September sales and the catastrophic success of Villains Month

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With all the rushing around, I never got to the Top 10 charts for September. I’ve posted the relevant charts below—short version: another good month. In fact a GREAT month, especially for DC, which crushed it. DC sent out a press release announcing they sold four million comics, the most since the initial New 52 launch three years ago. And kudos to them.

To explain the bigger picture, we turn, of course, to John Jackson Miller, who notes the record sales:

• Highest dollar volume for Top 300 Comics sales in a single month: $30.05 million

• Highest dollar volume for Top 300 Comics and Top 300 Trade Paperbacks combined for a single month: $37.61 million

• Highest dollar volume for All Comics, Trade Paperbacks, and Magazines ordered in a single month: $48.07 million

•  Highest dollar volume for All Comics, Trade Paperbacks, and Magazines ordered in a single QUARTER: $113.16 million

• Highest weighted average price for all comics ordered within Diamond’s Top 300 Comics list: $3.69 (tied with November 2010)

• Most copies sold by a 300th place title in a four-week month: 6,448

So yeah a great month.

Of course, that didn’t stop retailers from being troubled by it. For this I recommend you turn to CBR’s interview with retailer Mike Sterling. While you should read the whole thing, here’s the nut graph:

How were sales on Villains Month overall? 

Sales were great, all things considered, and once word started to spread that these items were in short supply, the rush to find the 3D covers was on. As the weeks went on, more and more people started waiting outside the front door Wednesday mornings, with a lot of people fast-trotting to the new comic racks to get their hands on them. Fortunately, I didn’t have the shoving or fistfights I was hearing about at other shops!

Had all things worked out like they should have, with DC able to fill all orders, I would like to believe my actual order numbers would have sufficed for the demand I anticipated. However, since I didn’t anticipate DC not being able to hold up their end of the transaction, there was no accommodating the increased demand caused by everyone knowing the items were in limited supply. If there wasn’t a shortage, would there have been as much demand? Would there simply have been a general bump in interest just from people seeing the 3D covers and thinking they were neat, as opposed to the frenzy we saw?


There’s no question but that Villains Month was a mess as far as allocations went, and retailers were grumpy. The 2D covers appear to have been a bust in some stores. While I’m pretty sure DC didn’t plan for it to be a mess, the natural lesson would be that next time time for printing should be built into the ordering schedule. But, the fact is…it was the best month for comics sales in the Diamond Era. The hint of scarcity definitely sent everyone into collector mode. I’ve seen a few conspiracy theories that this was intended all along, but let’s give everyone the benefit of the doubt here.

So were the villains good or bad? The comics themselves seem to have been all over the place quality wise, as our Steve Morris reported. But my own takeaway is that no matter how many times retailers say they are “evented out” they still have extreme FOMO every time they hear the word event. And in this case, it all worked….despite itself.

I think a bigger, more optimistic view is that although DC had the biggest sales, it didn’t necessarily take away sales from other publishers. In other words, the pie was still big enough for everyone—but for that, we’ll wait until our own Marvel and Indie sale charts come in.

What do you think, Beat Industry Pundits? Was Villains Month a Bust…or a Boom?

NOTE: I’ve posted some the other sales charts for smaller publishers on their own pages:

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PUBLISHER MARKET SHARES

RETAIL MARKET SHARE
PUBLISHER SHARE
DC ENTERTAINMENT 40.39%
MARVEL COMICS 28.49%
IMAGE COMICS 6.87%
IDW PUBLISHING 4.89%
DARK HORSE COMICS 4.76%
DYNAMITE ENTERTAINMENT 2.27%
BOOM! STUDIOS 1.83%
EAGLEMOSS PUBLICATIONS 0.95%
AVATAR PRESS 0.88%
VALIANT ENTERTAINMENT 0.87%
OTHER NON-TOP 10 3.31%
 
UNIT MARKET SHARE
PUBLISHER SHARE
DC ENTERTAINMENT 45.17%
MARVEL COMICS 29.83%
IMAGE COMICS 7.00%
IDW PUBLISHING 4.12%
DARK HORSE COMICS 4.04%
DYNAMITE ENTERTAINMENT 2.19%
BOOM! STUDIOS 1.65%
VALIANT ENTERTAINMENT 0.91%
AVATAR PRESS 0.72%
ZENESCOPE ENTERTAINMENT 0.66%
OTHER NON-TOP 10 3.72%

