June 2008 was another "event" month with the top three comics being major, heavily hyped titles. The top-selling item to retailers was Marvel Comics' "Secret Invasion" #3 with an estimated 175,649 units. In rank #2 was "Ultimate Origins" #1 at approximately 136,351 units. "Final Crisis" #2 from DC Comics came in with about 126,020 units. Clearly, there is a strong interest in these event storylines.
The notion of "event fatigue" was raised a few events ago but hasn't actually been a problem yet. There is some evidence of "weekly fatigue" with "Trinity," DC's latest weekly superhero series, failing to launch in the top 20. The Kurt Busiek-penned title started at an estimated 70,400 units for the first issue and dropped below the estimated minimum sales of previous weekly book "Countdown to Final Crisis" with the second issue and continued to decline from there. So far, the series is selling about half the units that the pioneering "52" did. Even so, "Trinity" gave DC four comics selling above 58,000 for the month.
There has been some discussion on the internet about how the big event titles are "really" doing for Marvel and DC. One take on it is while "Secret Invasion" has outsold "Final Crisis" at the retail level, "Final Crisis" has been selling better at the reader level. The support for this is people seeing more copies of "Secret Invasion" than "Final Crisis" still on the racks at local stores. While this is no doubt true at some stores, extrapolating that to "Final Crisis" outselling "Secret Invasion" at the reader level is questionable at best. We can look at the reorder activity for both titles for some limited visibility on how the earlier issues for those titles have been selling to readers. After all, retailers aren't going to order more copies of a comic they already have an ample supply of sitting on the racks. While this isn't as informative as having sell-through data, it is something we can do with the available data.
Looking at "Secret Invasion," there were strong reorders for the first issue both in June for 8,576 units and in May for 4,187 for a total of around 12,783 units. The second issue of "Secret Invasion" did an estimated 8,576 units of reorder activity in June. The obvious conclusion is "Secret Invasion" sold well enough that at least some retailers needed more copies. "Final Crisis" is a month newer so we don't have as much data to look at yet. So far, there were 6,875 units of reorder activity for "Final Crisis" #1 in June. That gives "Final Crisis" the stronger first month reorder activity for the first issue but keep in mind that the initial orders for "Final Crisis" #1 were about 3/5ths the initial orders of "Secret Invasion" #1.
Based on this data, it seems unlikely that "Final Crisis" is outselling "Secret Invasion" at the reader level. For that to happen, "Final Crisis" #1 would have had to completely sell out while over 111,000 copies of "Secret Invasion" #1 remained unsold. Only around 66,000 copies of "Secret Invasion" #2 would need to be sitting on store shelves for a sold out "Final Crisis" #2 to have outsold it at the reader level. And if there were that many copies of "Secret Invasion" on store shelves, not only would we not be seeing the reorders but they also would have been much sharper drop in sales on "Secret Invasion" #3 than there was. The bottom line is the available data doesn't support the notion that "Final Crisis" is selling better at the reader level than "Secret Invasion."
Taking a look at the bigger picture for a moment, the true measure of success of a project like "Secret Invasion" or "Final Crisis" isn't just how well the series itself sells but how well the series sells the universe in which it takes place. In other words, does the series get people talking about the Marvel or DC universes? Does the series get people energized and excited about the universes? Both "Secret Invasion" and "Final Crisis" are succeeding in that regard. Both titles are the top selling item for each publisher and that in and of itself is a sign of success.
On a somewhat related note, DC's "Salvation Run" trended up in sales during the back half of the series, something that doesn't happen often. The series leveled off around 25,800 units with issues #4 and #5 and increased to 26,272 units with #6. Issue #7, the final issue of the series, did an estimated 28,193 in rank 78 in June.
One noticeable bump in sales in June was on Marvel's "Wolverine" with the first part of the "Old Man Logan" storyline seeing an increase in sales of just under 57%. That took the title from an estimated 62,432 units on #65 to around 97,978 for #66. Rarely does the start of a new story arc in an ongoing series see that sort of spike in sales. This pushed "Wolverine" into the top 5 comics for the month. We'll see with the next issue how much of this bump sticks. These days it is fairly common for a sales bump to dissipate with the following issue or two.
