Friday, May 16, 2008

New sales report: a Shooter tie-in?

Last time I did one of these sales charts was back in February after the first Shooter/Manapul issue and halfway through the "Superman and the Legion" run in Action Comics. Let's look at sales in the quarter since then. Unfortunately, Action didn't ship during the reporting period here, so I'll have to wait til next month to finish that up.

Anyway, so this guy Ontir over at the CBR boards makes this claim (and thanks to Schwapp!!! for the heads-up):

I'd heard, more than a year ago, that Johns was going to take over shortly after the Bedard run. Shooter was going to come in and do a fill-in, leading up to Final Crisis, and Waid.2 Legion would cross-over with the Legion of the Lightning Saga, leading to Johns returning the Levitz era, pre-Crisis Legion, essentially intact afterwards.

Then, allegedly as a face-saving measure, it was decided that admitting complete failure on the re-launch was a bad move, and Shooter was made permanent, but as they say @ Grace Bros., "Our figures are slipping." So who knows now.

Now, I don't read the CBR boards so I have no idea if this guy is credible or not. Perhaps a reader can inform me in the comments. But let's take a look at the numbers.

From the May 2nd edition of The Beat:

03/2002: Legion #6........... — 24,603*
03/2003: Legion #18.......... — 23,180
03/2004: Legion #31.......... — 24,870
03/2005: Legion of SH #4..... — 41,756 [43,408]
03/2006: Supergirl & LoSH #16 — 47,426 [54,788]
03/2007: –
04/2007: Supergirl & LoSH #28 — 31,525 (+ 0.4%)
04/2007: Supergirl & LoSH #29 — 30,906 (- 2.0%)
05/2007: Supergirl & LoSH #30 — 30,767 (- 0.5%)
06/2007: Supergirl & LoSH #31 — 30,385 (- 1.2%)
07/2007: Supergirl & LoSH #32 — 29,826 (- 1.8%)
08/2007: Supergirl & LoSH #33 — 29,315 (- 1.7%)
09/2007: Supergirl & LoSH #34 — 28,294 (- 3.5%)
10/2007: Supergirl & LoSH #35 — 27,370 (- 3.3%)
11/2007: Supergirl & LoSH #36 — 26,814 (- 2.0%)
12/2007: Legion of SH #37.... — 45,803 (+70.8%)
01/2008: Legion of SH #38.... — 33,045 (-27.9%)
02/2008: Legion of SH #39.... — 31,123 (- 5.8%)
03/2008: Legion of SH #40.... — 30,377 (- 2.4%)
6 months: + 7.4%
1 year : n.a.
2 years : -36.0%
5 years : +31.1%

After the bizarre boost for issue #37, the numbers are now back where the previous regular creative team left off. It looks like retailers really went overboard with their orders for writer Jim Shooter’s debut issue.

Looking at the data and at the plot, I don't buy it (no pun intended). Sales can't be the reason, after just 2 or 3 issues. They brought him in with a 16-issue arc and there's no way they'd come to an alternate decision so quickly -- if Shooter is leaving in the first place.


kenaustin said...

Michael, in regards to the issue #37 sales boost...don't forget it had two different covers. I know I bought two issues! ;)

Anonymous said...

Oh, please. Ontir has made this exact same claim EVERY year since at least the year 2000.

"They're going to bring back the Levitz Legion during Legion Lost! No? Oh, during the COMPUTO story! No? Oh, during Mind Crime! No? Oh, during Kon-El's return! No? Oh, during Infinite Crisis! No? Oh, they'll do it NOW!"

Michael said...

Thanks for the credibility check on Ontir. I don't read any of the boards anywhere (Newsarama, CBR, etc.) so I don't know who's who and who's credible (or not).

Greybird said...

He seems to have a lot of time on his hands to spin theories, I'll tell you that. I currently have a joust going on with him at the DCMBs (over Dawnstar, as you might expect) ... it's not very productive.

RAB said...

So far as I know we're still basing all this speculation on the one rumor published by Rich Johnston? It's possible to go extravagantly wrong by extrapolating too freely from inaccurate data, and this might be such a case.

Now, those sales figures are real data, and I don't know what to make of them. (Do alternate covers really provide such a shocking boost on sales figures? Wow. That's actually kind of sad.) But I know what I'd be wondering about if I were an editor or executive at DC. The sales spike when there's a big change or transition -- new version of the team; change in title; change in creative team -- and drops away precipitously afterward. This makes me wonder if there isn't an audience out there that actively wants to see a Legion series and that comes back every time there's a change to see if they're doing it "right" this time, and then that crowd drifts away in disappointment when it turns out not to be...whatever it was the audience was hoping for.