NEW TITLES SHIPPED

PUBLISHER COMICS SHIPPED GRAPHIC NOVELS SHIPPED MAGAZINES SHIPPED TOTAL SHIPPED
DC ENTERTAINMENT 129 22 0 151
MARVEL COMICS 67 32 0 99
IMAGE COMICS 39 15 0 54
DARK HORSE COMICS 27 19 0 46
IDW PUBLISHING 32 12 0 44
DYNAMITE ENTERTAINMENT 31 5 0 36
BOOM! STUDIOS 19 6 0 25
AVATAR PRESS 8 2 1 11
VALIANT ENTERTAINMENT 7 2 0 9
EAGLEMOSS 0 0 4 4
OTHER PUBLISHERS 85 140 33 258

COMPARATIVE SALES STATISTICS

  DOLLARS UNITS
SEPTEMBER 2013 VS. AUGUT 2013
COMICS 31.66% 29.26%
GRAPHIC NOVELS 11.93% 9.89%
TOTAL COMICS/GN 25.69% 27.79%
SEPTEMBER 2013 VS. SEPTEMBER 2012
COMICS 33.90% 26.97%
GRAPHIC NOVELS 1.76% -2.96%
TOTAL COMICS/GN 23.40% 24.47%
YEAR-TO-DATE 2013 VS. YEAR-TO-DATE 2012
COMICS 12.50% 9.56%
GRAPHIC NOVELS 6.03% 3.67%
TOTAL COMICS/GN 10.43% 9.09%
THIRD QUARTER 2013 VS. SECOND QUARTER 2013
COMICS 7.00% 5.59%
GRAPHIC NOVELS -1.79% -2.05%
TOTAL COMICS/GN 4.21% 4.98%
THIRD QUARTER 2013 VS. THIRD QUARTER 2012
COMICS 11.12% 8.27%
GRAPHIC NOVELS 0.30% -4.86%
TOTAL COMICS/GN 7.64% 7.16%

TOP 10 COMIC BOOKS

RANK DESCRIPTION PRICE ITEM CODE VENDOR
1 FOREVER EVIL #1 $3.99 JUL130149-M DC
2 INFINITY #2 $3.99 JUL130565-M MAR
3 INFINITY #3 $3.99 JUL130570-M MAR
4 X-MEN:BATTLEOF ATOM #1 $3.99 JUL130658-M MAR
5 BATMAN #23.1: THE JOKER $3.99 JUL130185 DC
6 BATMAN #23.2: THE RIDDLER $3.99 JUL130186 DC
7 MIGHTY AVENGERS #1 $3.99 JUL130582-M MAR
8 BATMAN #23.4: BANE $3.99 JUL130188 DC
9 AVENGERS #19 $3.99 JUL130578-M MAR
10 BATMAN #23.3: THE PENGUIN $3.99 JUL130187 DC

TOP 10 GRAPHIC NOVELS

RANK DESCRIPTION PRICE ITEM CODE VENDOR
1 EAST OF WEST VOLUME 1: THE PROMISE TP $9.99 JUN130466 IMA
2 JUSTICE LEAGUE VOL. 3: THE THRONE OF ATLANTIS HC $24.99 MAY130218 DC
3 STAR WARS VOLUME 1: IN THE SHADOW OF YAVIN TP $19.99 MAY130061 DAR
4 THE WALKING DEAD VOLUME 9 HC (MR) $34.99 JUL130491 IMA
5 THE WALKING DEAD 100 PROJECT TP (MR) $12.99 JUL130500 IMA
6 JUSTICE LEAGUE VOL. 2: THE VILLAINS’ JOURNEY TP $16.99 JUN130261 DC
7 SAGA VOLUME 1 TP (MR) $9.99 AUG120491 IMA
8 SAGA VOLUME 2 TP (MR) $14.99 APR130443 IMA
9 MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC VOLUME 2 TP $17.99 JUL130301 IDW
10 SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN VOLUME 1 HC $34.99 APR130716-M MAR

TOP 10 BOOKS

RANK DESCRIPTION PRICE ITEM CODE VENDOR
1 STAR WARS: JEDI ACADEMY HC $12.99 JUN131516 SCH
2 NEIL GAIMAN: FORTUNATELY THE MILK HC $14.99 JUL131502 HAR
3 DC SUPER HEROES WONDER WOMAN: ATTACK OF THE CHEETAH SC $4.95 JUN131469 CAP
4 DOCTOR WHO: CYBERMAN BUST & BOOK KIT $9.95 JUL131466 RUN
5 THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: HYRULE HISTORIA HC $34.99 SEP120055 DAR
6 DC SUPER HEROES BATMAN: TWO-FACE’SDOUBLE TAKESC $4.95 JUL131459 CAP
7 DC SUPER HEROES WONDER WOMAN: MONSTER MAGIC $4.95 JUN131470 CAP
8 FRANK FRAZETTA: ART AND REMEMBRANCES HC $49.99 MAY131406 HER
9 DC SUPER HEROES WONDER WOMAN: CREATURE OF CHAOS $4.95 JUN131468 CAP
10 MARVEL CHRONICLE: A YEAR BY YEAR HISTORY HC $50.00 JUL131453 DK

