Like in any industry, comic books and their companies listen most to one thing and that’s your money! What does your money tell them? What does it tell us as fans? What series do people say they adore but can’t seem to catch a break and what books to people hate that sell out? What are the trends? What looks good? What looks rough?
All these questions and more will be answered here, every month in ‘By The Numbers’ by comic writers, editors and fans, Glenn Matchett and Ray Goldfield.
Glenn Matchett is a comic writer and editor. He’s worked in the industry for 6 years but grew up reading comics. He’s had work published with Outre Press, Alterna Comics and Nemesis Studios. He’s currently puzzled why he’s credited as posing a Nightwing preview on this very site that he didn’t post…
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 and has released his first novel. Ray also does a weekly roundup of DC comic reviews for website Geekdad and they’re brilliantly entertaining. Once, Ray fought off an entire alien invasion so he could get his comics on time on New Comic Day. His next challenge is beating Brock Lesnar for the last copy of Detective comics, pity poor Brock.
We also do a podcast together with longtime buddy, Brandon James on iTunes with Rabbitt Stew or at the link here! Don’t ask, I didn’t pick the name. If you’d like to hear what me and Ray sound like, give it a listen!
Top 300 in full available here!
Glenn: Welcome new readers and old to the most complex by the numbers in history! Get your calculators ready as we delve into comics sales from April to see how things did with the launch of Secret Empire and DC mega crossover ‘The Button’. We love our readers on By The Numbers, readers such as Cullen Bunn perhaps
‘According to my timeline, it’s the time of month when people without a clue post snarkily about comic book sales.’-Cullen Bunn via Twitter
Sounds like he heard about us! Without further ado, lets talk as always about the top ten sales.
This top ten is weird because surprisingly at number one we have Marvel’s latest crossover, the controversial Secret Empire with its 0 issue over 162.7k. So a few things here. This event has been hyped by Marvel to death and they’ve been pushing in all their chips on it. 0 issue sales can be hit or miss as people often get puzzled as to what service they serve. Is it a sneaky way of getting issue 1 numbers twice? It doesn’t sometimes work as even the Rebirth one shots (which were number 1’s) didn’t sell as well as the REAL number one’s. Also Marvel’s events haven’t been a big smash recently. Now this event has a great start, mostly likely due to the amount of hype as we mentioned. Still, I would have thought that perhaps Marvel were hoping for better. With the scale that this story is going to take on and the amount of hype and/or doubling down on the status quo it centers around, they were probably hoping for sales of 200-250k or so. If the rest of the issues sell about the same, no problem but Marvel number 2’s don’t tend to have the softest of landings (more on that later). Still, you can’t take away the fact that Secret Empire got the top sales spot.
Ray: To put it into perspective, the sales of Civil War II #0 were about 15K above the sales of Secret Empire, which is also being styled as Marvel’s yearly mega-event. Clearly, this one doesn’t have nearly the good buzz – quite the opposite – but for this issue, at least, it doesn’t seem to have mattered. There’s a few factors to consider here, though, and the biggest might be the issue’s relationship to the main mini. The #0 issues of CWII and IvX were essentially skippable preludes, and they sold about half of the copies of #1. This is not the same – it’s an essential kick-off issue that sets up the rest of the event, and people who pick up #1 without it will be lost. Given that, I wouldn’t be surprised to see only a modest jump for #1 next month. The second factor is that as we all know, these are retailer orders, not actual sales. Lots of retailers are already reporting terrible sales for #0 and #1. Given that, we could see orders slashed and quickly. However, this event is going to have a hectic pace – we’ll get three issues in May and two each month after that – so it’ll be interesting to see how fast things sell. The best case scenario is probably limping over the line at 100K like CWII did, but I see it finishing much lower than that.
Glenn: Or did Secret Empire sell the most this month? See due to some pricing differences, the Batman and Flash issues which feature ‘The Button’ were listed as two separate titles per book. This is because there was a regular $2.99 edition and a $3.99 edition with a lentricular cover so here’s were things get puzzling and we get there right away with number 2 being the lenticular version of Batman #21. On its own this sold over 130.2k which is only a stones throw away from Secret Empire. Then however at spot 7 on the top ten we have the regularly priced edition selling over 89.2 k so all in all Batman 21 sold roughly 219k which is a massive increase on previous issues. Retailers likely ordered heavily more on the fancy covers because they sold well in the Future’s End one shots from a few years back and they looked snazzy. They still however ordered handsomely on the regular edition for people that didn’t want to pay $1 more for a cover that moves if you hold it a slightly different way. This altogether is a stellar number for the first part of the crossover that continues the Watchmen mystery first set up in Rebirth last year. People are REALLY into this story and retailers seem to be buying in too considering they’re ordering heavily on two different versions of the same comic. So if you want to be technical, Batman 21 sold quite a bit more than Secret Empire 0…and its not the only comic, more on that later.
Ray: These numbers for Batman and Flash are just amazing when put all together. That’s essentially a 100% jump or more for both books. The lenticular cover helped, no doubt, but I don’t think it’s just that. Despite this only being a four-part crossover in two existing books, DC’s managed to make it feel like a genuine event. There’s real excitement and heat behind this Rebirth mystery, so retailers turned out in force. Retailer reports are that all issues of this crossover are selling like crazy, so I wouldn’t be surprised if next month’s two issues are the top two selling comics in real issues in that month as well. I don’t want to see DC wind up relying too much on gimmicks like this, but for a rare event like this, it seems to be a cool stunt that people like. I think the majority of these sales are event comic ordering, though, and that’s a huge win for DC. Makes you wonder how high Metal can go in August, given the huge creative team and potential implications.
Glenn: I’m hoping we’ll not see the over saturation on cover gimmicks we saw in the 90’s return either but I think doing something now and again when it makes sense can have its benefits. I know DC are doing special covers for the Metal preludes but thankfully didn’t do anything to the next inter title crossover ‘Titans: Lazarus Experiment’ so I hope they will be selective with stuff like this.
