DC’s Executive Vice President of Sales Marketing and Business Development John Rood and Senior Vice President of Sales Bob Wayne spoke to ICv2 about the release of February comic sales numbers as DC took the Top 10 comic spots for the second month in a row (see “Comic Sales Boom in February”).
We were also impressed with the year-over-year results. You guys just came back from ComicsPro, what were you takeaways from that gathering?
Rood: The retailers like making money it appears. The sentiment at ComicsPro was so optimistic, particularly in regards to DC. It was all very gratifying and positive. ComicsPro attendees usually tell us what’s on their minds. If they tell us what’s on their mind next year like they did this year, I’ll go back to Dallas gladly.
Wayne: It was candid feedback, but there was just so much positive response to what we have been doing, it was very gratifying and has us looking forward to the Diamond Retailer Summit to see if that particular sample of folks will be as enthusiastic about where we are going. We won the Diamond Gem Award voted on by the retailers for Publisher of the Year, and I think that also reflects the overall feeling that the retail base has for DC Entertainment and all that the folks on the business, creative, and sales sides have done working together to launch the “New 52.”
Rood: Bob failed to mention that a certain DC SVP of Sales won the ComicsPro Industry Appreciation Award, so we are very proud of Bob and I was happy to be there to see him receive the award in person.
Bob, what’s your reaction to winning the ComicsPro Award?
Wayne: I was kind of surprised. I was definitely very pleased to get that award from ComicsPro and even more pleased to find out that, while it may be a lifetime achievement award, it doesn’t mean that I’m not supposed to do anything else afterwards, so that was good news that I wasn’t being put out to pasture. It was definitely good news and I am glad that there are some photographs of it so I can prove it to people later.
There were some rumors around last fall that you were planning on retiring—any truth to that?
Wayne: I have a personal services contract with DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. so I am not going to be voluntarily retiring anytime soon, and I don’t have any date set when I will retire. John and I have not sat down to actually start plotting out anything like that. So there’s no truth to those rumors, though I am sure that there are some people who would like for that to be the case.
What kind of reaction did you get at ComicsPro to DC’s holding the line at $2.99 on cover prices, did anyone object to losing the bigger dollar sales that higher cover prices provide?
Rood: That was one of the applause breaks, when “draw the line” was mentioned, so that was gratifying to see. It’s been awhile since I have heard anyone having a problem with it.
Wayne: I think there was one retailer who expressed a continuing reservation about it. One out all the ones who attended, but no one brought it up during the public session, maybe they were afraid they would be taken out and beaten. Our impression was the majority of folks there were enthusiastic about it.
Where are you on tracking cumulative sales of the “New 52” since launch?
Rood: We have well over five million first issues in print. We have well over 20 million “New 52” comics in print.
How about the first issues—are there any revised numbers to report there?
Rood: Well Justice League #1 was a 400,000 copy monster between the copies in print and the copies sold digitally. There are three other number ones over 200K including Action Comics, Green Lantern and Batman.
Wayne: We are setting print runs next week on several titles including Batman #5 third printing. I think the most interesting of them is Batman Beyond Unlimited, which packages some of the digital material in the Beyond universe—all the overage we had built-in got sucked right out of the system when the book hit the stands. It will be interesting to see where the number ends up when the Final Order Cut-off (FOC) closes on that title because it is kind of a hybrid experiment for us.
Has the loss of the Borders chain resulted in any shifts of sales of your graphic novels in the bookstore channel?
Wayne: We have had a slight shift because of the loss of Borders. But we have also had a strong pickup from some of the other accounts. The shift is not is not the size of the Borders numbers before, but we are having growth through Diamond and other channels so we are in pretty good shape and we are pretty happy with the way those are lining up.
Do you think that Border’s demise makes it more difficult to reach the casual customer?
Wayne: If there is such as thing as a self-proclaimed casual buyer, it’s always going to be harder to reach them if you lose retail shelf space, but I think there is a shift on how casual customers buy, from buying at brick-and-mortar stores to buying online, so I think there is an off-setting increase of sales through online comic dealers and Amazon and B&N in particular. The only thing that is missing in Internet sales is the immediate physical gratification of holding the book in your hands and being able to purchase it as opposed to waiting for the fulfillment of your order—and I think people are adjusting to that change as well.
During January a TV station in Washington DC created a stir with a report on the more “adult content” in the “New 52” (see “TV Report Targets DC Comics”). Has DC received any feedback from that?
Rood: I didn’t see any direct feedback. We wondered if we would see it, but I haven’t seen any.
Wayne: The only knowledge of it we have came from the trade press. Nothing hit my radar coming in from the outside.
Rood: They took comics that had a specific age rating and talked about content problems for readers that were younger than the age rating on the book.