DC SALES: February 2017 — JLA (Justa Lotta Attrition)

Hey, sales chart fans — wait, there are sales chart fans, right? I mean, this column adds something to somebody’s fannish life, right? I’m not the only one who geeks out on this kind of thing, am I?

Well, even if I am, I’m having fun, so here goes.

Previously, we looked at sales though February 2017 for DC’s Bat-books, and its Super-titles. Click the links to peruse those numbers if you missed ’em. The Bat one is the more important of the two in that it gives a down ‘n’ dirty primer on where these sales numbers come from, and what they mean.

This time out, we’ll take a look at the Justice League titles, as well as the solo series for Leaguers not named Superman or Batman.

But first, let’s include the Big Two in a run-down of which heroes have gained and lost the most since the launch of DC’s Rebirth brand. The first numbers to the right of the title are the initial sales by Diamond Distributors to North American comic shops for #1 of each series (not the Rebirth special, but the actual #1), while the number in parenthesis is the titles rank among all comic book titles sold that month. The second is sales for the most recent issue published in February, and it’s rank. Finally, the last number is the attrition from then to now.

Most of the books launched in June 2016, but the team title hit stands in July, while Cyborg made his bow in September.

1. THE FLASH: 100,392 (11) — 55,234 (18) — [-45.0%]
2. SUPERMAN: 105,380 (10) — 54,561 (19) — [48.2%]
3. WONDER WOMAN: 107,737 (9) — 48,662 (26) — [-54.8%]
4. GREEN LANTERNS: 84,910 (18) — 36,626 (54) — [-56.9%]
5. AQUAMAN: 77,041 (24) — 30,358 (76) — [-60.6%]
6. BATMAN: 280,360 (2) — 99,637 (3) — [-64.5%]
7. JUSTICE LEAGUE:  209,187 (1) — 64,230 (11) — [-69.3%]
8. CYBORG: 56,280 (37) — 16,274 (136) — [-71.1%]

So, what does this show us? Well, clearly, Batman and Justice League each had the furthest to fall, and have done accordingly. Still, I think we can glean that The Flash is the surprise hit of the pack, in terms of hanging on to its initial sales, while Cyborg must be getting fit for an iron lung to keep him breathing, especially considering that he’s only on his 12th issue, while his teammates are all up to #17.

Okay, so, let’s look at the individual titles, Batman and Superman excepted, as those have already been done elsewhere.

 

JUSTICE LEAGUE
07/2016: (2) Justice League: Rebirth #1* — 177,638  [+6,211]
07/2016: (1) Justice League #1* — 209,187
08/2016: (8) Justice League #2* — 127,402  (-39.1%)
08/2016: (11) Justice League #3* — 110,738  (-13.1%)
09/2016: (5) Justice League #4* — 94,548  (-14.6%)
09/2016: (10) Justice League #5* — 89,342  (-5.5%)
10/2016: (12) Justice League #6 — 89,073  (-0.3%)
10/2016: (13) Justice League #7 — 85,789  (-3.7%)
11/2016: (12) Justice League #8 — 80,696  (-5.9%)
11/2016: (13) Justice League #9 — 77,905  (-3.5%)
12/2016: (14) Justice League #10 — 73,652  (-5.5%)
12/2016: (15) Justice League #11 — 71,527  (-2.9%)
01/2016: (10) Justice League #12 — 72,598  (+1.5%)
01/2016: (15) Justice League #13 — 70,437  (-3.0%)
02/2017: (10) Justice League #14 — 65,458  (-7.1%)
02/2017: (11) Justice League #15 — 64,230  (-1.9%)

I initially bypassed this series for two reasons — 1) I hate the idea of Cyborg as a founding Leaguer, and will until DC formally and permanently acknowledges the continued existence of Pre-Crisis Earth-1 and not longer tries to convince me my beloved New Teen Titans tales never happened. If DC wants to tell me I’m not reading the adventures of an Earth-52R Justice League, that’s then okay with me, and 2) because I was leery, based on previous experience, of Bryan Hitch being able to keep a regular bi-weekly schedule, even as just the writer. However, I did pick it up starting with the “Timeless” storyline in #15 (due to a Legion of Super-Heroes reference) and I tell you, I am LOVING this book!

The New 52 version of this title started with 171,344 in sales (ranking #1 in August 2011), and garnered an additional 46,650 copies the following month (good for 44th place on that month’s chart). The series ended at #52 with 72,413 in sales in June 2016 (ranking 29th). However, the previous issue, on sale the same month sold 70,059.

