If you talk to comic fans about the DCNU Teen Titans, you will find a generally negative view of the series, yet it appears to be a golden goose which delivers solid sales to DC every month. How is this possible? How can a series that is mediocre at best and considered to be complete fecal matter by many continue to print money month after month?
I have some answers.
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1. The Concept Sales Itself
Add teen angst and hormones to superpowers, and you have yourself a pretty cool concept for a comic book series. It does not need to be original, creative, or particularly well written when it is already such a proven model for success. The X-Men these days consists mostly of adults, but when the series started, it was a group of teens. Spider-Man was a teenager when he started his career, and this was milked to no end to create high school and college melodrama. Teenagers and superpowers just strike a chord with audiences.
The heroic teenager is a theme that runs much deeper in American psychology than merely comic books; it can be found all throughout the entertainment industries. One of the best selling novels and movie franchises of all time was the story of a young wizard learning about his powers while coming of age. The original Star Wars series was about a teenager learning his place in the universe, having adventures, and mastering his superpowers. You can go to any book store and find shelves and shelves full of kids fantasy books starring teens facing Titanic odds. It's a simple concept that sells.
2. Teen Titans Has Always Sold Well
When you think of mainstay series from DC, you think of Batman, Superman and Justice League. If forced to pick big titles excluding those three, you would probably go to strong second tier characters like Wonder Woman, The Flash, Aquaman, and Green Lantern. Most people would not put Teen Titans on this same level, but they should.
Teen Titans did not really make it big until the eighties, but if you compare Teen Titans to these other series in the moder era, you can make a good case for Teen Titans being just as strong or even stronger than the solo series of the core Justice League members.
What has Aquaman had in the modern era? He's had a handful of series almost all of which flopped within a couple of years. The Flash has had a constant title throughout the modern era, yet Teen Titans has been in almost constant publication throughout the modern era and often times had multiple titles covering different teams going on simultaneously.
Wonder Woman and Green Lantern probably out perform Teen Titans a little bit. Wonder Woman has had a consistent ongoing series, and she has also headlined titles like Justice League of America and Trinity, so she deserves some extra credit for that. Green Lantern has also maintained a consistent series, and that franchise has multiplied over the past decade to encompass several books.
The point is that Teen Titans might not have the same kind of name recognition, but it actually is in the same neighborhood of all these various books in terms of sales and fan base.
3. Misplaced Red Robin Loyalty
Before the DCNU, Tim Drake had an ongoing series for nearly twenty years; that is an admirable run by anyone's standards. Sadly, Tim's seventeen year run was put to an end in order to encourage people to buy Teen Titans. Every other son of Batman got their own title, but Tim was forced to share the spotlight with a half dozen other characters. I've got to figure DC was betting fans would pick up the series just to catch up with Tim.
It's only natural; we comic fans almost come to think of our favorite heroes as friends. We want to know how they are doing. We want to see their struggle so we can be in their corner and root for them.
I played into DC's scheme. Wary as I was about the reboot, I gladly transferred my subscription from Red Robin to Teen Titans since it meant I would be able to keep up with Tim's adventures. That was a bad decision on my part, but I know many are still shelling out cash every week in the hopes that Tim's stories will improve.
By the Numbers
The series started off selling 73,000 copies putting it in about twelfth place out of the New 52, a very strong showing. By issue three, it had slipped down to 61,000, but that was pretty consistent with the general sales slip coming off the DCNU launch. Even with having lost twelve thousand readers, Teen Titans was still in 14th place. From issue four to issue fourteen, the series has slowly bled readers dropping it down to 21st place with only forty thousand, but that still puts Teen Titans in the top half of series in DC's stable right now, so I don't see them making big changes unless the creative team decides to move on of their own volition. To no surprise, it did spike up in issues 15 with the tie in to Death of the Family shooting back up to 69,000, but it will no doubt lose most of that audience after the crossover.
I'm afraid this is what we are stuck with at the moment. Taken as a whole, Teen Titans has been a mediocre series which produces great sales numbers. As long as that trend continues, DC will not change course. If you are purchasing Teen Titans but disappointed in quality, I strongly recommend you send DC a message by ending your purchases or buying the issues on resale.
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