ICv2 had the sales numbers the other day and on the blah side, noted that For the third month in a row in March, only one comic title sold more than 100,000 copies, which sounds bad, but as John Jackson Miller has been pointing out in the comments and elsewhere, overall things are still WAY above where they were. Still, ICV2 notes, “The only launches in the Top 10, Daredevil #1 and Silver Surfer #1, sold around 76,000 and 65,000, respectively.” That just kind of feels disappointing. 100,000 is a psychological barrier for sure, and the more books on the other side of it, the better you feel.
The rest of the figures:
Top 300 Comics Actual–March 2014
Top 300 Graphic Novels Actual–March 2014
(Oh and in case you were wondering — and not to jump on Jason Enright’s territory—Issue #2 of Ms Marvel sold 38,357 copies, a 24% drop.)
If you want a very detailed look at what is happening with comics sales, I direct you to David Harper’s 2014 Comic Sales: A Sign of Things to Come, or Much Ado About Nothing? at Multiversity. harper examines the usual suspects—event fatigue, inflated cover prices, too many Marvel all now news, digital encrosion—and feels none of them are the real culprit. For instance, March didn’t relaly have any events to be fatigued by. Instead, he points to a softening in DC sales. (Hey he did it, not me!) However, there’s good news on the horizon…maybe even TODAY!
Now that we know why sales are down, I have this to say: I think the rest of 2014 is going to be big, even for DC.
This week brings the launch of the first of three DC weekly series, and this one has their big gun in the name: Batman. “Batman Eternal” will act as a life preserver to DC’s flagging sales, with a perpetual infusion of Batfans bolstering their weekly, monthly and 2014 forecasts. With “The New 52: Future’s End” and a third unrevealed weekly arriving in 2014 as well, you’re taking flotsam and jetsam like “Stormwatch” and “Larfleeze” and replacing them with at least four books a month that will likely be in high demand.
Is that sort of like putting a bandaid on a leak on your sinking ship? Hell yes. Is it going to work, at least for now? You better believe it. Contrary to widely held beliefs, DC Comics is a smart company, and the move to weekly releases for some of their bigger characters and ideas instead of monthly issues of lower tier books is going to do a lot for their bottom line, and the overall (short term) health of the industry. If my wild theory is correct, it won’t resolve any of their long-term issues, but I expect a significant bounce back for DC in April and beyond.
Plus, Marvel is already tooting around 500,000 orders for May’s The Amazing Spider-man #1, which sees Peter Parker back as Spider-Man. That number, even driven as it is by variants and incentives, will get a lot of play where it counts, corporately speaking.
Still, you can’t help but feel for The Big Two in their constant need to appeal to a simultaneously jaded and devoted group of readers. I was farting around on Tumblr the other day when I saw this from Greg Pak and his AMA:
Are you and the others writers, (Geoff Johns, Scott Snyder, Charles Soule, Jeff Lemire, etc), organizing the continuity on DC Comics Universe in the New 52 or we gonna see the same errors there were in the past, what are your 3 favorite comic book characters and who is the king of all them for you???
We’re absolutely doing our best to keep things straight and I’ll often bug Scott or Charles with questions to make sure I’m getting certain details right. And of course our editors keep us on track. But these are monthly comics set in a shared universe with hundreds of characters and dozens of overlapping stories. So yes, there will be continuity hiccups. Sometimes we just make mistakes, and we’re sorry. And sometimes certain established elements simply conflict and there’s no way to reconcile them and we have to make choices that will serve the stories in the best way.
Pak is a talented veteran who knows how to tell a good yarn, but when telling a good yarn must also satisfy the minute continuity cravings of a watchdog readership with their finger on the trigger of a message board post, well…who is really winning here?
But here’s the really great news: there is a lot more to the comics business than just Marvel and DC’s latest variants and events! It’s a big pie now! And that pie is a whole smorgasbord. Smorgasbord pie. That’s why I still like comics.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.