DC Comics Month-to-Month Sales: November 2012

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While Marvel keeps rolling out its latest round of relaunches, DC is sticking to its guns in November. There’s the “Death of the Family” crossover that continues running through various Batman titles. There’s the “Rise of the Third Army” crossover that continues running through the Green Lantern books. There are three minor crossover storylines running through various other titles. And there are, finally, the Before Watchmen and “digital-first” lines of books, both of which continue to expand in November.

2012: that was a year

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2012 was a wacky year here at Stately Beat Manor and we look back at the good and the bad.

Marvel Month-to-Month Sales: November 2011 – CORRECTED

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With FEAR ITSELF wrapping up, Marvel had several major releases in November – the POINT ONE one-shot, the relaunches of UNCANNY X-MEN and FANTASTIC FOUR, and the first issue of new ongoing title AVENGING SPIDER-MAN.

We’ve also got the epilogue of FEAR ITSELF, the start of BATTLE SCARS, and a bunch of other “Regenesis” tie-ins from the X-books.

Marvel found itself behind DC for the third straight month in November, though the gap is growing closer. DC led by 40% to 38% in unit share, and 35% to 33% in dollars. And of course, it should be remembered that DC’s extra sales don’t appear to have come at Marvel’s expense; if DC’s relaunch has brought any new or lapsed readers into the market, then in theory, that’s good for other publishers too – it brings them into everyone’s potential market.

Thanks as always to ICV2.com for permission to use these figures.

5. POINT ONE
11/11  One-shot - 113,352

Marvel’s top selling comic of the month! Or is it? This book was massively overshipped, with retailers receiving twice the number of copies they’d actually ordered, at no extra cost. Those copies are presumably included in this number – that certainly appears to be Diamond’s standard practice, given the odd sales spikes that we’ve seen when this strategy has been used before.

If that’s the case, then the actual orders of this book would be 56,676 – which would have placed the book at number 29 between AMAZING SPIDER-MAN and AVENGERS. Considering the solicitation (“You CANNOT miss this. Catch a tease of the biggest change to the Marvel Universe in over 35 years!”) that number would surely have been disappointing, even allowing for the six dollar price tag. The wisdom of pricing a teaser book that high must also be open to question.

DC Comics Month-to-Month Sales: September 2011

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September was business as usual for DC Comics’ periodical sales, as… oh, wait.

The “New 52″ project, a relaunch of its complete superhero line via 52 #1 issues, made September 2011 a record-breaking month for DC Comics — and a joyously eventful one for the people watching their sales. It’s not often that publishers attempt something on this scale, unfortunately, so it’s nice not to come up with 52 different ways of expressing that sales have mostly been going down, for a change. It’s a little bit like that myth about Eskimos and the words they have for snow.

Anyway: The average DC comic book sold an estimated 57,224 units in September, the average DC Universe comic book a whopping 67,411 units. That’s more than double what it was in August for both, as well as more than in any previous month since sole distributor Diamond started releasing information on actual sales to specialty retailers in March 2003. The month that comes closest is May 2006, when DC’s line-wide “One Year Later” initiative kicked off, with 44,554 (DC total) and 59,505 (DC Universe) units, respectively.

And, while we’re breaking records: May 2006 was also the only previous time when the total dollar value of DC’s periodical comic books exceeded 10 million, with an estimated $10,157,965. In September 2011, the amount was $10.9 million for DC total and $10.5 million for the DC Universe line, which never broke the 10-million mark on its own before. (Average cover prices were about the same, by the way: $3.05 for DC total and $3.04 for DC Universe in 2006, and vice versa in 2011.)

DC Comics Month-to-Month Sales: August 2011

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As you may have heard, DC had this relaunch thing going on in September, ending several months of deck-clearing and water-treading in the company’s superhero line. The kick-off came in the last week of August, with the release of Geoff Johns and Jim Lee’s Justice League #1, which — to nobody’s surprise — leads the August charts by quite a margin. To gauge what this means in the broader context of the comic-book direct market, though, we’ll have to go back a few years.

Today is Torsten Day at Stately Beat Manor

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While others celebrate Columbus, we will celebrate Torsten Adair, who’s become our regular weekend poster, keeper of the Coming Attractions, and master of the roundup.

