The War Of Attrition In Comic Book Relaunches

wire-posterIn July, DC Comics will be relaunching Teen Titans and Suicide Squad, with Nightwing relaunched as Grayson.

We’ve recently described this as All New DC Now, after Marvel’s All New Marvel NOW, the second wave of relaunching comic books in recent years, with Fantastic Four and Wolverine as the comics that got relaunched twice. So how did they do?

ICV2 estimates sales of Northern American sales through Diamond Comic Distributors, though this excludes UK sales which are often estimated from 10-20% of total sales. But this does, if nothing else, give us comparable data.

11/12 Wolverine #316 – 32,208
12/12 Wolverine #317 – 34,367

Which was relaunched last year…

03/13 Wolverine #1 – 117,669
04/13 Wolverine #2 – 57,165

Until 13 issues later when it was relaunched again.

01/14 Wolverine #13 – 31,164
02/14 Wolverine #1 – 88,923
02/14 Wolverine #2 – 47,339

03/14 Wolverine #3 - 40,735

Sales after the first launch had in a few months fallen to lower than before the relaunch. And the second relaunch didn’t relaunch as well as the first and sales have crashed even faster afterwards.

Or…
10/12 Fantastic Four #611 – 45,322
11/12 Fantastic Four v5 #1 – 114,532
12/12 Fantastic Four v5 #2 – 58,421

01/14 Fantastic Four v5 #16 – 28,045
02/14 Fantastic Four v6 #1 – 65,775
03/14 Fantastic Four v6 #2 – 37,569

The first relaunch saw sales eventually well below the pre-relaunch figures, and the second relaunch also relaunched worse than the first and already sales are lower than before the first relaunch.

This is not good. The worry is that Marvel will keep relaunching, each time getting a sales bump, using all manner of promotional activity such as increased discounts, variant covers and shipping extra copies free, and the eventual result is, a few months later, that people took the relaunch as an opportunity to stop collecting the comic rather than start buying it.

But some comics do beat that trend. Such as Superior Spider-Man/Amazing Spider-Man, a comic that kept more of its bump and maintained more sales than before the relaunch, and titles such as All New X-Men, Guardians Of The Galaxy and even Moon Knight which have found unexpectedly high sales for characters for which high sales weren’t exactly expected.

But that, and Superior Spider-Man to some degree, bring something new. The others, less so.

DC Comics found spectacular success with their New 52 relaunch, but many sales are fading now, and the temptation of new relaunches are clearly upon them, having seen the success of the first Marvel NOW! rollout. But are all the lessons being learnt? Can a book be continually relaunched without its audience getting suck of the artificialness of it all and departing in droves?

It’s a war of attrition, it’s a Red Queen’s Race and hoy have to run harder and harder just to stay still. Or even, slip back slowly.