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The Non-Marvel Action Hour – 6/24/9

Two months' worth of sales coverage, just in time to be a month behind. Reviews of new Wonder Woman, Secret Six, and old Books of Magic.

First, a correction on my comments last week concerning the Wonder Woman TPB solicitation. The second HC for Gail Simone’s run came out in March. It was hidden in the January solicits, further back than I bothered to look, and I hadn’t got around to poring over the sales numbers for March and April yet. My apologies for being a bit too harsh on DC. They’re being very slow about releasing trades, but the HCs aren’t as untimely as I thought. Now, about those sales numbers…

Direct Market Sales Watch

Switching over to ICv2 from now on, starting with a look at March and April. Their numbers differ slightly from Comichron’s, so I’ll adjust retroactively when looking back.

Batman: Battle for the Cowl #1 was DC’s top seller in March at 91,619 copies for $4 each, 3rd overall behind two $4 Marvel books. Issue #2 held steady at 89,120 for the 6th spot in April, 3rd among non-Marvel titles. DC took the top spots for the month with Detective Comics #853 and Flash: Rebirth #1. The top 7 in April were all $4. That’s our future. Dark Horse’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer placed 10th and 22nd, by far the best-selling title outside of the Big Two.

Justice Society of America – Geoff Johns’ final issue outsold the previous one by over 15k, ranking 9th in April at 81,200 copies. The collect & connect Alex Ross covers didn’t hurt.

Oracle #1 sold 34,081 copies, tiptoeing down to 33,371 with #2. Solid, and a big jump from the end of BoP. Sales for the last few issues:

#125 – 20,161
#126 – 20,772 (Faces of Evil)
#127 – 21,424

Yay? One hopes the message DC get from this is that fans still want Babs as Oracle. Or they could see it as fans falling for the hype about this miniseries possibly putting her back in the role of Batgirl (spoiler: nothing happened) and will continue to value hype over substance. That seems to be the approach so far with the Batgirl ongoing, which I hope for everyone’s sake has more to it than the simple mystery it opens with. Once it’s revealed who Batgirl is, there will no longer be a reason to care, so you need characters and stories that hold up on their own. I’m sure DC know that, but they might not care to use that knowledge. Batgirl‘s sure to outsell both of these initially, probably pulling in 60k or more with the first issue. The question is, how much of that can they keep?

Wonder Woman – Kinda sorta but not really steady. Likely to drop below 30k by midyear.

#27 – 32,322
#28 – 32,622 (Faces of Evil)
#29 – 33,237 (Origins & Omens)
#30 – 33,365
#31 – 31,857

Issues 28-30 had variant covers, 27 and 31 didn’t. 32 and 33 also have variants, while 34 and 35 do not, according to solicitations.

Outsiders continues to fall post-Batman, though it might be leveling off.

#15 – 30,024 (Origins & Omens)
#16 – 27,977
#17 – 27,171

Secret Six

#4 – 24,657
#5 – 24,899 (Faces of Evil)
#6 – 24,758 (Origins & Omens)
#7 – 24,365
#8 – 24,338

Very encouraging, especially in light of there being, to my knowledge, no variants or gimmicks with the last two. Seven ended a storyline and eight was a standalone issue. It now appears the book has leveled off above the cancellation line. Doesn’t sell half as well as it should, but I’ll settle for staying afloat.

Booster Gold is still dropping. It slipped below Secret Six with issue 17 and is now over a thousand copies behind, issue 19 selling 23,203. If it weren’t for the format change and price hike starting with issue 21, I’d predict a drop below 20k and cancellation inside of six months.

Scott Kolins’ pet project, Solomon Grundy, debuted at 23,175 copies, sinking to 18,516 with issue 2. Typical miniseries, which flags up how well Oracle has done with its combination of hype and brand strength.

Remember R.E.B.E.L.S.? Well, quit it. If it hasn’t been officially cancelled yet, it will be soon.

#1 – 23,739
#2 – 16,122
#3 – 14,442

Once it’s gone, Batman Confidential can regain its spot as the worst-selling mainstream DC ongoing series, now below 20k a month. If you don’t count that since it isn’t tied to current continuity, the bottom spot would go to Green Arrow/Black Canary. Though I’m not a fan of either title, I kinda hope they survive. There’s a decent creative argument for keeping Confidential alive, though I could’ve sworn the argument for having a zillion Bat-Books was that they all sell. Maybe DC are waiting to see how the relaunch goes this month, hoping that in addition to gobbling up new titles like Batman and Robin and Red Robin, collectors will impulse buy anything else Bat-Related. I hope not, as few of us having limitless cash reserves, and that could take sales away from titles that aren’t getting by on life support. I wouldn’t miss it. I’d cheer if GA/BC got the axe, but so long as it doesn’t I can point to it and say with limited confidence that anything above that line is safe. If they don’t cancel that, they’d damn well better not cancel anything outselling it.

