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Comic Sales Rise Over 500K in January, Despite Major Marvel Fluctuations

January 2019 had 6,398,519 units in the top 300 comics list, an increase of 551,128 units from last month. DC accounted for most of the net increase this month.

Marvel Comics placed 2,907,455 units in the top 300 comics, an increase of 195,905 units and accounted for 45.44% of the total units.

DC Comics placed 2,382,929 units in the top 300 comics, an increase of 470,176 units and accounted for 37.24% of the total units.

Image Comics placed 430,132 units in the top 300 comics, a decrease of 98,322 units and accounted for 6.72% of the total units.

IDW Publishing placed 174,088 units in the top 300 comics, a decrease of 39,013 units and accounted for 2.72% of the total units.

Dark Horse placed 144,926 units in the top 300 comics, an increase of 15,971 units and accounted for 2.26% of the total units.

BOOM! Studios placed 93,866 units in the top 300 comics, a decrease of 30,454 units and accounted for 1.47% of the total units.

Dynamite Entertainment placed 88,099 units in the top 300 comics, an increase of 6,983 units and accounted for 1.38% of the total units.

The premiere publishers accounted for 97.23% of the total units for the top 300 comics this month while all of the other publishers with items in the top 300 accounted for 2.77% of the total units for the top 300 comics.

The up-swing of 2,839,728 units from new and increased sales was enough to compensate for the down-swing of 2,288,600 units from lost sales for the net increase of 551,128 units.

The 1,285,022 units from the new titles and the 967,543 units from the returning titles added more units than the loss of 881,5683 units from the defunct titles and the 608,595 units from the suspended titles.

The 11 titles in the continuing titles which gained sales category accounted for 332,694 units in the top 300 comics with an upswing of 19,968 units.

Marvel accounted for 57.62% of the units in this category and DC accounted for another 39.93% of the units.

Supergirl #26 increased by 7,935 units thanks to the open-to-order variant cover by Stanley "Artgerm" Lau over the previous issues. That previous issue of Supergirl #25 had a higher price of $4.99 Artgerm covers have a solid track record of increasing sales of issues.

Doctor Strange #10 increased by 5,766 units for the 400th issue of Doctor Strange across the various titles and volume the series has had over the years. Odds are that gain will vanish on the next issue.

Amazing Spider-Man was up 3,139 units in January compared to last month. Amazing Spider-Man #13 was down 8,759 units followed by Amazing Spider-Man #14 was up 25,301 units thanks to a Conan incentive cover with a meet-or-exceed 100% of Amazing Spider-Man #11 requirement.

The 9 titles in the continuing titles which shipped more issues category accounted for 777,078 units in the top 300 comics with an upswing of 428,849 units. There were five shipping weeks in January while there were only four in December, one of which was a basically skip week with only a few items released.

DC Comics accounted for 55% of this category with an upswing of 271,564 units for a total of 427,384 units.

Detective Comics shipped 3 issues this month versus the single issue last month for an increase of 104,808 units. Flash shipped 3 issues this month versus the single issue last month for an increase of 75,996 units. Wonder Woman shipped 3 issues this month versus the single issue last month for an increase of 68,280 units. Titans shipped 3 issues this month versus the single issue last month for an increase of 22,480 units.

Marvel accounted for the other 45% of the category with an upswing of 157,285 units and a total of 349,694 units. All of the Marvel titles shipped two issues this month versus a single issue last month.

The 7 titles in the continuing titles with reasonably stable sales category accounted for 62,047 units in the top 300 comics with a downswing of 871 units.

IDW accounted for 52.58% of the downswing and 30.35% of the units in this category.

The 5 titles in the continuing titles which shipped fewer issues category accounted for 230,136 units in the top 300 comics with a downswing of 170,422 units.

Marvel accounted for 66.49% percent of the net delta and 77.64% percent of units for this category.

The 115 titles in the continuing titles which lost sales category accounted for 2,260,253 units in the top 300 comics with a downswing of 517,878 units.

