By The Numbers: February 2015

Welcome back everyone! It’s time for another round of discussing the sales charts with myself, writer and editor, Glenn

Matchett along with writer and editor, Ray Goldfield!

Glenn Matchett is a comic writer and editor. He’s worked in the industry for 5 years but grew up reading comics. He loves the format deeply and spends way too much time concerned that his favorite books will be cancelled. He is currently trying to figure out how he can make comics without going broke.

Ray Goldfield is a fan of comic books for going on 25 years, starting with the Death of Superman. He is a writer and editor for GrayHaven Comics, in addition to his day job. He started out as a DC Zombie, but has broadened his tastes to Marvel and indie books in recent years. He is currently trying to figure out how he can continue to read comics without going broke.

All sales figures retrieved from ICv2.com

Please note this was all discussed prior to the announcement of Stuart Immonen being placed on Star Wars and the news of Marvel ‘cancelling’ the majority of its line during Secret Wars.

What went well?

Glenn: Has it been a month already? How time flies! This should be a really interesting month to look into. A lot of new launches, new directions and probably the most unpredictable month before we settle in to the calm before the Secret War/Convergence storm.

Of course, we all know that Star Wars or Darth Vader will take the top spot and prove that this franchise is…

Or not.

Turns out IDW see quite possibly their best selling book ever with the launch of an Orphan Black series. Of course, this is all thanks to the super popular ‘Loot Crate’ subscription for geeky type folks that want to get a lot of cool stuff delivered to their door. Really, if it gives smaller press companies a lot of exposure and a series that would probably have been happy to launch at like mid 30k, sales like this then it can only be a good thing, I think.

I’m expecting the book to sink like no tomorrow next month but maybe some of those near 500k copies will benefit the title long term? I mean it seems to be a verly popular cult show (personally I couldn’t get into it). It could find a whole new series of fans here, who knows?

We then go back to how we expect things to go (sorta) with Darth Vader catching the number 2 spot but then, Star Wars has to wait another space as Spider-Gwen takes the number 3 place on the charts.

I’m sure following the insanity around her debut, people were expecting good sales but I think this surpassed expectation by far. I mean if it wasn’t for the anomaly of Orphan Black, not only would it be the second best seller but it beat Star Wars. STAR WARS!!!!

Ray: Yeah, I think this is a testament more to the success of Loot Crate as a powerhouse tool for spreading the word than anything. Orphan Black wasn’t on anyone’s radar to top the month, but thanks to this new promotion, almost 500K people sampled it. Now, I agree – it’ll fall the highest percentage of any top comic we’ve ever seen next month, but even a 90% fall next month will give it well over 40K, which is a massive success for any licensed comic besides Star Wars.

Speaking of Star Wars, clearly Vader had an impressive debut this month. Not surprising for what’s easily one of the most popular villains in pop culture history. However, I’ve got to say – as healthy as these numbers are, the drops are kind of grim. Star Wars, which was the top-selling comic of the last ten years, fell about 80%. Darth Vader lost 60% of its sales from #1 to #2 in the same month. Clearly these are huge increases over what this comic used to do, but we can now say these aren’t game-changing numbers. They’re what we’re used to seeing from top-tier comics in the current market.

Now, as to Spider-Gwen, I don’t think I can say enough about how amazing this is. Let’s not forget how this comic started. This was a one-shot tie-in that was expected to come and go with relatively little fanfare. Within less than six months, the public mobilized and not only turned this into an ongoing, but made it one of the top-selling debuts Marvel has put out recently. Now, a lot of the credit has to go to the mass number of variants as always, but a wide swath of fan base still got together and made a female-led alternate universe comic starring Spider-man’s dead girlfriend sell 250K. This is easily the biggest triumph of the new comic book market that I’ve ever seen. And it doesn’t hurt that two issues in, the book is exceptional.

Besides the top debuts, Silk launched with a debut roughly in the range of last month’s Ant-Man and the previous Angela. It seems like this is where retailers are ordering Marvel books that may be more niche. Still, that’s two female-led Spider-titles starring new characters in the top ten, so well done on that front. However, as we’ll discuss later, it might have a rough road ahead.

Batman and Amazing Spider-man seem to be amazingly steady, although we’ll see how the latter holds up once Spider-Verse is over. Thor and Harley Quinn continue to do impressively well, and the Black Vortex crossover debuted strongly and seems to have lifted all boats. Uncanny Avengers also held on a bit better than I expected. And as it wraps up this month, Batman: Eternal is still holding strong in the top 30. This is an unqualified success for DC.

Over at Image, their headliners Walking Dead, Saga, and Wytches continue to draw strong numbers. Also, Grant Morrison had a really good debut with The Nameless, selling 43K at #34.