Oh, wait, Vigilante‘s an ongoing? Seriously? It makes R.E.B.E.L.S. look moderately successful. Somehow, it’s solicited up to issue 9.

#1 – 18,236
#2 – 13,855 (Faces of Evil)
#3 – 11,264 (Origins & Omens)
#4 – 11,125
#5 – 21,290

Yes, there’s a reasonable explanation for that jump. No, it’s not remotely sustainable. Issue 5 was part of a crossover with Titans and Teen Titans, which regularly sell over 30k. Less than a third of each title’s readership (however much of that is shared), felt it necessary to get every part of the story, doubling sales. Issue 6 is also part of the crossover, which is surely the only reason this is still alive. Theoretically, some of the ten thousand people who jumped over for the tie-in could stick around, but in practice that rarely happens. I’ll be floored if issue seven sells above 13k. I’m expecting around 10. It’s a nice try, but no one cared about the book before. Unless it’s closely tied to the Titans family longterm, I doubt anyone will after.

Air #7, the $1 issue, sold 10,290 copies, up from six’s 7,607. Percentagewise, that’s a huge jump, and this is a Vertigo title, so four-digit sales aren’t as goggleworthy. Still, doesn’t look like it’ll be taking off, especially in light of #8’s sales of 7,216. Over 2600 new readers, and there’s a net loss. Given the drop from five (8,412) to six, this could be seen as a positive sign. Half the loss in twice the time, with a nice surplus on the side. It’ll probably continue unless sales get truly abysmal, like sub-4k. It’s too bad mainstream titles can’t do that, but then we don’t need 300 superhero ongoings.

Watchmen was the #1 graphic novel in April, its third straight month at the top. Sales have been insane, and remember, these are direct market numbers only. I can only imagine how many copies it shifts in book stores.

Dec ’08 – 6,664
Jan ’09 – 9,961
Feb ’09 – 12,466
Mar ’09 – 32,132
Apr ’09 – 6,403

Only one other title, a Marvel HC, sold over 5k in March. Alan Moore’s Light of Thy Countenance, from Avatar, ranked 4th with 4,302 copies. Manga digests took four of the top ten and seven of the top twenty spots, with Naruto grabbing four by itself, 7th through 9th and 12th for volumes 38-41. Volumes 42-44 grabbed spots 12-14 in April.

The first volume of Air, collecting the first five issues for $10, debuted at 19th with 3,195 copies, over 40% of the single-issue readership. After Watchmen, three of DC’s four best-selling GNs in March were Vertigo titles.

After debuting at #3 with 6,127 copies in February, Scott Pilgrim Vol. 5 sold a respectable 3,069 more in March and 1,018 in April. The other four volumes all made the top 300 for March and April, with Vol. 2 selling 1,318 in April, presumably because it shares its name with the upcoming movie.

The fourth JLI HC debuted with a mediocre 1,647 sales in March, while the first TPB sold 1,593, ranking them 64th and 65th. Both fell off the chart in April, selling fewer than 563 copies each. Reportedly, there are no plans to release a fifth HC at this time, though a second trade has been solicited for July. Vol. 4 leaves off at issue thirty, so there’s plenty of great material left to collect for the roughly 2,000 people who want it. In other depressing news, Wonder Woman: The Ends of the Earth, the second HC collection of Gail Simone’s run popped in at 82nd with 1,352 copies sold, then disappeared. I’d like to think there are tons of people waiting for the literal trade, but the first TPB’s performance dashes that dream. To highlight how truly pathetic WW‘s numbers are, let’s look at a title that sold six fewer copies in March, and its sales dating back to its debut.

Fables Vol. 11: War and Pieces
Apr ’09 – 965
Mar ’09 – 1,346
Feb ’09 – 368
Jan ’09 – 1,090
Dec ’08 – 1,776
Nov ’08 – 12,791 (#1 seller)

Note that it’s made the top 300 every month since publication, always joined by several other volumes in the series. February was a gimme, but it earned its way in every other month. Perhaps it isn’t fair comparing trade sales to a Vertigo title, but it’s not as if there aren’t plenty of examples to choose from. Single issue sales are decent, but it deserves more success than it’s had.

