Your quick answer? They are hanging in there. I know what you’re thinking. No, they aren’t touching Marvel’s numbers, but they aren’t in any dire trouble either. But let’s take a closer look at some of the things that may define just how well the company is doing.
DC Comic sales are fine. In fact, Action Comics #1000 was the highest grossing comic (by far) in 2018. While it’s other comics aren’t quite as high as some as Marvel’s they are still higher than every other company in the industry, and they present a challenge. Furthermore, DC picked up Brian Michael Bendis – arguably the biggest comic writer right now in terms of influence – from Marvel. Not only that, he’s writing Superman in two different titles and recently kicked off Young Justice. G. Willow Wilson taking on Wonder Woman and Kelly Sue DeConnick’s new Aquaman arc are also great results of former Marvel writers crossing over to the Distinguished Competition. They are all huge talent wins. On top of that, they’ve been recruiting brand new talent via the New Talent Development Workshop, with much success as told by the release of the DC New Talent Showcase 2018 #1 . Furthermore, they added themselves to Comixology’s unlimited service just days ago. Another big step in picking up sales.
But what about on screen? There hasn’t exactly been a complete revolt on the movies and shows, but there is a common perception that the comic monolith is inconsistent with their successes, and this warrants a little conversation. In late 2017, Justice League, the attempted answer to The Avengers, cost $250 million, but only managed to make a worldwide run of $658 million. A lot of money to be sure, but for their flagship film, this was a major disappointment. Not only is it the lowest grossing film of the DCEU, but it has only a 40% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes. This is why Zack Snyder is likely out of the superhero business, and Jon Berg, previous president of DC films, was promptly fired by WB. Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, while much higher in box office gross at $874 million, was almost universally trashed by fans and critics, which may have made them skeptical about its 2017 follow up.
However, DC made a sizeable splash with Aquaman, which is a little over $50 million shy of a billion after being in the theaters for just three weeks, topping both Batman v. Superman and Wonder Woman. Many are heralding the aquatic king as the savior of DC’s live action movie line, and with positive outlook on Shazam! coming this April, they may not be wrong. Still, how is their other content doing? There seems to be a distinct disconnect between the movies and TV, but has this actually had any impact on sales?
In September 2018, the DC Universe app launched. Many were skeptical about signing up, and the content was initially underwhelming. However, despite its horrible marketing campaign, its flagship show Titans brought the fire, and has been receiving high praise from fans, for the most part. The critics on Rotten Tomatoes give it an 83%, which isn’t bad. Still, the app may have shot itself in the foot by only launching in the US. However, Titans is now launching outside the US on Netflix. Will other DC Universe content spin off into other streaming services and pull in that sweet licensing money?
The long-awaited Young Justice: Outsiders also launched in early January and Harley Quinn, an adult animated show, should be hitting in October 2019. With several comic runs, shows like Krypton and several of its animated movies, which DC has been highly regarded for, perhaps the app will prove to be a valuable asset for fans after all. With cost in mind, the ultimate question is, will the content provided be worth $75 a year alongside other services like Netflix and Hulu? I suppose we’ll see.
Perhaps all the DC shows will eventually make it there. The CW still draws headlines and wider fan interest with crossover events like Elseworlds, but a year to year report from 2017-18 shows that despite them all Arrowverse shows getting renewed, their shows from The Flash, Arrow, Black Lightning, Supergirl, and Legends of Tomorrow have received a drop in viewership ranging from 16% to nearly 30%, according to Nielsen records. These numbers may not include the shows after they hit streaming services like Netflix, but that still doesn’t bode well for performance. However, fans do seem to be looking forward to Batwoman, which has a pilot in production.
I’d be remiss if I left out DC’s animated movies. These (and its TV shows like the aforementioned Young Justice) is the one of the major foundations of DC’s fan base. These movies have proven themselves time and time again as some of the best showcases of DC’s storytelling, and they continue to release these films on a consistent basis. In 2018 alone we received Gotham by Gaslight, Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay, and The Death of Superman. Fans plenty to look forward to in 2019 with January’s Reign of the Supermen, April’s Batman: Hush, August’s Justice League vs The Fatal Five, and October’s Wonder Woman: Bloodlines.
So is DC in trouble? No. They are doing fine. The successes are below Marvel’s and while some may see this as a problem, others simply don’t care. As fans we just want good content. While Marvel has raised the bar on all fronts, its successes don’t make DC look bad. Any blunders DC makes are all on them, but they’ve also had their successes. DC isn’t going anywhere, and if the latest TV and movie releases are anything to go by, perhaps their future is looking far brighter.