Also -- and this is a hobby horse of mine, so take it with much salt -- maybe the extended story arcs and absence of done-in-one jumping-on points are showing up here as well? Maybe people are looking to these transition issues as entry points, but the other issues seem less appealing to curious new readers? There's such a learning curve involved with the Legion mythos that the book might be better served with more self-contained stories breaking up the arcs just to give casual readers more story satisfaction. But as I say, that's a drum I beat all the time so it could be completely wrong here.

Mike said...

Here's my three cents, for what's it's worth.

All this has happened before and will happen again.

When DC "re-booted" The Flash as The Flash-The Fastest Man Alive with Bart Allen as the Flash it was PLANNED from the get go that the series would be, essentially, a limited series because DC editorial knew they were going to kill off Bart. In fact, when the series premiered (and at the time, Wally West was still MIA after Infinite Crisis) Dan DiDio said at a convention "Don't get too comfortable with the first Flash you see" (of course, the "first Flash" anyone saw in the first issue was Jay Garrick, leading some early speculation that Jay was the one who would be killed off). The series ran for about 13 issues, Bart died, they brought back Wally, but "restarted" his Flash run with numbering in the 200s. However, for months up to the end, DC actually had fake soliciations for BART'S book and claims that the creative team had this plan and that,yadda yadda yadda. In the internet age, it was a clever ruse to put fanboys off the scent so they could have an "honest" surprise (i.e., the death of Bart).

They're doing it again.

DC has known that this year is the 50th Anniversary, but has been very quiet on "celebrations" (in fact, the announcement of LO3W was pretty late in the game as far as big events with major creative players), and I think they're thinking BIG.
While I've been loving Shooter's run (he really knows how to plot a team book and he certainly KNOWS these characters), I never expected that Shooter's "return" was anything more than a gimmick. I think the "he's on for a 16 issue run" etc. talk is smoke and mirrors to cover the (much anticipated) course correction to straighten out the mess that the Legion has gotten into since COIE (and Final Crisis seems to be all about "correcting" the errors that came out of COIE). Don't get too comfortable with the Legion you're currently seeing.

Johns writing Legion? Fine by me. No one else in the business right now writes team books as well as he does (see his run on TT, JSA, and of course, his Legion in Action).

Michael said...

RAB: Yes, this is all purely speculative based on a single comment from Rich Johnston (who is probably right more often than he's wrong, but he's still wrong sometimes) and a couple of no-shows by Shooter at conventions (which could be due to any number of things).

I would suggest that the inflated numbers were a combination of extra covers (see the big spike at issue #23 for the Adam Hughes variant) and dealer expectations of a big name. The subsequent issues were ordered before dealers would have had a chance to see what real sales were like for the first Shooter/Manapul issue, and you know, it looks just like the trend after issue 1, and issue 16 with Supergirl.

But if you look at the second sales chart, sales are still higher than they have been for any non-stunt period since prior to Final Night in late 1996 (that's my cutoff since accurate sales data isn't publicly available covering about 1986-1996).

And with the v5 data, it's hard to tell where it's going to bottom out at with the two big bumps. But you know, maybe they've got something there - shake things up every couple of years to keep the sales up. Without the Supegirl and Shooter bumps, sales would be a lot lower than they are know.

Interesting theory on this being a fake-out.

While I'd love to have three separate Legion books, one for each group, that's not going to happen. On the other hand, I hope I don't see a "hat trick" style merging of the three groups through whatever means.

And I'm with you on the pro-Johns side. While I'm not totally enamored of his apparent bloodthirstiness and penchant for dismemberment, I really like what he's done pretty much everywhere.

(For example, it's amazing that after nearly 50 years someone can come up with a new spin on the Green Lanterns - how is it that nobody has ever said "hey, we have green and yellow rings, what about the other colors of the spectrum?" It's not an "everything you knew before is wrong" thing, it's "you thought you knew the whole story but you only knew a small part of it" thing, and tying in concepts from the Star Sapphires to Rainbow Girl.)

Jim Drew said...

In addition to the Shooter start issue having two covers, remember that these were not incentive covers. You could buy both covers for the same price as two copies, and the covers interlocked, which is "value" for the money. Other two-cover deals latery have been "incentives" -- the store gets 1 copy for every 10 copies of the book they order. Mine sells them for $10 each; some price them at 10 copies worth ($25 or more). And thus a 70% increase in orders shouldn't surprise; it probably means about a 30% real increase for the new creative team and the rest is dual-cover caused.

I'm right now betting on LSH v6 coming as fallout of Final Crisis. Shooter will be on LSH v5 through #49 or 50 -- which is right about at the end of Final Crisis -- giving him 14 issues rather than 18 (making it only a small lie, and maybe not even a *lie* if it wasn't specifically planned that way at the start) -- with a Legion revamp coming out the back end, spilling out of FC and Lo3W, featuring either the Lightning Saga Legion or a Hat Trick combo-Legion.

LSH v5 #50 would be in February, right? Which would put it at the end of Year 50, since Adventure #247 was from that month, as I recall.