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Sales Gap Between DC, Marvel Narrows in February, Few Titles Top 65K

by  in CBR Exclusives, Comic News Comment
Sales Gap Between DC, Marvel Narrows in February, Few Titles Top 65K

February 2017 had 6,326,921 estimated units in the top 300 comics list, a drop of around 665,002 units from last month. This is the lowest total for the top 300 comics since March 2016. DC had 41.54% of the top 300 comics sales, Marvel had 41.27% and Image had 7.24%.

As we can see, the first quarter of a year are usually the weakest sales of the year with January 2011 being the record low. The drop in the overall sales for the top 30 comics since the record high of 9,355,046 unit in August 2016 is a more pronounced version of the usual fluctuations in the marketplace. No doubt somebody reading this thinks DC is to blame for the dropping sales while someone else blames Marvel and other people blame other publishers.

The truth is that no one publisher is to blame. This trend is happening across the various publishers with DC was down 275,897 units for the month and Marvel was down 317,325 units. IDW was the exception to the downward trend, up 9,121 units in February.

The gap between DC and Marvel was the smallest we’ve seen with a difference of only 17,088 units between the 2,628,220 units for DC and the 2,611,132 units for Marvel. That gap is a few units more than “Gwenpool” #11 sold in rank 124. It is unusual for the two main publishers to be selling roughly the same number of units. Usually one publisher is doing noticeable better than the other.

Another way to look at the gap between DC and Marvel this month is to compare it to the sales of “Silver Surfer” #8 which sold around 16,217 units in December 2016 and had no incentive covers. The next issue, “Silver Surfer” #9, has a 1-in-25 incentive cover by Simone Bianchi and arrives in stores on March 8th. If that incentive cover bumps sales by 871 units, which is possible, and that issue came out in February then Marvel could have closed that gap and possibly outsold DC in February. “Silver Surfer” #9 was solicited with an expected shipping date of November 23rd, 2016 but is clearly running late. In fairness to Marvel, when I started looking for suspended Marvel titles, a had to go back a few months to find any.

Continuing titles which lost sales or released fewer issues, defunct titles and suspected titles outweighed new titles, returning titles and titles which released more issues resulting in a net loss of 665,002 units.

A total of 16,712 unit of gains were seen in February with Image accounting for 14,412 of those units.

All three of the titles which shipped more issues in February than in January were Marvel titles which added a combined total of 52,578 units to the list in February.

The faster frequency of many Marvel and DC titles risks overwhelming readers which could cause a backlash resulting in declining sales. In February, 28 titles shipped twice during the month versus the 29 which did so in January. If the content is good, there won’t be a problem. If readers aren’t happy with the contents, or happy enough given the frequency, sales will decline.

This category is for titles which are essentially stable in sales including those that dropped by 250 units or less from month to month. This category totaled up to a 2,446 unit loss.

“US Avengers” launched last month and shipped the first two issues. “US Avengers” #3 shipped in February, down another 34.03% to 19,476 units. That series has gone from topping the list in January to rank 111 very rapidly. Marvel accounted for 213,077 of the 223,009 units lost from few issues being released in February than January.

Around 721,475 units were lost on continuing titles in February. DC accounted for 229,468 units of the lost, Marvel accounted for 435,537 units with the other publishers on the top 300 comics list accounting for a combined 56,370 units. The chart only shows titles which lost more than 5,000 units from month to month.

Topping the list of sales declines was “Justice League/Power Rangers” #2 which dropped by 64.86% down to 32,835 units. That is about twice the sales of “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” #12 and about half of the sales of “Justice League.”

Some of the Marvel drops are a reflection of the over-shipping in January.

“Batman” lost 7,885 units between January and February which isn’t a big deal. What is a little surprising is “Batman” #17 sold 99,637 units which is the first time the title has dropped below 100,000 since the New 52 relaunch in September 2011. With “Batman” slipping is sales, even a little as it did, it opens the door for “The Walking Dead” with its long term upward trend to potentially become the top selling ongoing title in comics at some point. My gut feeling is that could happen before the end of 2018, possible even before the end of 2017.

