July 17, 2014

Judging the New 52: June 2014

Sales figures for Diamond Distribution are out for June 2014, so it seemed an opportune time to see how DC's New 52 superhero books are faring mid-year.

June saw a lot of books come with 'bombshell' alternative covers, depicting various DC superheroines and sidekicks in sexy poses like old-school 1940s and 1950s glamour illustrations. I found the whole exercise more than a little skeezy to be honest, but that didn't stop a lot of books enjoying a massive sales bump for the month. Aquaman jumped 12,000 copies, The Flash more than 13,000, and so on. Batman got a 23,000 unit sales spike. This wasn't pocket change for DC: I suspect the success of this set of covers is going to lead to more and more alternative cover gimmicks every month until the market tires of it.

DC Comics released a brand-new monthly in June: Infinity Man and the Forever People, another adaptation of old Jack Kirby characters by Dan Didio and Keith Giffen. It shipped an estimated 24,907 copies through Diamond Distribution - that's the lowest launch of a DC monthly in the history of the New 52, beating previous record holder Sword of Sorcery by about 2,000 copies. Sword of Sorcery lasted eight issues. I'd expect something similar from this. As I've noted in my Pull List reviews, it's not a bad comic by any stretch but certainly not good enough to sustain itself beyond its first year.

There have been a bunch of other new titles within the last six months or so. How are they faring?
  • Justice League 3000 is shedding almost 2,000 readers a month, on average. At this rate it'll cross below 20,000 units by August and below 15,000 by the end of the year. At a guess I'd say DC will give it up until this time next year before pulling the plug, which will be about 18 issues. That's not too shabby in today's market.
  • Aquaman and the Others launched in April with 34,000 readers - June saw issue #3 ship just 23,100 copies. It's too early to say how much further sales will drop but this looks like another eight-issue book in the making.
  • Justice League United is also three issues in, but actually looks pretty stable with sales in the mid-60,000s. That's healthy - I suspect it will be a creative shake-up that ends this title rather than sales.
  • Secret Origins is a difficult sell in the modern market, but it launched with nearly 39,000 copies and three months in has dropped to 28,000 or so. If it levels off in the next two months it could easily last a year, which surprises me. I had this pegged to sink like a stone.
  • Sinestro, on the other hand, is kind of sinking like a stone. This Green Lantern spinoff has dropped in three months from 46,480 units to just 30,422. A broadly comparable book, sales-wise, might be Constantine: it started at 37,600 in March last year, and its 15th issue shipped 16,700 last month.
  • Batman Eternal, the first of DC's three weekly comics for 2014, launched with 101,000 copies in the first week of April. 12 issues in, and it's settling down at 59,000 or thereabouts. That's about Detective Comics levels, which seems reasonable. I suspect it won't fall further south than 40,000 copies an issue for the rest of its run.
  • Futures End, on the other hand, looks like trouble. Its first issue in May only shipped 71,000 copies and eight issues in it's already slipped below 45,000.
So, as of June 2014, which titles are on the cancellation death-watch? Basically titles selling less than 30,000 units are ranked orange (dangerous ground), those selling less than 20,000 are ranked red (cancellation approaching), and those selling less than 10,000 are ranked black (dead book walking). Titles highlighted in bold are already cancelled - final issues ship in August. A few titles that would have been ranked orange are already being launched (Teen Titans and Suicide Squad) so I haven't listed them.
  • ORANGE: Green Arrow, Worlds' Finest, Justice League 3000, Aquaman and the Others, Secret Origins, Infinity Man and the Forever People, Supergirl, Green Lantern: New Guardians, Red Lanterns.
  • RED: Birds of Prey, Superboy, All-Star Western, Swamp Thing, Trinity of Sin: Phantom Stranger, Trinity of Sin: Pandora.
  • BLACK: Batwing.

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