July 21, 2015

Judging the DCU: June 2015

To paper over the relocation of the DC Comics offices from New York to Los Angeles readers had to sit through Convergence, a weirdly ill-advised mega-crossover of 40 two-part miniseries between April and May. With that out of the way, it's back to business as usual with a mini-relaunch: new status quos in most of the ongoing titles, plus a whopping 21 new ongoing monthlies and miniseries.

Generally speaking June was a great month for DC, with most ongoing titles enjoying small jumps in the number of units sold, as readers took the opportunity to sample some of these new creative directions. Superman has had his secret identity revealed to the world and lost his powers. Jim Gordon has become Batman. The Green Lantern Corps has gone missing. Robin now rides around the world on a giant bat monster.

Where I'm most interested, however, is in these 21 new titles. Which ones grabbed the market's attention and which ones failed to make an impact? On average, each new title shifted 45,472 units via Diamond Distribution. Five of the books shifted above average. The other 16? Not so much. So how did all of the new titles go?
First up, here are the five big performers: these all sold more than the average number of units across the 21 new titles.
  • Justice League of America: with Bryan Hitch writing and drawing, this was always going to be the biggest title among the DC You launches, and with 150,845 units distributed to stores I can't imagine DC is disappointed. The question now is how Hitch is going to keep up with a regular schedule - he has a reputation for running very late, not surprising given the detail he packs into his books.
  • Harley Quinn & Power Girl: 64,911 units for the start of this six-issue miniseries. This is pretty much the biggest-selling mini-series launch that hasn't been a major crossover book. Readers simply can't get enough of Harley - or, more precisely, about 65,000 readers can't get enough of Harley. This pretty much duplicates the sales of the regular Harley Quinn comic.
  • Robin Son of Batman: This book replaces Batman and Robin, and by-and-large appears to have simply taken its readership. 64,095 units shipped. I anticipate this book will slowly settle down to the 35-40,000 mark over the next six months.
  • We Are... Robin: This one had a lot of readers interested before it launched, so 51,943 units is a pretty decent result. I suspect that number is soft, however, and we'll see the sales drop pretty sharply to the 25,000 mark fairly quickly. Lee Bermejo is writing but not drawing, and I suspect readers attracted by his outstanding cover will be a little put off by the radically different artwork inside. One thing this book does have in its favour is a crossover event with Robin: Son of Batman later this year, right at the point when sales would likely tail off.
  • Starfire: This popular Teen Titan has launched pretty well with 46,298 units. I suspect much of that is due to the Connor/Palmiotti creative team who have developed a whole new fanbase via their work on Harley Quinn.
Another eight books launched to a pretty reasonable reception. These books seem guaranteed for a year or more before their sales decline too far.
  • Green Lantern: The Lost Army: This is DC's replacement for Green Lantern Corps. 42,945 units seems pretty reasonable, but it's a long way down from the X its previous iteration shipped at launch. It's even only about 12,000 units above Green Lantern Corps shipped in March.
  • Earth 2 Society: This is a very similar case: a replacement for Earth 2 that at 41,002 units has shipped 12,000 copies more than the last issue of its predecessor. In both cases it's a temporary bump; these books will be back at March levels by August.
  • Black Canary: 40,786 units is actually pretty solid for this Batgirl spin-off. I suspect this one will find a niche audience and sit comfortably around the 30,000 copy mark for quite a while.
  • Red Hood/Arsenal: Replacing Red Hood and the Outlaws, and actually doing a reasonable job of it sales-wise. 40,071 units, compared to only 17,110 of the last issue of Outlaws. I'm not sure how solid those sales are, but it must be a little promising.
  • Constantine: The Hellblazer: With 38,080 units, this relaunch actually sold a few more copies than the April 2013 launch of Constantine (37,564 units). I suspect DC might have expected more sales due to the recent TV adaptation, but historically one's rarely had an impact on the other.
  • Martian Manhunter: Every couple of years DC have another crack at a solo Martian Manhunter book, and inevitably their sales decline down to cancellation. This latest attempt shifted 36,581 units, which should keep it around for 12-18 issues, barring sudden drops.
  • Dr Fate: 35,962 units. Having read the underwhelming and slightly confused first issue, I expect this book's sales are going to drop fast and hard.
  • Bizarro: 35,010 units. While I didn't read this, it did get pretty poor reviews. I doubt DC will be too concerned - it's only a six-issue miniseries and will be over before they need to decide when to cancel it.
The last seven launches all did fairly poorly by my estimation.
  • Bat-Mite: 34,731 units, but like Bizarro a miniseries, so it will be off the shelves by the time it matters.
  • Doomed: 32,259 units. A really ill-advised spin-off from last year's "Doomed" crossover by Scott Lobdell. This one was never going to fly.
  • Midnighter: 32,200 units. A Stormwatch spin-off, basically "the gay ultra-violent Batman". I've heard this is actually a reasonably well written book, but the character simply doesn't have the following to justify a solo book.
  • Justice League 3001: 32,174 units. A laudable attempt to boost sales on a likeable but unpopular book. Much like Earth 2 Society and Green Lantern: The Lost Army, this will have a few months before it drops back down to pre-Convergence numbers.
  • All-Star Section 8: 31,099 units. A Hitman spin-off about two decades after such a spin-off was relevant. The fact that this is a Garth Ennis book for DC selling below 40,000 copies demonstrates that his audience has pretty much moved on from the DCU.
  • The Omega Men: 30,158 units. This one makes me pretty sad, because of the 21 books launched in June this was actually my favourite. Sadly it looks like it won't be around for long.
  • Prez: 28,309 units. Dead book walking. It was first promoted as an ongoing, then as a 12 issue limited series. A week after the first issue was published, that was revised to 6 issues.

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