MAYO REPORT: Can DC Comics Maintain Sales Momentum Heading Into Rebirth?

March 2016 was the third consecutive month of below average unit sales in 2016. The cover price total for the top 300 comics remains a bit above average. Marvel accounted for 48.83% of the units for the top 300 compared to the 28.58% for DC and 6.84% for Image. Marvel was up about 176,430 units from last month while DC was down about 189,746 units. The unit total within the top 300 comics for all of the other publishers combined was up only about 2,275 units. Oddly, each of those changes from February to March is in opposition to the change from January to February.

The items released from month-to-month shift the totals for the top 300 comics as much or more than increases or decreases in sales of the individual titles. Looking at the sales by dollar paints a somewhat different picture that the publishers can control a bit based on how they price things.

"Batman" #50 topped the list with 163,406 units. The 59.13% increase is largely due to the extra-sized conclusion of the storyline and the return of Bruce Wayne as Batman as promised by the solicitation. The title will probably drop a bit next month and possibly the month after before relaunching with a new first issue as part of DC's Rebirth initiative.

"Superman" #50 sold 91,396 units, an increase of 151.65% from the 36,318 units the previous issue sold. Obviously, an increase in sales of that magnitude is great but it also raises the question of whether DC can keep the sales around that level. Like "Batman," this title will probably drop a bit next month and possibly the month after before relaunching with a new first issue as part of DC's Rebirth initiative. The charts aren't all that different other than the sales level. Both have a few peaks, like Villains Month in September 2013, and the sales decline we see on virtually every ongoing title. The difference is "Superman" #50 sets a higher bar for the relaunched title than this volume has been able to meet. The current volume of "Batman," on the other hand, has proven it can stay at the top of the charts since the volume started.

RELATED: "Batman" Sales Up Nearly 60% in March; "Power Rangers" #1 Cracks 100K

"Batman and Robin Eternal" #26 concluded the weekly series on a minor uptick of just 0.36% over the sales of the penultimate issue. "Batman and Robin Eternal" positioned a number of characters well for potential miniseries with a couple of the characters featured in the relaunched "Detective Comics" as part of Rebirth. Weekly titles tend to have slower sales attrition. We are seeing more titles shipping with faster release schedule attempting to leverage the increased story momentum to combat sales attrition.

As I mentioned back in January, Power Rangers has a large fanbase. "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" #1 was the second based seller in March with 119,536 units. The only things which have sold better than that in 2016 are "Batman" #50 this month, "Dark Knight III: Master Race" #3 last month and "The Walking Dead" #150, "Secret Wars" #9 and "Spider-Man/Deadpool" #1 in January. "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" #0 had another 13,335 units of reorder activity lower down on the list. Between the two issues, Power Rangers accounted for about 65.6% of the sales in the top 300 comics for BOOM! Studios this month. Because of these sales, BOOM! Studios had the fifth largest amount of the unit sales for the top 300 comics behind only Marvel, DC, Image and IDW. Power Rangers is a superhero property making is a perfect fit for a comic book. This could be a breakout title for BOOM! Studios.

Over at Marvel, "Star Wars" #17 was the only Marvel title over 100,000 units with 107,057 units. "Amazing Spider-Man" #9 which started the Scorpio Rising storyline was up 23.13% over the previous issue. "Extraordinary X-Men" #8 was up 32.52% to 62,575 units and was the start of a new story arc. The most impressive sales increase at Marvel was "Captain America: Sam Wilson" #7 with 54,880 units, up 102.43% from the previous issue. The issue was oversized celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Steve Rogers Captain America and tied into the Avenges Standoff storyline.

"Starbrand and Nightmask" #4 dropped 25.44% to 6,677 units making it one of the lowest selling comics set in the mainstream Marvel Universe featuring Avengers characters.

"All New, All Different Marvel Universe" #1 sold 12,216 units. Perhaps if they called this an "Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe" it might have been clearer from the title this was a handbook. The sales most likely would have been about the same. With the constant changes in the various comic book universes the day of the handbook as any sort of useful reference has probably long since passed.

IDW placed 29 item in the top 300 and continues to do well with the various licensed properties it has. "Back to the Future" #6 was the best-selling title for IDW with 18,502 units. Not too far behind that was "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" #56 with 16,332 units.

"The Walking Dead" #152 was the best-seller for Image with 67,258 units; "Saga" #35 was in second place for the publisher with 48,844 units. "The Walking Dead" was down a mere 0.18% from the previous issue while "Saga" dropped by 1.05%. The only Image title to increase in sales in March was "Monstress" #4, which was up 7.41% to 22,405 units. "Mirror" #2 had the largest drop at Image with 57.88% going from the 14,883 units of the first issue down to 6,268 on the second. "Snowfall" #2 had a similar drop of 55.83% going from 17,195 units on the first issue down to 7,595 units on the second issue. Typically, second issue drops are the largest drop for a title.

Over on the trades list, "The Walking Dead" v25 was the best-seller by a wide margin with 19,048 units. While I do not have any data to back it up, I strongly suspect this series is very selling well in the mass-market outlets due to the strength of the narrative and the visibility of the property due to the television series.

"Invader Zim" #8 was the best-selling comic for Oni Press with 21,691 units, down about 2.88% from the previous issue. "Rick and Morty" #12 sold 14,068 units, down about 3.44%.

The various incarnations of The Doctor continue to sell well for Titan Comics. "Doctor Who: The 4th Doctor" #1 launched at 14,129 units with the ongoing titles for the 10th, 11th and 12th Doctors selling between 6,980 and 8,227 units and "Doctor Who: The 8th Doctor" #5, the final issue of the miniseries, selling 6,905 units. If you are into Doctor Who, Titan Comics is producing plenty of new material to enjoy.

The best-seller for Valiant was the concisely, if somewhat cryptically, named "A & A" #1 featuring Archer and Armstrong, selling around 27,490 units. "Faith" #3 was down 1.25% with sales of 12,113 units. Both titles are strong sellers for Valiant.

Zenescope Entertainment had ten items below the radar of the top 300 comics included in the small comics list this month. All were part of the Grimm Fairy Tales universe and sold between 2,983 units and 4,132 units. Even though these titles fall below the radar of the monthly top 300 comic list, clearly the publisher is doing fine. "Grimm Fairy Tales" #120 is one of the higher issue numbers on the list.

High sales are great but many publishers do fine at lower sales level because they have lower overhead costs than the larger corporations of Marvel and DC. Titles can be profitable at almost any level as long by bringing in more money than it costs to produce.

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 ComicBookPage.com covering the past decade of comic book sales. 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. I read around 200 new comics a month so the podcast covers a wide variety of what is currently being published. If you are looking for more or different comics to read, check out the latest 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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