Speaking of controversial comics, its hard to talk about X-Men: Gold #1 without mentioning Adrian Syaf and what a horrible human being he is. I don’t want to give him more press than he has so we’ll move on to the numbers which are over 114.3k which is a fantastic debut that suggests on the surface, the X franchise still might have some juice in it yet. Given the controversy surrounding this issue, copies flew off the shelves so its likely this issue will be seen again next month with some pre-orders. Probably not the reason why Marvel wants pre-orders of course but looking past the negative message associated with this comic that is in no way shape or form the companies fault, this is a great start. Of course, as mentioned above and especially in this case, all that glitters isn’t exactly gold. Issue 2 of this book launches this month too and sells over 62k at 16. This is one of the best drops in terms of sales Marvel has had for a while so there is still seemingly a lot of interest. Next month will be the real test for this book and hopefully it can move past the first issue nonsense rather swiftly.
Ray: Clearly X-Men: Gold was planning a much less dramatic rollout than it had, but these are fine numbers. It’s fairly similar to what Extraordinary X-Men did in the last relaunch – launching slightly weaker, but holding better with its second issue. I’m not sure about the long-term prospects, though – this is the main X-men book right now, but it doesn’t seem to have much in the way of buzz or major stories coming out, and there’s an X-Force-esque Astonishing X-Men book coming soon by a stronger creative team that could leapfrog it. Solid second-issue sales, but we’ll have to see where the actual retailer level is.
Glenn: Right below it is X-Men: Blue #1 which isn’t too far away at spot 4 with sales of over 108.8k. These books were ordered close together which again, is a good sign. There’s a 6k difference for some reason but that could be just because Wolverine (as in Old Man Logan) is on Gold and not Blue or something equally minor. In the grand scheme of things, the difference in sales is minor up here. It suffers a slightly sharper drop in its own issue two which charts at 24 with sales over 54k. Right away, the book is now at the same level as the middle line DC books which is good but it needs to stay here or suffer the fate of so many other Marvel books. Perhaps the X-Men books can finally break the trend and hang at a space in the charts that’s been dominated by DC the last 12 months? Time will tell.
Ray: Yay, it’s time to talk about Cullen Bunn’s book! I may not know what I’m talking about…but these numbers are really good. This is very much the second-tier X-men book this wave, featuring the time-displaced X-kids being secretly led by Magneto. It might have the more interesting hook and better reviews out of the gate, but it doesn’t have as many characters with sales pull. Given that, both its launch numbers and its second-issue hold are really impressive, and I would even say there’s a chance it could wind up pulling even with Gold in the coming months. Given that this spins out of Uncanny X-Men and All-New X-Men from the last wave, which were secondary books, Marvel’s done a good job of building buzz for this title, and Bunn’s built a lot of good will on the franchise since his run on Magneto.
Its time to get out your calculator with number 5 being issue 21 of the Flash which sells over 107k for the lenticular version of the comic. This is nearly double the previous issue which sells over 53.8k at 25 on the charts. Flash has been one of the big winners from Rebirth and involving him in this major crossover is not going to harm matters. The regular issue also sells very well just outside the top ten at 11 with sales over 67.7k. This amounts to sales of roughly 174k which means that Flash 21 also beat Secret Empire when all is said and done. If retailers react like this when ordering two versions of the same book, don’t be surprised if DC tries it more and more in the future, it doesn’t work out too bad for them.
At 6 is Batman #20 which is the issue before the Button begins and the final part of ‘I Am Bane‘. This title continues to remain ridiculously healthy on its own with sales of over 97.5k. Even without connections to smiley faces, no book on the charts is touching Batman in regards to monthlies.
Ray: Batman continues to be amazing as always, but the main question for me this month is – does it keep any of its additional sales from The Button? Same for Flash, of course. With a big Joker vs. Riddler story coming around the corner, I think we could see it peek above 100K again for a while.
Glenn: I think with the upcoming “War Of Jokes And Riddles,” you could be right. I don’t think the Button will make Flash a top selling staple but it’ll probably reset it to around 60-65k for the upcoming Zoom issues.
Star Wars reclaims its place as Marvels best selling ongoing this month at 8 with sales over 70k. Its another ridiculously stable book that has become a key feature in Marvel’s line. There’s more Star Wars to talk about this month but no one is getting tired of seeing various books set in this universe, not by a long shot.
Ray: I think there’s room for improvement with Star Wars, and we’ll likely see a relaunch moving the story forward around the time of The Last Jedi‘s release, but Marvel still has to be extremely happy with this.
Glenn: Compared to the two X-Men books that launched this month, the numbers for Weapon X #1 are a bit underwhelming, It sells over 68.8k at 9 and I would have expected better for what is essentially a Wolverine team up book featuring many popular characters. The second issue which sells over 42.2k at 38 does nothing to quiet the sound akin to hearing air being let out of a balloon on this one. Unless it settles at this point, this could be a book that is soon turned into another stealth mini series.
Ray: These numbers for Weapon X are…acceptable. It’s essentially a Wolverine spin-off in an era where Wolverine is no longer the dominant sales force he used to be. The second issue fall is actually not bad, assuming there’s no sales-fudging. While it’s probably less than Marvel hoped for, I think they’ve got a lot bigger problems right now, and this one should run as long as the creators want it to. And hey, all three X-books launched in the top ten this month. We’ll talk about the other relaunching franchise spinning out of the same event later, and the news is not nearly as good.
Glenn: Final book on the top ten is the king of the Image/Indie mountain, The Walking Dead with sales over 68.2k. No need for buttons, lenticular covers, secret Hydra Agents or colour codes here. Walking Dead sells because it’s Walking Dead.
Ray: Incredible performance, in a crazy month like this. Walking Dead continues to be just like Batman – so stable nothing can touch it.
Right out of the top 10 at #12, we have All-Star Batman, which loses 4K from last month to sell 67K. A bit of a steep fall this late in its run, but it’s worth noting that it still would have made the top ten if you remove the two additional copies of Batman and Flash above it.
Glenn: If you take All-Star as nothing more than a creator vehicle which doesn’t have much impact on the general universe unlike Detective and Batman, the sales are fantastic, especially as always given the pricing. It’ll be interesting to see if the switch to $3.99 will impact the sales at all.
