The August sales estimates are out, so it’s time to take a look at the sales distribution charts and see where things fall in the market. As usual, we’ll start with DC.
Standard disclaimers: The numbers are based on the Diamond sales charts as estimated by the very reliable John Jackson Miller. These charts are pretty accurate for U.S. Direct Market sales with the following caveats: 1) you can add ~10% for UK sales, which are not reflected in these charts; 2) everyone’s best guess is you can add ~10% for digital sale – while some titles do sell significantly better in digital (*cough* Ms. Marvel *cough*), that’s the average rule of thumb; 3) it’s not going to include reorders from subsequent months, although reorders will show up in subsequent months if they’re high enough. So if you’re a monster seller in Southampton and the it took the US audience 3 weeks to reorder, it’s probably not going to be reflected here.
What’s a sales band? It’s another way to have a higher level view of the market. The general idea is to divide the market into bands of 10K copies sold and see how many issues are in each band. How many issues sold between 90-99K copies, 80-89K copies, etc. etc. In very broad terms, the market is healthier when there are several titles selling in the 70K-100K+ range because titles that move a lot of copies give the retailers some margin of error on their ordering. When you see titles selling in the 20-29K band and especially below, there’s a pretty good chance a lot of retailers aren’t ordering those titles for the shelf (pull box/pre-order only) or minimal shelf copies at best.
First the good news, Dark Nights Metal #1 sold (OK, was ordered into the Direct Market) at just below an estimated 262K. Which is a huge number for DC. That’s more than the orders of the 20 lowest selling DCU issues combined. How much of that is involves variant covers? Hard to say, but some of that’s going to be factored in there. I don’t recall hearing any retailers complaining about getting stuck with extra copies, so I’m going to assume it’s selling through OK and issue #2 is going to be well over the 100K mark. Which is the good news for DC. And I’m not sure there’s a lot of good news after that.
Batman might not have been picking up steam after all. Issue #29 barely cleared 100K, so either we’re going to be seeing some elevated re-order activity next month or DC won’t have… excuse me, all of comics won’t have an ongoing title selling over 100K.
Then All-Star Batman stumbled on its way out the door with an estimated ~57K sales. So nothing besides Batman and the current (and unusually successful if face value is to be trusted) event of the month are selling north of 60K. North of 57K, technically.
I’m calling this gap “The Desert of Broken Sales.”
I suppose you could also call it “Death Valley.”
Which is to say, there’s Batman and then there’s the mid-list.
Flash is the bestselling non-Batman/event comic clocking in at ~54/53K for the August issues. With All-Star set to wrap, Detective Comics is #2 ongoing, ~100-200 copies ahead of Flash. I’m afraid I’m going to have to be that guy and ask the question – will standard attrition twice a month leave DC with no ongoing titles selling over 50K by early 2018? Everybody better hope that the Metal success translates to the spin-off titles and that DC has some interesting new title announcements coming out of NYCC.
The sweet spot for DC continues to be in that 30K-39K range, which you could likely classify as minorly profitable for most retailers. But there are a lot more titles selling under 30K than over 30K.
Speaking of 30K, that’s one of the interesting bits of the August chart for DC. Mister Miracle #1 was ordered at roughly 33.5K. And it appears that it was drastically under-ordered. There were many reports of instant or near instant sell-outs and – in what I can only interpret as a sign of high demand – Mister Miracle #1 shot up to the #1 slot on Comixology. The second issue (and second printing of the first issue, IIRC) are out this week, so it will be interesting to hear how it’s moving AND see if it tops the Comixology list again.
I’ve heard a lot of explanations ranging from “since when does Mister Miracle sell well” to “they didn’t but ‘Rebirth’ on the cover,” but ultimately it boils down to retailers misjudging the demand and DC being unable to convince them otherwise. Is Mister Miracle a 60K title by demand? 50K? Higher?
Is this Tom King’s Batman audience ALL showing up or is this the growing TPB audience for Vision and Omega Men showing up for the serial?
Too soon to tell, but it’s interesting.
Speaking of Tom King, the absolutely wonderful Batman/Elmer Fudd special had almost 10K work of reorders in August.
Once more, Astro City was the only Vertigo title to chart. Young Animal (sort of the surrogate Vertigo for some) didn’t crack 10K on any issue, but Doom Patrol didn’t ship.
The bottom tier of Rebirth titles looks like it’s getting 2-3 months away from dipping below 10K and it’s going to be interesting to see what the tolerance for those sales levels will be. Not all of them are necessarily going to be hits on the Scholastic market.
So where’s DC, in terms of single issue sales? Depends on who you ask. Metal might just be selling well enough to paper over some of the problems, but the gravity of attrition and the utter lack of books in the desert of broken sales should be getting a little more attention. Is the Metal audience really that scattered across the other titles (DC or otherwise)?
Todd Allen wears a lot of hats. At various times he’s been (alphabetically), a bouncer, college professor, humor columnist, Internet producer and an NBA/WNBA Beat Writer, among other things. He’s the author of Economics of Digital Comics. You should probably read it.