Last week over at Legion Clubhouse, Scott posted a list of the sales figures from all the Legion-related titles since early 1997 in two parts (1996-2004 and the current series). Numbers are great, but what does it look like graphically?
Scott's data (compiled by a LegionWorld forum member from CBG's Standard Catalog of Comic Books) goes back to April 1997. With a hardcopy of the book (perused at a Barnes & Noble while drinking a grande caramel frappuccino) I was able to fill in the data back to November/December 1996 when they started getting Diamond's preorder numbers. Starting in January 2003, the numbers are Diamond final orders (preorders are only a few percentage points off of the final orders - CBG estimates between 5-8%, so it's close enough for government work here).
Here's what I came up with (click to enlarge).
- The Stern/McCraw/Peyer/Moy/Moder version of LSH v4 and Legionnaires was bleeding customers at a very steady rate. The related miniseries (Legends of the Legion, Legion Science Police, and Legion Secret Files) were worse. Coincidentally, if you plot a straight line through those data points, it hits zero in late 2004 - right when the Waid/Kitson reboot hit. Just a quirk of timing.
- Bumps in sales due to crossovers in the late 1990's (Final Night, Genesis, DC 1 Million) were temporary. The obvious exception is with The Legion when Superboy came to the future (in a manner then-unknown) to join. Sales got a huge spike and remained several thousand sales higher afterwards, presumably due to Teen Titans fans wanting to know what Connor Kent was doing the future (sound familiar?).
- The creative team swapover to Abnett/Lanning/Coipiel in late 1999 created a small bump during the regular series, but the new creative team had a huge effect on later series and basically turned the franchise around. Legion Lost, the miniseries, actually saw most of its later issues with higher sales than the first issue, practically unheard of. Sales were almost consistent, unlike previous miniseries, but more importantly sales were back to where they were nearly two years before. The followup Legion Worlds had sales even higher than Legion Lost. Even factoring out the first issue spike in The Legion, sales were hovering around the 25,000 mark for the first time since late 1997. When LSH v4 was cancelled in early 2000, sales had dropped to around 17,000. Let me put this in bold because it's so important: Abnett and Lanning increased the sales of the regular title by about 50%. That's astounding. I had no idea until I looked at this plot.
- So why did DC reboot the title again? Well, for one thing, DC knew that Infinite Crisis was coming. It was a convenient stopping point for the series, even though the sales slump had largely turned around. Superboy had brought in more readers but this reboot would do better. Do the risk alienating some fans because of it? Well, yes, but that's more than balanced by the increase in readership. And remember, while this is a hobby to us, it's a business to DC.
- Look at the sales of the new series. The Titans/Legion Special sold over 61,000 copies. The first issue of the new series sold about 60,000 copies. An issue of the Legion's book hasn't sold that many since probably the late 80's or early 90's. Even with the expected sales drop over the first year (almost by half), it's still selling better than at any time in at least the last 10 years, and probably a lot longer back than that.
- Mark Waid's name on the series is, with little doubt, the reason sales are so high. Good buzz, good publicity, and good reviews certainly help. This plot ends with issue 16, "One Year Later" with Supergirl, but not only did we see a spike for that issue, it was a 50% increase spike. With the pretty good reviews and the "what the heck is Supergirl doing in the 31st century?" question still to be answered, I expect to see a lasting effect of this for a while.