The September sales estimates are out. DC had jumps across the board for their Zero Month promotion, so the retailers certainly responded to that. Marvel, on the other hand… well, when they say they’re not broken and they don’t have to reboot, you really have to ask if their non-AVX sales are broken when you look at the sales chart.
Looking at the September estimates at The Comics Chronicles, AVX still rules the roost with 167,327 estimated copies for #11… and then the bottom drops out. The next highest title is Uncanny X-Men with 59,794. From the best selling Marvel to the second best selling Marvel is a drop of over 100K. That is just amazing.
Here’s the sales bands for Marvel books.
And for DC
So prior to Marvel Now! (a decompressed relaunch), the typical Marvel comic was selling 20-39K. Nothing broke 60K except for the Event series. Yes, clearly something needed to be done.
DC’s zero issues were up across the board, but you can still see the weight of gravity pulling their bands down and they’re certainly bottom heavy these days, even if the distribution is a little more even than Marvel. On the plus side, Batman #0 was estimated at 156,561 copies. That’s a big bump and Batman and his sundry titles is pretty clearly the primary franchise over at DC right now.
DC launched a new wave of titles in September:
- Talon – 53,722 copies
- Phantom Stranger – 36,093
- Team 7 – 31,053
- Sword of Sorcery – 26,959
Of that bunch, Talon is the only really strong launch — it’s a Bat-title, so you’d expect that. If you figure a title will typically drop 25% with issue 2 and another 10% with issue 3, that would put Sword of Sorcery at 18,197 by issue three and DC seems to have a more critical eye on titles selling under 20K, so that’s a title that really needs to hold onto its readers.
On the indie side of things, Walking Dead seems to like life on the high side of the 50K barrier clocking in at 53,337 as Kirkman continues his reign as king of the indie creators. Happy by Grant Morrison and Darick Robertson had a very healthy debut with 32,977 copies.
Indie comics sales bands:
- 20K+: 6
- 10K – 19K: 42
The independent publishers are really starting to slide into the lower ranges of DC and Marvel sales.
It’s interesting to see the indies catching up with the big 2. This is one of the best formatted sales articles on this blog yet!
Agreed — I really like how the information was presented here. Thanks!
Nicely crafted post.
As for Marvel’s sales, I think there are several factors at work.
1. Through butchering the Spider-audience and several years of poorly constructed and ultimately disappointing “events”, they’ve simply driven away readers.
2. Because Marvel has been very heavily invested in certain creative “voices”, they’re now suffering from the natural attrition of readers getting tired of those voices. I’d contrast it with Geoff Johns over at DC. His books are very plot-centric and not so dependent on particular stylistic indulgences, like Bendis or some of the other top guys at Marvel.
3. What was the ultimate effect of expanding the X-Brand to ridiculous proportions? First, it cannibalized readers from other books and then led to a diminishing of the brand’s sales value. Well, Marvel’s been doing the same blessed thing with the Avengers and it’s possible we’re just seeing the same dynamic but at a faster, internet-era pace.
I’m looking forward to the day when all the monthly sales figures include both print and digital sales.
I wonder what could be affecting Marvel’s sales so much? Could it be the paying-more-for-less-pages argument? Is it the editorial direction / mandate put on some to most of the titles just not jiving with Marvel’s audience and comic fans, in general? Could it be Marvel just needs to reboot the entire line entirely? Or is it something else?
1. The Spider title has been pretty strong the past couple of years. the payoff for these “events” has been fairly good compared to other titles. It also seems to be the only title able to drive up sales in contained events.
2. Although i hate Bendis’s work on the Avengers, you cant compare him to Johns. At least Bendis has critically acclaimed series like Daredevil, Alias, Ultimate Spider-Man and his indie work to fall back on. What does Johns have? the rainbow corps? the opposite of white is black? What? What has johns done that will be remembered? Aquaman crying over his fish supper? he is an amateur joke! Green Lantern having to think about his dead dad every time he uses his ring and BATMAN crying about it? No i don’t Talk to fish except that time in Justice League were i commanded sharks to eat living beings (which superman also has no trouble slaughtering)(And batman takes off his mask in front of a stranger)(And wonder woman turns into a ditz completely ignoring her solo series which is infinitely better than justice league)
3. I agree with this point. Milking a brand to death is not good business. The reason Justice League sell so well is it is only 1 title. Marvel will have to spread there potential readers over
it is unreasonable to expect any of these to have the sales of justice league.