Below that, though, we start to see a lot of hard falls, especially for Marvel.

Glenn: With Vader, it should be noted that despite his status, Dark Horse never really did a book with his name on the title. It may be perhaps based on the fast that generally, villain books don’t sell but Vader is quite possibly the best known villain out of any genre.

They are some big drops, I agree. However, given how the market is these days, sales of over 100k are nothing to sneeze at. The question is if they can stay around that level. I’m also curious if they can’t maintain sales of say 70-80k how long Marvel will keep the top tier talent on those books.

I think it was also a great month for some spin offs. I know you mentioned Harley but this wasn’t exactly a regular issue. This was a ‘valentines day’ special and these special kind of themed one off’s don’t tend to do well. It shows that the current direction that DC have this insanely popular character in at the moment, is working. It certainty shows promise for the spin off mini coming up in a few months and the books long term survival.

I also think the Thor annual did really well. Again, annuals can be hit or miss and usually land wayyyyy down below the parent title but this one held up well. Thor has become one of Marvel’s dependable books under the guiding hand of Jason Aaron and the direction with female Thor.

Silk got a lot of hype, we’ll see how she fares next month. I may be jaded but I’m sure in a year or two, there will be as many people that remember her as Alpha (although that spin off mini was DOA).

Like you said, otherwise the top performing books are the normal ‘these are the books that keep the lights on’ titles like your Spider-Man, Batman, Walking Dead and such, no big surprises.

Much like his DC counterpart, it seems that Deadpool can handle sales off a spin off book pretty decently. Return Of The Living Deadpool landed only 10 spots and about 5,000 sales under its parent title, which isn’t too shabby.

I’m surprised that this Multiversity didn’t fare better. If memory serves, the last book Morrison and Lee did together was WildC.A.T.S #1 (those were the dayssssss) and it sold over 200k I think. I know the market is very different now but I would have thought them working together would have performed a little stronger than this.

Ray: I think that the regular creative teams being on both Harley Quinn and Thor’s specials gave the impression that these specials actually mattered. Most of the time, they feel like one-offs with no long-term significance. That’s not the case here, and it worked wonders.

I am surprised that a Jim Lee comic sold so low, but this was also the one issue of Multiversity that got very little hype ahead of its release. This wasn’t one of the worlds that Morrison was talking a lot about, compared to Thunderworld, Pax Americana, and The Just. I think it slipped under the radar a bit.

Glenn: Very true, some of the annuals over the last few years have been pathetic. The only ones worth any note are usually the Batman ones and like you said, they usually have the writer or someone close to him doing those and sales follow suit. Funny I was talking about how sales will stay with Star Wars once the all star creators move on, John Cassidy has just announced he’s leaving the book. No big surprise given his level of output but there’s a very short list I feel would be suitable to replace him.Plus those characters have been around for years, decades even. I don’t think Silk is a year old yet and from what I’ve seen, she’s not exactly having people crying out for her, the same way they are for say: Spider-Gwen. I’ve seen Marvel try this with Mattie Franklin, Arana and Jessica (several times), I don’t think Silk can buck the trend. I sure hope that Gwen can but that seems to be taking everyone by surprise. Might it be a flash in a pan? I’m not sure but we’ll see.

Ray: And with that, I think we’ve covered all the big news at the top of the charts!

Steady books/Books in the Middle

Ray: What makes me the most skeptical about Silk‘s future is the recent performance of other b-list characters who debuted in the top ten and sank immediately afterwards. Ant-Man sold these exact numbers last month, and now it’s down at #44 with 40K sales with its second issue. And Angela is down in the 60s with its third issue. Spider-Man and the X-Men is even lower. That’s not a healthy trend, and the same could easily happen to Silk.

I’ve got to say, though, no drop has got to be worrying Marvel more than Wolverines. The trends were already not good for the first month, with it falling from top ten to out of the top 30 in its first month of release. This month, by the time the month is over it’s fallen all the way down to #68, roughly at the same level of the year-old alternate reality weekly Futures end. This was supposed to be the replacement for Wolverine’s solo title, but it looks like people are treating it more like what it is – an X-23, Daken, Sabretooth, and Mystique weekly at $3.99. If the drops are this brutal after only two months, I can easily see it falling out of the top 100 by Summer.

Given the massive delays, I can’t say I’m surprised that Secret Six #2 is already down to the mid-80s, but it makes me sad.

On the good side, Ms. Marvel continues to be incredibly steady in the 30K range or a bit below. It’s got great word of mouth, and I think Spider-Gwen might find a similar level of stability once it finds its level.

