When I heard that DC Comics had a rather poor show at SDCC this year, I thought that was a bit odd.
Marvel went all out, pushing Phase 4, showing off Natalie Portman struggling to lift a replica of Thor’s hammer, and Benedict Cumberbatch struggling to show the level of enthusiasm that he is obviously contracted to emote.
However, where was DC? No Gal Gadot for Wonder Woman 1984, no preview of Shazam! 2 or Aquaman 2, no Robert Pattison in an ill-fitting bat suit. What was going on?
On top of that, the DC imprint Vertigo got canceled. It really only got re-launched about a year ago, but apparently, the line was “confusing” for their readers, so they axed it. While they were at it, DC also decided to cut back on the number of titles they were pushing out. Ongoing series that DC printed around July was 38. From that list, 5 are due to be canceled in September. Of course, there are one-shots, mini and maxi-series’, but as far as the regular issues are concerned, things look bleak.
On top of that, the darling of DC Tom King got the boot early from his run on Batman. King had stated that he wanted to do a 100-issue run. DC then announced issue #85 was to be his last. Issue #64 of the title appears at position 24 in the top 100, with sales of 94,000 compared with his first issue in 2016 that appeared at number 6 in the hit parade with a staggering 304,000 units shipped.
In a climate that means that all printed material is on a downward slide, you can imagine the suits at DC loosening their ties as they look at the numbers.
Meanwhile, behind the scenes, industry giant AT&T has been trying to buy Time Warner, and despite objections, a US judge gave the green light for the acquisition to go ahead. DC comics are owned by Time Warner, who is now owned by AT&T. What, if anything, does this mean? Well hopefully nothing, but let’s face it, any new broom likes to sweep the floor clean, and business is business, with the comic publishing arm slip-sliding away, there is always the chance that the people upstairs decide comics publishing is a declining property of the company. Let’s be honest, the movies will go on without the comics, and DC movies do not have anywhere near the appeal of the MCU. What usually happens in such a merger, is a restructuring of the companies, so we may see some of the top tiers in DC changing roles and different ideas being optioned.
On top of all that, we also get comic veteran Rob Liefeld being incredibly vocal on Twitter about DC, and the disarray they are in, doubling down with the assertion that the company is about to drive off a cliff.
So is DC in trouble? This early on it is hard to say, and it will take a long time for the merger to show any kind of hand, but in the short term we are faced with the oddest scenarios, Warren Ellis has announced his new WildCATS series has been canceled before issue one even hit the stand and Swamp Thing, the TV series on the streaming platform, made a mess of the figures resulting in another canceled show,
With the overarching downward trend in sales of comics right across the board, it is an uncertain time for all comic book publishers, and only time will tell if it is a situation that they can write themselves out of.