Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Sales Review: April 2014

It is that time again where we look at the comic sales from the month prior and things just don't look good for DC.

I have to say that it is something of a nightmare for me to be a DC fan. I feel like all I have been doing recently has been complaining about the company and their direction. While I have praised titles in my reviews, it just feels that the company as a whole has sort of lost its way. The tone of the company, the 'events' that drag on and seem to have no lasting effect, the inability to have superstar books like Superman Unchained come out on time leading to cancelations, the snarky responses from some creators - it all feels wrong. I complain because I care about these characters. And it just feels like they are being mistreated. And I can't help but feel that the sales mirror reader dissatisfaction.

As always, ICv2 does a great job covering the market. Here is a link:

Of all the images and information that should shake DC to the core, it is this pie chart breaking down sales by company. Thanks to Diamond Distributors.

You don't necessarily need to see numbers to see that Marvel's red pie slice is gigantic to DC's dwindling blue slice. Can we even say 'Big Two' any more. Marvel simply dominates dollar share over DC by around 10%. Some of this month could be explained by the 500K Amazing Spiderman #1. But the truth is, these monthly gaps are a trend that is worsening.

Maybe .... just maybe ... DC needs to do something to bring readers back. New titles with varied tones? New creators? Maybe reach out to the top creators they alienated? Maybe shake-up the 'leadership'?

Supergirl #30 continued to Red Daughter arc and Kara's supposed redemption story. I have been pleasantly surprised with this story as both writer Tony Bedard (and Red Lanterns writer Charles Soule) have shown hidden depth in Supergirl as she deals with her depressing back story.

But, as I have said, the purpose of this story needs to be to redirect Supergirl's energy back to heroism and the S-shield. Let's hope that's true.

The story has been publicized and praised.

So I was pleasantly surprised to see sales increase on Supergirl, even is just a bit.  527 more issues sold. But in a world of comic erosion, any growth needs to be lauded.

I hope that DC doesn't look at this blip and think that Kara should be in the Lantern uniform longer.

I always try to help bring a spotlight to a title I have been enjoying whose sales are less than stellar.

Batwoman is a title that I have really been enjoying since the new creative team of Marc Andreyko and Jeremy Haun took over. When JH Williams was on the title, the book sure was pretty to look at. I mean Williams is really a visual genius. But I thought the stories were somewhat muddled and lacked a nice narrative flow.

The feel of the book has remained stable since the new team came on. But the stories are much more comprehensible. And Haun brings a nice clean style to the book.

But I fear this is another title which is suffering from DC administrative nonsense.

Williams left in a huff blaming (probably rightly) the editors for squelching the stories he wanted to do. DC backpedaled but it still looked like the usual nonsense that has plagued the New 52. And, my guess is, readers left the title in droves. It is true that I originally got the book simply to look at Williams art. Maybe he was all that was keeping people coming.

But this book is better than a 19K selling book. Andreyko and Haun are doing great work here. If you left Batwoman when Williams did you should come back and give it another shot.


Anonymous said...

Marvel definitely has the right idea. They let their creators tell the story they want to tell and they have a wide range of books that aren't all grim and gritty. Their big events come out on time and are usually pretty good. Their heroes more or less get along and like one another.

DC has alienated a lot of writers and artists and seem to think that every book needs to be dark and the heroes need to be misunderstood and full of angst and hopefully killers as well. Their big events aren't that great and never seem to end. I mean Forever Evil is just now ending after nine months. I could not tell you what happened in the last issue of FE right now without pulling the issue out.

Same for Superman Unchained. Though that one was doomed to fail from the start with Jim Lee doing the art. The man can't keep to a schedule no matter what. That book should have been a huge success but much like FE delays have kept it from gaining any traction.

It seems like most of the DC heroes don't like one another or at the least tolerate each other. But for the most part a lot of the friendship that existed pre-New 52 is gone. I was amazed that Superman had never met Guy Gardner before the Red Daughter arc.

As a huge Superman fan, it pains me to see the state of his books. Lois is barely used. Superman himself, especially in Lobdell's book, comes across as a jerk. He's hated and feared by most of the population. Which is only going to get worse after this Doomed arc. He is once again being attacked by the U.S. military. Superman, Supergirl, and Superboy don't get along or like one another. Supergirl has been an angry, unlikeable protagonist for a long time. Hopefully after the much better than I expected Red Daughter arc she will be a hero again and have a good relationship with Superman. Superboy has become a Silver Surfer knock-off and been replaced in his book with a mass murderer.

Teen Titans became just as bad. There was mass murderer Superboy, and then Bart was revealed to be a mass murderer/terrorist/freedom fighter/whatever from the future who only went to the past to set up his trial where he could kill the leaders of the future government. Solstice murdered a man in cold blood so she could go to prison with Bart. And yet Lobdell redeems Harvest in the last issue of Teen Titans. Yeah, the guy who has murdered, tortured, and kidnapped multiple teens is essentially made out to be not that bad of a guy in the end. Seriously, look at Teen Titans and Marvel's Young Avengers. There's no comparison. TT became absolute crap filled with unlikeable characters (save for Bunker) while Young Avengers was a great, critically acclaimed book.

Okay, I went on a much longer rant than I meant to. But like you I love DC. I buy maybe two or three Marvel books. Everything else is DC. So it pains me to see the state that the books are in. Yes, Batman is doing fantastic. But there's more to DC than Batman and I wish the bigwigs would figure that out. I want a Superman that inspires people and actually likes and gets along with the other Super characters and the military. I want a Teen Titans book where the majority of the characters aren't unlikeable killers. I want Kon back in Superboy having fun adventures and not constantly talking about how he's a weapon. I want a Supergirl that isn't fill of rage and hate and that doesn't throw boats at Superman. It's not like I'm asking for the moon here.

