Continuing our look at the sales distribution charts for August, it’s time to see how Marvel looked.
On the surface, that doesn’t look too bad. ~368.9K copies of Fantastic Four #1 ordered? That’s a healthy number. Now remember, orders on an incentive laden #1 with more variants than I care to take the time to count will have ZERO relationship to the number of copies sold. Can’t count that as an ongoing number. Early reports indicate the second issue sold well in stores and it was the #1 seller last week on Comixology, so perhaps cautious optimism that this could be a breakout hit, but perhaps we should wait for month three or four before anointing it.
Infinity Wars did also manage to break 100K on its debut issue. Not a record setter by any means, but an accomplishment given the environment.
On the other hand, month two of the Amazing Spider-Man relaunching pulling orders of ~86.3K and 81.6K, that’s interesting. We’ll see if they can keep that above 60K, which would be a feat. It behaves more a ~55K selling title on the Comixology sales charts, so let’s await months three and four here, too.
Let’s separate the ongoing titles from the Events and #1 issues.
No surprise that the top list thins out without Events and first issues. The 70Ks band has the second issue of Infinity War and the new Punisher’s debut.
The 60Ks band is interesting because it has two ongoing titles. Captain America #2 was ordered in at ~61.2K. Now, granted it’s a second issue, so it’ll likely drop under 60K with #3, but that’s still a pretty healthy Captain America order and if it settles in the mid-to-high 50Ks, that’s probably a win. Check back in a couple months and will see.
Then there’s the puzzling case of Venom. Venom #5 is ordered into the Direct Market at ~64.3K. Not a #1. Not a #2. With a #5, we really ought to be settling in a little and the retailers should hopefully have a handle on demand. It’s also up from ~51.9K orders for #4 in July. And there are reorders. ~6.4K reorders for #4. ~5.9K reorders for #1. ~5.2K for #2. Sure seems like a hot book in print. Over on Comixology, it behaves a bit more like a 30K seller. Maybe half the demand digitally. It’s really kind of an anomaly. With those re-order numbers, it seems highly unlikely retailers are over-ordering, so either the digital audience is diverging on Venom or there is significant speculator activity behind these orders. I’ve been having multiple retailers tell me that speculators have been driving orders on Thanos and Cosmic Ghost Rider, so maybe that’s what’s going on here. It’s not necessarily a bad thing… as long as things continue to sell through. The trouble with speculators is at some point they usually disappear and you don’t want to be holding the bag when that happens. Or maybe the movie is generating interest, although that’s semi-uncharted territory for Marvel. Something to keep an eye on, but whether or not the speculators are showing up in force, that’s a great sales level for a Venom comic.
Avengers is settling in at ~58.9K, which is as strong as its been in a while (but just under that 60K line Marvel has so much trouble crossing with ongoing titles).
If you look at the big picture, Marvel needs to get some more breakout hits and lighten up on the low sellers. The bulk of Marvel’s titles are still under 30K. That’s not great.
There is some hope that Fantastic Four and Amazing Spider-Man could be break-out hits. I’m not sure I’d call 64K quite a breakout hit, but if Venom keeps it up, that’s still stretching the sales envelope relative to what they’ve been able to do in recent months. Past that, some of these relaunches have made some gains (Immortal Hulk, for instance, is hanging around at 48K – a good number for a Hulk comic, but by no means a big hit), but it’s not like they’re swimming in hits. So perhaps some incremental progress and those two breakout hopefuls as we wait a couple months to see what sticks and see if the X-family of titles can get back on track now that their film rights are back in the fold. (Extermination had two issues out in August that sold ~55.7K and ~44.3K. Not horrible number by any means, but absolutely nothing special for a reinvigorating Event.)
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