In recent days, I've looked at reports coming from DC Comics employees regarding changes at the publisher over the last few weeks, in regard to less-than-stellar financial reports and measures being taken to counter them.
Well, I've spoken to an individual who, in a previous life, actually was a DC Comics "beancounter", with their own take on the problem. And apparently it's all down to the movies. I was told,
What's also hurting their revenue is their book sales. Their films (live action and animated) have cannibalized their perennial sellers like Watchmen, Batman Year One, Dark Knight Returns, V for Vendetta, etc. Also the sales on their Vertigo titles like Sandman, Y the Last Man, Fables have matured. Only Volume 1s in Top 300, before it was almost all volumes. No replacement hits. Image is the new Vertigo with Saga, Walking Dead, East Is West, etc.
I was curious… surely films are believed to promote the sales of comic books? So I asked "cannibalised how?"
Book sales get a bump when a film comes out, but after that, the film is usually the preferred medium. Why buy Watchman when I can see it on cable or Netflix? Same with Batman – Year One and Dark Knight Returns. According to ICV2, the Watchmen TPB sold 9,849 copies in the first 7 months of 2015 in comic book stores. Prior to the film, DC was selling that on a monthly basis.
Watchmen was formerly the go-to TPB that a comic book fan would recommend or give to a friend to read as evidence that comic books and graphic novels were more than superheroes and for kids. Now the friends can either read the graphic novel or cheat and see the film. The film diluted that credibility of the TPB, and now people recommend Saga or Walking Dead.
But looking at those lists, one media franchise still rules the roost. Why does The Walking Dead sales not get cannibalised by the TV show?
First, the Walking Dead TV show is good. A large television audience creates fans for books. Just as Game of Thrones drives book sales. Watchmen is a so-so film and not ongoing. A friend telling a friend "read the graphic novel, it's much better than the film" is not the greatest sales pitch, versus "love the TV show, you should read the graphic novels or books because there's stuff that's different or couldn't be included in the show". Batman Year One and Dark Knight Returns animated films are almost exact translation of books, there's nothing new to sell.
So… what of DC's future in this regard?
A good Preacher TV show should drive sales.