Marvel had 39.61% of the total units sold for top 300 comics in August 2013 followed by DC Comics with 35.07%. Image Comics accounted for another 7.87% of the units, 4.76% went to IDW Publishing and 4.26% for Dark Horse leaving 8.42% for the other twelve publishers with items on the list.
“Infinity” #1 topped the chart, selling an estimated 205,819 units to retailers in August, making it the fourth best-selling comic book issue of the year behind “Justice League of America” #1, “Superman Unchained” #1 and “Guardians of the Galaxy” #1.
First issues sales are not as indicative of the long term sales level as they used to be, however. The average second issue drop in August was around 30.81%, with the lowest being 7.74% and the largest being 53.28%. Second issue sales are a reflection of how retailers think the title might perform, before consumers have had a chance to see the product. The sales power of first issues has been drained by too many title relaunches over the past few years. Multiple covers on first issues and fewer or none on the second issues further clouds the issue and potentially gives the mistaken impression that readers are making a mass exodus on new titles.
The success of “Infinity” #1 probably comes as no surprise to most people since it was promoted as an event title. I expected it to be near the top of the chart, but I wasn’t sure it would be the best seller, and certainly not by around 70,000 units. The main reason for that is I don’t consider “Infinity” to be an event title. The promotion for it struck me as taking an Avengers/New Avengers storyline and spinning it out into a miniseries as a way to increase its visibility.
My definition of an event is a title involving the majority of the characters and titles set within that narrative universe. “Crisis on Infinite Earths” was the first classic event. DC said worlds would live and worlds would die, and they weren’t kidding. An event storyline must be important enough for a significant number of the readers of most of the titles in a narrative universe to feel some sort of significant compulsion to at least consider reading the event title. Skipping an event title involves a reader potentially missing major status quo changes in that narrative universe that can’t help but impact most of the major characters. Simply put, if most of the titles and characters in the universe aren’t noticeably impacted in some meaningful way, even if it is only to derail the ongoing storylines for a month or two, than the title isn’t an event in my mind. (Feel free to use whatever definition works for you.)
There is a big difference in the sales impact of events which fit that definition and those that don’t. “Civil War” and “Secret Invasion” involved an overwhelming majority of the titles set in the mainstream Marvel Universe. On the other hand, “Shadowland” involved a much more focused group of titles and characters. Neither type of story is better or worse than the other but there is a world of difference between the sales of “Civil War” and “Shadowland” and the various surrounding miniseries.
While a lot of characters are involved in “Infinity,” the main titles impacted are “Avengers” and “New Avengers.” People who aren’t reading one or both of those titles might not feel any pressing need to read Infinity since it might not impact titles they do read. If you aren’t an Avengers fan or a fan of an Avenger, do you feel the need to read “Infinity?” One of the other measures of the success of “Infinity” will be how much it bumps up the sales of “Avengers” and “New Avengers” which are part of the core story. “Avengers Assemble” #18 increased in sales by around 14.85% and “Captain Marvel” #15 increased by 21.69%. Both of those issues were tie-ins with the “Infinity” storyline but apparently not important enough parts of the story to be included in the flowchart at the end of the “Infinity” issues.
The more titles and characters involved in a storyline, the higher the potential sales of the event title and the larger a bump tie-in issues might get. Smaller storylines (“Regional incidents?”) that involve a handful of title happen fairly frequently. Storylines over at DC like “Nights of the Owls,” “Batman: Zero Year” and “Trinity War” are good examples. Being part of the Trinity War storyline helped “Trinity of Sin: Phantom Stranger” #11 increase in sales by over 30%, an increase which will almost certainly be gone with the next issue, which ships in October.
The concept of event fatigue has come and gone, yet the event titles remain. The reason is simple: why readers may or may not actually tire of the events, those titles sell well, and issues which tie-in with those stories also sell better. Until that changes, expect these sorts of storylines to continue.
While Marvel typically accounts for the majority of the unit sales for the top 300 comics, there is a strong chance that DC could dominate the comic book sales chart in September. There could be twice as many as usual comics from the New 52 titles on the list next month between the 3D covers and 2D covers. This isn’t a sure thing given the allocations of the 3D covers and the questionable handling of DC’s eleventh hour decision to do the 2D covers for a dollar less. With “Infinity” and “Battle of the Atom” happening concurrently at Marvel, and “Forever Evil” and “Batman: Zero Year” going on at DC, there might not be as much room as usual for the other publishers in the top 300 comics list.
As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to email me at John.Mayo@ComicBookResources.com.
On an unrelated note, while on vacation a few weeks ago, I came across two very nice comic book shops and I picked up business cards from each of them. As a result, I’ve decided to start a collection of comic book store business cards. The problem is that I don’t travel all that much these days so I’d like some help in building up this collection. Ideally, I’d like to have the physical business card but that seems like a logistical headache. For now, I’ll settle for building this collection digitally with scans of the business cards. So, if you enjoy these articles on the comic book sales and are willing to pick up a card from your local comic book shop and email me the scan of it, I’d appreciate it. Thanks.