It would seem many of you probably picked up an issue of DC’s new Harley Quinn series. The Comics Chronicles estimates sales as 114,212 for #0 and 92,153 for #1. Those are some very serious numbers for a book that’s a real departure in tone from your average New 52 title. It’s also the best-seller in what just might be an emerging trend.
For the last couple years, Marvel’s been picking up a lot of critical notice and some decent sales with a triangle of fun/wacky comics: Deadpool, Hawkeye and Superior Foes of Spider-Man. Were you to literally draw a triangle with those books as the three points, Harley Quinn would fit dead center in that triangle.
Like Deadpool, Harley engages in some absurd/Looney Toons-esque violence… and she has a sidekick in Bernie the Burnt Beaver, a stuffed beaver she thinks is talking to her.
Like Hawkeye, you’ve got Harley owning a building in Brooklyn and picking up a dog. Harley has specifically acquired a building on Coney Island, and she’s even liberating an animal shelter in issue #2.
Superior Foes of Spider-Man is a group of super villains having misadventures. Harley is still in the villainess/anti-heroine camp and, while it’s not quite a team, her traditional cohort Poison Ivy turns up in issue #2.
The really funny thing is, with the exception of owning a building on Coney Island, most of those bits Harley has in common with Marvel’s “fun/wacky” books have been part of the character for 10 or 20 years. And let’s face it, Harley Quinn on Coney Island? That’s reasonable for the character. This isn’t the first Harley Quinn series, either, though it might be a bit more over the top and a bit more adult with the humor.
Nor is this the only “fun” book at DC. Larfleeze, the Greed Lantern, is certainly an absurd book — although having been lumped in with the more serious Green Lantern titles doesn’t seem to have done it any favors. Jonah Hex has also been turning up at Burning Man in a recent issue of All-Star Western, although that title has its more somber moments. Still… when the New 52 launched, that was 52 mostly grim and serious comics. And it’s fair to say Harley Quinn is selling much better than the other fun books at DC.
And it’s not just DC and Marvel that have been having more fun books. In terms of success, I’d peg the father of this emerging trend as Chew over at Image. While ~12K in sales isn’t headline grabbing material anymore, so much as solid sales, Chew was a surprise and breakout hit. The collected editions seem to be doing pretty well, too. You could probably put Manhattan Projects in a similar category, though it does go a bit darker at times. Pop over to Valiant and you’ve got both Archer & Armstrong and Quantum and Woody taking up a significant percentage of a small line.
Is this an emerging trend? Perhaps and perhaps not. Fun comics were considered the kiss of death for many years, but there’s no denying that there are some success stories emerging.