Secret Crisis
Two of the sales charts analyses came out last week; at Newsarama, John Jackson Miller does his thing, charting Marvel’s big month. However here’s something we noted — the ten year comparison chart, from the near-depths of the last comics sales depression:

Sept. 2008 final orders versus Sept. 1998 preorders (est.)

Top 300 units: -9% (6.77 million copies vs. 7.44 million copies)

Top 300 dollars: +21% ($21.96 million vs. $ 18.18 million)

Top 25 trade paperbacks: +49% ($1.7 million vs. $1.14 million)

Top 300 comics plus top 25 trades: +22% ($23.66 million vs. $19.32 million)

Interestingly, although total units are down, the chart shows more strength overall:

Nine items were above the 100,000-copy preorder mark, with 131 items over 20,000 copies and 209 items over 5,000 copies. Titles in the midlist tended to sell more strongly, but the chart doesn’t have nearly the depth we see today. The 300th-place item had preorders of 1,761, compared with this September’s 2,889.

Meanwhile, John Mayo also looks at charts, and flags late shipping as a problem:

When I first started reading comics, titles shipped each and every month. Some titles would always come out on the first week of the month, others always on the second week, etc. If a comic didn’t ship the week it normally did, it was considered late. In most cases, it would ship a week or two later. These days, complaining about a comic shipping a week or two late is tantamount to nitpicking. Shipping a comic late is considered acceptable behavior for a publisher. How often have we heard things along the lines of “do you want it good or do you want it now?” from publishers? It is too much to ask for both? Late comics equate to missed sales.

Sort of related, Brian Hibbs looks at SECRET INVASION vs FINAL CRISIS, and although he feels FC is better artistically, it hasn’t flourished:

Let me tell you a little story about my audience: I was, for the LONGEST time there, the prototypical “DC store” — DC comics ALWAYS sold better than Marvels for us. This has ABSOLUTELY changed in the wake of “One Year Later” and COUNTDOWN. New DC series are largely non-starters for us, with anything that isn’t “A-List” having the lowest rack sales I’ve ever seen, including my first month of business 19 years ago! Things like RANN/THANAGAR WAR or DC DECISIONS are having rack sales of ONE OR TWO copies for us. I could stop racking 80% of the DC line today, and I don’t think it would have a significant negative impact on my sales. That’s really painfully ugly. If it weren’t for Morrison and Geoff Johns, DC would have nothing at this stage. That makes me deeply sad.


  1. What’s funny is, when people started noting the issue of late shipping comics not being particularly beneficial to the industry a few years ago, some loud unmentionables continually stated ‘late shipping comics don’t matter’, ‘pipe down complaining whiners, you’ll get it when you get it’, ‘sales have shown that people don’t care if a comic is late or not’ and the unforgetable ‘quality takes time’…

    Well, here we are quite a few years later and as everyone can see, late shipping comics actually aren’t very good for the industry.

  2. @brett: so you are basically saying the lateness of the shipping is the one and only factor that determines the level of sales at this point, eh?

    how insightful..

  3. “If it weren’t for Morrison and Geoff Johns, DC would have nothing at this stage.”

    I’ve been saying that for a couple of years now & the situation is only getting worse. Sure – there’s the random title like FABLES that is consistently good, but overall, DC’s output is both bloated & sad & hardly worth the $3+ price tag for the majority of their monthly tripe.

    When they stop pandering to the 44 year old fanboy who will buy anything to complete his run & start hiring… oh, I dunno… writers who think outside the usual cliches & traditions, then they might have a chance. As it stands now, glaring examples like COUNTDOWN should clearly show that the old ways aren’t working so well anymore. At least, they should.

  4. “If it weren’t for Morrison and Geoff Johns, DC would have nothing at this stage.”

    I’m sure Gail Simone and Marc Andreyko may have something to say about that, but yeah generally the survival of DC Comics rests on the shoulders of a few creators.

  5. …”the old ways aren’t working so well anymore.”

    Well, interesting to note that Morrison and Johns were cited as DC’s most successful writers, especially considering how their writing unabashedly embraces and celebrates DC’s rich history instead of abandoning it as many of DC’s critics are advising the publisher to do.

    I think the success of Morrison and Johns’ storytelling has much less to do with their names than it does their style of their storytelling. They are comfortable telling big scale, high adventure tales that include time-tested concepts and characters that readers respond to. They’re not trying to reinvent the wheel or make superhero comics something they’ll likely never be. Outside of these two gentlemen (and their collaborators on sister titles), few people writing for DC seem interested in this “purer”, unapologetic form of superheroic storytelling.

    Yeah, I like Simone, too….but sales on Wonder Woman continue to dwindle (though much of that failure can be pinned on the elusive appeal of the character itself), and Andreyko’s Manhunter was essentially just a niche-interest experiment that, again, wasn’t the kind of thing that can be sustained in a marketplace that seems to demand “swing for the fences” spectacle over “just okay” mediocrity.

  6. @dreamer:

    Dreamer, you might want to lift your head up off the pillow, stop dreaming and actually read my post before commenting.