I just read some of my comics from the 90’s. they had 36 pages. a lower price and an artist capable of monthly delivery. What Happened?
A lot of those artists back then were pretty bad. It’s one of the reasons a lot of them have other careers today.
Marvel has even started using cheaper paperstock for at least some of their $3.99 titles. They started doing this cost-cutting practice with their $2.99 titles earlier this year, and now it’s spread. My latest copies of Uncanny X-Force and Wolverine & The X-Men are now only 32 pages (i.e., 16 leafs of paper, one less than before), cover included. And the cover page is no longer glossy but has the same texture as the rest of the pages.
How does price play into this? Marvel’s books look like the are pushing 3.99 a copy for between 21-24 pages of art and related story. Is there greater value elsewhere? Combine that with them thinking it’s a good idea to take the “friendly neighborhood” out of spider man–I’ll be interested to see if those numbers don’t spiral down further. I’ll be taking my entertainment dollars elsewhere–comics should be cheap!
I think price plays a big factor in comics.
Case in point: Image Comic’s Creator-Owned Heroes series. You get (unless I’m remembering wrong) 48-pages for $3.99. Granted, around 3 to 5 pages are in-house ads but those are the norm in Image Comics (most of them anyway). Compared to Uncanny X-Force which is 28 pages total for $3.99 with 21 actual story pages (and that’s including the first page which is a recap page).
Using these two as examples, if I had to choose between two comics which are priced the same and I like both the same, then I’ll go with the one which gives me more bang for my money which is the Creator-Owned Heroes.
I have no doubt Marvel’s $3.99 price tag on most of their titles is one of the reasons their sales are dropping. I’ve dropped quite a number of their titles because of it and put that money towards a cheaper (and usually better) comic from the other publishers.
Apparently, I’m not the only one.
I think it’s more likely that Diamond will stop providing public sales info than that Comixology will start.
I have bitched several times about price and pointed out that comics have WAY out paced inflation. Not an issue for me but unquestionably a barrier to readship. It’s also why if you miss a book or try to catch up mid series back issues are a bitch to find.
How would a reboot help Marvel if it wasn’t accompanied by changes in pricing, number of pages per issue, issue frequency, and editorial policies? Arguing for a reboot presumes that Marvel’s major problem is the content, that readers find the M.U.’s status quo dull and unsatisfying. As long as Marvel remains focused on event chains and the Avengers and X brands, a reboot wouldn’t change anything. Given Marvel’s reluctance to do a formal reboot, doing one could easily be seen as a sign of corporate desperation, an invitation to readers to drop all their Marvel titles.
Focusing on individual series would require shifting away from events. In the absence of market research indicating that existing readers and new readers want that shift, and would snap up new series, Marvel Editorial would probably expect the result to be a financial disaster.
The reasons Marvel’s sales cap at a lower level are double-shipping, and bang for the buck. They still have some pretty good stories IMO, but when you double-ship, you ensure that a lot of the players will fold rather than go all-in. By double-shipping, they still sell 100,000+ copies a month of the top titles, but at the price of a greatly reduced audience.
It seems like their strategy is all sales-driven, rather than quality-driven. Everybody wants a quick fix. They need to go back to long, sustained, standalone, quality stories, which appeal to all ages (at least for the main titles).
They do have some, like Daredevil and even (Red) Hulk was good. All of these major events get in the way of that. Then again, the sales of books like Daredevil and Hulk aren’t great…but I think if books like that were the norm for Marvel rather than the exception, things would improve.
“1. The Spider title has been pretty strong the past couple of years.”