TOP 10 TOYS

RANK DESCRIPTION ITEM CODE VENDOR
1 DC COMICS COVER GIRLS: BATGIRL STATUE APR130281 DC
2 DC COMICS VARIANT PLAY ARTS KAI: WONDER WOMAN FIGURE MAR138269 SQU
3 DC COMICS VARIANT PLAY ARTS KAI: BATMAN FIGURE MAR138267 SQU
4 MARVEL SELECT: THE WOLVERINE MOVIE FIGURE APR131745 DST
5 DOCTOR WHO TITANS SERIES 2 MINI-FIGURES APR131875 TTN
6 DC THE NEW 52: TRINITY WAR ACTION FIGURE BOX SET MAY130271 DC
7 BATMAN: HUSH: SCARECROW/NIGHTWING/POISON IVY ACTION FIGURE 3-PACK MAY130286 DC
8 DC COMICS VARIANT PLAY ARTS KAI: GREEN LANTERN FIGURE MAR138268 SQU
9 DC COMICS BOMBSHELLS: SUPERGIRL STATUE MAR130317 DC
10 MARVEL UNIVERSE ACTION FIGURES MAY131824 HAS

TOP 10 GAMES

RANK DESCRIPTION ITEM CODE VENDOR
1 RISK LEGACY JUN118204 HAS
2 DC HEROCLIX: BATMAN ’66 CLASSIC TV SERIES EXPANSION JUN138233 NEC
3 DC HEROCLIX: BATMAN ’66 CLASSIC TV SERIES BATMOBILE JUN138232 NEC
4 MY LITTLE PONY MONOPOLY MAY132328 USA
5 MARVEL HEROCLIX: WOLVERINE & X-MEN BOOSTER BRICK JUN132403 NEC
6 THE WALKING DEAD TV BOARD GAME JUL112137 CRY
7 YU-GI-OH! TCG 2013 WAVE 1 COLLECTIBLE TINS MAY138246 KON
8 THE WALKING DEAD COMIC BOARD GAME JUL112185 ALL
9 MAGIC THE GATHERING CCG DUEL DECKS: HEROES VS. MONSTERS JUN138373 ALL
10 PATHFINDER ADVENTURE CARD GAME: RISE OF THE RUNELORDS BASE SET JUN132383 PAI

Comments

  1. Roberto Photos says:

    This is just going prove to the publisher that there are a lot of idiots out there that will buy a $3.99 gimmick book with lackluster story for only 20 pages of material.

  2. Matthew says:

    One thing that stood out to me was the relatively low placing of the Swamp Thing comic, which was one of the best, and the extremely high placing of Joker, which was not terrible, but just blah (Joker’s daughter was truly terrible). So many of them were just meaningless fill-in origin stories. It certainly sound like the people lining up to buy the 3D covers were speculators, and had no intention of reading them. This has nothing to do with storytelling and a pox on DC for playing to humanity’s worst instincts.

  3. Strabo says:

    Apparently the mostly crappy and gimmicky Villains Month comics is what we deserve and apparently want. The sad state of comics, our fault.

  4. Torsten Adair says:

    Quite a few hardcovers on those book lists…

    Here’s the risk with an “interruption” like Villains Month:
    Readers could take it as an opportunity to quit reading the title(s).

    I did this when the X-Men “died” in 1989. Marvel replaced that team with “X-Men Detroit”, and I realized… my favorites aren’t in the title anymore, so why bother? I read Excalibur instead.

    So, here’s a “SKIP MONTH” on many titles. No “villains” issue for Green Arrow, and will I remember the plot from two months ago when I continue reading the New 52? They are already at the bottom of the big pile of comp copies I get every month (Astro City and Batman Beyond are on top).

    Some issues lead into the miniseries event (kinda like “Legends”, but we’ll see which characters are launched). Some are supposed to be “origins” or “backstory” issues. How these get collected? Who knows.

    Ask the Magic Eight Ball six months from now.

  5. Count Vertigo was pretty well tied-in with Green Arrow.

  6. Jason says:

    Fortunately for me my comic shop was willing to let me drop the ones I didn’t want from my pull list even though they were pulling all of the one’s tied to titles I read. I ended up with only Relic, Cheetah, First Son, Man-Bat and Riddler and most of those I went for $2.99. The rest were throw aways that I wanted nothing to do with. I tried to hunt down the Arcane issue but couldn’t find it so will have to go on-line for the $2.99 edition.

