According to reports DC’s Rebirth has been great for their bottom line since the June 2016 initiative rolled out. Many Green Lantern fans were somewhat disappointed to learn that there would only be two Green Lantern series post-Rebirth even though both series would be published twice monthly. So the question I asked myself as the Rebirth initiative hit the six month mark was how the Green Lantern family of books are selling six months later compared to how they did just prior to Rebirth and how does it compare to the New52 era. After doing the research I’m quite surprised by the results.
There are a couple of things to keep in mind when looking at sales information. One being that sales numbers don’t take into account digital sales and non-U.S. comics sales. We know that foreign sales numbers are relatively small in comparison and that sites like Comichron consider that those numbers may amount to be 10-15% of what’s sold in the United States. As for digital sales there currently isn’t any source data to track those numbers.
Another thing to consider is that the number of copies sold isn’t really what was sold to consumers, it’s what retailers ordered. Re-orders and re-printings also don’t get folded back into the sales numbers so there’s always the potential for a hot selling book to have higher than reported numbers if it goes back for multiple printings over the months following the initial printing. The bottom line is that this isn’t an exact science but it’s the only thing we have to go by.
With that understood let’s take a look at the numbers, see how some of DC’s initiatives impacted monthly sales, and see how things compare over the past five years.
The New52 really revitalized the Green Lantern family of books for DC, but you can see the decline over the months that followed once the hype settled down and people made decisions about the books they kept reading. Other than a couple of spikes, most notably in the fall of 2012 during the “Rise of the Third Army” crossover, the four Lantern books were on a slow decline in popularity through the end of the Geoff Johns run in May of 2013. DC’s changing of the creative teams in the wake of Geoff Johns departure created a short term bump in sales but those numbers soon took an even sharper decline. There was a big spike in September 2013 when DC had their line-wide “Forever Evil” event but had no lasting effect in ongoing sales.
DC launched the Sinestro series as a fifth monthly Lantern family book that increased the total number of sales but at the expense of the costs associated with producing an additional book. In September of 2014 “Futures End”, and those collectible 3-D lenticular covers, were a major shot in the arm and that event did seem to give the books a little bit of a lift for several months. Sales really took a nosedive during the “Convergence” event, partially due to DC only publishing two Green Lantern series for those two months, and partially because neither of those two issue miniseries were particularly well received.
The cancellation of Green Lantern Corps, Green Lantern: New Guardians and Red Lanterns made way for the publication of The Omega Men miniseries and Green Lantern: The Lost Army. Both series started out strong enough but hard hard steep drops in sales in the months that followed. The Omega Men in particular, despite critical acclaim, dropped from a 30,158 copy debut to less than 10,532 copies by it’s fifth issue and the series ended with an abysmal 8,218 copies of the final issue. The Green Lantern Corps series suffered a less harsh fate but was cut short abruptly to be replaced by Green Lantern Corps: Edge of Oblivion. Neither series had any staying power, leading to Rebirth.
The debuts of Green Lanterns and Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps were both very strong, especially the July issues of the Corps book which placed tenth and eleventh in total comics sales. The business strategy is a risky one, would fans respond to the idea of paying for twice-monthly series at the expense of having fewer titles to choose from? Initially it seemed so even though the July 2016 books still sold 18,458 fewer copies than their New52 predecessors. However the drop off has been a steep one.
While both series are selling comparably to each other, the Rebirth Green Lantern titles are experiencing a much sharper decline than the initial New52 books did back in 2011. In December Green Lanterns and Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps sold a combined total of 164,676 issues, with their only being a 2,100 issue gap between the highest and lowest selling issues. In contrast the New52 books took a full two years to decline in sales to the point where the Rebirth titles are six months into their existence. That’s a rate of four times faster which is a bit of a surprise.
Who knows how this impacts the bottom line for DC? Production costs could be lower but I have my doubts about that since the only savings may be with your writers. Is is more cost effective to pay one writer to write two issues a month versus two writers each providing one script? I’m not an expert but somehow I think there’s not a lot of savings to be had there.
Whether DC sees this as a concern or not remains to be seen, but the sales numbers have got to be a little sobering when it comes to the Lantern books. If sales level off then I fully expect that DC might look to grow the line, however if the current trend maintains itself that prospects not only seems unlikely, but could very lead to some creative team changes or even title changes. Either way it will be interesting to keep an eye on the sales numbers to see how things develops.