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Monday, June 9, 2014

Something Booster Gold Can't Take Credit For

I don't think it's any secret that I don't care for the New 52. I know I'm not alone.

I often hear or read others with long-term DC Comics buying habits express disappointment with the change to the DC Universe. When we malcontents get together, someone invariably invokes sales numbers to prove that most people hate the New 52.

That sounds comforting, but is is true? I looked at the numbers to see for myself.

DC sales trends since the launch of the New 52

The naysayers have a point. The New 52 is dying a slow death, kept alive largely through increasingly regular injections of "events."

The graph above charts the sales since the launch of the New 52, and the trend lines make it clear that DC is losing ground to their Marvelous Competition. (Let's not pretend that DC's recent changes are anything other than an attempt to close the gap with Marvel, which is more successful in all ways, but especially in the one that counts: sales revenue).

Those spikes in the graph are the initial reboot and last year's "Villains Month" 3D covers. Those 3D covers really seemed to work. Expect to see them more often if this September's Futures End covers are anywhere near as successful. (Living from event to event? Why does that market strategy seem so familiar?)

But before I celebrate the proof that the New 52 is loosing steam, I should put that in perspective and look at what DC was doing before their re-branding:

DC sales trends before teh launch of the New 52

Here I've extended my timeline backwards. We have sales data for 32 months of the New 52 universe, so I decided to look backwards the same distance before the relaunch. Frankly, they don't look so bad. (I can't even blame the sales dip for January 2011 on Flashpoint. That month saw a change in Diamonds' distribution practice, and was a low volume month across the board.)

Ah, but when I put the two timelines together, look what happens:

DC sales trends equidistant from the launch of the New 52

Look at that upswing! And it's probably better than it looks. All of my data comes from and is based off Diamond Comics Distributors' coded sales charts. That means that my numbers are estimates that do not include digital sales. That probably means that the modern numbers are bigger and better than we can see (at least in months without fancy 3D covers).

It's true that a rising tide floats all boats, and the comics industry is currently experiencing something of a sales renaissance as the economy has rebounded from the Great Recession. However, DC is hitting sales numbers they haven't seen in over a decade. It would be foolish to credit most of that change to anything other than the excitement generated by the launch of the New 52.

Creatively, I still refuse to call the New 52 a success. I can still argue that rebooting to something that I might want to read — such as keeping Wally West as The Flash or reverting Superman to Silver Age godhood — may have produced better, longer lasting gains. What I cannot do is deny that the New 52 gave DC sales momentum unlike any in recent memory. The only question now is when DC will do it again.

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