring everything out in $20 to $30 hardcovers. I never for a moment expected DC to bring out even the majority of the New 52 in hardcover, because they'd just be slitting their own throats in terms of creating an access point for new readers.

    DC's approach to their New 52 trade releases is a very sensible one, and it says nothing beyond that they're attempting to cast their net as wide as possible.

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  8. I, myself, prefer the paperbacks over the HC, and usually wait for them to rerelease such collection in soft cover format.. I dunno. Lots of reasons involved, its cheaper, it takes less space, already have most of my collection in that format,...

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  9. I agree with Eyz...I specifically collect some series in paperback just for economic reasons...because of this i'm still only have way through the new krypton saga...

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  10. I've been a paperback collector since I returned to buying comics 3 years ago. As I was still playing catch-up with what I'd missed, it didn't bother me that the paperbacks were so far behind the current stories. However, now it's gotten to the point that I'm waiting for Brightest Day to come out in softcover, even though I'm pretty sure it's got very little to do with the New 52. So, yeah, I've been annoyed by the slow softcover release schedule for a few months now (basically since I caught up). Personally, I don't care for hardcovers, as they are more expensive and I HATE dealing with dust jackets. Still, I'm tempted to get the Flashpoint hardcover if only because it ties into the New 52, which I've started collecting digitally.

    That being said, I totally understand people preferring hardcover, and how annoying it must be when a title switches from one to the other. I realize that DC is following the book market, but how about following the movie market, where the more expensive premium Blu-ray movies are released at the same time as DVD? That gives the consumer the best choice. Still, I'll admit that it'll probably eat into hardcover sales, and DC wants to maximize it's profit on each title.

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