The second $50 Starman Omnibus hit in February, ranking 14th with 2,818 copies sold. Again, that’s for a $50 book. Not that isn’t a good value… Another 1,337 copies of this elite example of comic bookery were ordered in March. It didn’t make the charts in April, but these things aren’t going to move as fast as regular GNs, which already move far slower than single issues. That shops felt confident enough to order over 4,000 of it in two months makes it a hit in my book.

Atomic Robo‘s second trade sold 1,229 copies in February, 615 in March, and fell off the chart in April. I guess that’s an OK showing for a small press book. Going back as far as June ’08, with the charts shrinking to the top 100 for October ’08 and earlier, I found only two other titles from Red 5. One was the first volume of Atomic Robo, which sold 2,099 copies. The other barely crept into the top 300 in April, its debut sales worse than month two’s for Atomic Robo Vol. 2.

Vol. 4 of Jason Aaron’s Scalped, which anyone who’s enjoyed his Marvel work would do well to check out, reached 22nd with 3,337 copies in April. The fifth and final Manhunter trade, appropriately titled Forgotten, didn’t fare as well, with 1,345 copies ordered. Maybe it’ll pick up some sales from Kate’s stint in Streets of Gotham. The fifth (and final?) Blue Beetle trade, which skips the filler after John Rogers’ run to collect the first six of eight Matthew Sturges issues, leaving a total of five issues for a potential sixth trade, sold 1,187 copies. Again, sales might be helped by a backup role. It’s also possible that the ten-pagers in Booster Gold will be folded into the next trade, or saved up over a year for volume seven.


Employee’s Pick

Books of Magic 23

[DC] Books of Magic Vol. 2 #21-26
Writer: John Ney Rieber
Artist: Peter Gross

Tim sure fights himself often enough. Early on, Evil Future Tim was introduced, and in addition to being a living example of how badly Tim could go wrong, he’s helped complicate Tim’s life a couple times. In the previous storyline, Tim ran into No One, who’s basically a dirty mirror image of whoever’s at hand. That’s not enough, though. Oh, no. Tim has to get in his own way, creating problems that shouldn’t exist and struggling to solve them when all he needs is a bit of self-confidence.

He has help this time, but it’s another case where believing in himself instead of the possibility of failure would’ve saved him trouble. Tim makes a rookie mistake while trying out shapeshifting for the first time and meets arguably the worst enemy he’ll face for the duration of Rieber’s run. She’s not evil, per se, but good intentions… The short of it is, Tim finds out about his evil future self and, being Tim, zeroes in on the faint chance that he could grow up to be a monster. After this woman, this strange woman he’s just met, who kidnapped him and threatened to kill him, about whom he knows nothing save that she’s a powerful magician of sorts… After she, in so many words, tells him he has no special capacity for evil and sends him on his way, he decides he wants protection. So, magic tattoo.

When the ground isn’t covered in snow, it isn’t cold out, and there’s only an outside chance of temperatures dropping, it’s not a good idea to wear your heaviest coat. You don’t go swimming in a suit of armor, just in case the lake’s been infested with piranhas, and you don’t get a tattoo blocking all sorts of things that don’t need blocking. If he weren’t thirteen and in love, I’d wonder if Tim had any clue at all.

about girls

This huge tattoo covering his chest – his whole torso, really – pretty much ruins his life. Problems are no longer obstacles to be overcome. They can and do cause lasting damage. Tim turns fourteen and runs away, the tattoos screwing with his mind so much that any sense he had has fled. Everything is wonderful, and he lets a nudge from evil forces convince him that everyone’s better off without him. When you realize you’re a magnet for danger, as heroes tend to be, it’s natural to want your loved ones away from ground zero, but as readers know and Tim will learn, it’s not as simple as that. You can push everyone away and they’re still not safe, from natural nor supernatural threats. You can stop meeting people, sequester yourself in a cave, or end your life, and it won’t save people unless all those threats decide not to try anymore. They’re not all targeting you directly. Some are like bombs, indiscriminate mass murderers. Running away is running away, nothing more. It helps no one.

New-Type Books

Wonder Woman 32

[DC] Wonder Woman Vol. 3 #32
Writer: Gail Simone
Penciler: Aaron Lopresti

This is why Lopresti needed a month off. Part seven of eight of Rise of the Olympian, a prolonged battle between Wonder Woman and Genocide, lovingly rendered with several dramatic splash pages. This blows away their previous encounters, more scuffles than fights. Plotwise, there’s not much else, but Simone manages to squeeze in a couple subplots and one ginormous revelation while concentrating almost entirely on action. Said revelation has my mind racing with implications, but it’s too early to spoil.

