Saturday, January 30, 2016

How likely is the leaked plot of Batman v Superman?

Back in June 2015, a detailed plot synopsis for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice leaked on reddit and on an IMDB comment board. In July 2015, I analyzed the likelihood of the plot synopsis being true based on our best information at the time. My overall conclusion was that the plot description was probably based on a real script -- because it seemed to be of professional level (in fact, I thought it would make for a pretty great movie) and certain facts were confirmed after it had been leaked (e.g., the party scene with Clark, Bruce, Lex, and Diana, and the flirtation between Bruce and Diana at that party; the existence of Kryptonite) -- but I figured it was probably not based on the final draft of the script, because things didn't seem to line up completely with what had been revealed as of July 2015 (e.g., it doesn't fully account for Knightmare Batman).

But now it is February 2016 and with the latest Empire magazine spread, we have probably seen everything we are going to see before the actual release. So I thought it would be a good time to run down the purported plot synopsis again to see what holds up.

If this plot synopsis turns out to be wholly or partially legitimate, then MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW.

Predicted Box Office for 2016 Comic Book Movies

SEE ALSO: Updated remarks following BvS
The era of comic-book movies (CBMs), and specifically superhero CBMs, is still in full swing. In fact, I don't think it has peaked yet and as long as we keep getting highly engaging stories and diverse styles (I think Deadpool, Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad will all help keep things fresh), I think we can count on several more years of the genre dominating the movie box office.

2016 may be the best year yet for CBMs, surpassing even 2008 which contained the release of The Dark Knight and the launch of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With the first CBM less than two weeks away, I'm going to record my predictions for the box office performances of the full slate. There are going to be some massive hits, but I don't think they can all be smash successes. These predictions are informed by past performance, my own gut instincts based on trailers I've seen and my interpretation of the release calendar (e.g., BvS doesn't have much competition for a full month), and social media analysis such as Variety's Digital Audience Ratings (which has BvS and Suicide Squad leading the crowded pack).

Here are my worldwide box office predictions for the 2016 CBMs, in release order:
  • Deadpool (Fox, 2/12/2016) -- $430 Million
  • Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (WB, 3/25/2016) -- $1,250 Million
  • Captain America: Civil War (Marvel, 5/6/2016) -- $960 Million
  • X-Men: Apocalypse (Fox, 5/27/2016) -- $670 Million
  • TMNT: Out of the Shadows (Paramount, 6/3/2016) -- $390 Million
  • Suicide Squad (WB, 8/5/2016) -- $700 Million
  • Gambit (Fox, 10/7/2016) -- I predict this will get pushed into 2017
  • Doctor Strange (Marvel, 11/4/2016) -- $470 Million
Some notes: others may have Deadpool making more than I do, but remember that it was a modest budget so it's still a big moneymaker for Fox. I think BvS should beat Iron Man 3 ($1,215 Million). Most will probably have Civil War surpassing $1 Billion, but I think it takes a dip below Age of Ultron just because of MCU fatigue and the general public getting swamped with too many characters -- still quite a bit higher than previous Cap films, though. I think TMNT 2 avoids a bomb but it comes in lower than the original ($490 Million), partially due to competition with X-Men and Independence Day. I think Suicide Squad performs well because people love the Joker and Harley, it's social media buzz is really high, and it doesn't have much competition after its release (with just Star Trek Beyond providing competition ahead of release) -- I think the Squad comes in as the final hit of the summer. In the fall, I think Doctor Strange does roughly Ant-Man numbers, held back a bit by its director.

Batman 48: Bruce, Joker, and Bloom

Jason Book and I analyze issue 48 of Batman (DC Comics), written by Scott Snyder with art by Greg Capullo.

This was a great issue that fully revealed Bloom's motivations, moved Bruce back toward his memories of the Batman (with the help of a possibly-but-probably-not-amnesiac Joker), and propelled us toward what we're sure will be an epic 49 and 50.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Superman in the New 52 Era

In my previous post, I analyzed the sales boost that was spurred on for DC Comics by their New 52 relaunch. The sales numbers overall show that the New 52 was a good sales decision, but the question remains of whether it was a good creative decision.