Ray: Proving there’s no limit to the hunger for Star Wars, the Rogue One adaptation has an incredibly impressive debut at #13 with sales 64K. This is only limited new content – extra scenes and the like – so the fact that retailers think so many people will want to buy a story they saw in the theaters four months ago is a testament to this franchise’s strength.
Glenn: The last movie adaption and this one really bucks a lot of market trends. The entire franchise is just a licence to print money currently and that likely won’t slow down while the current episode slate plays itself out until 2019 (probably beyond too!)
Ray: And the top-selling Marvel superhero ongoing of the month is…Venom! Selling 62K at #14. The previous increase two months ago apparently wasn’t a fluke, as the title doubles last month’s sales for the issue that saw Eddie Brock take back the symbiote. The performance of this book has been puzzling from the start, but it seems like there’s genuine enthusiasm for the return of the original Venom. Did that many people like Eddie Brock? Dunno. But this is a case of Marvel listening to criticism about an unnecessary replacement and being massively rewarded. They’ll probably take that hint on a bunch of other books soon.
Glenn: Venom was big in the 90’s, at the point where any character could heave a healthy sales run mostly. Its been well over ten years since Eddie has been in the role so old school Venom fans were likely very excited. If this can hold even a little bit of the buzz then we’ll see everyone’s favorite psychotic symbiote feasting on brains for quite some time.
Ray: Venom even manages to outsell Amazing Spider-Man this month, which resumes its previous numbers at #15 with 62K.
As always, DC Rebirth continues to be rock solid, wrapping up the top 20 with four issues of Justice League and Detective at #17-20, each selling in the 58K range. For the record, this month DC took 10 of the top 20 to Marvel’s 9 and Image’s one, although this was an odd top 20 with multiple copies of the same comics, lots of launches, etc.
More oddness from Marvel’s numbers, as All-New Wolverine has another nearly 10K jump, selling 57K at #21. The Logan movie can’t explain it this month, and this was the start of a new arc but one without any real hype behind it. Could it be that the book is great and getting the attention it deserves? I wish, but doubt it. Books don’t just double in sales spontaneously over two months. Many unanswered questions about Marvel’s sales process here.
Glenn: If the sales jumps were smaller, I would probably put it on the quality. Back in the day, Snyder’s Detective run ramped up sales of 2-6k month in, month out just on how good it was. Perhaps Logan has created a whole new bunch of X-23 fans? It is also possible that Marvel is over shipping in the hopes that has happened. Now that Marvel knowingly has played the over shipping card, its hard to give them praise on something like this as you don’t know if its genuine or not.
Ray: DC’s latest in-house crossover, Batman/The Shadow has a very healthy debut at #22 with sales of just under 56K. There’s no big fanbase for The Shadow in comics right now, so I put this one on Batman being able to sell anything, and the mega-watt creative team of Snyder, Orlando, and Rossmo on board. DC keeps crossing over, and keeps getting wins out of it. Bring on Green Arrow/Green Hornet!
Glenn: Great start for Batman/The Shadow which I’m not too surprised at given the creative team. The Shadow might be a relatively obscure character and this version isn’t even like the main version but it just shows the power of Batman and the creators involved.
Ray: A bit disappointed by the numbers on Ben Reilly: Scarlet Spider, but then as Clone Conspiracy struggled in sales all along the way, it’s not a big surprise. The controversial new status quo manages to land at #27 with sales of over 53K. I think best case scenario here is probably a sales trajectory like Silk or 2099, both of which had decent-length runs over the last few years.
Glenn: A new Spider-Man title launching here seems a bit concerning but its not Peter so the real test there will be the upcoming title by Chip Zdarskey. The book starring Ben Reilly should on paper have likely done better but given the confusing rollout of Clone Conspiracy, this is a number that makes sense. I am wondering where the people who picked up Venom are with this book, nothing says 90’s nostalgia quite like Scarlet Spider after all. If this book can do better than 2099, it’ll be fine.
Ray: Occasionally, I can be way off in a prediction, and I’ll cop to it – I had Deadpool vs. Punisher possibly cracking the 100K barrier and challenging the month’s top Marvel launches, given the absurd performances of past Deadpool minis. Instead, it only sells 45K at #29, which is an acceptable number for a throwaway Deadpool mini, but not much more. Maybe Deadpool-mania is wearing off a bit? Shame, because this is the best Deadpool miniseries in a while.
Glenn: Probably less of a commentary on Deadpool mania passing and likely more of a stance on where the Punisher is as a viable seller in terms of spin offs. The Punisher isn’t one that can carry much of a following outside his own title (which usually fluctuates like a yo-yo in of itself) so that’s likely the reason for this not performing what we may have assumed. It’ll probably stabelize about 10k lower which will be fine for a throwaway mini that will pay for itself when Netflix Punisher and Deadpool 2 come out.
Ray: Old Man Logan has an unexplained increase from last month as well, shipping two issues of its new story “Past Lives” that each sell about 44K at 31 and 33, up from the 38K the second issue last month sold. There’s a lot of strange fluctuations in Marvel sales lately.
Glenn: I think given the scale of the increase, we can chalk this one up to quality and new fans coming into the book from the movie. It’ll be interesting to see how the soon to be incoming creative team impacts things…if at all.
Ray: This is the portion of the chart where we see the Rebirth books that have leveled out nicely. All of Flash (the non-Button issue), Superman, Wonder Woman, Action Comics, Harley Quinn, Titans, Super-Sons, Suicide Squad, Nightwing, and Justice League of America have modest sales drops and keep their slots in the top 50. The news is especially good for two books. Action Comics, which is slowly moving up the ranks with the smallest drops in the line save for Detective Comics, and Justice League of America, which leveled off decently this month to land its two issues in the 43-41K range. It may be the second-tier JL title right now, but it seems that’s going to be enough for a long run for this oddball team of Batman’s misfits. Stability should continue for all of them, with the possible exception of Wonder Woman – the first a-list DC book to lose its writer. Shea Fontana doesn’t have all that much sales pull in the direct market and we don’t know who the permanent replacement will be yet, so watch this book for steeper drops post #25.
