It’s time to take a look at the sales distribution charts and see where things fall in the market for December 2017. 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 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.
The overall chart isn’t quite as frisky at the top as it was in November. Why? A deficit of Metal one-shots and crossovers driving big orders. Oh, don’t get me wrong, you’ve still got a Doomsday Clock and a Metal (proper) issue, both selling into the DM at over 150K. That’s rare air in the current environment, but the chart is down a couple big books and that 80K-89K sales band continues to be empty.
Let’s look at just the DCU with and without Events.
Basically, Doomsday Clock, Metal and Hawkman (Metal one-shot) drop out. And Hawkman doesn’t sell like a Bat-centric Metal one-shot, which should surprise no one.
Batman continues to drift downward in the mid-to-low 90Ks. That blip in the vast wasteland between Batman in the 90Ks and Detective in the 50Ks is Sean Murphy’s Batman: White Knight. It would be really easy to throw that out as an Event / non-cannon mini-series, but I’m looking at it as the replacement for All-Star Batman. There’s a 40K sales gap between Batman and Detective. That’s nuts. That gap is larger than the circulation of the majority of DC’s titles. And with the December’s 2nd issue of Detective just a bit over 51K, Detective is on the verge of falling out of the 50K-59K band. What’s the other comic in that band? The first issue of Batman / TMNT at a bit over 50K. Another comic that it would be awfully easy to toss out of the No Event chart. No other DC issue cracks the 50K sell-in line in December.
As you can see, the bulk of the line – by a lot – is selling less than 30K copies.
Now, we _can_ see DC trying to line things up in an attempt to fix this. The post-Metal Justice League shuffle has been announced. Snyder on Justice League ought to bring it up some, but how high will it be when it settles down and finds its level? At DC, Snyder has found a higher sales level with Greg Capullo on the art, so this will be interesting to observe. Probably it settles somewhere between 60K-90K after a much larger launch and recent history would have you pretty happy if the ancillary JL titles could sell around 40K and not merely dilute sales all around. And that’s a big IF with regards to dilution.
While it hasn’t been announced, and perhaps is being saved for the ComicsPRO annual meeting at the end of February, Brian Bendis should be doing some DC work before much longer. The exact titles aren’t confirmed yet, nor are any artist pairing official, but could also be filling in some titles in that vacant 70K – 90K zone? Way too early to tell, but he can’t arrive fast enough. If he’s doing a Superman related-title, that’s all slipped under 50K/issue at this point, so there’s room to rise and I surely could see a Bendis Bat-title sliding in after White Knight.
On the other hand, Doomsday Clock is going to be bi-monthly for a while and theoretically delay any new titles spinning out of it for several months, which is not making anyone particularly happy.
So summing up the DCU – Doomsday Clock and Metal are propping up the line against steady attrition (2 issues/month = twice the monthly attrition). Snyder’s Justice League franchise takeover will attempt to replace the Metal sales totals – it likely can’t completely, but you’d think there would be gains in terms of ongoing titles. Bendis should be additive and starting in January we’ll start to see if “New Age of DC Heroes” has any juice.
At least a plan is visible. They’re probably a bit overdue for a refresh.
DC may also miss all the heavy reorder action on all the Metal and Doomsday Clock issues, too.
As far as the other imprints go, the Ellis Wildstorm reboot roughly is what it is. Nobody’s quite sure what’s up with Vertigo (Astro City is switching to OGNs, incidentally). The Hanna-Barbera comics have a couple sales misses with the current wave, The Ruff & Reddy Show being one of the lowest selling DC titles in recent memory. Snagglepuss doesn’t hit until the January chart, however, and that’s the buzz book for this wave.
Want to learn more about how comics publishing and digital comics work? Try Todd’s book, Economics of Digital Comics