It’s nearly a year later, and retailer Brian Hibbs is first out of the gate with an analysis of the New 52, a year later and he says it was good. An attached chart shows all the books up significantly for the year, and more importantly, as Bob Wayne promised at Comic-Con last year, the New 52 actually enlarged the pie with some new readers:
What most impressed me a year ago was the sheer number of “lapsed” comics readers coming back into the store for the first time in a decade-plus — there was tons of sampling being done, and a truly significant number of those new customers have seem to stuck. I’m sorry to universalize from my individual experiences, but I can’t think of a clear and unambiguous way to measure this in the national sales charts, but in my individual store, customer transaction counts (basically: every time the register is popped, to make a sale) are up 20%. I also have about 20% more subscriber customers than I did a year ago — and exceedingly few (like “I can count them on one hand” few) new “DC-specific” subs that were opened had to be chased down for payment or cancelled.
What I see is that a lot of new customers came into the market looking at the DC reboot, and they didn’t only buy DC comics — they saw the wide wide range of material that’s available, and discovered new favorites. The entire Direct Market is up, directly counter to the general experience of all other print media, and this at the same time that major expansion to digital was announced, providing virtually every comic on sale in print and on line at the exact same time. John Jackson Miller calculates that Direct Market year-to-date sales through July are up 18.5%. Can you name any other print media where this is anything close to true in the year 2012?
Hibbs admits he was wrong in his initial skepticism, and his analysis goes counter to our own Marc-Oliver Frisch who has generally been a half-empty kind of guy in his analysis of the ensuing sales trends. But I tend to side with Hibbs on this.
Even though the editorial roll-out was a rushed, jury-rigged thing, the marketing on the New 52 was incredible, and they basically sold the plan brilliantly. More importantly in what Hibbs writes, when the lapsed readers came back to the stores, they found a cornucopia of great new titles from ALL publishers, including the shelves bursting with new graphic novels from new creators. New new new!
The pie got bigger.
Now, Hibbs being Hibbs, he does have some reservations, mostly about there being too much weak product at the bottom of the charts, and also re the creep back towards crossover land:
I’m also growing a little concern at DC’s large push towards direct crossover stories — something beginning in “Stormwatch” and ending in “Red Lanterns,” or whatever, because while I recognize the “world building” nature of that, most customers really do resent being asked to buy multiple books in order to follow a story. I think it’s a trend that needs to be looked at very carefully, because it is dangerous directly crossing a 25k seller over with a 40k seller — you’re more likely to net lose readers than to gain, short of a lot of marketing muscle being put on a top franchise (eg: “Night of the Owls” in the Batman books).
Tom Spurgeon is first out of the box with analysis of the analysis:
There’s a little bit of rhetorical inflation there because the numbers to which Hibbs’ compares current and initial initiative figures are the really depraved numbers that DC had before the launch, but I think the general points hold true and from Hibbs’ perspective the actual numbers in the store are what count no matter how they got to where they were. If there’s an underlying theme to the analysis, it’s that fans and readers want to buy the work that’s important and that counts, which indicates in a way that’s been borne out a bit so far they’re not unwilling to go to an IDW or an Image if there are books that present themselves in a compelling way there, even if they walked into the door with money for t-shirt Superman or whatever.
Me? I think the books that are doing well are doing well because they have top talent on top characters; the books that aren’t doing so well have less than top talent. That’s pretty much how this comics game works. The way the DC game works now is keeping books on schedule with whoever is around, and that eventually leads to some attrition…we have yet to see how the comics market will evolve in an era where EVERYTHING is editorially driven.
But the bottom line, after all, is DC made a bigger pie. And for that they deserve a ton of thanks and praise.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.