First, here is how the first month sales broke out for the top 20 books. Missing from this chart is Justice League International (with sales around 60K) I excluded it because it didn't make it the the full 18 months.
The first thing that will jump out at you is just how the Batman Family books dominated. Nice showing for the first issue of Flash, aye?
Now look at the change 18 months later. The red circle area is the deadly cancellation zone.
The range between books has diminished in an alarming manner. Also, a lot of books are creeping up on the cancellation zone.
Because of DC's initial policy of making the initial months of books returnable, it's not unexpected that we would see some loss between the first month and now. Unfortunately for some books, that rate of change has been very dramatic. Here are the biggest losers.
It's hard to look at this chart and not think DC just isn't handling the Superman books very well. Also, it's sad to see the Flash loose so much of its initial sales over time.
The overall rate of change for the entire line reveals a surprising fact (to me at least) Nightwing readers are very loyal! Of the top 20 books, Nightwing has had the least amount of change in sales over the last 18 months. Aquaman has held strong too which is not something I would have predicted. The Green Lantern Family of books are definitely losing steam.
Finally, looking at current sales numbers for Feburary 2013, I see a number of books that look to be candidates for a 4th wave of cancellations (I'm using 12K as the point when book will get targetted for cancellation, though in many cases, the number has been higher.)
- Why is the Superman line in such a dire state? With Man of Steel coming out this Summer, you would think DC might have some grand event to generate interest in the Superman mythos, but they've sort of just squandered the whole brand. Notice that with all the Batman family books in the top 20, there were only 2 Superman family books. Neither Supergirl or Superboy made it into the top twenty.
- Why the hell is Savage Hawkman still around? DC Universe Presents I can see as it allows DC to use it for copyright renewal or to generate interest in characters that couldn't sustain their own titles. I, Vampire probably does okay in the book market. But Savage Hawkman just confounds me. Why is that book given a lifeline when other books weren't (Frankenstein, OMAC, Justice League International)
- Is the Legion of Superheroes brand completely dead? Where does DC go with it from here? If it were up to me, I would just give up on trying to modernize or reboot the title. There have been a number of fine writers (including Mark Waid twice) who have tried to ressurect that franchise, but it never sticks.