December 17, 2014

Judging the New 52: November 2014

At the same time that sales figures for November 2014 were announced, DC Comics confirmed a whole raft of cancellations in March 2015. Prepare to say goodbye to Aquaman and the Others, Infinity Man and the Forever People, Klarion, Secret Origins, Star Spangled War Stories, Trinity of Sin, Worlds' Finest, Arkham Manor, Batwoman, Green Lantern Corps, Green Lantern: New Guardians, Red Lanterns and Swamp Thing. That's thirteen cancellations in one hit, suggesting that once DC's two-month Convergence event is over we're going to see a hell of a lot of issue ones come June 2015. (I told you DC would cancel the Lantern spin-offs in 2015.)

The cancellation of Arkham Manor is particularly odd, given that its first issue only came out in October. Its second issue, released in November, saw a 33% drop to 30,907 units - that's actually really respectable, and suggests a book that could run for at least 12-18 issues. Instead it's going to close at just six. It makes me wonder if it was intended as a six-part miniseries all along, but was simply promoted as an ongoing in order to boost its sales (miniseries do not sell well in this day and age). Either that or writer Gerry Duggan's exclusive contract with Marvel doesn't include exceptions for Arkham.

One new monthly in November: horror ongoing Gotham by Midnight launched to a shade over 38,400. That's below both Arkham Manor (45,922) and Gotham Academy (43,338) in October, and suggests a book without about one year of juice in it. Given Ben Templesmith is producing the artwork I'm a little surprised it didn't launch better.

Here's how the other new books (six issues in or less) are going:
  • Infinity Man and the Forever People dropped below the fatal 10,000 unit mark in November, with 9,350 units shipped. As noted above, it's already been cancelled with issue #9 in March.
  • Gotham Academy dropped a very respectable 28% with its second issue, which is better than average. 31,110 copies were shipped. Last month I figured this book had about a year in it; I'm stretching that to 18 months.
  • Deathstroke dropped 32% to 36,356 units with issue #2. About average, and suggests an 18 issue run.
  • Star-Spangled War Stories dropped to 7,546 units with issue #4. This is another book getting cancelled in March, which is no surprise: no New 52 title launched with fewer copies shipped (18,762).
  • Lobo dropped 34% with its second issue, down to 25,881. That's about standard. I still think this one's got about 12 issues in it, barring tie-ins or sudden popular story arcs.
  • Trinity of Sin also dropped 34% with its second issue, down to a dreadful 15,097 units. It's another March 2015 casualty, and based on these numbers I suspect for DC management March can't come soon enough.
  • And if you thought that was made, check Klarion. The first issue was incomprehensible to read and only shipped 20,870 units - the second-worst ever after Star-Spangled War Stories. Issue #2 dropped a staggering 45% to just 11,416 units. That is officially the lowest-selling second issue of a New 52 monthly ever.
A few other observations, based on November sales data:
  • Genevieve Valentine and Garry Brown's work on Catwoman appears to have paid off a little: their second issue saw a small bump up to 26,237 - variant cover boosts aside, that's the comic's best sales in about a year.
  • David and Meredith Finch's debut on Wonder Woman saw that book's sales jump by 64% to 58,965; Futures End tie-in aside, that's the best performance for that comic since November 2011.
  • I have no idea what happened to Earth 2, but issue #28 had a sales drop of more than 6,000 readers to 31,722. That's got to throw that book's editors into a panic, surely.
  • Justice League Dark isn't a big seller, but it's remarkably stable: Futures End aside, the last three issues have all sold around the 25,000 unit mark.
  • Batman Eternal finally dropped below the 50,000 unit mark with issue #34, but I can't imagine DC is complaining. It wraps up in March along with all the cancelled titles, and thanks to its weekly schedule it's shipped 2,000,000 copies in eight months.
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. Anything already cancelled is highlighted in bold text.

ORANGE: Green Arrow, Secret Origins, Catwoman, Supergirl, Green Lantern: New Guardians, Red Lanterns, Lobo, Justice League Dark, Earth 2: Worlds End.
RED: Worlds' Finest, Justice League 3000, Aquaman and the Others, Batwoman, Red Hood and the Outlaws, Klarion, Trinity of Sin, Constantine, Swamp Thing.
BLACK: Infinity Man and the Forever People, Star-Spangled War Stories.

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