Monday, January 10, 2011

Manic Monday--Those Goshawful January DC Covers

Permit me a kvetch.

First, a caveat...I am an idiot. I know nothing about marketing. My knowledge of artistic value is questionable at best. And I'm more than willing to admit that I'm a lone voice on this issue.

But man, this month's DC covers stink on ice.

You've already seen them, no doubt...with a few minor exceptions, every DC cover is going to be a solid white background, a huge-ass logo/emblem for the star(s) of the book, and the titular heroes vogueing in a generic action pose. Check 'em out in DC's January solicitations if you haven't seen them yet.

Now, the whole point of this is to be "iconic," says DC, as"each title gets a unique and yet familiar logo treatment that brings the focus on the characters and stars of their respective books. New year. New beginnings. New focus."

Now, it may very well just be me, but that seems a pretty stupid way to market your comics. Back in my day, covers helped sell the individual issue of the comic book. Even if it was a book I didn't follow, I could be enticed into picking it up if there was a compelling story idea displayed on the cover (leaving aside, for now, the possibility that the cover was lying...).

If you ask me, that's one of the things hurting the industry today--generic covers of heroes in generic poses that have little if anything to do with the contents of the book, that do little or nothing to persuade people to take a chance on the book. Way too many books doing that these days.

Granted, since word balloons and captions have apparently been declared verboten by the same secret committee that outlawed thought balloons inside of books, that does limit the options available in creating a cover that tells the potential buyer why he should buy it.

But still, this is carrying a stupid trend to ridiculously stupid extremes. The entire DC shelves in comic shoppes this entire month will be filled by nothing but backgroundless covers with heroes floating in midair trying to look tough. I'm not sure how "iconic" that is, but there's damned little there to entice someone to pick up a new book. (Again, maybe I'm wrong, but I suspect that "Dang, that cover sure is iconic, I'd better buy it" isn't going to be going through the heads of many potential buyers, ESPECIALLY when every single cover looks exactly the same).

Let's take a concrete example: Starman/Congorilla #1:

Now, you've got to applaud DC for giving a couple of obscure characters their own one-shot. But how many copies will this sell? 10,000? Maybe??

Now, if DC had used the cover to show that this issue teamed up those heroes with Animal Man and Rex The Freakin' Wonder Dog in a battle to keep a cell of intelligent terrorist apes from seizing the Fountain Of Youth? Heaven forbid you put something like that on your cover. How could that have possibly increased sales? Not iconic enough, I guess. Why let people know what a cool story you're got inside?

Concrete example #2: Adventure Comics #522. Now remember, DC's stated purpose was to "bring the focus on the characters and stars of their respective books."

So, pop quiz: Just try and guess how many of the characters on this cover actually appear inside the comic. Just guess.

Answer: just one, Dawnstar. And she's in a coma, and you only glimpse her through a medical stasis tube in two panels. The others not only don't appear, but aren't even mentioned.

So "bringing the focus on stars of their respective books" means...showing a bunch of characters who aren't even in the bloody comic.

Now, this issue features Mon-El, who's now apparently popular, having starred in the Superman comic AND having won the fan vote for Legion leader. Not only that, but it features Mon-El wearing a Green Lantern ring and costume. Last time I checked, anything Green Lantern was pretty popular, too. But wait--it features Mon-El as a Green Lantern, and he's fighting a solar-powered sumo.

But, of course, we can't put anything featuring popular characters, or cool concepts, or any heroes who are actually IN the comic on the cover--that wouldn't be iconic.

OK, end of rant.


notintheface said...

Where are Nick Cardy, Neal Adams, Brian Bolland, and Joe Kubert when we need them? Those gentlemen probably sold more DC comics than anybody.

Siskoid said...

I completely agree. Not only do generic covers suck balls, but this particular cover idea is pretty poorly rendered. If only most of DC's starring characters HAD their own iconic symbols! Zatanna's top hat? That terrible flaming T? I don't recognize half of the ones that don't feature a bat or an S shield. Plus, the inelegant solution of putting villain logos on some books, like a red lantern crest on a book entitled Emerald Warriors.


Gary said...

Have to admit, I really like these covers from a design point of view. Crisp white with a big logo and characters surrounding it. Works a treat for me.

Will they pull in new readers? No idea, but certainly not me. I'm getting the same titles I always get.

As to the Legion cover - could they have simply gone for the lowest common denominator like so:

"What'll attract new readers to this comic?"
"Yeah, but this issue's Mon-El heavy and he's, y'know, a guy."
"Who cares. Put that Phantom Lass and Shadow Lass on the cover."
"But they characters aren't in this issue..."
"Dawnstar's in it."
"She's comatose!"
"Don't care. Cleavage wins."
"But we want iconic characters on the cover!"
"Cleavage is iconic."
"Ah, crap...."

Dan said...

Is it wrong that Starman and Congorilla are now my favorite characters in the DCU?

Martin Gray said...

I agree completely about the superiority of covers jam-packed with exciting incident, backed by balloons and blurbs.

But I'm OK with this as a one-month thing - with luck it'll establish by default that the norm should be relevant covers.

A lad can dream ...

Eyz said...

I'll admit it... I actually sort of like 'em.
And, hey, it's only for a month!
Now if we'd get a whole line for a longer period..ugh...
(anyone remember the Civil Wars issues at Marvel, with the awful split plain color/picture covers? it ruined a lot of books, for 3 to 4 months depending on the titles!!)