Wednesday, May 3rd was an interesting day for comics retailers across the United States. On that day, comic shops saw the release of the conclusion to DC's universe spanning event, "Infinite Crisis." Also shipping to comic shops that same day was the first issue of Marvel's latest universe spanning event, "Civil War." Two highly anticipated issues, one new comics day. All of this just days before the 2006 edition of Free Comic Book Day.
The first thought that sprang to mind here at CBR World Headquarters in Los Angeles was, "Man, comics retailers must have made a mint last Wednesday." So, we decided to find out if that was indeed the case. Last week we surveyed owners, managers and employees at nine different stores across the United States to see exactly how this past Wednesday performed. Was it their biggest sales day ever? How did that Wednesday compare to your average new comics day? How did the release of these two books affect their orders for the month? Those and many other questions were tackled by those who responded and there were some surprising responses along the way.
First, we wanted to know how sales were on May 3rd. Was this a particularly heavy day sales wise for these retailers? All stores reported brisk sales, with five stores reporting better than average sales for a Wednesday. Chris Powell, the General Manager of the Lone Star Comics chain in Texas said, "May 3rd was a very strong sales day, with some of our stores doing up to 150-160 percent of a typical Wednesday. Some stores were 'only' around 130 percent, but all eight surpassed my expectations."
Michael Malve of Atomic Comics in Phoenix, Arizona said final sales numbers were about double their average new comic book day numbers. "All four of my stores reported seeing more regulars then a usual new book day and lots of new faces as well," said Malve. "New book day is always our biggest day of the week and the big two were smart to put their two biggest books out at the same time."
"May 3rd was indeed a heavy sales day at True Believers," added Kevin Drennan, Operations Manager of True Believers Comics & Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico. "Our sales were better than average and total sales for the day tied with some of our best Wednesdays ever."
Yet two of the stores we surveyed, The Mind's Eye Comics in Eagan, MN and Graham Crackers Comics in Illinois, said the previous Wednesday, April 26th, performed better than May 3rd. John Robinson of Graham Crackers Comics explained, "It was an above average Wednesday, but not a record breaker or even near a record breaker. The previous week when every publisher dumped every book possible on us, was much larger."
But how did the sales of these two books -- the cover price of which was a full dollar above the average cover price -- impact the sales of other comics that were shipped that same Wednesday? "It was a fairly light comic week, so sales of the other titles were not negatively impacted by the sales on 'Civil War' and 'Infinite Crisis,'" Nancy McCann, owner of Comics Unlimited in Westminster, CA told CBR News. Most of the stores we surveyed had a similar answer, with Chris Powell of Lone Star noting the "party atmosphere" created by the release of these two key issues generated additional excitement in many of their stores, which he believes helped the sale of other comics. "We sold more of 'Zoom Suit' than we did the previous week, for instance, and a number of the X-Men Omnibus Hardcovers," said Powell.
When asked if any of the stores had to adjust their orders on other books to accommodate the high orders on "Civil War" and "Infinite Crisis," all of those who responded said absolutely not. "We never end up adjusting numbers on books like 'Captain Atom: Armageddon' because a big Marvel crossover, or DC crossover is coming out," said Robinson of Graham Crackers. "We stick with our cycle sales history for ordering non-tie in books. If someone puts off buying 'Firestorm' this week, they tend to pick up the following week anyway."
"Our Monthly Diamond budget has been raised several times over the last several months to accommodate all these super hyped up events of late," said Malve of Atomic Comics. "From 'Infinite Crisis' to '52' and now 'Civil War,' our budget has been thoroughly destroyed, but so has our monthly sales projections. What we usually have to cut down on in our budget is specialty items like shirts and miscellaneous items, but the general books are not affected."
When asked to compare the sales and interest level in "Civil War" #1 and "Infinite Crisis" #1 from last year, most stores said the sales were pretty even. Powell of Lone Star Comics said, "The level of interest seemed about the same to me, but it was interesting to see who was interested. 'Civil War' had more new or returning faces coming into the store than 'Infinite Crisis' did, at least in this first week. I think their aggressive PR campaign paid off in that respect."
