More comics sales analysis from various sources: it’s not that bad, really and Batman is coming

201404090320 More comics sales analysis from various sources: its not that bad, really and Batman is coming
ICv2 had the sales numbers the other day and on the blah side, noted that For the third month in a row in March, only one comic title sold more than 100,000 copies, which sounds bad, but as John Jackson Miller has been pointing out in the comments and elsewhere, overall things are still WAY above where they were. Still, ICV2 notes, “The only launches in the Top 10, Daredevil #1 and Silver Surfer #1, sold around 76,000 and 65,000, respectively.” That just kind of feels disappointing. 100,000 is a psychological barrier for sure, and the more books on the other side of it, the better you feel.

The rest of the figures:
Dollar trends
Top 300 Comics Actual–March 2014
Top 300 Graphic Novels Actual–March 2014
(Oh and in case you were wondering — and not to jump on Jason Enright’s territory—Issue #2 of Ms Marvel sold 38,357 copies, a 24% drop.)

If you want a very detailed look at what is happening with comics sales, I direct you to David Harper’s 2014 Comic Sales: A Sign of Things to Come, or Much Ado About Nothing? at Multiversity. harper examines the usual suspects—event fatigue, inflated cover prices, too many Marvel all now news, digital encrosion—and feels none of them are the real culprit. For instance, March didn’t relaly have any events to be fatigued by. Instead, he points to a softening in DC sales. (Hey he did it, not me!) However, there’s good news on the horizon…maybe even TODAY!

Now that we know why sales are down, I have this to say: I think the rest of 2014 is going to be big, even for DC.

This week brings the launch of the first of three DC weekly series, and this one has their big gun in the name: Batman. “Batman Eternal” will act as a life preserver to DC’s flagging sales, with a perpetual infusion of Batfans bolstering their weekly, monthly and 2014 forecasts. With “The New 52: Future’s End” and a third unrevealed weekly arriving in 2014 as well, you’re taking flotsam and jetsam like “Stormwatch” and “Larfleeze” and replacing them with at least four books a month that will likely be in high demand.

Is that sort of like putting a bandaid on a leak on your sinking ship? Hell yes. Is it going to work, at least for now? You better believe it. Contrary to widely held beliefs, DC Comics is a smart company, and the move to weekly releases for some of their bigger characters and ideas instead of monthly issues of lower tier books is going to do a lot for their bottom line, and the overall (short term) health of the industry. If my wild theory is correct, it won’t resolve any of their long-term issues, but I expect a significant bounce back for DC in April and beyond.


Plus, Marvel is already tooting around 500,000 orders for May’s The Amazing Spider-man #1, which sees Peter Parker back as Spider-Man. That number, even driven as it is by variants and incentives, will get a lot of play where it counts, corporately speaking.

Still, you can’t help but feel for The Big Two in their constant need to appeal to a simultaneously jaded and devoted group of readers. I was farting around on Tumblr the other day when I saw this from Greg Pak and his AMA:

Are you and the others writers, (Geoff Johns, Scott Snyder, Charles Soule, Jeff Lemire, etc), organizing the continuity on DC Comics Universe in the New 52 or we gonna see the same errors there were in the past, what are your 3 favorite comic book characters and who is the king of all them for you???
Anonymous

Answer:
We’re absolutely doing our best to keep things straight and I’ll often bug Scott or Charles with questions to make sure I’m getting certain details right. And of course our editors keep us on track. But these are monthly comics set in a shared universe with hundreds of characters and dozens of overlapping stories. So yes, there will be continuity hiccups. Sometimes we just make mistakes, and we’re sorry. And sometimes certain established elements simply conflict and there’s no way to reconcile them and we have to make choices that will serve the stories in the best way.


Pak is a talented veteran who knows how to tell a good yarn, but when telling a good yarn must also satisfy the minute continuity cravings of a watchdog readership with their finger on the trigger of a message board post, well…who is really winning here?

But here’s the really great news: there is a lot more to the comics business than just Marvel and DC’s latest variants and events! It’s a big pie now! And that pie is a whole smorgasbord. Smorgasbord pie. That’s why I still like comics.

Comments

  1. Smorgasbord Pie is the name of my ska Journey cover band.

  2. Other Chris says:

    Enough with the slagging off of continuity. If the big two are catering exclusively to the diehard, can’t-have-gaps-in-my-collection consumers, then the least they can do is keep their product consistent.

  3. What is the current landscape of the “Variant” market? Recently you’ve read about crazy variant promotions where retailers were ordering tons of comics that they’d never sell just to get a special variant to sell at a premium. Is that still happening? Some were speculating that sales numbers were being artificially inflated by that kinda practice or is that too small of a drop in the bucket to have an effect?

