By Todd Allen

John Jackson Miller has posted the May sales estimates over at Comic Chronicles and, my but May was a healthy month for comics.  Miller reports several records were set in May, at least in terms of Diamond exclusivity era.  (This would have been an alarmingly low sales month in 1990.)

This biggest news to me is the continued sales surge of Walking Dead.  Walking Dead has consistently inched upward, but it reached a new high in May with an estimated 53,733 for issue #97.  #98 also shipped in May and dipped a little to 49,974.  The television show really seemed to put the comic’s growth into overdrive this season and #97 opened a new story arc.  Is 53K going to be the peak for now or will Walking Dead surge even higher?  That’s a very good question.  The first volume of the tpb had another ~7,500 orders in May.  You figure season 3 of the television version will adapt what many people consider the comic’s signature sequence, so there’s a very good chance Walking Dead fever hasn’t peaked yet.

Meanwhile, over at Marvel, Avengers Vs. X-Men continues to be their most successful event in years.  Issue 4 is estimated at 178,330 copies and issue 3 at 175,695.  Yes, issue 4 sold more than issue 3.  You don’t see that too often.  AVX Versus #2 is estimated at 98,819, which means it’s into 6 figures after UK sales.  The Avengers and X-Men titles are all in the 60K’s.  Then you have the reorders.  Avengers Vs. X-Men #2 – 23,323; #1 – 16,462.  AVX Vs. #1 – 8,477.  This is going very well for them.

Over at DC, Night of the Owls is keeping Batman above Justice League’s sales levels.

Notable debuts:

  • Batman, Incorporated – 96,486
  • Earth 2 – 86,168
  • World’s Finest – 62,578
  • X-O Manowar – 42,708
  • Dial H For Hero – 40,777
  • Ravagers – 39,807
  • G.I. Combat – 30,366
  • Amazing Spider-Man of Earth – 27,347
  • Smallville Season 11 – 27,004
  • Exiled – 24,686
  • Star Trek TNG Doctor Who Assimilation – 20,940
  • Fury Max – 20,620
  • Mind the Gap – 20,038
  • Frankenstein Alive Alive – 14,692
  • Epic Kill – 13,784
  • Spider – 12,547

Mark Millar, One Man Imprint

  • Secret Service #2 – 28,265
  • Supercrooks #3 – 26,969

DC is definitely debuting titles very nicely right now.  The better news is seeing non-Big 2 books like X-O Manowar and Mind the Gap launching.  The direct market would be well served to have a few more publishers shouldering the load.  Remember how we used to talk about how many independent comics were selling over 10K?  In May, 11 issues from independent publishers were estimated at over 20K.  We’ve been talking about the rising tide of the independents for awhile.  That tide keeps rising.

Tune in next month as we see if Walking Dead can break 55K.


  1. I’m sure the TV show doesn’t hurt, but we’ve seen too many examples of adaptations in other media that have had no impact on comic sales to give it too much credit.

    I also don’t think it’s simply a matter of Kirkman being that damn good. Dude can write, sure, but is he really THAT much better than everybody else for THIS long?

    The simple truth seems to be that in an era when everybody and their sister is writing for the trade, Kirkman made an editorial decision to end every issue of WD with either a legitimate cliffhanger or some shocking moment. Doing it that way hasn’t always been an unqualified success, but I think it’s given the book a reliable structure where the reader always gets a satisfactory chunk of story. Because each individual issue is focused on its own ending, and not simply existing as part of some overall story arc, Kirkman has to write every issue as kind of a stand alone piece of entertainment. He has to put enough build up in that issue to make the ending work, which makes reading it every month its own rewarding experience.

    And incidentally, he’s also proven that you can focus on the serialized reader without losing anything on the trade side of the equation. In fact, he’s proven that the stronger each individual issue is, the better the collection will ultimately be.


  2. Ànother thing that The Walking Dead has over a lot of the Marvel/DC titles it that it’s not superheroes. So it’s bringing in a lot of outside readers who don’t regularly read comics.

    I call it the Sandman effect.

  3. Hopefully in the long run titles like The Walking Dead, Saga and Fatale will break new sales grounds for comics, but until they don’t actually outsell at least twofold the biggest superhero sellers I can’t help but considering them as runner ups in the same stale market. Context note: I read and love all those titles (and more) AND superheroes.

  4. MBunge hit the nail on the head about Kirkman writing for the single issue, and managing to put an ending to every issue that makes you want to come back for more. But he also throws a bigger ending in every six issues for the trade waiters, and a really big game changer for the omnibuses. Basically, whatever format you read it in, he makes sure you have a satisfying chunk. It’s no surprise his sales keep rising from the way he rewards his readers. The huge jump in sales may be fans of the TV series who ran out of trades to buy, which if true is fairly amazing.

  5. With issue #100 shipping with 9 covers, puls a 200-1 variant I wonder not only if TWD will crack the top 10 in July, but if it can hit #1. I hope it does.

