Thursday, November 17, 2016

DC Rebirth and the New 52: Sales Comparison Update

DC's Rebirth initiative was both a creative move and a business calculation, the biggest one since the New 52 relaunch in 2011. In advance of Rebirth, I analyzed the sales numbers and came to realize that it makes fiscal sense to double ship the premiere titles and trim off some of the more niche titles. This was creatively risky (I loved Prez and The Omega Men, and Midnighter was good, too, for example) but it has turned out well because the quality of stories and art have been so good in the Rebirth books.

I have found it interesting to compare the Rebirth sales numbers to the New 52 sales numbers in 2011. So here is my update on those numbers:

Before we pull out some numbers from the table, it is important to note two things in favor of Rebirth that do not show up in the table. First, Rebirth started with the Rebirth #1 issues, which gave most of the series a boost in sales even before they had the strong sales of the main #1. There was no counterpart to this in the New 52 relaunch. Second, because many of the Rebirth series ship twice per month (including all the ones in the table above), this means that DC has pulled in all these sales numbers in half the time it took to reach them in New 52. And the extra issues of Batman, The Flash, etc., have taken the place of the lowest sellers in the New 52 (e.g., OMAC, Savage Hawkman). So even if the Rebirth sales numbers were right on pace with the New 52, the Rebirth initiative would still be a doing better for the bottom line.

Now, the things that stand out to me from the table.

Justice League (Geoff Johns) and Batman (Scott Snyder) were powerhouse titles from the New 52. They maintained solid six-figure sales numbers and held on to large portions of their readerships into the second story arcs. On the Rebirth side, Justice League (Bryan Hitch) started strong but declined pretty quickly and has held on to only 41% of its physical readers. Hopefully others are reading it digitally or waiting for the trades, but I do have to admit that Johns' run was more epic than Hitch's. On Batman (Tom King), Rebirth also started very strong but had a steep decline. That series is really good so far, in my opinion, but nothing much compares to Snyder's Court of Owls.

Detective Comics (Tony S. Daniel) and Action Comics (Grant Morrison) also did really well on the New 52 side, but they are holding up respectably well in Rebirth (declines of well less than 30% over 9 issues).

Where Rebirth comes through particularly strong is with Superman, The Flash, Wonder Woman, and Nightwing. Even when the Rebirth version started behind its New 52 counterpart, these titles have all ended up ahead by holding onto their readers quite well. Nightwing has had about a 50% drop off, but it started with a huge number for its #1, so it is doing well overall.

Of course, this is only a snapshot of 8 series. Suicide Squad, Trinity, and Harley Quinn are all selling quite well for Rebirth as well. And the bottom of barrel for the Rebirth line is maybe New Super-Man which is selling 30,000+ physical copies, and probably a lot more digital copies in the U.S. and China. This is much higher than the bottom titles in New 52 which were selling something more akin to 10,000-15,000 physical copies and fewer digital copies.

So things are looking good for Rebirth, as born out by the monthly sales numbers. One question that remains for me is which titles are going to stand the test of time as true classics, like Geoff Johns' Justice League Origin and Scott Snyder's Court of Owls, or even Grant Morrison's run on Action Comics. I have been really impressed with the stories overall -- I've been reading most of the Rebirth line, and there really aren't any that are bad. But which are the ones that are timelessly good? I think the family-based stories in Superman might be a contender, and I really like Tom King's take on Batman thus far, but I don't know if it's elite. Maybe Trinity by Francis Manapul... but it's only 3 issues in.

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