May 2017 had 7,105,518 units in the top 300 comics list, an increase of 590,130 units from last month. Stronger Marvel sales account for the larger unit total of the top 300 comics in May. Once again Marvel had items at the top of the list, but DC had the best selling items. Secret Empire #1 was the top ranked item with 157,517 units followed by Venom #150 with 141,757 units. The lenticular variant of Batman #22 was ranked third with 114, 174 units with the regular edition in rank 11 with another 72,741 units for a total of 186,914 unit. The lenticular variant of Flash #22 at rank 4 sold 104,506 units with the regular edition at rank 17 with another 59,261 units for a total of 163,767 unit.
Depending how you look at it, Marvel and DC each had the two best selling comics in May 2017. It you go by distinct price point, Marvel had the to two items, if you go by contents, DC had the top two items. Diamond reports all of the variants of a comic with the same price point as a single entry on the best sellers list. Some might disagree with that methodology but it is a reasonable approach and there is no perfect way to report this information. Splitting things out for each variant would crowd out even more of the items by the smaller publishers than is already getting pushed off the list. Merging items at different price points would make the retail rank and price point harder to report and understand. While the current approach had caused the oddity of the top ranked items not being the best sellers based on issue contents, this is an unusual situation limited to comics which variant at different price points. Aside from comics with a lenticular cover variant and Dark Knight III: The Master Race, splitting variants with a different price out as distinct entries on the best sellers list hasn’t caused any confusion.
Marvel Comics was up 470,051 units compared to last month placing 3,223,036 units in the top 300 comics accounting for 45.36% of the total units for the top 300 comics. Most of that gain was from new titles. Venom #150 was the only Marvel title with a large increase in sales. While Secret Empire #1 was the top ranked item in May with 157,517 units, the event series dropped 35.89% on the second issue to 100,983 units and another 9.28% down to 91,611 units. Except for Ultimates 2 #7 which increased in sales by 6.57%, none of the other “Secret Empire” tie-in issues got a bump in sales. Most of them had the usual sales attrition. The general lack of a sales bump on tie in issues is not a good sign for the event. The main title to check out to learn more about the “Secret Empire” storyline is Captain America: Steve Rogers. The fact that Captain America: Steve Rogers, the title the event spun out of didn’t get a bump in sales is particularly noteworthy.
Marvel has been going from event to event with various ongoing titles used as bridges between them. This strategy was mentioned in the text piece at the end of Thunderbolts #12 which describe the Thunderbolts series effectively as a bridge from the “Avengers: Standoff” event to the “Secret Empire” event. These events have been de facto mile markers in the ongoing saga of the Marvel Universe for a while now. An there is nothing wrong with that. The problem is when title seem to only last for the duration between those event. Sometimes the next Marvel event is visible either on or just over the horizon when a title starts.
Monsters Unleashed #2 of the new ongoing title dropped 43.9% down to 15,324 units indicating it might only last as long as the five issue event series which it spun out of. It is worth noting that the first two issues of the Monstered Unleashed event miniseries had reorder activity in May with the first issue racking up 17,037 units in orders, outselling the current issue of the ongoing series.
Over a third of the new issue on the list from Marvel sold under 20,000 units. A few of these are miniseries such Man-Thing, Guardians of the Galaxy: Mother Entropy and Bullseye. Some of these have either already ended or had an end announced such as Black Panther and the Crew, Kingpin and Mosaic. The average sales of Marvel in the top 300 comics, excluding Star Wars titles, Powers and reorders, is 32,355 units with median sales of 25,790 units. Marvel Universe titles struggle to get sales over 60,000 units with most items over that being first issues or an event title. Star Wars titles, on the other hand, while not as strong as they were are still doing well with average sales of 47,561 units and median sales of 40,407 units. There are significantly fewer Star Wars titles than there are titles set in the Marvel Universe. The smaller a line of titles, the easier it is for people to get more or all of them if they want to do so. More titles means more decisions for the readers and retailers. More decisions seem to lead to lower sales, not higher sales.
That having been said, there is no reason to think the sales of X-Men Gold would suddenly increase were Marvel to end X-Men Blue, Generation X and Weapon X. Over at DC, Aquaman sales didn’t go up as a result of Aquaman and the Others ending in 2015. Some of these sales factors only work in a single direction. Another example is cover price. Increasing the cover price can result in lower sales but there is no evidence lowering the cover price will result in increased sales.
DC Comics was up 97,861 units placing 2,579,819 units in the top 300 comics accounting for 36.31% of the total units. “The Button” storyline did well for DC in May. The question is if readers were happy with the end of the story or not as that could impact interest in Doomsday Clock in November. Like Marvel, DC is struggling to get sales over 60,000 units with Batman and All Star Batman as the two ongoing titles selling over that on a regular basis. The slow attrition of a few percent per issue is lower sales on the twice monthly titles faster due to the faster release schedule making the charts of the current volume look like they are dropping off faster than the previous volumes. In terms of elapsed time that is true but in terms of sales on an issue number by issue number basis, some of the Rebirth titles like Flash, Green Arrow, Hellblazer, Nightwing, Red Hood and the Outlaws Suicide Squad, Superman and Wonder Woman are doing better than the New 52 volumes. Titles like Aquaman, Batgirl, Batman, Harley Quinn, Justice League and Supergirl are not doing as well as the previous volumes. A handful are doing pretty much the same as before such as Blue Beetle, Cyborg and Deathstroke.
The “Lazarus Contract” storyline bumped sales on Titans #11 by 12.22% to 45,89 units, Teen Titans #8 by 20.33% to 43,385 units and Deathstroke #19 by 52.9% to 34,772 units with the final part of the story selling 38,217 units in Teen Titans: Lazarus Contract Special #1. The storyline was successful from a sales perspective. Ejecting the Judas Contract storyline out of continuity seems like an odd decision given the animated feature came out just a month or two back.
