And finally, the comparison chart of DC, Marvel and Image. So we can see where the biggest sales sit on the Direct Market Landscape.
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 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.
Outside of Doomsday Clock, Metal and Batman things are pretty even between DC and Marvel in January, all things considered.
The overall chart is a little shallow until the 50K-59K sales band and things peak for DC and Marvel in the 20K-29K sales band. Somewhere within that sales band lies the border between “stock for the shelf” and “subscription only” for retailers.
Walking Dead has the 5th highest selling issue of the month for Image (4th bestselling title, since Batman is biweekly), but Image really shows up with their sheer volume of sub-10K issues.
So let’s toss out the Events and #1s and concentrate on DC and Marvel.
The caveat is there are some things here that you could make an argument for being events. The 70K band is occupied by Sean Murphy’s Batman: White Knight, a mini-series, and the launch issue of a weekly run of Avengers. Marvel also has the low 50Ks and high 40Ks bolstered by their Phoenix mini-series. You could downshift the left hand side of this chart a bit, if you were of a cynical mind and you could defend doing it in the name of sustainable series.
The only sustainable cash cow for retailers continues to be Batman, which has slipped down from the 100K+ bracket to 90K-99K. It’ll pop back up for the wedding, but Batman showing even the slightest signs of mortality isn’t great in this market. Then comes Walking Dead, which we’ll have to see if it stays up in the 80Ks or comes back down to the 60Ks and Star Wars follows along in the 50Ks, along with Detective and Amazing Spider-Man.
Figure that it’s relative safe to say the titles retailers don’t have to proactively micromanage to stock on the shelves are mostly going to be those ordered into the DM at 30K+, and the chart suggests unless an individual shop happens to have a lot of luck with some of the lower titles, serious inventory controls probably need to be put on over half the titles being published today.
For the time being, Doomsday Clock and Metal are ruling the sales roost and giving retailers two more much needed big sellers to try and even out the risk on the smaller books. Metal’s nearing the end and Doomsday Clock will be bi-monthly for the foreseeable future. Batman: White Knight is another one that will help out for a bit, but is finite.
New Age of Heroes didn’t have an impressive launch for DC and the first two titles, could be in the “subs only” zone for a lot of stores in a couple months, if standard attrition holds true, but perhaps the buzz on The Terrifics will put it a bit higher on the list when the February estimates come out?
The January chart actually does look slightly better than the December chart, but not by that much.
Retailers are going to be white knuckling it (as opposed to white knighting it) through May when they get to see how their customers react to Bendis on Superman, Synder on Justice League and the “Fresh Start” branded micro-relaunch from Marvel. If a shop is struggling with the current publishing slate, that’s when the owners will see if the new initiatives will work.
You might want to be sure to pick up your pullbox promptly in May. Lots of new books and if your retailer is on COD with Diamond, they will be very, very happy to see weekly while they’ve got heavy orders on weekly titles.
Want to learn more about how comics publishing and digital comics work? Try Todd’s book, Economics of Digital Comics