A lot has been made recently of Geoff Johns words concerning DC‘s Rebirth announcement, specifically his words around whom the real target audience of DC seems to be. Johns said in an interview with CBR that “if you have, like me, long boxes of DC comics, you will be very happy. If you’ve never read a DC comic before, you won’t be too lost. This is definitely for comic book readers more than it is for casual readers…”
Alright, let’s take a moment here before really delving in too far.
Firstly, this is all based off what I think Rebirth will mean – information may well come to light prior to the first issue being released that will send some, or all, or the following into obsolescence. Secondly, I would consider myself a “casual reader” of DC Comics simply because almost all I have ever read from the publisher for the last ten years is Batman. Whether that’s Batman, Detective Comics, or Batman: Incorporated, at any time in the last ten years I’ve had at least those two books on my pull list, sometimes even Batman: The Dark Knight. I also read Blue Beetle before the New 52 reboot (Jamie Reyes was, and is, a character I really enjoy), and the first 30 odd issues of Flash until Convergence caused me to realize I didn’t really enjoy reading Barry Allen‘s adventures as much as I did when the series began because I just didn’t miss the comic during the two month hiatus caused by Convergence.
My point is, when it comes to DC, I primarily only read Batman comics with any amount of consistency.
And that isn’t, honestly, likely to change. Indeed, if anything, what will change will be the amount of Batman comics I buy, because when the two series I have read for ten years begin double shipping (albeit at a lower price point of $2.99 twice a month), well then I’m less likely to pick up new comics from DC, simply because of the added books I’ll be buying anyway; I won’t stop buying the comics from other publishers that I want to read just to allow for more DC comics on my pull list, so then the other books I’m half curious about will stay on the shelf, which is probably not what DC are hoping I, and readers like me, will do.
But what about the new readers that DC has picked up over the last couple of years?
Well, based on what Johns is saying (and ultimately this is more than a little speculation on my end because we don’t really know much about what’s happening yet) it would sound like DC are returning to their pre-New 52 universe. While some may be over joyed at that, I’m pretty indifferent because, like I said earlier, I really only read Batman before and during the New 52, and I’ll probably only read Batman when it’s done. But then I know that I am not the target audience here, and, so it would seem, do the newer readers that have been drawn in by DC‘s soon to end New 52, and the apparently short lived attempt at diversification DC You.
Honestly, that’s fine with me, but others feel differently.
If DC are aiming to focus more on the “comic book reader” from decades past (and many are taking that to mean straight white men, whether that is actually DC‘s intent or not) then the risk they run of losing a significant portion of their readership is huge. Of all my friends who read comics, who like superheroes, less than half are straight white men. Less than half. If DC‘s readership has similar a similar percentage, then they’re going to suffer if the perceived focus of their latest reboot is the stereotypical comic book reader, because by ensuring that “new readers won’t be completely lost” and focusing primarily on their main core of characters DC have seemingly taken a step back from the diversification attempted by DC You with Rebirth.
On a breakdown of female fans from information gathered from Facebook for Graphic Policy’s Comic Herstory, Brett revealed that DC has roughly 28% of its readership is female (you can find more detailed information regarding female readership of comics with Brett’s full industry breakdown here). Then, factoring in the ethnicity numbers from the monthly Demo-Graphics update found here, of the 40 million male comic book fans in the United States there are approximately 11 million people of colour. This doesn’t even take into account the LGBTQ readership.
Now in the interest of full disclosure I am aware that the first number, that of female readership, is an international figure, but that is used to indicate DC‘s female readership; the second source indicates that just over 40% of comics readers in the United States are women, but doesn’t differentiate between publishers. Nor does it specify how many of the comic book reading men read DC comics, so obviously those numbers can be used for a guide at best of the number of readers that DC stands to lose if a) the “comic book reader” they’re referring to is the stereotypical straight white man, and b) the “casual reader” won’t be “too lost.”
Well, DC, if the best you can offer me for your new number ones is that I “won’t be too lost,” then I’m not going to even bother looking at any of your books. I’ll be looking for publishers that are friendly to new, and existing, readers. Publishers like Valiant, Image, 21 Pulp, Dark Horse, Dynamite, Action Lab, Dark Circle, Chapter House, even DC‘s mature Vertigo line… there are many great publishers out there – old and new – that offer new reader friendly comics right now for both long time comics fans and newer ones.
In fact, didn’t Marvel just launch a whole new load of new comics that are exactly what DC are about to stop offering?
If DC don’t would rather cater to the old school comic book reader rather than try to attract new readers, that’s their choice, and I know there will be many who are gong to be excited by the return to the old. There will be a lot of people who start picking up a few series to check out what the publisher has to offer, and I genuinely hope they enjoy what they read.
Myself, though, I’m probably not going to bother reading anything beyond what I am already picking up because I just don’t care. I’ve had no real interest in reading much of DC‘s library other than Scott Snyder‘s Batman for the past couple of years, and Rebirth likely won’t change that. I have no interest in reading about classic takes on characters that I didn’t care about before the New 52. I imagine I’m not the only person thinking that way, and that DC‘s next relaunch/reboot/re-whatever will not be long coming if Rebirth isn’t as successful as I’m sure they’re hoping. But, and I genuinely mean this, if you’re excited by the latest relaunch, then I do hope you enjoy what DC will be publishing.
This is going to be one of those relaunches where I won’t be looking at the other #1’s.
Also posted on Graphic Policy.