By Todd Allen

Challengers' Patrick Brower dresses for success

Challengers Comics + Conversation, one of the better known shops in Chicago, has posted a look at how DC’s new 52 relaunch has done at their store.  It isn’t a raw number count, it’s about the percentage change from launch (and just the first 4 weeks of sales — no 2nd/3rd/4th prints) to sales on issue #6 of each title.  Effectively, this is a “who kept their readers” list.  Two books managed to gain sales from the first issues sales, everything else dropped significantly, including 2 books that nobody who shops there would buy.

Before jumping into the numbers, the standard disclaimers apply: this is just how the sales worked for one comics shop.  All comics shops will have slightly different data and it wouldn’t be surprising to me if 40 or the new 52 had one shop where the sales had increased since the initial order for the first issue.

Here’s the tale of the register tape:

  1. Swamp Thing 17.02%
  2. Detective Comics 4.35%
  3. Animal Man -3.51%
  4. Batman -4.35%
  5. Batman and Robin -21.82%
  6. Batman The Dark Knight -28.30%
  7. Batwoman -42.55%
  8. Suicide Squad -42.86%
  9. Flash -43.55%
  10. Justice League -45.56%
  11. Birds of Prey -46.15%
  12. Green Lantern -46.67%
  13. Green Lantern Corps -47.62%
  14. Wonder Woman -47.87%
  15. Justice League Dark -48.08%
  16. Nightwing -53.33%
  17. Justice League International -53.57%
  18. Resurrection Man -54.55%
  19. Frankenstein -55.26%
  20. Batgirl -55.38%
  21. Demon Knights -55.81%
  22. All Star Western -56.41%
  23. Batwing -57.89%
  24. Superboy -59.26%
  25. Catwoman -59.46%
  26. Action Comics -59.72%
  27. Green Lantern New Guardians -60.78%
  28. Supergirl -61.11%
  29. Aquaman -62.96%
  30. Red Lanterns -65.96%
  31. I Vampire -66.67%
  32. OMAC -66.67%
  33. Teen Titans  -67.44%
  34. DC Universe Presents -70.83%
  35. Red Hood and the Outlaws -71.43%
  36. Stormwatch -73.33%
  37. Voodoo -76.00%
  38. Savage Hawkman -78.57%
  39. Grifter -79.31%
  40. Superman -79.41%
  41. Fury of Firestorm -80.00%
  42. Green Arrow -80.00%
  43. Deathstroke -81.63%
  44. Blackhawks -81.82%
  45. Men of War -82.35%
  46. Legion of Super-Heroes -83.33%
  47. Legion Lost -85.71%
  48. Hawk and Dove -86.36%
  49. Captain Atom -90.00%
  50. Blue Beete -91.67%
  51. Mister Terrific -100.00%
  52. Static Shock -100.00%

Swamp Thing and Detective Comics are the net gainers.  Am I surprised that Detective is selling more than it’s first month?  Not with all the printings that one has gone through.  Detective snuck up on a lot of people.  Swamp Thing? Scott Snyder’s having a good run right now and it’s quite possible that Batman, which barely lost any readers at Challengers, was popular enough to have people check out the other Synder book.  I see Animal Man, soon to be joined at the hip with Swamp Thing (it’s been a close parallel from issue 1) also kept most of its audience.  However, once you get past the Swamp Thing/Animal Man tag team and the Batman books with Batman in the title, the audience retention drops off pretty fast.

Titles retaining readers better than you might think?  Suicide Squad kept over 50% of it’s initial audience.  Resurrection Man and Frankenstein are lower DC sellers that were top 20 in retention for Challengers.  (Jeff Lemire writes both Animal Man and Frankenstein… at least through issue 6, so perhaps that one shouldn’t be a great shock.)

Things that might surprise a little?  Action Comics is one of DC’s big guns and it dropped nearly 60% of the readership for Challengers.  Superman is also a top 10 seller and dropped nearly 80%.  Action was the median book in retention at the #26 spot.

As for the absolute tankers: Mister Terrific and Static Shock could not sell an issue by #6.  Coincidence that they’re both cancelled?  Perhaps not.

Now, even with this all this tanking (average drop was 53%), how is this doing over all?  Challengers has a list of how much better the continuing titles are doing vs. before the relaunch:

Detective Comics 45.45%
Batman 450.00%
Batman and Robin 10.26%
Batman The Dark Knight 90.00%
Justice League 1860.00%
Birds of Prey 133.33%
Green Lantern 14.29%
Green Lantern Corps -12.00%
Wonder Woman 444.44%
Batgirl 123.08%
Superboy 0.00%
Action Comics 480.00%
Supergirl 133.33%
Teen Titans  600.00%
Superman 162.50%
Green Arrow 66.67%
Legion of Super-Heroes 0.00%

Green Lantern Corps is down a little.  Superboy and Legion are exactly the same.  Batman and Robin and Green Lantern were only slightly up.  Everything else was up A LOT.  Which is as much to illustrate what bad shape DC was in prior to the relaunch, as it is to demonstrate that September orders were strong enough to shed half the readership and still look good.