"Buffy the Vampire Slayer" continues to be the top selling non-DC/Marvel title and came in at rank #12 with issue #15 moving approximately 80,424 units. This title has remained a strong seller for Dark Horse with minimal sales attrition from issue to issue. For a point of comparison, this issue of "Buffy" outsold all but the first two issues of the current "Wonder Woman" series at DC. The next best non-DC/Marvel title is "Angel: After the Fall" with issue #8 selling around 47,864 units and #9 selling about 47,058 units in June. Somehow "Angel: After the Fall" #10 managed to sell an estimated 3,364 units in June even though it wasn't released until July 2.
June was a good month for IDW with the publisher selling an estimated total of 222,662 units to retailers. That is the highest level on record for IDW since Diamond first started releasing final sales information in February 2003. This put IDW squarely between Dark Horse and Image with the fourth largest share of the total units sold for the top 300 comics.
Once again Marvel out performed DC in June with 54.16% of the total units sold to retailers for the top 300 comics. DC had 30.38% but this is neither the biggest margin we've seen between the two nor the best that Marvel has done. Both of those things happened back in March 2005 when Marvel had 55.22% of the total units sold for the top 300 comics compared to the 29.83% for DC that month. The average delta between Marvel and DC for the final order period (starting in February 2003) is 10.99% with Marvel taking the lead more often than not. That having been said, DC did only slightly below its average in terms of both units and dollars. It isn't a case of DC doing bad, it isn't. But right now Marvel doing much better than its average over the past few years.
But don't confuse a larger percentage of the unit sales of the top 300 with more dollars sold. Marvel has had a lower percentage of the unit sales for the top 300 in May 2008, August 2007, July 2007, May 2007 and November 2006 yet sold more dollars in each of those months than in June 2008. Both the number of units sold each month and the dollar value of those units fluctuate from month to month. July 2007 had the highest dollar value for the top 300 for Marvel since February 2003 while November 2006 had the highest number of units sold. When looking at these percentages of the aggregate sales for the top 300, it is important to look at them in terms of only that month.
In the case of June 2008, Marvel clearly outperformed DC on the comics side of the equation. On the trade paperback side, it is a different story. DC accounted for 39.05% of the total unit sales for the top 100 trades with Marvel accounting for 25.60% and Dark Horse another 23.04%. It was the combination of "Y: The Last Man" vol. 10 and "Fables" vol. 10 in the top two slots that helped give DC the strong lead on the trades side. The first volume of "Y: The Last Man" hit the charts again in rank 95 with another 1,403 or so units in reorders. While "Fables" is selling strong in trades, "Jack of Fables" isn't doing as well with the third volume of that series coming in rank 11 with an estimated 5,335 units. So far, none of the volumes of "Jack of Fables" have any recorded reorder activity.
Only five trade paperbacks from Image were on the top 100 trades list for June. The top item was "Walking Dead" vol. 8 with an estimated 13,036 units. That would have been enough for first place most months. The other two new trade paperbacks from Image on the list were "Invincible" vol. 9 in rank 10 with around 5,613 units and "Dynamo 5" vol. 2 in rank 82 with about 1,667 units. "Wanted" did another 2,826 units of reorder activity putting the total reported sales through Diamond at about 13,756 units. "Witchblade" vol. 4 moved another 1,570 units of reorders.
Robert Kirkman has finished up his exclusive contract with Marvel and is now a partner at Image. The result should be a noticeable increase in his output at Image and a resulting increase in sales for the publisher. If he can help some of the other creators publishing through Image benefit from his experience and success, then Image could give Dark Horse a serious challenge for the third place each month.
The big success for Dark Horse in June on the top trade list was Hellboy. Prompted by the release of the film "Hellboy II: The Golden Army," the first seven "Hellboy" trade paperbacks all placed on the list with the lowest selling moving an estimated 1,667 units and the highest selling moving 2,601 units into comic book stores. Those volumes accounted for 13,264 of the 70,341 units for Dark Horse. This is one of the few cases were a movie release has had a very definitive impact on the sales of an entire line of trade paperbacks. It is one thing when a movie like "Sin City," "300" or "Wanted" causes a bump for a single trade paperback. In those cases, there is a single item that will benefit from any interest generated by the movie. This sales bump across the board for the seven "Hellboy" trade paperbacks is much more impressive.
The first trade paperback from Red 5 Comics debuted on the list in rank 54 with "Atomic Robo" vol. 1 which sold an estimated 2,098 units. It outsold a number of DC and Marvel trades and hardcovers. Not bad for an up and coming publisher.
As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to email me at John.Mayo@ComicBookResources.com.