DC Comics Month-to-Month Sales: October 2009

by Marc-Oliver Frisch

Gotham, we have a problem.

The general consensus seems to be that DC Comics had a particularly great month in October, but that’s not quite true. Despite making a spectacle of the Top 300 chart by claiming — literally for the first time in ages — all of the Top 6 spots, sales of the average new DC comic book were actually down from September. In fact, DC’s October performance isn’t even in the Top 3 of the past twelve months, if you compare average sales or gross dollar value.

The main reason for that is easily spotted: While Blackest Night and its tie-ins keep performing well, the number of flagging franchises and tanking new projects is on the rise again. The Titans books, Outsiders, Justice League, Justice Society, Wonder Woman, Superman/Batman and the entire Superman line are all formerly strong properties that have been skidding down the charts for months and years now; missed opportunities like the failure to capitalize on high-profile creator J. Michael Straczynski don’t help matters. Alarmingly, even the Batman line, which saw a strong relaunch a few months back, is losing steam quickly.

The bleak picture continues through the publisher’s sublabels. For the first time in six months, average Vertigo figures dropped below 11K again in October. WildStorm saw a rare spike, meanwhile — thanks, largely, to the stoically consistent numbers of the Planetary epilogue issue, which brought sales of the average WildStorm periodical closer to 10,000 units than at any other point in the last ten months.

See below for the details, and please consider the small print at the end of the column. Thanks to Milton Griepp and ICv2.com for the permission to use their figures. An overview of ICv2.com‘s estimates can be found here.


07/2009: Blackest Night #1 of 8  -- 177,105          [199,863]
08/2009: Blackest Night #2 of 8  -- 146,092 (-17.5%) [155,512]
09/2009: Blackest Night #3 of 8  -- 140,786 (- 3.6%)
10/2009: Blackest Night #4 of 8  -- 137,169 (- 2.6%)

DC’s big crossover storyline of the year remains the strongest performer in the comic-book direct market.

Blackest Night is promoted with some of the most aggressive variant-cover incentives we’ve seen to date: There’s a 1-for-250 variant for issue #1, a 1-for-200 variant for #2 and a 1-for-100 variant for each subsequent issue, all in addition to 1-for-25 variants.

But, while these variants no doubt distort the numbers, it’s worth pointing out that sales are also bottoming out very quickly — which is unusual for high-profile “event” titles, and especially for books with multiple gimmick covers.

Looking back at this time last year, Final Crisis #4 had just come out, and its charts looked like this:

05/2008: Final Crisis #1 of 7 -- 144,826          [166,641]
06/2008: Final Crisis #2 of 7 -- 126,082 (-12.9%) [134,116]
07/2008: --
08/2008: Final Crisis #3 of 7 -- 123,881 (- 1.8%)
09/2008: --
10/2008: Final Crisis #4 of 7 -- 115,666 (- 6.6%)

The raw numbers would suggest that Blackest Night is doing better than Final Crisis, but then again, those were much simpler times back then: Final Crisis was promoted with one 50/50 variant edition per issue, which seems positively restrained by today’s standards.

The big difference between the two, of course, is that Final Crisis was up against Marvel’s Secret Invasion, which outsold it by up to a 100,000 units per issue. This time around, the closest thing Marvel has to a direct rival is Reborn, whose sales aren’t quite as spectacular; Reborn #1 outperformed Blackest Night #1 by about 15,000 units, but with September’s issue #3, the book dropped to 108K, which is significantly below Blackest Night. (Reborn didn’t ship in October.)

It remains to be seen whether Marvel’s upcoming Siege series and its tie-in books will come close to the commercial achievement of Secret Invasion. For now, Blackest Night appears to be as much of a success as the direct market is able to produce at this time.
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Marvel set to turn into Disney at the end of the year

Sm Spidey MouseWhile the aftereffects of 10 Days That Shook The World™ have been rather muted of late while Warner figures out what to do with DC and folks were waiting for Marvel’s shareholders to approve the Disney purchase, at least one of those things is set to take place. Marvel has announced that the merger will be completed by December 31st. A special shareholders meeting has been set up, at 9:00 AM.

At the special meeting, stockholders will consider and vote on the adoption of the Agreement and Plan of Merger entered into by Marvel and The Walt Disney Company (“Disney”), which provides for a merger in which Marvel will become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Disney. Stockholders who owned Marvel common stock at the close of business on November 23, 2009 are entitled to vote at the special meeting.

And then it’s DAZZLER: THE HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL all the way!

Comics news; WWE, Lady Gaga

Newsstand Cover
A tradition long lacking from the comics shelves — wrestling comics! — is being remedied by Titan publishing. The increasingly comics active UK-based publisher launches WWE Heroes in March, with scripting by Keith Champagne and art by Andy Smith. At least 20 issues are planned, featuring Triple H®, Undertaker®, Randy Orton®, Batista®, Shawn Michaels®, Big Show®, John Cena®, CM Punk®, Kane®, Edge®, Chris Jericho®, Matt Hardy®, Rowdy Roddy Piper™, Carlito™, Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler® and Kelly Kelly®. Only one diva? Well, like Garth Ennis puts it, there must always be “The Female®”.