Glenn: Not much to add here to what you said about DC’s upper tier, its pretty much the same we say each month. The sales may be dropping on all DC books but they’re doing so at a standard rate without the major fluctuation that Marvel gets on most of its books. A year later, Rebirth is still doing wonders for all the books mentioned.
Wonder Woman might take a hit once Rucka leaves but with the movie coming out, I have to bet that DC is going to put some serious juice into the book. We discussed on Rabbitt Stew (Dong!) what we thought the creative future of the book may be and if any of our guesses are right, Wonder Woman could easily join the upper tier reserved only for the bat-line and Bryan Hitch’s Justice League.
Ray: The news was fairly good for the X-Men this month, launching all their new #1s in the top ten with decent drops for the second issue. Not so much for the Inhumans, who see their new flagship book, Royals, land at #42 with sales of just over 40K. To make it worse, the second issue ships the same month and lands at #79 with sales of 28K. This despite up-and-coming writer Al Ewing doing a well-received cosmic adventure with the title. It might be time to admit that the Inhumans just aren’t happening. To say this bodes poorly for next month’s Secret Warriors and Black Bolt would be an understatement.
Glenn: I keep thinking of the end of the movie, Pet Cemetery where after unsuccessfully (to say the least) trying to resurrect their pet and their son, the main protagonist carries the body of his dead wife for the same ritual proclaiming despite all evidence to the contrary ‘it’ll work this time’. That’s kind of how I feel it is with Marvel and the Inhumans. They keep trying with little success to make this thing work and I don’t think the upcoming TV show will make much difference. I doubt they’ll stop trying though.
Ray: Rounding out the top 50 is the always successful Mighty Thor, which sells 37.5K.
The latest Black Panther Spin-off, Black Panther and the Crew, debuted with universal critical acclaim…and fairly anemic sales of 35K at #57. This is a clear case of Marvel killing the golden goose with spin-offs. The original Black Panther title was a massive success, but it’s lost most of that buzz, and now spin-offs are landing with a thud. Not every great book needs to be a franchise immediately.
Glenn: Finding a well is one thing and draining it dry is another. This is finding a well and draining it dry in record time. Its a shame as without all the spin offs, the main Black Panther book may not have culled off so quickly. Its not the worst start but given how books that launched at a similar level have dropped, it doesn’t bode well for the books longevity.
Note: This was typed prior to the cancellation of Black Panther And The Crew. Welcome to Marvel roulette!
Ray: At #58 is the latest issue of Captain America: Steve Rogers, which sells 34.8K. This was the main issue that set up the events of Secret Empire and apparently killed off a major character. Nothing says buzz like losing 5K sales from last month right before you’re going to jump into the big summer event, right?
Glenn: I’ll be curious if this title will benefit from the crossover given its by the same writer. Could we see the opposite of how Clone Conspiracy did over its run? You’d expect the events main character (again written by the same writer) to double in sales if we hold the Button as a benchmark. We’ll see if that’s indeed the case next month.
Ray: A fairly harsh fall for Batwoman #2, as the title loses its double #1 boost quickly and settles down at #65 with sales of 33K. This is very close to the trajectory Supergirl saw once its initial bounce fades, so the likely outcome here is sales akin to Batgirl or Supergirl. Not great, especially with Epting on board, but it’ll be enough to survive for the run – especially as DC is in no hurry to cull its low-performers like Blue Beetle and Cyborg. They all just got confirmed for new storylines post-#12.
Glenn: DC seem to be holding steady on their books which of course, will have trade sales and digital to also factor in. Given Batwoman’s history of sales (not counting when she was the solo lead in Detective) this seems about normal and will either stabilize here or drop another 10k or so which won’t make it a hit but will keep it chugging along.
Ray: Neil Gaiman’s American Gods adaptation continues to outpace the field at Dark Horse, selling 33K at #66 for its second month. Only a 25% drop, and great numbers for Dark Horse.
In the latest installment of “Really, what did you expect?”, Marvel’s new Nick Fury title has a frankly terrible debut at #68 with sales of 31K. Given the common falls to issue #2, these numbers are not remotely survivable. Fury is a popular supporting character, but he’s never indicated he can carry an ongoing, and he won’t start now.
Glenn: Those sales for Nick Fury are pretty dire, I’m definitely expecting a stealth mini out of this one for sure. The character isn’t even the same one that has been around for 70 years or so and even that character and his son (who is the lead here and looks like someone who appreciates a damn good burger) have been in odd creative places the last few years. At best, Fury is a c list character and this is how characters at that level get treated by the market.
Ray: Last month, we were incredibly puzzled by the massive debut of Iron Fist, wondering if it was some secret surge of interest, or simply a retailer push. Well, that’s been answered as the title loses well over 2/3rds of its sales, going from 89K to 28K at #77 this month. That’s frankly what I’d expect an Iron Fist title to be selling with its second issue at Marvel these days, so we may just never know what was up with those #1 numbers.
Glenn: I can only put it on the Netflix show, I suppose? These numbers make a lot more sense but its a terrible drop on paper but…it could be worse. If it can hang around 20k it might be fine but its really hard to say with Marvel books what it might do.
The spin off ‘ongoing’ of the ‘event’ of the same name, Monsters Unleashed gets unleashed at 86 with sales over 27k. The main event mini had a ton of hype and some of Marvel’s best artists and didn’t really have staying power so this is no surprise. This one isn’t going to last long.
Ray: I have to applaud Marvel for trying something different with Monsters Unleashed, but it’s very clear that the public just isn’t interested in superhero kaiju comics. At least not with Fin Fang Foom in the main cast. This feels like it’ll essentially be treated as a sequel to the miniseries, not an ongoing. Another five-six issues may do it for this one. This launched below the level of Unstoppable Wasp.
Glenn: Last month had some impressive numbers for Dynamite books and that trend continues this month with Sovereigns #0. Again, 0 issues can be hit or miss but this one sells a more than respectable over 26.4k at 88. Given where Dynamite books generally are, that’s rather a brilliant number so I’m sure they’re thrilled. Not sure how it’ll do when the real number 1 is here next month but very impressive.
