DC showed up at San Diego Comic-Con for the first time in years last month, and Jim Lee, the President, Publisher, and Chief Creative Officer of the comics brand, was there to take in the proceedings. “Tucked away” in a second-floor nook of the Dawn of DC Booth, what he saw – people buying collectibles – gave him hope for the future of his company.
Lee granted access to The Hollywood Reporter and shared with them his optimism that comics will grow again, and the fans will return. “Comic-Con is the event of the year for us, and we wanted to basically show up for the fans,” he said, looking past and not even acknowledging the alienation of readers taking place over the past few years or more.
All the DC film releases in 2023 turning into duds is an illustrator of the fans’ presence and voice, but Lee predicts that will turn around thanks to the new slate being dreamed up by the DC Studios regime of James Gunn and Peter Safran. Moreover, Lee stated he already sees evidence of this changing tide, giving credit to Gunn specifically.
“It’s amazing to have partners in Peter and James, particularly James. He was a comics fan growing up and knows our mythology inside out. And having that kind of ally in the live-action space allows us to really leverage what he is doing and allow us to market and sell comic books to new readers,” Lee said.
He added, “These are people who are interested in his movies, his TV shows, and if they want to take a deep dive into these characters, he directs them to the comic books.” THR noted Lee didn’t give any numbers or name-drop any titles with one exception, but he said “certain titles have seen double- or triple-digit growth in sales since the duo took charge.”
The Authority was mentioned as one book Gunn has drummed up interest in with his announcement of a big-screen adaptation in development, though it’s added The Authority wasn’t in print when Gunn revealed his plans. THR didn’t mention or allude to the idea that the sales of back issues could be key to any potential uptick in Authority sales as they are with other comics.
Back issues have experienced greater movement than new comics in recent years, but that wasn’t on Lee’s mind at Comic-Con. “At the end of the day, there’s the business of DC and then there’s the content engine that creates all the DC content, from the comics to animation and movies and stuff like that,” he explained.
“But it’s that connection between comics and media that we’re celebrating here [at SDCC],” Lee continued. “The trend has been for exhibitors to have exclusive [products] as a way to [drive] fans to their booths and also underwriting the cost of being at a show like this. But it’s also a great way to stoke fandom.”
He went on to explain that “People go online, they go to Discord channels, they talk about what they scored at Comic-Con. They wait [in] long lines to go into Hall H or to meet creators and celebrities, and they also wait in long lines to buy exclusive merchandise.” DC is exploring new opportunities with these long, patient lines.
The company is bridging the gap between digital and physical media with new trading cards called ”Hro.” “Physical superhero trading cards have been around for decades, this is just a really elegant hybridization of that business into the digital space, not leaving behind the physical collectors,” Lee explained. “It gives you the option of trading one or the other or both.”
DC is also trying to drum up excitement with their new Dawn of DC initiative, which THR claims will be different from The New 52 and Rebirth. The occurrence of Future State and Dark Crisis ignored, they perceive Dawn as “a more measured approach” since the relaunch is being told over a year as opposed to a small number of weeks or months.
Still, Lee seems like he and DC are learning from their mistakes with previous relaunches and in the 90s. “First issues are highly collectible, as you know, but if you have too many in one month, you suck up all the dollars that are in the marketplace. Which is great if you get them all, but there are limits to people’s budgets,” he noted.
He is said to be happy with the sales of Superman books, titles going into second printings, and even Doom Patrol currently. “We’re super excited about the results, and we haven’t even gotten to the Batman piece of it yet,” Lee reportedly glowed. We also haven’t gotten to the releases of the DCU pieces yet, so we shall see where DC is in 2025.