The Mayo Report: "Secret" & "Star Wars" Fuel Marvel, Image Continues to Grow

July 2015 was a strong month for Marvel, which accounted for 45.52% of the total unit sales and 47.96% of the total dollars for the top 300 comics. DC Comics did about half as well, with 27.53% of the unit sales and 25.96% of the total dollars for the top 300 comics. Image remained firmly in the middle between the big two and the other publishers, with 9.82% of the total units and 8.3% of the total dollar for the top 300 comics. The remaining 14 publishers with items in the top 300 comics accounted for 17.13% of the unit sales and 17.78% of the retail dollars.

RELATED: "Archie" #1 Sales Top 100K, "Walking Dead" Surges Higher on July 2015 Sales Chart

Eight of the top ten slots were taken by Marvel titles. "Secret Wars" #4 topped the list with 221,041 estimated units, making it one of the most successful events since "Civil War." "Civil War" #1, which is part of the Secret Wars event and very loosely based on the event of the same title, sold an estimated 170,546 units, placing it squarely between the 192,949 units for "Star Wars: Lando" #1 and 160,000 units for "Star Wars" #7. "Darth Vader" #7 sold approximately 114,349 units. "Princess Leia" #5 concluded that miniseries with sales of 77,465 units. "Kanan: The Last Padawan" #4, the only current Star Wars title not featuring a character from the movies, sold around 52,260 units. While Kanan is featured in the "Star Wars: Rebels" television series, apparently that isn't enough for the character to compete with the characters from the original movie trilogy.

Despite its overall domination of the top 300, Marvel has a number of titles selling surprisingly low. "Daredevil" #17, a title which seems to get a lot of positive buzz, sold 29,904 units. That level of sales is more than enough to keep the series around, but on the other hand, "Deathlok" #10 sold 8,360 units, which is one of the lowest sales I recall seeing for a mainstream Marvel Universe title.

Marvel seems to be using the Secret Wars event as a chance to float trial balloons for a variety of characters, teams to see what the current audience is most interested in. No doubt the decision makers at Marvel have been following the incoming orders closely the past few months. We've already seen solicitations indicating some of the post-Secret Wars status quo for the new Marvel Universe. Marvel already has solid sales momentum and if they come out of Secret Wars strong, as there is no reason to think they won't, then the sales gap between Marvel and DC could increase in the coming months.

A number of Image titles seem to be doing fairly well. "We Stand On Guard" #1 launched with 78,690 units. "Saga" remains solidly over 55,000 units, with #30 selling 60,937 units. A number of other titles, such as "Outcast," "Descender" and "The Wicked and the Divine," are selling in the 20,000 to 30,000 range. Some Image series come out on a slightly longer than monthly frequency giving Image a bit of an uneven sales cadence. If Image can either help those creative teams produce a little faster, or shift the schedule for the titles slightly in order to even out the sales from month to month, then they should be able to build up solid sales momentum across the line and be breathing down DC's proverbial neck within the foreseeable future.

Over at DC, "Batman" #42 was down 17.39% from the previous issue, but still sold an estimated 117,441 units. This is in line with a standard second issue drop, which makes sense given the title relaunched after "Convergence" with a new Batman. Odds are the sales of "Batman" will follow the expected trend of dropping somewhere in the ballpark of 10% or on the next issue and then slowly drifting down afterwards as most titles do. Safe money is that the original Batman will return before or shortly after the sales of the title dip below 100,000 units.

"Batman" #42 was the only DC title to sell over 100,000 units in July. Many of the digital-first series are selling below 10,000 units in print: "The Flash: Season Zero," "Arrow Season 2.5" and "Fables: The Wolf Among Us." DC has been producing a lot of digital-first content. The lack of any publicly available numbers on the digital side makes it impossible to know for sure how those titles are selling digitally. With print sales at this level, if DC continues to produce digital-first titles then it implies the digital sales and print sales in combination are strong enough to justify keeping the titles around.

DC ongoing titles in the danger zone of possible cancellation if only print sales are used as a metric: "Lobo," "Gotham By Midnight," "Omega Men" and "Doomed." "Prez" was originally listed as a twelve issue miniseries, but the August solicitation listed it as a six issue miniseries. "Prez" #2 sold 13,178 units putting it firmly in the potential danger zone. Obviously publishers use all of the information they have (much of which we don't have access to) when determining which titles to keeping producing and which ones to end. If a title like "Prez" sold brilliantly digitally then it would make sense to keep it going.

Another major relaunch in July was "Archie" #1, which sold 101,488 units on the strength of a high profile creative team of Mark Waid and Fiona Staples and a multitude of variant covers. The impact of the relaunch could be significant. A lot of readers sampled the title with this issue, and the series is much more in sync with a more modern sensibility than it had been. Readers who grew up on "Saved by the Bell" should find it much more approachable. It is just as likely readers will like the new take on the character, but not enough to add the series to their reading list every month.

Topping the trades list was "Fables" v22 trade paperback with 14,175 units. This volume doubled as "Fables" 150, which concluded the series. "Fables" #149 sold 13,302 units in February 2015. The six month gap between the two installments is understandable given the final issue was the equivalent of a six-issue story arc in and of itself. The end of this series marks the end of an era for Vertigo. For the longest time, there was always a flagship title within the Vertigo titles. Early on, it was "Swamp Thing." At other points it was "Sandman" or "Hellblazer" and most recently "Fables." While Vertigo is still strong brand for DC, it lacks a definitive flagship title for the imprint. No doubt one will emerge before too long. It just seems a little strange to not have a clear one at the moment.

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. 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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