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.
Wait, what’s this? Activity in the 100K+ sales band for Marvel? Multiple hits in the 90K-99K bracket? It must all be some kind of stunt, right? Not entirely.
Amazing Spider-Man is ordered into the DM at just over 128K. Are there some variants involved? Sure. Are there some speculators lurking? Absolutely. The thing is, this is Dan Slott’s farewell adventure and he’s pretty much earned it. It’s not really a stunt and it’s not the first time he’s pulled big numbers on Spidey. Slott’s run on Amazing has been more important to Marvel than he’s sometimes given credit for. I can’t really call this a stunt or Event. While having speculators lurking isn’t the optimal thing, everything I’ve heard is that this is a hot title right now and the retailers are doing just fine with it. So be it.
Weapon H #1 at ~98.6K? Let’s see where it’s at with issue #2. Infinity Countdown #1 at ~93K? That’s an Event AND a #1. Again, we’ll see where that is in a couple issues before drawing too many conclusions.
On the other hand, Mighty Thor at ~93K – almost the exact same order as Infinity Countdown – that’s not really a stunt. It’s the end of the Jane Foster as Thor saga and you knew it was going to be ordered big. I suppose you could make the argument that the whole storyline was a recasting stunt, but it’s been one of Marvel’s better selling titles the whole time and it went on long enough, it’s just wrapping up the story.
So two out of four heavy hitters there are at least partially organic. There’s something that hasn’t happened in a while.
And really, this No Event chart is decent relative to the last month or two.
Is Daredevil #600 a little bloated by stunts around the anniversary number at 67.1K? Probably. But it’s an anniversary issue. You’ll have that.
Is it troubling to see Star Wars slip down to the low 50Ks? Yes. It’s similar to watching Detective slip over on the DC chart, but it’s still holding on a tad higher, so far.
It’s that 40K band where we start to see the progress. Avengers as weekly seems pretty solidly in the mid-40Ks, with the stray issue at ~52K likely the retailers trying to find the right number and overshooting a little. That’s a little bit of progress. X-Men: Red #2 was 49K. That’s a step in the right direction. Thanos, while it’s wrapping up, hit ~42.2K. Thanos. That’s a bonus.
The entire 40K sales band is Marvel managing to get it together and get sales up on some titles. The trouble is they really need those to be more like 60K than 40K. As we go down the chart to lower sales, we have more issues showing up in successive brackets until things peak in the 10K-19K. You know the standard disclaimers that some of these single issues that don’t sell very well in the DM are gangbusters in the bookstore market, but that doesn’t really help the lack of the top list in the DM.
And these numbers are without counting those $1 True Believer reprints.
There are some significant reorders on Avengers and Thanos. That really makes a person curious how big the numbers on Cosmic Ghost Rider are going to be?
Much as DC is doing some relaunching, Marvel is doing some relaunching. Marvel really needs to double and triple sales on their titles to get a few over the 60K hump on a regular basis.
There are those minor signs that very minor changes initiated towards the end of Axel’s tenure have gotten some traction, but we’re talking about a little bit of traction on a handful of titles.
If the relaunches through July doubled current sales, we’d be looking at:
Black Panther: ~49K
Captain America: ~70K
Incredible Hulk: ~51K
Iron Man: ~63K
Peter Parker: ~56K
X-Men Blue & Gold: ~70-80K
And those would be respectable numbers, if quite a bit below peak levels. And that’s for doubling with the only precedent we have for really hot sales right now being Slott’s farewell to Spidey with speculators lurking and the end of a successful Thor run that’s losing its lead.
I say that not to condemn, because there actually has been a bit of progress, but to illustrate how big a mountain Marvel has to climb. DC has a similar mountain to climb, but at least they’ve got Batman and indications that the audience is out there at even higher levels with Doomsday Clock and Metal.
Want to learn more about how comics publishing and digital comics work? Try Todd’s book, Economics of Digital Comics