March 18, 2015

Judging the New 52: February 2015

It's a weird time to be analysing DC's superhero titles, since we're only a few weeks away from DC's big move from New York to Los Angeles. To paper over delays in producing new books over that time the company is presenting a massive two-month event called Convergence. In addition to a weekly miniseries there's a raft of two-issue storylines bringing back and mashing together a lot of old characters and concepts from the 1980s through to the 2000s. I have to be honest it's not grabbing my attention and I'm unlikely to pick up many of these temporary books. I am interested to see how well they all sell.

Then in June we're getting a mini-relaunch for the whole line. New directions on many of the old books, new costumes for some key characters - which is what you do when you don't have a new direction, but want to make it look like you do - and 25 new monthly titles and miniseries. DC will also be dropping the "New 52" moniker, which is fair enough - you can't be new forever. I guess that means this is the second-to-last instalment of this particular column. Come June I'll have to call it something else.

Let's move onto the most recent DC titles, to see how they're faring. These are basically any books that have either launched or had a major reshuffle in the past six issues.
  • Arkham Manor dropped to 19,512 copies in its 5th month, down 10 per cent or just over 2,000 readers. This book would be in pretty bad shape if it wasn't already ending with issue 6.
  • Gotham Academy, which is supposed to be ongoing, is in pretty similar shape. It didn't lose quite as many readers, but it's still down to 20,844 copies this month. That's a drop of 8 per cent, or about 1,700 copies. At this rate it will drop below 10,000 copies by September. In June they're introducing Damian Wayne to the cast - that might give them a bounce to at least survive the year.
  • Gotham by Midnight is a dead book walking. At issue 4 it's down to 18,643 copies, shedding nearly 3,000 readers in a month. Fan favourite artist Ben Templesmith couldn't get readers onto this book, and he's now moving on. I'd expect to see DC wrap this one up as soon as they've got enough material for two trade paperbacks.
  • Deathstroke is showing legs, dropping just 200 copies for issue 5. February sales totalled 32,863. By the way in which it's been slowing this book could theoretically keep going for at least two years before DC will need to cancel or relaunch it.
  • Lobo is as dead as Gotham by Midnight; in fact I wouldn't be surprised if senior management are regretting keeping the book going from June. February sales totalled just 14,770. That's a 2,000+ reader drop in a month, or 13 per cent.
  • Secret Six had a promising launch back in January with 44,000 copies sold. Then for whatever reason it skipped a month, and that seems to have hurt it: February sales are just 26,579, down 40 per cent. The average second issue drop in recent years has been more like 25 per cent.
  • Trinity of Sin and Klarion have both already been cancelled, so there's not too much dwelling on either book. Trinity of Sin is down to 9,728 copies. Klarion is down to an embarrassing 5,575. I'm pretty sure that's the lowest-selling fifth issue of any DC monthly in the New 52.
Some other general observations:

  • DC are continuing to find a lot of success with their themed alternative covers. In February it was fan favourite Harley Quinn, whose presence on the covers gave quite a few titles a noticeable bump in sales - take The Flash, which sold 7,000 extra copies compared to January.
  • Justice League 3000 has dropped to just under 17,000 copies. This was a book I had pegged for cancellation in March, yet DC are giving it a relaunch as Justice League 3001 in June. I don't see that selling any better than what it's selling now.
  • Genevieve Valentine and Garry Brown's take on Catwoman continues to show really stable sales at around the 25,000 mark (a Harley Quinn cover bumped that up a little this month to nearly 27,000). I'm keen to see if those sales stick around in June.

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. With the relaunch coming, obviously the decks are kind of getting swept. Come June, however, I'd keep a very close eye on Gotham by Midnight and Lobo, which surely must only have a few issues left in them, and Green Arrow - which is crying out for a high profile relaunch with a popular creative team. If I was DC I would be trying to get Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo to jump from Batman to Green Arrow, and then dangling Batman out for any big league Marvel creator willing to jump ship for a year.

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

No comments:

Post a Comment