Today we’ll look at the Sales Distribution Charts of Marvel for April 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.

If you’re thinking “hey, that’s better than I expected,” don’t be alarmed.  Marvel is clawing back some of its sales.  Caveats are all over the place, but progress continues.

Yes, Amazing Spider-Man had issues ordered into the Direct Market at ~233.2K and ~192.6K.  Those are serious numbers for an ongoing series.  It’s sort of / kind of an event, but ultimately it’s just Dan Slott’s fair well tour and he’s got some heat built up with that and this Red Goblin character.

And here is where the caveats start.

  • It’s Marvel, so you don’t have to be told variant covers are in play here.
  • I’ve been told by retailers that speculators are hovering over this storyline.
  • Amazing Spider-Man has pretty much stayed in the same place on the digital sales chart, so the popularity spike seems to only exist in print.

Is this just the print audience being more into the arc or is this largely driven by speculator activity?  It isn’t clear, but the retailers don’t seem to be complaining about lack of sell-through, so chalk this one up as a win… albeit one that may not be easy to duplicate when the story is completed.

And after Spidey, we need to start looking at what’s a #1 or Event comic and what’s ongoing (and theoretically sustainable) sales.

Hunt For Wolverine and Venomized both debuted at over 100K.  The digital charts didn’t really reflect that.  Domino at 89K, an anniversary issue of Captain America at 77.7K, Infinity Countdown at just under 68K – all things that didn’t chart quite that highly in digital and fall under the #1s and event category.  We’ll see where they end up after the dust settles, but it’s not going to be quite that high across the board.

The weekly Avengers arc has been a success and the orders uptick a bit more again in April with a spread of ~46.7K – 59.6K as retailers continue to chase its sales level.  On the digital side, it’s been behaving somewhere in the 45K-50K range relative to other titles, so this seems mostly consistent.

X-Men: Red stays well above the 50K line at ~56.5K.

Thanos manages to crack the 50K line with ~51.2K.  Now, this is another book I’ve heard has some speculator activity around it and doesn’t chart quite as highly in digital… but retailers seem to be selling through.  Which is to say, Donny Cates has done wonders with this book.

Ongoing books in the 50Ks is progress for Marvel.  Really, it is.  It’s not nearly enough, though.  There are still far too many books selling under 30K and an ongoing title over 60K isn’t happening outside of the special circumstances of Amazing Spider-Man.

May is when we start to see how the relaunch is going.  Jason Aaron’s Avengers being one of the first bellwethers to look at.  Donny Cates trying to bump Venom like he bumped Thanos being another.

When we get into August and September, we’ll have a better idea how this round has gone, but in April… more baby steps in the right direction.

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