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DC Comics hopes revamped heroes and digital will save the day

August 23, 2011|The Los Angeles Times

DC Comics co-publisher Dan DiDio was at a comic-book store in New Jersey when he noticed something alarming. Over the course of an hour, only two customers came in. And, this was a Saturday — the busiest day of the week for most retailers.

“The walk-in, casual fans have gotten away from us,” DiDio observed. “We are down to just the die-hard buyers.”

Comic-book stores have become increasingly barren, with sales dropping consistently over the last three years and down an additional 7% so far in 2011.

Theories abound as to why. Some blame convoluted story lines, while others point to cynical publicity stunts like killing key characters only to bring them back a few months later. But the main culprit more likely lies beyond the page: Today’s youth is far more interested in spending its leisure hours in the digital worlds of YouTube, Xbox and Twitter.

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The generational shift is not lost on DiDio and his associates at DC. For the first time, the comic-book company will now make each of its issues available on digital devices such as iPads the same day it arrives in stores — a jarring departure for many retailers that only have to look at the fate of record stores to see the dangers that digital downloads present to brick-and-mortar merchants.

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