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The movies based on Marvel comic-book heroes (Thor, Captain America) might have bested their DC Comics-inspired rival (Green Lantern) at the box office in 2011, but DC can claim one major victory.
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The Warner Bros.-owned publisher’s gamble to relaunch its entire line of comics with 52 new series has hit a home run, outselling Marvel books since the reboot went wide in September. The “New 52” also helped reverse a four-year industry trend of downward sales, albeit with overall sales growth of just 1 percent to 2 percent.
According to DC, its top books (Figures are accurate as of Dec. 13, 2011.) were:
- Justice League no. 1, written by Geoff Johns and illustrated by Jim Lee, which has shipped 361,138 copies since its August launch and has gone to press five times;
- Batman no. 1, written by Scott Snyder and penciled by Greg Capulo, which has sold 262,379 copies in two printings;
- Action Comics no. 1, which sold 250,898 copies, going back to the press three times.
Those numbers, accurate as of Dec 13, easily rank those books as some of the decade’s best.
By contrast, Marvel’s best-selling 2011 comic was Ultimate Spider-Man no. 160, which featured the death of the hero and shipped 159,355 copies in June.
It’s important to note that the figures represent sales to comic shops and outlets that order the books, not actual copies bought by customers. But now, with multiple print runs behind them, an clear picture can be drawn of the sales figures of some of these books..
Amazing Spider-Man no. 583 (co-starring President Obama) from 2009 is still the biggest book of the past decade, shipping 530,500 issues. But even those numbers are a far cry from the comic-book speculation boom of the early 1990s, when Marvel’s X-Men relaunch shipped more than 8 million copies in its first month — the best debut in comics history. Back then, people thought those comics were going to be worth a lot of money. At least a dozen books could be counted on to sell more than 100,000 issues a month; in recent years, perhaps two titles would cross that threshold.
DC’s 2011 success coincides with its strong push into digital. All issues of the New 52 debuted in digital formats the same day they hit stores, and industry observers believe downloads have been strong. (In November, Marvel followed DC in adopting same-day digital sales.)
Marvel’s successful 2000 update of its core characters shaped the movie versions of Spider-Man, Captain America and The Avengers. For DC, the relaunch was a similar attempt to brush the dust off its heroes, and it could boost in-development projects at Warners like Justice League and influence the future of Batman, Superman and Flash.
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