Because of the enormous success of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's New 52 run on Batman, most everyone sees the New 52 as a good creative move for Batman. I also happen to be a big Superman fan, and things for the Man of Steel have been more tumultuous. Grant Morrison kicked things off with a Golden Age-inspired run on Action Comics that ended up in Morrison-level multidimensional wackiness, we had a new take on Doomsday in "Doomed," a revolving door of writers on Superman, and we're now in the thick of a depowered, identity-exposed Superman in "Truth."

To get a clearer sense of what the New 52 has meant for Superman creatively, I decided to look back at the Superman Homepage reviews for all 47 issues of New 52 Superman and Action Comics and compare those ratings to the previous 47 issues of pre-New 52 Superman and Action Comics (94 + 94 = 188 total issues). These are the two flagship titles for the Man of Tomorrow and so make sense as a basis for a fair comparison.

The conventional wisdom is that Superman has been hurt by the New 52 move, but according to the ratings from long-time Superman fans themselves...

Saturday, January 23, 2016

DC v. Marvel Comic Sales Before Rebirth

Yesterday DC Comics Co-Publisher Dan DiDio announced DC's "Rebirth" and Bleeding Cool reported that Rebirth would be a relaunch with new #1 issues and a focus on ongoing comic books that feature characters from their TV and Movie universes. The relaunch or reboot (we don't have confirmed details yet) will happen in the Summer of 2016, right after the ongoing series that were part of the 2011 New 52 reach issue #52. (Note: 52 is a special number for DC because it was previously identified as the number of universes in the multiverse. You will often see the number 52 popping up in the DC TV shows.)

In anticipation of Rebirth, I thought this would be a good time to revisit the business side of things through the comic book sales numbers of DC, Marvel, and Image comics. Here is a graph that I compiled using industry statistics from Comichron. It plots the gross sales (in millions of dollars) for each of the three publishers, 1991 to 2015.

A big question is whether the 2011 New 52 relaunch from DC Comics was successful. Very often the conventional wisdom online seems to be that is was a decent idea but a failed effort overall. I don't really read the stats that way. In fact, I read the 2012 upswing in DC's numbers as largely attributable to the New 52 and it marks the only time in the last 10 years that DC approached Marvel's market share.

To better make sense of the rises and falls, here is the same graph but with several historical events overlayed.

It is now much easier to see major factors at play. For example, the big upswing in 1992-1993 was brought on by the Death of Superman event and the influx of non-fan speculators, which led to the crash in the late 1990s and Marvel's bankruptcy. After that there was a period of steady increases with Marvel surging to a market lead even before the launch of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Ironically, Marvel actually saw a couple years of declining sales as the MCU took off. Image, meanwhile, has had steady growth since The Walking Dead TV series began airing on AMC.

In 2011, DC's New 52 relaunch is clearly visible in the sales chart. DC made a big jump upward in 2011-2012. The other good thing for DC is that the jump to above $250 Million in sales has stayed above $250 Million even as Image and Marvel have made substantial gains. (It would have been easy for DC to drop back down as comic book buyers picked up more books from the competition.) The other big event in the recent years on the sales chart, besides the New 52, is Marvel printing the Star Wars universe books beginning in 2015. Those books have consistently been in the Top 20 best sellers, sending Marvel to new heights ($350+ Million).

My sense is that the New 52 was a good business move for DC. (It's a separate question of whether it was a good creative move. I have liked most of what I've read, but certainly not all, and I tend to see it more positively than others on the internet.) Without the big move that was the New 52, all the major forces were working against DC and I think it would have been very likely that Marvel headed toward a 50% market share with Image pulling in 15% and DC maybe hanging on to 20%. Instead, with the New 52, DC ran neck-and-neck with Marvel for 2011-2012, at the height of the MCU popularity, and Marvel has only pulled away because of their Star Wars books.

In 2015, Marvel's Secret Wars bested DC's Convergence, but I think DC's Rebirth in 2016, if it capitalizes on the success of their TV properties and what looks to be an amazing movie universe, and if it allows for diverse readers and young readers to get on board, could put it back on track toward a 30% market share in a growing industry.

CW Dawn of the Justice League

Jason Book and I discuss the footage that was released as part of CW's Dawn of the Justice League and cover the future of the DC Films slate. We focus particularly on Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (dir. by Zack Snyder), Suicide Squad (dir. by David Ayer), and Wonder Woman (dir. by Patty Jenkins).

