Sunday, August 3, 2008

DCU Brave New World: Two Years Later

Two years ago this month DC Comics launched a sampler title in the wake of Infinite Crisis, Brave New World. At 80 pages for one dollar, the giant gave readers the chance to sample a few upcoming projects. All six were either revamps or reboots of existing characters.

So how did those projects do, and where are those “updated” characters now? The breakdown follows…

(Sales figures taken from The Beat)

Martian Manhunter: An eight issue mini-series, average sales of 28,156 per issue. This revamp of Martian Manhunter’s origin and appearance did not seem to do the character any favors. The “new look” J’onn made a handful of token "around the universe" appearances, such as in Amazons Attack and Salvation Run. He was also a member of Batman & the Outsiders for a cup of coffee. See Final Crisis #1 for end result.

OMAC: An eight-issue mini-series, average sales of 29,957 per issue. This mini actually started off with the highest sales numbers of the Brave New World mini-series, perhaps because of the Infinite Crisis OMAC connection. However, it then performed poorly and ended with the lowest numbers of all six series. Though this series was supposed to be about the “last OMAC,” an OMAC character currently appears in Batman & the Outsiders and is apparently not the same character. The OMAC featured in this mini-series (Michael Costner) has made no other appearances.

Uncle Sam & The Freedom Fighters: An eight issue mini-series, average sales of 27,735 per issue. The series was followed with a sequel eight-issue mini-series, average sales of 16,499 per issue. Total average (for sixteen issues) of 22,117 per issue. While I certainly am happy that Uncle Sam & Co. sold enough to warrant a second mini, the second mini sold over ten thousand less copies per average issue. The new team made an appearance in Battle for Bludhaven, also by Uncle Sam writers Palmiotti & Gray, but do not seem to have any announced upcoming appearances besides company crossovers and such.

Creeper: A six-issue mini-series, average sales of 21,379 per issue. This mini was a complete reboot of the Creeper, and the “new” Jack Ryder made concurrent appearances in the One Year Later Batman/Detective Comics crossover “Face the Face” and appeared in the 2007/8 Countdown to Mystery back-ups. However, in Countdown to Mystery the Creeper references his pre-Infinite Crisis death, suggesting that the revamp has already expired. Either way, there does not seem to be any Creeper appearances in the pipeline.

All-New Atom: Series ended in July 2008 with a 25-issue run, average sales of 25,473 for first twelve issues. Popular writer Gail Simone wrote a majority of the issues (#1-15, #17-18, #20), but the series sold at a similar level of the other Brave New World titles before ultimately drifting towards cancellation. “All-Old” Atom Ray Palmer returned just in time for the cancellation and will be appearing in James Robinson's upcoming Justice League title. Ryan Choi, the “All-New” Atom, made a number of appearances in other titles, including a semi-prominent role in Countdown to Final Crisis (#42-39, #37-33), and a team-up with Hawkman in The Brave and the Bold #9. No word on where Choi will end up next, but it seems likely the odds are in his favor.

Trials of Shazam: A twelve-issue mini-series, average sales of 33,715 per issue. While this series started in August 2006, it was plagued by delays and did not finish until April 2008. This radical revamp of the Marvel Family resulted in Freddy “Captain Marvel Jr.” Freeman replacing Billy Baston as Captain Marvel, although now Captain Marvel is apparently now called "Shazam" instead. Although Mary Marvel had a starring role in Countdown to Final Crisis, neither Billy or Freddy has made any significant appearances outside Trials. However, the "new" Shazam will be appearing in Final Crisis and Robinson's Justice League. Interestingly enough, Bone creator Jeff Smith’s all-ages prestige format Shazam: The Monster Society of Evil mini-series sold very well (31,827 per issue), and each issues cost TWICE as much as an issue of Trials. Smith’s series lead to the introduction of an ongoing kid-friendly Shazam series in July 2008. It will be even more interesting to see which interpretation will end up more successful.


The fact that none of these launches significantly caught on would not seem to be such a big deal had these characters not been heavily promoted by a $1.00 80-page sampler. However, with the exception of the new Shazam (who will be appearing in a team book), none of the characters are currently expected to appear regularly in any upcoming series. Clearly the biggest success was The All-New Atom had a short run – and the longest Atom series since The Atom & Hawkman ended at issue #45 in 1969 – and was the strongest Brave New World success. However, The Creeper, OMAC, and Martian Manhunter minis definitely failed to make these characters viable properties, and while the first Freedom Fighters mini sold as well as those three, the sequel mini sold significantly less than the first. I doubt that one clear success out of six was what DC was hoping for.

Perhaps this is why DC's latest sampler, April's DC Universe Zero, featured peaks at upcoming storylines for their top characters rather than less familiar faces.