Diamond Comic Distributor's May 2011 sales figures hit this morning, and DC's week-long reboot news cycle is probably working in their favor here, since they got their butt kicked. How bad? They lost market share. In the first month of Flashpoint. While Marvel was in the second month of Fear Itself. That makes Flashpoint a bust, at least on the starting line. It's only a half-percentage loss of market share for DC, but considering it's a month in which they were launching their big summer event -- and a month in which books like Green Lantern and Batman Incorporated came out -- it's not good news.
|DATE||DC COMICS||MARVEL COMICS (Dollar Share)||Notable Events|
|March||27.34%||42.74%||War of the Green Lanterns|
|April||27.09%||40.14%||Fear Itself, Mighty Thor|
Even though my personal critical opinion is that Fear Itself is falling kind of limp while Flashpoint is weird and exciting, I can't deny that the inertia of reader interest falls into the camp of the former. Whether this had anything to do with DC's decision to shift from depending on the Direct Market and attack the digital market, I have no idea, although the time period certainly lines up since DC would have gotten initial orders for Flashpoint #1 months ago.
I can't say I'm shocked that an alternate-reality event centering around the Flash, a newly-resurrected lead character of a franchise that's never hit the top ten, didn't set the charts on fire, but I am surprised that DC is betting so much of the farm on it. Marvel's summer event is based on Thor and Captain America, both characters with high-profile movies coming out this summer and years of high-selling comics behind them. The Flash had a crappy TV show in the early '90s and two years of incredibly sporadically published but fairly successful Geoff Johns comics behind him, and before that a four-year publishing trainwreck consisting of switching around the title character of the book, aborted runs, and bad ideas. So at least from a character brand perspective, it's not a huge surprise that Fear Itself rolled Flashpoint in some Zig-Zags and smoked it using its own cardstock cover as filter paper.
I can't imagine that this trend will stop with the introduction of the Flashpoint tie-ins; those are all stand-alone miniseries, while Fear Itself incorporates guaranteed best-selling titles like all four Avengers books, Invincible Iron Man and Uncanny X-Men (R.I.P.). Flashpoint has alternate versions of Batman and Wonder Woman; Fear Itself has Iron Man, Colossus and Captain America stuck in desperate, character-changing circumstances.
Once again, the old adage that readers want stories that "matter" proves true; even though Flashpoint will have, as the reboot has attested, unprecedented consequences across the DC Universe line, those won't come until the end of issue #5, and in mysterious circumstances. Previous events, such as Final Crisis -- which barely affected DC at all outside of the Batman line -- certainly didn't help initially convince readers that Flashpoint would be anything other than a quick flash in the pan, especially since all of these figures represent sales that occurred before the reboot announcement.
Nonetheless, it's hard to escape the feeling that DC's thrashing here is anything other than academic considering the reboot, so the timing of the announcements certainly plays into their hands. It's possible that the big announcements and mainstream media attention will turn things around and Flashpoint will thrash Fear Itself next month. I have no idea. But this is more writing on the wall for change, that's for sure.