Glenn: It’s an odd one, you think following the strong performance of Death of Wolverine that this weekly would hold up better. I do remember though that back during Dark Reign the Wolverine title got rebranded to Dark Wolverine and starred Daken. Meanwhile, Jason Aaron launched a book called Wolverine: Weapon X and the whole thing fell flat on its face for reasons no one could quite understand. Could history be repeating itself slightly? I do wonder though, given the situation with the x-franchise, how much Marvel is really bothered. They seem to be putting all their chips on the Inhumans so they might not be too bothered that Wolverines isn’t doing so hot.

It seems that Johns and Romita JR have given the Superman title a little bit of juice again. I still think this character and this creative team could and should be doing a lot better but the market has been pretty apathetic to Superman since…well since he died, really.Most books from both companies seem to be at a verly steady level from Green Lantern to Avenger‘s to the main X-books, etc. I’m glad that Spider-Man 2099 is holding well. This seems to be a mutant power that Peter David has on his books. They’re very rarely at the top of the charts but they don’t go through the huge ups and downs that most books face. He has this skill to bring in a decent sized and dependable audience. Mid 30k isn’t bad at all for a character that was at its peak popularity 20 years or so ago.Most books seem to be waiting around for the next big crossover to start and some of them are looking mighty unhealthy while they do it…I think some books have really suffered from some recent creative overhauls. Also, while some Image books are critical darlings, very few manage to keep their audience unless they’re written by people the comic market ‘knows’. I think that Nailbiter is my second favorite book at the moment and its floating way down at 10k and it really deserves better.

Ray: In another year, the headline Wolverine book selling this poorly would have been a sign of the apocalypse, but Marvel seems to have moved the X-line way down the list of their top priorities. Although it’s worth adding that their apparent replacement for the X-men, the Inhumans, is struggling in sales as well. Charles Soule has had some rough luck since landing at Marvel, with none of his big projects catching on.

This current creative team on Superman has been great, but unfortunately Johns is leaving after this arc concludes. DC is taking a huge risk, replacing him with a top-tier graphic novelist who is actually pretty unknown among superhero fans. I’m hoping it can maintain its recent buzz.

Meanwhile, last month’s lower-tier Marvel launch, Squirrel Girl, plunged this month to #87. Those are some grim numbers, and I think it’s safe to say that the audience that made books like Harley, Spider-Gwen, and Ms. Marvel surprise hits didn’t follow them here. I appreciate the ambition to do offbeat books like this and Howard the Duck, but I don’t see this one holding on long.

There’s a lot of lower-tier Marvel and DC books that are struggling. I must say, I’m kind of surprised to see DC keep Lobo going with numbers in the mid-teens, especially since they ended Supergirl, which sells twice as much.

Yeah, it’s unfortunate that Image seems to struggle when there isn’t an a-list name attached. Although it is worth noting that Image keeps on putting out more and more books each month, most of them by new or less-known creators. So even though the sales don’t look that impressive to us compared to the big guns, they seem to be happy with the results.

This and March are definitely in a sort of holding pattern, as both companies are wrapping things up before mega-events that completely alter the line. It’ll be very interesting to see how retailers order on the hundred or so miniseries that are replacing the ongoings for a couple of months.

Glenn: The Inhuman books are a bit strange to me. Obviously, Marvel is giving them a big push but the movie still has a while to come around. I think they would have been better off being patient and doing what they did with Guardians and waiting until closer to the movie. It’s greatly benefited the Guardians line, I’m sure if you would have said that there would be like 5 or 6 Guardian titles from Marvel, you would have been dragged first class to the loony bin.

Ray: Yeah, this was just way too fast, too soon for Inhumans. They don’t have the mainstream profile to sustain this kind of expansion yet. I assume come September, we’ll see yet another relaunch for them, but I don’t know how long this can last. It’s funny that the highest-selling Inhuman title remains the character who was only created a year ago, Ms. Marvel.

Glenn: Going back to Superman for a moment, they’re probably hoping John Romita JR is enough to sell the book, I love his work but I’m not sure that strategy is sound. It sure doesn’t seem to be working on Wonder Woman

Speaking of which…

The Danger Zone

Glenn: Despite having an a-list artist in David Finch, it seems that the new direction Wonder Woman has taken has got it slowly dripping down the charts. It doesn’t seem that Batgirl is holding up too healthy after Gail Simone left, despite its near complete revamp. The book has been the subject of a lot of controversy over the past couple of months and while any kind of press can be seen as good press, that doesn’t seem to be the case here.

Those numbers for Aquaman and the Others just make you kind of cringe a little. Like you say though a lot of the low-mid selling performers are just clinging on until both DC and Marvel both try to reinvent themselves over the Summer. It’s crazy to think that by the end of the year both lines from both companies may look completely different.

