Marvel is next up for our look at the sales distribution charts for February 2018.

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 sales – 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.

What’s this we see?  A 90K+ issue at Marvel?  Is it an illusion?  No, it’s X-Men: Red #1 and it’s one of a handful of promising things about Marvel this month.  It was ordered into the market at just under 98.5K.

Now, you’ve been around.  You know how Marvel #1’s frequently exist in different time/space continuum from how subsequent issues get ordered.  It’s not unusual for a book to drop 50% for the second issue.  That said, if it dropped 50% it would nearly be hitting 50K, which is a hard number for a Marvel superhero comic to cross these days.  However, looking over at our Comixology weekly sales chart, X-Men: Red #2 was selling in between Star Wars and Amazing Spider-Man.  The digital audience is not the same audience as the print one.  Not precisely.  But it gives us some hope that maybe X-Men: Red isn’t going to drop 50% for issue #2.  Maybe just 40-45% and land somewhere like 55K and sell in print between those two title.

Should we be celebrating the *possibility* of the second issue of an X-Men title selling over 50K?  A few years ago, that would be absurd.  Right now, a book that might have some legs and sell over 40K is cause for a minor celebration at Marvel.  It’s a potentially a small step forward, but Marvel – and the greater comics market – needs any steps forward it can get right now.

When we take out the #1s and Events, we lose Peter Parker #300, which we have no reason (yet) to believe is going to retain many of the 77K orders for that anniversary event issue.  Infinity Countdown Prime #1 was ordered in at 55.3K.  That’s a pretty low starting point for what Marvel’s tried to present as a big Event.  Star Wars Thrawn debuts at 52.3K and will probably be under the 50K line next issue.

The bestselling “normal” issue of an ongoing title is, as usual, Star Wars, this time at a hair over 56K.  The bestselling Marvel Universe “normal” issue is an Amazing Spider-Man at 55.1K.  This too, is roughly normal, although it’s higher than Amazing was selling in January by a bit under 5K.  We’ll come back to that thought.

The next highest “regular” ongoing issue is Mighty Thor at ~41.5K.  Big drop off from Spidey.

This month the largest sales band is the 10K-19K band and the vast majority of Marvel issues are being ordered below the 30K line.

Marvel is a pale shadow of itself as we wait to see what kind of interest is stirred up as the summer starts.

But there is hope.  More baby steps.

That 40K-49K bracket is thin, but you know what?  There are some titles creeping up towards it.  Avengers, X-Men Gold and X-Men Blue inching in that direction and higher than January.

And there is reorder activity.  Significant reorder activity on Thanos, Avengers and Amazing Spider-Man which suggest the demand for those titles might have been underestimated and retailers are chasing them, trying to find a level.

Thanos #15 had 7,447 reordered copies in February.  That’s a pretty large reorder.  #16 was ordered in at ~29.8K.  Add 5K to that, it’s pushing 35K and that passes for a hit at Marvel right now.  And maybe it’s going to be a legit hit when the retailers catch up with the ordering.  This is probably one of the reasons we’re hearing buzz about Donny Cates.

The flip side is there isn’t just a ton of evidence that these reorders are being reflected in the digital market vis-à-vis those weekly Comixology charts.  Well, maybe a teensy bit with the Avengers, but nothing dramatic.  Digital audiences aren’t necessarily going to respond exactly the same as the print audience, but it does raise the question if some of these reorders aren’t coming from speculators buying up issues for things like the Red Goblin or Cosmic Ghost Rider (who’s getting a miniseries soon).

Perhaps it’s a bit of both, but either way, this is a positive trend for Marvel.  There’s nothing imminent yet to make you think they’re suddenly going to have these books selling 80K+ and start to have a legit top list again, but if they can get some more titles across that 30K line and dare to dream about more titles crossing the 40K line, those are baby steps the market needs.

Does it mean this was a good sales month for Marvel?  Not really.  But we might be seeing the initial steps of Marvel stopping the bleeding with some of their ongoing titles.  If they can do that and the readers respond to these June and July announcements, maybe we can start getting back to normal.  If not?  Well, there’s always room for a Fall relaunch.

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

 

2 COMMENTS

  1. I believe this inching up is what has caused Marvel to jump at the chance for another relaunch. They hope to give all these “new readers” a #1 to speculate on.

  2. I should add, I’m counted in that number of readers cautiously dipping their toes back into Marvel. They’re showing promising signs of cutting out the fat and focusing on good storytelling. It’s building up a solid readership and buzz for at play a few titles so far.

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