Periodically (pun intended), it’s useful to take a look at where the sales of a publisher’s titles are clustered.  It helps widen the picture of how things are going.  The idea is to break the sales chart into 10K slices.  How many titles or issues sold 100K copies or more?  How many sold 90K-99K?  How many sold 40-49K?  How many sold under 10K?

The conventional wisdom has been that when things are healthy, DC and Marvel will have a couple titles each selling over 100K and then the bands will fill out with a few titles in 90Ks, 80Ks, etc., etc.  We’ll be having a look at that this week and we’re going to start today with DC.

Since DC has a variety of imprints that they differentiate, I’ve tried to break things out into the following categeories: DCU for the primary superhero universe, Young Animal gets its own category, Hanna Barbera gets its own category (I threw He-Man/Thundercats in there for lack of a better place),  Vertigo stands alone and I also broke out the Digital First titles.

First the chart:

Now the Numbers:

DC/DCU DC/Young Animal DC/Hanna Barbera DC/Vertigo DC/Digital First
100K+ 1
90K-99K 3
80K-89K 0
70K-79K 2
60K-69K 3
50K-59K 6
40K-49K 13
30K-39K 10
20K-29K 9
10K-19K 10 3 3 1 4
Below 10K 3 0 1 5 4

So What are we seeing here?

A few things.

First and foremost, it looks like DC has some successful launches in February.  Justice League of America and Super Sons dropped in at ~93K and ~90K respectively, making the top of the chart look nicer.  Batwoman: Rebirth dropped in at ~52K.  You’d like to think JLA and Super Sons are going to settle in somewhere between the mid-50Ks and mid-60Ks (~30% drop with issue 2 and 10-20% drop with issue 3).  Batwoman looks like low to mid-30Ks with those initial orders.

These are more or less adequate numbers.  You _would_ like to see a few more issues popping up in the 80K-99K range term, but DC’s seen much worse days recently and wait until you see Marvel’s sales bands — this is a chart you can live with.

The thing is, the sales bands seem like they’ve moved a little further down they chart than they should have for ~8 months into a New 52 style relaunch.  The relaunch is recent enough to make you really want to see more in the 70K-90K range and things have fallen past that.  And this is probably the effect of bi-weekly comics.  If you look at The Beat’s monthly charts, you’ll see what we call “standard attrition” on every single issue.  Which is to say, while the sales of most titles aren’t going particularly faster per issue, double shipping means they’re dropping twice as quickly per month.

This is why it’s a good thing that DC got some solid post-Rebirth launches in February.  From a practical perspective, they’re almost a year and a half into attrition and they’re going to need to start replacing titles soon.  New 52 kept it’s legs a couple years because DC would prune the tree and replace titles.  That kept the line average up for a couple years, but eventually none of the replacement titles stuck and it turned into a spiral.    Captain Atom and Hawkman, not being pushed as “Rebirth,” have not been big sellers, so there was some concern this might be happening again.  Good to see that’s not necessarily the case.

I’d be curious if someone knew DC’s current minimum sales threshold for royalties and where it fits in this chart as more titles slip into the mid 30Ks.

The prognosis for the DCU?  The sales distribution is respectable.  You’d like to see the bands move a little higher, but with the double shipping, they’re entering a period where some new titles should be launched to address that.  If they can keep connecting with the audience, everything should be fine.  If not, things might not be as pleasant in 6 months.

You get into the imprints, things are not quite so rosy.  Young Animal is performing like high Vertigo books, which is more or less what you expect with what could be interpreted as Vertigo returning to it’s roots (pun intended, again) with DCU characters.  The Hanna Barbera books are essentially high end Vertigo titles and Vertigo has not been selling like it used to.  Still, if you look at the those imprints, DC’s sales pretty much look like an indie publisher.  No worse, but not particularly better.

DC Digital isn’t really DCU, but it’s the classic characters.  A few more sales should be credited to those for the digital first sales, so they’re probably doing better than the Young Animal and Hanna Barbera books when you figure that in.  So either low end DCU or highest end indies, depending on how you want to interpret it.

We’ll talk about these imprint again when we look at the indie sales bands.

Want to learn more about how comics publishing and digital comics work?  Try Todd’s book, Economics of Digital Comics or try some fiction.


  1. Hey… How about a monthly analysis with a sliding annual scale for the trade collections?
    That 20K Club tends to be titles which sell better as graphic novels.

    When I analyzed the New York Times Bestsellers back in the day, DC’s HC titles were mixed among different houses.

    As Mr. Hibbs noted, DC didn’t do too well last year in Bookscan., with the top ten titles being Batman, Harley Quinn, movie tie-ins, and backlist.

    But then, that’s not too surprising, as DC has concentrated on the New 52, while ignoring the quirky independent titles which become backlist perennials. (Where is the Watchmen, the Dark Knight Returns, the Camelot 3000, of the post-Flashpoint era?)

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