The Mayo Report: Superman & Batman Soar, Valiant Remains Steady

Once again, Marvel had the largest portion of the total units sold for the top 300 comics in June 2013 with 42.01% compared to the 33.11% for DC Comics. Image accounted for 7.62%, IDW another 4.77 and Dark Horse another 4.3% leaving 8.19% of the total units sold in the top 300 to the publishers in the back half of Previews.

DC did take the top three slots on the list, however, with "Superman Unchained" #1 moving an estimated 251,493 units into stores in June. "Batman/Superman" #1 sold around 143,478 units and "Batman" #21 did approximately 142,109 units. "Batman" #21 was the first part of the "Batman: Zero Year" storyline which makes it effectively a first issue of sorts as far as sales trends go. These days, the sales of first issues are important in so much as it often defines the high water mark for sales of the title. Beyond that, first issue sales usually don't seem to reflect the strength of the title since the long term interest in the title usually doesn't become apparent until around the fourth issue at the earliest. The 54.26% drop of around 109,741 units on "X-Men" #2 to the sales of around 73,553 units into retailers is not a sign of readers abandoning the title. It is a reflection of the marketing push that was behind the first issue and not the second.

The top two items from Marvel were "Age of Ultron" #10 with around 110,963 units -- around 16,023 units above the 95,520 estimated units for "Age of Ultron" #9. The sales trend for "Age of Ultron" had a second issue drop along the expected lines, a bit of attrition through the fifth issue and then it pretty much stabilized for the rest of the run with an uptick on the final issue. This is actually not unusual as some readers want to see how thing end but aren't overly concerned with how the story got to that point. In this case, the excessive promotion around the ending of the miniseries clearly helped the sales of the final issue. On the other hand, the 73,627 estimated units for "Age of Ultron" #10AI clearly indicate there was a bit less interest in what served both as an epilogue to "Age of Ultron" and as a springboard into the "Avengers AI" series. The end result is, Marvel is replacing two items near the top of the list with a new title selling a fraction as well.

Once again, "The Walking Dead" #111 was the top selling comic not published by Marvel or DC, with 74,868 estimated units. The upcoming increased shipping frequency should actually help increase the story momentum and sales of this title over the next story arc. Beyond the zombie drama, Image continues to have success with a number of titles such as "Jupiter's Legacy" #2 which sold around 48,224 units and "Lazarus" #1 with an estimated 48,037 units.

Image also took the top two slots on the best-selling collected editions list with "The Walking Dead" v18 trade paperback selling around 28,179 units into stores and "Saga" v2 trade paperback moving around 18,025 units. Those are both exceedingly high sales on the trades list. "The Walking Dead" v18 sold a few thousand more units than the best-selling items on the trades list for the previous three months combined. To say Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard continue to be a powerhouse at Image in terms of collected edition sales is something of an understatement. The various formats of "The Walking Dead" account for over 53% of the collected editions sold by Image through Diamond in June. The "Thief of Thieves" trade paperbacks accounted for one more percent of the collected editions sales for Image. Image had the second largest percentage of the total units sales for the top 300 trades with 25.34% which was only a little lower than the 26.68% for DC and well above the 16.58% for Marvel. Again, the majority of those sales can be traced directly back to Robert Kirkman. Just imagine if Kirkman or someone else at Image could duplicate that level of success. With some of the recent titles at Image, maybe someone has already started down that path.

"My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic" #8 was the top seller for IDW with an estimated 33,119 units. The top two titles for BOOM! Studios were "Adventure Time" #17 with approximately 20,863 units and "Regular Show" #2 with around 19,510 units. These are stronger sales than some of the lower ranked Marvel and DC titles.

The dollar launch price continues to help out Aspen with "Bubblegun" #1 selling an estimated 28,521 units placing it far above the other Aspen titles this month. "Jirni" and "Charismagic" both launched at the dollar price point and, as should be expected, dropped in sales with the following issues at full price. Hopefully the "10-for-10" campaign has been successful enough for Aspen to continue it next year.

The Valiant titles continue to sell within the ballpark of each other giving that publisher a uniquely strong average sales level. The use of "Harbinger Wars" as a bridge crossover miniseries between "Harbinger" and "Bloodshot" seems to have been successful move. Valiant continues to be a publisher to watch as it enters the second year of publishing. Average sales around 12,500 units might not seem very impressive until you compare it to the sales averages for the other publishers in the top 300. Valiant had the fourth highest average sales behind the 17,231 unit average for Image, the 33,621 unit average for DC and the 38,731 unit average for Marvel. Not bad for a company that's only a year old.

Not a month goes by with a bunch of titles ending and new ones replacing them. This is how the industry has always worked with the survival of the fittest, or at least the survival of the most popular. Over the past few years it has become more and more common for titles to end earlier and earlier. Sometimes the title gets relaunched with a new creative team, new direction or just a new first issue. Other times the title is dead and gone, replaced by something completely different. If you ignore numbering gimmicks like zero issues, point something-or-other issues and ridiculously high issue numbers (anything 1,000 or over) and average the issue numbers for new items on the list a very visible trend has emerged over the last few months. With the New 52 relaunch of the DC Universe two years ago and the more recent Marvel Now relaunches, the average issue number has dropped considerably.

In theory, issue numbers reflect the age and stability of a title. In reality, that is far from true. What is true is ending titles gives readers an out if they wish to take it. Even if they don't, there is no guarantee the sales lost from a cancelled title will be compensated for on the replacement title. Usually they are, at least initially. But over the longer term, this practice has turns comics in to a churn based model requiring major marketing effort to get readers on to titles every month. Acquisition of readers is not free. Having to do it every few months just to stay even seems like a bad business model. Yet miniseries are common at most of the smaller publishers, and some of the lower selling ongoing titles at Marvel and DC don't seem to last much longer than a typical miniseries.

The funny part? Issue numbers don't matter. Giving the readers a good reason to want to come back for the next issue is what matters. Many creators excel at that. And it is a good thing that issue numbers don't matter because if they drop much lower they are likely to disappear entirely.

As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to email me at John.Mayo@ComicBookResources.com.

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