DC accounted for 45.59% of the losses in this category. Batman Who Laughs which accounted for 19.93% of the loss had by far the largest drop in this category with a drop of 103,2228 units. Batman had the most units sold in the category with 174,293 units.

Many of the other large drops in the category were on second issues such as Superior Spider-Man, X-Force, Miles Morales: Spider-Man, SHAZAM!, Prodigy, Livewire and Martian Manhunter.

The 37 titles in the new titles category accounted for an upswing of 1,285,022 units.

Marvel accounted for 76.5% of this category with new title for the Man Without Fear miniseries bridging the gap between Daredevil volumes, Conan the Barbarian, Captain Marvel, Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man and Guardians of the Galaxy among other.

DC accounted for 7.72% of the category with two new Wonder Comics titles Young Justice and Naomi both of which are written by Brian Michael Bendis.

The 43 titles in the returning titles category accounted an upswing of 967,543 units.

DC accounted for 63.66% of the category in part due to many items being shifted from December to January because of the holiday skip week. Major returning titles included Heroes in Crisis and Action Comics.

The 64 titles in the suspended titles category accounted for a downswing of 608,595 units.

DC accounted for 45.07% of the loss in this category. Batman Damned and Doomsday Clock combined accounted for 43.13% of the total drop for this category. Content issues had caused problems for Batman Damned and Doomsday Clock has had numerous scheduling challenges. The evolution of the DC Universe during the length run of Doomsday Clock make it questionable how that event series will be connected to the the continuity to the DC universe by the time it ends. All of the other suspended titles seem comparatively trivial when stacked up against those tow titles.

The 39 titles in the defunct titles category accounted for a downswing of 881,583 units.

Marvel accounted for 90.69% of the losses in this category between the ending of Infinity Wars, Spider-Geddon, X-Men: Extermination, Star Wars: Age of the Republic and the Defenders: Best Defense titles themselves and the related side titles. Some of these losses weren't actually ongoing title but since one-shots which were treated as ongoing titles with the assignment of series codes. This chart is one of the best examples of the rotating title strategy Marvel employs and the way it can impact sales of ongoing titles. Not all of these titles have clear replacement titles for readers to transition onto. Even those which have clear replacement titles, not all of the readers will make that transition from title to title. Marvel clearly hopes that new readers will make up for the lose of any readers which opt not to make the transition. Marvel also often loads up the first issues of the new titles with plenty of incentive covers which boost the sales. The sales of those incentive covers are sales of the issue and don't translate into readers which will continue with the title based on the story content. Effectively, Marvel ensured they needed to sell the retailers which in turn needed to sell readers and speculators on a total 799,484 units just to stay even with Marvel sales last month. While this would seem like a losing strategy, Marvel routinely sell the most comics in the top 300 indicating the rotating title approach is working for them.

The 12 titles in the annuals/specials category accounted for 119,906 units in the top 300 comics with an upswing of 119,906 units, a downswing of 198,587 units for a net a decrease of 78,681 units.

DC had the largest upswing with 109,710 units and the largest downswing with 68,207 units resulting in a net increase of 41,503 in this category for the month. DC had three items in this category this month and only a single item last month. Marvel had the second largest upswing with 10,196 units and the second largest downswing with 104,725 units resulting in a net decrease of 94,529 units. Marvel has only a single item in this category this month and three item last month. Obviously the number of items has in any given category each month can influence how they do in the category that month.

The 41 titles in the non-series category accounted for an upswing of 315,126 units, a downswing of 176,780 units for a net an increase of 138,346 units.

Marvel dominated this category in both directions. The 283,306 units Marvel had on the positive side of this category accounted for 89.9% of the upswing and the 136,482 units on the negative side of the category accounted for 77.2% of the downswing for the category. The True Believers line of inexpensive reprints sold 105,471 units across the ten items this month which was 12,411 units less than the 117,882 units sold by the ten items last month. While the sales of this line fluctuates from month to month, it routinely sells in the ballpark of 100,000 units.

