NUMBERS GAME: DC Comics — May 2013

May saw DC Comics recuperate a bit of its market share after April’s massive gap between them and Marvel, spurred on by… nothing too significant. What this demonstrates is that market share is not nearly as important as the bottom line dollars, which continue to show massive gains — up 22% — against the market of a decade ago. For DC, this is a particularly important metric, as it was eleven years ago Dan DiDio joined the company and nine years ago he was promoted to Executive Editor. Results like these reflect positively on the co-publisher, no matter what online controversies tend to swirl around his head.

Looking back at 2003, we see a lot of the same marquee titles taking center stage at DC, but selling a lot less in most instances back then, with the exception of Batman (DC was just starting the Jeph Loeb/Jim Lee Hush storyline) at the high end and Green Arrow (Judd Winick’s first issue post-Brad Meltzer’s run) at the low. So, how are sales going now for DC’s top tier properties — and just how do we know which ones they are, anyway?

(all +/- are based off of previous month/issue’s numbers)

3028202-bcoverThe Big Names.

Batman #20 – 129,039
Justice League #20 – 97,676
Detective Comics #20 – 78,252
Justice League of America #4 – 77,856
Green Lantern #20 – 67,414
Batman and Robin (Red Hood) #20 – 65,222
Batman: The Dark Knight #20 – 50,423
Aquaman #20 – 49,697
Action Comics #20 – 48,324
Superman #20 – 45,458
Earth 2 #12 – 43,983
Flash #20 – 39,667
Wonder Woman #20 – 37,132
Teen Titans #20 – 36,391
Green Arrow #20 – 27,541
Swamp Thing #20 – 27,338
Justice League Dark #20 – 24,693

Aside from monthly sales, the round-up of September’s Villains Month titles gives us a very clear picture of what books DC is putting all their faith into to succeed. With sixteen specials representing the four core Batman books, eight for the two core Superman titles, and a whopping ten specials across the Justice League family, there’s no question where DC is buttering its bread. With one or two specials a piece for solid sellers Earth 2, Wonder Woman, Teen Titans, and Aquaman, it’s not a full sweep, but the publishing pattern is pretty clear.

What’s most surprising is the commitment that month to even one special for fairly mediocre sellers Green Arrow and Swamp Thing, which can only indicate — at least in the former’s case — that DC is not immune to cross-promotion. Given the success of the Arrow television show, the publishing arm isn’t about to let Ollie Queen fade into obscurity. Thankfully, in that case, they’re putting the brilliant creative team of Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino where their mouth is.

14Those Other Big Names.

Adventures of Superman #1 – 30,992
Injustice: Gods Among Us #5 – 25,215
Batman: Li’l Gotham #2 – 18,573
Legends of the Dark Knight #8 – 17,126
Batman Beyond Unlimited #16 – 15,822
Smallville Season 11 #13 – 15,442
Batman: Arkham Unhinged #14 – 14,048
Ame-Comi Girls #3 – 12,007
Arrow #7 – 10,017

I’ve focused a lot on Injustice: Gods Among Us these past few months, and with good reason. Not only does the title increase its monthly print sales every single month, but it also sells higher than 11 (non-cancelled) New 52 ongoing titles — all after what we can surmise are significant profits in the digital market. But Injustice isn’t alone, as DC is focusing its efforts for digital first material in the same pattern as for print-first: 4 Batman titles (with a fifth soon to be added, Batman ’66, in July), 2 Superman titles, 2 Justice League titles, and that same odd man out: Green Arrow.

Why is this significant? Because the long-standing proposition by fans is that the digital platform could be a new atmosphere for books that under-perform in the print market. What we’ve slowly discovered, however, is that the same interests and attractions drive digital customers as those to your local comic shop. The better a character or title performs in print, the better it performs digitally. Therefore, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see an anthology title along the lines of Adventures of Superman arrive for the Justice League soon enough, but I suspect we’ll be waiting awhile for less popular characters to get their shot in this format.

3015012-movementHaves or Have-Nots?

