Marvel had the largest percentage of the unit sales for the top 300 comics in May, 2013 with 33.36%. DC Comics accounted for 28.27% of the total units, Image took 7.48%, IDW another 6.28% and Dark Horse 4.73% leaving 19.88% to the remaining publishers.
Topping the charts was Marvel’s most recent “X-Men” #1, this time around by Brian Wood and Olivier Coipel, moving an estimated 177,629 units through Diamond to retailers during May 2013. It was one of only two items to crack the 100,000 mark, with “Batman” #20 being the other with about 129,036 units. In the past, Brian Wood has commented on how the numbers reported here don’t match those he sees on his royalty statements. He’s right — they don’t, nor should they.
The information a creator like Wood sees on something like a royalty statement includes sales outside of the direct sales through Diamond for a given month. Newsstand sales, subscription sales and other channels flow into the data he sees that we don’t. The data here is an estimate of what Diamond reports as sold to retailers. Any extra copies Diamond orders to replace damages or cover expected future reorders is not included since those copies haven’t yet been invoiced to retailers. This is “sell in” information which is not to be confused with “sell through” information which would be sales from the retailer to readers and collectors. Given that comic book stores usually have comics on the shelves, although sometimes not for the items we readers are seeking out the most, sell in numbers are obviously going to be higher than sell through numbers.
Sell through is very important to retailers as it measures how much of what they bought they were able to sell. Not having enough copies reduces the potential profit for a retailer, but having too many copies left over results in a loss which is far worse in the short term. In the long term, not having enough copies, particularly of first issues, reduces the readership of a title which can reduce the potential profit for the life of a title. In addition to being a key performance indicator for retailers, sell thought information would give us a clearer picture of how titles are actually doing. Sales gimmicks like multiple covers inflate the sell in numbers but not the sell through numbers. As I described in more detail back in my analysis of the December 2007 data (http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=12475), comic book sales are a somewhat self-correcting system with readers casting the “popular vote” for titles and the retailers serving as an “Electoral College’ of sorts factoring in both past sales and predictions of future demand. Retailers that guess too low have the option of placing reorders while those guessing too high are stuck with the unsold merchandise. In both cases, retailers adjust accordingly each month. In theory, if the demand were to remain stable, which we know isn’t the case but will ignore for the moment, then eventually the retailer orders would accurately reflect that hypothetically stable demand. Alas, we readers are a fickle lot and that demand is in constant flux making it next to impossible for retailers to accurately predict it.
Case in point, an estimated 78,004 copies of “Iron Man” #9 were sold to retailers of release on May 1 just days before the release of the “Iron Man 3” film. For comparison, the preceding issue only sold about 43,972 copies with most of that increase of 34,032 units evaporating two weeks later with “Iron Man” #10 which sold approximately 45,423 units. Did retailers bump up orders in the hopes of walk in traffic because of the movie? Historically, ongoing titles rarely, if ever, increase in sales as the result of a movie release. So, was something else going on? The secret origin of Tony Stark started in “Iron Man” #9 which could have contributed to increased sales but not to the extent of the 77.39% increase. Issues #9 and #10 both had the same sort of variant covers so that doesn’t seem to explain the jump either. Based on this sell in data, “Iron Man” #9 significantly outsold both the previous and subsequent issues. The sell through data may well paint a very different picture but since it isn’t available, we’ll probably never know for sure how well those issues sold to readers.
Another item with a much more direct movie tie in was “Star Trek” #21 from IDW which sold an estimated 12,055 units. While that is up 14.72% from the previous issue, which works out to around 1,547 copies, it is a drop in the bucket to how well the “Star Trek: Into Darkness” film did. Ironically, this issue references the events of the movie and picks up where it and the video game left off while the “Iron Man” title is set firmly in the comic book continuity which has no direct ties to the Marvel film continuity. Given the overlap between Star Trek fans and comic book readers, sales around 12,000 units seem surprisingly low, particularly during a month in which a new Star Trek film was released.
Another popular property with comic by IDW is “Doctor Who” which just finished the current season on television. “Doctor Who: Prisoners of Time” #5 sold an estimated 13,097 units while “Doctor Who” #9 sold around 11,993 units. With the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who well underway with BBC specials on the various incarnations of the Doctor, those sales also seem low compared to the fan base of the property. Again, there is noticeable overlap between those fans and comic book readers. To put the sales of the “Star Trek” and “Doctor Who” comics into perspective, IDW beat the combined sales of those three issues with “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” #7 which sold approximately 32,187 units.
Perhaps there are more fans of “My Little Pony” than both “Star Trek” and “Doctor Who” but that is questionable. Even the combination of the two properties in the form of “Star Trek: The Next Generation/Doctor Who: Assimilation” topped out with sales of around 22,133 units. Whatever IDW is doing to promote “My Little Pony” is working.
As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to email me at John.Mayo@ComicBookResources.com.