The headline seems to be that DC built sales slowly while Marvel flooded the market with 3.99 miniseries that sat on the shelf. As the end of the year approached, the impossible happened and for December DC, buoyed by orders for David Finch's The Dark Knight topped marketshare over Marvel in terms of dollars for the first time since Superman karked it, though Marvel still kept the title for individual comics sold.
Anything specific? Well, Dark Knight aside, DC have successfully built the Batman brand up, with Grant Morrison taking a creative lead, developing characters such as Damien who has also proved a hit in recent Teen Titans. Coupled with the resolution of his death scenario and the launch of the headline grabbing Batman Inc, delays, inconsistencies and stories out of order, the batbooks are booming, now complete with the likes of Knight & Squire and Terrorist Batman Nightrunner.
Also Green Lantern has been building as a line, adding titles as DC approaches the blockbuster film next summer. Blackest Night was used succesfully to leverage Green Lantern into a major DC brand.
Less successfully were the Superman and Wonder Woman relaunches from Joe Michael Straczynski. While they gained considerable publicity initially, lateness, and changing creative team has taken some of the sparkle. However Earth One has shown a possible future for DC, a parallel graphic novel line – just as Vertigo's equivalent is binned.
And for Vertigo, a new insistence on sales from the top has seen more titles than expected jettisoned, but the development of new books such as Unwritten, and American Vampire as new Vertigo mainstays, DMZ, Scalped and more shifting enough trade paperbacks to keep those plates spinning, with Fables spinning off more titles creating very own brand in the manner of Sandman and Preacher before it. And CMX, Zuda and Wildstorm were put out down.
Marvel lost momentum from Dark Reign and Siege as fans seemed to get mightily sick of Osbourne in every book. A raft of $3.99 mini-series has resulted in reports of certain stores that would normally order every Marvel book being more picky. And the non-event Heroic Age proved to be pretty much that. Nothing at Marvel seemed to catch on fire, not even a new X-Men and Wolverine series, not past the first issue at least. Amazing Spider-Man showed growth on the back of a Dan Slott creative renaissance but two issues a month instead of three may hurt the numbers. Ultimatum emerged as a bit of a damp squib and the whole Ultimate line suffered. Mark Millar's Icon books proved a bright spark with multiple prints on every issue, and Kick Ass doing gangbusters in trade but Marvel see little revenue from these books. Daredevil asked what if Matt Murdoch was possessed by evil and turned Hell's Kitchen into a totalitarian state policed by ninjas? On paper is sounds great. But in practice, Shadowland was a damp squib according to readers. Daredevil put on numbers during the crossover but reports of copies sitting on shelves are expected to harm the relaunch. Captain America, X-Men and the Fantastic Four seemed to plod along, following the general downturn of the market, but nothing too extreme. Avengers did better but only with its main title.
Across the rest of the market, Dynamite scored large with Green Hornet and The Boys as well as a well received Vampirella relaunch. Boom! benefitted from a Stan Lee injection, Avatar did well extending the Crossed brand beyond the initial series, relaunched Lady Death and brought a brand new Alan Moore comic to the market. IDW's move to the premiere section of Previews saw their prominence They may have lost Angel, but they gained True Blood. Image scored with a number of eclectic titles from Chew to Morning Glories to Skullkickers to 27, with Walking Dead benefitting greatly from the TV series. Scott Pilgrim took over the book charts with all six volumes as the movie hit. And then there is Twilight Manga – and the continual success of the likes of Naruto, One Piece, Bleach and more, even as the manga market overall contracted.
As for next year? Well Marvel have slashed their line – which bizarrely could see Marvel lose the unit sales crown but regain the dollar lead as DC moves to a $2.99 lower page count price point and Dark Knight hits an erratic schedule. Will the Millar/Bendis relaucnh of the Ultimate books suceed? And then there are the films – Green Hornet, Captain America, Thor, Green Lantern and more which could continue to cause all sorts of ructions in the marketplace. If the companies make the right moves, that is. And will Buffy Season 9, Xerxes and Dark Horse Presents give Dark Horse a new lease of life?
Let's find out… in a year's time. Who knows, maybe I'll have written a best selling comic myself by then…