Comic-Con: DC's 'Rebirth' Brings Sales Boost for Superhero Comic Line

Also up are sales of graphic novels and collected editions, described as "where the real growth is" by co-publisher Dan DiDio.
ACO/DC Entertainment
'Midnighter,' one of the bookstore successes from DC's last year.

Rebirth isn't just the promotional title for DC Entertainment's superhero relaunch this summer — it's an apt description for sales for the comic book publisher, according to a press breakfast Thursday morning at San Diego Comic-Con.

"Even given our expectations for Rebirth, it has more than 100 percent exceeded our projections," co-publisher Dan DiDio revealed. Although he shied away from offering specific figures, one detail explained the scope of the relaunch's success: Retailer orders for releases in the first week of August were roughly equivalent to DC's entire sales in April this year. "When you put a number up like that, you sit and you start to giggle," he said, laughing. "You think, 'Holy shit, this worked!'"

According to DiDio's fellow co-publisher, Jim Lee, Rebirth differs from traditional comic book launches in that sales have been rising after the first issue, with the second and third issues increasing orders from retailers based on interest from customers. "I've never seen anything like that," Lee said. He is an industry veteran who has worked at Marvel and Image and is attending his 30th Comic-Con this year.

Sales aren't just up in terms of individual issues, either; DiDio said that the bookstore market is also expanding. "We can talk about periodical sales, but if you want to know where the real growth is right now, it's in the mass market — the collections, the graphic novels. We see those sales expanding on a regular basis."

This is important for books, where the target market isn't necessarily those who hit the comic store every Wednesday. DiDio called out Midnighter — a series launched last year featuring a hyper-violent gay superhero that was met with much critical success but soft sales in its monthly format — as being a title that benefited from this increase. "We've seen more life for Midnighter in the graphic novel area," DiDio said, leading to the October launch of the Midnighter and Apollo miniseries.

"What we've seen is that, traditionally, if a book sells poorly as a periodical, it sells poorly as a trade. If it sells extraordinarily well as a periodical, it sells extraordinarily well as a trade," he explained. "What we've seen is that, with the Midnighter book in particular, [which had] a lot of great press, a lot of great reviews, that's where we've seen reviews really inform the sales on the graphic novel collection."

Another element that's impacted sales, Lee said, has been media adaptations of the comic book material. "Obviously when we announce a media production, sales on the attendant trade paperback go through the roof."

That doesn't mean that fans should expect more comics based on movies and TV shows, however. "The interesting thing is that material that inspires media sells much better than material that is derivative of media," DiDio said. "That's the one thing that we see over and over. If we base a book on a movie, it will sell less than the comic or graphic novel that inspired the movie. That's the key aspect of what we do in comics. We aspire others to be creative. We don't have the numbers, the sales, to be comparative — we could be a drop in the bucket — but the source material is clearly identified as the comic books. It pushes us to be more creative — not to follow but to lead."

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