So, the upshot? Good as it is, JL is now selling below its New 52 levels.

The good news, however, is that while its losing the attrition game, so, too, is the entire industry, and JL is holding its place on the charts pretty well relative to other books. Also, the final issue of the Justice League of America series immediately preceding the New 52 launch (#59) only sold 43,545 copies, languishing at 32nd place on the charts. So, the Justice Leaguers are still jumping over that low bar, and I don’t see TPTB at DC pressing the panic button until we get a lot closer to those sales levels.

 

THE FLASH
06/2016: (17) Flash: Rebirth #1* — 89,618 [+24,535]
06/2016: (11) Flash #1* — 100,392 [+15,998]
07/2016: (13) Flash #2* — 103,308  (+2.9%)
07/2016: (19) Flash #3* — 97,334  (-5.8%)
08/2016: (15) Flash #4* — 92,916  (-4.5%)
08/2016: (24) Flash #5* — 83,482  (-10.2%)
09/2016: (13) Flash #6 — 82,930  (-0.7%)
09/2016: (18) Flash #7 — 78,057  (-5.9%)
10/2016: (17) Flash #8 — 76,749  (-1.7%)
10/2016: (21) Flash #9 — 74,311  (-3.2%)
11/2016: (17) Flash #10 — 70,681  (-4.9%)
11/2016: (20) Flash #11 — 68,304  (-3.4%)
12/2016: (20) Flash #12 — 64,476  (-5.6%)
12/2016: (24) Flash #13 — 62,800  (-2.6%)
01/2017: (20) Flash #14 — 60,732  (-3.3%)
01/2017: (22) Flash #15 — 58,402  (-3.8%)
02/2017: (15) Flash #16 — 57,039  (-2.3%)
02/2017: (18) Flash #17 —   55,234  (-3.2%)

As you can see by the reorder activity and sales bump for #2, retailers seem to have misjudged interest in this title, probably due to fanboy interest in The Flash as nexus point to all things multiversal. But the title has been on the same slow decline as all Rebirth books, even if it has lost a smaller percentage of its #1 audience than its peers.

The New 52 volume started with 129,260 in initial orders (landing 4th on the Sept. 2011 chart) and ended at #52 in 55th place on the May 2016 chart with 32,831 in sales. So, The Flash, I think it’s fair to say, is a Rebirth success story, still selling above New 52 numbers. And, by the way, the volume of The Flash that ended at #12 in May 2011 before giving way to Flashpoint and the New 52, sold 54,914, landing 15th on the chart. So, we’re in that territory, when Geoff Johns was still at the helm.

 

WONDER WOMAN
06/2016: (15) Wonder Woman: Rebirth #1* — 94,458 [+19,720]
06/2016: (9) Wonder Woman #1* — 107,737 [+11,870]
07/2016: (12) Wonder Woman #2* — 103,759  (-36.8%)
07/2016: (21) Wonder Woman #3* — 94,465  (-4.9%)
08/2016: (19) Wonder Woman #4* — 85,329  (-9.2%)
08/2016: (29) Wonder Woman #5* — 77,860  (-7.1%)
09/2016: (21) Wonder Woman #6 — 74,856  (-2.3%)
09/2016: (25) Wonder Woman #7 — 70,118  (-2.4%)
10/2016: (31) Wonder Woman #8 — 66,405  (-4.2%)
10/2016: (34) Wonder Woman #9 — 64,555  (-2.9%)
11/2016: (25) Wonder Woman #10 — 60,815  (-4.1%)
11/2016: (30) Wonder Woman #11 — 58,692  (-3.5%)
12/2016: (32) Wonder Woman #12 — 55,639  (-4.5%)
12/2016: (33) Wonder Woman #13 — 54,589  (-2.7%)
01/2017: (29) Wonder Woman #14 — 52,784  (-1.5%)
01/2017: (30) Wonder Woman #15 — 50,978  (-3.8%)
02/2017: (22) Wonder Woman #16 — 49,921  (-0.7%)
02/2017: (26) Wonder Woman #17 —   48,662  (-2.4%)

A good conversation point might be whether the format of this bi-weekly book, telling two different parallel stories each month, works better from  sales perspective than its peers, which give us one ongoing tale with a new chapter every two weeks. Frankly, I don’t spy anything in the numbers that tells me fans prefer one form of storytelling over the other. So, call it a wash.

