"Blackest Night" was exactly what the doctor ordered - that is, if you’re Doctor Fate, Mid-Nite or Thirteen. Not so much if you’re Doctor Strange.
In October, for the first time in more than a decade, DC Comics locked up the top six spots for monthly sales, according to figures released by Diamond Comic Distributors. And five of the six titles were "Blackest Night"-related, including the highest ranking title of the month, "Blackest Night" #4.
While "Captain America: Reborn" #4 will no doubt find its way into the Top 3 for November (the top-selling Marvel miniseries didn’t ship an issue in October), there are no signs DC’s lantern-fueled sales juggernaut will slow in the months ahead. Especially when DC is flooding the market with a sea of multi-colored rings in this month, each one being released with a "Blackest Night" tie-in book and representing one of the corps at war in the series.
Last week, retailers were shipped Yellow Lantern (Sinestro Corps) rings to sell with issues of "Doom Patrol" #4, and the pre-release buzz stirred by the promotion delivered for that title.
Gahl Buslov, who is one of the co-owners of Midtown Comics in New York, told CBR News that sales of "Doom Patrol" #4 exceeded expectations, even though the buyers for the shop had ordered heavily.
"We are either sold out or are about to, with reorders already placed but on backorder," said Buslov. "We’ll most likely have to wait for the second print, assuming there will be one."
Buslov explained that for titles like "Doom Patrol" which sell in the lower tier, Midtown ordered anywhere between 200 to 300 per cent of their standard order.
"It was a reverse relationship. The lower the book sold, the bigger the bump it got," said Buslov.
At Midtown, customers get the ring free with purchase of the associated book for the first week of release only. Customers can also purchase each ring for $1.99 or wait for a complete set of eight for $12.99.
This week, copies of "Booster Gold" #26 ship with an Orange Lantern ring while "R.E.B.E.L.S" #10 is tied to an Indigo one.
"Whether by coincidence or design, and I suspect the latter, the rings we felt we wanted more of were associated with the books we were ordering more of. These were the Red, Orange, Blue, and Green rings," said Buslov, who believes the boost the ring promotion gives tie-in titles like "Booster Gold" and "R.E.B.E.L.S." will hold in terms of sales at least in the short term.
"We expect the titles to continue to ride the wave for at least the duration of the tie-in," he explained. "While there will be a drop off from the ring-tied issues, the number should still remain well above the standard quantities for those titles, again, at least for the duration of the tie-in."
Buslov said there is no doubt that this kind of promotion helps to bump up readership of certain titles.
"Even if, and this is just a random number, only 10 per cent of the ‘extra’ readers stick around beyond the tie-ins, it’s still potentially a 10 per cent increase for the duration of the series. Multiply that across the board for the titles affected, and that might be no small number. And that may further translate into the new readers buying the back-issues and/or trades to catch up. And while I admit that’s a pretty optimistic view, I’ve seen it happen. Creatively strong titles will always retain some new readers once they’ve been exposed to it."
Ryan Liebowitz, owner of Golden Apple in Los Angeles, told CBR News that if his patrons wanted to collect the rings, buying the tie-in issues was a must. And that, at least in part, led to a sellout of "Doom Patrol" #4 last week.
"One of the things that led to us selling out of it was that people did add it to their pull list as a tie-in," explained Liebowitz, who acknowledged Golden Apple ordered double its usual amount of "Doom Patrol" as a preemptive measure.
"On our pull lists, it’s a monthly, and we wrote ‘Yellow Ring’ right next to it. So, are they buying for storyline or the ring? It’s only been one week, but I suspect it’s a little bit of both.
"But we told everyone when they filled out their sheets, if you want those rings, you have to buy ‘Doom Patrol.’ That did account for a majority of the reason that we sold out of it so quickly."
Liebowitz said all retailers will develop their own policies on how to distribute the multi-colored rings to patrons, but since the ring allocation per book was four times the actual book count, he’ll have more to deal with once the promotion officially closes at the end of the month.
"We received a lot more rings than we did comic books because DC listened to us retailers. When they originally solicited these rings as a promotion, I think it was by 25 copies of ‘Doom Patrol’ #4 and you can buy one bag of 50 promotional rings. You’d have twice as many rings as comics. Which is not a big deal but we’re all also buying hundreds of the core titles – ‘Blackest Night,’ ‘Green Lantern’ and ‘Green Lantern Corps.’ Whereas ‘R.E.B.E.L.S.,’ ‘Doom Patrol,’ and others, we order considerably less. There are probably a lot of shops that didn’t even buy 25 copies, normally, of ‘Doom Patrol.’
"So what they ended doing was for saying, ‘For every 25 copies, you get TWO bags of 50 rings. So what happens is when you spread out the whole promotion and you look at these rings as a set – because most people are going to want sets, although a lot of people will probably just want the green ring – you have to try and figure out how many sets we’re going to have in excess of the books.
"If we have essentially 50 copies of ‘Doom Patrol,’ we have 200 rings. So we have 150 extra rings but we won’t have 150 extra rings on some of the other books, so it wouldn’t make for sets. So what we did at Golden Apple, we just tied it to the books. We have not sold or given away any yellow rings. What we’re going to do is wait until the whole promotion is over, which is only three weeks away, and once the final ring comes out, we will be raffling some sets, maybe selling some sets, and maybe selling some individual rings or maybe giving them away as an incentive for them to buy something else."
Liebowitz hopes he’ll be proven wrong but he believes that despite the sales boost the ring promotion gives titles, it’s very unlikely readers will stick it out long-term with the supporting titles once the "Blackest Night" tie-in is complete.
"One can only hope, but generally speaking, because we’ve been doing this for 30 years here at Golden Apple, they’ll pick up the tie-in books but once there is no more ‘Blackest Night’ tie-in, they’ll probably end up dropping it and we’ll have to go back to our normal ordering numbers of ‘Doom Patrol’ and ‘R.E.B.E.L.S.’ and such, but I’m hoping not. There could be a surprise."
Regardless, "Blackest Night" and its related titles are selling extremely well right now, and whether or not the rings are driving sales, in the end, the book’s the thing.
"Right now, we’re just trying to sell these books. As far as I’m concerned, we’re successful in the first week because we sold out of ‘Doom Patrol’ and we have some more back in, and we’re running low again," said Liebowitz. "The ring promotion worked on the first book. And this week two more comics come out and then we’ll take it from there."
DC Ring Promotion Checklist
- "Doom Patrol" #4 - Yellow Ring - November 4
- "Booster Gold" #26 - Orange Ring - November 11
- "R.E.B.E.L.S." #10 - Indigo Ring - November 11
- "Adventure Comics" #4 - Blue Ring - November 18
- "Outsiders" #24 - Violet Ring - November 18
- "Blackest Night" #5 - Green Ring - November 25
- "Justice League of America" #39 - Red Ring - November 25