So we were at Fan Expo 2011 in Toronto at the end of August — just a few days before Flashpoint #5 and JL #1 launched. I meant to write this sooner, but I’ve been moving and dealing with some crippling health problems since, so I haven’t exactly been in the mindset to write about this.
Just about every year for the past three years, the ladies and I have met Dan Didio and a number of other staff and taken pictures, talked, etc. The majority of the time, he approaches us first, and it was no different this year. He caught us as we were taking pictures in the entrance hall (as Batgirl, Black Bat and Batwoman, with a Robin and Red Robin) and he and I stopped to chat briefly.
I knew it would be unproductive to bring up the women in comics thing, and since we were surrounded by people, I figured it would be a little rude to put him on a spot uninvited outside of a panel. (And a little redundant for him, given that I was dressed as Stephanie Brown as Batgirl, ha ha.) So instead, I brought up DC’s marketing.
I had been at the DC table earlier and seen how sparse it was –– practically nothing. Just the big New 52 posters seen previously at SDCC, some white tables, the odd signing and freebies. Not even new freebies, mind, these were the same leftovers from SDCC 2009, things that actually said “coming in 2009, Batman and Robin!” and stuff like that. Promotion-wise, the DC booth was a total bust. They had TV screens playing commercials for the Supernatural anime, for some reason, and the 52 commercial popped up on a cycle, but otherwise there was nothing.
Last year, we had kind of ribbed Dan for the boring booth. He had promised us something really spectacular this year, so I teased him about the lackluster booth. Dan looked surprised — he hadn’t been in there yet, and didn’t know what was going on at the booth. So I told him, and expressed my surprise that DC wouldn’t capitalize on this weekend to really get people going for this new 52 thing. His response was that “Well, this is the last week of the old DCU. We’ll let it have its last hurrah before we start the new stuff next week.”
It felt like he was making an excuse for why DC didn’t have more, and that was okay. I didn’t want to put him more on the spot than he already was, so we just changed topics and took some pictures, but the conversation stuck with me and perplexed me all day. How much communication goes on between editorial and marketing?
If Didio didn’t even know what was happening there, at a huge convention that could be creating some last-minute hype for a hugely risky new step for the company, how much does he know about the marketing for the rest of it? How much control does he have?
I can’t pretend to know much about how marketing works in the comic book industry, but the conversation shed a lot of light on something I’d been wondering for months: how, exactly, was DC supposed to be reaching these new readers? Would the average TMZ reader decide to start picking up comics because Superman and Lois broke up? When Archie finally picked a gal, his books were available in check-out lines in major department stores, not in specialty shops… would people look for that stuff? How was DC going to get these new readers paying for their stuff, and from where? Who is to say that editorial’s vision for the New 52 is being carried out by marketing? Doesn’t that say a lot about DC’s commitment to diversity, too?
We’ve heard a lot of lip service by marketing to diversity while practically none of it has shown up in either the teasers or the press releases or even the actual comics, yet, but is diversity part of editorial’s vision for this relaunch? What other lines of communication have been cut, blurred, dropped or even outright forgotten in the process of creating the relaunch?
One huge thing I’ve learned about the media is that when people spend millions on advertising a product, they make it match their vision, whether others think that vision is great or horrible. DC’s not gonna just throw money out the window or do this haphazardly.
But why would they miss opportunities? Maybe FanExpo really wasn’t all that important to them, but what is with these mixed signals? Why would they miss a chance to show 70,000 convention attendees — a vast majority of whom I doubt are current readers — what they have in store, and hook them right on the spot? Where was the hype, the interactivity? Getting a 2009 Batman and Robin poster featuring Damian with Dick as Batman doesn’t do much to get me involved in the reboot. The best way to get people on-board with a cause is to appeal to them personally and get them involved. You’ve got a booth — give them more to work with, more to interact with. The only people going to your panel are the ones already reading who are now looking for answers for the future.
If you want new readers, why aren’t you engaging them? Marvel did all weekend — they had a stage you could take pictures on with a Cap shield and other props. They had contests. They had stuff to do.
DC dropped the ball.