Posted by Don MacPherson on September 18th, 2007
The mercury has begun to drop, and in my neck of the woods, we’ve even been issued the occasional frost warning in the evenings from time to time. Summer’s over, so many of us bid adieu to barbecues, bathing suits and sunburns. This past summer was also significant in the world of comics — and specifically to DC Comics — because summer 2007 was the announced release date of a much-anticipated project designed to light the comics sales charts on fire: All-Star Wonder Woman.
[...] It seems someone missed her cue. A-hem. I said, “All-Star Wonder Woman!”
Hmm, apparently, she’s a no show.
DC issued a news release in August 2006 hailing that it had signed comics artist Adam Hughes to an exclusive contract. This followed a previous announcement (a quite dated one) that Hughes was hired to write and illustrate All-Star Wonder Woman, the third title in DC’s All-Star brand, teaming some of the most popular creators in the industry with its most recognized super-hero icons. Well, that summer 2007 release date has come and gone, and we haven’t heard a peep out of DC Comics about Hughes’s Wonder Woman project. The publisher’s solicitations of the remainder of the year don’t include All-Star Wonder Woman #1 either.
On the surface, it would seem the exclusive contract isn’t serving DC all that well. Of course, the exclusive isn’t limited to the All-Star book. He’s doing covers on Catwoman and designs for various busts (appropriately enough) of female DC characters. Aside from that, his work is rarely seen these days. DC has had enough problems with its main Wonder Woman series as of late; the disappearance/non-existence of the All-Star title isn’t helping the property.
Perhaps DC has opted to have Hughes bank quite a few full, completed issues before it solicits the first issue. That makes sense, given the unfortunate track record of the other All-Star titles. All-Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder has been running for a couple of years, but only six issues have been released (with a seventh expected later this month). All-Star Superman boasts a more frequent schedule, but certainly not one that could be described as regular.
This has proven frustrating for readers and retailers alike, but there’s no denying that the publisher has reaped the rewards. All-Star Batman #6 sold more than 100,000 units (though much less than half of the first issue’s numbers), and All-Star Superman #8 sold a little more than 83,000, more than 30,000 units more than the next solo Superman title. So despite the delays, DC is getting a big bang for its bucks, right?
Well, not really, not when one factors in productivity and units sold over the course of the long run.
DC is no doubt shelling out big bucks for the talents of Jim Lee, Frank Miller, Frank Quitely, Grant Morrison and Hughes to produce its All-Star line. These creators pull down much higher page rates than most creators in the industry today, and while individual issues of All-Star Batman and All-Star Superman sell well, one of DC’s medium-range titles, such as Teen Titans, can move an average of 60,000 units a month every month for the entire year. With the lower page rates paid to creators on such a title and the higher volume of units over the course of a year, that’s got to translate into a solid and much more reliable return for the publisher.
The All-Star brand may be equated with top, hot creators, but at this point, it’s also saddled with a reputation for lateness and sporadic scheduling. I can’t help but wonder if consumers would approach All-Star Wonder Woman with trepidation at this point.
Does the brand still have value? Is DC still getting its money’s worth from these comics? When one considers that DC could redirect the financial, editorial and marketing resources it has invested in the All-Star titles into a greater number of titles that would sell that a lower but more consistent and reliable level, it certainly doesn’t seem to be the case.