February 12, 2015

Judging the New 52: January 2015

In January 2015, the American comic book industry was all about Star Wars. The first issue of Marvel's new ongoing Star Wars comic shifted close to a million copies via Diamond Distribution to the USA and Australia alone. Additional sales in the UK (which aren't counted in Diamond's figures) will easily push it over to make it the first million-selling American comic in years. Certainly it's the highest-selling single issue since Diamond started exclusive distribution in 1997.

All of this activity saw Marvel claim a pretty healthy market share of more than 40 per cent, but I think all of the attention on Star Wars is masking some pretty serious downward trends among DC's titles. Put simply, some of the main DC titles are really starting to slip with readers. Justice League dropped below 70,000 readers for the first time the New 52 launched. Similarly Aquaman dropped below the 30,000 unit mark, and Green Lantern below 40,000. Detective Comics dropped by 3,000 copies. That follows a similar drop in December, suggesting that despite the sterling work Manapul and Buccelatto are doing on that book the market simply isn't buying. Sales are still above 50,000 copies, so it's doubtful DC will be taking any drastic measures, but it must be of concern.

DC have a two-month crossover coming up in April and May, and are launching 24 new comics in June and setting up new creative teams on many of the continuing titles. Hopefully that will bring some readers back.

Let's have our standard look at new titles: DC books that shipped their sixth issue or earlier in January.
  • Arkham Manor is sinking like a stone, down almost 7,000 readers for issue #4 to ship just 21,617 copies. It's a miniseries in all but name, of course, having been cancelled within a month of its debut, but that's still a sharp decline.
  • Gotham Academy is doing a little better, down another 4,000 readers for issue #4 to ship 22,576 copies. That's still not going to be enough to save it: I'd expect to see this book cancelled by issue #8 or so.
  • Gotham by Midnight doesn't seem to have grabbed an audience either, dropping to 21,330 copies in its third issue - that's less than either Arkham Manor or Gotham Academy shipped for their fourth.
  • Teen Titans #6 shipped 30,955 copies; that's down about 2,000 from December. The previous volume fell to these numbers by issue #26, demonstrating that while a renumbering job might give a book a three-month boost, things drop back to normal pretty quickly.
  • Deathstroke only shed 1,000 readers for issue #4 to ship 33,011, suggesting there'll be a bit more longevity to this volume than the last. At this stage a solid two-year run seems pretty likely.
  • New Suicide Squad did ever better with 32,304 units, dropping just 470 readers between issues #5 and #6. Again this suggests a solid two-year run before DC will need to run another relaunch effort.
  • Star-Spangled War Stories slipped to 5,866 copies for its sixth issue, which is getting close to Green Team levels of catastrophe. DC have two more issues left to publish before this one's out of their misery.
  • Lobo dropped to 16,889 for issue #4; that's a fall of about 3,500 readers. This looks pretty likely to be an eight-issue job, although with the June mega-launch coming DC might hold out to issue 12 to give it a chance.
  • Trinity of Sin lost nearly 2,000 readers. Issue #4 shipped 11,016 copies. Like Star-Spangled War Stories, this is an already-cancelled book with two months to go.
  • As is Klarion, shipping just 6,776 copies of issue #4 last month. That's a 2,000 reader drop, but doesn't quite beat The Green Team's record.
Some other general observations:
  • Six months in, its clear that Grayson lacks the strong branding of Nightwing. Issue 6 shipped 38,505 copies. It took until issue 28 of Nightwing to drop down to that level. Look for a reboot/reversion by the end of 2015.
  • The re-launched Batgirl is looking very solid: an estimated 45,096 units, which is pretty much exactly what shipped in December as well (45,060). It seems there's a big and loyal fanbase for this new take. I was a bit concerned after the book suffered a pretty sharp drop last month.
  • Earth 2: Worlds End, while still the lowest-selling of DC's three weeklies, actually managed to record a slight increase in sales. The final January issue (#17) shipped 24,995 copies; that's up 2 per cent from the last issue in December (#13).
So all up, which books are in trouble? Books coded 'orange' are selling between 20,000 and 30,000 copies a month, so there's a good chance DC is keeping a very close eye on them. Books coded 'red' are selling less than 20,000 copies and are in immediate risk of cancellation. Books coded 'black' are dead in the water with less than 10,000 copies shipped. Anything already cancelled or about to be relaunched is highlighted in bold text.

ORANGE: Aquaman, Arkham Manor, Catwoman, Earth 2, Earth 2: Worlds End, Gotham Academy, Gotham by Midnight, Green Arrow, Green Lantern Corps, Green Lantern: New Guardians, Justice League United, Red Lanterns, Supergirl.
RED: Aquaman and the Others, Batwoman, ConstantineJustice League 3000, Lobo, Red Hood and the Outlaws, Secret Origins, Trinity of Sin, Worlds Finest.
BLACK: Infinity Man and the Forever People, Klarion, Star-Spangled War Stories.

This was the 1,200th post on The Angriest. Thank you for reading.

1 comment:

  1. I'm sure I've commented on this before, but speaking as a long time DC fan, the two main reasons that keep me away from most of their books these days are the high price of comics (a problem not exclusive to DC, obviously) and the fact that DC jettisoned so much of the history and relationships that endeared me to their characters. Simply put, I find it hard to be interested in or care about the new versions of Superman, Batman, etc. The writing and art could be stellar quality and it just wouldn't matter, because none of the stories that made me such a fan are a part of a character's history any more, and I just don't care to start over. DC has brought their sales troubles on themselves as far as I'm concerned.

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