Ray: Dynamite’s been experimenting with incentive pricing lately, and this $1 issue clearly got a lot of people to check it out. I doubt next month’s 25-cent Swordquest will show up on the charts given the pricing, but they’re doing a good job of getting eyes on their books.
Glenn: We’ll be seeing a lot of Guardians content coming out next month so Guardians Of The Galaxy: Dream On gets a bit of a head start with sales over 26.3k at 90. Not too bad for a throwaway Guardians one shot to give retailers something to put on shelves in anticipation of the movie. The franchise sales wise has seen better days and has had a lot of over saturation now but I’m still expecting a few good numbers out of the multiple launches in next months sales due to the movie.
Ray: I don’t think one-shots and random miniseries like this will ever make much of an impact (unless they feature Deadpool), but I’m expecting strong numbers for the main All-New Guardians title next month.
Glenn: At 95 is America #2 which sells just under 24k which I don’t think is too bad for a relatively obscure character that doesn’t have much (or any) outside media presence. If sales settled here, I think that would be one for the win column but its all if, if, if.
Ray: That’s a fairly standard fall for America, just under 50% down from its first issue’s sales. It’s tracking about 6K ahead of Unstoppable Wasp right now, likely owing to the character having a fanbase from Young Avengers. But it’ll still need to stabilize quickly if it wants to get past #8. Marvel tried something unprecedented, offering the first issue for free on comiXology the month after it came out. We’ll see if it starts paying dividends down the line.
Glenn: A fantastic launch for Redneck from Image at 102 with over 22.3k sales from the writer behind the surprise hit, God Country. Donny Yates is quickly making a name for himself and manages to produce Image’s fourth highest selling book this month. It seems the market is getting behind this guy and he could be the one to watch in the coming year if sales on his creator owned books are any indication.
Ray: Donny Yates is indeed proving himself to be a big new gun in Image’s holster, rising in the ranks as fast as anyone we’ve seen in years. This book doesn’t seem to have quite as much immediate buzz as God Country did, but it got good reviews and should stabilize nicely. Definitely a win for Image.
Glenn: Another respectable Image launch this month in the form of Rose at 108 with sales just under 20.5k. This is from Meredith Finch who did a run on Wonder Woman and is the wife of superstar artist David Finch. Her Wonder Woman run has seemingly bought her some notoriety as this is another good launch for a new Image title. Unlike Redneck however, I don’t think reviews have been particularly kind to this one so we’ll see what impact (if any) it has on sales, next month.
Ray: I think getting hyped as “by the writer of Wonder Woman” helped this one a lot. We’ll see how it holds, but it seems to have come and gone without any real hype from readers.
As we exit the top 100, a good example of the stability of Rebirth is Deathstroke, which has locked down at 98/99 this month, holding at around 23K copies. This book goes monthly after the upcoming crossover, and has stabilized quickly, so it should be good for as long as Priest wants to write it. Rebirth has been showing incredible stability up and down the charts, with even the lower-selling books showing some signs of life. More on them later.
Jason Latour, Ivan Brandon, and Greg Hinkle also have a win from Image this month, with their surreal dimension-hopping thriller Black Cloud. 19.5K at #111 is a pretty strong debut for a title without any a-list names (Latour is rising, though). I imagine retailers liked what they saw and ordered for a sleeper hit.
X-O Manowar has a hefty fall from its shocking #12 debut last month, landing at #112 with sales of 19K this month. However, that still places it pretty firmly as Valiant’s top-selling book this month, almost doubling its nearest competition from the company. So this clearly has some lasting buzz and will likely be a solid hit for Valiant.
Proving there’s an audience for everything, the sex-doll crime satire Plastic also has a strong debut, landing at #114 with sales of 18.9K. I’m surprised this was ordered so heavily, but I guess retailers know who wants it. There’s probably a watchlist. (I kid, I kid, it’s actually a pretty great book.)
Glenn: I think books with an unusual quirky premise, like Plastic stand out. They get people’s curiosity and that’s really key in a market brimming with choices.
Ray: This is where we see a cavalcade of Marvel titles that just aren’t happening, all sinking below 20K. You’ve got Gwenpool, Totally Awesome Hulk, Hawkeye, Sam Wilson, Mighty Captain Marvel, and both of Al Ewing’s Avengers books, US Avengers and Ultimates 2. Some of these are niche books, but there’s clearly a whole lot of work to be done at Marvel. (As of today, reports are that they think everything is fine and are sipping their coffee calmly)
Glenn: Most of these books will be tying into Secret Empire so it’ll be interesting to see if that has any benefit. It seemed that the tie-ins to Civil War II did on average, more harm than good and given how retailers/fans are reacting to Secret Empire so far, I don’t think there will be a different tale to be told here.
Ray: The Riverdale ongoing, which tells stories set in between the issues of the TV series, debuts with sales of 15.7K at #130. Not a great debut, but for a TV cash-in it’s pretty decent. Archie launches a lot of titles lately, but most of them have been having modest debuts.
Glenn: TV tie ins are usually a lot lower, especially when the show is still going so I think this is pretty good. I don’t think it’ll hold here though and will probably land about 8k or so where the majority of other TV tie-in comics seem to live these days. I don’t think there’s any danger of this book ending up overshadowing the Mark Waid re imagining.
Ray: Cult favorite creator James Stokoe takes on the Xenomorphs in Aliens: Dead Orbit, which manages to be the #2 Dark Horse book of the month at #141, selling just over 14K. This is standard numbers for a Dark Horse Alien book, but I think it might hold a bit better due to Stokoe’s passionate fanbase.
Glenn: Retailers could also be looking to stock up on Alien titles due to Alien: Covenant coming out next month. Its unlikely to bring in any new readers who don’t check out Alien comics already but may as well have it there just in case.
Ray: Jeff Lemire’s Royal City has kind of a hefty fall, shedding 10K in sales to land at #150 with sales of 13.7K. On the surface, definitely disappointing for a passion project of his, but might it just be that Lemire as an artist appeals to a limited, indie-centric audience that is most likely to pick this up in collections? Either way, he has more than enough clout to keep it going for as long as he wants.
