DC Black Label’s BATMAN DAMNED : A Different Perspective

My thoughts on this latest format from DC Comics.

I like that someone at DC Comics realizes the current paradigm, charging over $3 for way less than 30 pages of story content in venues where the majority of the population never goes, is not sustainable.

So the $1 giant books at Walmart I think is a great start. It is being done so far in a pretty toothless way, not releasing them in any quantity or placing them prominently in the stores or promoting them.

So a good idea, that is being sabotaged in the piss poor execution.

That brings us to the new Black Label format as introduced by BATMAN DAMNED.

As Youtube channel THE DELUXE EDITION points out, this Black Label format is a reimagining and updating of the original 1980s prestige format that came out with RONIN and DARK KNIGHT RETURNS.

My thoughts are not on the story, from what I hear it is off to a great start.

No it is about how this book is being released. I actually like that they are playing with the format and papersize, going for a more magazine style look. Here is the issue, once again they are doing it, like the Walmart promotion, poorly.

You create something that is a little more than a comic, but in page count and content does not cross the line to being a magazine, so it is neither fish, nor foul. And yet you want to charge for it like it was a top of the line magazine.

BATMAN DAMNED is $7.00 for a 48 page comic. $7!!! At a time where I truly believe charging over $2.99 for a comic is killing the market, and is unsupportable by current fans, and is a hurdle to adoption by new fans, you now want to charge well over twice that price for a few more pages and slightly larger dimensions.

It is idiotic.

And yes I know the first issue of BATMAN DAMNED has sold well for retailers, and is being praised by the pinply faced speculator crowd.

Here is the thing, selling the first issue, especially of something new, isn’t hard. Where it gets hard is when the idiots start realizing a 7 issue story in this format is costing them $49!!! For SEVEN issues, that are only slightly bigget than a regular comic. You can buy a hardcover with twelve issues, at a larger size, on better paper, for less than that $49 wasted.

Unless you are independently wealthy, this format is quickly going to price itself out of your pull list. Especially when you realize with a little patience you can get the collected story free at your library or at a fraction of the cost via an online retailer or used book store.

I do not want to go on about this. So let me be brief.

Will it initially sell, yes it will sell to the speculators and rabid variant collectors, whose willingness to drink the koolaid and buy multiple copies of a book to get every cover. But that is a very limited, and niche type of collector, to pin your hopes on, and as the 90s showed, he is a collector who will run for the hills, when the variants he has overpaid for, turn out to be… not as wanted as he was led to believe.

But you do not turn around dwindling sales, by creating a format to appeal to a dwindling niche audience, that gets excited by price and cover and mistake variants. You turnaround dwindling sales by creating a format, the new buyer, reader, can pick up without having to grimace at the price, and decide between it, some petrol, a meal, or a movie.

At $2.99 on newsprint BATMAN DAMNED could have been that book. At $5.99 on Baxter paper, with double the pages, and a few other stories and additional content to sell the magazine price, BATMAN DAMNED Would have easily worked in the Target stores, beside the other magazines that retailer carries.

But BATMAN DAMNED is another case of a potentially good idea, sabotaged by a marketing and pricing department that Time Warner would do themselves a service by firing.

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2 Comments

  1. I haven’t purchased a single issue of a comic book in 20 years. I’ll either borrow graphic novels from the library or buy them. In the last two years or so I’ve been buying digital versions of graphic novels since thanks to Amazon and Comixology sales I’m able to get them dirt cheap.

    • Completely agree Derrick, about using the Library and Comixology as free and low cost ways to get your comicbook fix.

      These comic book divisions, of Time Warner and Disney/Marvel, the editors and marketing departments, it is like they try to make their product as expensive and niche as possible. How they keep their jobs only selling (on the high end) 100000 copies of an iron man or x-men or batman comic, in a country of almost 300 million people, when the movies have done the heavy lifting of making these characters household names… is beyond me. If I was the parent company of these comic book divisions, I would fire everybody at the wheel, and bring in new blood that has a clear goal, to move the needle and sell comic books in the millions once again.

      So I definitely use the Library and Comixology as a try before you buy type method.

      But I am a collector, so when I find something I want to own/buy, I buy a ton of stuff. I got back into back issues HUGE THIS YEAR. My wallet is no longer on speaking terms with me. 🙂

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