There are some awkward bits in the writing, which consists mainly of captions as Diana narrates with eloquence that is only possible when looking back at someone beating the snot out of you. For instance, comparing Genocide’s attack on Washington, D.C. with disasters like Hurricane Katrina, insisting that those involved would remember it always as a traumatic event. I could almost buy that except for two things. They’re in the DCU and they’re in the DCU. Maybe if she’d been talking about the earlier attack where Genocide wrecked a city before Diana showed up, or their first meeting, when that mall was devastated, but the fight here is relatively low on carnage and destruction. It’s more frightening imagining what could happen, given what Genocide’s done before, than looking back at what she does here. Not only is this not the worst thing that’s happened in this book, it’s nowhere near the worst in the greater universe. Also, namedropping real world disasters only works as a shortcut for readers. We’ve seen them, maybe experienced them, so we can relate. No one in the DCU can, because they didn’t happen there. They couldn’t. Katrina especially is just another hurricane in a world of superheroes. Loss of life would be minimal or nonexistent, loss of property greatly reduced, and fallout would be managed far better.

Mostly, though, it’s telling instead of showing. Readers should be left to decide how awful these events are, but as good as the art is, there’s nothing there to set it apart. It’s simply not in the story, so that line clashes. Most of the rest works. There’s a nice internal debate where Diana asks herself whether she has any right to let her enemies live, monsters like Ares, Cheetah, and Dr. Psycho, who have caused so much suffering and death directly and, through the creation of Genocide, yet more indirectly.

Secret Six 10

[DC] Secret Six Vol. 4 #10
Writer: Gail Simone
Penciler: Nicola Scott

This is getting hard to review. I can summarize events, but any attempt at criticism is hamstrung by the fact that I am madly in love with this series. Does it have problems? None that I can see. One of comics’ best writers, one of its best artists, and both turn in superlative efforts month after month. On time, even! The inking’s great, the coloring’s great… the editing could maybe improve; Simone’s dialogue has a wrong or missing word occasionally, which is partly her fault and partly the editor’s for not catching it. Or maybe it’s the letterer, if they ever make mistakes.

Oh, and I don’t much like this issue’s cover. Daniel LuVisi takes over those duties from Nicola Scott for the forseeable future, a fact that would upset me except that it’s just the cover. This and his next three covers look like painted- or airbrushed-over photos. Nowhere near as bad as Greg Land, but they’re more different from the interior art than any covers in the series’ history, dating back to Villains United. They look less like comic characters than actors dressed as comic characters. If we got a movie with likenesses and costumes this close, I’d be thrilled, because I expect much less from live action adaptations of handdrawn media. Also, there’s no background scenery. Smoke, clouds, lights. Next issue’s cover has torches and two murky background figures who could be anyone. OK, I’m being too hard on them. Earlier covers weren’t so amazing. Backgrounds were simple, when present at all. I just loved having Scott’s gorgeous artwork on the front, being able to open the book and get more of the same. Most books, the cover artist is far better or, bizarrely, far worse, which is why they have that saying. LuVisi’s covers present a shift in style, but it’s not jarring. I don’t wince to look at them, flipping the book over when I have it out and unopened. If it helps Scott get twenty-two pages of story drawn each month without rushing, or somehow improves sales by tapping into that gigantic segment of the collecting market that doesn’t think like me, I’m all for it.

joy of owning

This is an odd series. I’m sure I’ve mentioned that before. It’s full of grim and grit and violence and shades of grey. The cast are all villains, all the sort of people I’d be cross with if they tried to call themselves heroes. It’s not the sort of book I should like. It should be what people who read Marvel’s X-Force buy, gobbled up by those who think Green Lanterns and Flash Rogues brutally killing their enemies is the ginchiest. Me, I’m all about boy scout heroes and gentleman rogues. When Batman frowns his extreme Bat-Frown at the Six, I can’t disagree. In many ways, these are bad people who make many bad choices. I wouldn’t go near ’em in real life. They make for fantastic characters, though. Somehow, Simone and Scott are doing something wrong, because I love this and it ain’t too popular. Probably as simple as the brand strength and lack of crossover tie-ins. As many reasons as there may be at the individual level, nothing drives sales like the impression that you have to read a book. Not because it’s good, because it’s important. Comic books are serious business.

This issue, Bane and Scandal take their relationship to another level. Ragdoll, apparently worn out from being so awesome the past two months, is virtually invisible. Deadshot does his best not to care, while Jeannette does an admirable job of giving readers a reason to care about her. And holy jeez is that opening scene creepy.

Back Issues



Nothing here, either. Next time, probably. I’m open to requests.


Books of Magic – Starting to get sad. I like good writing above all, but prefer happy endings when reasonable.
Wonder Woman – Hard to be objective with this, either. So good.
Secret Six – Evil. I love it.

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