MARC MASON'S BUY THE NUMB3RS!!!
Hola! And welcome back to BUY THE NUMB3RS! I’m Marc Mason, owner and Dark Prince of The Comics Waiting Room. Each month in this space, I take a look at a soon-to-arrive comic and attempt to predict how many copies it will sell. This month’s contestant: The return of THE AUTHORITY!.
When THE AUTHORITY first hit shelves back in 1999, it was the first shot fired in a revolution of sorts. Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch created a superhero comic that wasn’t quite like anything else on the market. The storytelling was on a grand scale, told through large, “wide-screen” panels. The characters were wildly flip and sarcastic, reveling in their powers and their status as living weapons of mass destruction. The pacing was very decompressed, leading to a full-fledged movement in mainstream comics that continues anywhere you find something written by Brian Bendis or Mark Millar to this day. But mostly… mostly the book was just damned great. To this day, it holds up as an example of what happens when things go right, and talented creators do career-level work.
Then… it all went to shit. Ellis and Hitch finished their run. Mark Millar and Frank Quitely got off to an interesting start, but it quickly devolved into an exercise of sadism, as Millar used the book as a way to work out some of his more disquieting concepts. Finally, Millar ended his run, and the book was put to bed. And rightly so. There’s only so much that can be done with the characters before the book becomes a brutal self-parody. So, of course, DC/Wildstorm waited little more than a year before resurrecting it. That time around, Robbie Morrison and Dwayne Turner to do the job… this, in 2003, was the equivalent of replacing Lee/Kirby with Don McGregor and Alan Kupperberg. Ugly. So after a year of that, the book was retired again, only to see it given mouth-to-mouth months later by Ed Brubaker and Dustin Nguyen. Better team, but still… the ultimate question was: what’s the point?
Now, DC/Wildstorm is trying again, and for the first time since Millar’s first few issues, there’s a creative team with the perfect potential to make the series return to greatness. The new AUTHORITY #1 is written by Grant Morrison and drawn by Gene Ha. Pure superstar creative talent. But how will it fare in the marketplace? Let’s check some numbers:
Sales for AUTHORITY #1, published in March 1999, written by Ellis and drawn by Hitch: 40,100. Good, strong jump out of the gate, especially considering that Ellis and Hitch weren’t “Ellis and Hitch” at that point. (Sales data from CBG Xtra)
Sales for AUTHORITY #29, published in December 2001, written by Millar and drawn by Art Adams: 40,314. That’s damned astonishing, really. To see that consistency in the number twenty-nine issues later is remarkable, especially considering shipping delays and creative team changes. Plus, this was the final issue of the first series.
Sales for AUTHORITY Vol.2 #1, published in May 2003, written by Robbie Morrison and drawn by Dwayne Turner: 44,351. There was obviously a market for the characters. Unfortunately, this creative team cooked that market a dinner made of poison mushrooms and it died a horrific, vomiting death.
Sales for AUTHORITY: REVOLUTION #1, published in October 2004, written by Ed Brubaker and drawn by Dustin Nguyen: 26,572. My case in point. A far better creative team, a writer who was relatively hot at the time… and half as many people gave two shits. For DC/Wildstorm, this was still a decent number… but that’s putting lipstick on the family pig and taking it to the prom.
Sales for SEVEN SOLDIERS #0, published in February 2005, written by Grant Morrison and drawn by J.H. Williams: 53,217. Morrison has taken a Bat-book under his wing, but this was his most recent “audacious” move with characters that had been mostly neglected. Fantastic numbers.
Sales for TOP TEN #1, published in September 1999, written by Alan Moore and drawn by Gene Ha: 55,100. This was Ha’s last major debut work, and remains one of the most consistently beautiful comics ever created. Very solid debut sales numbers, too. (Sales data from CBG Xtra)
So how will this latest edition of THE AUTHORITY do? Even with Morrison’s presence, it’s difficult to believe it will top the Ellis/Millar series in sales. Even though Grant’s profile is huge right now, I don’t see that translating into readers for a series that has the stink of bad previous series to deal with. So I’m going to temper my expectations, and guess that the book will do somewhere a little over 29,000, give or take a few.
Do you buy my numb3rs?
FOLLOWING UP: Column five featured my guess at C.S.I.: DYING IN THE GUTTERS #1. My guess for total orders was 5,500. ICV2 has released final sales numbers for August, and the total pre-orders for the book came to: 8178. That’s the first time I’ve really guessed on the low side, but I’m okay with it. This is really outstanding news for the folks at IDW, and they must have popped a bottle of bubbly when their orders came in. This may just breathe new life into the C.S.I. franchise.