That’s just one shop, but it’s interesting to see how the change is working for them.


  1. Interesting stuff. I’ve quite liked Static Shock, although I seem to be in the minority there.

    And speaking of ‘minorities’… you have to notice that the two that nobody who goes to that shop will touch are the two with solo black heroes (and no Batman). Is that a Chicago thing? :-)

  2. I like that you did two analyses:
    #1. The drop in sales since issue 1 makes it look like the new 52 is doomed.
    But that’s a false assumption when you look at the follow-up assessment.
    #2. The sales are waaaay better than they used to be.

    Yes, there are some incredible flops, and there are some incredible successes. But even those flops had better sales numbers than some of the comics DC was publishing a year ago.

    I’m going to be real curious to see the sales numbers for the trades, as I have a strong suspicion that a lot of people used the new 52 as an opportunity to switch to trades only.

    BTW – I recommend Challengers. While it wasn’t my primary store when I lived in Chicago, I did make a special trip to visit it once or twice, and I found it to be a very adequate / nice / solid / well stocked store. If I had lived closer I would have stopped by more often.

  3. “you have to notice that the two that nobody who goes to that shop will touch are the two with solo black heroes (and no Batman). Is that a Chicago thing? :-)”

    Looking at the overall sales numbers for those two titles, and it seems like its more of a universal thing. Which is unfortunate, because DC and Marvel both get flak for not publishing comics with minority characters, but when they do, no one buys them.

  4. Zoomy, Jonboy,I don’t think race had much to do with it. Batwing charted much higher than both of those books and stars a black character. I’d say it really boiled down, as it usually does in comics, to how well known the creative team was and how well they executed their vision. Terrific had a writer and artist I didn’t recognize and art so bad that I didn’t want to keep looking at the goddamn book. Static Shock read like the authors both had Traumatic Brain Injury and the art was painfully bad.

  5. See, I’m definitely in the minority. Static Shock’s writing and art both seem pretty good to me – Batwing, to my mind, had the worst art of the whole New 52, being basically a photo collage with no ability to tell a story. But I wasn’t being serious about the race thing, I just thought it was interesting to point out.

    Aquaman’s big drop surprises me too – that’s one comic that seemed to be under-ordered in most places at first, and hasn’t dropped that many readers in the ICv2 figures…

  6. it’s = “it is”
    its = possessive form of the pronoun “it”

    Remember, IT’S his/hers/ITS. NOT his/hers/it’s.

    Thank you.

  7. Marco, I would be more than happy to say race didn’t have anything to do with it, but, historically, comics with female or minority leads (unless they are tied into an extremely popular character, such as Batman), just don’t sell that well.
    And it’s not entirely the creative team’s fault. These two titles just didn’t start off strong, either. Mr T started off at #45 and Static was #50. People didn’t buy those two comics from the beginning before they read it. That, to me, indicates a lack of interest in the character.

    Now, true, if they put Grant Morrison on Mr T, it’d be in the top 10.

    mmmmm…. actually that could be interesting.

  8. I agree w/Marco Polo on creative issues being the underlying problem with Static Shock & Mr. Terrific. Mr. Terrific started with a spectacular cover that made me want to buy instantly – and may have been the strongest new cover of the nu52. Then I opened the book & put it right back. IMO, it never got better.

  9. “Aquaman’s big drop surprises me too”

    Which is why one needs to remember that we’re talking about one single, specific store. The person behind the counter pushing a specific title, or complaining about a specific title can have a big impact on sales at that store. Physical placement of the comic in the store can help or hurt sales significantly as well.

    When I worked at a comic store, whenever we over ordered an issue, we’d start “pushing” it harder, and we’d inevitably sell an extra 10-20 copies pretty quickly.

    Or if there was something I specifically liked, I guarantee you I would push it more and get more subscribers.

    And depending upon this store’s sales, 10 copies can be 20%.

    (BTW – in Diamond sales numbers, Aquaman has only dropped 40%.)

    If people at comic stores actually tried “selling” and promoting books rather than just standing behind the counter and running the cash register, the store would do a lot more business.

  10. “If people at comic stores actually tried selling and promoting books…”

    NOT a knock on Challengers.

    It’s an overall knock on comic stores.

  11. Jon, why would the books starting low not have to do with the creative team and execution? I don’t know about you, but I definitely flip through a book, especially a first issue, before I buy it.

  12. I’m pretty sure it’s not true that putting Grant Morrison on Mister Terrific would make it a top 10 book, but it’d be interesting to see DC or Marvel try something like that for once.

    Of Diamond’s top 26 New 52 comics right now, 24 are connected to the Justice League heroes (Animal Man and Swamp Thing are the exceptions); of the bottom 26 only Birds of Prey and Batwing are part of those families. Creators or characters? I think it’s the latter.

    Aquaman’s first-month sales were 72,272 plus 10% for returnability, sales in February were 63,450. That’s a 20% drop, which is less than most of the others. It had big reorders of #1 in the second month.