“Star Wars: Darth Maul” #1 launched with 105,177 units. It has a 1-in-10, a 1-in-15, a 1-in-25, a 1-in-50, a 1-in-100 and two covers retailers could order all they wanted of if they exceeded 125% of their orders for “Star Wars: Han Solo” #2 with orders of the regular cover. Promotions like that seem to require a spreadsheet to work out the potential profit/loss calculations.

“Justice League of America” #1 sold 93,494 units, outselling the “Justice League” title which is selling around 65,000 units. The “Justice League of America” is likely to drop below the sales of “Justice League” in fairly short order. “Justice League of America” features lesser known characters like Black Canary, Vixen, Ray, the Atom, (Killer) Frost and Lobo, even having Batman as the team leader won’t prevent this title from being seen as ancillary behind the “Justice League” which features Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Aquaman, Cyborg and two Green Lanterns. Justice League title do better when they feature the core Justice Leaguers. The same holds true with the Avengers, X-Men and other team titles.

“Paper Girls,” “Sex Criminals” and “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” topped the list of returning titles in February. Returning titles totaled up to 332,251 units in February.

Suspended titles equated to a loss of 417,721 units from the January top 300 sales total.

A couple of Image titles topped the list of suspended titles in February with “Saga,” “Reborn” and “Outcast” not shipping in February. Keep in mind suspended titles are titles which didn’t ship during the month including planned skip months. Late titles, on the other hand, are titles which ship later than the expected ship date they were solicited with. Typically, late titles are in the returning titles category since they usually are late enough to have skipped a calendar month. An example of a late title in February would be “Karnak” #6 which was solicited in February 2016 with an expected shipping date of April 20th, 2016 but arrived in stores on February 1st, 2017, 41 weeks late and 19 weeks after the previous issue shipped.

Defunct titles equated to a loss of 612,817 units from the January top 300 sales total. The end of “Justice League/Suicide Squad” last month and the various “Justice League of America: Rebirth” issues meant that DC has 404,206 units from January which wouldn’t continue into February. DC accounted for roughly two-thirds of the sales lost from defunct titles in February.

Titles which might become defunct in the near future include “Mosaic” and “Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur” both of which are selling under 9,000 units.

Most of the activity in this category was Monsters Unleashed tie-in issues. All the “Monsters” Unleashed” tie-in issues sold less in February than any of the “Monsters” Unleashed” tie-in issues sold in January. These sold between 1,200 to 10,000 units less than the regular issue of the title for the month. With the “Monsters Unleashed” #2 selling 74,107 units and “Monsters” Unleashed” #3 selling 43,355 units, it is hard to call this event a success. A presumably ongoing “Monsters” Unleashed” title will follow the event which seems a bit optimistic.

Very little reorder activity was on the list in February. The most notable is the 6,854 units for “Justice League/Power Rangers” #1.

Overall, February 2017 was a slightly below average month for the top 300 comics. DC had 15 items over 50,000 units in February. Marvel only had 5 comics which sold over 50,000 units: “Star Wars: Darth Maul” #1, “Star Wars” #28, “Amazing Spider-Man” #24, “IvX” #4 and “IvX” #5. Of the titles over 65,000 units, three were first issues which are likely to drop with the next issue. “Batman,” “The Walking Dead,” “All Star Batman” and “Star Wars” are the only continuing titles likely to put items on the list in March over 65,000 units. There will be both new and returning titles at the top of the list next month. For the retailer base to be strong, they need a decent number titles shipping one or more issue with reliable sales over 65,000 units per issue.

For a more in-depth discussion of the sales data, check out the Mayo Report episodes of the Comic Book Page podcast at www.ComicBookPage.com. The episode archived cover the past decade of comic book sales on a monthly basis with yearly recap episodes. In addition to those episodes on the sales data, every Monday is a Weekly Comics Spotlight episode featuring a comic by DC, a comic by Marvel and a comic by some other publisher. I read around 200 new comics a month so the podcast covers a wide variety of the comics currently published. If you are looking for more or different comics to read, check out the latest Previews Spotlight episode featuring clips from various comic book fans talking about the comics they love. With thousands of comics in Previews every month, Previews Spotlight episodes are a great way to find out about new comic book titles that may have flown under your comic book radar.

As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to email me at John.Mayo@ComicBookResources.com.

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