  6. Walking Dead #100 is coming this summer, and that will sell higher than thi month’s issues for sure. Issue 100 will most likely be the “sales peak”.

  7. Saga #1 had sales of 70,000 for the first four printings (with a fifth on the way), according to Image Publisher Eric Stephenson.

    I’d like to see a chart of Walking Dead sales, annotated to denote when trades were released, as well as when the television series aired.

    #1 in July? Unlikely. AvX and Batman stand in the way. Walking Dead could hit 100,000 (what was the last indie title to reach that mark).

  8. If it is possible to extrapolate from Diamond’s “order check ups” (they send out comparisons to individual stores of “other stores like you” every month), then, between all of the covers TWD #100 is going to be north of 250k.

    TWD has sell-through in a “wave pattern” where it surges forward every six issues, as TP buyers get a chance to jump on to the periodical. The surge on #97 is especially large because it’s after the trifecta of TP #16, HC #8 and Omnibus #2. (Smart retailers are planning ahead for those books that have not yet been released)

    With the impact of #100, and the next “wave” coming up at #103 (that is, just after retailers see sell-through for #100, due to the 3-months-in-advance way we order comics), I’m expecting TWD to steadily become a Top 10 book month-in-and-month-out this year.


  9. I found this to be interesting:

    5 Batman Annual 1 $4.99 DC 101,394

    What was the last annual to move 100K? Seems like it’s been a while.

  10. I expected to see increases in the Bat titles across the board, but even the lower tier sellers like Firestorm, Blue Beetle, Legion of Super Heroes all had increases this month, if the Diamond charts are to be believed. This should make Marc-Oliver Frisch’s head explode when he does the sales analysis for May.

  11. The sales increase on several DC titles is because up until April, a bunch of New 52 titles were returnable and Diamond were cutting 10% of quantities on their chart to account for eventual returns. As of May, this was no longer the case, so there is an apparent increase in sales estimates. This demonstrates that after the first few months, retailers probably did not take into account returnability when they ordered, and so cutting 10% for returnability was too much.

    Marc-Oliver Frisch’s head won’t explode, because in the figures that he uses, he has always increased by 10% the estimated ICV2 figures on returnable titles.

  12. I wondered what “Amazing Spider-Man of Earth” was. I’m guessing it’s the “Ends of the Earth” one-shot…but maybe it’s a title shift to glom off of the John Carter Of Mars heat.

  13. So 2 more New 52 titles need to be cancelled or something? They said 12 and we only have 10. I have no idea what the hell sales criteria they’re using other than it has to sell better than IDW level.

  14. But the top indie book of the Diamond exclusive era (again, looking at first-month sales) is surely Darkness #11 from Image, with its eleven covers and 357,000 copies preordered:

    All that said, if you throw in reorders, reprintings, and mass market, the highest circulation indy comic book of the period could well be Viz’s Pokemon: The Electric Tale of Pikachu #1 from 1999, which hit in the middle of the craziness and had a dozen reprints, reportedly totaling a million copies.

  15. I have no doubt the WD #100 will get a HUGE sales boost, probably cracking the top 20, and even the top 15, but does it really have a shot at number one, or even the top 5?

    Let’s not forget in July, stil two issues of Avengers vs X-Men, an issue each of Batman and JL, as well as 4 Before Watchmen issues. Do we believe WD #100 can reach those heights?

  16. “I have no doubt the WD #100 will get a HUGE sales boost, probably cracking the top 20, and even the top 15, but does it really have a shot at number one, or even the top 5?”

    Possibly, yes.

    Diamond sends retailers an “Order Check Up” each month showing your individual orders compared to stores roughly the same volume as your own. The intention is to get you to raise your own orders.

    TWD #100 had 8 covers (A-H). On my check up all of the covers showed orders individually for between 16 and 20 copies. 17 was the most common number.

    Other books ordered at 17 copies on the report were AVENGERS ACADEMY, SUPERGIRL, ULTIMATES and WOLVERINE. In May those books ranged in sales between 29k and 35k.

    Taking the lowest number there, the 29k, and multiplying it between eight covers yields 232k, which would not only make TWD number ONE for the month, it would do so with a BULLET.

    If the number per cover is closer to the 35k, then you’re looking at 280k, and you can add in maybe another 20k for the $10 “Chromium” cover, taking it to 300k.

    Clearly, this is no more than an estimate, and the final reality could be very VERY different, but even if something goes WILDLY divergent, and we end up at “just” 20k per cover — that’s still 160k total, which would make TWD #100 absolutely no worse than #3 compared to May.


  17. Thanks for the explanation, Mr Hibbs! I understand the mathematics of what you’re saying. It’s just hard to grasp how a book that has topped at 53k in its best month to date can suddenly sell, like, 250k. But I guess maybe the trade readers (and we know there’a LOT of those for WD) will want to buy #100 as a single issue, and that’s what’s encouraging retailers to order more. That or a lot of people are interested in buying all 8 covers, maybe? Or is there some kind of rebate or other incentive that was offered to retailers?