DC Comics relaunch setting sales record... relatively speaking

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DC Comics is already setting sales records for its upcoming relaunch of 52 superhero titles, a sign that the Superman and Batman publisher’s new strategy is garnering fan attention, at least for the moment.

The Warner Bros. unit revealed in a story in Tuesday’s Los Angeles Times that pre-orders for Justice League No. 1, which goes on sale Aug. 31, are already higher than 200,000. That makes it the bestselling comic book of 2011. In addition six other No. 1 titles -- Batman, Action Comics, Green Lantern, Detective Comics, Superman and Flash -- have pre-orders higher than 100,000, making them among this year’s bestselling comics too.


DC is relaunching its entire superhero line with No. 1 issues over the next month in a bid to simplify and modernize stories and characters to draw new, younger readers. In addition, for the first time it is making all of its comics available on digital devices like iPads the same day they go on sale in stores. It’s a two-pronged strategy to revive sales in the slumping comic book market at the same time that comic book characters are being used more than ever by entertainment giants like Warner.

Of course, today’s high water mark is not a lot to brag about historically speaking. Veteran writer and editor Marv Wolfman said that when he ran DC’s larger competitor Marvel Comics in the 1970s, any title that sold fewer than 175,000 copies would be canceled. In today’s comic book market, that would mean Justice League would be the only comic book left.

Sales of comic books have been in a long-term decline. They have dropped steadily for the past three years, and are down an additional 7% so far this year. DC has found a way to reverse that slump for a month, but the big question is whether it can bend the declining sales curve or if it will find itself in the same difficult position next year.


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-- Ben Fritz