It’s time to look at the sales distribution charts for May. (See bottom for standard disclaimers and explanation of method). Today it’s Marvel’s turn.
It’s relaunch season at Marvel. OK… it’s often relaunch season at Marvel, so let me rephrase that. We’re early in the current relaunch cycle. Which means we’ve got some issues ordered into the Direct Market at the 100K+ level. Please recall that these books are buoyed by multiple variant covers and retailer incentives to the point that the orders have very little, if any resemblance to actual consumer sell-through.
How high are the highs? Amazing Spider-Man #800 was ordered into the Direct Market at roughly 411.5K copies for a $9.99 cover price book. I will grant you Amazing has been a hot book in print (not so much in digital), but that is just an absurd number. Venom #1 was ordered in at ~225.8K (yet, the second issue barely made the Comixology top 20 list its debut week). Avengers #1 was ~131.5K. Black Panther #1 was ~122.5K.
And we’ll see if the #2s of those titles can even keep 50% of the first issue orders. Marvel doesn’t always keep half of those sales, due to all the shenanigans around variants and sales terms.
Avengers #2 did ship in May and it was ordered in at ~66.7K. That’s roughly 51% of the first issue, but it’s also retailers ordering blind before they’ve got all their sales data on #1. Unless they underestimated demand, Avengers is probably under 60K with issue #3 and will be fortunate to settle into a mid-50Ks print circulation. Marvel is having the hardest time getting titles across that 60K line.
So let’s see what happens when we remove all the #1s and Events from the chart.
Outside events, #1s and such, the next highest selling regular ongoing issue (after Avengers #2) is Darth Vader #16 at ~50.6K. The highest selling regular ongoing, non-event, non-anniversary issue Marvel Universe title is X-Men: Red, which has dropped to ~44.6K with its fourth issue. The second issue of Star Wars shipping in May dropped to ~46.4K, so Star Wars as dropped under the 50K line and is selling less than Vader. That’s cause for concern.
The Hunt for Wolverine #1s were only ordered in the 40Ks. That’s got to be a disappointment, but that’s such blatant over-exposure, Marvel only has themselves to blame. We’ll see where those are by the time they hit issue #4.
Marvel is at the point where they’re having trouble getting a regular, ongoing issue across the 40K line. Outside of Avengers, only X-Men: Red and Captain America managed that in May.
Marvel needs a fresh start. That’s for sure.
The vast majority of sales activity occurs under 30K print orders. X-Men: Blue #28 with an estimated ~30.1K copies ordered? That is arguably a hit book right now by these standards.
Marvel does have massive reorder activity up and down the line for Thanos. That hasn’t slowed down any, despite the series having wrapped up. We’ll see if Cosmic Ghost Rider can match sales, which is a taller task that you might realize when you factor in all those reorders.
Amazing Spider-Man is getting strong reorders.
Interestingly, Domino #1 had ~3,800 copies reordered, whereas #2 was ordered in at ~26.3K (which is not a horrible number for the current state of Marvel). Is there a little more pent up demand for Domino? Give it a couple months, I suppose.
We’ll start to see how the relaunched #2s and #3s are doing when the June estimates come out and that will start to give us an early assessment of how this relaunch is going. Avengers as a flagship title selling ~55K as a ceiling that wouldn’t really surprise anyone, but Marvel needs to find a higher ceiling that’s reproducible without stunts. Oh, they can sell a #1 with 25 different covers, but selling issue #8 has become an entirely different matter that they need to address.
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.
Want to learn more about how comics publishing and digital comics work? Try Todd’s book, Economics of Digital Comics