Now it’s time for a look at Marvel’s sales distribution charts for October.

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.

That looks like a healthy and fully populated sales chart, you say.  Hold up, I say.  October was when Marvel’s Legacy lenticular promotion started.  And let’s be generous and say not all retailers had great sell-through on those.  I personally had a well-known retailer showing me how many shelf copies were left of October Legacy titles vs. the previous months.  And it surely did look like that shop’s customers were looking at Legacy as a jumping off point.  So not only can you not trust those variant cover numbers to be reflective of actual sales, there are indications that the consumer sales on those orders were even lower relative to how these things are ordered.  Hopefully, I got all the lenticulars out of the #1s/Events/Variants chart.  There were a LOT of them.

Let’s start out with what’s largely the lenticular chart up top.  Those numbers are really low relative to some of Marvel’s previous line-wide initiatives.  Only Mighty Thor and Amazing Spider-Man could crack 100K when Marvel was essentially trying to get retailers to order double?  That tells you how many retailers just said “no” to lenticulars.

The high comedy of this is that two titles, America and Monsters Unleashed STILL couldn’t crack 30K in orders according to the Diamond estimates, even with this promotion.  Not exactly sparkling examples of retailer confidence.  We’ll have to see what sales are retained from those inflated promotional-ordering numbers in the following months.

Then we to the more familiar “No Events” (or #1s) chart.  As usual, Star Wars is the sole occupant of the 60K-69K sales band and the best-selling ongoing, non-first issue title.  Darth Vader is the #2 ongoing.

The highest selling Marvel Universe title with a “normal” cover is Amazing Spider-Man at ~52.8K.  No other ongoing title with a normal cover cracked 50K.  X-Men Gold is close to dropping below 40K.  X-Men Blue already is.  And those X-Men issues are the ones following the lenticular issues, so it would appear the retailers were not anticipating a surge of interest.

It could be worse.  The most populated sales band is 20K-29K, not 10K-19K… for the non-event issues.  30K-39K is the overall most populated band, but I just don’t know how much stock a person should put in those Event orders for October.

We’ll see what the core numbers look like when the November estimates come out.  Marvel’s single issue program needs a hit in the worst way and I see no evidence that October produced something that will continue to sell in big numbers without a special cover or minimum orders on said cover.

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


  1. As a life-long Marvel fan who was driven away from the company, I’d love to point and laugh and blame these results on cruddy art, storytelling, and editorial decision making. The truth, however, is that this is more a result of the last new fans who started in the early-to-mid 2000s finally giving up the ghost and the bottom just being a bit lower because of old farts like me who tapped out long before that.

    Only a small number of people are going to read a comic, or comics, month after month for decades. The old standard used to be the majority of the (then kid) comic audience turned over every five years. A lot of factors have probably stretched that out but this strikes me as fundamentally natural attrition.

    The problem is that the guys running Marvel aren’t really publishers or editors. They’re intellectual content and talent managers, so I’m not sure they know how to handle this situation.


  2. Hmmmm, it’s like they didn’t learn a thing from the 90s debacle that eventually led to bankrupting the company. Gotta love the creativity of Marvel.

  3. Re: MBunge

    You hit the nail on the head. Factor in these additional reasons for the demise of Marvel (and others):

    1) Comics are’nt the only game in town. They competete with video games and other digital media, AND you get more bang for your buck with the later. Younger people seem to read less these days and will get more satisfaction playing Call of Duty repeatedly than reading Daredevil each month.

    2) Prices. $3.99 – $4.99 comics as currently written (i.e.: for the trade) provide little satisfaction due to padded out storylines, recycled hero v. hero battles, and heroes chit chatting aroung the dinner table for 10 pages with little or no action and little or no plot progression.

    3) Add to the list the crappy artwork, poor story telling and editorial agendas. Comics are supposed to be escapist media. The infusion of political and social agendas across thye entire line takes all the fun out of the experience. Also, Marvel systematically let go of their A list artists and writers. DC has better writers, and artists that draw in the classic manner. I am thinking of Ivan Reids, Doug Mahnke, Stjepan Sejic, Mikel Janin, Greg Capullo, Patrick Gleason, Ed Benes and others. The only A list artist I can think of at Marvel is Mike Deodato and they keep bouncing him from title to title. Jim Cheung also come to mind but he can’t seem to produce work month-in-month-out on any consistent basis. Also, Mark Brooks but they only have him doing covers. For example, IMHO Mike Del Mundo was not the right choice to draw Avengers. Others may disagree, but the poor sales of that book indicate people dropped the title in part because of the artwork. I took one look and said no way am I spending $3.99 on this each month.

    I am sure there are other factors and subfactors at play for Marvels sad state of affairs.

  4. If it means anything at all Legacy got me to buy some Marvel titles again, and I wanted to see it work. Those lenticular covers were a waste of time that didn’t work right, though.

    But as a habitual buyer – yes, I can drop Amazing Spider-Man at vol. 6 #26 when I’ve been reading since issue #327. But I can’t turn down #792!

  5. No wonder Alonso got bounced for the guy who used a Japanese pseudonym to steal other writers’ ideas. The company has been bankrupt of ideas for decades and just turns out product designed to appeal to people who loved comics 30+ years ago.

  6. Heidi,

    The comics industry is way better than it was in the 90s. Look at Spike Troutman as one example. She’s kicking ass helping a diverse group of people make good money selling great comics.

    The industry on the whole is in a way better place, but Marvel and DC are slowly dying off and being replaced by a multi-fractutred market of diverse people making comics for everyone.