Anonymous said...

[A sympathetic rant to follow…]

When I started buying comics they were almost entirely from DC; I grew up on the Justice League and JL Unlimited TV series, the Batman Beyond and Batman TV series, and those were the comics that I wanted to see. I came in a few months before the New 52 shake-up and so I decided to wait it out and collect some number ones. That' how I ended up finding Supergirl--a character that I knew almost nothing about--amongst some Batman, Justice League, and Wonder Woman. Now, though, I feel lost in the DC universe--and it's only 2.5 years old! I don't have the money or the time to collect crossover after disappointing crossover, let alone weekly "event" comics, or the constant interstitial events such as "Villain's Month" or "Forever Evil" that just disrupt the release schedule of comics that I'm waiting for….

That being said, I'll still buy a few titles. But now, a strong part of me wants to jump on Marvel's X-Men (another TV show I grew up on) given their recent reinterpretation of the main X groups after the banal Phoenix events. Is this a betrayal? What titles are worth it? Any thoughts?

Anonymous said...

DC sent me a brief quick questionnaire thing by email the other day..... which I filled out on the basis of a free digital comic!

They were asking questions like "Do you prefer gritty or light stories?", "Do you like troubled characters or straightforward heroic ones?" etc. OK, I can't remember the questions *exactly* but they were that sort of tone. I felt that they were trying to see if they were doing the right thing with their current "direction" (if it can be called that?!) but it wasn't really very in-depth and the lack of overall options really probably just reinforced what they already want to hear rather than give them any genuinely useful feedback.

Anyway, the real point I would have liked to have made is this: I *HATE* crossover events. I HATE crossovers in general. Why would I want to invest to much time (and MONEY) into reading multiple titles just so I could understand what was going on in, say, Supergirl? Maybe Marvel are just the same, I don't know, but they don't appear to have this "you've got to read five/six/seven/forty three titles a month to keep up" thing going on.

I feel the whole "New 52" thing has gotten out of hand and just smacks of pure greed on the part of DC and the effects are starting to show. It's as if they're relying on hardcore fans to almost buy all 52 titles per month (assuming they've actually come out on schedule!). Rather than try and appeal to all sorts of people by having [potentially] 52 different comics per month, they've put all their eggs in one basket and you can't sustain a market by relying on a small bunch of hardcore fans. Without your "casual" readers (i.e. ones who maybe just want to follow one title or just buy different titles every so often just because they can or the story in that issue looks good) you're dead in the water and it's starting to show in the lack of sales.

I dunno, maybe it's just because I'm older but I'd always rather choose a "vanilla" standalone / self-contained series where I don't need to know what's happening elsewhere (case in point, the recent-ish Power Girl series) or, dare I say it, a non-superhero based one. They seem to be more innovative and aren't prone to mood swings every other month.

Anonymous said...

That sad looking pie-chart is nothing but the consequences of a commitment to "cheap heat" & short term profits that have been the hallmarks of the New 52 from the git-go.
A particularly obnoxious and tasteless cabal of buffoons seem to have taken over the company where this all ends I cannot say.
But then again these are people willing to traffick in decapitation imagery vis a vis Black Canary...their clear preference is to double down on appalling story choices...and they will keep doing that right up to bankruptcy.


Anonymous said...

I'll go back to Batwoman when DC announces she's getting married. Until then, I *want* it to fail and be cancelled.

Fans of the original creative team left the title deliberately to send a message to DC. Sales aren't faltering due to lack of interest, the book is dying due to *active* disinterest.

Anj said...

Thanks so much for all the comments. I find it interesting to hear all these comments lamenting the direction of DC.

As for Batwoman's marriage, Anon, DC has canceled them all. That too is sort of sad.

cesar424 said...

I'm new to comics, starting only this Jan but I LOVE DC. I can't seem to get into much marvel. I agree with what some others say about delays and maybe an over use of crossovers, but I still like the majority of the stories. I feel like a lot of hate is cause things are not the same as they were when readers were kids. I get it but everything changes. Some things need some tweaking but overall I'm digging N52.

Anj said...

It isn't as if I want to read comics like when I was a kid, Cesar.

It is that there should be a variation of tone and an understanding of potential audience. Ultraviolence in Vertigo ... or even Green Arrow ... okay.

Ultraviolence in the company-wide crossover? Seems like too much. It shouldn't be in that book.

But I am used to the 'you are old and out of touch Anj' rant. I hear it a lot.

cesar424 said...

Sorry didn't mean to offend its just the vibe I seem to get around the internet. Regarding the N52 or even the superman movie. Too be fair I didn't read anything prior to the reboot so I guess quality could be different I just know I'm enjoying these books a lot and the N52 is what got me into buying comics.

Anj said...

None taken Cesar. I have commented on what I like and don't like in the New 52. I think for me the whole point is that every book seems to be dark and gritty. I don't mind reading some books like that. But I'd like other tones as well at DC. It's hard to come by.

Anonymous said...

I have a son who is just starting to get in to comics. There are no DC comics that I would trust to give him as they all feature blood, dismemberment, death, and gore. Is this really what the market wants?

This is not new reader friendly. It's not children appropriate certainly. And frankly, I don't think it's adult appropriate. If I want to see that stuff, I will go rent a Tarrantino film.

Luckily I have old trades that I can share with my son.

Anonymous said...

One other thought: sometimes less is more.

Comic readers are obsessive collectors (some stereotypes are true ...). Instead of 52 meh titles, scale back to 30 amazing titles.

Be brutal and cull the crap from the line.

This serves two purposes:

1. It allows the collectors to "collect them all" - crossovers or not.

2. It provides great entertainment and value versus feeling like you just flushed $3 - $5 down the toilet.