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It seems August’s sales numbers are the month when people finally roused themselves from their busy deck chair arranging schedule and cried out in terror that there was a big hole in the USS Comics Sales. I guess it was the 25% drop from August 2016 that did it.

My own take was more measured, maybe because I saw the iceberg month ago and the hole and have been commenting on how worrying this year’s overall sales slide has been. One more crap month in a series of crap months. True, it was a hellish drop, but August 2016 was one of the biggest comics months of recent times due to the full flower of Rebirth ongoing sales. So the deck (not chairs) was stacked in this particularly comparison.

Still it’s not clear when the hole will be patched up and we’ll be jauntily motoring forward again. However August sales numbers, as shown by ICv2, have some interesting portents.

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You can read the Top 300 Comics sales at ICv2 here: Top 300 Comics Actual–August 2017.

Graphic novel numbers are here: Top 300 Graphic Novels Actual–August 2017.

Dollar trends are here: “Ouch! Comics Down Over 20% in Comic Stores in August.”

Comichron has its own set of numbers and trends.

And there’s some good news: Dark Nights #1 shipped an estimated 262,000 copies to stores North America. That’s MORE than the 235,800 copies that DC Universe Rebirth #1 shipped. That makes Metal #1 easily the biggest comic of 2017 thus far, in both dollars and units – in fact the book cost $2 more than Rebirth #1, John Jackson Miller points out. meaning people are willing to pay for quality.

Miller also looks at the big picture and sees some strength…at the BOTTOM of the chart:

Also, the 300th place book saw the highest numbers of any five-week month since December 2015, beating out even the monster August 2016. There’s been erosion at the top but the base is still hanging in there.

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“Erosion at the top” is really the issue we’re dealing with here. The final issue of Secret Empire sold a mere  86,123 copies, pretty modest for a storyline that cost Marvel all of it’s meagre store of good will among fans.

On the other hand, just to show how low the bar for a “hit” is these days, Mister Miracle #1, the hottest comic of the month sold a mere 33,493, to come in at #60 for the month. Although it sold out quite a bit and was clearly underordered, it will be interesting to see if it undergoes standard attrition or picks up steam.

Obviously, DC readers were ready for something a little wilder and crazier like Metal. Maybe The DC New Age of Heroes (announced all the way back in April and delayed since then) will inspire similar retail excitement.

Or maybe someone will just adapt Stephen King’s IT into comics.

Either way, despite my use of the Titanic metaphor, comics will survive one way or another. Publishers are adapting and changing and so are readers.

 

 

14 COMMENTS

  1. “…meaning people are willing to pay for quality.”

    How would pre-orders at the retailer stage show people are willing to pay for quality? All it can really show is retailers were willing to put a large amount of their budget into a DC event.

    The numbers at the bottom of the chart have established what the floor is more than anything.

    Comics will be fine, but a lot of retailers are going to be hurting this year.

  2. I missed the comma in the headline and had a WTF moment.

    To the “pay for quality” argument that Chris Hero points out – I think it’s more the case that retailers and pre-order customers are willing to give your next big project a chance when they don’t feel burned by your previous one. At least some of the shade thrown at Secret Empire was pent-up frustration from Marvel fans (and retailers) about Civil War II. Meanwhile Metal is coming off of Rebirth – an event that retailers and fans both liked.

    Not to say that Secret Empire didn’t have its own problems too. And that’s an issue – because if Secret Empire had been a critical success then even if it had the same level of sales you’d at least have buzz for the next event and maybe boost numbers that way. I really think that Marvel needs a critical hit to get out of this tailspin – it doesn’t need to be a sales hit, but it needs to be something that generates a positive buzz for their NEXT event. That’s the model Marvel and DC have pushed themselves into, and unless they can figure out how to change the game entirely they’re unfortunately stuck with those rules.

  3. Jer,

    Thank you for the considerate reply. I agree that if a product sells exceptionally well and the feedback from customers is all excellent, it will lead a retailer to invest more money in the next project hoping they’ll have similar financial success and please their customers, but until the product being ordered reaches anyone’s hands, how will anyone know what the quality is? People can hope or expect high quality…but they don’t know yet. Maybe I’m being too pedantic.