Glenn: 13kish is still better than a lot of lower tier Image and will probably do very well in collections. Lemire has some serious momentum which I don’t think will slow down anytime soon so this one could stabilize here and be fine for as long as he wishes.
Ray: As usual, the lowest-selling DC books of the month are Cyborg and Blue Beetle, which both sell in the 13K range at #151 and #153 respectively. That’s down about 1K from last month each, and they’ve both just been renewed past #12 with new storylines. Clearly, stability extends all the way down to the lowest Rebirth books, as both of these and books like New Super-Man are refusing to fall off a cliff. For the record, both of these books outsold the fifth and final issue of Rocket Raccoon at #154. That’s relaunching, naturally. Again.
Dark Horse has been a pretty decent home for cult faves over the years, and Shaolin Cowboy returns this month with decent sales of 12.9K at #160. This is another case of retailers undoubtedly already knowing who wants this book, and I expect it’ll hold decently from here.
Surprisingly, X-Men Prime charts again with another 12K in copies at #167. We might be seeing some actual hype for the line here, based on this and the first-issue sales. We’ll see if Marvel can keep this new momentum.
Black Hammer, as always, displays insane stability this month, landing at #170 with sales of 11.7K. For the record, that’s down only 117 copies from last month. This is what a genuine hit looks like.
IDW relaunches their My Little Pony series with a new subtitle “Legends of Magic”, and that’s good for 11.3K at #173. I imagine this comic sells most of its copies in toy stores and the like, though. That, and…other places that we won’t speak of.
Glenn: The Pony comics have their audience and retailers will know what that audience is in terms of the direct market. This franchise and this comic will be making its money through other means. This is a fine number for a book that makes the majority of its money somewhere else.
Ray: Not every Image book is going to be a breakout hit, and a comic about hobos on the search for a magical mountain is not likely to have a spectacular debut. But given the subject matter, Rock Candy Mountain (by cult cartoonist Kyle Starks) debuting with 10.7K at #179 is probably a win. It got into four digits, which is more than we can say for quite a few Image books, and hopefully it’ll be able to build an audience from here.
Glenn: From someone who doesn’t have a lot of sales clout and a bit of an off beat premise, that isn’t too shabby at all. I think retailers are showing a lot of faith in new Image books that they might have been hesitant to stock even a years ago because of the ones that have caught a little bit of a following.
Another new Valiant book launches at the level their books usually average at on a number 1 at 189 with sales over 10.3k. Manowar really seems to be the exception to the rest of the line, this is more along where Valiant usually launches and will see a quick stabilization. Loyal audience for their books still continue to show up and it manages to outsell an Avenger’s book with Occupy Avengers one spot lower, how about that?
Ray: Yeah, the sequel of Britannia launched roughly in the same range as the first, which shows retailers know what to expect from Valiant cult properties. This book seemed like an odd fit for Valiant – being a mature-readers period piece with no real ties to the Valiant universe – but there seems to be a plan here.
Glenn: A new Tank Girl book from Titan launches at 191 with sales over 10.2k and reminds me that once upon a time, Tank Girl was a thing. Given this is a very, very, very cult property and is far past its heyday, I would say this is pretty good. I doubt many people were really chomping at the bit for a new title starring this character.
Ray: Tank Girl moved from Dark Horse to Titan at some point, so clearly the company thinks there’s an audience here. I’m just not sure how many people remember this character anymore.
Glenn: Surprisingly, Inhumans Prime also recharts this month at 192 with sales over 10.2k too. Retailers are maybe ordering more to try and build an audience for the trades because the monthly sales don’t really indicate any reason for more copies of this to be ordered.
The new BOOM! title Grass Kings manages to keep most of its readers on its second issue at 194 with sales over 9.8k meaning they lost about 3k in sales. I don’t think that’s too bad at all given Boom’s place in the market and if this book can settle around here, it could end up being one of their highest selling books and their highest selling original property.
Ray: That’s a pretty strong hold for Grass Kings, actually better than what most of Kindt’s books did at Dark Horse. I’m glad to see both BOOM! and Kindt finding some level of a foothold in a hyper-competitive market.
Glenn: While this level is good for an original property from BOOM!, its not good to see any Big Two book down here and days may be numbered for Unstoppable Wasp which sells over 9.7k at 196, wah wah. Same can be said for DC who has Odyssey of the Amazons down here at over 9.5k at 199, double wah wah. One would imagine that whatever follow up Renae De Liz had planned for Legend Of Wonder Woman would have done much better than this.
Ray: Unstoppable Wasp‘s only hope now is that it’s getting that same Moon Girl audience that keeps that book alive somehow. They’re making a hard play for it, even giving the title a spotlight in Avengers in May with an issue co-written by Waid and Whitley, but it may be too late. The less said about Odyssey – a Wonder Woman tie-in book without any Wonder Woman characters – the better. This was one of DC’s few misfires recently.
Glenn: At 200 is another BOOM! original property, Armory Wars: Good Apollo with sales over 9.4k. Definitely not as impressive as Grass Kings last month or this month but still some interest here. This is the first issue of a 12 issue series that seems to be a continuation of an ongoing story so retailers probably know whose coming in to buy it.
Ray: Yeah, this is a long-running cult steampunk series, written by the lead singer of Coheed and Cambria, and it’s coming over from another publisher. With all that, it seems like retailers knew exactly who wanted this and it’s a decent number.
Glenn: Second issue of Dynamite’s James Bond performs respectfully enough at 205 with sales over 8.8k. The franchise isn’t going to make any of the bigger companies shake in their boots but this seems to have some stability to it which Dynamite will likely appreciate.
Managing to pull in some really well known creators, Aftershock debuts Eleanor and The Egret by John Layman and Sam Keith. One is a very well regarded Image/DC writer who once wrote Detective Comics and the other is a legend in comics so sales of over 8.5k at 207 might seem a little muted but even though they are getting huge talent to work with them, Aftershock is still building a place for themselves in the market. This likely would have launched a good bit higher anywhere else but I’m sure Aftershock and the creators involved are happy.
