Action Comics #1 variant cover

When DC Comics first made the announcement that they were going to stop and restart their entire line of comics, including ‘Action Comics’ and ‘Detective Comics’, two of the longest running American comics in history… the world thought that DC’s management had lost their minds.

On August 31st, DC Comics only released two issues. One was ‘Flashpoint’ #5, the final issue of its previous line of comics. The other was ‘Justice League’ #1, the beginning of DC’s “New 52” line. When sales of the comic began, word started pouring in that ‘Justice League’ #1 was exceeding sales expectations on all fronts. The issue was given an enormous print run of 200,000 issues, far beyond the usual print run of around 75,000-100,000 that most comics get. Despite the extra large print run, every issue of ‘Justice League’ #1 sold out from the distributor within HOURS! A second print run was announced the same day. The second print run sold out within 24 hours. ‘Justice League’ #1 is now on its third print.

Having one issue sell out like that is a phenomenal feat in and of itself, but DC began announcing that other titles in the New 52 were selling out as well. The first issues of ‘Batgirl’, ‘Action Comics’, ‘Hawk and Dove’, ‘Justice League International’, and ‘Batman and Robin’ all sold out their first prints and went back to press. Yesterday, DC announced via their official blog that all 26 issues releasing in the second and third weeks of the New 52 relaunch were already sold out from the distributor and were going into second print.

Detective Comics #1

According to The Comic Chronicles, a site that records and measures comic book sales figures, comic sales for the month of August 2011 were up an estimated 17.55% over the same month in 2010. Of note is that August only had the single issue of ‘Justice League’ to help with that jump. Numbers aren’t in for September yet, but I expect that percentage to be much higher. So the question on everyone’s lips at the moment is: “Did DC Comics’ New 52 relaunch save the failing comic book industry?”

That’s a very hard question to answer. Despite comic book heroes having a heyday at the movie theater box office, actual comic book sales have been struggling for the better part of the last decade and a half. Comic companies have branched out into the digital arena to help sales. Readers can now try, purchase, and read comics on their home PC, smart phone, or more often their tablet PC. Still comic sales haven’t seen any significant upturn.

DC Comics’ universe-wide relaunch, while a massive gamble, was a calculated move to bring new and lapsed comic book readers into the comic book shops. The infusing of 52 #1 issues onto comic shelves, combined with the mainstream coverage that DC’s relaunch was getting has led to colossal sales for the months of August and September. A part of those sales is the product of curious readers who are returning to the hobby after a long absence to see what all the fuss is about. I’ve also heard that current comic fans that usually read Marvel Comics or some other publisher are giving DC’s books a chance with the relaunch. I expect that at least a portion of these readers will stick around with DC and continue to raise sales. However, I expect a larger portion of the enormous sales figures are caused by non-comic readers who are grabbing the #1 issues in the hopes that they’ll someday be worth something. It happened back in 1992 when everybody and their grandmother bought a copy of ‘Superman’ #75 during the ‘Death of Superman’ story. A quick look at eBay will show you the end result of that… you can pick up a copy of ‘Superman’ #75 still in its black polybag for less than $20.

The real measure of whether DC’s relaunch was indeed the shot in the arm that the sagging comic book industry needed will come at the end of 2011 when issues #3 and #4 of their new line are being released. Obviously the numbers will not be as high as what we’ve seen with the #1 issues but, if DC can keep even a percentage of these curious readers, it may have turned the comic industry around.

What do you think? Was DC’s relaunch enough to reinvigorate the comic industry? Or will it return to its gradual downslide once the novelty of #1 fever wears off? Did you try any of the new #1s? If so, will you continue reading them with #2 and beyond?