DC Comics Partners With comiXology and PlayStation, Will Offer Day and Date Books

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In a move that’s sure to rock the comic book industry, DC Comics is finally making the greatest universe of superheroes available on multiple digital platforms starting today. The biggest news, though, is that DC will offer day and date editions of current and ongoing titles across all platforms for $2.99. To kick things off, the Justice League: Generation Lost mini-series will be the first day and date title. DC is not only partnering with ComiXology and Sony PlayStation but they’re also releasing their very own app for the iPhone and iPad.

“At DC Comics, it has been a top priority that DC forges a meaningful, forward-looking digital strategy,” said Jim Lee, Co-Publisher, DC Comics. “As both a comic book creator and Co-Publisher, it was incredibly important that our plan includes not only creator incentive payments, but also an innovative component that supports comic shop owners. We see digital as an opportunity to grow our entire business.”

(More on Techland: Superman: All the Anniversaries)

Before we get to our Q&A with DC’s Co-publisher Jim Lee and DC Entertainment EVP of Sales and Marketing John Rood there are a few things you need to know about this monstrous deal.

Pricing for all platforms (DC Comics app, ComiXology Apple app, DC Comics-branded storefront on the web at ComiXology and eventually at dccomics.com later this year) will range from $0.99 to $2.99 and includes titles from DC Comics, Vertigo and Wildstorm. Free issues of Zuda’s Bayou and “select stories” from Batman: Black & White will be available at launch. If that weren’t enough, DC will release a free 10-page preview of Superman’s 700th issue today for both platforms. “The 10 page story is a prelude to writer J. Michael Straczynski and artist Eddy Barrows’ highly anticipated “Grounded” storyline that will be published in Superman which will examine how Superman sees America, and how America sees Superman.”

Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of both deals.

DC’s ComiXology store front will launch with over 100 issues (and 100 new issues each month) from DC Comics, Vertigo and WildStorm that happens to include All Star Superman #1. Each week starting with launch will include one issue of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series that’s digitall exclusive to ComiXology.

(More on Techland: Talking Digital Comics With Comixology’s David Steinberger)

The PlayStation Network will launch with over 80 issues (50 additional titles each month) from DC, Vertigo and WildStorm that includes the first 25 issues of Superman/Batman. Because of its tie-in with Sony, comic books based on videogames (Free Realms, God of War and Resistance) will be made digitally exclusive to the PSP platform.

One other thing to note in the press release is that DC Comics is working with Warner Bros. Digital Distribution on deals with Apple, Microsoft and other online distributors. Does this mean we’ll see comics on the Xbox?

And now onto our Q&A with Jim Lee and John Rood.

*Gallery after the Q&A*

How long has this been in the works?

Jim Lee: As early as when the new management team was announced. There was a digital task force within DC that had been working on it prior to Diane Nelson being named head of DC Entertainment hence some of the delay but the folks on the task force were up to date on what was happening in the digital world. But because of the transition it delayed our jumping into the digital arena.

Why now?

John Rood: We wanted to see where consumers were going and what they were telling us about what they were reading.

Jim, you’ve been a big proponent of the digital space while Didio has said in the past that his priority is print, but when the transition happened, did you make this a top priority?

Jim: A lot of this stuff had already been in the works but with the transition we wanted to make sure everything was in place and working correctly before we launched with our initiative. And then we needed to figure out the creative participation and listening to and involving the retailer’s point of view into our plan. And to John’s point, getting feedback from the fans in terms of what they wanted from comics whether they wanted everything priced at $1.99 and how many bells and whistles they wanted in it and based on our own internal research as this stuff was coming out. I was definitely checking out all the digital comic book offerings and found that a lot of times certain navigation interfaces were not as sleek and immersive as you would like. So a lot of thought went into what digital comics should be.

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How important is the day-and-date release of Justice League: Generation Lost? Will it last the entire 26-part series? And why not, let’s say, Brightest Day?

Jim: It will last the entire series. Part of the reason why we went with that title is that we’re jumping in fairly quickly compared to the beginning of the launch of the Brightest Day series and we wanted to go with a title that had broad consumer appeal that had all the major characters of the DC Universe. We looked at it as an opportunity to get new readers in and we felt that it was the best title given its relatively recent start and its cast of characters and a storyline being unfamiliar friendly.

How did you determine the tiered pricing? Was it an internal decision or did it have anything to do with ComiXology?

John: It was an internal decision and it gives us a chance to see what pricing scenarios are best received. We have such a rich offering each month that we knew we had a nice mix to present to consumers.

Jim: We’re going to have a lot of stuff that’s free and the $2.99 price point is the same as the traditional published comics. When we go day-and-date the digital comics will cost as much as the print comics. The $1.99 price point is pretty standard in the digital comic space but we wanted to come in at $0.99 price point to see if there is consumer appetite for cheaper comics. We looked at a lot of stuff that wasn’t typically presented in traditional collected form or storylines that might not have caught the reader’s eye the first time around. We wanted to see if there’s a marketplace for those kinds of stories at that price point. The bulk of the books will be $1.99 but like I said, part of our approach is to define the marketplace for digital comics.

Will books be distributed individually or as collections or a mix?

John: Currently this first step into digital publishing is focused on the periodicals but we’re very eager to work with our launch partners and digital partners moving forward to have a digital representation that includes our analog collection, which is a wide array of periodicals, collections and graphic novels. But this launch is focused on the periodical.

With over 100 releases each month will those be varied? How many will be current, how many will be classic? Is there a set number per imprint?

Jim: There’s no set quota. Part of what makes digital publishing so attractive is that we get immediate results so we can tailor the offering according to sales trends as we release the books. We’re starting out with a pretty good mix of titles that are both relatively new and from the classic library. One of DC’s strengths is our archive of storylines ranging from Watchmen to Arkham Asylum to Sandman. One of our fears early on was going out and spending all our bullets. But you realize how many bullets we have. We have a strong mix of critically acclaimed classic material and more recent offerings. We also have stuff from Vertigo and Zuda that covers a wide spectrum. And our kid’s comics are expected to account for a big portion of our digital sales. Luckily there’s no lack of shelf space in the digital arena, so we’re approaching this with open minds.

Is it safe to assume based on sales of what people are buying the first few months that you’ll alter what becomes available the following month?

John: We like when retailers and readers alike tell us how responsive we are. We like that competitive advantage, so we absolutely will have a strategy that’s informed by the response of consumers and traditional retailers. DC Entertainment is eager to find consumers of all types of DC content whether its films, television, video games, merchandise and digital publishing is going to help us globally. We’re eager to follow the international consumption.

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Will there be digital exclusives that haven’t ever appeared in print?

Jim: Not at launch.

John: We definitely consider digital exclusives part of our arsenal and consumers will tell us if it merits the price points that we assign.

Is the weekly title that’s connected to DC Universe Online still in the works?

Jim: It’s still in the works.

Will that comic be digital only?

Jim: We’ll have a comic in support of the game that launches this November. We’re not going into this channel to limit the distribution of our stories. We look at the digital space as a way of expanding our business and getting comics out in front of new readers and converting them into traditional print readers. To that extent it doesn’t really make sense to me to have digital exclusives in the short term because you’re limiting it to your core audience.

John: Every tactic and strategic approach that we’ve considered for our digital publishing launch has been additive. Is this an additive experience to our current models, does it add consumers and we’re very sensitive to that.

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