Chat Cave: September is Villains Month

DC has staked their claim on the month of September. Two years ago saw the relaunch of the entire publishing line, and last year saw special “zero” issues for every series. This year, DC is releasing 52 issues featuring villains, old and new, from the DC Universe. There’s no one-for-one correspondence to existing series, and DC hasn’t been the most forthcoming with information about what exactly they’re putting out. There’s a lot to sort through here and no easy answers for what’s going to be worth our time and money. Welcome to the Chat Cave.

Patrick: Oh man, DC is so bad at distributing information about this event. I get that we’re still a couple months out, but DC’s site only shows the solicits for eight issues. Last week, Drew and I would trade texts and gchat messages every time we uncovered a new piece of information. It took forever, but after trawling IGN, Newsarama, CBR, and Comic Book Movie (among others), we finally had a list of 52 Villains. Incidentally, Wikipedia beat us pretty handily and I’ve been able to confirm all of those with solicits except for Green Arrow 23.1 – Count Vertigo and Swamp Thing 23.1 – Arcane. I’ll admit that, while hunting this information down seems like a fucking hassle, I sort of love the scavenger-hunt nature of this announcement. It almost feels like DC is dolling out information in a frustratingly obtuse way because they know I like to collate data and process systems. It’s a damn puzzle — I made a damn Villain Month Spreadsheet!

There are a lot of creative teams missing from this line up. None of Geoff Johns’ old stalwarts (Ethan Van Sciver, Gary Frank, Doug Mahnke, Ivan Reis), no Steve Pugh (Animal Man), no Tony Akins or Cliff Chiang (Wonder Woman), no Greg Capullo (Batman), no J. H. Williams III (in fact, none of the Batwoman team appears here). Even the writing looks a little wonky: instead of seeing multiple titles from Gail Simone, Scott Snyder, Scott Lobdell and Jeff Lemire, they get one each. And while that’s sort of a bummer (coupled with the mega-bummer of seeing Ann Nocenti’s name on there twice), I do like the feeling that anything is possible with this line-up. Check out that Scarecrow issue drawn by Symon Kudranski (he recently did the “dead zone” parts of Green Lantern). Or how about three issues written by Brian Buccellato (Flash) and another three written by Charles Soule (Swamp Thing)? My point is that there seems to be enough chaotic potential here for September to be something special. Or a colossal failure. Either seems just as likely.

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Drew: So…who do we think this is for? The New 52 was an obvious (and I think effective) method for courting new readers. Zero month was maybe kind of sort of for new readers, while also giving fans a bit more information about the new histories of characters in the New 52. Villains month, though, just seems about fucking up my pull list. It’s like somebody at DC got it in their heads that people love having their regularly scheduled programming interrupted, and nobody has ever bothered to question that. I just can’t understand why they would opt to preempt their entire line in order to bring us these things.

It sure as hell isn’t to bring in new readers. I could maybe (maybe) see some Joker fans or something out there picking up a Joker-centric issue, but I really doubt anybody is going to pick up something like Green Lantern: Relic on a whim. Indeed, it seems that the audience for some of these titles could only be smaller than those of their “parent” titles, what with the personnel changes and the fact that this whole stunt will be interrupting many arcs. That leaves Villains month as reasonably skip-able, which to me, seems worse than if DC simply hadn’t meddled with the good thing they have going (that is, their normal publications).

Like, even if this month did pull in some new fans, where are they supposed to go come October? Oh, you liked Charles Soule’s take on Lex Luthor? Too bad. Good luck enjoying him in either Scott Lobdell’s Superman OR Scott Lobdell’s Action Comics. It’s a tidy microcosm of DC’s “we’ll tell you what you want” attitude, but I think we’re all duly familiar with that by now. Again, who is this for?

