Saturday, March 30, 2013

Graphing Out the DC 52 18 Months Later

When the DC 52 launched 18 months ago, it impressed everyone with the huge sales boost it brought to the entire line. 18 months later, how much of that boost has been retained? Using the data from, I've created some graphs to answer that question.

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.
When I look at these numbers, it's a bit hard not to think we won't see another top down edict that forces DC to make a drastic changes in its publising strategy within the next year. I would look for a major change about 3 months after the Man of Steel movie.
- Jim


Trey said...

Very interesting!

I'd argue there's another possible explanation for the Superman books decline besides DC not doing something right. The initial sales were the anomaly caused by publicity and now Superman has found his level. Another event could possibly get another bubble, but the end result might be the same.

Caine said...

@Trey may have a point, there was a HUGE Batman trilogy before and during the relaunch - not to mention at least one cartoon (isn't there always at least one?).

This was a great post Jim, Thanks for making all the graphs. I have to say that I don't really pay attention to the sales numbers on any comic I like (I had no idea Nightwing was one of the lowest selling bat books) so the graphs were very eye opening.

I know I am a loyal Nightwing fan to a fault (the book really isn't all that great right now - it's been getting worse & I'm sick of the 'deconstructive' approach of Higgins) and it would make since that many others are.

Those numbers also explain why Snyder rules the roost over there at DC. It's not just that he writes Batman but all the bat books take their queue from him (confirmed 'off the record' in private chat with Higgins).

What sort of mandated change do you see happening? Possibly putting things back to the way they were? Not like an announcement that they'd specifically do that, but sort of on the QT (hoping lost fans would return)

JP Cote said...

With the juvenile level of writing or plot development for most of the series I gave a try, not surprising.

I was disappointed with the Superman comics overall. I was following Action Comics for the first dozen issues. It seemed like Morrison was going some place with the young Superman storyline, begin very similar in feel to the very original stuff but quickly threw that aside and went with tried and true. The Superman title itself was pretty standard from the start so it lost my interest fast. Justice League was a let down.

Does DC know who it's target audience is anymore? Is it kids or adults?

They also just seem awful at tying their products in together to create some sort of unity or consistency. The video games are completely unrelated it seems to what is going on in DC 52. The movies are unrelated so there goes the excitement Marvel generates with a crossover. They are also (as cool as the Nolan trilogy was) out-of-touch with what's happening in the comics.

If comics are to survive they either have to jump right into the digital format (movement, sound, animated stills), or improve what you get in a physical, paper copy. What are graphic novel sales like compared to comics?

Maybe what is needed is a "House of Cards" approach like on Netflix. Unless you have a strong title, dump the month-to-month model and go with graphic novels. Readers will not follow a weak storyline or poor characters month on end but they will take the chance buying the whole series at once. I had been watching past seasons of "Justified". I watched the three in a short space of time. I loved them, they were great. Watch season four one episode per week, not as enchanting. I wondered why and realized that gorging on an entire season at once made the show that much better. Without that, week to week it did not look as strong and was not as interesting.

Jim Shelley said...

@Trey - I think you are right. I think the general level of interest in Batman far exceeds the general level of interest in Superman. So I guess we shouldn't expect DKR numbers for Man Of Steel.

Jim Shelley said...

@Caine - your idea of a putting things back on the QT might not be far off. Check this latest blurb from Bleeding Cool:

Booster Gold is going to start showing up a lot outside of just All Star Western, including his own title. That he’s going to start remembering pre Flashpoint continuity. And that supposedly the F in WTF will actually stand for Flashpoint.

Jim Shelley said...

@JP Cote - I think your House of Cards approach is a great idea. It sounds like Marvel might actually be going that direction with the news of the Warren Ellis Avengers Graphic Novel coming up.

Anonymous said...

@Caine. You actually need not worry about Nightwing. That graphic is showing the rate at which sales have fallen the past 18 months. Nightwing is the lowest because it's decrease in sales is the lowest. So hopefully we'll have Nightwing for many years to come.

Anonymous said...

This is a facinating post - thank you for this.

I think @JPCote's comments regarding the juvenile quality of the writing and plot development is spot on - I am an example of a reader who has entirely ceased reading any DC books at all because I am finding the quality of the writing atrocious and I can't get on board with the wacky creative decisions they keep making.

I am also a digital reader who has completely moved away from print format, and interestingly, found myself often building up a backlog of issues to read so my experience is more "graphic novel" in feel - so can defintely see some weight to those comments also.

Infact, overall I am finding it very difficult to find stuff to read I enjoy in recent times from any of the big publishers.

Anonymous said...

Well flash sales going down is a no brainer, they completely ruined the character of Barry Allen by changing so much. Worst of all was the fact there is no Iris West and in turn deciding to bench Wally West, one of DCs most iconic characters, was oneof the stupidest decisions ever.

Unknown said...

A very interesting analysis.

As someone who read Superman for a while and still reads Supergirl, to answer your question about what is up with that line being so unpopular... It was faltering a bit, but the H'el on Earth arc was so horrible I think that really put a dagger in it. I took Superman off my pull list as a consequence of that arc, for instance.

Jim Shelley said...

@Steven - yeah, I think a lot of people felt that way (about the faltering start) I think Morrison's approach coupled with Perez's story line didn't really give people a place to find the type of story they were used to.

Atomic Kommie Comics said...

"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."

You're correct except for one minor point.
It's trademark renewal, not copyright renewal.
"Copyright renewal" was when previously-published material was re-registered to keep the copyright in force, back in the pre-1978 days when copyright was 28 years plus a renewal (if you did the paperwork) of 28 years.
That's why so much Golden and even Silver Age material is Public Domain. It wasn't renewed!
Trademarks are another matter.
If a trademark isn't registered (which costs money) and not used on a product within 3 years, it's considered "abandoned", and can be used by someone else.
(If the trademark has a "TM", it's not registered.)
The gutsiest example of this sort of trademark "poaching" occured in 1967, when Marvel began using "Captain Marvel" only a year after MF Comics' Captain Marvel (the android who yelled "SPLIT") was cancelled and the whole company folded.
That's why seldom-used characters pop up in team-up books or as guest stars, with their logos prominently-placed on the covers.

Jim Shelley said...

@Atomic Kommie Comics (great name btw) - You are 100% right. I stand corrected. Thank you!


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