Canadians flock to buy Justice League United #1

In the wake of DC Comics’ seven-part Forever Evil crossover event, there’s a new Justice League team to save the world from cosmic threats, and they’re singing “O Canada” instead of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Justice League United #1 hit comic shops continent-wide on May 14, featuring Adam Strange, a character freshly introduced to the New 52 continuity and reimagined as a University of Toronto anthropology professor. The book is drawn by artist Mike McKone and penned by Jeff Lemire, a Canuck himself. The JLU character line-up includes League mainstays Hawkman and Martian Manhunter, two characters whose exploits Lemire has written of before in Green Arrow and Animal Man, and a new creation named Equinox, a 16-year-old Cree Indian girl whose powers are related to the four seasons.

“The reaction to the book’s launch in Edmonton comic stores has been overwhelmingly positive.”

Justice League United replaces the canceled Justice League of America, which was authored until issue #8 by DC’s Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns, who recently revitalized the Green Lantern franchise. The new addition was originally announced in August of 2013 under the name Justice League Canada, but shifted to its current title in January of this year to reflect a change in the story’s scope to become a more swashbuckling, space-based adventure.

Despite the marketing sidestep, the reaction to the book’s launch in Edmonton comic stores has been overwhelmingly positive.

“Jeff Lemire does a great job,” says Andrea Brown of Happy Harbor Comics. Brown was a little skeptical after reading April’s #0 preview issue, saying that it contained too many Canadian stereotypes, including an overuse of “eh” and “aboot.” She says that’s not as prevalent in #1, adding that the characters “kick a little more ass” this time, too.

Brandon Schatz, manager of Wizard’s Comics and Collectibles on 109th Street, also sings Lemire’s praises, calling Justice League United a classic-style comic story for a modern reader. Schatz says the launch has “gone over quite well,” despite the fact that “DC’s sales record has been a lot softer lately.” Wizard’s ordered more copies of the #1 issue than they would for the typical debut, and Schatz says the demand has been strong enough that they’ll increase their orders for issues #2 and 3, also. Like issue #1, variants of those editions will be available with the originally intended Justice League Canada trade dress, the more popular cover at both Happy Harbor and Wizard’s Comics.

On May 18th, a stack of the special #1’s sat seemingly untouched at Main Street Comics in Middletown, N.Y., though, where only 13 of the 50 issues ordered had been sold at the time. Brian Deyo, owner of 3rd Universe Comic Emporium in Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y., says there the Justice League United launch has been “average,” adding that the “regular collectors picked it up,” but the book hasn’t been more sought after than similar debuts.

“JLU will have to perform well not just in Canada, but south of the border in the U.S., too, if it’s going to survive the currently tough comics market.”

JLU will have to perform well not just in Canada, but south of the border in the U.S., too, if it’s going to survive the currently tough comics market. While other factors are sometimes taken into account, sales made through Diamond Comic Distributors seem to be a good indicator of impending cancellations, and those numbers only reflect American purchases. Fortunately for Lemire and DC, issue #0 was ranked 11th overall in April, selling over 68,000 copies. It remains to be seen how much usual attrition rates will bring that number down.

It may not ultimately work out for Justice League United. DC’s friendly rival, Marvel Comics, stacked the deck in favor of a new series for Alpha Flight – their own Canadian superteam – when they launched it out of the “Fear Itself” event in 2011 with fan-favorite writer Fred Van Lente and popular artist Dale Eaglesham. The plug was pulled on that volume after nine issues due to low sales.

But maybe nine issues isn’t so bad when properties not tied to movie franchises seem harder to come by. Only time will tell how long Justice League United lasts but, in the meantime, much of Edmonton aims to enjoy it. “Nearly all our DC readers have subscribed to it,” says Brown.

CC Photo Credit: DC Comics

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