September may have been a record month for DC Entertainment, but everyone in the comics industry is wondering just how long it will last.
Now that we've passed the halfway mark for the second month of DC's initiative, Newsarama checked back with retailers nationwide to find out how long the impact is lasting.
Things have cooled quite a bit from September, now that titles are on #2, retailers said. Some attributed the drop to normal sales trends, as readers pick and choose fewer issues to continue reading. But others credited collectors who wanted to get all #1 issues, while also pointing out that the under ordering by many stores seemed to make first prints of the #1 issues more desirable.
"We've seen that there were a fair number of 'first issues only' customers," said Joe Field, owner of Flying Colors Comics in Concord, Calif. "A number of previously Marvel-only readers have used The New 52 as a opportunity to sample DC. Still too soon to tell what the staying power is."
But retailers also said DC is still selling more comics in October than they did in the past."Looking at the numbers, the first half of October equals the average DC month of the last year, so that's pretty darn strong," Field explained. "Sales of the second issues of The New 52 have been very strong when compared to any other month than September."
"Sales of DC #2 have dropped considerably but are still solid," said Ralph DiBernardo, owner of Jetpack Comics in Rochester, N.H. "Now that the hype has passed there are less people picking up books for speculation and less transient buyers. When #1's were selling out people were driving to the next shop to get their fix. They didn't want to miss the newest hottest thing. Now all the shops have adjusted according so there is no shortage of #2s"
And a few stores reported that they're getting even more people looking at DC, even after the mad rush of September.
"At Midtown Comics, things are holding up beautifully, as sales remain high for the #2 issues, and pre-orders for the #3 issues are, in some cases, even higher than those for the #2 issues," said Gerry Gladston, CMO at the Midtown Comics locations in New York City. "It seems as though those few folks who didn’t buy in for the #1’s are seeing this as a great new trend that they need to get in on, and they’re taking the plunge now.""While still pleased with the numbers that DC sold for #2 issues, the 'craze' is over and we're seeing non-regulars returning to their regular stores that finally ordered enough," said John Robinson, co-owner of Graham Crackers Comics, a nine-store chain in Chicago.
And overall, all comic sales tend to be higher now than they were a year ago, retailers said. And they credit the relaunch for the change.
"Sales are up roughly 14 percent from the same time period as last year. Thank you DC," said Ryan Seymore, president and general manager of Comic Town in Columbus, Ohio.
"Our numbers overall are way up over pre-DC 52," said Mike Banks, owner of Samurai Comics in Phoenix. "For the bigger titles such as Action Comics, Batman and Robin, and Green Lantern, we are selling double of what we were previously."
Bob Wayne, DC's senior vice president of sales, told Newsarama at New York Comic Con that during October, the publisher is not only shipping #2 issues, but is also #1's. The retailers we surveyed said that's the case in their stores, as they're still trying to keep the #1 issues on the shelves for some titles.Matt Price, owner of Speeding Bullet Comics in Norman, Okla., said his store is still receiving #1 issues from DC's relaunch initiative. "We sold better-than-expected on Wonder Woman, for example, so we have a strong order on the second print coming," Price said. "Perhaps obviously, we ordered strongest on the second prints on books where we sold through what we ordered of the first printings."
Most stores are doing much better with their ordering on the #2 issues, and a few might have to return some of them. But most of them don't anticipate returning much.
"Thus far we haven't had to reorder any of the #2's," Seymore said. "Having September numbers as a base line, we were able to get at least enough to fill demand for this month. The only issues this month that have needed a reorder were Animal Man #1, Swamp Thing #1 and Batgirl #1. This, to me, seems like a good sign for continued interest in the characters."
"We will most likely have some to return, but so far are taking advantage of the longer sales window allowed on these books to see if we can continue to move them," Price said.
But have the new faces kept coming into the stores?"We continue to see a number of new customers, as well as collectors who had left the hobby but have now come back due to the relaunch," Banks said. "My Marvel customers are jumping on board as well. One good friend of mine who almost exclusively buys Marvel Comics is now buying eight or nine DC titles a month."