Malve of Atomic Comics had a similar take. "I have been a leader in this industry for over twenty years and have never seen an animal like 'Civil War.' I truly believe this book will sell better which each new issue that comes out. 'Infinite Crisis' was huge, but on a different level. The scope of 'Civil War' will truly change the shape of the Marvel U for the next few years."
George Demonakos of The Comic Stop in Lynnwood, WA had a different story. "'Crisis' had a lot more interest and higher sales. Our numbers on 'Infinite Crisis' #1 were higher than on 'Civil War' #1 and I sold a bigger percentage of my order of 'Infinite Crisis' than I have my order of 'Civil War.'"
Kevin Drennan of True Believers Comics also had a similar experience. "There was more interest in 'Infinite Crisis.' It sold out right away for us and we had to re-order. 'Civil War' sold well, but we still have copies on the rack."
We also asked each store to tell us which book sold more, "Civil War" #1 or "infinite Crisis" #7. Now, this isn't exactly a fair comparison considering interest in "Infinite Crisis" has built over many months and many customers had the series already on their pull list. That being said, most of the stores reported sales velocity on both books was about even, with a slight edge going to "Infinite Crisis" #7. Kevin Drennan of True Believers Comics & Gallery noted that "Infinite Crisis" outsold "Civil War" in his store, but not by a significant amount. "I think the major difference was that we sold more rack copies of 'Infinite Crisis,'" said Drennan.
Malve of Atomic Comics said "Civil War" outsold "Infinite Crisis" on first day numbers in his stores and noted that Free Comic Book Day on Saturday provided retailers with a unique opportunity to sell additional copies of "Civil War." "With FCBD this weekend and all the fresh new faces we will be seeing, it will be hard for [customers] to pass up on buying the first issue of 'Civil War' as opposed to getting a new reader to try and start a series at it's last issue."
Marvel did a last minute promotional blitz on "Civil War" #1, hitting numerous news outlets, from mainstream media to National Public Radio. Most of our respondents noted it's hard to say exactly what kind of affect it had on sales, but John Robinson of Graham Crackers said he did see a few new faces on May 3rd. "Some of it seemed to be coming from the other local stores not getting enough copies and their customers coming to us," said Robinson "We received several phone calls asking 'Do you still have 'Civil War'' -- always nice to get those!"
Chris Powell of Lone Star Comics said they definitely saw an increase in interest due to the media blitz. "To capitalize, we drew new customers' attention to 'Civil War' by running registration booths in some stores, with customers filling out their Registration Forms for posting around the store," said Powell. "It's part of a contest we're running through the entire 'Civil War' run, and they really got into the spirit of things."
Will Moulton, Executive Buyer for Mile High Comics in Denver, Colorado, also felt the full court media press helped their sales with new customers. "The last minute promotion did work at all the stores," said Moulton. "All of them had new customers coming in for 'Civil War' #1 and three of our stores are sold out of their initial orders. Overall, a great job by Marvel and their promotion team!"
All of our respondents were excited about the prospect of selling "Civil War" #1 to the many new customers expected Saturday for Free Comic Book Day. All of them said "Civil War" #1 was an easy sell to new walk-in customers, with Dan Merrit of Green Brain Comics in Dearborn, Michigan noting the release of the $.25 cent issue of "G.I. Joe" also had huge potential on FCBD. Graham Crackers John Robinson agreed. "'Civil War's' timing is perfect for FCBD, as is the 'G.I. Joe' 25 cent comic which I can now give away for FCBD," said Robinson.
"'One Year Later' and 'Civil War' (not to mention the related tie-ins) seem like good 'jumping on' points for customers, so I think this is going to be a very exciting summer, starting with Free Comic Book Day," said Powell.
"We will be showing new customers a variety of titles on Free Comic Book Day, depending on their interests," added McCann of Comics Unlimited. "Many of the new faces on Free Comic Book Day are kids, so we tend to push Disney's, Archie's, Cartoon Network and Simpson's comics. Events such as FCBD tend to bring in lapsed readers, so I expect we will be selling plenty of copies of 'Civil War' and 'Infinite Crisis' this weekend."