Superman Going From Super Woke To Super Broke?
Superman Going From Super Woke To Super Broke?
Apparently DC Comics never took to heart the old adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
While the DC super fan in my house is a Batman devotee, I grew up with fond memories of Superman thanks mostly to the Christopher Reeve era movies. (The John Williams soundtrack didn’t hurt either.) This is likely the image that most GenXers and older Millennials have of Superman.
But DC Comics has been actively moving away from Superman as a clean-cut all-American superhero. While the movies decided to go with a more conflicted version of Superman (an artistic choice to try and make Superman as multilayered as Batman, which didn’t work well), the Superman comics – which, as any fan will tell you, are a completely different universe than the movies – went for woke. Back in October, DC announced that the traditional Superman motto of “truth, justice, and the American way” was being changed to “truth, justice, and a better tomorrow.”
Wow, doesn’t that make you just want to run out and buy a Superman comic book? Well, if that doesn’t, how about ultra-woke and bisexual Superman!
The fifth issue of the DC comic series “Superman: Son of Kal-El” will confirm that the new Superman — Jon Kent, child of Clark Kent and Lane — is bisexual after falling for Jay Nakamura, a male reporter, DC announced this week.”
The “Superman: Son of Kal-El” series follows Kent as he becomes Earth’s new Superman and grapples with the immense weight of his new gig. Nakamura, a bespectacled writer with a bubble-gum pink mop, first appeared in the series’ third issue as a shoulder for Kent to lean on when the business of being Superman gets too rough.”
But in the forthcoming fifth issue, coming next month, Kent falls for the journalist — he is his father’s son — after he “mentally and physically burns out from trying to save everyone that he can,” according to DC.”
It’s obvious that DC is trying to get around certain issues by making the “new” Superman, not the original one, woke and queer and very social justice-y. This gives them the wiggle room to “relaunch” the entire Superman storyline if necessary. Well… if these numbers are any indication, it might be necessary.
Sales tracking website ICv2, who explains their data set is “unit and dollar sales rankings based on sales tracked at point-of-sale by the ComicHub system at stores selling American comics around the world,” did report that Superman: Son of Kal-El #5 did hit the 6th most sold comic book for the month of November. It still didn’t beat out the likes of Batman and Dark Knights of Steel.”
ICv2’s most recent data set for December, reveals it was a one-time gimmick as the book did not show up in the top 50 chart when looking at total units. Superman: Son of Kal-El 2021 Annual #1 did place 45th on ICv2’s Top 50 Comic Books by Dollars chart for the month.”
That’s right, the flagship Superman book at DC Comics is not on a Top 50 Comic Books by Units chart only 5 issues in.”
YouTuber Comics by Perch believes the latest December sales numbers for DC Comics means the company is screwed.”
He says, “There’s been a lot of speculation about the health of DC, nothing quite says you are screwed like this. … In terms of health of the company, sit with this for a second. 50 DC titles. The top 50 DC titles, 48 of them are Batman books. It is the Batman company. Just forget the rest.”
He added, “No part of that is good news for DC or even close to it. That’s where we are at.”
Now, DC Comics writer Tom Taylor is refuting the entire report on Twitter, claiming that it’s not the full picture in a multi-tweet thread.
Wait. Issue #6 didn't even appear in December sales? What?! pic.twitter.com/14NXysv26Z
— Tom Taylor (@TomTaylorMade) January 25, 2022
Undoubtedly the way that sales are calculated for comics across multiple platforms doesn’t give a clear picture of what is going on. Taylor tries to point to Amazon sales as a measure of popularity, but also inadvertently points out that Marvel and Dark Horse (which now handles Star Wars comics again after a six year break, thanks to Star Wars being published by Marvel during that time, as they are both Disney properties) are more than a match for DC Comics. Collectors might be buying the new Superman comics, but are new fans being created with them? And the sales notes aren’t wrong – even Amazon reflects that aside from the Superman series, every other one of the DC titles is a Batman or Batman spinoff. This has been one of the chronic problems with Superman in general – his universe is not excessively compelling once you move past his origin story. It’s Batman who has the more shocking and compelling villains, more morally ambiguous allies, and the darker and more complex backstories.
Which was probably the entire point for making the new Superman “woke.” DC Comics needed the buzz to set them apart and make this series “different.” The problem is, you can have “different,” but is “different” going to create sales for a character that people expect to be written a certain way?
Like I said, I have good memories of Superman – but they are all on DVD in my house. I don’t need anything new, and my kids aren’t buying it either (and I screen every single comic book that comes into this house for age-appropriateness, even if it comes from the library). DC Comics might be writing for their ultra-woke niche audience, but then they have to realize that the ultra-woke niche audience isn’t going to spend the same amount of money as a larger audience would. Best of luck with that.
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Featured image: photo of Superman lunchbox by Deanna Fisher, used with permission