Torsten has been commenting at the Beat as long as there’s been a Beat, and somewhere back in the mists of the Mesozoic Era we said “Hey, if you’re going to write all that you might as well post it.”

DC Comics Month-to-Month Sales: June 2011

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by Marc-Oliver Frisch

The countdown to DC’s big relaunch continued in June with a whole lot of Flashpoint tie-in books — few of which seem to have stood out in any way to retailers, if the sales figures are any indication. Given that the upcoming relaunch titles are drawing on the same pool of creators, characters and concepts, that’s not ideal for DC. If it’s asking too much of readers and retailers to pick and choose among 16 titles of a certain mold, putting out 52 of them at once seems ill-advised.

Over at the publisher’s Vertigo imprint, meanwhile, almost half the current ongoing series are about to end within the next year. There’s still plenty of time for Vertigo to announce replacements, certainly. But in combination with the recent WildStorm shutdown and the re-absorption of a number of key Vertigo properties into the DC Universe line, there seems to be a lot less patience than there used to be at DC for material that’s not expected to immediately do well in the direct market.

DC Comics Month-to-Month Sales: May 2011

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Despite the debut of this year’s big blockbuster series Flashpoint, average DC comic-book sales were down in May. In part, that’s because Flashpoint itself came in 13,000 units below the magical 100K mark and ended up charting second after Marvel’s Fear Itself #2, which has to be quite a disappointment for DC. On the other hand, most of the rest of DC’s line didn’t join in the crossover until June, so the overall numbers may still pick up.

The other notable thing about DC’s May output is that there wasn’t a lot of it. The number of new comic books released by DC in May was 59, which, along with January 2004, holds the record for the fewest number of books released by the company since Diamond started publishing data on actual sales. Looking at the solicitations, it’s not hard to find the reason: None of the five Green Lantern film tie-in books scheduled for May came out (one of them still hasn’t been published as I’m writing this), while the launch dates of Static Shock and Batwoman were pushed back to September.

And, while we’re at it, the David Finch vehicle Batman: The Dark Knight remained in limbo in May. DC’s Web site currently lists issue #3 for July 13 and issue #5 for August, with no information on #4. So not even DC seems entirely sure what’s going on with the book.

Flipping Point: The Coin Is Scarred Side Up

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While there will be plenty of PR spinning about DC’s big news as a great jumping on point for new readers and all that other doublespeak, let’s look at the other side of the coin.

DC Comics Month-to-Month Sales: March 2011

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Led by the top-selling Batman: The Dark Knight and Batman, Inc., which were back on the racks after a two-month absence, and a double-shipping Green Lantern, DC Comics’ periodical sales continued a slow recovery in February.

Notably, the February numbers also show modest increases across the rest of DC’s line-up. Maybe the company’s decision to cancel around 25% of its current ongoing titles and stick to a $ 2.99 price point is encouraging retailers, after all.

DC Month-to-Month Sales: February 2011

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by Marc-Oliver Frisch

Unit and dollar sales of DC Comics’ periodical business remained at the lower end of the spectrum in February, despite a slight recovery from January’s all-time low in average unit sales. However, the direct market as a whole has seen better days, and so DC still managed to snatch the three top spots of the chart and six out of the Top 10 in February, regardless of the company’s lackluster sales.

For the publisher’s mainstream DC Universe line, the absence of major titles Batman Incorporated and Batman: The Dark Knight continued to be a problem, while the hangover from the discontinued WildStorm imprint kept dragging down the average. Average comic-book sales of DC’s Vertigo imprint were still hovering above the 10k mark, meanwhile.

See below for the details, and please consider the small print at the end of the column. Thanks to Milton Griepp and ICv2.com for the permission to use their figures. An overview of ICv2.com‘s estimates can be found here.

DC Comics Month-to-Month Sales: January 2011

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DC kicks off the year with a new sales record: Average numbers of the DC Universe line dropped by 21% in January, to 24,321 — the lowest number in the history of these charts, by about 4,000 units.

