My anger for DC Comics and Marvel Comics is on record and I stand by it. That said, here’s how both houses can make their product better.
The most interesting comic book DC has published in the last five years is Batman: the Brave and the Bold. Yes I know it’s based on the cartoon. The astute observer will note that DC owns the show as well.
The reason that it works is that it takes their most popular character by far and livens up his stories by pairing him with another character each issue. Thus fans of every character get a time in the spotlight and since the series is about Batman, it sells.
Magic. Easy magic.
I’m not smart, guys. I’m a regular guy. But if I know anything at all, I know to cut down on product and push up the value of what’s left.
DC’s comic books compete with themselves. Four Batman comics right now. DC isn’t fighting Marvel, they are fighting themselves. Look at Conde Nast. The publish several magazines. But only one New Yorker. They don’t separate the aspects of the New Yorker into dozens of spinoffs. United you stand. Divided you fall.
The one thing that DC publishes that is guaranteed to sell is Batman. That’s why Brave and the Bold was so brilliant.
If I were you, DC, I would publish The Brave and the Bold as a 32-page weekly comic book with self-contained adventure stories that consist of “Batman plus ___.” I would have a revolving team of writers and artists to assure the weekly schedule and I wouldn’t need any other superhero comic books. Also: all ages, OBVIOUSLY. Silly habit: superheroes are for kids.
The remainder of the publishing schedule could be fleshed out with better promotion for MAD (which DC owns), a more aggressive program for WB properties, and a sharper, smarter Vertigo program. Probably another anthology set up, similar to the United Kingdom’s famous 2000 A.D. comic magazine.
Did you read all of that? Good. So you get the idea. Marvel is trickier because there is no resoundingly overarching character that bonds your “shared universe” together. Spider-Man and Wolverine, sure, but you’d be better off publishing a single title called something like “Strange Tales” or “Journey into Mystery.” You’d feature (again, weekly) stories about your popular folks, Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, Wolverine & the X-Men, Avengers. You’d make money because, again, you wouldn’t be competing with yourself. It would be glorious.
Again, ALL-AGES. Superheroes: where a kid can be a kid.
You’d fill out your publishing schedule with a comic book for Disney properties which I believe you are already doing. Your Icon imprint would also follow the aforementioned Vertigo anthology model. Sell them books, boys.
DC & Marvel:
You have the talent. You have famous, recognizable characters. You need to stop competing with your own publishing lines and start competing on an even level to the rest of the periodical publishing industry.
Conserve. Pare down. Succeed.
That’s all I have, thank you.