  4. Glenn Simpson says:

    @Other Chris – you seem to make the assumption that doing so is something that can actually be done, when combined with telling an interesting story and making deadlines, two things the average nitpicking fan doesn’t have to worry about.

  5. *sigh*
    Only in comics do we continuously bemoan the fact that the audience would rather NOT have the stories contradict themselves.

  6. Dan Ahn says:

    Those are both decent relaunches for DD and Silver Surfer, though I’d be surprised if the numbers of issue #4 of either series were half as high.

    100,000 does seem like a psychological barrier. On the other hand, series like Avengers World have smashed through that barrier recently, only to have their sales plummet.

    To me it seems like there are WAY too many incentive-based variables going on with the Big Two, ESPECIALLY at Marvel. Just as an amateur number-cruncher, it feels like I’d need to search out or be privy to a LOT of inside information on basically half the comics that Marvel releases in any given month… or else I run the risk of making a wrong assumption about whether or not certain relatively high numbers mean anything.

    I feel like it’s getting to the point where it barely makes sense to analyze ANY of Marvel’s sales figures unless it’s a normal issue of a series that’s been out for six months at least.

  7. Glenn Simpson says:

    At the very least, I think it’s important to keep in mind that it’s not until the 3rd or 4th month of a series that orders are actually placed based on reader reaction to the issues that came out the first month. Everything prior to that is guesswork.

  8. John Warren says:

    encroachment + erosion = encrosion?

  9. Chris Hero says:

    This article is exactly why I can’t stand Marvel/DC comics.

  10. @Niels van Eekelen Continuity in a shared super-hero universes spanning decades of history and hundreds of different writers is a quite a different beast from a book, movie or even long-running television show.

    Sure, it would be nice if it all held together (at least the good stuff), but that’s just not possible under the constraints it’s produced under.

  11. JG:

    Does that mean it’s stupid to even want creators to try? No one is expecting perfection in every little detail, but I’m incredibly sick and tired of anyone who cares about a little bit of consistency being portrayed as a deranged obsessive.

  12. Glenn Simpson says:

    @Niels – I believe what comes across negatively is the implication that the writers are not already trying and/or making every effort. A mistake is made, and people start saying “why don’t they care about continuity!” when in fact they do care, they just made a mistake.

  13. Matthew Oliver says:

    I’ve seen very little comment, either positive or negative, regarding DC’s weekly plans. Marvel shipping comics twice a month seems to be something that pisses a lot of fans off (personally I’m fine with it), but , are people really going to be willing to pay for a new Batman comic every week, on top of all the issues that are currently being published? what’s the bar for success here? Can they sell 100,000, or even 50,000 copies of Batman Eternal a week? If it shifts 20,000 a week there’s no way that can be as profitable as selling 80,000 copies of one issue every month.

  14. Glenn Simpson:

    Is that honestly how this sounds?
    “when telling a good yarn must also satisfy the minute continuity cravings of a watchdog readership with their finger on the trigger of a message board post”

    Credit to Greg Pak, actually, because from what I hear he does his best to unify two very different versions of Wonder Woman from her solo book and from Justice League. And here he creditably says that they do their best but are only human. No problem with that.

    It’s this article that turns it into “how stupid that those stupid readers bother with that stuff and try to ruin everything ever.” (Side-note: Yes, I’m exaggerating, we’re on the Internet here.) Comic articles and interviews are very often negative towards to people who care about continuity (or “consistency,” since continuity is such a no-no word these days), dismissing them all as whining obsessives.

  15. Glenn Simpson says:

    @Niels – I believe that’s because most of the complaints are, in fact, nitpicking. I’ve read about how people are all upset that they said “Rex Mason” instead of “Rex Tyler” over in “Earth 2.” Yes, it was an error. I’m sure somebody at DC figured it out. It doesn’t really need to be mentioned.

  16. Torsten Adair says:

    The “weekly” comic experiment started with Marvel Comics and Action Comics, back in the early 1990s.

    Then DC started numbering the Superman family of titles and turning those 4-5 comics a month into weekly titles. (See: Death of Superman)

    Then following that success, DC did it again with Batman, although temporarily, for No Man’s Land.

    So, how many fans ARE buying all of the monthly Batman titles as weeklies, not monthlies? What’s the base number for the completists? Use that as a foundation, then build on top of that with people who like the occasional Batman story, or who like a good Batman story. That will tell you how successful a weekly will be.

    (And I’ve read the FCBD issue of Futures End. It’s a bit of Ultron and Terminator (Ultron = OMAC, Terry Batman = Kyle Reese), but fortunately, the What If? doom-and-gloom future shock is only in the first issue. )

  17. Whatever says:

    Because Batman fatigue can never happen right? Great business plan more Batman. Thank god DC has a deep bench.

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