Traditionally a weak month in the comic-book market, January 2011 was even more of a downer than usual for DC. With only five titles selling above the 50k mark, average comic-book sales of the company at large fell to 21,922, the lowest figure since March 2009, while average Vertigo sales clung to the 10,000-unit mark, as they’ve done for the last three years.

The poor January performance of the DC Universe line comes thanks to three different kinds of erosion. First up, DC failed to get Green Lantern, Batman Incorporated and The Flash out of the door, three of its major titles, while a fourth one, Batman: The Dark Knight, was still late from December.

Second, DC is looking at a whole range of failing titles: Out of the 43 ongoing monthly DC Universe series currently on sale, eight have been marked for cancellation and won’t be around come June 2011. That’s almost 20% of the imprint’s regular output. And there are eight more — Doc Savage, The Spirit, T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, Jonah Hex, Booster Gold, Power Girl, Zatanna and Gotham City Sirens — that look less than healthy and sell fewer copies than some of the ones that have already been axed.

At the tail end of the spectrum, finally, six former WildStorm titles were absorbed into the DC Universe line in January, where they end up being the six lowest-selling books and dragging down the average. (If WildStorm were still around, this would be another new low for them: The six books, one of which missed the charts altogether, have average sales of less than 4,000 units.)

So, for better or ill, 2011 is set to be a year of transition for DC, with some heavy lifting in the company’s periodical line.

See below for the details, and please consider the small print at the end of the column. Thanks to Milton Griepp and ICv2.com for the permission to use their figures. An overview of ICv2.com‘s estimates can be found here.

Just Mostly Gross, Funny Fun: An Interview with CHEW Writer John Layman

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On the occasion of the German edition of Chew, which recently debuted from Cross Cult Verlag, I had the opportunity to talk to Layman about the series, his prospects in the comics industry and his experiences at WildStorm. An abbreviated and translated version of the interview, which was conducted via e-mail over the course of several weeks, appears in Chew – Bulle mit Biss 1: Leichenschmaus. The book can be purchased here, here or here, among other places. (Disclosure: I’m the translator.)

DC Comics Month-to-Month Sales: December 2010

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by Marc-Oliver Frisch

On the surface, December 2010 was a great month for DC Comics. The company had a bigger share of the market than its main competitor Marvel, if only in terms of dollar value, and took all of the Top 5 spots on the chart, as well as a total 8 out of the Top 10. That doesn’t happen a lot.

Upon closer inspection, though, a less rosy picture emerges: DC’s average comic-book sales in the direct market were slightly down from November, average dollar and unit sales were only slightly up. So, despite big releases like the debut of writer/artist David Finch’s Batman: The Dark Knight and, over in the “Graphic Novel” section, J. Michael Straczynski’s Superman: Earth One book, it turns out December was more or less business as usual, from a commercial vantage point.

Meanwhile, DC’s WildStorm imprint, which the company bought from Jim Lee in 1998 and then proceeded to slowly but determinedly squeeze the life out of, ceased publication in December. Average WildStorm sales sagged below the 5K mark, to the lowest number in history.

Marvel Month-to-Month Sales: November 2010

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Marvel had quite a lot of new material on the market in November. Aside from AMAZING SPIDER-MAN shifting to a fortnightly format with its new “Big Time” direction, we’ve also got two new ongoing titles, GENERATION HOPE and SPIDER-GIRL. Further down the chart, there’s also a veritable horde of new miniseries, including ASTONISHING THOR, OSBORN, SHE-HULKS and a whole bunch of CHAOS WAR tie-ins.

As usual, Marvel had the largest share of the direct market. It’s a relatively close month, though, with a lead over DC of 40% to 37% in unit share and 34% to 33% in dollars. A major factor there will be a number of high-profile Batman comics in the top 10.

DC Comics Month-to-Month Sales: October 2010

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The “Return of Bruce Wayne” and “Brightest Day” brands continued to be the driving force behind DC’s periodical output in October. While most of the Batman books were on hiatus, a bunch of one-shots, collectively titled Bruce Wayne: The Road Home, filled the gap. Other October releases include the low-profile miniseries Knight and Squire and JLA/The 99. Consequently, average sales of the DC Universe line remained relatively flat.