This past Sunday, July 1, saw all 4 first issues of DC's new 100-Page Giant anthology comics (Batman Giant, Superman Giant, Justice League of America Giant and Teen Titans Giant) roll out exclusively at Walmarts nationwide.
Selling for $4.99 each, roughly the same price as an Archie digest, and containing a 12-page exclusive comic as well as reprints, each anthology is designed to hook readers and keep them coming back month to month (with Superman and Justice League hitting the first week of every month, and Batman and Teen Titans coming two weeks later), complete with ads for comicshoplocator.com.
Despite the inherent queasiness of one megacorporation teaming up with another one for exclusive content that can't be found anywhere else, the idea here is pretty sound. Comic shops are rather hard to find outside of cities and suburbs, but almost everyone lives near or knows where a Walmart is; in fact, depending on where you live, that Walmart might be the only store in town. So DC setting up shop there and promoting big, inexpensive magazines starring its best known characters is a smart idea.
But the real question, especially now that the comics are out, is why didn't this happen decades ago?
A Bit Of History
It's well known that the Direct Market (i.e. comic book stores ordering their stock directly from Diamond Distributors) was established in the 1970s due to comics declining on newsstands and on spinner racks in grocery stores and such. However, the Direct Market (aka, the DM) didn't fully become the default way to purchase monthly physical comics until the 1990s and the speculator bubble.
What you might not be aware of is that Walmart was still growing to its current omnipresent status at around the same time. Incorporated in 1969 and listed on the New York Stock Exchange by 1970, Walmart began as a regional chain of stores based out of Arkansas, but throughout the '70s and '80s, it grew incredibly fast. By the company's 25th anniversary in 1987, it had nearly 2,000 stores across the country.
Remember that up until 1986, superhero comics were largely thought of as being exclusively for children rather than teens and adults like they are today. Given that the wide-eyed corporate optimism of the 1980s brought about by widespread deregulation and Walmart's famous low prices, something as relatively inexpensive as comics (which would/are theoretically stocked under similar but different rules as magazines) should've been a no brainer.
So what, then, about the new giant comics themselves? Are the new stories any good? Are they worth buying?