It’s time to take a look at the sales distribution charts and see where things fall in the market for March 2018. As usual, we’ll start with DC.
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.
Kind of sparse towards the left hand side of the chart, don’t you think? And that’s with the benefit of Metal and Doomsday Clock both shipping for the final time together. Metal took the top spot for its farewell issue, too. Let’s drill down a bit.
The events are really just the 100K+ books. If you wanted to count Mr. Murphy’s Batman: White Knight as an Event at ~75.4K (and maybe it does sell like it’s an Event), you’d have about a 40K copy sales gap between March’s second issue of Batman and the final pre-Bendis issue of Action Comics which gets a minor boost (something we’ve been seeing on the digital charts). Here’s the thing: the month’s second issue of Detective is down to ~50.5K. Detective has been clinging on above that 50K line like a trooper, but DC is so very close to not having any title above the 50K like except Batman, it’s not even funny. Batman: White Knight has an ending.
The Teriffics continues to be the New Age of Heroes success story at ~34.5K. The digital following on it seems a little stronger, so it might not dip much more below that. The next highest selling New Age of Heroes issue is Sideways #2 at ~22.8K. That’s nearly a 12K spread separating the two and it’s darkly humorous that it’s a title widely perceived as writer-driven having drastically better luck than the rest of a theoretically artist-driven line imprint. Stranger and stranger.
So basically, the DCU lineup is concentrated in the 20-29K sales band and too much selling below that.
Here’s how it’s supposed to play out. April’s big book for DC is going to be Action #1000, which you can go get at midnight.
May sees the Justice League: No Justice weekly series start and then the Bendis Man of Steel at the end.
First off, everyone’s hoping there good sell-through on those weeklies or the retailers are going to be sweating bullets, but the general premise would seem to be that come July, Bendis is going to get Action and Superman over that no man’s land between 50K and 90K and Snyder will get at least one Justice League title up there starting in June. Is Justice League going to get Metal numbers? That would be nice, but let’s see how the miniseries goes over before we get ahead of ourselves. Whether or not an ongoing Superman or Justice League title can sell Batman numbers to an audience that’s been trained to mostly care about Events is an interesting question and one that we’ll all have to find out about together. But let’s face it, a couple more 80K sellers would still be a pretty big deal right now.
We’ll also see how many of the other titles get a refresh and push once Justice League and Superman have gotten relaunched. Perhaps you can be happy with Flash selling 45K-46K, but pretty much everything else could use a boost.
For the rest of the imprints, Young Animal looks to have had a decent relaunch relative to expectations. The Hanna-Barbera titles don’t seem to be as hot with this batch and Vertigo… well, if you consider Young Animal to be an extension of Vertigo, it’s fine, otherwise it’s still pretty slow. Personally, I’m going to view the Bendis Jinxworld imprint as a Vertigo-adjunct and I’m very curious how the market reacts to it transplanting to DC and theoretically being on a regular release schedule again.
In terms of the publishing plan, we’re seeing the DCU big guns winding down before major relaunches and the New Age of Heroes mostly fizzling if there were ambitious sales expectations for it. The Teriffics being the exception to prove the rule.
Want to learn more about how comics publishing and digital comics work? Try Todd’s book, Economics of Digital Comics