"New faces are checking out new things," DiBernardo said. "The DC comics got them in the door, but a nice selection of product has tempted them with other purchases. It's fun to see the new faces in awe of everything the comic book world has to offer."
Retailers said they're getting good feedback about most of the titles, especially the "Dark/Edge" comics and anything to do with Batman.
"The Batman line has gotten nothing but great reviews," Seymore said. "All Star Western, Animal Man, Swamp Thing and Resurrection Man are quickly jumping to the top of a lot of readers stacks.
"I love the fact that non-iconic characters and stories that stray beyond the traditional tights and capes genre are being given a chance and received with such open arms," he added."Fans are scrambling for some of the surprise hits like 'Animal Man' and 'Swamp Thing,'" said Charlie Harris, owner of Charlie's Comic Books in Tucson, Ariz. "Even the Teen Titans are selling and the Titans' series have been stagnant for decades."
But retailers also said some titles are being dropped by customers quickly, after only one issue. After all, there are 52 issues to choose from, so only the best are keeping readers.
"There are some drastic drops in some titles sales with very negative feedback," Seymore said. "Green Arrow has drawn some of the most vocal of complaints mostly centering on the fact that this Ollie is so different than his former self that it's next to unreadable."
"Lots of people are talking about the titles they will not pick up again," DiBernardo said. "Checking my numbers today, I have had some titles drop over 66 percent from #1. You can tell what titles aren't going to make the cut...but I think we all knew which ones those were anyway."
And some customers have given storeowners other negative feedback, although the retailers we surveyed said the positive comments far outweigh the bad.
"Some DC fans are unhappy with some of the new details but most of the complaints have been about costumes rather than story arcs and personally I find that silly," Harris said."Some long-time DC readers feel like they've been abandoned by DC," Seymore said. "The years of continuity that they have faithfully followed has been wiped off the boards to them. The characterizations of some females, most notably Starfire and Catwoman, has drawn quite a bit of anger as well. I can't say that I'm not understanding that complaint. It almost seems like in the first issues of their titles both characters have been sexualized for only publicity's sake."
Same-day digital doesn't seem quite as scary to retailers anymore, although most said they couldn't tell what effect it had.
"For all the talk about how digital sales are supposed to drive new customers into retail shops, I haven't really seen much of that at all," Field pointed out. "This is a case where we don't have the tools to know how same day digital is affecting sales, since there is no possible 'control group.'"
Some are reaping the benefits of the digital storefronts that comiXology offered in September -- although they're not making much off them.
"It isn't going to replace in-store sales for us anytime soon," Price said. ""Though I certainly encourage anybody who wants to buy digital comics to support a brick and mortar direct-market retailer when doing so."
"Part of me doesn't want to report the numbers, since DC and all other digital publishers are unwilling to share real numbers," Field said, but he added that he's only sold a total of 18 digital comics, which isn't much. "I'm sure other retailers with digital storefronts are doing better with it than I am, but I can only report what I know."
And some retailers, like Robinson at Graham Crackers, do think the same-day digital has taken away some of their print sales. "Sadly," Robinson added.Retailers said the decision by DC to offer more digital/print combo packs doesn't surprise them, but they're not sure it will sell as well now that it's not a #1 issue.
"I understand why they're trying it again, and yes it makes sense," Robinson said. "Now they can get a more genuine idea of how many retailers/customers want the digital version. With Justice League #1, we were guessing. They might even need to try this a 3rd time to see real numbers since the results from Justice League #11 were misleading since a coverless copy of Justice League #1 would have sold out -- who knows how many customers really wanted it. I sold some digital versions because there were no regulars left."
" Most of my customers who are opting for the 'combo packs' are doing so to pass the digital code onto friends that they're trying to get interested in comic books," Harris explained.
- SCOTT SNYDER on BATMAN: "Gonna Get Very Dark & Twisted"
- DC Comics' FULL January 2011 Solicitations
- NYCC 2011: DC All Access: THE DARK & THE EDGE Panel