Image Comics placed 643,700 units in the top 300 comics and was up 97,542 units compared to last month and accounted for 9.06% of the total units for the top 300 comics. Walking Dead #167 sold 74,062 units and Seven to Eternity #6 sold 30,632 units and were the only two Image titles over 30,000 units. Dying and the Dead #4 sold 9,639 units with the length delays on the series not seeming to really hurt sales.
IDW Publishing placed 229,965 units in the top 300 comics and was up 89,317 units compared to last month and accounted for 3.24% of the total units for the top 300 comics. Licensed properties and crossovers continue to be successful for IDW. The crossovers with DC will hopefully continue after this round of titles. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles continues to do well for IDW with Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turles #6 with 23,210 units and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #69 with 13,726 units being the top two comics from IDW in May. The Hasbro title are lower on the list and it may be that the decision to integrate the various properties of Transfomers, GI Joe, Rom and Action Man might not be going over all that well with readers.
Dark Horse placed 115,221 units in the top 300 comics and was down 41,444 units compared to last month and accounted for 1.62% of the total units for the top 300 comics. American Gods: Shadows #3 was the top seller for Dark Horse with 33,091 units.
The premiere publishers accounted for 95.58% of the units in the top 300 comics this month while all of the other publishers with items in the top 300 accounted for 4.42% of the units.
The up swing of 2,196,095 units more than compensated for the down-swing of 1,605,965 units resulting in a net increase of 590,130 units in May over April. As it usually the case, new titles was the largest influence of the month to month change in the total units for the top 300 comics.
The continuing titles which gained sales category added 134,372 units compared to last month. Venom #150 was over half of the movement in the category.
The continuing titles which shipped more issues category added 281,088 units compared to last month. Three issues of Secret Empire versus the single zero issue last month accounts for two-thirds of the movement in this category.
The continuing titles with reasonably stable sales category removed 2,422 units compared to last month. Mighty Morphin Power Rangers may have leveled off around 16,135 units and is the top selling item for BOOM! Studios in May. They have another series in the works for the Mighty Morphin team. Hopefully they will find a say to start exploring the numerous other Power Rangers teams perhaps with a series of one-shots. The Power Rangers property is large and there is more BOOM! Studios could probably do with it but the seem to be taking small steps so as not to strip mine the property and exhaust it too quickly.
The continuing titles which shipped fewer issues category removed 159,959 units compared to last month. With May having five weeks compared to the four in April, only three titles shipped fewer issues in May than April. All ofthem were Marvel titles which shipped two issue in April and only one in May.
The continuing titles which lost sales category removed 557,062 units compared to last month. X-Men Blue and X-Men Gold were the two titles which lost the month sales between April and May. The entries on this chart for Batman and Flash reflect only the sales of the regular edition of the comics. The lenticular covers were treated as one-shots in the Annuals/Specials category. Many of the titles in this category are recently launched Marvel titles which tend to shed a large number of units during the honeymoon period start when retailers are ordering blind and ending when they have been able to gauge the reaction of their customers and adjust their orders accordingly. That honeymoon period can be as short as two or three issues on a monthly title or as long as a full arc on a biweekly title. Obviously the more attentive the retailer is, the shorter that blind order period can be. Savvy retailers are able to leverage the final order cutoff program to adjust orders which can cut the honeymoon period down by an issue or more. Having a good point of sales system can also help in this regard as it can help track sales on these new titles as they sales trend starts to develop for them.
The new titles category added 1,241,233 units compared to last month. The majority of the new title sales were Marvel titles. Given how often Marvel restarts titles, this isn’t the least bit surprising.
The returning titles category added 359,183 units compared to last month. The Justice League/Power Rangers crossover seems to have hit some delays with Justice League/Power Rangers #4 shipping a month late and the following issue is resolicited in the July Previews.
The suspended titles category removed 463,595 units compared to last month.
The defunct titles category removed 422,927 units compared to last month.
The annuals/specials category added 114,785 units compared to last month.
Once again, the lenticular cover variants of Batman and Flash are treated as one-shots since the titles had regular cover issues out this month as well. The drops on these issues reflect the drop in sales of the lenticular variants from #21 to #22 of each title. Both the lenticular variants and the regular versions dropped in sales but there was reorder activity on the regular versions of Flash #21 and Batman #21 in May. The lenticular covers and “The Button” storyline act as a quasi-event playing into the larger Rebirth meta-arc at DC. Bump in sales like this generally don’t last beyond the event itself. This chart has the sales of the current and previous volumes with the sales of the regular and lenticular covers aggregated together:
As we can see, the sales of both titles went back to the levels they were at prior to “The Button” storyline. Flash seems to be about 800 units higher than it was before.
The reorders category added 65,434 units compared to last month.
Overall, May had the strongest aggregate sales for the top 300 that we’ve seen in 2017. We are also seeing some lackluster sales on many titles. It isn’t just Marvel and DC titles. If it were, then we’d be seeing more titles from other publishers on the list. Sales are slipping in general. New titles usually more than makes up for it. But that simply changes the game from keeping readers on titles to having a newer title for them to migrate to until the sales on that title slip and another newer title is needed to recapture sales. Whichever publisher can figure out who to retool the storytelling in their comics such that reader retention happens and sales attrition doesn’t will have a huge advantage over the other publishers. Of course, sales attrition isn’t the only problem, just the one that often leaches the most units out of the total for the top 300 comics from month to month. Delays and fluctuations in the number of issues released from month to month also lost sales. While scheduling issues happen, they aren’t as bad today as they have been in the past and aren’t responsible for the majority of sales loss.
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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