    If you did, you’d see I never once said late shipping is the ONE and ONLY factor that determines the level of sales. If fact, all is said is, and I quote, well, me…

    “late shipping comics actually AREN’T very good for the industry”

    See, nowhere in that sentance do I use the words One, Only or Sales.

    Throughout the past years, certain unnamed industry professionals have stated that late comics have no bearing on sales but you’ll have to take that up with them. The author of the article ‘implies’ that late shipping has a huge bearing on sales but he doesn’t state that its the ONE and ONLY factor for determining sales either.

    On the other hand, if I did state what were huge factors which determine sales, you or someone like you would probably state that none of that matters, comics are selling better now than they ever have so really, why even go there.

  7. DC really, really needs to figure out what it’s doing. Not just its writers. They need to get some kind of decent editorial staff, too. I am not and never have been a regular reader of DC books, but friends and my local comic shop owner periodically hand me things and say “Here, try this!”

    For example: I read all the Batman books that were on the shelves the week the Dark Knight came out. I could not even BEGIN to figure out what was going on in any of them. Marvel releases a movie, Marvel releases a book or two that serves as an attractive starting point for new readers.

    I’ve picked up books that were described in Previews as “The perfect starting point for new readers”, only to find that they meant new readers who had 23 years of DC continuity completely digested and synthesized, and had actually only taken a two week break from DC Comics.

    Picking up a random DC title (say, the Flash) and flipping through it, I don’t get a sense of anything that would make me want to buy it. To me, these things point to a problem that is far more severe than just late books; I’d say it’s a bunch of people who just don’t give a shit about their products.

  8. @brett

    There is absolutely no basis for stating

    “late shipping comics actually AREN’T very good for the industry”

    You don’t know that. For all we know, late shipping books could be the only thing keeping the numbers UP at this time. Now, that’s very unlikely of course — but we just DON’T KNOW. You’re pulling the statement totally out of your pants.

    The industry is down, yes. But for all we know, it’s down because of BAD STORIES, not because of late shipping comics which might have a very negligible effect.

    We just don’t know what contribution lateness is making, because there are lots of other factors at play too that could have caused the decline in sales. And frankly, I think some of those other factors are much more likely culprits.

  9. @Mark

    “If it weren’t for Morrison and Geoff Johns, DC would have nothing at this stage.”

    “When they stop pandering to the 44 year old fanboy who will buy anything to complete his run”

    Wait, what? Morrison and Johns, who are catering to that very fanboy, are the highest selling guys at the company. And DC should *stop* pandering to their best selling audience?

    Morrison is telling Silver Age retreads in Batman, revitalizing a Kirby property in Final Crisis and tying back to the company’s first, biggest crossover in Final Crisis. Johns is revitalizing the company’s Golden Age main superteam, plus Green Lantern, plus Flash, plus Legion, by taking them all back to their roots.

    This is not a “new readers” approach. These guys are catering to the older fans. And they’re the only thing keeping DC afloat right now.

    Take a look at the titles aimed *not* at 44 year old fans. Manhunter? Selling below 20k. Simon Dark? Selling below 20k. Blue Beetle? Selling below 20k. Infinity Inc? Selling below 20k.

    Then look at Morrison and Johns catering to DC’s rich continuity and past, and see them pulling 50-80k numbers.

    The numbers speak for themselves.

    Good luck with your “new properties”. The fans have spoken and they want the past to be honored.


    “If it weren’t for Morrison and Geoff Johns, DC would have nothing at this stage.”

    “I’m sure Gail Simone and Marc Andreyko may have something to say about that”

    Not really, no. I love Simone’s writing to death, I think she’s far more talented than Morrison for instance, but the sales just aren’t there. All-New Atom died on the vine. Gen13 made no splash whatsoever. Wonder Woman is the lowest selling Trinity title. Secret Six, well, its numbers haven’t settled yet but I’ll be shocked if they’ll be much above 20k by #6.

    If we want to fish some names that are helping DC (in any significant measure, that is) in addition to Morrison and Johns, it wouldn’t be Simone or Andreyko. It would probably be Frank Miller and Jim Lee.

  10. Dreamer Says:

    10/27/08 at 2:21 pm
    @brett: so you are basically saying the lateness of the shipping is the one and only factor that determines the level of sales at this point, eh?

    how insightful..

    For the record Late shipping has affected my choices. I drop titles if they are `too’ late. I may as well wait for the tradepaper.

    In general I find this to be a disturbing thread…….. fanboys, labelling, conclusions, sales figures…. the problem with comics seems that everyone wants to beat them into something that they are not. They are entertainment.

    As for morrison, he seems to be having fun. He is also a self proclaimed magician – which may have some bearing on this discussion. For my liking he has dropped the moralsitic facade comics have clung to over the years and replaced it with unbiased imagination. I am personally sick of overt `weirdness’ marketed as alternative and cutting edge. Add a swear word and all of a sudden it is a mature concept???

    There are some interesting youtube files which have him (Morrison) speaking on the subject of magic.

    For my money [email protected] is the best thing on the shelves at the moment.
    Mike Baron products will always get a pre-order.
    I am under 40 years old so not sure what that means…can I still read Morrison????

    I love you all.