The first storyline involves these WWE Superstars going up against an ancient evil and demon spawn and blah blah and as you can see from the cover there is an old fashioned baseball bat beatdown involved. Frankly, we’d rather read a book in which The Hardy Brothers and Hurricane Helms go on an all-night quest to find a Cracker Barrel®.

Chris Sims has more analysis in a post entitled Titan’s WWE Comics Will Most Likely Be Terrible.

ladygagacomicbook• It looks like another real life superhero, Lady Gaga also has her own comic, drawn by Brian Einersen and sold exclusively at Marc by Marc Jacobs stores. It’s an ongoing “Lady Saga”…saga. While a WWE Superstars® Lady Gaga® team up comic would be really great, it seems this comics is drawn in a slightly different style than the grappling pamphlets so we may need to regroup on this one.

Corto Maltese video game announced

Sproing Interactive has announced Corto Maltese: The Fable of Venice Coming for the Nintendo DS next fall. The game will be developed by Cong SA.

Players of this puzzle/adventure game will romp through early 20th century Venice while solving mysteries and mini puzzle challenges and meeting oddball characters. The MacGuffin is a gem called Solomon’s Clavicle.

“Corto Maltese is an incredibly successful and long-lasting comic brand with a huge following among both boys and girls. Venice was Pratt’s hometown and Corto Maltese his favorite and most successful character,” said Patrizia Zanotti, artistic director, Cong SA. “Corto Maltese – The Fable of Venice will certainly please and charm the fans who have read the comic book as well as those who will discover Corto Maltese for the first time.”

Created by Italian comics master Hugo Pratt , Corto Maltese remains one of the most popular characters from graphic literature in Europe, and maintains a devoted cult following among American readers and creators. English-language editions of his books are all long out of print — several publishers have been trying to get the rights for Casterman for a while, but things have been held up. Until then, at least we get a video game.

HABIBI progresses

With ASTERIOS POLYP, and Crumb’s GENESIS finally, FINALLY published and in our hands, and Joe Sacco’s FOOTSTEPS IN GAZA galleys making the rounds, it may be that Craig Thompson’s HABIBI is now the Godot of graphic novels. Since the success of BLANKETS in 2003 — one of the best loved (by readers anyway) and influential graphic novels of the decade — Thompson has produced only the travelogue Carnet de Voyage, and has been working on the 600-page novel based on Islamic art and mythology since 2004.

Thompson’s infrequent posts about Habibi on his blog are always a prod to wonder when it will finally come out.

According to this entry, he’s been working on rewriting the ending for the last five months, and above, a peek at the first page he’s drawn since June. Just think of its eventual release as something to look forward to.

Iron Man and friend

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Just on the off chance you haven’t seen it yet, the first teaser for IRON MAN 2, featuring Iron Man and War Machine, is out there. Springtime can’t come soon enough.

Video game director gets his paws on comics, movies

200912021205The most successful entertainment offering of all time is not a film franchise or a TV show featuring Simon Cowell. It’s the video game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 which has grossed $3 billion worldwide since it was released on November 10. Holy samoleons. While video game movies have failed to replicate or exceed the success of their inspirations (although Jake Gyllenhaal’s abs are waiting in the wings) maybe it’s just because the wrong people were making them. With that in mind, COD:MW2’s director Keith Arem has been signed to direct a movie, or first person sitter in a theater, as some call them. Arem — who has worked in various capacities on over 500 video games — will not only direct FROST ROAD, but he wrote the script, and of course he is “developing a companion graphic novel with co-creator Brandon Humphreys and artist Christopher Shy. The story “concerns the survivors and victims of an invisible contagion in a small coastal Eastern town” and you know how people like that apocalyptic stuff.

“I’m extremely excited about this story,” said Arem, “and thrilled to have the opportunity to bring the skills I’ve honed in the game industry to the big screen. There’s an incredible talent pool currently working in the game industry, and I hope that the success of ‘Frost Road’ will give other creators the chance to show what they can do on a wider canvas.”

Kibbles ‘n’ Bits — 12/2/09

§ We haven’t seen this “beautifully sad” comic BADGER: THEN AND NOW by Howard Hardiman, but after reading about it on the Forbidden Planet blog, we want to.

§ Colorist and teacher Jose Villarubia is profiled in the online bmore magazine.

§ The producers of Time’s Techland blog wanted us to alert you that they cover comic books.

§ Kurt Busiek has created many, many characters.
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Thinking a little bit more about the new TCJ.com

Aside from our gladsomeness that such a thing exists, and keeping in mind that it is still very much a beta undertaking, after barely 24 hours, we had a few more thoughts on the web version of The Comics Journal.

1) As in several iterations of the print magazine, the type is too small in this one. Unlike the print version, however, command+ fixes this!

2) Loooooong paragraphs don’t look good on the web.

3) Is there going to be news? The contributors list includes The Killer Elite of columnists and comics scholars — and Kenneth Smith!– hopefully someone has been tasked to become the Nellie Bly of this new enterprise.

4) Get rid of all that WordPress scrum at the bottom of posts. (Yes, The Beat has them too, but we haven’t had an upgrade in 3 years.) Everyone knows how to follow an RSS feed these days.