July 9, 2012

Judging the New 52 #2: Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman has always been a character I've enjoyed, despite DC Comics regularly failing to provide a decent comic for her over the years. She is also a character I was particularly keen to examine the sales figures of, as her relaunched New 52 title was one of the more unusual of the set. Writer Brian Azarrello and artist Cliff Chiang have produced a Wonder Woman steeped less in superheroes and more in Greek mythology, and one tonally distinct from the New 52 and more in line with DC's mature readers Vertigo imprint.

I was ambivalent about the relaunched Wonder Woman at first, as Azarrello stripped away a very cool origin (Diana being created by Amazons out of clay - a woman born by other women and not by a man) and replaced it with a much more stereotypical one (Diana is one of the many illegitimate children of the god Zeus). The fact this change was made by an all-male creative team made it seem even less palatable. Over the past 10 issues, however, I've been sold: this is a bold, interesting take on Wonder Woman and I'm finding myself increasingly keen to read each issue as it is released.

While it's a good comic, it is still an unusual one: how has this affected sales?

Very well it seems. As with Batman I have compared the first 10 issues of the relaunched Wonder Woman with the last 24 months of the comic prior to the New 52. Prior to the relaunch Wonder Woman was selling an average of 31,658 copies each issue. If you remove the high-selling #600 from those numbers and the average slips down to 30,707. The average sales post-relaunch have been 60,100 - so almost twice as well. Note that the sales are declining issue-on-issue, however; this is standard practice for serialised comics, which is why the publishers (whether DC, Marvel, Dark Horse, or whoever) regularly swap creative teams, launch big stunt arcs ("The Death of Superman", "Knightfall", et al) or renumber the titles. The earlier post-#600 bump, for example, was due to the high-profile relaunch of Wonder Woman by writer J. Michael Straczynski, in which the character was made younger and less experienced, and given pants.

It's interesting that sales increased from the first issue of the New 52 Wonder Woman to the second, before dropping sharply. I think this is probably due to the fairly strong acclaim the first issue received, leading to a few new readers checking it out, but it is a very distinct comic that won't be to all tastes, hence the sharp drop in the third and fourth issues. (EDIT: the incomparable Wolverina points out very sensibly in the comments below that stripping Diana of her feminist origins and replacing it with one that fits a rich tradition of marginalising female characters may have had more to do with it. It's a fair point.)


  1. I'm intrigued that you didn't associate the massive drop to the announcement that Zeus was Diana's father or the massive increase in reliance on (uncritical) use of misogynistic horror tropes.

    I only read up to isssue #3 it was when the disappointing announcements started and when Wonder Woman went from being the best series in DCnU to a complete loss of interest in my friendship circles. Including those who would normally find the horror to their tastes.

    That said, Cliff Chiang's art. Holy fucking cuntstains. That guy can draw strong and sexy but not sexualised like woah. Sad to see he was let down by script really.

    1. Also I haven't woken up yet apparently. Apologies for the typos.

    2. I don't know - do you think a drop that sharp would be more likely due to a specific plot point, or the style of the title overall?

      I found my interest in the title flagged after the first issue, but popped back up in the last three or four.

    3. I found the style quite engaging, not being the usual 'superhero' style worked a lot in its favour I found. Subjective opinion though.

      I remember their being such a rash of announcements of fucking awful misogynistic tropes and the chatter about the book went from everyone raving to noone at all talking about it. From OMG FUCKING FANTASTIC to *crickets chirping*. I don't know a qualitative way of measuring this really (especially given I tend to lurk in strange places) but it just seemed more than could be coincidence?

      So yeah I'd say it easily lost a large percentage of otherwise interested women at the very _least_. But I might just be hoping.

    4. It's also something I think should be mentioned as a possibility in sales analysis too!

      I mean western comics (as a whole) are pretty famous for ignoring/marginalising women. Data analysis looking at the possible reasons for sales drops, particularly on feminist leaning titles that ignores demographic reasoning, can be a little disingenuous?

      I think that's what I'm trying to get at. Like, don't ignore our voices and monies Grant, GOD! :P

    5. That's a fair point. I will edit the article accordingly!


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