November 13, 2014

Judging the New 52: October 2014

DC Comics launched five new monthly titles in October, as well as soft relaunches of two others - Batgirl and Catwoman. Altogether it marked the biggest push of new titles they've done in a long time, all of them promoted with a lot of in-house print advertisements and Internet hype in all the standard comic book websites. How did they go?
  • Arkham Manor: I can't quite get my head around this one, which is all about a repossessed Wayne Manor being adapted to use as the new Arkham Asylum (since the original building just collapsed over in Batman Eternal). It's not a concept I'd have thought had much appeal, but 35,922 readers disagreed with me. Talon launched somewhere similar in September 2012, and ran for 17 issues.
  • Gotham Academy: This immensely cute all-ages book is basically Hogwarts School adapted into the Batman universe. It launched at 43,338 units; other books that launched around this number ran for about a year before burning out. Hopefully this one will last longer - it deserves to.
  • Klarion: Dead on arrival, with just 20,870 units shipped. Only one other book (Star-Spangled War Stories) launched with less. It was a weirdly unfocused, difficult first issue too, so I'd expect a pretty harsh drop in November to about 15,000 units or less. This one will run the length of a trade paperback and quietly die.
  • Lobo: This is the new 'sexy' Lobo, and launched with 39,047 units. That suggests about a one-year run, much like Gotham Academy.
  • Trinity of Sin: Another book that's dead on arrival. This combined the two cancelled titles Phantom Stranger and Pandora into one, and sold 22,683 units - roughly what those two books sold together back in August. I give it six months, presumably to tie up their storylines, and then it's done.
Batgirl introduced a new creative team and fresh direction, and this resulted in an 81 per cent jump from 34,590 units in August to 62,644 in October. DC promoted the hell out of this one, and it got a lot of traction among the comic websites. October sales were the best since February 2013. Catwoman also underwent a change in creatives and direction, but for some reason this one didn't get the marketing push DC put into Batgirl. The result? A very disappointing 11% bump from 23,497 in August to 25,970. That's still the best numbers for a regular issue in 2014, but it should have been a lot bigger.

October saw the Green Lantern books kick off a high-profile multi-book crossover, "Godhead", although while it's produced a sales bump it hasn't been as big as I suspect DC hoped. It's gained the books about 4,000 new readers across the board, with New Guardians and Red Lanterns still lurking beneath the 30k mark - and I suspect Sinestro will join them there within the next 2-3 months. I wouldn't be surprised to see a line-wide cancellation in late 2015, followed by fresh issues ones.

I like to keep track of the more recent books, so as with previous months let's check in and see how they're going: I'm interesting in any monthlies with six regular issues in the market or less.
  • Aquaman and the Others: At the six-issue mark Aquaman and the Others is selling only 17,086 units, down 8 per cent from August and almost exactly 50 per cent since issue #1 in April. At this rate it will drop below 10,000 unit by issue #10 in February.
  • Infinity Man and the Forever People: Issue #4 sales dropped to 10,275, down 59% from issue #1 in June. This book is shedding more than 2,000 readers a month at this stage. While that's likely to slow down as non-hardcore readers get whittled away, we're still looking at dropping below 10,000 readers next month - and arguably under 5,000 by early next year.
  • Justice League United: With 38,066 readers in October, this book's now firmly under the 40,000 reader mark. It's dropped 44% since it launched in April, which isn't as bad as others but still seems pretty disappointing for a Justice League superhero book. It's about head into a crossover with the Legion of Super-Heroes, which I suspect will lose it more readers than it gains.
  • Multiversity: This is a pretty dense and complex series by Grant Morrison, that - while widely advertised and beautifully put together - is both a tough sell and $4.99 an issue. I'm not surprised to see sales have dropped from 90,551 for the first issue down to 53,301 for the third. 
  • Secret Origins: There was a slight bump up for issue #6, 24,775 versus 24,126 for issue #5. This book is in part at the mercy of its content, since more popular characters in an issue will boost its sales. It's dropped 36 per cent since it launched in April, which is actually a lot better than other books released at the time. It's not inconceivable that this book could last a full two years.
  • Sinestro: With 33,621 copies distributed for issue #6, this is now the third-highest selling of DC's five Green Lantern books and is within a hair of the second-highest (GL Corps, with 34,222 copies). Sales are slightly lower than Red Lanterns were at issue #6, and more than twice what they were for Larfleeze. This suggests Sinestro might be around for a good while.
  • Star-Spangled War Stories: At issue #4, sales have dropped to 9,228. Only The Green Team had lower sales at its fourth issue (8,493) and by the time it tapped out at issue #8 it was only selling 4,000 copies. This book is toast, but we knew that when it launched.
So, all up, what books are sitting in the danger zone? 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.
  • ORANGE: Green Arrow, Worlds Finest, Catwoman, Supergirl, Green Lantern: New Guardians, Red Lanterns, Justice League Dark, Trinity of Sin, Klarion.
  • RED: Justice League 3000, Aquaman and the Others, Secret Origins, Infinity Man and the Forever People, Batwoman, Red Hood and the Outlaws, Swamp Thing, Constantine.
  • BLACK: Star-Spangled War Stories.

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