And finally, it’s time to compare the sales distribution charts for DC, Marvel and Image (the market’s current Big 3).
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? Its 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 up, the “full” chart with Event titles and Marvel’s #1 + variant promotions in all their glory. What we see here is DC with a lead in titles at the top, and then Marvel filling in the rest of the top portion where DC has a vast No Man’s Land (you can take that as a Batman pun or a Wonder Woman pun as you prefer) between Batman in the 100K+ bracket and All-Star Batman down at ~62.6K. Marvel dominates in number of issues selling into the market between 10K-29K, but that’s not necessarily something to be bragging about.
And then we strip it down to ongoing titles without the Marvel’s variant excesses. Suddenly, it’s lonely at the top of the chart. Batman, Walking Dead, Star Wars and then things start to fill in.
What’s the main different between DC and Marvel right now? Batman.
If you wanted to normalize things between DC and Marvel by throwing out the top franchise and the bottom franchise, you’d remove Batman and Star Wars from the top and then cross out the “Below 10K” category. Which would leave you with Walking Dead as the only ongoing title above 60K and with DC and Marvel looking a LOT alike. Oh, sure – Marvel has more titles that aren’t selling great, but what’s left in the 30K+ per issue range is not that far off.
DC should be happy Batman is selling and take great care hiring that new Bat-office editor.
For comparison, let’s look back at the February version of this chart:
Granted, this chart wasn’t filtering out Events and the like, but that makes the changes even more dramatic. DC’s columns have been drifting lower and to the right, Marvel’s columns have been drifting higher and to the left. Too much of Marvel’s drifting is stunt, but some of it is ongoing.
Image looks a bit healthier than February, but again, Image fluctuates quite a bit based on which titles are shipping in a given month?
Bottom line? DC and Marvel’s sales are congregating in the mid-list and below. Batman is the only real ongoing hit for the Big 2 (Star Wars is certainly successful, but it’s lagging by 30K+/issue).
The market needs more hits and fewer pullbox only titles.
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.