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Self-Improvement & Hobbies

Sell-out at DC Comics relaunch

Fans snap up copies after the company restarted all of its ongoing titles, in a bid to boost flagging sales
The Straits Times - October 2, 2011
By: Nicholas Yong
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Sell-out at DC Comics relaunch DC Comics fans Lex Sng 31, a game artist with their stash of relaunch treasures. -- ST PHOTOS: CHEW SENG KIM

Zap! Kapow! Take that! Superman and Batman really took off last month and it was not to fight villains.

Even kryptonite could not stop the sales in Singapore of their comics and those of their fellow DC Comics characters, from exploding through the stratosphere, in the wake of the largest revamp in the American comics industry.

In an unprecedented effort to revive flagging sales, United States-based publisher DC Comics restarted all 52 of its monthly ongoing titles from number one. While revamps by DC and other publishers such as Marvel Comics are common, it has never been done on such a scale.

With some DC titles in continuous publication since 1937, this means that storylines dating as far back as 70 years have been thrown out the window.

Some of the changes involved: Superman and long-time companion Lois Lane are no longer married, while the once- paraplegic Batgirl is walking again.

Starting from last month, DC released the first issues of 13 titles every week. Initially decried by long-time DC fans as a publicity stunt, it has been well received here.

The three major independent comic stores here tell LifeStyle they are almost completely sold out of last month's DC titles.

GnB Comics at Rochor Centre has sold about 10,000 copies, while Comics World at Selegie Road sold a similar amount, outstripping the store's total monthly sales. Absolute Comics in Bugis Junction declined to give specific sales figures.

Each issue costs between $4.80 and $6.40.

GnB owner Bernard Ang says: 'It is unusual. We've seen individual issues sold out before, but never an entire run. Even obscure titles are sold out.'

Mr Bill Teoh, who owns the 24-year-old Comics World shop, says: 'They wanted new readers and they wanted to catch the young readers who are reading less and less.'

With an initial worldwide print run of 200,000, every DC title has gone into a second printing. The most popular title, Justice League Of America, has gone into a fourth print. All three stores here are ordering copies of subsequent print runs.

On average, comic stores here usually bring in between 100 and 300 copies each of individual monthly titles, with orders placed months in advance. But Absolute Comics did not order extra copies.

Co-owner Lim Beng Ann says: 'Initially, many customers said they wanted to drop the series they were following because it's ending. But when they heard that the story and artist were good, they were interested.'

Absolute sold out on the first day of the relaunch as all its stock had been reserved by subscription customers.

Similarly, GnB Comics ordered extra copies of popular titles such as Batman, but saw late interest and many new customers.

Mr Ang says: 'The problem with comics is that it's very hard for new readers to jump on because of the bundled history and some storylines carry on for very long. But now, it's like a fresh start.'

Even long-time DC fans such as Gene Whitlock, 39, creative director at an e- learning company, were impressed by the quality of the stories and the art. Despite his initial scepticism, he bought all 52 titles.

'They have retained a lot of the stuff that made DC what it is: the essence of the characters. I have not read a weak title so far, and I have been pleasantly surprised by the quality,' says the permanent resident.

Designer Kurt Leong, 40, another long-time comic fan, notes: 'Everything is new again, and we don't have to look back at the continuity or history. Now everything is up for grabs, nothing is sacred.'

Game artist Lex Sng, 31, has been reading DC comics for more than two decades. Before the revamp, he only bought a handful of monthly DC titles. But he has now purchased almost 20 of the revamped titles.

He says: "The revamp makes some of the previous storylines irrelevant, so I felt sort of cheated. But as a comic book fan, it's still more about the stories, and so far it's been pretty interesting."

But can DC sustain all that interest? Mr Lim of Absolute Comics is uncertain: 'The interest will usually carry on to issue two and three, so we hope that it will continue after that.'

He adds: 'At the end of everything, DC may just go back to the status quo. Everything is still uncertain now, at least for a year.'



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