Buy and Read These Books! Right Now!1 of 12It seems every week between DC and Marvel a new comic series is announced. Here in October, DC is launching six ongoing series and five miniseries; across town at Marvel, they’ve got three new ongoings and eight miniseries. But just as new series are launched with hopeful speculation for big sales on the part of publishers, some current series are crushed with the harsh reality of low, unsustainable sales and
Earlier this month we learned that Marvel’s All-New X-Factor was being cancelled with its twentieth issue, so we turned our attention to ten other ongoing series of the superhero variety at DC and Marvel to highlight – and possibly sound the first alarm – that higher sales might be needed to keep these titles afloat.
Some might be due for a re-numbering to keep it afloat, while others might need a creative shift – either in story or the creators themselves – and others, sadly, might need to take a break from the idea of being a comic series for months or perhaps years.
To find which titles were on the bubble, we relied on the sales rankings released by Diamond Comics Distributors, the leading comic book distributor in the United States. While these rankings do not factor in re-orders, second printings or digital sales, in the past decade it’s proven to be a somewhat accurate barometer of the general performance of comic book titles at comic stores.
We picked the five lowest selling books in both Marvel and DC’s primary comics line, providing an educated guess on which titles might need saving to avoid being on the chopping block.
Aquaman & the Others2 of 12Due to the state of superhero comics, even “new” series are in most cases revamps, revivals or continuations of series from years ago – but not in the case of Aquaman & The Others. Spun out of Geoff Johns’ successful revitalization Aquaman reboot, this undersea Justice League by Dan Jurgens and Lan Medina might find itself 20,000 leagues under the sea if the tide – and the sales – don’t turn.
According to reports from the comics retailer news website ICv2, August’s Aquaman & The Others #5 dropped down to under 20,000 copies sold in American comic book stores – meaning it lost nearly 50% of its sales from its debut issue just four months prior.
Some might see any title with the word “Aquaman” in it as weak based on some low points for the character in public memory, but the main Aquaman title continues to be a successful book for DC – even with Johns leaving the title in favor of Jeff Parker. While Aquaman’s appearance in Superman v Batman: Dawn of Justice will surely have an increase of sales for anything with the word “Aquaman” on it, with Aquaman & The Others downward sales trajectory it can’t wait that long and there needs to be an “all hands on deck” attempt to revitalize this title or abandon ship. If this was Marvel, it’s be an fair estimation that the series would be cancelled, flipped and relaunched with a new number 1 but DC has yet to borrow that trick from the House of Ideas’ playbook.
All-New Ghost Rider3 of 12There’s been numerous men and women to hold the moniker of Ghost Rider, even predating the motorcycle-riding flamehead, but it the one in All-New Ghost Rider, Robbie Reyes, lit a firestorm in some corners of comics fandom – in a good way and a bad way. Now with it in the second half of its first year, this gearhead Ghost Rider is settling into a rhythm, sales-wise, but isn’t catching comics on fire – and it’s already skipping a month in December.
Felipe Smith is settling in quite nice as the writer of this series, but he’s a different kind of writer than what the Marvel faithful are used to. With Tradd Moore leaving the book to return to creator-owned, there was some trepidation among fans as Moore’s work was a signature part of the book. But Damion Scott, returning to comics full-time for the first time in almost decade, picked it up quite nicely.
But that being said, All-New Ghost Rider is an unique one among Marvel books – or an oddity, depending on your perspective – and it’s supernatural status has precluded it from doing what Marvel and DC have done for decades to stoke sales – a crossover. It’s hard to see Ghost Rider riding shotgun in a Original Sin or Axis tie-in, and that inability to cross-pollinate in the Marvel U does limit the choices going forward.
Swamp Thing4 of 12For some people, this is the sleeper hit of the current “New 52” – but unfortunately it looks like it may not be enough. And the fact that writer Charles Soule just signed a Marvel exclusive only makes the prospective future for Alec Holland even more dour. But Soule’s not the bad guy here; when Scott Snyder left the book in 2013, people weren’t optimistic anyone could fill his shoes – but Soule did that and then some. With artists Kano, Javier Pina, David Lapham and the especially excellent work of Jesus Saiz, Swamp Thing has grown into something truly unique in the DCU.
At current estimates according to ICv2, Swamp Thing has settled in around the 20,000 sales mark each month, but stunt issues such as the “Villains Month” have shown to be quite impressive, showing comics readers have this on their radar – although not necessarily in their pullboxes every month. There’s unrealized potential here, and there’s over a dozen writers out in the comics landscape who have the potential to do something amazing on Swamp Thing but it’s still a risk.