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Shelby: I just don’t know about this. On the one hand, I love a good villain. I love their twisted stories and the darkness they can bring to a book. Even more than a good villain, I love a good villain/hero pair: the way a villain can bring out the worst in the hero, push him to the very brink, stretch him in ways he couldn’t imagine. In a way, a good villain is more incorruptible than a good hero, because you can always count on the villain to be the villain. Heroes can be swayed, can make mistakes, can be persuaded, but a villain will always be bad. Villain stories are not easy to write; you can just throw some evil crazy on the page and call it a day, but a good villain story is complex and compelling. It makes you feel something for the villain, kinda gets under your skin. I would definitely take a month of being unsettled and seeing new sides of these characters I know so well.

Except that with maybe a few exceptions, I highly doubt that’s what I’m going to get. Don’t get me wrong, there are issues in September worth getting excited about. Snyder and Fawkes writing The Riddler? Guillem March doing pencils on Two Face? Absolutely, sign me up. But fifty-two issues of new creative teams and unrelated stories is a lot to wade through, and DC seems hellbent on making us work for it. If you go to DC’s Full Villains Month breakdown on their blog, you know what you’ll find? A list of twenty separate websites, each announcing a small part of Villains Month. Do you honestly think I’m going to go to twenty different websites to find some very basic information about what titles I should pull for September? Or is DC making us jump through fucking hoops in the hope that we’ll just get frustrated and buy every issue? As intrigued as I am by the concept, and as excited as I am for some of these issues, DC’s sloppy style of doling out information piecemeal and making me do the extra legwork to figure out what’s happening makes me much less interested in giving them so much of my money.  

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Mikyzptlk: I think you all might be forgetting about something important here. Something that will potentially change the face of comic books as we know it. 3D Lenticular Covers!

anigif_enhanced-buzz-29602-1370114330-2Okay, well I wouldn’t actually call these covers important or, ya know, face-changey. They are pretty cool though. Seriously, I can’t help but like these covers, and even though I do pretty much all of my reading digitally, I know I’m going to be picking up at least a few physical copies. At the same time though, these covers give off the familiar smell of a classic comic book gimmick. This, unfortunately, is where some of my trepidation towards this event stems from. However, Patrick, Drew, and Shelby have already expressed many of the same concerns I have towards this event, so I’d like to focus on the reason why I’m excited for it.

Patrick believes there is enough “chaotic potential” in this event that it can be a success. I’m inclined to believe that, but mainly because this event is seemingly a product of the overall story being told in The New 52. Do you remember Trinity War? It feels like it was announced about a decade before The New 52 ever was, but it’s finally coming out! Even after all this time, I’m genuinely excited for this as it promises to shake up the DCU quite nicely. This event seems to be what will spark Villains Month as well as what I consider the most important thing coming out of Villains Month, the Forever Evil miniseries

Unlike Zero Month, which just seemed to be a random jump back in time for DC’s books, Villains Month seems to be a line-wide shift of focus due to the events spilling out of Forever Evil. I’m still not sure how organic this event will feel, but it does give me comfort to know that, at the very least, there will be an in-universe explanation for why we are suddenly paying so much attention to our villains. Lastly, can I just say how much joy it brings me to know that China Mieville is writing a Justice League book? SO. MUCH. JOY.

Image courtesy of BleedingCool.com

*Editor’s Note: After Shelby and Patrick wrote their pieces, DC did post the solicits for all 52 Villains (as well as Forever Evil 1). So the information is now all out there.

29 comments on “Chat Cave: September is Villains Month

  1. I’m really curious about many aspects of this event. Like y’all, I hope these one-off creative teams manage to deliver, and I’m left wondering what’s up with Greg Capullo. He is, as you said, absent from the sollicits, and yet last night he tweeted about having to bang out 40 pages for September… Aside from that, it’ll be an expensive month, especially if you’re a fan of the Bat, since many of those titles are shipping 4 times and feature rogues we’ll all want to read about.

    I have to say though, I’m extremely concerned about Ann Nocenti writing Joker’s daughter. The character of itself raises some questions, but treated right, could be fun, but this just looks like disaster waiting to happen.

    Also, the link at the bottom of the page is supposed to be the complete listing right? Because many titles aren’t featured at all (i.e. Talon, Suicide Squad, Animal Man, etc.), I wonder if they’ll turn up later or if they’re being put off one month because of all the extra editions of other books. If so, it seems like a really bad move on DC’s part.

