September 2015 was the weakest month for the top 300 comics since March 2014. DC didn't have a major September event like they have since the New 52 relaunch in 2011, and sales were down for across the board for publishers. Marvel accounted for 43.86% of the total units for the top 300 comics. DC took about 29.47% of the units and Image another 11.02%. Another 3.72% of the total units went to IDW and 3.07% to Dark Horse. The remaining 8.86% of the units was split across 14 other publishers.
Of the 2,740,911 units sold by Marvel, 20.65% of them came from "Star Wars" titles. "Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Shattered Empire" #1 topped the list with 208,883 units. "Star Wars" #9 was in second place with 135,817 units and "Darth Vader" #9 moved 100,234 units into retail stores. Here is a chart of the "Star Wars" titles (excluding the million unit selling "Star Wars" #1):
Expect to see more "Star Wars" miniseries as the movies get closer, and for the franchise to continue to be strong for Marvel for the duration of the movies unless Marvel gets careless with the property. Given how many titles Marvel publishes, "Star Wars" accounting for over 20% of the sales is both a bit surprising and a little concerning. The Marvel superhero properties are popular as comic book characters and well known to the mass audience thanks to the movies and television shows. Six licensed comics out of a total of 79 comics shouldn't account for that large of a percentage of the overall sales for a company. Fortunately, since Marvel is licensing the "Star Wars" property from Disney, which owns Marvel, there is no real risk that Marvel will lose the license, so the books function much like those owned by the publisher.
"Deadpool vs Thanos" #1 at 108,610 units and "Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows" #5 at 94,652 units were the other top sellers for Marvel. "Deadpool vs Thanos" #2 was a clear dividing line between the top sellers for Marvel and the rest of the items with 67,900 units.
Only a handful of Marvel titles increased in sales in September. "Silk" #7 and "Ms Marvel" #18 both tied into the "Secret Wars" event. "Daredevil" #18 ended the popular run by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee up a mere 41 units over the previous issue at 29,945 units.
From the chart of the sales of the various "Daredevil" volumes over the past dozen years, there doesn't seem to be any significant impact from the Netflix "Daredevil" television series, released in April 2015. While new readers have no doubt been gained as a result of that series, the sales of the series are consistent with how the title had been doing prior to that series.
The average sales for a title set in the Marvel Universe (including the "Secret Wars" titles) was 34,039 units. That average is not particularly impressive. The next few months will wrap up the "Secret Wars" event and involve a staggering number of new titles from Marvel. Typically, a new volume of a title at Marvel starts with the best sales the volume will ever get, drops in the ballpark of 40% to 60% on the second issue, drops another 10% to 30% on the third issue and then suffers from standard sales attrition of a few percent per issue.
"Batman" #44 was the top seller for DC with 114,409 units, down about 8.25% from the previous issue. "Batman Annual" #4 sold 80,684 units which is down only 0.87% from the previous annual. "Justice League" #44 sold 76,751 units. "Harley Quinn" #20 was the next best seller for DC with 56,835 units. Titles in the DC Universe averaged 30,525 units. Exclude "Batman" #44 and "Batman Annual" #4 and the average drops to 27,732 units. DC has a couple of titles selling under 20,000 units which puts them in danger of cancelation. One of them, "Omega Men" has already been canceled and then uncanceled with the series now slated to run until #12. Frankly, I'm finding it really hard to keep track of which titles are just running late, which are canceled only to get relaunched and which titles are actually ending entirely.
"Fight Club 2" #5 was the best-selling comics from Dark Horse with 40,446 units. The miniseries essentially leveled off with the third issue and had a drop of only a percent or two per issue after that.
Dynamite Entertainment has two major second issue drops with "Red Sonja/Conan" #2 dropped around 58.22% to 10,717 units and "Shadow" #2 dropping 57.44% to 6,115 units. The price change from $1 on "Shadow" #1 to $3.99 on the second issue presumably was a major factor the drop on that title. Even so, Dynamite Entertainment made a smart move pricing the first issue at $1 to encourage sales.
"Danger Girl: Renegade" #1 was the best-seller for IDW with 20,217 units. The lowest selling item from IDW in the top 300 was "Atomic Robo and the Ring of Fire" #1 with 5,537 units. The Atomic Robo series of miniseries started at Red 5 Comics in 2007 and has been a consistent seller over time. Titles from a smaller publisher like Red 5 Comics simply don't get onto as many store shelves as titles from larger publishers. That inequity is a real shame, because there are a number of great titles like "Atomic Robo" out there. If Red 5 Comics hadn't initially published the series, it wouldn't be around for IDW to be publishing now.
Unsurprisingly, "The Walking Dead" #146 was the best-selling Image Comics in September with 69,006 units through the direct market. Most of the higher profile Image titles didn't have a release in September. "We Stand on Guard" #3 sold 44,049 units and "Tokyo Ghost" #1 launched with 39,682 units. "Outcast" #12 was the dividing line at Image with 26,115 units. On the top trades list, "Saga" v5 trade paperback sold 29,386 units. Every other "Saga" trade paperback was on the list with reorder activity of at least 2,584 units.
"Invader Zim" #3 topped the list for Oni Press with 36,432 units. "Rick and Morty" #6 with 11,833 units was the only other Oni Press item in the top 300.
"Book of Death" #3 topped the list of Valiant with 25,059 units, which was over twice the number as the next best seller for Valiant. "Bloodshot Reborn" #6 sold 11,006 units and was the best-selling of the regular Valiant titles. "Unity" #22 was the lowest selling Valiant title in the top 300, selling 5,346 units. "Unity" is scheduled to end with #25 in December.
October is the start of the Marvel relaunches. Sales will appear very strong for Marvel as the new volumes get rolled out, but don't take that as a resurgence in sales or a sign of the market bouncing back. It will just be a reflection of the false sales bump caused by first issues and the numerous variant covers Marvel tends to utilize. We might get a rollercoaster for a while at Marvel since they seem to be starting a new volume with each new story arc on a number of titles like "Spider-Gwen," "A-Force" and "Unbeatable Squirrel-Girl." That just be a one-time thing because of the "Secret Wars" event, or it might be the start of the conversion to a "season"-based approach to titles. An increase in volume which get recycled into a new volume with each story arc runs the very real risk of significantly draining the sales power of a first issue. The sales bump on first issues is one of the main things which give the illusion of a healthier marketplace. Burning out the sales power of first issues could be a very bad things for comic book sales.
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.