Overall, August 2014 was not a strong month, with a total of only 6,391,528 units for the top 300 comics. That is a drop of 1,699,251 units from the July, and is about 92,000 units below average for the final order era. Only two comic book issues sold over 100,000 units and only 59,000 units were needed to get into the top ten comics for the month.
The long awaited "Multiversity" #1 launched with 90,551 units. This is a miniseries that isn't exactly an event title, but is likely considered one by many people. The key missing ingredient is the direct impact on the majority of titles and/or characters in the publishing line up -- while there may be a long term impact from "Multiversity," the title isn't having the immediate and pervasive impact on the narrative universe a true event title would have such as "Original Sin" over at Marvel. "Original Sin" #7 outsold "Multiversity" #1 by only 740 units. The power of an event isn't what it was back in the days of "Civil War" and "Blackest Night."
The important of event comics and the overall plan for a narrative universe can't be understated. Some titles act as set up for major events in the meta-arc for a universe which can justify a title might otherwise get cancelled. "Infinity Man and the Forever People" #3 sold 12,390 units with a 22% drop on the third issue which is higher than average. If the title isn't part of a bigger plan it won't be around for much longer. Likewise, "Aquaman and the Others" #5 sold 18,639 units, down another 9% from the previous issue placing that title in danger of cancellation.
Cancellation is an interesting term. Most of us consider a title with low sales which ends to have been cancelled. From time to time, I've heard editors at companies refer to titles as simply "ending" but not "cancelled." Certainly there are titles with strong enough sales to continue which end just the same. At the recent Fan Expo Canada in Toronto, C. B. Cebulski stated that "Hawkeye" and "Superior Foes of Spider-Man" were not being cancelled but were ending since the creators had told the stories they had to tell. In the case of "Hawkeye," sales are strong enough to verify that the title clearly isn't being cancelled because of low sales. "Hawkeye" #12 sold 34,141 units last month. The erratic publication schedule, on the other hand, is evidence there are problems getting the title out on a regular basis. Ending the title and possibly continuing it as a series of miniseries would make sense. "Superior Foes of Spider-Man" #14 sold 16,604 units in August, low enough that canceling the title on the grounds of low sales would be justified. Generally speaking, any Marvel or DC Universe selling under 20,000 is in danger of cancellation. DC tends to let things play out a little longer, with titles often dropping below 10,000 before ending. Obviously a number of other factors are involved, but sales have to be high enough to keep the title afloat.
As I expected, "Rocket Raccoon" #2 dropped by around 80% from the 293,913 units on the first issue which got a large boost from being included in the July Loot Crate, down to 56,597 units on the second issue. Interestingly, there was 7,738 units of reorder activity on the first issue in August. Hopefully the increased circulation through Loot Crate will help this title out but it will take a few more months of data before we'll know. Nerd Block, a competitor of Loot Crate, included the first issues of "Doctor Who: The 10th Doctor" #1 and "Doctor Who: The 11th Doctor" #1 in its July shipment, but the information I have indicates those units didn't go through Diamond. If Nerd Block did deal directly with the publisher, those sales aren't going to be reflected in these numbers. In both cases, the titles got an increased exposure well beyond existing comic book store customers but since one deal went through Diamond and the other didn't, the apparent sales of the titles look very different through the lens of this data set. "Doctor Who: The 10th Doctor" #2 sold 10,410 units, a drop of over 75% from the first issue which is likely a reflection of the numerous covers for the first issue rather than a sign the Nerd Block units went through Diamond.
It is important to understand what this data is, and even more important to understand what this data set isn't. These units are what was invoiced to retailers during the month by Diamond Comics Distributors. There are other units being sold, in many cases, and this data doesn't cover those sales. Since Diamond is the exclusive sales agent for Marvel and DC, I don't think there is any comic book sales activity outside of Diamond within the North American market. Sales through Diamond UK aren't included in these numbers, nor are any sales Diamond isn't involved in such as, presumably, the Nerd Block deals with Titan Comics. In short, these numbers cover the sales through Diamond which is the majority of the new comic book sales for most publishers but it isn't the totality of comic book sales.
Of the top ten comics not by Marvel or DC, nine were from Image. The other one was "Star Wars" #20 from Dark Horse, which is one of the last few Star Wars comics from the publisher before the license transfers over to Marvel. Image is carving out a clear position in the gulf between the major league publishers of Marvel and DC with an average of two or three million units per month for the top 300 comics and the minor league publishers of Dark Horse, IDW and Dynamite Entertainment which average in the low hundreds of thousands of units in the top 300 comics per month. Image is outselling Dark Horse, IDW and Dynamite Entertainment combined, but still has a long way to go before it can be considered in the same league as Marvel and DC.
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 episode s 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.