    Marvel seems a victim of their own success. They made a lot of money in the past from events pitting hero against hero, so now they’re sort of trapped trying to repeat that success over and over. But when they have a few events disappointing their customers, they put the whole market in a bind.

    I wish superhero readers had a better selection so they didn’t have to feel like it’s option A or option B. Like, I know there are excellent one-off books out there (e.g. Copra), and I’m partial to Valiant, but I understand the appeal of a huge company with a lot of interlocking stories.

    It seems like the market could use some more widely successful superhero universes.

  4. Given declining sales, I wonder whether the amount of money generated by DC and Marvel just as comic-book companies would be worth Warner Bros. and Marvel’s time holding on to them or allowing them to continue, if not for the fact that their characters are the foundation of major film franchises — would they even be viable if not for that? But perhaps this question is moot in this age of multi-platform entertainment,

  5. Chris, I think the quality comment was meant to convey that retailers (acting on behalf of interested fans) placed orders for Metal based on A) the quality and excitement over the Dark Days preludes and B) the general good quality that has kept DC readers interested since the beginning of Rebirth. It’s true that Metal #1 could have been bad, but it turned out to be of good quality. If Marvel Legacy produces good content, Marvel readers will stay excited too.

  6. Something to consider when comparing Rebirth to Dark Nights Metal – Rebirth was needed to win back the goodwill of DC fans who had abandoned them during the New 52. Dark Nights Metal is now reaping the benefit from that goodwill that has been restored due to DC’s improved storytelling.

  7. Apart from the Dark Days preludes and the general quality of DC Rebirth books, I believe the creative team on Metal is another big factor to assume quality before actual release. Scott Snyder and Greg Capello have led a run of 50+ issues of Batman that was critically acclaimed as well as an industry best-seller. While it is true quality cannot be known before the title is released, quality of past work of creators can certainly have customers trust that the new project of said creators has a good chance of being good,

  8. Aside from general good will towards DC and Scott/Capullo, Dark Knights Metal #1 also had a number of retailer exclusive variants. :P

    Mister Miracle isn’t an A-lister. It was also solicited as a 12-part limited series so the low orders are to be expected. Mind, I think explicitly soliciting books as limited series instead of doing stealth cancellations/minis is good despite the lower order numbers. It builds trust between the publisher and retailers/readers.

    Issue #1 was that week’s comiXology bestseller beating the likes of Secret Empire (#8) and Batman (Detective Comics #962). Imho, its digital ranking bodes well for appeal to readers rather than collectors/speculators who won’t be coming back for the next issue.

    I think the real question here is will Mister Miracle be one of DC’s evergreens?

  9. Yeah, there’s a big difference between “sold” and “shipped”. I was just at my local store and there’s a four inch stack of unsold copies of these. DC just unloaded a boatload of these to make it look like they’re outselling Marvel’s crappy gimmicks.

    The comics news press needs to be a little more critical of the comic book industry. It would be nice if you guys quit sucking up to DC and Marvel and gave them real criticism so they fix their stupid companies. Less kissing butt and more critiquing.

  10. Matt, I’d caution against doing “purely visual” checks of racks to understand what might be going on with the commercial viability of a work — for example, both of my stores have a “four inch stack” of METAL #1. That’s highly appropriate given that we started with a TWO FOOT stack, that the comic is still selling briskly at week four, and that we still have five months to sell them. At current velocity we’re sure to need even more copies before the whole thing is over….

    -B

  11. >>>It would be nice if you guys quit sucking up to DC and Marvel and gave them real criticism so they fix their stupid companies. Less kissing butt and more critiquing.

    Given that three of The Beat’s writer’s have received warnings or punitive measures from Marvel over what they’ve written here, I can hardly imagine how we’d be more critical.

  12. Marvel has sent warnings and punitive measures over things said *here*??? This site is the friendliest possible coverage of any entertainment medium! Wow….

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