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DC Execs on Vertigo

Plus Digital, Numbers

Published: 12/13/2012 12:01am
DC held firm on the role of Vertigo in the wake of Karen Berger’s departure (see "Karen Berger Leaving Vertigo"), defended its handling of digital release times, talked about initial sales of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and shared the love on November numbers in our regular monthly interview with DC SVP Sales Bob Wayne and VP-Marketing John Cunningham. 
 
This November was one of the months with the least presence of DC in the top title list and the market share charts since the New 52 launched.  What are your reflections on DC’s performance in November?
Wayne:  We think that Marvel had a really strong month with their Marvel NOW! initiative; and at the same time we’re pleased with our overall numbers, and we’re also very happy with the titles that we placed on the Top 20 graphic novel chart on the Diamond side.  I believe we had eight of the Top 20 on that chart, more than any of our competitors, and had two Bill Willingham-related titles in the Top 5 (Fables: Werewolves of The Heartland, the original graphic novel, and Fairest Volume 1), and also our volume one of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo adaptation.  Our book format performed very well for us on the comic shop side
 
And who knew that My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic #1 would end up in the Top 20 on the periodical side?  So kudos to IDW and the My Little Pony team and the folks at The Hub with the TV series.
 
Guess the bronies knew...
Wayne:  The bronies must have an amazing social media networking capability to get their message out.  I’m almost speechless.

Last month we talked about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (see "DC to Cut Variants").  You must have some sell-through data from the book stores and reorder data from the comic stores by now--how is that doing?
Cunningham:  We’re very pleased with what we’re seeing. It’s been a multi-week New York Times bestseller.  We’re seeing some good reorders from the direct market as well as from the bookstore market as it rolls out.  We’re especially pleased when you see how competitive this fall as been on the collected and OGN side.
 
We were looking at some BookScan numbers this week and marveling--for the week after Thanksgiving--how much more dynamic, in terms of units and volumes, the Top 10 books in the category were this year, versus the same post-Thanksgiving week a year ago.  The Top 10 books were almost double the unit volume what they were a year ago. So we’re very pleased and we’re very happy for the category as a whole to see such dynamic books driving sales. 
 
Over the past month there’s been a channel conflict issue about release times of digital content, and DC has been in contact with comic retailers about it (see "DC Struggling with Release Times").  When comiXology started doing releasing new DC’s , their release time was controlled; now the e-book sellers are selling new comics and they’re setting the release times.  How did that come about?
Cunningham:  The short and honest and pithy answer is that is the methodology by which those retailers ingest material for digital consumption. It’s the same set of rules for comic books as it is for books, video, music, so it’s the way of doing business--all by way of saying that those pressures, perceived or otherwise, that are being felt here are similar issues that have been dealt with in all of those other entertainment consumption industries when encountering digital ingestion. 
 
Some retailers were upset at being surprised.  Was there any thought of telling them in advance, and if so, why did you decide not to?
Cunningham: When dealing with those [types of companies] we have to sign confidentiality agreements about the terms of negotiation that we’re doing.  I understand fully and even appreciate the critique, but I think our record on this has spoken loudly over the last two years especially in terms of trying to get out ahead of our messaging and communicating as fully as we can.  So in the particular instance here where it doesn’t happen, it’s not so much a sign of a change in our policy as it is a reaction to the terms we were operating under. 
 
Four of your top five graphic novel titles in November were Vertigo titles, so Vertigo is obviously very important to your book program.  It seems like the role of Vertigo may be changing, and some have commented that the number of ongoing titles has been decreasing.  Can you talk about the role of Vertigo in terms of your overall sales and marketing and how that’s changing or has changed over the last few years?
Cunningham:  When we look at Vertigo as part of DC, the buzzword would be that it’s one of our cornerstones.  I think everyone knows that Vertigo has been DC’s home for cutting edge and critically acclaimed stories and I don’t see that changing at any time in 2013 or beyond.  If fact, if you go back to San Diego and New York and look at announcements for projects that are coming out for 2013 we announced things as wide across the spectrum as the new Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy’s The Wake, a new Jeff Lamire series, Trillium, of course Neil Gaiman returning to Sandman, aside from the continuing volumes of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and the multitude of Fables products.  We’ve also seen in the past couple of weeks, as we’ve done slate planning for 2013, a lot of other new series coming from Vertigo that we’ll be announcing shortly. 
 
The industry as a whole and DC as a whole will miss Karen [Berger].  She’s been a tremendous and almost unprecedented contributor over the years, but I think we have enough good, high-quality Vertigo product in the pipeline to keep Vertigo readers happy for the near-term future. 
 
Is there a change in the mix of Vertigo ongoing series, miniseries, and OGNs?
Wayne:  We’re always adjusting and looking at that type of mix in both the DC Comics imprint and the Vertigo imprint.  A lot of it just comes down to the lead times on various projects and what kind of stories the creative contributors are wanting to tell, if they think their story needs to be a limited series or if they want to go with a larger unlimited palette.  There are a lot of things coming up.  Karen is assisting in the transition to new leadership within the imprint as part of her departure and part of securing her legacy with us.  We’ll be talking about Vertigo and Karen a lot more in the next few months.  I think you’ll be seeing additional Vertigo projects coming up.  There’s no reason for the readers to be too anxious.
 
 
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