    • When I first heard about this, I read somewhere (Bleeding Cool I think) that there were supposed to be 56 titles. I had assumed this would include some of the books you had mentioned, but I haven’t heard anything about them. I agree that it’s a bad move, especially with fan favorites like Animal Man.

      • I also remember reading that there were going to be like 57 or 59 of these (an odd number in the high fifties, is what I remember). But I think that number actually comes from the Collected Editions story that outted Villain Month early – so maybe it has the Forever Evil mini-series collected in it too.

  2. Whoa. Did you guys notice that most (if not all) of these are 32 pages long? I knew the cover images had them all pegged at $3.99, but I thought that price tag might just be for the covers. This has me even more excited for the titles that look good, and even less excited for the titles that don’t.

    • ugh, 32 pages of Ann Nocenti’s Joker’s Daughter. And being a sucker for all things Joker, I know I won’t be able to help but read it anyway. I feel sick already!

  3. I think this will be a huge sales boon for DC.
    If we go back a year I remember people saying that the Zero Month would be a reason to skip titles as it interrupted the normal storyline. Here’s the thing though, if you already have a pull list of say 13-16 books a month (about what mine is) you’re likely to still buy that many and maybe try out a couple of new ones for certain villains. I think this will be an opportunity to bring back lasped readers as it will have a jumping on point feel.
    I predict, here and now, that DC Sales will be by 15% over August because of this. As an FYI – Zero Month sold 18% more than the month before.

    • It might even be bigger that 15%, a lot of really iconic villains are being showcased in Batman and Superman titles for instance, and just might make people buy 4 of each of those books that month.

      Non-sequitur: I just looked over the list again and realised there’s no Nightwing, no Batgirl, no Red Hood. Although other titles are shipping out several times and feature cool villains, I think hard-core fans of certain series are going to be wicked pissed at having to wait 2 months to get the continuation of what they’ll read in August.

      • Batgirl is more or less represented by the Ventriloquist issue written by Gail Simone. It’s listed as Batman The Dark Knight, so I can see where it’d be hard for people to follow – again, part of this is DC making us all pay really close attention.

    • The gimmicks undoubtedly work for DC. Sales went WAY up for some titles during Zero month and DotF crossovers (even H’el on Earth worked for the Super-books…blech) BUT, for the most part, sales return to normal the month after. Like, for books constantly shedding 2000 readers a month, Zero Month may halt that and increase units sold for all books (and by a a lot in some cases), the following month though, the numbers go back to normal with the same 2000 unit decrease. There was only a tiny handful of books whose sales actually stayed up after the Zero, but even then, they started to decrease again 2 months after the Zero.

        • I’m in the process of creating a spreadsheet right now utilizing ComicChron’s sales figures. All of DC’s books have been in decline since the start of the N52. Regardless of how how they are started at (Batman and Justice League being DC’s highest sellers) they are all experiencing a loss of readership every month. Events like Zero help to boost sales back up, but the effects are extremely limited. The worst selling books are the ones we’ve seen canceled. I’m still trying to determine what DC considers too low, but it’s difficult. JLI was canned with 28,000 while, other books dipped below 10,000 before they got the axe. Others still, are canned somewhere in between.

          I’d say once a book starts selling under maybe 16 or 15,000 units, DC starts to get concerned. Right now, I’d say books like Phantom Stranger, Katana, All-Star Western, Batwing, Stormwatch, and Deathstroke are in trouble. BUT, there are certainly other factors besides just numbers that DC considers. These are the intangibles that are even tougher to sort out. I’d imagine a book like Phantom Stranger is safer than Katana right now since it’s tying into Trinity War. And I think DC respects A-SW’s fan base enough to keep that book on the shelves as long as they can. So, I don’t expect that book to get the axe until it starts to hit less than 10,000. Still you never know!

        • Have you guys been following Diamond’s market share numbers? Marvel has been CRUSHING DC over the last few months.

