When DC announced earlier this year that they intended to wipe the slate clean and re-launch their titles the reaction from fans was far from unanimously positive. The shrieks of dismay and outrage echoed across the internet from loyal readers who felt betrayed at having the plug pulled on their favourite titles. But DC insisted, firmly but gently, that their intention was not to betray the fans but rather to bring a much-needed dose of new energy to the DC Universe.
There were any number of pay-offs for the publisher in taking the stories and characters back to, if not necessarily square one, at least a fresh start. In-universe contradictions could be wiped, stories and characters that had become stale could be put aside, and new stories could evolve without writers having to tiptoe through the minefield that is established canon. In an interview with MTV Geek at the San Diego Comic Con this year DC Co-Publisher Dan DiDio said, “…what we’re doing is we’re launching 52 new titles and not only that but it’s a brand new take, brand new view, brand new ideal behind our characters.”
There was another major benefit too – new readership. Yes, the trade-off was that certain hardcore fans would (and did) vow never to purchase another DC comic for the remainder of their natural lives (although one wonders how many of those who made such impassioned vows were able to resist much beyond the release of Justice League #1). But on the upside the re-launch offered an irresistible opportunity for new readers to foray into the DC Universe for the first time.
Wading through decades of convoluted storylines, cross-over events, and interconnected storylines can be a daunting prospect for the comic-lover looking to get into a new series but the re-launch meant that first time potential DC readers could take their pick of titles and start reading from the beginning. Dan DiDio commented on the subject, “What we’re hoping to do is to have that sense of cycling through so that we’re bringing in a new audience every time you sort of re-set… we have to create those entry points, those jump on spots for those people so that they feel they’re accessible and excitable, so that the characters in these interpretations are the ones that they enjoy as much as the ones you hear from the people 20 years ago, 30 years ago and 40 years ago.”
In this regard the re-launch has been a huge success with copies of the first issues selling like hot cakes. Both Justice League #1 and Action Comics #1 have already sold over 200,000 copies on their first printing. The last time a DC single issue went over the 200,000 mark in its first month was in August 2006 when Justice League of America #1 sold 212,178 copies. Of the New 52 released so far, at least eight additional titles have hit the 100,000 mark. Given that DC’s highest-selling comic this year previously was Flashpoint #1 which sold 86,981 it seems fair to say that the re-launch has been a sales success so far.
Perhaps the true test of the ultimate success of DC’s bold move will be how many people return to pick up subsequent issues. Curiosity may have driven readers to sample some of the many first issues on offer but will they stick with the series? Of the 52 titles that have been re-launched surely some are destined to fall by the wayside due to low sales but only time will tell which they will be. Certainly not all of the new stories have received rave reviews, some have been widely panned, but as the last batch of titles reaches shelves and (mostly) eager fans this week it seems certain that DC will be able to view the re-launch as an overall success both in sales and also as far as fan reception is concerned.