MAYO REPORT: A Deeper Look at DC Comics' September Sales Domination

September 2014 was one of the first times since March 2003 -- when Diamond first started reporting invoiced sales -- in which DC took the lead on the percentages of unit sales for the top 300 comics, with the publisher accounting for 46.20% compared to the 37.13% for Marvel.

Marvel took the top two slots with "Death of Wolverine" #1, which sold an impressive 261,975 units, and "Death of Wolverine" #2, which sold just under half of that with 129,999 units. Killing off Wolverine is a publicity stunt, but that doesn't mean it will be a bad story. Killing Spider-Man led to some great stories in "Superior Spider-Man," which planted the story seeds for a bunch of great stories in "Amazing Spider-Man." While it is easy to get jaded by these gimmicks, talented creators can find ways to tell great stories with them. We'll see how things turn out with the death of Wolverine. Eventually, Marvel will bring the character back with a bunch of new first issues resulting in another sales bump.

At the other end of the sales for Marvel, the 7,616 units of reorder activity for "Mighty Avengers" #1 at (quantity) rank 243 are worth pointing out because of the retail rank of 2072. The retail rank is how the item placed in terms of the invoiced dollar amount. The ranking is not based on the extended price, the units multiplied by the cover price, but on the amount of money brought in after discounts and any special deals. The lowest item with a $3.99 cover price which we have data for thanks to the small press top sellers list on the list was the 1,504 units of reorders for "Doctor Who: The 10th Doctor" #1 at (quantity) rank 474. What this means is there were nearly 1,600 items which brought in more money than the reorders for "Mighty Avengers" #1 and less money than "Doctor Who: The 10th Doctor" #1. We know of 57 items with a cover price of $3.99 between those two items, but no doubt there are more not included in the data released by Diamond. If there were a consistent discount across items, then the only reason for an item to bring in less money is selling fewer units. But we know that isn't the case here. The reorders for "Mighty Avengers" #1 were around five times the reorders for "Doctor Who: The 10th Doctor" #1 which means the discount on those reordered units of "Mighty Avengers" #1 was correspondingly higher than the discount on the reordered units "Doctor Who: The 10th Doctor" #1. It could be as simple as Marvel or Diamond deciding to blow out remaining copies of "Mighty Avengers" #1 before "Captain America and the Mighty Avengers" #1 comes out, or it might have nothing to do with the replacement series. Either way, this illustrates one way in which higher sales do not always equate to a more profitable item.

As with the past September stunts of the New 52, from relaunch of the entire DC Universe in 2011 (preceded by the launch of "Justice League" #1 on the last day of August 2010), the Zero Month one-shots in 2012 and the Villains Month one-shots in 213, the Futures End one-shots causes a sales surge across the board. The 315,863 units across the 38 Futures End 2D covers in addition to the 2,392,191 units for the 3D covers is a large part of why DC took the lead in September.

Like the Villains Month issues from last year, the sales are split between the 3D and 2D covers, with the majority of the sales always going to the 3D cover. "Batman," "Detective Comics," "Harley Quinn," and "Justice League" were the only titles with sales over 10,000 units for the 2D cover of the Futures End issue. The 2D cover versions fell below the top 300 for "Batwing," " Trinity of Sin: Pandora" and "Trinity of Sin: The Phantom Stranger." On average, the 2D covers sold around 14% of the sales of the 3D cover. As a result, the 2D cover versions are probably going to increase in value on the collector market much more than the 3D covers.

As a result of the way the sales were split, it is pointless to compare either to the sales of the previous issue in the data tables. In the following text and charts, the references to the sales of the Futures End issues is the total known sales of the issue, combining the sales of both versions if both are known. Since the Futures End issues are sales anomalies, they will generally not be included in the sales trend charts in future articles.

With "Batwing," the Futures End issue outsold the previous four issues of the series combined. In some other cases, the Futures End issue sold much like a regular issue of the title would have. Of course, with below 9,000 on all four of those issues, exceeding the combined sales of them still results in mid-list sales which isn't all that impressive. The 2D cover of the Futures End issue of "Batwing" failed to make the list, but could account for as much as another 6,300 units.

Another title ending with the Futures End month was "Birds of Prey." Between the two covers, the Futures End issue sold three times the sales of the previous issue and was the second bestselling issue outsold only by the first issue.

The Green Lantern titles' consistent bumps on the Futures End issues gave those titles the best sales they've seen in about two years. Had these issue been in current continuity,this could have been the sales bump these titles needed. But, since the issues focus on a possible future five years out, it is virtually certain sales on the next regular issues of these titles will have fallen right back in line with how the titles have been selling. What could prevent that is the Godhead arc, which just started up right after Futures End.

Given the success DC has had with these September events, another one will almost certainly happen next year. With the advance solicitation of the 3D covers seeming to work out well, odds are we'll also see more of those next year.

With the new television season starting up and including the "Constantine" television series, it seemed like an appropriate time to see how the New 52 "Constantine" comic book series is doing and compare it to the sales of Vertigo's "Hellblazer." With "Hellblazer" having lasted 300 issues and being the basis for a movie and the new television series, it can't be considered anything other than successful. The sales of the monthly series had drifted down to under 10,000 units. As with major Vertigo titles, the collected edition sales had a longer shelf life than the average comic book title. The relaunch of the title as a New 52 title initially quadrupled sales, and the title has remained above 15,000 units, but it's showing a much sharper drop than the "Hellblazer" series had. The television series is more likely to help the sales of the "Hellblazer" trades than to help the "Constantine" comic book title. Causal readers are more likely to start with the first trade of "Hellblazer" than to pick up the most recent issue of "Constantine." Furthermore, causal readers are more likely to do purchase at bookstores like Barnes and Noble or Amazon than to go to a comic book store.

With comic book properties a widely accepted part of our culture, now we need to raise the average person's awareness of the comic book origins of the properties they are enjoying. After that, the challenge is to find ways to either get them into comic book stores or to the comic book content to them.

If you'd like to listen to an in-depth discussion of the sales data, check out the Mayo Report episodes of the Comic Book Page podcast at www.ComicBookPage.com. In addition to those episodes, every Monday is a Weekly Comics Spotlight episode featuring a comic by DC, a comic by Marvel and a comic by some other publisher. Once a month is the Previews Spotlight episode which features 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 things which 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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