Marvel had 51.74% of the total units sold for the top 300 comics in May 2016. DC had 28.3% of the units while Image had 5.2%, IDW had 4.03% and Dark Horse had 1.9%. The premiere publisher accounted for 91.16% of the total units for the top 300 comics leaving the remaining 8.84% split across 18 other publishers. The split by dollars wasn't significantly different. The total number of units for the top 300 comics was a little below average because DC was about half a million units below how it averages within the top 300 comics.
Topping the comics list was "DC Universe: Rebirth" #1 with 235,791 units, and the issue has already gone into a second and third printing. DC deciding to hold the solicitation information until WonderCon and thereby disrupting the normal solicitation process for the issue didn't help retailers or readers; the DC Comics Previews issue was helpful, but poorly timed. Had it come out with the Diamond Previews a few weeks earlier, we might have seen even stronger sales of the issue.
Figuring out how many of an item like this to order is challenging for a retailer. Getting stuck with too many comics can be costly, and not ordering enough can potentially cut into the number of readers who might use it to get back into the DC Universe titles, which could equate to long term sales. An issue like this, which plays into the overall storyline of the entire DC Universe, is potentially of interest to readers of any and every DC Universe title. Knowing how many distinct people read DC Universe titles is a key piece of information which could help a store figure out how many copies to order. Of course, someone who only reads Batman and doesn't care about the large picture of the DC Universe might opt to skip the issue entirely. The most unpredictable aspect is how many new and lapsed readers the issue might bring in. The safest bet is for a store to order how many they think they can sell to the existing customer base and take too much of a gamble on an issue like this. Retailers have to make numerous challenging decisions of this sort every month.
"Batman" #52 finished off that volume with sales of 102,197 units. Every issue of the entire run of the volume, excluding Annual #3 and #4, sold over 100,000 units. I'd be hard pressed to find another contemporary ongoing title which has performed as strongly as this volume of "Batman" has done. While DC might have some problems which they are trying to address with the Rebirth initiative, they have also had some major successes which should not go unmentioned.
"Future Quest" #1 kicked off DC's new Hanna-Barbera line of comics with 48,626 units. Everything DC has been saying in regard to trying to find a familiar and comfortable take on the DC Universe characters with Rebirth seems to apply to the Hanna-Barbera characters in "Future Quest." But, given the demise of Saturday morning cartoons as a key part of America culture, "Future Quest" might only strike a chord with older readers who grew up on those Hanna-Barbera cartoons. Even a handful of years could equate to a generation gap of sorts on a title like this. That said, "Future Quest" was a strong creative launch to the new Hanna-Barbera line of comics.
"Scooby Apocalypse" #1, on the other hand, sold 69,520 units and was a completely new take on the classic cartoon characters. This sort of radical interpretation seems to run counter to the "familiar and comfortable" approach DC is going for with Rebirth, which is a little puzzling. However, the new take on the Scooby gang launched strong, so perhaps a new approach to the property is right way to go. Near the bottom of the top 300 is "Scooby Doo, Where are You?" #69, which sold 5,040 units. DC has been providing a classic version the Scooby gang for years to low, but reasonably stable sales. DC continues publishing "Scooby Doo, Where are You?" despite the fact the sales have sometimes fallen below the radar of the top 300 comics list. (Diamond released the top 400 comics between September 2013 and May 2014 except for November 2013.)
Over at Marvel, "Civil War II" #0 kicked off that event series with 177,283 units. The first "Civil War" series sold exceptionally well and boosted sales of the various tie-in issues as high as four or five times what those titles normally sold. Given the increased cover prices and increased frequency of releases within titles these days, I doubt we'll see the tie-in issues sell multiple times better than the titles normally do. If it does happen, it is obviously more likely to do so on lower selling titles.
"Punisher" #1 launched with a strong 110,726 units. The issue has a 1-in-25 incentive cover, a 1-in-50 incentive cover and four different covers which retailers could order as much as they want of if their orders for the regular cover of this issues exceeded their orders for "Daredevil" #3. Certainly those covers helped increase sales. No doubt the appearance of the character in the second season of the Netflix Daredevil series and the subsequent announcement of the character getting a Netflix series also helped sales to some degree. Many Marvel titles, like "Star Wars: Poe Dameron" and "Gwenpool," dropped over 60% with the second issue; strong first issues sales are good, but not particularly indicative of how the title might do over time.
"Black Panther" #2 dropped massively from the chart topping sales of the first issue down to a still very strong 77,653 units. The 15,523 units of reorder activity on "Black Panther" #1 are a good sign the title might level off with strong sales. "Captain America: Steve Rogers" #1 sold 99,767 units in May. Given the high profile nature of the title, I suspect we'll see strong reorder activity on it in June. For comparison, "Captain America: Sam Wilson" #9 sold 27,479 units. Marvel want to have two concurrent Captain Americas in the Marvel Universe, but for most readers, Steve Rogers is the default flagship character/title of the franchise.
The best-selling comic not published by Marvel or DC was "The Walking Dead" #154, with 68,922 units, followed by "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" #3, which dropped 34.66% down to 38,537 units. "4001 A.D." #1 from Valiant was the third best-selling comic not from Marvel or DC ,with 27,130 units.
June will have the first wave of Rebirth and first issues, giving us our first looks at how this initiative is starting to play out for DC. No doubt the initial sales will be strong, but the real question is about sustained sales. The New 52 started strong, but less than five years later DC is tweaking the timeline of the DC Universe in order to revitalize its line. Meanwhile, Marvel will have the Civil War II event in full swing, which usually means strong sales. The net result could be a rough June for the other publishers.
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.