What are the industry and direct market implications of the move to market mainstream comics back at a mass audience via the exclusive Walmart content?
July 1st, 2018 marked the release of four different 100-page Giants (Superman, Batman, Teen Titans, and Justice League) by DC Comics via Walmart. Each of these massive releases contains an exclusive story arc by top DC Comics talent, as well as several reprinted issues spanning the last twenty years of DCU continuity (for full details, see the Official Press Release below).
For those who may not remember, the notion of mass release comics was the industry standard from the 1930s through the 1970s. The rise of the specialty store and the direct market turn began in earnest in the early 1980s, although newsstands, grocery stores, and drug stores continued to stock comics well beyond the rise of the “local comics shop”. I spent countless hours in my youth during the 80s and 90s searching every store in town, hunting for which newsstand or store happened to stock my favorite titles that week, each with a maddening inconsistency. While it was a struggle, there was also something immensely satisfying about the hunt, marching home with the spoils of war.
In one manner of speaking, the return of comics on racks in Walmart hearkens back to that era– at least on the surface. Dwelling on the subject, thinking about the ramifications, however, reveals something deeper at work. Yes, these massive and affordable books have the potential to draw in a wider audience in an era where comics sales pale in comparison to previous eras, yielding instead to merchandising and media sales. And yes, the smell of comics printed on newsprint brings back lovely memories of reading in my backyard in the hot Florida sun, oranges ripe on the trees and the grass fresh cut.
The one thing I can’t shake is the move to take exclusive material to a mass retail outlet, pulling money away from the heart and soul of the comics reading community and funneling it into the soulless world of corporate consumer capitalism, and to Walmart of all places. Walk into most local comics shops and talk to the owners, and you’ll hear more often than not that they are hanging on by the skin of their teeth, yet rather than offer already published material in newsstand editions as has been done in the past, loyal fans are pulled from their local shops to Walmart to read these stories, which thus far, I would report as very good with the promise of getting even better.
It bears mentioning that AT&T, which has been in the process of a trial merger with Time Warner (DC Comics’ parent company) also has ties to Walmart through the Uverse contract. I am not a business correspondent, but there does seem to be an interesting correlation worth paying attention to at work here.
In the end, buy what you want, where you want, for whatever reasons you may have for doing so. I did. That said, however, I will be tracking the effects this move has on the comics industry. There is a great potential for this move to become a veritable Pandora’s Box.
Full June 22, 2018 Press Release from DCComics.com
“(June 22, 2018 – Burbank, CA, and Bentonville, AR) – This summer, Walmart shoppers will receive a personal invitation to discover the lore behind their favorite DC experiences as DC Entertainment announced today that a series of “giant” monthly comics will be sold exclusively in more than 3,000 participating Walmart stores around the country.
Available for $4.99, each 100-page anthology features all-new stories written exclusively for these books by some of DC’s top creative talents, including Tom King (BATMAN, MISTER MIRACLE, HEROES IN CRISIS), Dan Jurgens (ACTION COMICS, BATMAN BEYOND), Brian Michael Bendis (SUPERMAN, ACTION COMICS, THE MAN OF STEEL), Andy Kubert (NEW CHALLENGERS) and others. Each title will also include additional story arcs drawn from fan-favorite DC eras such as the New 52, Rebirth and the New Age of DC Heroes.
Each of the four titles – SUPERMAN GIANT, JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA GIANT, BATMAN GIANT and TEEN TITANS GIANT – will arrive in stores by July 1. Beginning in August, the Superman and Justice League titles will arrive in week one of each month, with the second pair, Batman, and Teen Titans, arriving approximately two weeks later.
“We are extraordinarily excited about working with Walmart to expand the reach of our books,” said DC Publisher Dan DiDio. “These new monthly books combine new and accessible stories with reprints of classic comic series. It’s a great way for new readers to get into comics and follow the characters they’ve grown to love in TV and film.”
The debut title lineup includes:
SUPERMAN GIANT #1
SUPERMAN GIANT #1 features chapter one of the two-part “Endurance,” an original story written by Jimmy Palmiotti (HARLEY QUINN, ACTION COMICS) with art by Tom Derenick (HARLEY QUINN, CYBORG, BATMAN/SUPERMAN). The Daily Planet sends Clark Kent to Tornado Alley to do a story on the area, but when the storm hits, it turns out that this mild-mannered reporter is more helpful as Superman.
The issue also includes:
THE TERRIFICS #1 (2018) – From this year’s New Age of Heroes and born of the events of DC’s hit series DARK NIGHTS: METAL. Mr. Terrific, Metamorpho, Plastic Man and Phantom Girl are a team of heroes bound together by fate and united by the spirit of exploration and discovery. Together these heroes plumb the depths of the fantastic to learn what it means to become family.
GREEN LANTERN #1 (2005) – Written by best-selling writer Geoff Johns with art by Ethan Van Sciver and Carlos Pacheco, this first chapter launches the fan-favorite three-part story “No Fear,” in which Hal Jordan makes his return to the DC Universe as the Green Lantern, casting the light of justice on the darkest corners of Space Sector 2814.
SUPERMAN/BATMAN #1 (2003) – The iconic fan-favorite story arc, “Public Enemies,” returns, courtesy of writer Jeph Loeb, with artists Ed McGuinness and Tim Sale. Batman and Superman unite when President Lex Luthor accuses the Man of Steel of a crime against humanity and assembles a top-secret team of powerhouse heroes to bring Superman in by any means necessary.