Ray: Aftershock continues to struggle to get a foothold in the market, and these two are more cult creators with a loyal audience. We’ll likely see it stabilize quickly, as the fans of Chew and The Maxx find this book.
Simon Spurrier’s surreal tale of a world full of personal gods, Godshaper, has a decent debut for Boom as well, selling 8.2K at #213. Spurrier’s slowly built himself a brand of these strange sci-fi tales at Boom, and it seems to be paying off. I’m just a bit puzzled by how this managed to get close to twice the orders of the latest Boom books by James Tynion and Steve Orlando! Boom order patterns don’t always make sense, but this is a unique book that I’m glad to see getting a healthy debut. And it sold one spot above the debut of Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, which has got to have some dark magic going to still be going. That or digital sales.
Glenn: When it comes to BOOM!, it doesn’t seem as if attached creators always make a difference. More and more we’re seeing books doing well seemingly on concept alone, which is interesting. Outside of Image, it could be that the rest of the indie companies start to rely more on concept over creator, especially since on average, Aftershock has one of the most prestigious creator line ups right now and it doesn’t seem to be making much of an impact as of yet.
Ray: Dark Horse has a Prometheus one-shot at #215, selling just over 7.8K. Licensed comics are their big business right now, but this indicates that “Aliens” is a much stronger brand than “Prometheus”. For good reason.
Glenn: Even though it takes place in the Alien universe, Prometheus will not have the brand power of anything with the name of everyone’s favorite chest bursting race.
Ray: Remember the Showtime horror TV show Penny Dreadful? It’s back, in Pog form! Or rather, comic form, as Titan’s new spinoff debuts at #220 with sales of 7.5K. About what I’d expect from a long-gone cult show.
Glenn: I loved Penny Dreadful! This is a continuation of the show and the time when these type of things were popular is long gone. Given that the show wrapped up in a very definitive way and killed off the main character, I’m not sure how much interest there would be in a continuation in this form. Its about standard for something like this these days, probably not going to have a long life I’d wager.
Ray: Two spots below, Dynamite and Bill Willingham’s Robert E. Howard tribute “The Greatest Adventure” sells 7.4K. Willingham used to be a big name, but aside from Tarzan and John Carter, very few of these characters have a mainstream profile, so a crossover here may not have found much of an audience.
Glenn: Bill Willingham never did seem to take his success with Fables and pass it on to mainstream runs or other creator owned so this might have more interest than usual due to the fact it features literary characters like his most successful work did. Pretty standard for a Dynamite launch, will probably live or die on how well trades do.
Ray: I like that Motor Crush and Motor Girl are right next to each other on the chart, at #224 and #225, selling literally two copies apart. Aesthetically pleasing! Both great books, too. They should be higher than 7K.
Patsy Walker: Hellcat ends its run at #226, with sales of just under 7K. Shocking numbers for a Marvel book, surely, but then – these are numbers that books like Solo are reaching in one arc, not 17 issues – so maybe this isn’t all that bad? The new order.
The latest Valiant one-shot, Immortal Brothers: Tale of the Green Knight, has surprisingly low numbers at #234 with sales of 6.7K. This features the Anni-Padda brothers from Eternal Warrior, Ivar Timewalker, and of course Archer and Armstrong, but I wonder if branding was the issue here – the title is a bit vague about who this book stars, just like the recent “Escape from Gulag 396” one-shot.
Glenn: Valiant’s marketing is something we’ve discussed at length. They seem to have done something right with XO but this one shot featuring characters that have something of a following could be a missed opportunity for sure if it wasn’t presented to potential buyers. It could be just seen as a throwaway one shot to some retailers.
Ray: The SyFy series Z Nation gets its comic book tie-in from Dynamite, with sales of 6.6K. It’s a cult property, so I doubt Dynamite was expecting much higher.
Titan has a cavalcade of licensed properties every month, and this month brings a new Doctor Who miniseries for the 12th Doctor (249, 5.8K) and a Dark Souls series (252, 5.7K). Business as usual. Much like IDW, Titan’s business seems to be consistency and quantity. There’s also a Doctor Who: Ghost Stories series down at #259 with sales of 5.5K
Glenn: The Ghost Stories one is a really puzzling choice. It features a new character introduced in the most recent Christmas special, a superhero named ‘The Ghost’ that is essentially a love letter to Silver Age/Chris Reeves Superman. I think it worked well for the episode but a comic spin off of this character when there are much more popular Who side characters that might have garnered more interest is a head scratcher.
Ray: At #253, we have NAMWOLF! Albatross brings us a Werewolf in the Vietnam war. 5.7K isn’t great numbers for most companies, but this is an up and coming company that has built itself a reputation for offbeat horror comics. They seem to be getting a bit more attention lately.
Glenn: Again, this could be concept selling more than anything. Its always nice to see newer companies joining the charts, even its only for a month. Everyone has to start somewhere. Also NAMWOLF is an amazing title.
Ray: I expected higher numbers for Little Archie by the all-ages all-stars of Baltazar and Franco, which was a great fusion of the properties of Archie, Sabrina, and Josie and the Pussycats (both of whom have their own one-shots coming from this team). 5.6K at #254 is a lot lower than Werewolf Jughead did. Given that, I’m not sure if any of these Archie “pilot season” one-one shots are going to become their own series.
Glenn: I’m surprised as well but maybe there wasn’t much need seen for a more ‘kid friendly lolz’ version of Archie. Where this creative team is at their best is putting their own spin on big name characters and while the Archie characters are certainly iconic to a certain extent they’re no Justice League.
Ray: Aftershock has another debut this month, the sci-fi cosmic murder mystery World Reader. The writer, Jeff Loveness, has written for Marvel before but is far from a household name. Given that, the debut of 5.5K at #260 isn’t great, but isn’t much below what would be expected. Aftershock knows the sales levels it’s been getting and this should remain in the healthy range. It’s also probably my favorite title they’ve put out yet.
Glenn: This writer doesn’t ring a bell so he’ll be even lower on the totem pole on what Aftershock can achieve. Might be one that sticks around long, it depends how much rope they want to give their books.
