Today I found out that Hellblazer is cancelled, and John Constantine is moving into the main, general DC universe (see the CBR piece for more about the mechanics on that.)
Unable to come up with any decent new ideas, DC has gone from fiddling with one 30 year old Alan Moore creation – Watchmen – to messing up another: Hellblazer. Of course DC has forced itself to continue this practice of pillaging it’s own powerful history of creations because it has hobbled the creation of new ideas. A champion against creators rights, and infamously instituting a policy of marketing-driven, decision-making-by-committee, the comic book publisher has become a bastion of tired ideas and restrictively tedious comic books. In this brave new world, there is obviously no space for a renegade division like Vertigo, and the gradual dismantling continues apace, as they hand the reigns of Constantine over to an American writer and place John Constantine (a characters who’s very raison d’etre is the juxtaposition of his own very British strangeness within the mundane “real” world) in the DC universe
Two weeks ago, when I wrote about my distaste for the liberties Justice League Dark #0 had taken with John Constantine and then saw that laughably bad storyline continued in Justice League Dark, I knew what it meant. it was obvious then that DC was gearing up for something stupid, and today they did it. Now that I have stopped buying Justice League Dark, my consumption of DC comic books has dropped to zero. Clearly they did a great job on their bloody relaunch, in that they completely pissed off most of their existing readers.
I understand that DC wants to make more money from Hellblazer, so here are some ideas, but primarily I want to say that if DC wants to make money out of Hellblazer, stop messing about with the comic book and spread out:
1. Make a GOOD movie
A Chris Nolan type of thing. Dark and adult. Use Warren Ellis’s storyline. Make it look like a Tim Bradstreet drawing. British writers are working on tons of DC titles, yet they won’t be letting a British writer write this established British character? Realistically, how is it possible that Superman, Spider-Man, and Batman have ALL been played by British actors, yet they cannot make a film with a British actor playing John Constantine?
2. Make a TV show
Think about licensing it as a TV show. If Grimm, Supernatural, and Elementary can make money, why isn’t an old-school mage like John Constantine out there?
3. Package entire runs as digital bundles
Make it simpler for digital readers to catch up and collect. Try selling digital packages of storylines in bundles for new readers who want to catch up.
4. Number the trade paperbacks
I know, crazy idea, but people ALWAYS ask me about that. It would make it much easier for new readers.
5. Repackage the trade paperbacks for an older, broader audience
Give them covers which look more like a novel, more appealing to people who read horror. Look at popular novels in the horror genre and go for that market in regular book stores.
6. Repackage (and commission more) premium books for the book store audience
A nice little number – Dark Entries – was produced by Ian Rankin not so long ago, but a black and white graphic novel has a narrower audience, even if I do prefer it myself. Another beautiful one – Pandemonium – by Delano and Jock, suffered from targeting only a comic book reading audience. If money is to be made by a mature-readers horror book, it has to aim for a wider audience.
These aren’t revolutionary ideas. I’m sure other have thought of them, I’m just trying to be constructive and positive here. The main thing I’m trying to get across is that the way comic books make money is no longer purely through the direct market and not just on the current book itself. The monthly, ongoing comic book is really just the tip of the iceberg and should be treated as such. By trying to flog comic books and make money like they did in the past DC is screwing them up a lot. Move on, DC! The world has changed and your inability to deal with that is totally fucking up my comic books. Your marketing department is delusional, the money you can make from comic books directly is very limited. Be realistic, no print media market is growing right now, the entertainment market is disseminating. Deal with it and stop flogging a dead horse. You can take all of your marketing ideas and channel them away from the comic book and into various other areas of entertainment like licensing and publishing options, making money from the comic books indirectly, and letting the comic books be the rich, unfettered breeding ground for the ideas to grow in. Alan Moore was right, you’re still picking over things he made 30 years ago and it is embarrassing. Just stop it, please.