  7. Well, lot of money and records but wasn’t this also the month where almost every DC book cost 3.99? It’s a 25% price increase that definitely helps the achievement of these level of sales. (Plus, we have two events from Marvel the same moth, Infinity #2 – #3 and Battle of the Atom #1).

  8. Good move for DC: they sold many comics. There’s no real argument there: the market has spoken: readers like to buy comics with a cool novelty feature. And if they sense scarcity, they are even more interested.
    I saw a few of the lenticular issues at the LCS, and opted not to purchase any. I just did not see anything worth donating $4 for…

  9. Synsidar says:

    There’s no real argument there: the market has spoken: readers like to buy comics with a cool novelty feature. And if they sense scarcity, they are even more interested.

    But the scarcity isn’t real, in a “buying as an investment” sense. Whatever one might think of a creator’s work, buying books because the buyers want to read them produces a much healthier market than buying them compulsively or for their imaginary value as collectibles does. If you think that the quality of the storytelling is questionable now, generating issues solely for the purpose of adding gimmicks to them will make things much worse.

    SRS

  10. Here’s some more commentary on the actual numbers on the VM books:

    http://www.savagecritic.com/retailing/how-dc-printed-villains-month/

    -B

  11. Guiliano wrote: “Well, lot of money and records but wasn’t this also the month where almost every DC book cost 3.99? It’s a 25% price increase that definitely helps the achievement of these level of sales.”

    True, which is why I called out the average cover price as one of the records. There was a significant pullback in pricing after 2010, but cover prices have now caught back up with where they were then.

    However, the unit sales, while not a Diamond-era record, were the highest they’ve been since Darkness #11′s month back in 1998. So it’s not all about the pricing.

  12. While DC’s numbers were huge, the problem with them arrises when you consider the 2D versions, which for the most part didn’t sell, will be returned in HUGE numbers, and skew the DC numbers much higher than they ultimately will be. I know our store will be returning approx. 80% of them, yet they are still counted as initial sales on the charts. Not an accurate picture by any means.

  13. Glenn Simpson says:

    FWIW, just because the story wasn’t good doesn’t mean people automatically purchased it without caring about the story. Don’t people often go to the store and buy a comic based on the cover and idea? You wouldn’t know if the story was good or bad until you got home. I know I have to pre-order my comics a couple of months out.

  14. Matthew says:

    I might as well leave this question here. Is Marc-Oliver still doing the DC sales analysis? Did he write it in German again this month?

  15. Glenn Simpson says:

    Perhaps having to deal with DC having huge success on the basis of marketing gimmicks caused MOF to have a brain aneurysm.

  16. Market manipulation seems to have won the day. This is the takeaway, I think.

    Everything about the success here is inauthentic, artificial.

    This divide between financial wrangling and any real benefit translating to the people slapping down hard-earned money is increasing. Wall Street vs. Main Street stuff here with a sort’ve Global Warming effect. The drops will become more severe, hence the gimmicks need to become even more outrageous to garner attention from a customer base that’s slowly getting more and more immunized to these tactics.

    This is the boiling frog method of running things. Keep turning up the heat until you’ve killed the thing. Hope the eventual meltdown of any solid, bankable audience with an appreciation for the stories being told isn’t an extinction-level event.

  17. Glenn Simpson says:

    Still not sure how DC doing something crass one month a year to get the numbers up to make sure they can continue to do other stuff the other 11 months of the year is such a bad thing or heralds the end of the industry.

  18. “Still not sure how DC doing something crass one month a year to get the numbers up to make sure they can continue to do other stuff the other 11 months of the year is such a bad thing or heralds the end of the industry.”

    This seems either naive or willfully obtuse. My apologies if you’re new here but the more these things are perceived or spun as successful the more they tend to occur–and infect competitors as well.

    Stuff like Villains Month makes me ashamed to be a comicbook fan.

  19. Shellfish says:

    It seems to me that DC is pining for the good old days of 1994. They’re making all the same mistakes. Also coming off villains month, the new Batman 24 is 7 bucks. I have been liking the Batman book. It was one of two DCs I was going to keep buying after this debacle, (Wonder Woman is the other) But now I have a really good stopping point ,and I can buy the two Image #1s that came out this week.

  20. Glenn Simpson says:

    @Tim – or perhaps you’re being paranoid. DC had tons of success with Zero Month last year. Yet DC didn’t decide to make all of their comics set in that year based on that success. At most, you could argue that the Batman Zero Year stuff was prompted by that, but every indication seems to be that most those books are being written by the regular writers so it’s not some huge interruption and the quality on them should be good.

  21. George Mason says:

    Both me and my wallet thank DC, Villains Month gave me a great incentive to cut my pull list in half

  22. Cerebro says:

    So where’s the August DC column? We’re approaching that time of the month when the September columns are due to be released.

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