The Movement #1 – 29,246
The Green Team #1 – 27,775

#3 – May 2013: 29,106 (-5%)
#2 – April 2013: 30,789 (-18%)
#1 – March 2013: 37,564

To DC’s credit, they do continue to try new things with their New 52 line, launching two new titles in May, with four more to come next month — although all of those have ties to the company’s marquee properties. We’ll be keeping a close eye on both The Movement and The Green Team these first few months in the hopes that high profile creators (Gail Simone and Art and Franco, respectively) will hold off the rapid attrition we’ve seen in February’s Justice League of America spin-offs Katana and Vibe.

In better news, March’s launch of the Constantine title has led to somewhat solid numbers so far, as the title is poised to tie into July and August’s Trinity War crossover in the Justice League titles. All signs point to Constantine selling upwards of three times as many copies monthly as the cancelled Hellblazer series that preceded it, a definite win for DC Comics as they continue to bolster their Dark line with longtime Vertigo mainstays.


Special thanks to Comichron for having more stats than any comic fan can imagine!


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  1. Scott Gregson said:

    Wait, so Hellblazer was only selling 10k a month? How come it took so long to get cancelled? All the folks talking about DC “not giving it a chance” or “not believing in it” can go jump off a cliff. DC have obviously been sucking up the loss of this one for ages! Good to see JC – John Constantine, not that OTHER JC (Julius Caeser) – getting some decent numbers. Villains Month is also probably about the last we’ll see of Katana since they already promised the Creeper One-Shot, and it’ll be under JLDark in September. I remember reading an article months ago, around the first wave of cancellations/new titles for the New52, about how the Huntress Mini-Series sold pretty low and asking if DC would just put things that, previously, might have been Mini’s, as Ongoings, and just letting the market dictate if they wanted it to go on or not. Hearing that Katana’s sales are dropping makes me think they’ve done exactly that. Instead of giving her a solid, creatively consistent (and focused) mini, they’ve opted for an ongoing (which has been really… REALLY… odd). I’m still getting it – I like the character – but I think the guys at DC decided to think of “mini-series” as “a series that they cancel when the sales start to drop”.

    Note, I have no issue with DC’s cancelling of low-sales titles and giving us new ones. We’d NEVER have seen Green Team or The Movement without it. But I’m pretty sure my old cat could have told you a Katana series was pretty much doomed from the get go, and if they had a story that HAD to be told, then they should have just made it a mini, or dropped it into DC Universe Presents (which they, of course, cancelled) and then sold it as a TP later on.

  2. Matt SantoriGriffith said:

    Yep. Hellblazer was only selling 10K a month, although it had OK trade sales too, like many Vertigo titles.

    Katana might not have much more time, but it will be back in October. There are a lot of books that have been subsumed under other titles for VIllains Month (like Batgirl or Red Hood) that are doing just fine.

    The reality is, EVERY series is a mini-series when it launches. If it takes off, it just keeps going, but nothing has been cancelled mid-story. All the creators are well-aware of what it takes to stay on the schedule, I’m sure.

  3. Scott Gregson said:

    Not MUCH beyond October, I would guess. I know they haven’t said “Last Issue” yet, but given that it’s not “Katana X.1: Creeper” it can’t be doing well. Same goes for Worlds’ Finest. The power couple are on one of Earth2’s villains covers. Surely this spells bad things for that title.

    Plus, I think the very nature of writing something that has a specific number of issues (compared to an ongoing) will always make the reading experience different. If you KNOW that you’ve got 8 issues, you’ll write a better 8 issues than if you’re told its an ongoing and get cancelled by issue 8. I haven’t read it but I would expect Mr Terrific was a little jumbled and slow to build specifically BECAUSE it was solicited as an ongoing, not a mini. If it was a mini, the writer could have focused much more on one specific story, and let the world build around it. In an ongoing, world comes first, almost.

    Its the market as we know it, of course, and we get excellent titles in both minis and ongoings, I just feel like a lot of these titles (Vibe, Katana, Mr Terrific, Worlds’ Finest, even the Legion books) would have benefitted more from a mini-series, then being sent out into ongoing land after a proper fanbase was built up. Obviously, the sales on mini’s (non uber-event mini’s anyway) has been low, but hit the right character and pitch and I would hope that folks wouid pick up on the idea pretty quick.