During JMS’ run, the book regularly sold 20,000 to 40,000 more issues a month than it has for the last several years.
“2. Although i hate Bendis’s work on the Avengers, you cant compare him to Johns.”
This isn’t a comparison of quality, it’s about the downside of having a very distinct creative voice. Let me extend that analogy. Bendis is a like a talented singer-songwriter where all his stuff sounds roughly the same. At first, fans eat it up. By the third or 4th album, however, a lot of them have drifted away because the same sound no longer has the same appeal. Johns is more like a music producer who works with many different acts, bringing his talents to each but adapting to the people with which he’s working. For example, if you compare Johns’ runs on GREEN LANTERN, AQUAMAN and THE FLASH, they won’t immediately strike you as all that tonally or stylistically similar. On the other hand, one Bendis book largely reads like another.
I think that Marvel fans are simply feeling the effects of “Event Lag”….. they’ve had too many big events and it’s hurt sales on everything else. Marvel Now! should follow DC’s New 52 with no “Mega Event” for at least it’s first year. Give readers a chance to just settle into their favorite titles and enjoy a regular story arc without all types of hype, crossovers, & spin-offs.
Also, try to keep the variant covers to under 10….sheesh, it’s ridiculous! Maybe if Marvel artists spent more time on interior art, rather than 2 dozen variant covers…..they would sell more issues.
Marvel NOW! will not be the solution they’re needing, simply for the fact that A) they’re pricing all new books (to my knowledge) that launch out of NOW! at $3.99 and B) they’re still running wild on the double-shipping for these new titles. Which also means lackluster fill-in creative teams.
Double shipping. If you, like me, follow a decent amount of Marvel titles it will burn you a hole through your pockets. Plus, it makes it impossible to plan ahead your comics budget. This drives some to cutting on their number of Marvel titles and some to quit Marvel altogether out of frustration. I still like their product and I love the characters, but as a customer I feel exploited.
Sword of Sorcery – 26,959
THIS is A) sad. And B) The result of stupidly deciding that all Amethyst needed to success ;) was a $3.99 price point and a Beowulf backup. This should have been a $2.99 book easy. Ugh, DC.
Another thing about double shipping is that it makes it more difficult for books to find an audience. For example, X-Treme X-Men has been out for what? Two months? And it’s already up to four issues, which means $12 for the impulse browser catch up on the whole story so far as opposed to $6. By the time positive word of mouth gets out, folks are better off waiting for the trade, if they even bother.
I agree with everything you’ve said. Good breakdown.
I’m not sure Talon is a success because it’s a Batman book so much as its a Scott Snyder book. I only read Batman–because of Snyder–and I refuse to venture outward from there. Court of Owls? I only read the core book. Luckily, it was set up to be readable that way. I’m still not sure if Death of the Family is more of a crossover or if it’s the same deal, but I will once again stick only to the core title.
On the other hand, I was reading his Swamp Thing, but I dropped it like a hot potato when it became clear that I would be require to buy Frankenstein, Animal Man, and some annuals to make sense of it. No way.
So, my DC is down to Batman and Talon if I like the “real” first issue. And, I’m checking out the new team on Detective.
I’ve always been more of a Marvel reader, and I can attest that double shipping hurts. When I first got another issue of Wolverine and the X-Men two weeks later, it was kind of cool. Quickly, it pushed me to drop another title to make room. And, the dropping quickly continued. I will buy titles I really like that double ship, but it will come with the cost of my not trying another title, or dropping one that is of marginal interest.
I agree with Mesektet that Marvel was hurt a lot by their Spider-Man direction. I’m really hoping their upcoming move will hurt them even more. It’s odd to celebrate 700 issues of Spider-Man by unceremoniously dumping Peter Parker and going for “darker, edgier” Spider-Man. I can’t judge it too strongly before it even releases, but I’m pretty sure not too many people were “because you demanded it!”ing the exit of Peter Parker.
For reference and to give us a better idea of what is missing (vs. 32k listed here), Darick Robertson is quoted as saying the sales of Happy issue 1 (1rst printing) are 40k.
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