Wonder Woman is another Rebirth success story. She closed out her legacy numbering at #614 (which was kind of a cheat from adding Vols. 1 and 2 together, in August 2011 at 29,223 in sales and a 60th place ranking on the chart. In the New 52 era, her initial sales ranged from 76,214 (#1 in 13th) in Sept. 2011 to 29,673 (#52 in 61st) in May 2016. So, the Amazing Amazon is still far above those previous runs. Therefore, I’d say don’t look for any abrupt creator or direction changes here in the near future.

 

GREEN LANTERNS
06/2016: (12) Green Lanterns: Rebirth #1* — 99,504 [+9,479]
06/2016: (18) Green Lanterns #1* — 84,910 [+14,366]
07/2016: (28) Green Lanterns #2* — 82,062  (-36.8%)
07/2016: (29) Green Lanterns #3* — 78,708  (-4.9%)
08/2016: (37) Green Lanterns #4* — 71,140  (-9.2%)
08/2016: (44) Green Lanterns #5* — 64,252  (-7.1%)
09/2016: (36) Green Lanterns #6 — 58,346  (-2.3%)
09/2016: (38) Green Lanterns #7 — 55,367  (-2.4%)
10/2016: (47) Green Lanterns #8 — 52,025  (-4.2%)
10/2016: (50) Green Lanterns #9 — 49,434  (-2.9%)
11/2016: (50) Green Lanterns #10 — 46,306  (-4.1%)
11/2016: (53) Green Lanterns #11 — 44,703  (-3.5%)
12/2016: (51) Green Lanterns #12 — 42,241  (-4.5%)
12/2016: (55) Green Lanterns #13 — 41,090  (-2.7%)
01/2017: (59) Green Lanterns #14 — 39,854  (-1.5%)
01/2017: (62) Green Lanterns #15 — 38,571  (-3.8%)
02/2017: (50) Green Lanterns #16 — 37,845  (-0.7%)
02/2017: (54) Green Lanterns #17 —   36,626  (-2.4%)

This one is a little harder to judge in terms of past performance, because it’s starring two different Lanterns than we’re used to. Also, I think it’s fair to say that fans have developed a certain amount of Lantern fatigue since Geoff Johns days as DC showrunner, when every third title, it seemed, starred a ring-wielder.

Still, the fact the title has only fallen this far, smack in the middle of the JL pack, speaks well for the series, I think, and I’d say GLs Simon and Jessica are fully ensconced as permanent parts of the GL mythos and the greater DCU.

 

AQUAMAN
06/2016: (35) Aquaman: Rebirth #1* — 68,369 [+15,635]
06/2016: (24) Aquaman #1* — 77,041 [+8,594]
07/2016: (38) Aquaman #2* — 70,500  (-36.8%)
07/2016: (39) Aquaman #3* — 68,360  (-4.9%)
08/2016: (48) Aquaman #4* — 61,492  (-9.2%)
08/2016: (52) Aquaman #5* — 54,929  (-7.1%)
09/2016: (52) Aquaman #6 — 49,903  (-2.3%)
09/2016: (58) Aquaman #7 — 47,005  (-2.4%)
10/2016: (60) Aquaman #8 — 44,551  (-4.2%)
10/2016: (65) Aquaman #9 — 42,695  (-2.9%)
11/2016: (66) Aquaman #10 — 39,816  (-4.1%)
11/2016: (74) Aquaman #11 — 38,109  (-3.5%)
12/2016: (76) Aquaman #12 — 35,571  (-4.5%)
12/2016: (79) Aquaman #13 — 34,619  (-2.7%)
01/2017: (79) Aquaman #14 — 33,377  (-1.5%)
01/2017: (84) Aquaman #15 — 32,424  (-3.8%)
02/2017: (72) Aquaman #16 — 31,408  (-0.7%)
02/2017: (76) Aquaman #17 —   30,358  (-2.4%)

The Sea Kings has had a tougher row to hoe — or lane to swim, as it were — than his compatriots, given that the New 52 version was spearheaded by Johns with the specific purpose of turning Aquaman into a badass, albeit not the hook-handed grim ‘n’ gritty kind. That series launched in Sept. 2011 with 72,272 in initial orders (ranked 16th on the chart), and ended at #52 in May 2016, after Johns had left, at 82nd place, with 22,246 in sales. So, while I don’t think there was any expectation of maintaining the Johns numbers, and Aquaman is still ahead of where he were, we are getting dangerously close to shallow waters, I think.

Aquaman had not had a series for a couple of years when Johns tried his hand at the character, having ended its Vol. 7 run as Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis at #57 in Oct. 2007 at 168th place on the charts, with a minnow-sized 12,931 in sales. So, Aquaman can still sink a lot further, depending on DC’s tolerance for continued attrition.

