What The...?

By | Tuesday, May 22, 2007 2 comments
Well, everybody online who's interested in Marvel comic is looking at the advance solicitations for August. Me? I'm going to look back at sales numbers from this past April that were just published over at ICv2.

The first thing I notice is that Fallen Son: Death of Captain America is the top seller with 157,291. That's a refreshing; it wasn't all that long ago that sales of any comic wouldn't even hit six digits. Indeed the top 8 best selling comics are each doing over 120,000. That is great news, generally speaking.

What starts to concern me, though, is that in slot 8 is Mighty Avengers #2 with 121,365 and in slot 9 is Wolverine #53 with 98,441. That's a difference of over 20,000 between the eighth and ninth selling tiers. There's a difference over over 50,000 between #1 and #10. Without scale, that might not mean much think about this: there is effectively a 33% drop-off between the top-selling title and the tenth best-selling title out of at least 300.

Here's another interesting bit: DC's Brave and the Bold #1 sold 1,756 copies in April, DESPITE the fact that it was originally released back in February. And that's still 200 more copies than the first run printing of Oni's Maintenance #3. Now I'll be the first to admit that Brave and the Bold #1 was really well done, but so was Maintenance #3!

OK, fair enough -- they're not really that comparable. How about Silent War #4 outselling Spider-Man/Fantastic Four #1 by 4,000 copies? Having read them, I think Spider-Man/FF is by far the better product, but even if I hadn't, shouldn't a #1 issue featuring several of Marvel's most popular characters outsell a #4 issue featuring, at best, some of Marvel's c-list characters? Plus, aren't Mike Wieringo and Dan Slott fairly popular compared to David Hine and Roy Allan Martinez? I'm not knocking them, by any means, but I simply do NOT understand this difference in sales at all.

Fantastic Four is currently (well, back in April) selling 74,700. I don't recall that the title's numbers got a bump when the first FF movie came through, but it'll be interesting to see if there's a difference now that it's an "established" property.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is the only non-Marvel/non-DC title to break the top 50 with an impressive 96,409. Next on the list is Painkiller Jane #0 at 46,249. The highest selling non-Marvel/non-DC/not-associated-with-another-property title is Walking Dead with only 21,737 -- it comes in at 94th.

What strikes me overall is how much the top-selling comics list is overwhelmingly dominated by what are now considered media properties. Even going past the top 100, the list is littered with more books about Spider-Man, Teen Titans, Transformers, Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek, Simpsons, Texas Chainsaw Masacre, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Walt Disney... There's very little there that's JUST a comic any more.

Not a commentary, by the way, just an observation.
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According to Down the Tubes, the best selling comic in the UK last year was the British reprint of The Simpsons, at an average of over 134,000 copies per issue (sold to a population of, what, about a fifth that of the US?).

I have never seen a copy on sale at a comics shop - all those sales are through newsagents and chain stores.

The icv2 figures are just Diamond's direct market figures. I wonder how the US edition of The Simpsons or Archie or the Johnny DC titles sell at Wal-Mart and the like, and how that would change the perception of the top-selling periodicals?

You bring up an excellent point, Steve, and that's precisely why I didn't mention some of what are viewed as lower-tier titles. I know, for example, many of the Marvel Adventures line have pretty good sell through in the non-comic-shop-market and would certainly be significant factor in Marvel's revenue calculations.

That said, though, US sales for the standard super-hero genre stuff are almost exclusively through Diamond, and adding additional outlets wouldn't affect the overall numbers appreciably, I wouldn't think. Certainly not on the high end.

But then look at the non-media-property stuff. Oni's Maintenance or Virgin's Walk-In for examples. Those're books who have almost zero distribution beyond comic shops. Sure, we don't have order numbers from other distributors like Cold Cut, and it doesn't factor in sales directly from the publisher's web site, but that's still a far cry from the 100,000 ballpark of the upper tier titles.

Again, though... no commentary, just observations.