DC continues to leave money on the table by failing to come up with some sort of equivalent reprint line. Perhaps they could do direct market 100 page giants which reprint four or five issues of classic runs of old titles like the New Teen Titans series from the 1980s or the original run of Warlord of reprints of Legion of Super-Heroes. If the page counts don't work out perfectly, they could always reprint a few Who's Who pages to round out an issue. A monthly series of $4.99 100 page reprints could be a great way to reprint ongoing titles from periods when the stories didn't have clean beginnings and endings every few issues like modern stories do. Surely there is something DC could and should be doing in the way of inexpensive reprints which could have the same sort of success as the True Believers line at Marvel.

The 19 titles in the reorders category accounted for 48,714 units in the top 300 comics with an upswing of 43,834 units, a downswing of 74,404 units for a net a decrease of 30,570 units.

DC accounted for 48.54% of the upswing in this category with reorders for Batman Who Laughs and Batman Damned. Marvel did far better with reorders last month with eleven items last month and only three items this month resulting in a loss of 48,632 units in this category this month.

Marvel had the largest upswing and downswing this month which is neither unusual nor unexpected. Since Marvel moves the most units almost every month there is more room for sales to come and go. The upswing for just new titles from Marvel was more than the total upswing for DC this month. Likewise, the downswing from defunct Marvel titles eclipsed the total downswing for DC this month. This volatility is a result of Marvel rotating titles in and out on a fairly frequent basis and the heavy use of incentive covers including on first issues of new titles. DC does far fewer incentive covers and fewer title rotations than Marvel.

Incentive covers have their place in the industry. There is a demand for them and that demand should be met. There is a risk with incentive covers that the demand could be driven by speculators who try to profit from flipping the covers at a mark up. If that profit vanishes so does that demand for more incentive covers. We saw that sort of speculator bubble burst in the 1990s so we know it can happen. The question is if we'll see a repeat of that or not. Hopefully we won't but I worry we could at some point in the not too distant future. Incentive covers by their nature only sell copies of the particular issue they are on. We usually see sales on a title drop right back into the sales trend the title was before an issue with numerous variant covers. The tactic sells copies on an issue but rarely gains readers for the title. It begs the question of what is being sold, the story in the comic which happens to have a physical form or the physical copy of the comics which happens to have a story in it. The might seem like semantics but it is a very important question since the story content will bring readers back for more while people buying a comic for the collectible cover are almost guaranteed not to return for the next issue unless it also has a incentive cover. Selling based on the story content can help the title while selling based on an incentive cover only helps the particular issue.

Title rotation is unlikely to end any time soon. Marvel will probably end Captain Marvel, Guardians of the Galaxy, Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man, Invaders, Champions and Marvel Comics Presents, which all launched in January, well before those titles reach three dozen issues. Some will probably end much sooner than with many of them being immediately replaced by new volumes of the same property if not the exact same title. There is some sort of cost associated with the marketing and promotion which leads to a person picking up a new series. That cost is incurred each time a title ends and is replaced by a new title. Some of that cost is the incentive covers for the first issue of the new volume but some it if is just part of spinning up the new title. There are almost certainly some overhead costs like getting a new ISBN number and logo for the new volume which might be trivial but still have to be paid. In most cases, based on the sales data I have doing back to early 2003, sales on the new title simply continue the sales trend of the previous title unless there is some substantive change in the series like a change in the creative team or direction of the title. In those cases, the sales trend probably would have been the same if the title had not been renamed and/or renumbered aside from whatever incentive covers were put on the first issue of the new title. Even if those incentive covers had been on the same issues and they were released under then title and issue numbering of the older series, sales probably would not have been as high. There is still some sales power of first issues even those which aren't really what many of us would consider a first issue of a new property.

While incentive covers and title rotation have downsides to them, both strategies continue to seem to work for Marvel. The risks associated with incentive covers and title rotations are manageable if those techniques slowly loses effectiveness but are major if they lose effectiveness quickly. If there is a speculator bubble and is suddenly bursts, DC might be in a much better position than Marvel just by having more stable sales than Marvel does.

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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