Ray: Another new Black Mask debut, There’s Nothing There, has muted numbers at #264, selling roughly 5.4K. Matt Rosenberg and to an extent Magdalene Visaggio have built some buzz for this company with their books, but it doesn’t seem to have transferred to the rest of the line yet.
Glenn: Still interesting to see Black Mask becoming a regular fixture with new launches. They’ve got a long road ahead of them and there will be mixed results but in ten years time the story might be very different.
Ray: Speaking of Archie, the Big Moose one-shot has low numbers as well, selling 5.3K at #266. Unlike Little Archie, I don’t think anyone was expecting high numbers here. Moose is a supporting character who no one really thought could sustain his own title. This will remain a one-shot.
Glenn: There’s a new Judge Dredd book from IDW at 277 with sales over 4,7k. The market has never been particularly kind to Dredd but this character makes a ton of money outside the main direct market so there won’t be any need for this to do particularly well here.
Night Owl Society from IDW is another new book they’re launching this month. It manages sales of over 4.6k at 281. It seems to be a book about school kids fighting the mob which is certainty different. No big name creators here and the concept, while unique isn’t particularly attention grabbing so no surprises here.
Ray: IDW keeps dipping their toe in the creator-owned market, but it hasn’t been very kind to them sales-wise. This was a property that got a few good reviews, so it might do decently in trades for them.
Glenn: Right below it at 282 is the final issue of Clean Room which finishes in the top 300 selling just over 4.6k. The hey day of Vertigo are truely gone but this is one that might do better in collections, still I’m glad to see writer Gail Simone land all issues in the top 300. The book is apparently returning but I wouldn’t be surprised if its published either in another format or with someone else.
Ray: Yeah, I’m expecting to see Clean Room Vol. 2 at Image in a few years. Although the first volume wrapped up very neatly and I’m not sure a sequel will happen, unlike with The Sheriff of Babylon.
Glenn: With its odd title in tow, Underwinter‘s second issue sells over 4.5k at 283 which is lower than the average Image book. There’s so much choice in the market and the small press comic scene is pretty rough so not everyone is going to come out a winner.
Ray: That’s a really harsh fall for Underwinter (I have no clue what that title means). Ray Fawkes is a very odd creator when it comes to his creator-owned works, with abstract art styles that feel almost like a surreal painting rather than a comic. It’s an acquired taste, and retailers are likely ordering for a small but loyal audience.
Glenn: Micronauts, the comic based on the toy line from back of the day gets a new mini from IDW at 295 with sales over 4,3k This is a pure nostalgia grab for a really obscure property. I doubt IDW could have expected any better given the main book is at 299 and will likely never be seen again after this month.
Apen MLT Inc is another company I’m not familiar with that manages to just sneak in the bottom end of the top 300 at 297 with No World selling over 4.3k too. Upon research its written by Scott Lobdell who is a creator of prominance due to his time writing for Marvel in the 90’s and more recently, some new 52 books including the likes of Superman! Given that his big two work tends to (generously) have middling reviews I’m not surprised he can’t get interest in an original property from a company no one has heard of. The company is probably thrilled do be in the top 300, even if it is barely but its telling that they’re seemingly the only ones willing to print Lobdell work beyond Red Hood and the Outlaws.
Ray: Aspen is a company that’s stuck around despite the tragic loss of their founder years back, but they don’t really seem to have kept much in the way of momentum. It’s an odd artifact of 90s/early 2000s comics and I’m surprised they managed to get Lobdell for a book.
Glenn: Didn’t realize this was Aspen’s corporate name. The more you know.
From Oni press, we have a favorite read from Ray is the form of Kim Reaper which sneaks into the top 300 at 298 with sales also around the 4.3k mark. Oni don’t have much market pull and this shows. Hopefully, for Ray’s sake at least that this title gets some support behind it.
Ray: Inside joke, people! Listen to Rabbitt Stew Comics for context! (Dong!) Suffice it to say, Kim Reaper is a book that tried very hard to capture that quirky vibe that books like Lumberjanes or Jonesy have for Boom, but it doesn’t seem to have worked. Oni is a company that’s been struggling lately, with fewer and fewer books each month. This won’t help.
Glenn: Lastly at 300 is Magdalena, the Top Cow book’s second issue sells over 4.2k and is headed out of the top 300 where we will all likely forget she ever existed in the first place, all over again.
Ray: Top Cow continues to completely lack in buzz, and bringing back their old Image properties isn’t helping. This book will disappear from the list next month, and probably from the shelves shortly thereafter. Matt Hawkins may not be to everyone’s tastes, but his books still seem to be keeping Top Cow afloat as an imprint.
Looking ahead to May, DC brings part three and four of THE BUTTON! All eyes on whether these two comics will combine to be the highest selling books of the month once again! Magic eight-ball says yes. We’re also getting a new Young Animal book, in the form of Bug: The Adventures of Forager, a few oddball launches like a new Bane series and the second volume of Injustice, plus the long-awaited (by me) DC vs. Looney Tunes specials with top creative teams including Tom King!
Marvel, meanwhile, launches Secret Empire proper with three issues, and we’ll see what the sales trajectory of this…to put it lightly, controversial event will be, as well as the performance of its first official tie-ins. We’re also going to be getting a few more X-launches, including Jean Grey, Cable, and Generation X, plus new series for Guardians of the Galaxy, Rocket Raccoon, Luke Cage, Black Bolt, and the new team book Secret Warriors. Plus, there’s a Baby Groot series! And as always, we’ll be playing the monthly game….”How low can they go?” on a lot of Marvel ongoings.
Image is bringing us Regression by Cullen Bunn, a relaunch of Youngblood, and Eternal Empire from the creators of Alex + Ada, among others. BOOM!’s got new all-ages adventure Misfit City, Frankenstein pastiche Destroyer, and a new Power Rangers annual. Valiant’s got the start of its new supernatural event comic Rapture, and there’ll be a bunch of other small launches to look at as well.
Really, though, this month all eyes will be on Marvel. Will Secret Empire turn their sales around, if only temporarily, or will it expose them fully?
Glenn: I think Button and Guardians might overshadow Secret Empire a bit but time will tell.
Join us next month to find out, see you then!
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