The new woke Superman isn’t flying with fans, according to the latest comic book sales numbers.
John F. Trent reported Monday for the entertainment website Bounding into Comics that sales of “Superman: Son of Kal-El” — in which the son of the original Superman becomes a climate activist, advocates for illegal immigrants and dates a male reporter after donning his father’s cape — failed to crack the top 50 for the number of units sold only five issues into its new run. This represents an unprecedented sales flop for the Man of Steel, he said.
Sales tracking website ICv2, which analyzes “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,” reported that “Superman: Son of Kal-El” #1 failed to crack the top 50 books for units sold but did reach #45 for dollar sales from Nov. 28 to Jan. 1.
Industry resources website Comichron said “Superman: Son of Kal-El” #1 sold only 68,800 when it debuted in July, making it the 17th best-selling comic that month.
That sales number is only a fraction of what previous Superman reboots sold during their debut months: “Superman” #1 sold 133,700 copies in 2018, “Superman: Rebirth” #1 sold 118,434 copies and “Superman” #1 sold 105,380 copies in June 2016, and “Superman” #1 sold 118,376 copies in September 2011.
Sales of “Superman: Son of Kal-El” have gradually declined since July. Comichron said the third issue sold only sold 34,000 copies in September, making it the 77th best-selling comic that month.
In October, DC decided to make the new Superman bisexual as part of an effort to inspire more interest in the reboot.
“Just like his father before him, Jon Kent has fallen for a reporter,” DC Comics said in a statement. “After initially striking up a friendship with reporter Jay Nakamura, he and Jon become romantically involved in the pages of Superman: Son of Kal-El #5 from writer Tom Taylor (Dark Knights of Steel) and artist John Timms (Harley Quinn).”
“Superman: Son of Kal-El” #5, in which Superman kisses Nakamura, become the 6th most sold comic book in November, the book’s high point for the year.
But interest from fans quickly faded as DC announced more changes.
At DC FanDome, DC Comics Publisher Jim Lee announced the company was changing Superman’s motto of “Truth, Justice, and the American Way” to the less patriotic “Truth, Justice, and a Better Tomorrow.”
Mr. Lee said the change would “better reflect the global storylines that we are telling across DC and to honor the character’s incredible legacy of over 80 years of building a better world.”
Then writer Tom Taylor shared on Twitter the cover for “Superman: Son of Kal-El” #7, showing the superhero holding up a sign that reads, “School Strike For Climate.”
In an IGN interview, Mr. Taylor said: “The question for Jon (and for our creative team) is, what should a new Superman fight for today? Can a seventeen-year-old Superman battle giant robots while ignoring the climate crisis? Of course not.”
He added: “Can someone with super sight and super hearing ignore injustices beyond his borders? Can he ignore the plight of asylum seekers?”
But the fifth issue failed to crack the top 50 for dollars or units sold in December’s sales rankings, despite performing well in November.
Of the top 50 DC titles last year, Bounding into Comics reported that 48 were Batman comics, cementing the slide in popularity of Superman.
“The latest data set featuring comic book sales from December appear to show that readers are rejecting DC Comics’ woke changes to Superman,” wrote Mr. Trent, the editor-in-chief of Bounding into Comics.