Soule has stated that his run goes through #40, the culmination of the current “Machine Queen” arc, but nothing has been said of what happens next. While DC certainly has the time to find a writer to take over the book come March 2015 when Soule’s arc is projected to end (or come June, after the fill-in event expected to run in April and May), I wouldn’t be surprised if DC mimics how it dealt with this book’s sister title, Animal Man, dealt with a departing writer and let it end for the time being and revisit it down the road. That being said, I’m an admitted fan of Swamp Thing and I’d like to see DC prove me wrong.
Secret Avengers5 of 12The Secret Avengers operate under the radar to most of the citizens of the Marvel U, but the series’ sales numbers show that the series is a secret most comics readers’ don’t know about either. This covert ops squad of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes is high on style and subterfuge, but sales numbers have remained elusive – despite superstar writers, artists and also fresh up-and-comers.
After the current volume’s launch in March of this year, Secret Avengers is currently settling in just over the 20,000 sales mark, making it by far the lowest-selling ongoing Avengers title Marvel puts out. The series, which originally launched in 2010, has gone through two relaunches and four revamps in a short amount of time. It’s currently settled into being a S.H.I.E.L.D. book in Avengers clothing, but the announcement of the new S.H.I.E.L.D. series by Mark Waid could make this series extraneous.
That being said, Ales Kot and Michael Walsh are turning in some excellent work in this cloak-and-dagger squad, and the inclusion of M.O.D.O.K. as the resident loose cannon has given this a biting twist that permeates even beyond that big-headed character’s scenes. Marvel could let Kot and Walsh continue on with Secret Avengers, but it would need some special leeway given by Marvel higher-ups – or a jump in sales – to see that happening.
Batwoman6 of 12In the past eight years, Kate Kane has built up a dedicated fanbase both for its story and the artistic merit that’s surrounded it. But in the past twelve months it’s seen much of that evaporate – but for some heroes, its their darkest hour that produces the brightest light.
The departure of the series’ original creators J.H. Williams III and Haden Blackman this time last year and the subsequent shift in story direction did Batwoman no favors in terms of sales. By ICv2’s numbers, that resulted in over a 35% drop in sales in just one calendar year – the second largest drop of any of the original launch titles of the “New 52.” That being said, the June 2014 “Bombshell” variant gave this title an amazing jolt in series – nearly doubling the sales from the previous issues – but two issues later it’s lost all of that ground and then some. “Future’s End” could give it another bump, but those spikes help in the extreme short-term, a more long-term solution seems to be in order if DC wants to continue this series.
It’s interesting to speculate how things would have fared if DC would have went along with original series creators Williams and Blackman’s plans for nuptials for Batwoman. While the quality of that story is only speculative, a similar event – Marvel’s Astonishing X-Men #50 back in May 2012 – doubled that title’s sales but trickled out when the newlyweds weren’t the continuing star of the series. DC ultimately went another course and broke up Batwoman and her girlfriend in August’s issue, but it’s interesting to imagine “What if?”
All-New Invaders7 of 12Children are taught to respect their elders, but these heroes of the “Greatest Generation” haven’t been able to get respect in terms of comic sales to make them squad of winners. Back in August, All-New Invaders dropped below the 20,000 mark for American comic store sales and has lost over half the audience from its debut back in January. Series writer James Robinson returned to Marvel back in January with a lot of heat and goodwill, but it’s failed to translate into sales.
Robinson, Steve Pugh and Marc Laming have turned in some excellent stories with the Invaders going off-world against the Kree and resuming the attack against Killraven’s War of the Worlds-style villains, but Robinson has admitted – in the voice of Captain America – in the most recent issue that the series is on shifting sands as Cap and Namor fight alongside one another here but are at odds with the Illuminati, the Cabal and the events in the major thrust of the Marvel U inside Avengers and New Avengers. Also, the newly revealed position of “the Man on the Wall” held by Nick Fury and now Bucky Barnes seems to cover some of the same territory All-New Invaders set out to do. Sure Winter Soldier is a member of the Invaders in this series, but but it’s an odd mix to see him as a team-member here but acting on his own accord in Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier. Oh, and Captain America – or at least Steve Rogers – is now depowered and no longer carrying the shield.
Marvel has solicited an issue #13 for All-New Invaders in December that goes past the current arc, but the future of these heroes of the past – at least in this configuration – remains very uncertain.
Constantine8 of 12Constantine fights life-or-death odds every day, and the Constantine title has been at death’s door for months now, being one of DC’s lowest selling “New 52” books for the past 9 months. But the British blue-collar warlock has managed to stick around, and with the added value of his upcoming television series (October 24, TV viewers!) it looks like his comic series may have some extra lives – but there’s no doubt DC will be doing some kind of changes.
