At last, here’s the final full installment (for now) of my look at the increasing presence of miniseries in the DCU line over the past several years. (See parts 1 and 2 for more.) Unfortunately, I won’t get quite up-to-date today, because I want to postpone a more complete discussion of 2008 at least until the October solicitations are out.
Thanks once again to Mike’s Amazing World Of DC Comics for compiling data through the end of 2007!
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It’s redundant to say that the 2007 numbers aren’t very exciting. Heck, none of this has been edge-of-your seat stuff. However, it’s a little frustrating that the 2007 numbers are so close to the 2006 numbers. In 2006 the DCU/superhero line produced a total of 384 ongoing-series issues and 187 miniseries issues. In 2007 those numbers were 422 (ongoings) and 191 (minis). Thus, in both years, miniseries were about a third of the total output, with ongoing series about two-thirds.
My specific frustration comes from my expectation that the years would be different. I was remembering 2006 for an emphasis on the ongoing titles (through “One Year Later”) and a lack of big-event crossovers. Likewise, my memory of 2007 put Countdown and its myriad of miniseries front and center. In reality, though, 2007′s overall miniseries proportion decreased, thanks to a higher number of ongoing-series issues.
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Although those ongoing series were trying to recover from 2006′s frequent delays, they still had their problems. (By the way, last time I wrote that December 2006 had five missing titles, but upon further review of the data it looks like that was my error. Instead, DC was trying to get back on track that month, with 35 issues of ongoing series, not the 31 I originally counted.)
The DCU/superhero line started 2007 with 37 ongoing titles (including the two bimonthly All Star books), which was about the same number it had maintained since the end of 2004. As in 2006, though, the line’s monthly output spent the first half of the year making up for missing titles. There were six holes in the January 2007 schedule, two in February, four in April, and three in June; and titles compensated through biweekly schedules.
For example, Wonder Woman had relaunched in June 2006, published three issues through August and #4 in December, and didn’t publish issue #5 until March 2007. The title went biweekly in March and April 2007, and finished the year with 11 issues and an Annual. Fellow delay-victim Action Comics was even more ambitious, skipping January and April but going biweekly in May, August, and October to publish 14 issues and an Annual. At the other end of the reliability spectrum, the hyperactive JLA Classified wasn’t delayed at all, went biweekly for six months, and published 19 issues in 2007.
That herky-jerky pace was typical of the 2007 ongoings. Action Comics published three issues in August. Superman Confidential skipped March, May, June, and October, but in late summer published two issues on two consecutive weeks. Some books, like the new Brave and the Bold, had delays built into their schedule (B&B skipped every fourth month to give penciller George Pérez a break), and some took the occasional month off (Firestorm, Outsiders) before being retooled. Two series received their own “events” in 2007, which goosed their numbers accordingly: the Outsiders “Five of a Kind” team-building exercise produced four extra issues in August, and periodic “Sinestro Corps War” specials augmented the two Green Lantern titles.
By contrast, the miniseries’ schedules each seemed fairly consistent, led by every week’s issue of 52. (The big exception was the once-monthly Trials of Shazam!, which went bimonthly for the last half of its run, and which still stuck around the same ship week whenever it did appear.) Let’s put it this way: Wonder Woman had to go biweekly to catch up to Amazons Attack.
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That brings us to the 2007 miniseries. Again, though, since their numbers didn’t change much from the previous year, let’s first go back to 2006.
The 187 issues’ worth of 2006 miniseries could be separated into a few big chunks:
52 (34 issues),
Seven Soldiers’ conclusion (8 issues),
Infinite Crisis’ conclusion (7 issues),
Infinite Crisis follow-ups (66 issues),
Batman miniseries (30 issues),
Superman and JLA miniseries (10 issues), and
Miscellaneous DCU miniseries (29 issues).
The 191 issues’ worth of 2007 miniseries fit into similar categories:
Countdown (34 issues),
Countdown affiliates (26 issues),
52‘s conclusion (22 issues, including 4 for World War III),
52 follow-ups (34 issues),
Batman, Superman, and JLA miniseries (13 issues), and
Miscellaneous DCU miniseries (62 issues)
With 52 and Countdown each taking up the same amount of issues in their inaugural years, it’s a little easier to see the differences. 2007′s “52 conclusion” number (22) is a little higher than the combined conclusions of Infinite Crisis and Seven Soldiers (total of 15), but I think the categories are comparable. Likewise, 2007′s “Countdown affiliates” (26 issues) and “52 follow-ups” (34) are both event-driven categories. Therefore, I think it makes sense to combine them also and compare the total (60 issues) to 2006′s “Infinite Crisis follow-up” number (66). That means that the 30 issues normally occupied by Batman miniseries has been opened up to the rest of the superhero line, expanding it to twice its normal size and reducing the Batman-miniseries output accordingly.
Issues of creative accounting aside, I think this illustrates DC’s capacity for manufacturing “event space” through miniseries. Remember, in 2001 and 2002 the DCU line produced 75 and 51 issues’ worth of miniseries before expanding to 164 issues in 2003. The line’s miniseries didn’t fall into many definable groups in 2003 and 2004, but the really big events hadn’t started yet.
