Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Dominance of DC

Four months after The New 52 crashed into comic stores, I'm still feeling the shock waves from DC's mega-successful re-launch. We did extraordinarily well in September and I don't foresee any time in the future when DC doesn't outsell Marvel in our store. I don't have access to 20+ years of sales data, but I feel pretty confident in saying that that has NEVER happened in the history of the Den. Not like this, not on this scale. The New 52 created new customers, and brought old customers back to the store. The New 52 was and is a success.

In addition to showing the power of targeted tv ads, The New 52 did a great job of re-invigorating their most popular characters. Neither Wonder Woman nor Superman & Action Comics were selling well, pre-launch. Post-launch, Wonder Woman and Action Comics are very strong sellers, Superman a little less so. I think that book will pick up when Dan "I Killed Superman" Jurgens returns to the book in a couple issues. In addition, the Bat books are selling strong. After Justice League, Batman by Scott Snyder is our best seller by a country mile. Snyder's pre-New 52 run on Detective was AWESOME (check out the hardcover of The Black Mirror that just came out) so this isn't a surprise. In terms of returning their main heroes to critical and commercial acclaim, DC succeeded.

The surprise break-out hits have been the Animal Man, Swamp Thing, Demon Knights and (to my surprise) Deathstroke. They're well-written, well-drawn and have a lot of buzz behind them. If they had been launched by themselves at any point within the last 5 years, I don't think they would've lasted long.

Not all of the New 52 are successes, though. Captain Atom, Mister Terrific, Men at War and a couple others are struggling. I don't know that having Blackhawks and Men at War was really necessary. Two war-themed books was overkill in a market that hasn't successfully sold war-based comics in decades (outside of GI Joe). I'm not entirely certain that all of The New 52 will make it past the 9 issue mark. I'm hoping they've got some new books being prepared. A lot of Stephanie Brown fans really want her back as Batgirl, so I've got my fingers crossed for that.

Some of the books have gotten better, too. I wasn't enthralled with New Guardians #1, but the 2nd, 3rd and 4th issues were MUCH better. Stormwatch #2 & #3 were an improvement, as was Resurrection Man. That said, I still think an extra month preparing for The New 52 would've given some of the creators a bit more time to put everything together.

When I reviewed all of The New 52 in September, one of my conclusions was that the books were very, very dark. They still are, and I' still wish they'd gone with a bit more variety. I think letting some of the books find their own voice instead of being editorially driven, would've been a good idea. But  they didn't ask me, the fools. :)

The other black mark I'm giving to DC is regarding pre-New 52 continuity. It's becoming more and more obvious that they have NO idea which stories from the last 50 years still count. A Facebook update on Dan Didio's page in October made the oblique comment that none of the Crises ever happened. Um, really? Going down that road already? I mean, I'm assuming Bane broke Batman's back, I'm hoping No Man's Land actually happened, and I'm praying that Gotham Central still counts for something. And if I find out that Starman by James Robinson didn't take place, I'm going to lose my mind.

On a smaller scale, DC isn't quite sure what to do with some of their other characters. I read an interview with JH Williams on Comic Book Resources, and found that DC doesn't know what they're doing with Renee Montoya, aka The Question. Given her popularity and prominence as one of the few lesbian super-heroes, you'd think that DC would know if her back-story still holds in The New 52. Apparently, noone's figured it out yet. That's pretty disappointing, if only because I could sell boatloads of a new Question series - especially if they got Greg Rucka to come back and write it.

So, continuity issues are a problem. The tone is still a little much for me. But I'm very impressed that all the trains are running on time. All of the New 52 have come out on time, except for Justice League #5, which is due to Jim Lee's wife having a baby over the holidays.

I'm not surprised that there's already been some creative changes. Ron Marz is off Voodoo, Gail Simone left Fury of Firestorm, George Perez is moving off of Superman, Ann Nocenti is taking over Green Arrow. and now it's been announced that Jim Lee won't be on Justice League #7 and #8. That's really disappointing. I mean, I'm happy Gene Ha is drawing #7, he's no slouch. But I honestly figured we'd get 9-12 issues from Jim Lee om Justice League. He may end up doing #9, but how many more will he get done after that? That's adowner

And yes, Voodoo is still my guilty pleasure. I'm still seething a bit at seeing my precious Wildstorm characters have their histories wiped away, but Voodoo is entertaining, so I'll live.

All in all, I think the New 52 has done a good job. There's a number of things they could've gone differently, but September was a success and created new customers. I can't complain about that.

As for the cancellation of Static Shock, Hawk & Dove, Blackhawks, Men at War, Mister Terrific & O.M.A.C... I'm disappointed, but not surprised. I think putting two war-themed books with the initial launch was a mistake. Mister Terrific was a good idea, but the first issue failed to execute properly. Hawk & Dove proved that Rob Liefeld still has fans, but not enough for an ongoing series to succeed. Losing Static Shock is a tremendous disappointment.

The replacements look stronger. An ongoing Earth 2 book by James Robinson harkens to his epic JSA 50's tale, The Golden Age. That, plus the Batman Inc series and World's Finest will more than make up for the loss of sales of the 6 cancelled books. As for Dial H, The Ravagers and G.I. Combat, I'm not sure how they're going to do. Another war book? Ehh... We'll see.


So what about Marvel? How did the Hulk and X-men re-launches do? How did Fear Itself end up? What's going on with X-Sanction, Avengers v. X-men & the Return of the Phoenix? Is the House of Ideas still cranking out greatness?

One word answer: Uhmmm... uhhh..

Okay, that was two.

To be continued tomorrow.

Be good.


1 comment:

  1. That's a little one sided, no? You brush off the flaws with the DC line as if they are small and meaningless, and then you focus solely on what you perceive to be bad at Marvel.

    DC is just as guilty of oversaturating the market as Marvel is. Sure there are 4 Avengers books, and usually a mini or two. There are what, 9 Batman books and spinoffs?

    Marvel is putting out books that are just as good as the best of DC's new 52. FF, Fantastic Four, and SHIELD by Hickman. Iron Man by Fraction. Brubaker on Cap. Bendis and Maleev on Moon Knight. Just to name a few.

    And JLA is a sub par comic. It's their flagship book, and it's pretty much a turd that has been painted in bright colors. Don't you get the feeling like Jim Lee draws the pages, and then Geoff Johns plots them? Haven't we seen enough of Darkseid being the big baddie? I mean, if you're going to bring up Norman Osborn being overused, why not Darkseid? Or is it because we don't even know if any of the old stories that he appeared in have happened? Isn't this "the team comes together" story interchangeable with any of a few hundred others? And it's what, the 7th "official" origin of the JLA? They're relying solely on the iconic status of these characters to sell this book.

    There are good and bad things about both companies. And while the companies are in competition, it's silly that fans and retailers have to be. I enjoy books from both companies, and I feel no greater loyalty to either one other than the amount of books they put out that I happen to enjoy at any given time.

    I'm not saying that you don't have some valid points, just that I think you're enamored of DC right now for a few reasons, and so you aren't being totally impartial.