Now it’s time for a look at Marvel’s sales distribution charts for August.
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.
Marvel is not in a good trend. Not. At. All.
The high seller for the month was Secret Empire #10 at just over 86K. That must’ve had increased orders for anticipated rubbernecking, because that series bottomed out with an estimated 77K for issue #9. A Marvel big deal Event series dropping below 80K? Not something you’d have expected to see before this year.
These big deal Generations specials? Around 85.7K for the Wolverine one. 76.4 for the Thor one. 61.3K for the Hulk one and falling off from there.
These are not the kind of numbers you expect for a Marvel event, especially not when there’s a #1 on those specials. However, not everyone on the fan or retailer side of the business necessarily buys into Marvel’s hype on Generations.
Star Wars is the highest selling ongoing/non-Event/non first issue series. A two issue month, hitting at ~66.6K and ~66K. The highest selling ongoing title set in the Marvel Universe is Amazing Spider-Man #31 at ~54.1K.
As is the custom, let’s break this out into ongoing titles vs. the Event mini’s (anything with Secret Empire or Venomverse in the tile) and #1s with all their variant covers.
The vast majority of the Event/#1s in the 10K-19K bracket are $1 Kirby anniversary specials, so we should take that with a grain of salt. However, look at the no event chart and you’ll see that Marvel’s sweet spot appears to be issues getting ordered in at under 20K. That’s an awful lot of comics with minimal to no shelf stocking. If an ongoing comic is selling 40K at Marvel, it’s a hit. Would 40K even have been considered mid-list a couple years ago?
I’ve got a term it may be time to start using for when you get over that 60K sales bracket: The Sales Cliff
Because when you start getting over 66K, the sales jump right off a cliff. There’s nothing going on above it for ongoing titles and, let’s be honest – when an event book or a #1 with Marvel’s usual assortment of sales incentives and variant covers is listed above it, you can’t be sure there are more than 60-69K readers/buyers for those issues, even if that’s how they’re ordered. We’d need a sellthrough tracking system like Bookscan to know what the real audience for those comics is. I’ll talk about that Cliff a bit more when it’s time to compare August for DC and Marvel.
Is there good news for Marvel’s single issue sales? So far Darth Vader is holding up fairly well, relative to the rest of the line.
Marvel’s making their marketshare by pumping out lots of issues of comics that just don’t sell very well as single issues.
What the Marvel boosters are going to be chanting is “wait for the lenticulars.” And you know what? That’s going to be really interesting to watch. Will the orders for the retailers going “all in” balance out the retailers who are saying “no thanks?” Will the retailers who ordering extra heavy with expectations of profitee… er, selling those lenticulars at higher prices to collectors whose normal shop opted not to carry them make out like bandits, break even or lose their shirts? Will Marvel care if anybody loses their shirts?
They SHOULD have big orders on those, but we’ll have to see. All I can tell you is the numbers did not impress in August and it isn’t clear that Generations is generating buzz that will translate into increased sales of the ongoing titles. As Marvel’s once vaunted ability to sell those Events and #1s stumbled a bit in August, it just isn’t a good look.
When was the real relaunch again?
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.