September’s SUPERMAN GIANT #3 features Eisner Award-winning writer Tom King’s first return to the Man of Steel since his poignant and heartfelt tribute story, “For Tomorrow,” in the pages of ACTION COMICS #1000. Together with DC Master Class artist Andy Kubert, this powerhouse team will take readers on a new 12-part adventure titled “Up in the Sky!” When a little girl is kidnapped and taken from Earth, Superman embarks on a galaxy-spanning mission to find the perpetrators…but has to decide what lengths he will go to in order to save one life!
TEEN TITANS GIANT #1
In this original six-part Teen Titans story by Dan Jurgens with art by Scot Eaton, Wayne Faucher and Jim Charalampidis, the Teen Titans’ pizza dinner is interrupted by the introduction of a new villain, the Disruptor. Teaming up with the Fearsome Five and working as an agent of H.I.V.E., he had one mission: kill the Teen Titans! The battle spills onto the streets of San Francisco, putting its citizens at risk, while H.I.V.E. uses this distraction to begin their plan for world conquest!
Additional issue #1 stories include:
SUPER SONS #1 (2017) – From DC’s smash-hit Rebirth event, writer Peter J. Tomasi and artist Jorge Jimenez reintroduce the sons of Superman and Batman, Jonathan Kent and Damian Wayne, in part one of “When I Grow Up.” As Robin, Damian’s more than ready to take his place at the heroes’ table and has zero plans to wait his turn. And he’s dragging Superman’s son along for the trip, whether Jon likes it or not!
SIDEWAYS #1 (2018) – Also from the New Age of Heroes, this story written by Dan DiDio with art by Kenneth Rocafort introduces fans to high schooler Derek James who, during the events of DARK NIGHTS: METAL, has acquired powers from the Dark Multiverse and stepped into the role of superhero! But when cracks begin to appear in the space-time continuum, he soon learns that with that much power comes even greater liability!
TEEN TITANS #1 (2003) – Written by best-selling author Geoff Johns with art by Mike McKone. Cyborg, Raven, Starfire and Beast Boy welcome in a new roster of young heroes to train to defend humanity—Wonder Girl, Impulse and a Superboy who’s been cloned from Superman’s DNA!
BATMAN GIANT #1
Batman is on the case of a missing girl in “One More Chance,” an all-new story by writer Jimmy Palmiotti and artist Patrick “Patch” Zircher. Batman is the world’s greatest detective, but what happens when the trail in his newest case leads him back to a place from his past that he never expected to revisit?
BATMAN GIANT #1 also includes:
BATMAN #608 (2002) – Written by Jeph Loeb with art by comics icon Jim Lee, issue #608 kicks off “Batman: Hush,” one of the most popular storylines in the Dark Knight’s fabled history. When Batman sets out to unmask the mystery character wreaking havoc in his life, he teams up with an unexpected ally (Catwoman) and finds himself facing off against not only his deadliest foes, but some of the toughest characters in the DC Universe, including Poison Ivy, Killer Croc and even Superman!
NIGHTWING #1 (2011) – From DC’s New 52, this story by writer Kyle Higgins and artist Eddy Barrows debuted a new look for Dick Grayson as he dives into a tale of murder, mystery and superhuman evil against the backdrop of Haley’s Circus, the place that started him on his path from acrobat to orphan to sidekick and ultimately superhero!
HARLEY QUINN #1 (2011) – Also from the New 52, writer Jimmy Palmiotti and artist Amanda Conner break Harley Quinn out of The Joker’s shadow with all the force of a giant mallet!
Beginning with BATMAN GIANT #3 in September, superstar writer Brian Michael Bendis makes his DC debut on the Dark Knight with a 12-part story, “Universe.” Batman’s run-in with the Riddler leads the Caped Crusader into a mystery that spans the globe!
JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA GIANT #1
Justice League member Wonder Woman is spotlighted in “The Conversion,” an all-new story from NIGHTWING writer Tim Seeley and artists Rick Leonardi and Steve Buccellato. In this single-issue story, Wonder Woman comes face to face with Ares, god of war—who sees her as a promising new recruit!
JUSTICE LEAGUE GIANT #1 also includes:
JUSTICE LEAGUE #1 (2011) – From the incomparable team of writer Geoff Johns and artist Jim Lee comes this version of the League from the New 52. In this alternative spin on the union of Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, the Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg, superheroes are a strange and new phenomenon. The mysterious Batman discovers a dark evil that requires him to unite these reluctant heroes to protect Earth from a cosmic-level threat!
THE FLASH #1 (2011) – In this New 52 version of the Fastest Man Alive, writer Brian Buccellato and artist Francis Manapul introduce Barry Allen to a villain who not only can be everywhere at once but is also a close friend of the Scarlet Speedster!
AQUAMAN #1 (2011) – Award-winning writer Geoff Johns and dynamic artist Ivan Reis team up on this story from the New 52! Aquaman has given up the throne of Atlantis, but the sea still has plans for Arthur Curry as a broken race of undersea creatures, the Trench, emerges from the ocean depths, bent on destroying the surface world!
In issue #2, Seeley teams up with artists Felipe Watanabe and Chris Sotomayor on “Mother’s Day,” a stand-alone story where Wonder Woman returns to Paradise Island for the first time since her exile, only to find that the Amazons – and Queen Hippolyta – have been abducted by Echidna, the mythological Mother of Monsters, with a brood of unstoppable beasts as children!
Issue #3 begins another original 12-part Wonder Woman story by HARLEY QUINN co-writers Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti called “Come Back to Me.” When Steve Trevor’s plane crashes on an island outside of time itself, it’s up to Wonder Woman to rescue him from this mysterious land, full of monsters, dinosaurs, and some very surprising citizens.
Use Walmart.com’s online store finder to locate the store in your area that has DC’s GIANT 100-Page comic books.”
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