    I mean, I know you know all this. I just never understand why you get defensive when people observe the Marvel and DC part of the industry is almost gone.

  7. Lenticular covers are fine for those who like that sort of thing. I’m not into it, so I don’t worry about it.

    Far as the new “Legacy” books themselves go: With few exceptions, I’m seeing a lot of the same things I saw before Legacy. Other words, Marvel’s wasting opportunities on most of these books. Incredible Hulk, Avengers, and Punisher looks promising, but is that really enough to claim success on this thing?

    Quick prediction: Within 2 years, we’re going to see a line-wide slew of #1 issues once again.

  8. Marvel pretty much blew it with “Legacy” right out of the box by pricing the one-shot at $5.99 which kept a lot of people away. This issue should have been a loss leader to entice new and disgruntled readers back into the fold. And for those that did take the plunge (and I think many did like the one-shot, well besides the cover price!), they were soon met with the same old stuff that turned them away in the first place (replacement characters masquerading as the iconic Marvel heroes they’ve known and loved; a lot of “no-name” creators producing some very sub par work; and the left wing driven political social issues). Marvel has a long road ahead of them to regain the trust of those they alienated. It’s just too bad they seem incapable of doing so month after month.

  9. “Lenticular covers are fine for those who like that sort of thing.”

    I think the lenticular covers are pretty neat. Too bad the ones Marvel did didn’t really work properly (they should have used the printer DC used for their recent lenticular covers), Plus, it really sucked how they set up ordering qualifiers to retailers on these.

  10. “Marvel and DC are slowly dying off and being replaced by a multi-fractutred market of diverse people making comics for everyone.”

    This is almost comically ignorant. Marvel and DC carry the Direct Market on their back. Take them away, even just one of them, and every comic shop in the country probably goes with them. Yes, even the shops you think aren’t dependent on Marvel and DC for sales because those shops ARE dependent on the production and distribution channels that are dependent on Marvel and DC.


  11. LEGACY was grossly overpriced for a promotional tool, sported a bait-and-switch cover, prominently featured characters (e.g., Starbrand and the new Ghost Rider) few people care about, and did not directly lead into anything the following week. The regular titles that came out afterward were in most cases “more of the same” by creators fans already have rejected. In retrospect Marvel did everything wrong with this promotion that they possibly could.

    Marvel’s only saving grace in this debacle is that LEGACY appears to have been hastily thrown together in an attempt to immediately stem the bleeding caused by Alonso’s poor editorial choices. I guess the effort — as feeble as it was — is worth something given the alternative (further disasterous cratering of their sales and direct market retailers). Oh, yes — one more thing — the onerous ordering criteria, poor discounts, and terrible lenticular covers were just salt in the wound.


  12. Marvel hasn’t changed their prices, I love what they’re doing with the x-men but they cost to much to read in floppy form. I’ll stick to buying trades and sales (not like Amazon won’t do another one in a couple months.) Why by a single issue when you can get collections for less than a price of a single issue if you’re just a little patient.

  13. Dennis, you mentioned the left-wing politics in most Marvel books. I’m a conservative, but I don’t want Marvel to hammer that down our throats, either. Why? Look at comedy. When you blast only one side, whatever that side may be, left or right, you’ve only succeeded in turning off half your audience. I know it wasn’t like that decades ago, but these are different times we live in now, times where everyone seems to be offended by the least little thing, and there’s no shortage of lawyers ready to take their (mainly groundless) cases.

  14. “When you blast only one side, whatever that side may be, left or right, you’ve only succeeded in turning off half your audience.”

    That’s not your concern. Maybe they don’t want someone as easily triggered as you as their audience. Ever consider that?

  15. “Marvel has a long road ahead of them to regain the trust of those they alienated. It’s just too bad they seem incapable of doing so month after month.”

    Maybe they don’t want you as their audience. Dennis. It’s not them, it’s you.

  16. “Maybe they don’t want you as their audience.”

    If you’re going to White Knight for Marvel, try to do it in a way that DOESN’T imply they’re a bunch of idiots who don’t know how to run a company.


  17. Skippy:

    Sounds to me like YOU’RE the one who’s getting all triggered over this. According to sales reports, Marvel—and DC for that matter—-need all the buyers they can get. They sure don’t need a snowflake such as yourself telling others who Marvel wants to buy their books. Ever consider THAT?

  18. Skip,

    I believe you are correct in your assertion that many Marvel editors and writers do not care if they alienate potential customers.


  19. I doubt that Marvel is in the business of only selling comic books to one type of audience. If your comics have a subtle as a sledgehammer approach to an issue, you will turn people off who don’t necessarily feel the same way. “Punching a Nazi” seemed to be a big deal on social media this summer and honestly, if a Nazi feels angry about Captain America punching Hitler, no big deal since I’m pretty sure that you don’t really want to market to actual Nazis. Unfortunately, too many people equate a Nazi as “someone who does not agree with me” and this includes some comics pros. Compound that with an active social media voice and you turn fans off.

  20. Wait a sec, you princesses are whining about a company you don’t buy any books from not catering to your personal tastes, but I’m the snowflake.

    This is amazing.

  21. No Skip, you wait a sec.

    Then who are they catering to? The particular crossection of readership that you seem to belong to is not supporting the books either as sales continue to dwindle down.

  22. “The particular crossection of readership that you seem to belong to”

    Sorry, bro, I don’t “belong to” your whiners.

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