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Justice League #1 has garnered initial orders of more than 200,000, DC Comics tells the Los Angeles Times, with another six titles from the publisher’s much-discussed September relaunch each surpassing 100,000 copies.
That figure will make DC’s new flagship title, by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee, the bestselling direct-market comic of 2011 — Marvel’s Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #160 now has the honor, with about 168,000 copies — and the first since January 2009’s Amazing Spider-Man #583 to break the 200,000-copy mark. (In case you’re wondering, that was the issue with the Barack Obama variant cover, which sold more than 350,000 copies.)
“Fan interest is huge — much of it positive, some negative, and some very cautious,” Gerry Gladstone, co-owner of Midtown Comics in New York City, tells the newspaper. The LA Times also unveils Jim Lee’s variant cover for Action Comics #1 and Ethan Van Sciver’s variant cover for Batman #1, both of which you can see below.
The sales numbers are the lone bright spot in an article that paints a grim, if not necessarily inaccurate, picture of an industry in which sales have slipped 7 percent this year alone. The relaunch is billed as “part of a two-pronged strategy to try to revive its moribund business and draw newer, younger readers” — the other prong is apparently the publisher’s digital initiative, but the story’s unclear on that front — but the overall tone of the LA Times piece reads “Hail Mary pass.”
“The truth is people are leaving anyway, they’re just doing it quietly, and we have been papering it over with increased prices,” Co-Publisher Dan DiDio says. “We didn’t want to wake up one day and find we had a bunch of $20 books that 10,000 people are buying.”
With at least seven titles selling more than 100,000 copies — retailers have until Monday to adjust orders on the first issues of such high-profile series as Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman and The Flash — DC will be able to trumpet “The New 52″ as a success, with the publisher dominating Diamond Comic Distributors’ Top 10 in September. Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #1 could very well be the sole Marvel title on that list.
But to truly gauge the success of the relaunch, DC (and the industry) will have to look further down the Diamond chart to see how fringe titles that don’t benefit from mainstream recognition or marquee creators — books like Men of War, Demon Knights and I, Vampire — perform. Will the New 52 be an instance of the publisher’s top-tier books selling like gangbusters, while the other 35 or 40 struggle for an audience? And, just as important, where will those top-tier titles stand at Issue 4 or Issue 6 or Issue 12?
Update: The LA Times’ Company Town blog now lists the six other DC first issues that have have pre-orders higher than 100,000 copies: Action Comics, Batman, Detective Comics, The Flash, Green Lantern and Superman. None of those is a surprise, although Aquaman, with the fan-favorite creative team of Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis, certainly seemed like a contender for The Flash‘s spot.