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MAYO REPORT: October Was the Best Month of Comic Sales in Over Ten Years

by  in Comic News Comment
MAYO REPORT: October Was the Best Month of Comic Sales in Over Ten Years

October 2014 had a total of 8,409,080 units for the top 300 comics which is the highest total sales for the top 300 comics since March 2003 when Diamond first started reporting sales based on invoices to retailers. While strong sales are obviously a good thing, consistently good sales are a better thing. The total for the top 300 units is up nearly 2,500,000 units from the sales of February 2014, which was the low point over the past two years.

A couple of items contributed to the high sales, with seven items over the 100,000 mark. Of those seven, only one of them, “Batman,” is likely to remain over 100,000 units next month. The strong sales in October are just that: Strong sales in October, not strong sales over all.

Topping the list with an astounding 326,334 units was “The Walking Dead” #132. It fell about 8,748 units shy of the first month sales of “The Walking Dead” #100 in July 2012, exceeding the first month sales of “The Walking Dead” #115 in October 2013 by around 15,750 units. But the overall sales of those issues gets interesting. “The Walking Dead” #115 has 10,024 units or reorders in November 2013 and another 8,519 in January 2014 which puts the total known sales through Diamond around 329,127 units.

It would appear Robert Kirkman has uncovered the secret to selling comics at crazy levels. The secret to success is “Happiness.” Or, at least it would be if the solicitation text for “The Walking Dead” #132 is why the issue sold so well. (Kirkman is the master at succinct solicitation blurbs.) What really happened was, “The Walking Dead” #132 was included in the October Loot Crate. As we saw a few months back with “Rocket Raccoon” #1, the units moved through Loot Crate were apparently purchased through Diamond and therefore show up on the Diamond charts as sales.

I have mixed feelings about sales to places like Loot Crate being included in the Diamond charts. On the one hand, they are legitimate sales from the publisher perspective, and if the sales go through Diamond, then it makes sense for them to be included in the data set. So I don’t think anybody is doing anything wrong. But the very reasons for doing a Loot Crate promotion, to get the comic into the hands of potential new readers, is the reason I’m not sure these sales should be included in the Diamond charts. These sales are of a very different nature than the rest of the sales on the charts, which reflect what retailers think readers want to buy. That aside, while October is a logical month to promote “Walking Dead,” that particular issue might not have been the best jumping on point for new readers. It is a shame this promotion didn’t coincide with the start of this story arc, which was a great jumping on point.

It is also worth noting the sales of “The Walking Dead” #133 were right back where the title was doing prior to the Loot Crate promotion. We might see an increase in sales of “The Walking Dead” as a result of this promotion next month, but I wouldn’t bank on it.

“The Walking Dead” #132 not only topped the list, it sold nearly twice as many units as the expected frontrunner of the month, “Death of Wolverine” #4, which sold an estimated 165,582 units. With Wolverine dying in the final issue of “Death of Wolverine” miniseries, there will obviously be no next issue of that title. The first of many follow up titles was “Death of Wolverine: Logan Legacy” #1, which sold 71,532 units.

“Thor” #1 sold approximately 150,862 units relaunching the title with a new female Thor and at least 8 covers, including a 1 in 300 variant. Typically Marvel relaunches title with half a dozen to a dozen variant covers resulting in drops between 40% and 60% with second issue with only one or two variant covers, if any. This gives the impression that the title launched with a higher level of reader interest and suffers a drastic drop on the second issue. What is really happening is the reader interest isn’t as high as the first issue sales appear because of the variant covers and the second issue sales are more indicative of the reader interest. Inflating first issue sales this way effective increases “honeymoon” period for a title by an issue. At some point, readers and/or retailers could get tired of this and any the variant cover sales bubble that may exist could pop. Any retailers banking on the variant cover sales could be serious hurt if that were to happen. The speculator boom and bust of the 1990s was an example of that sort of thing happening.

“Avengers and X-Men: AXIS” #1 launched the latest Marvel event with an estimated 138,966 units. This miniseries was original solicited as “AXIS” in the July 2014 Previews but was resolicited as “Avengers and X-Men: AXIS” in the August 2014 Previews. The title dropped by 36.7% with the second issue and another 3.7% on the third, putting the sales of “Avengers and X-Men: AXIS” #3 around 84,708 units. The larger than average drop on the second issue reflects the first issue having more covers than the second and third issues. The weekly frequency meant retailers had to preorder most of the series before the first issue hit the racks. Hopefully retailers are able to leverage the final order cut off dates to adjust their orders either up or down based on the demand at their individual stores. The secondary miniseries titles sold considerably fewer units. “AXIS: Carnage” #1 sold an estimated 38,548 units, “AXIS: Revolutions” #1 sold around 32,794 units and “AXIS: Hobgoblin” #1 sold approximately 31,243 units.

“Batman” #35 was up 5.95% with sales around 118,860 units. The issue did have multiple covers but the start of a new story arc may have also contributed to the increase in sales. The title has continued to do well since the New 52 reboot of the DC Universe.

The only other item over 100,000 units in October was “Amazing Spider-Man” #7 with an estimated 116,051 units, up over 24% from the previous issue. Immediately below in on the chart was “Amazing Spider-Man” #8 down over 14%. With the Spider-Verse storyline starting up, we should see sales bounce back up with “Amazing Spider-Man” #9 in the next set of numbers.

The chart of the top item from month to month illustrates how volatile the top of the chart is.

A chart of the average sales (the total sales for the list divided by the number of items on the list) and the median sales (the sales at the middle of the list) shows how the average is consistently higher than the median.

An average title sells between 15,000 and 27,000 units but the median sales are between 7,000 and 20,500 units. Both the average and the median are on the rise which is a good sign. Outliers at the top of the list like we had this month make the top of the chart a somewhat useless metric for how sales are doing. Likewise, because of the frequency of first issues and the numerous variant covers on them, first issues sales are an increasingly inaccurate metric for how much interest there is in a new title.

The chart of rank 300 at the bottom of the top 300 shows an increases reflecting more weekly titles and other titles shipping multiple issues per month rather than because sales are increasing across the board.

Given the number of titles and the frequency of many of them, it would be helpful to either expand the list of top selling comics beyond 300 or to increase the number of items on the top small comics and top indie comics lists. Those are the lists which provided the assorted items below the top 300 which you see in my data sets.

Overall, sales for the top 300 are doing well. It was only a few years ago, in 2010, when the monthly average for the top 300 comics was 5,766,584 units with a high point that year of only 6,148,778 units. January 2011 started off with an all-time low for the top 300 of 4,402,738 units. September 2011 was a major turning point with New 52 relaunch of the DC Universe and a notable upwards bump in sales compared to prior to that point. The Marvel Now initiative and other factors also contribute to the generally stronger sales. Keep in mind, earlier this year, the aggregate sales for the top 300 were under 6,000,000 units. With the decrease lifespan of titles comes an increase in the fluidity of the sales from month to month.

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.

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