JLA-MississippiThe February sales estimates are in over at The Comics Chronicles and what a strange February it was.

DC papered over a decaying mess at the bottom of their New 52 chart with a whopping 307K for Justice League of America #1 and its state flag variant cover stunt.  Variants are still the flavor of week.  Marvel’s been dropping variants and extra discounts on their Marvel NOW #1s and then watching the sales drop like a brick after that.  The would-be flagship title, Uncanny Avengers, has now dropped over 70% of it’s sales from #1.  So guessing what a realistic sales number for a 50+ cover stunt like JLA #1 is an interesting proposition, especially if you’re projecting out for #4.

The good news for Marvel NOW is that a few titles had an uptick, which _should_ mean they’re finding an audience and the retailers are catching up.  All-New X-Men, which I suspect will end up being Marvel NOW’s flagship when all the dust has settled, bounced back up to 85K.  That’s with issue #7 and issue #6 (the 2nd issue of January) was also up, so I think that title is finding it’s level.  That’s only ~57% of what Batman sold in February, to give you a little perspective, but that’s a great number for a “regular” (non-Event) Marvel title in recent years.  If you were expecting Batman / Justice League numbers to be Marvel’s ceiling… doesn’t look like its going to happen.

Also placing in higher than the previous issue are Avengers at a bit under 85K and Thor, up ever so slightly to a bit under 52K.  Avengers upticked on the second issue of the month, so we’ll have to see if February has a bigger bounce or not.  The more I look at the Marvel NOW numbers, the more it appears there will be two camps.  X-Men and Avengers titles in the 80sK and 70sK range (and possibly Spider-Man, though that hasn’t settled out yet).  The solo titles will start in the mid-50K range and drop from there.  And let’s be honest, most of the titles are still dropping.  Then again, a scrolling rollout gives you scrolling drops.

Launch highlights include Uncanny X-Men for 177K and 94K, Secret Avengers at 85K, Nova at a bit under 82K, Guardians of the Galaxy at 80K and Fearless Defenders at 53K.  Issue #4 for a Marvel NOW title is looking to be a 40-60% drop from the first issue.

Over at DC, the launches weren’t so spectacular once you get past the JLA stunt.  “Justice League of America’s Vibe” (trying to cash in on the JL*.* franchise and Geoff Johns) was estimated at 27K and just 30 copies ahead of Katana.  Given most series drop 20-30% from issue 1-2 and bit more with issue 3, that’s not looking real healthy.  Vibe has already changed writers, too.  Coincidence?  Maybe.  Sterling Gates probably isn’t inheriting a large reader base unless this seriously bucks the normal trend.

It might be interesting to compare the sales bands for DC and Marvel.  The number of titles that fall in a 10K sales ranges. This is for all the titles, not just the main superhero universes.  (Remember, Marvel’s numbers are a little inflated with multiple shipping issues and launches.)

DC Marvel
100K+ 3 2
90K-99K 0 2
80K-89K 1 7
70K – 79K 1 1
60K – 69K 3 0
50K-59K 4 7
40K – 49K 6 8
30K – 39K 8 12
20K – 29K 11 18
10K- 19K 27 11
under 10K 8 9

The under 10K titles are kids and specialty comics for both DC and Marvel.  Ignoring that, what do we see?  While some of that is first issues and launches, Marvel’s getting a little more activity in the 70-90K range than DC is.  Gravity continues to drag the DC line down.  Marvel’s sweet spot is the mid-list from 20-40K.  DC has a LOT of books that have fallen under 20K.  That’s their biggest band, even if what’s left of Vertigo falls in there.

I talk about DC titles entering the danger zone when they drop below 18K.  Marvel would seem to have less tolerance for titles selling under 18K if you look at their chart.

I also see a no-man’s land (and not the Batman version) around 60K to just under 80K.  Either it’s a big book or it’s mid-list.  Batman may just be the anomaly and 85K on a regular basis may be the reasonable definition of a hit right now.  Slim pickings when you get too much below that and Marvel has to a little disappointed their solo character titles, outside of the great dead Spidey stunt aren’t able to hold 60K.

On the indie side of things, Walking Dead leads the way with a big 63K.  The power books include Saga at 48K, Star Wars at 46K, My Little Pony at 43K and 34K, Legend of the Shadow Clan at 33K ($1 book), Happy at 26K, Adventure Time at 22K and 20K and Shadow: Year One at 19K.

It used to be you’d call an indie book a big success if it cracked 10K.  I counted 57 of those for February.  A lot of those were licensed, but it appears to still be a good time to be in Indie comics.  Gravity drags DC and Marvel down to the 10K-40K sales range, indies keep their slow, but steady climb.


  1. I wonder what it is about Batman and JL that keeps their sales so high. JL is actually sliding down a bit but Batman has been an absolute juggernaut.

    DC does have a dangerous amount of books 10-19k range. Marvel seem to have a slightly stronger mid-range at the moment.

  2. This demonstrates I think some of the long-term dangers of relying on variant covers to temporarily boost sales. I wonder how many retailers found themselves guessculating on 53 different JLA covers, which tied up the money they could have spent on ordering a few more copies of Vibe & Katana? Stunt publishing boosts the very top at the risk of the mid- and low-tier titles.

  3. I did an analysis comparing the Marvel Now numbers to the DC 52 numbers as aligned by issue number. When you look at the sales side by side, you see the Marvel Now numbers falling at a MUCH faster pace than the DC 52.

    For example:
    Batwoman #1 = 87k, #5 = 52k
    X-Men Legacy #1 = 87k, #5 = 35k

    Indestructible Hulk #1 = 118k, #3 = 59k
    Batman Dark Knight #1 = 118k, #3 = 78k

    And on and on.

  4. @Jonboy- I suspect that the new 52 fell at a much slower rate than Marvel NOW because of the various incentives DC employed for the first 15 months of the initiative. There were variant ratios for all their top selling titles (1:25, 1:50 etc), deep discounts for higher orders for some titles and a good chunk (most of the line) was made returnable for orders up to a certain level. These incentives probably allowed retailers take a greater risk with the titles thus slowing down the attrition on the titles. Marvel on the other hand simply employed tons of variants for the first issues and left the books find their level on their own. I actually prefer DCs approach as it gave titles like Swamp Thing and Animal man a fighting chance in a crowded market place dominated by the more popular characters like Batman.

  5. @ saipaman, While creatively a good idea, and probably a more sustainable long-term plan, they would likely see it as leaving money on the table. If book X sells 19K, and that’s enough to pay talent and cover costs, why cancel it unless you know those 19K would shift to one of your other titles and not the competition’s (or just vanish altogether).

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