‘DC You’ Claims Diverse Stories, Offers Generic Cool-Dad Language
Yesterday, DC Comics announced a new marketing initiative that it has titled "DCYou," aimed at celebrating "Fan-Favorite Characters, Top-Notch Talent, Diverse Stories and DC Fans," according to the press release.
This being DC, there are some notable missteps in this initial launch that don't bode well for the campaign as a whole. The biggest problem seems to be a corporate appropriation of messages that the publisher thinks readers want to hear, which lack something when run through the filter of corporate language. The hope is that this signals good intentions, but recent creator numbers at DC don't back that up.
The DCYou campaign is meant to promote the slate of books the publisher has coming out beginning in June, which will be a mix of new and existing titles. Clearly, it wants to highlight that it's telling a wide range of stories, which is something it desperately needs.
The problems, though, start with the language of the press release. While the release uses the word "diverse" in regards to the stories, and not the talent or characters, one would hope that anyone with any knowledge of discussions within the comics industry over the last, well, 20 years or so, would be aware that diversity is a major issue, and thus using the word "diverse" carries implications. However, they then go on to list almost entirely white and/or male characters and creators:
• Characters – DC Entertainment will highlight its iconic characters, like Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman, as well as popular characters, such as Batgirl, Black Canary, Bizarro, Cyborg and Starfire.
• Talent – The campaign will spotlight top writers and artists, as well as emerging fresh voices, who are on board to help create an expansive line of comics that appeals to a broad audience of fans. Comic talent featured in the campaign include Batman’s Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, Superman’s Gene Luen Yang and John Romita Jr., Justice League’s Geoff Johns and Jason Fabok, Justice League of America’s Bryan Hitch, Black Canary’s Brendon Fletcher and Annie Wu, among many others.
You don't throw the word "diverse" into a press release and then fail to include more of your diverse characters and creators. But then... let's look at the numbers. As Tim Hanley (ever regular with his Numbercrunching) recently posted, the July 2015 solicits that went out last month marked DC's lowest month of the year in terms of women credited in the solicitation copy. Obviously, more women does not automatically equal diversity, but one would hope that a company that has created a campaign all about "the fans" and "stories for everyone" would actually hire more people who are representative of different groups. (In case anyone needs help with that, we have a whole regular feature for that purpose...)
The initial information about DCYou references a specific website link (DCComics.com/DCYOU) that just redirects users to the "comics" tab at the DC Comics website. Hopefully there will eventually be something related to the promotion there, as it doesn't offer a ton of guidance for people who might be interested expressly due to this promotion.
That's particularly key, as DC says that it doesn't just want to support existing fans, but also welcome new fans. There's some hilarious language in the press release about using the hashtag, and how there will be taglines including "Are YOU ready to hashtag this?" which sound like a 50 year old marketing exec was like, "Hey, I know, those kids love the hashtags! Let's put a hashtag on it! Let's drink some Mountain Dew and play our Playstations!" No. Just no. Please don't. You're not the cool dad.
They've also released a series of ads spotlighting various books. The ads look great, generally, and feature a lot of interesting and dynamic art. Some of the taglines on the ads are cheesy or ridiculous, but for the most part a quick visual scan is enough to draw someone into wanting to know more. In that way, the campaign has a chance at success, but there's one key factor that the whole thing lacks; a feeling of sincerity regarding the realities of the comics industry.
The whole campaign reeks of Warner Bros publicity versus a comics-focused, comics-knowledgeable publicity team. For instance, check out this bit:
“With the New DC Universe, there’s a story for every kind of DC Comics fan. There’s a story for YOU,” stated Amit Desai, senior vice president of marketing and global franchise management, DC Entertainment. “The DC Comics slate rolling out this summer truly offers a comic book for everyone and our new advertising campaign – DC YOU – celebrates this bold, new direction.”
So, wait. DC's bold, new direction is that they're... offering a story for every kind of DC fan? That doesn't say anything of substance about what those stories will be or what that really means for the DCU. Even for readers who aren't familiar with DC, it offers nothing to sink your teeth into. I guess we should be relieved that DC/WB is finally admitting that previous DC plans were not about offering a story for every kind of fan. Perhaps if some of the actual content creators or managers were involved in the initial press release, there would be something of substance about what the plans are. But a series of images and a stilted press release does not a solid plan make.
The good news is that the books aren't reliant on this campaign, so whether it works or not, whether it has value or not, doesn't really matter. If the books are good and do offer something different, then people will likely respond well. But WB would be wise to give their comics-focused campaigns less of a buzzword-heavy, cool-dad-sounding tone. Give us real change, real diversity, real stories for everyone, and worry less about your hashtag.