The comic book landscape didn’t just change—it got hit with a nuclear bomb.
And the bombs are still falling.
It all started when Brian Michael Bendis (the man behind Jessica Jones and some of the most brilliant Daredevil issues ever) made mainstream headlines by leaving Marvel, setting sail for DC Comics.
The hugeness of this news was overshadowed just 9 days later when controversial Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso was shown the door, replaced by beloved long-time talent scout C.B. Cebulski – a move that has been almost universally celebrated.
On the heels of the shake-up, Joe Quesada told Newsarama that it’s, “Time for a creative change”. A statement that, given the much-talked-about and widely debated creative direction of Marvel Comics in recent years, is a *massive* bomb all its own.
And while the deck continues to be shuffled over at Disney’s funnybook factory, DC Comics has been doing some amazing things, too — but it hasn’t been behind the scenes. It’s been happening in plain sight, and shockingly few are discussing it.
The crazy part? It has nothing to do with their HR department … it actually has to do with their *comics*.
DC’s comics are absolutely on fire at the moment: the back-to-basics Justice League book that’s lighting up comic book stores, ‘Dark Nights Metal’; the Joker-centric Batman tale written by the unbelievably talented (and underrated) Sean Gordon Murphy, ‘Batman: White Knight’; the brilliance of ‘Mister Miracle’; The revival of ‘Wild Storm’ … the list goes on and on.
Not only are critics and fans alike buzzing about DC, but the sales figures have been stellar: while comics typically take a steep dive in sales after issue #1, often leveling off 4-6 issues into a run, Dark Nights Metal is bucking the trend, selling MORE copies 3 issues in.
Here is a snapshot at Metal vs. a recent Marvel super event:
Dark Nights Metal (DC)
1/ 261,997 copies sold
2/ 149,487 (-42.9%)
3/ 158,698 (+6.1%)
Secret Empire (MARVEL)
1/ 157,517 copies sold
2/ 100,983 (-35.8%)
3/ 91,611 (-9.2%)
To the filthy casual that might not sound like reason for celebration, but that much positive word-of-mouth is a serious anomaly in 2017.
This is made all the more impressive when you factor in Dark Nights Metal selling a ton of 2nd printings for issues #1 and #2 as well, further bolstering those numbers.
Meanwhile, Murphy’s ‘White Knight’ came out of nowhere in October, crashing the top #10 with 86,791 copies sold. Word is that issue #2 is set to sell even more – another DC-led anomaly.
While Twitter’s resident drama queens are bristling with backstage rumors and speculation and ‘who said what to whom’ nonsense, and the media’s obsession with the personal politics of creators has hit an all-time (and baffling) high, *actual* fans – the people who buy comic books – have been telling each other which titles are worth purchasing. And they’re opening their wallets.
DC Comics is hitting a major stride creatively, but customers returning to comic stores has to do with the *creators*, too; DC writers and artists have spent 2017 being open and accessible on social media, interacting with fans and throwing open the doors to both comments and criticism, scoring major brownie points with fans. This can, of course, be chalked up to coincidence (and there’s no metric to accurately measure this, linking it to dollars spent) but I don’t believe so – it coincides too neatly with their spikes in sales.
There has been a lot of talk about change in recent years – what comic fans do and don’t want, and in response Marvel is making significant changes behind the scenes, which can only lead to great things, IMO. I can’t wait to see what the “Cebulski Era” has in store come mid-2018, and I know I’m not alone.
But for the first time in a long time (maybe ever?) we’re seeing the tone and direction of the comic book industry take a monumental shift, and DC is quietly becoming the leader in the eyes of long time, dedicated fans.
Stan Lee used to joke that the competition would scramble to keep up with Marvel, often copying whatever trend they’d started. But with their positive reviews, happy fans who feel valued, and sales steadily increasing, I have a feeling that a lot of companies and creators are going to be keeping a close eye on DC in the coming months, following *their* lead.