Constantine started off shaky in March 2013, losing its original writer before the book was launched but pushed towards it’s original launch date. The series premiered at #62 in comic sales that month, with sales roughly considered to be in the high 30,000s range. The sales were much higher than its previous Vertigo series Hellblazer and was DC’s highest #1 that month, but far below what DC’s other major series launched at – even during the New 52 launch month. The major shift from Hellblazer to Constantine lost many of its hardcore fanbase, and the title has been struggling to find replacements – but the television series could be just the thing to find a new audience for the old hero. It’s easy to imagine DC giving some leeway to the Constantine comic series given the television series is to debut shortly, but it would be surprising if DC didn’t do some sort of jolt to the storyline, the creative team, the numbering, or the title itself to earn more sales. The next couple of issues will tie-in to Earth 2 and their third weekly series, World’s End, so perhaps that will be the boost it needs.
Elektra9 of 12Elektra was one of the stand-out launches in the recent crop of “All-New Marvel NOW!” books for its writing and the shighly-praised stunning art, and while Haden Blackman, Mike Del Mundo and guest artist Alex Sanchez have kept their game up it seems readers, by-and-large, have been interested in Marvel books more firmly tied into the main storylines of their universe. The series has found itself tied into the events of “Inhumanity” and tangentially into Inhuman, but that kind of tie-in doesn’t seem enough to affect sales to any degree. For lapsed readers or those who never tried this series at all it’s their loss, but also one for readers of this series who may not see this get past the one-year mark if sales don’t improve.
Arguably the biggest draw to this series past the character, artist Mike Del Mundo, is slated to return to the series with this month’s issue, and the collection of the first arc is due out on November 18. But by that time, Marvel may have already decided to call this project to a close, as the series dropped below the 20,000 sales mark with it’s fourth issue back in July (based on American comic book store sales). Given the high caliber of work being turned in here with this series I could see Marvel giving the creative team enough room to wrap up the series and even perhaps get a more high-profile gig on another book in replacement, but as far as Elektra is concerned she might have met an assassin – in comic sales – that even she can’t overcome.
Infinity Man & The Forever People10 of 12With a title carrying both the words “Infinity” and “Forever,” you’d think it had some longevity. But unfortunately for fans of these Kirby creations and the machinations of Dan Didio and Keith Giffen, Infinity Man & The Forever People might not make it past their first – although the just-launched “Godhead” crossover with the Green Lantern titles might change things.
Launched back in June by the same creative team as the recently cancelled O.MA.C. (one of which is also DC’s Co-Publisher), Infinity Man & The Forever People had an interesting throwback style and a story premise which set it apart from the rest of the “New 52.” Four issues in now, however, and it’s failed to grab an audience size comparable to other successful DC superhero books, with the series now the lowest-selling title set in DC’s main line.
The Forever people have had a series of revamps in recent years, most notably --- and drastically – when Grant Morrison changed them into the Super Young Team from Final Crisis. but even Mr. Multiversity couldn’t make a concept that could stick.
Fans of this series, what say you? What could DC, Didio, Giffen or some other creators due to get Infinity Man and company out of the dumps and higher up in the sales charts?
All-New Ultimates11 of 12From its launch in 2002 and on through to 2007, anytime the Ultimates had an issue out it was a top seller and rarely sold less than a 100,000 copies. Now, in the wake of Cataclysm, several revamps of the entire line and a change of focus for the series itself, the current Ultimates series – All-New Ultimates has dropped to be Marvel’s lowest selling ongoing superhero series that isn’t a licensed title, kid-friendly off-shoot, or cancelled.
Series writer Michel Fiffe, who was hand-picked by Ultimate maestro Brian Michael Bendis to take on this book, has turned in some excellent stories… but stories far different from what people have come to expect when they buy a title with the word “Ultimates” in it. While it is true that titles must evolve and Marvel’s 616 books have largely evolved to be like the original Ultimates series, it seems as if All-New Ultimates isn’t the book fans want – at least not under this title. Fiffe and artist Amiclar Pinna were given some massive shoes to fill, and little to help besides an initial marketing push alongside the other Ultimate titles relaunch earlier this year.
According to solicitations, All-New Ultimates will begin a new three-part arc in November’s issue #10 – so t hat could mean by the time of #12 in January, this title could be at its finale – either a final one, or a break before another relaunch.
And while it’s sister title Miles Morales Ultimate Spider-Man fares much better, the third Ultimate title -- Ultimate FF was already cut short due to low sales back August. Could this be a “canary in the coal mine” warning of larger problems with the once-flush, now-faltering Ultimate line? I think everyone’s noticed the once-promising line now falling on hard times. And of course, with Miles Morales more frequently crossing over with the regular Marvel universe, it seems he has an “out” of his home timeline was to go away. Will Marvel let these titles wither on the vine, or could they do something to inject new life – or at least give the line one last hurrah before it’s brought to a close?
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