It’s time to look at the sales distribution charts for September. (See bottom for standard disclaimers and explanation of method). As is our custom, we’ll start with DC.
These charts really do look better with the Events in them, don’t they? That 100K+ sales band benefits from two Events: Heroes in Crisis #1 debuts with ~140.7K orders and another Doomsday Clock (complete with naked Doctor Manhattan) gets ~131K orders. We’ll have to see if attrition sets in or if Heroes in Crisis can stay above Doomsday Clock levels. Then Batman #55 shows up at ~105.6K. While this isn’t formally an event, it’s the one where Nightwing gets shot in the head and that seems to be what bumped it back over the 100K line, since Batman #54 was only ~94.7K. Will Batman stay back over the 100K mark? Time will tell, but I suspect attrition is starting to set in.
Also in the 90Ks sales bracket, Batman: Damned #1, AKA the comic with frontal nudity Batman, is listed at ~95.5K and… I’m not sure if this one started out trying to be an Event, but it sure turned into one and nobody seems 100% certain how this series is going to end up or be collected. Bit of a boondoggle, that one.
But that’s 3 Events hitting over 90K to make the overall chart a bit more attractive.
Let’s have a look at things in the DCU proper without the Events.
Quick! Look at the far right: no DCU titles selling under 10K! Standard attrition might ruin that for October, but that lowest category has stayed cleaned up for the main line.
And here’s where we stand with the top list:
- Batman dipping in and out of the 90Ks
- Justice League appears to be settling down around 75K +/- 1500 copies
- Superman is down to ~67.4K (46.9K in September ’17, though double shipping), Action is down to ~57.9K (~40.6K in August ’17 – September ’17 being a lenticular cover)
- Justice League Odyssey debuts at ~57.1K
- Catwoman is still at ~55K, but charts poorly in digital
- Detective is still keeping its chin above 50K… barely
- Flash is settling back down to the mid-40Ks
So DC got some improvement from the relaunches, but perhaps not quite as much as they were hoping for. Basically, JL / Superman / Action are selling as well as they have since fairly early into the rising tide of sales that was the Rebirth promotion, but we’re seeing some ceilings. And really, it’s generous to be calling anything under 60K “top list.”
As has been the case, there’s just too many issues in the 20K-29K sales band. Of the 11 titles in the 10K-19K band, 6 of the are New Age of DC Heroes books. The Terrifics is the only one of the group over the 20K line with ~21.2K copies ordered. There are a still a lot of titles that many shops are going to be subscription/special order only on.
With Justice League and Superman starting to find their levels, get your bets in now: where does the Morrison/Sharp Green Lantern compare to those comics by issue #3?
Outside of the DCU proper, the interesting happenings are at Vertigo and Jinxworld.
Yes, more signs of life at Vertigo. The Dreaming #1 ordered in at ~37.3K. House of Whispers #1 ordered in at ~28.3K. Yes, those are first issues and we need to see where things are at with the third and fourth issues, but those are almost unheard of numbers for Vertigo in recent times. Border Town #1 at ~15.3K is a still on the high end for recent Vertigo performance. We’ll keep an eye on this.
Then with Jinxworld, which you might liken to the Vertigo of Earth-Bendis, we have Cover #1 at ~27.4K, United States Vs. Murder Inc. #1 at ~18.5K, Pearl #2 at ~16.8K and Scarlet #2 at ~13.7K. (We’ll ignore the $1 sampler, since it’s essentially a promotional item.)
That’s not quite the combined launch heat of Pearl and Scarlet, but better than where the late stage Icon books had fallen to and if you looked at Jinxworld as a sort of crime-centric Vertigo, those titles are doing what have been acceptable Vertigo numbers for the past several years and better than the recent ones. Of course, let’s see where the #3s and #4s are, but these seem like perfectly reasonable orders for DC selling genre titles in the DM.
(So 2 Superman titles, 4 Jinxworld titles and a 12 page Walmart Batman for Bendis in September.)
Summing it up: status quo continues with hints of slippage at the top and it’s the Events that are going to need to be the cash cows.
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 Saga 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