Consequently, 2005′s two events (Infinite Crisis and Seven Soldiers) accounted collectively for about a third of the miniseries output, with another third going to the Batman/Superman/JLA group. In 2006, Infinite Crisis and its follow-ups made up over a third of the DCU miniseries output by itself. Adding 52‘s issues raised that total to over half of the year’s miniseries output. By 2007, the “extended 52” and “extended Countdown” lines each combined for about a third of the total DCU miniseries output.
Generally speaking, in 2008 the proportions are becoming more normal now that Countdown has ended. (The Batman miniseries numbers are way up already, for example.) However, through nine months’ worth of 2008 solicitations a total of 170 DCU miniseries issues are on the schedule — well on pace to exceed the 2007 mark.
Specifically, these 170 issues include
33 for Countdown and its affiliates;
11 for 52 spin-offs (including Countdown To Adventure and Metal Men);
12 for Final Crisis and related miniseries;
31 for Batman miniseries;
17 for Trinity;
10 for JLA miniseries (DC/WildStorm: Dreamwar and Tangent Comics: Superman’s Reign); and
66 for miscellaneous DCU miniseries (including 18 for Titans books and 10 for non-superhero fare)
Accordingly, while the numbers of event-driven miniseries are shrinking, the total amount of miniseries issues continues to increase. I tend to view this as DC exploiting a capacity for miniseries which has expanded significantly since the end of 2002. It knows it can produce over 400 issues of ongoing series per year; and since 2003 it has seen that it can produce about half that number of miniseries annually. What’s more, after using these miniseries as lead-ins and lead-outs for big crossover events (i.e., “event space”), DC has seen that the market will bear this increased output. By and large the Countdown miniseries didn’t burn up the sales charts, but they apparently sold well enough for DC to keep producing miniseries in the same amounts. I’d compare it to gas prices, but that might seem a little much.
Thus, because we readers seem to have adapted, I doubt we’ll see the proportions decrease any time soon. I’d like to think that the diversity of the “general-interest” group would increase as DC gets away from the big-crossover miniseries, but the line has been producing superhero fare for so long it may be a slow process. It’s not going to happen in a Batman-movie year, that’s for sure….
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Next week should be the October solicitations, so I’ll have another month’s worth of data and can talk more specifically about this year’s output. See you then!
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2007 DCU limited series
52 (18 issues, Jan-May)
52 Aftermath: The Four Horsemen (5, Aug-Dec)
52/World War III (4, April 18)
Amazons Attack (6, Apr-Aug)
Bat Lash (1, Dec)
Batman and the Mad Monk (1, Jan)
Batman/Lobo: Deadly Serious (2, Aug-Sept)
Black Adam: The Dark Age (5, Aug-Dec)
Black Canary (4 biweekly, July-Aug)
Captain Carrot and the Final Ark (3, Oct-Dec)
Connor Hawke: Dragon’s Blood (4, Jan-Apr)
Countdown (34, May-Dec)
Countdown Presents The Search For Ray Palmer (5, Sept-Dec)
Countdown Presents Lord Havok & the Extremists (2, Oct-Nov)
Countdown to Adventure (5, Aug-Dec)
Countdown to Mystery (3, Sept-Nov)
Countdown: Arena (4 weekly, Dec)
Creeper (1, Jan)
Crime Bible: The Five Lessons of Blood (3, Oct-Dec)
Death of the New Gods (4, Oct-Dec)
Gotham Underground (3, Oct-Dec)
Green Arrow: Year One (6 biweekly, July-Sept)
Helmet of Fate (5 biweekly, Jan-Mar)
Ion (3, Jan-Mar)
Justice (3 bimonthly, Feb-June)
Justice League/Hitman (2, Sept-Oct)
Martian Manhunter (3, Jan-Mar)
Metal Men (4, Aug-Nov)
Metamorpho: Year One (6 biweekly, Oct-Dec)
Mystery in Space (4, Jan-May)
OMAC (2, Jan-Feb)
Omega Men (3, Jan-Mar)
Salvation Run (2, Nov-Dec)
Shazam! The Monster Society of Evil (4, Feb-June)
Suicide Squad: Raise the Flag (4, Sept-Dec)
Superman and Batman Vs. Aliens and Predator (2, Jan-Feb)
Tales of the Unexpected (5, Jan-May)
Trials of Shazam! (6, Jan-Feb, Apr, June, Aug, Nov)
Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters (2, Jan-Feb)
Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters [II] (4, Sept-Dec)
Wonder Girl (4, Sept-Dec)
2007 DCU one-shots/special issues
Superman Through the Ages
Black Canary Wedding Planner
Green Arrow/Black Canary Wedding Special
Countdown Special: The Flash
DC Infinite Halloween Special
Countdown Special: Jimmy Olsen
Countdown Special: The Atom (2 issues)
Green Lantern/Sinestro Corps: Secret Files