So Joe Straczynski wrote an original graphic novel (OGN) called SUPERMAN: EARTH ONE that came out a few weeks back. And apparently it’s been such a success that Joe announced that he was leaving monthly comics and focussing solely on OGNs. He later cleaned up the quote, saying:
I think the graphic novel form and miniseries, which are published monthly, is the future for me, certainly, for reasons I’ll get to in a minute, and DC believes that there there’s a coming wave in that area.
And, of course, all kinds of people have gotten their knickers in a twist about, oh noes, a creator deciding his own career and, zomg, a perceived dis to the holy fucking monthly periodical comic book single. And also HERF DERF COMIX MAEKS MOAR MONEYS AS SINGLES. Massive amounts of pixels have been expended on this. I’ve seen very few numbers that seem to completely surround the thing.
Rough numbers, then: retailer Brian Hibbs states that the regular SUPERMAN comic is currently selling 50,000 copies. It changes hands for USD 2.99. EARTH ONE is about the same length as six SUPERMAN comics, so, assuming steady sales, the equivalent serialisation would gross some $900,000 over six months. (Of course, the sales of most serialisations tail off.) (Also, I’m rounding up. Rough numbers) Those issues are of course yanked off the New Arrivals rack after one week. Some months after the serialisation concludes, they go into what is usually a paperback collection. One can only speculate what number that would do. I would suggest that, since you don’t see many news stories about SUPERMAN serial collections selling out their print runs in one month, that that number would be unremarkable.
Brian thinks the sold-out print run of SUPERMAN: EARTH ONE was between 35 and 50k. I think his numbers are hinky, but let’s go with them. Let’s split the difference and say 40,000 copies. And the print run has sold out. It’s priced at $20. So that’s $800,000. In one month. In hardback. With a reprint of the hardback to come soon, and, eventually, a printing in paperback.
That’s a smaller gross right now, using the low end of Brian’s estimate of the print run. But as soon as it goes into reprint, it clears the 900K mark and keeps going — before it has its paperback run.
Of course, if Brian’s wrong and the print run was 50k, then that’s a stone million in gross in one month. With a reprint in the lucrative hardback format and a long life in paperback to come. At which point, you start to understand old Joe’s position.
(My questions about Joe’s position certainly have nothing do to with the numbers. What I’m wondering is what happens the first time Joe writes an OGN that isn’t a new iteration of the biggest heritage brand in comics with the concomitant press coverage and bookstore push. But Joe’s a big boy — and a nice guy, we met once when the showrunner gig for the eventually aborted GLOBAL FREQUENCY tv show was being floated — and I’m sure he’s thought about that. I’m looking forward to the first original work he releases as OGN.)