    Just to be a maths nerd some more, the drop of 62.96% at Challengers means that the first month sales of Aquaman were a multiple of 27, the #6 sales were a multiple of 10. We’re probably not talking big enough numbers to be worth the discussion…

  13. @ZOOMY
    I think DC should have more gay,black and female characters in their titles. Then sales would go thru the roof! For sales to improve for the sinking DC 52 Superman must become a black gay superhero!
    Watch sales skyrocket!
    respectfully “STAM”

  14. I have to admit I dropped “Action” when a guest writer came on to write the Steel portion of the book. “Action” didn’t have the interesting twisty ideas Grant often has and when he started only writing part of the book, that was enough to push me to drop it…

  15. I am white (kinda) and really enjoy Batwing It was killer art and a different twist People should give it a longer try. We all knew many titles would eventually tank but several are quite good and those canned are set to be replaced by new ones to keep it at 52. Give them a try. I prefer 52 titles than say 80 with cheesy crossovers at $3.99 (Marvel anyone?)

  16. They didn’t sell because they’re Black. The 4th worst book is a white male. They didn’t sell because they were shit books, with shit creative teams… IMHO.

    DC needs to stop getting their artist to ‘write’ for them. How Detective still sells so high is beyond me. Daniel’s writing is way below subpar.

  17. Historically, comics with female or minority characters don’t sell well. Why? Because the majority of readers are white males. Period. No conspiracy.

    In other news, the majority of characters in Japanese manga are Asian. Shock!

    And the majority of lead characters for books that target young female readers are… young females!

    Of course there is always some racism and sexism in any large group of people with a large sample size. But anyone who thinks that a series like Mr. Terrific would sell more than 5% more copies if there was no racism is deluded. Did some people not give Mr. Terrific a try because it stars a black character? Yeah, probably. But not enough for it to mean the difference between cancellation vs a 100-issue run or anything like that.

    If the demographics of North American comics readers would change, then the prevailing type of protagonists in the books would also change. Until more women and minorities actually read comics, we’re stuck with a lack of diversity.

    It’s the people who ONLY see in terms of race and insist on blaming everything on race who provoke more racism than they stop.

    Someone whose favorite books at the moment are Batwoman and Wonder Woman (didn’t like WW #7 that much, though)

  18. @jonboy

    I REALLY don’t want shop employees telling me what to read, but I also REALLY don’t like getting sales pitches.

    I suppose I don’t mind if they see something I’m buying and recommend something that’s in a similar vein, but I’d rather that be natural and occasional, not forced. If it’s forced it feels like the bank tellers at Wells Fargo asking me what I’m doing with the rest of my day. I know they don’t really care, and I don’t want to answer them.

    Sorry, that got off track quickly!

  19. @Faisal

    I agree. I’m usually on the lookout for where racism and privilege are influencing things (and it’s not hard to find lately), but I just don’t think it’s the case here.

    Static and Mister Terrific were always going to be mid-level propositions at best, because they aren’t top-tier characters.

    That said, I do think DC blew their first good opportunity at cashing in on Static by making the story so muddy and convoluted from day one. I teach middle school, and one of my black female students saw a Static Shock comic and asked “Why did they make Static look so ugly?” So that told me that a) the awareness of (and potential larger audience for) the character is still out there, and b) DC should have looked at what made the cartoon successful.

  20. “Why did they make Static look so ugly?”

    It’s clear that a lot of folks in the industry have no idea what the more stylized artwork of the last 20 years looks like to normal people.


  21. This is apropos of nothing, but…. I *loved* the original Milestone books and really, really enjoyed the Static Shock cartoon. I wish DC would take better care of the Milestone characters; there’s gold in those hills.

  22. in addition to DCnU Static being a bad and ugly comic, it was also ill-timed. Why not do it to coincide with the cartoon of the same name that ran for like 4 years?

  23. @thebeat

    Yes, racist tweets from, what, a hundred idiots out of literally MILLIONS of Hunger Games fans EQUALS we KNOW that comics fans are evil racists for not buying Mr. Terrific and Static Shock.

    UMMMMMMMmmmmmm….. Not your greatest piece of deductive reasoning.

  24. How many of you know that in February DC actually sold 10k LESS than pre-reboot August and that they outsold July and June by only about 100k? And things will get much worse now that the first arcs have concluded at #6 and all those people are over with the grace period. DCnU=flop and rightfully so! They bastardized their characters and destroyed their rich legacy and history for nothing! Not only they did not win new readers they also lost thousands of those who were supporting them for years!

  25. I’m so glad that Swamp Thing and Animal Man are doing well, I haven’t been into comics this much since the late 1980’s! I was afriad they might get canceled before they really had a chance to get rolling, both comics are excellent and I’ve been wanting the next issue as soon as I put down the last. It’s been a long time since I got bit by the comic book bug, hope to read much more of those titles in the future.

  26. “DC should have looked at what made the cartoon successful”: can also be applied to the rest of the (very popular) DCU cartoons of the last few years–Timmverse, Static Shock, even Teen Titans Go.