        • Frankly, I can’t wrap my head around this. I’m currently reading 6 Marvel Now titles and I wouldn’t rank a single one of them above my top 5 New 52 titles. I don’t know if it’s brand loyalty (by Marvel readers, or by me, perhaps I’m really biased) but I struggle to understand those figures. Mind you, I’d looked at sales a while back and Catwoman was above Swamp Thing in the middle of Snyder’s run by like 20ish spots, so obviously a lot of people must buy for the hero on the cover and not the quality of the writing. Am I nuts?

        • Marvel has been doing really well but a lot of their books are starting fall now that Marvel Now! in into month 6.

        • There were 37 Titles published in Aug ’12 that were still in around for Apr ’13. 12 of those books are at at least 97% of their Aug readership, as of Apr and 14 books that were still ahead of their Aug ’12 sales in Dec ’12.

    • Whoa. I really doubt it. Like, sure, I like Batman, but they already publish five titles that follow Batman (Batman, Detective Comics, Batman: The Dark Knight, Batman and Robin, and Batman Incorporated) and I already ignore two of them. It’s clear to me that, as much as I like Batman, it’s WAY more important that I like the creative team. This event is eschewing (almost) all of the regular creative teams, and while I think I might sample a few, I do NOT intend to pick up the four Batman books just because they say “Batman” on the cover. Ultimately, I think the titles I’ll pick up out of curiosity (and really, there aren’t many), will simply replace the titles that they’re not publishing at all (Batgirl, Batwoman, Animal Man, Nightwing, Red Hood, All-Star Western, etc.). Also, the fact that ALL of these issues are priced at $4 is going to run into issues with people’s budgets. They might see similar sales, but I bet they’ll move fewer units overall.

  4. Two things I’m hoping for from “Forever Evil” (despite the lame title)– 1) a spinoff villain series that will actually be good (a new Secret Six?) and 2) new or different writers getting opportunities to shine that the normal writing schedule doesn’t necessarily allow. It will probably lead to mixed results, with some books crashing and burning and a few pleasant surprises.

    • I’m excited about that too – as much as I love the writers that I love, there is distinctly something exciting about giving new (or newer) people a chance. The same is especially true of artists: SO MANY of these artists are not of the regular DC stable, so it’ll be neat to pick out some new talent in the bunch.

      Plus, they brought on a few ringers for this thing. RINGERS.

  5. Yeah, which issues I buy will largely be based on which villains I’m actually interested in and which creative teams I like; I don’t think there’s any way to stick to the books you usually buy, unlike Zero Month.

    I’m interested in:
    Darkseid
    Killer Frost
    Secret Society
    Black Adam
    Black Manta
    Ocean Master
    Grodd, Reverse Flash, and the Rogues
    Count Vertigo
    Parasite (I want to see how Aaron Kuder fares as a writer!)
    The Joker (Same with Andy Kubert)
    Riddler
    Bane and Two-Face (TOMASI. He writes an excellent Two-Face)
    Court of Owls
    The Ventriloquist
    Clayface
    Harley Quinn
    Scarecrow

    If we’re only getting villains this month and no normal books, it seems like a fairly decent pull to me. But some of these villains I just don’t care about (WHY IS H’EL BACK?!) and some creative teams I just don’t care about (I did not want to see Nocenti on The Creeper).

    • I’m unfamiliar with a lot of the people who’ve been brought in to write all these books, so I’ll be relying almost only on villains to take my picks. Right now I’m considering:

      General Zod
      Lex Luthor
      Metallo
      Joker
      Riddler
      maybe Penguin
      Two-Face
      Court of Owls
      Ra’s al Ghul
      Ventriloquist (for Gail Simone more than the character)
      Mr. Freeze
      maybe Clayface
      maybe Joker’s daughter, I’m really curious about the character but very put off by Ann Nocenti
      Harley Quinn
      Count Vertigo
      Sinestro
      Brainiac
      Arcane
      Cheetah
      First Born

      Yes, that’s 20 titles and I’ll probably have to reconsider between now and then.

    • I should add: we’re planning a guide to villains month a little closer to September with a detailed look at the creatives involved (and maybe a look at each villain’s appearances in the New 52, where applicable). Hopefully, this will be helpful for folks, since DC’s marketing machine seems so unwilling to make any of this information readily available.

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