Most of the rest of the low sellers are the usual other media properties. I wonder how happy BOOM is with the sales of Munchkin given how insanely popular the game is at the moment? I’d imagine this is a book that actually see a lot of success outside of the main market.

Then you have the likes of Tomb Raider, Doctor Who, Zenescope and the usual…oh and one of your favorites…Klarion.

Ray: I think Batgirl is holding up okay, for a quirky female-led Bat-book without any big-name creators on board. This title hasn’t been for everyone, but I salute DC for taking one of their biggest-name female heroes and giving the book a total makeover for this new comic book market. It’s hard not to see the book as a response to books like Ms. Marvel and the Kate Bishop-led Hawkeye run, but it’s the biggest success of the lot. And I think it’s likely Supergirl will get a similar makeover when they relaunch her title to tie-in with the TV show, no doubt.

Wonder Woman seems to be in trouble, though. I mean, it’s one of the flagship titles and it’s going nowhere, clearly, but it’s already run into massive delays with the annual being delayed from April 1st to June. We saw the impact those kinds of delays had on another title, Hawkeye, which dipped all the way down to #56 with its return this month.

It looks like DC is culling almost all its low performers besides Lobo, giving a few relaunches, and calling it a day on the rest. I expect Marvel will probably do the same in a few months, although they’re in a bit of a fix. They’ve made much more noise about their commitment to diverse and female-led titles, enlisting the mainstream media to push their efforts. Are they willing to commit to those titles even when the sales aren’t holding up on books like Storm or Mighty Avengers?

What you mentioned about Munchkin illustrates how hard it is for licensed properties lately. I do wonder if they’re having strong sales in game stores to make up for it, though. And then you have a title like Lumberjanes, with tons of critical acclaim and appealing to the new comic market, with only 8.4K sales. It might be that bookstore sales are making up the difference, there.

Glenn: I suppose the story will be in how long these titles last!

Coming Up Next Month!

Glenn: Next month it seems like more of the same, just waiting for the market to implode upon the arrival of the big two’s monster events.

Ray: Yeah, March is probably the quietest month of the year in terms of debuts. Still, there are some interesting subplots going on in the sales.

Marvel launched two new series, their last before Secret Wars. First is All-New Hawkeye, with a top-tier creative team. But the first series has been plagued by nightmarish delays, with the final issue tentatively set to come out almost two months after the new series launched. The Fraction series has obviously suffered in sales, and I’m hoping the new series can rebound.

Then there’s Howard the Duck. At the very least, I applaud Marvel for ambition. Their other foray into comedy, Squirrel Girl, is on its way out of the top hundred, but Howard has a higher-profile creative team and seems more geared towards traditional comic fans. It’ll be interesting to see if it can capture a bit of that Harley Quinn comedy support.

From other publishers, there’s quite a few interesting launches. Southern Cross and Invisible Republic from Image, both futuristic sci-fi thrillers, are making their debuts. The Dodsons are attached to Cold War-era superhero thriller Red One. Matt Kindt, always prolific, has a new series from Dark Horse called PastAways. I’ll be interesting to see if any of these can break out. Mark Millar and Sean Murphy’s latest widescreen concept, Chrononauts will likely make the biggest splash on the charts, though.

Of course, then comes Convergence in April, followed by Secret Wars in May and the DC relaunch in June – followed, of course, by something big from Marvel come the conclusion of Secret Wars. If it is the long-rumored reboot, that is going to have a massive impact.

Glenn: Before we finish off, I wonder how fans feel about the start of the new Hawkeye series before the completion of the old one?

I don’t really recall anything like this since the end of Old Man Logan, I must admit. I think this is Lemire’s first Marvel work so he probably is a bit puzzled (he may not care at all).

This may be Fraction’s last work at Marvel as he seems to be moving solely over to creator owned, so it’s not leaving on the best note (although, it is likely the delay has nothing to do with him).

Ray: It happened a few times at DC, too. Allan Heinberg’s Wonder Woman run ended over a year late and new comics came out in the meantime. There was also a small case of this at Marvel this month, where a Black Vortex tie-in issue of All-New X-Men came out before the previous issue of the title, which was unrelated. However, Hawkeye seems to be fairly disconnected from continuity, so the impact might be minimized. I think the bigger worry is that most fans simply forgot about the book during almost six months between issues.ere was also a small case of this at Marvel this month, where a Black Vortex tie-in issue of All-New X-Men came out before the previous issue of the title, which was unrelated.

Glenn: I think what we’ve learned is that you have a better memory of what’s coming out month to month than I do. This is what you get from ordering your books 3 months in advance…

Ray: I cheat using Midtown Comics order forms, heh. Incredibly useful.

Until next month, then!

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