We asked DC for some information on where it would be distributing its December mega-release Dark Knight Strikes Again #1 (see 'Return of the Million Dollar Comic'), and heard back from DC EVP Paul Levitz. He said that no 'newsstand' distribution is planned, meaning that distributors like Hudson and Anderson News will not be distributing the book to supermarkets, transit terminals, convenience stores, and similar outlets. DKSA is being distributed by AOL Time Warner Publishing, DC's usual distributor to bookstores. We assume that's because of price point and because DC feels the book is more likely to find its target audience in bookstores than in 'newsstand' outlets. We asked where consumers would expect the find the title in bookstores, and Levitz said that although it's up to each store where to rack, he expects DKSA to go in the graphic novel area.
This fits with DC's overall strategy, which emphasizes book format products, and also allows the company to build on the overwhelming success of the Dark Knight property in book format to date. In response to a question, Levitz said that in all editions combined, there were 'certainly over 500,000 copies in print' of the Dark Knight trade paperback that collected the issues from the first series. He also said that doesn't count 'hardcovers, odd editions, international, etc.' With that kind of a potential audience for DKSA in past purchasers of the Dark Knight trade paperback, it makes perfect sense that DC would place the sequel in book outlets. At this point, Levitz said that the number of copies going to book channel outlets was 'significantly smaller so far' than the number being distributed through Diamond.
Last week, DC Comics announced that it would be shipping Dark Knight Strikes Again #1 with two covers -- the 'direct' cover, on which the only type is the DK2 in the bottom quarter of the book and the 'mass' cover, which includes the title spelled out and creative credits. According to DC VP Sales and Marketing Bob Wayne, DC '...wanted to make sure that the ...cover would present the key information in a clear manner.'
Although the surprise cover variant has been a DC tool to improve sell-through in the past, in this case any increased duplicate buying by collectors appears to be a byproduct of the late design decision for the mass edition. Wayne said, '[B]y the time this decision was made, the ordering cycle had long since closed, which prevented us from showing the cover in advance.' With the mass version being used to fill 25% of all copies distributed by Diamond, and the smaller distribution of the mass version, it's probable that the mass version will in fact be rarer; but the 'purer' design of the direct cover plus the association with comic store distribution probably ensures that the direct version will be seen as the true version and the mass version as an interesting alternative that some collectors will buy simply to have both in their collections.