- Booster Gold
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Wednesday, August 23, 2017
DC Comics released solicitations for November 2017 earlier this week. If you don't already have it in digital or floppy form, you'll soon have a third chance to see Booster's final, one-panel cameo appearance in Smallville continuity courtesy of the aptly-titled Smallville Season Eleven Volume 9: Continuity. That looks like about our only chance to see our hero in November. My question is "Why?"
Let's look at the bigger picture. Based on available numbers assembled by ComcisBeat.com and ComicChron.com, DC Universe titles have seen hard copy periodical sales fall by more than 21% over the past decade (and more than 42% since Rebirth's initial bump). Trade collections prop those numbers up slightly (adding 2% in either case), but not nearly enough to cover the full difference. Do digital sales make up that shortfall, or it simply a case that fewer people care to read DCnU titles these days? I certainly don't, and the primary reason is the continued absence of one particular character. (Hint, hint.)
DC doesn't exactly look to be taking that bad news lying down. Looking at solicitations, you'll see several new DCnU comics coming in November featuring lesser-known heroes. Black Lightning shines again in Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands. The Demon is back in The Demon:Hell on Earth. Zatanna reappears in Mystik U. Even Batman's latest (and most lazily-named) protege, The Signal, is getting some love with Batman and the Signal.
While it is a good idea to inject new characters into the publishing line up, all of those are mini-series. You'd almost think DC was afraid of commitment. (Why wouldn't they be? Even death is impermanent in the DCU.) However, the company seems equally unwilling to drop the hammer on underperforming ongoing titles to make room for new ones.
In June (the most recent month for which numbers are available) the company had 3 ongoing titles that undersold the lowest selling issue of Booster Gold volume 2 (Booster Gold #43 in 2011). New Superman and Blue Beetle had June issues very near DC's pre-Flashpoint cancellation threshold. The worst performing of the three, Cyborg, is doing worse than its pre-Rebirth numbers, and it was trending below the old threshold then! Judging by November solicitations, all of these will continue into November with no cancellation, taking up valuable opportunities for titles with a chance to spark interest in new readers.
I don't mean to suggest that returning Booster Gold to action would reverse any of those negative sales trends for the company, but I do suggest it couldn't hurt. At worst, Booster Gold can outsell Cyborg! I can name at least one reader who would be picking up more DCnU books if Booster Gold was around.
Monday, June 9, 2014
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.
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:
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:
Look at that upswing! And it's probably better than it looks. All of my data comes from ComicChron.com 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.
Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Out suspicions were confirmed earlier this week that DC Comics had near-record sales in September with its Forever Evil mini-series and tie-ins. For those of you who hate event books, remember this. Yes, they are usually mediocre, editorially driven stories. But boy howdy, do they sell!
ComiChron.com reports that DC Comics sold over 4 million copies of 129 different comics in September 2013. That made September sales nearly as good as those in the first week of their "New 52" initiative back in October 2011.
The good news is that DC looks healthy and wealthy, at least for the time being. Keep in mind that DC needs to stay in business if we're ever to see our Booster Gold in action again.
The bad news is that they sold all those books without so much as a mention of Booster Gold. With everything going so well (financially) right now at DC, we can't expect the company to feel any pressure to return Booster to action anytime soon.
Monday, July 15, 2013
Now that the story is over and the numbers are in, I thought it would be fun to look at whether or not choosing to add Booster Gold to All-Star Western did anything to help its anemic sales. In short, the answer is "not really."
I've included the six months of sales prior to Booster's arrival (issues #13 through #18) in the graph for reference. It seems that Booster's arrival in issue #19 may have slowed the defection of readers briefly, but they resumed their flight from the title as the story wore on. If All-Star Western lives or dies based on sales numbers (and not Dan DiDio's favor), Booster's appearance might have bought the title one more issue.
Granted, the numbers in this chart are for print issues only and fail to account for any digital sales. Maybe the book sells like gangbusters online, although since All-Star Western appears in 407th place of ComiXology's "Top Titles" list, that seems unlikely.
Looking at the slope of sales decline, an unexceptional issue #19 should probably have been expected to sell about 16,400 copies. Instead, with Booster's help it sold 16,838 copies. Does that mean that adding Booster to a book boosts sales by 400 copies? If the sales of Smallville are any indication, we should probably assume that it was the "WTF" gatefold cover, not Booster's appearance, that drove up sales for the issue.
Booster's appearance in issue #13 didn't seem to move the sales needle. Sales continued on pace. Although these graphs show decreasing sales, remember that as a general rule, comic sales decrease in a gentle curve from month to month for every title everywhere. That's natural sales entropy, and it's why titles are constantly started over with number 1 issues; it moves the title back to the top of the ladder to start the slide over again.
Did Booster fail to make any mark on Smallville: Season 11's sales because Smallville takes place outside of continuity (whatever that word means in the New 52 Universe)? Was it because Smallville: Season 11 is sold in weekly installments online? Or was it because the people who would buy Smallville are buying anyway, and don't care who the guest star of the week is? Who knows. But whatever you do, don't blame it on Skeets!
Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Last week, in regards to sales of Justice League of America, I said, "I suspect that since DC isn't crowing about how great [sales] have been, they can't find anything to crow about." Looks like I was very, very wrong.
According to Comichron.com, Justice League of America and its 53 covers was the best selling book for the month of February... since 1996!
Comichron goes on to note that this book even outsold Superman: The Wedding Album (November 1996), the previous best-seller since DC signed an exclusive distribution agreement with Diamond Comics Distributors in 1995. That's great news for Booster Gold fans, who saw their hero get his first in-continuity reference in months.
(Aside: For years, a good friend of mine who has owned a comic book store since the early 1990s had several unopened cartons of "white-bagged" Superman: The Wedding Album in his basement. It took him the better part of two decades to unload the unwanted issues that the hype following Death of Superman had lured him into over-ordering. I still tease him about that overly-ambitious order. Needless to say, his order for Justice League of America was much more conservative.)
While Justice League of America sold better than all comics in recent memory, there is ample evidence to suggest that fans were buying for the "53 covers!" gimmick, not the concept itself. Over at ComicBook.com, Russ Burlingame points out that Katana and Vibe, the tie-in series to JLoS, sold comparatively poorly at #80 and #78 respectively for the month. This a surprise, especially considering their pedigrees. Burlingame notes:
It's been a long time since [writer Geoff] Johns launched a title that debuted out of the top 50; back in 2007, Booster Gold came in at #58....
As we know, Booster Gold was cancelled after 4 years, but mainly because of Flashpoint. (Yes, sales were falling, but the title would indisputably have reached #50 if not for the Great Random Reboot of 2011.) What are the odds that Johns' latest series, Vibe, makes it even half that long?
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