I continue to love what I'm seeing for BvS, and I was pleasantly surprised by Boomerang in the Suicide Squad trailer. I also think Cyborg has a lot of potential as a character in the 21st Century, and Ray Fisher had some good things to say about it.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Screentime Predictions for Batman v Superman

Jason Book and I discuss our predictions for the relative emphasis and screentime that the major characters will get in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. We cover Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Lex Luthor and Doomsday, and the other potential Justice League members of Aquaman, Cyborg, and the Flash.

An analysis of the content-rich screentime of trailer 2 revealed a perfect balance of 67% Superman, 67% Batman (previous trailers were also very even-handed) and a solid 21% screentime for Lex, with only 7 seconds of Doomsday (he's probably more of a weapon than a character) and about 10% for Wonder Woman.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Justice League 47: Fabok Returns

Jason Book and I review issue 47 of Justice League, written by Geoff Johns with pencils by Jason Fabok. This is part 7 of the Darkseid War story arc.

Overall, we liked the art and are interested in where the story is going overall, but this issue didn't have as much progression to the plot as we had hoped.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Superman 47: Trying to Tie Up Hordr and Brawlers

Jason Book and I discuss Superman 47, by Gene Yang and Howard Porter.

Jimmy plays an important role in this issue and Superman's past pledge to bring revenge against anyone who hurts his friends comes back to bear.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

DC Sales Numbers for December 2015

Diamond released their December 2015 comic book sales numbers, and DC Comics had a slightly better than normal month. I've tracked some of the numbers in the past, and DC usually runs around 25-26% market share while Marvel has a strong lead around 38-40% market share (significantly buoyed by their acquisition via parent Disney of the Star Wars titles). In December 2015, even against Marvel's Secret Wars and the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, DC Comics grabbed a 29.93% market share of units sold and a 29.32% market share of retail dollars.

Although I'd like to see better sales numbers for the Superman titles, it is really Batman and Harley Quinn that are leading the DC pack. The top book for DC was the much anticipated Dark Knight III: The Master Race, and the regular Batman title plus the crossover with IDW - Batman Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 - also appeared in the Diamond Top 5.

Harley's Little Black Book #1 was in the Top 10 and on the graphic novel side, Harley Quinn volume 2 and volume 3 both appeared in the Top 10. The graphic novel setting the stage for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (March 25th, 2016) also sold well, as the Batman vs. Superman trade paperback came in as the 4th bestselling graphic novel of the month.

One way to look at these numbers is that Batman and Harley Quinn are very popular, while the rest of DC's line is down. The way I prefer to look at it, though, is that the DCYou initiative launched in the first half of 2015, with it's increased diversity and expanded creator control, is gradually reaping benefits, led of course by the popularity of Batman. I hope in the near future to see some new statistics about comic book readership, because early signs for the DCYou were positive in terms of reaching new readers, and if those demographics have remained, I think DC might be able to reach 30% market share in 2016.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Looking Forward to 2016

2015 was great for a DC Comics fan like myself. The TV side of things continued going strong with The Flash, Arrow, and Gotham, plus iZombie and the launch of Supergirl. We got two good Justice League books in 2015 and I liked the DCYou launch, with Superman's "Truth" arcs actually turning out better than I expected, and some great new books, especially Martian Manhunter and The Omega Men. There weren't any live action DC movies released by Warner Brothers, but there was a lot to dig into as we prepare for Batman v Superman, Suicide Squad, and Wonder Woman. So I'm confident that 2016 is going to be even better!

Here are the Top 5 things I am looking forward to in 2016 as a DC Comics fan.

Justice League 46: Barda helps a lackluster issue

Jason Book and I discuss Justice League 46 from DC Comics, which is part six of the Darkseid War story arc, written by Geoff Johns. Art in this issue was by Francis Manapul, who also did the covers for the Darkseid War one-shots last month and has covered some other duties while Jason Fabok, the original artist, returns in issue 47.

Overall, we liked the issue but still felt that it has not lived up the potential set up by the first 3 issues of the arc. We're hoping for a full return to form with issue 47, which is out already, right on the heels of 46.