 

CYBORG
09/2016: (31) Cyborg: Rebirth #1* — 64,169
09/2016: (37) Cyborg #1* — 56,280
10/2016: (80) Cyborg #2* — 37,797  (-36.8%)
10/2016: (98) Cyborg #3* — 32,505  (-4.9%)
11/2016: (104) Cyborg #4 — 28,303  (-9.2%)
11/2016: (108) Cyborg #5 — 25,772  (-7.1%)
12/2016: (113) Cyborg #6 — 21,287  (-2.3%)
12/2016: (124) Cyborg #7 — 19,788  (-2.4%)
01/2017: (141) Cyborg #8 — 18,562  (-4.2%)
02/2017: (136) Cyborg #9 — 16,274  (-4.5%)

Someone has to be asking whether Cyborg can really ever support his own series. That’s odd, in a way, given that the character should be perfectly poised to capture the current social media zeitgeist. Of course, myself, I still ask why DC didn’t pick Black Lightning or, a black-skinned version of John Jones, or maybe better, Vixen, if it wanted so badly to incorporate greater melanomal  diversity into the New 52 JLA.

Anyway, I think we can safely describe these numbers as cratering. And that’s not unprecedented. Cyborg’s New 52 series got the ax at #6 in Dec. 2015 (I do not recall it being solicited as a limited series), having fallen 60.5 percent to 17,864 (145th place) from its debut of 45,187 copies, (in 37th).

The title is below were it was the last time it got canceled, so I really can’t see it remaining on the schedule much longer without significant retooling. As is, the series got “downgraded” to monthly status with #8, which is funny in a way. When I was a kid comic books came out monthly, but the bottom sellers would generally come out on a bi-monthly schedule. Can you imagine a comic book adventure told in the modern decompressed storytelling style, with two months between issues?!

 

Now, for fun, let’s look at some other books DC is putting out under the JLA brand:

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #1
01/2017: (89) JLA: Rebirth: Killer Frost #1 — 29,932
01/2017: (93) JLA: Rebirth: The Atom #1 — 29,639
01/2017: (95) JLA: Rebirth: Vixen #1 — 29,435
01/2017: (100) JLA: Rebirth: The Ray #1 — 27,749
02/2017: (9) JLA: Rebirth #1* — 73,397
02/2017: (4) JLA #1* — 93,494

While the numbers for JLA #1 seem faboo, one has to ask what kind of legs the series will have, given the tepid response to the Rebirth issues starring its constituent members. Those sales of less than 30k and just withing the Top 100 are pretty paltry IMHO. And if retailers hedged their bets on initial orders, they apparently didn’t see subsequent demand enough to warrant reorders. Or at least, if there was reorder activity for the Killer Frost, Atom, Vixen and Ray books, none cracked the Top 300 in February, meaning they moved fewer than 4,044 additional copies.

So, given B-list (and even C-list) characters, coupled with Batman over-saturation, I’m guessing this will be somewhere in the 30-35k range before issue #10, at least.

 

JUSTICE LEAGUE/POWER RANGERS ($3.99)
01/2017:   (4) JL/Power Rangers #1* — 86,589  [+6,854)
02/2017: (65) JL/Power Rangers #2* — 32,835  (-62.1%)

As I’ve said about books like this before, I think they are snapped up by collectors, not readers. Retailers seem to have a built-in expectation that those who buy the #1 aren’t going to bother with later issues.

 

JUSTICE LEAGUE/SUICIDE SQUAD ($3.99)
12/2016: (7) JL/Suicide Squad #1 — 179,643  [+4,876]
12/2016: (7) JL/Suicide Squad #2 — 82,485  [+4,625]  (-54.1%)
01/2017: (7) JL/Suicide Squad #3 — 74,299  (-9.9%)
01/2017: (12) JL/Suicide Squad #4 — 71,450  (-3.8%)01/2017: (14) JL/Suicide Squad #5 — 70,489  (-1.3%)
01/2017: (13) JL/Suicide Squad #6 — 71,213  (+1.0%)

I think the lesson here is, when issuing a stunt book of any kind, solicit the entire thing such that all retailer orders must be in before the first issue hits the stands. Had this come out on a standard monthly schedule, I suspect the orders for the final issues would have come in far, far below what we see here.

 

And that it for this outing. Next up: We’ll see how DC’s Young Animal imprint is faring thus far.

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Duke Harrington

A newspaper reporter since 2004, Duke Harrington currently writes for the Kennebunk Post and the South Portland Sentry. He lives in Western Maine with one wife, one dog, two cats, and 19,237 comic books.
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