State of the Industry – October 2015
Comic sales have been in a slump for over a decade now, regardless of what irregular comic readers or fans of recent film adaptations might assume. It’s a rare feat to see more than a handful of titles hit a circulation mark of over 100k per month, when in times past those numbers would mean a question of cancellation. Diamond Comics Distributors, the largest distributor of comic books and pop culture ephemera (and in most retailers’ cases, the only distributor due to exclusivity deals between Diamond and publishers) lists their North American sales figures every month. The top 300 titles of comics are listed, with many an asterisk or caveat applied, due to multiple covers, sales incentive cover variants and other such circulation number bumps added in. This column, the State of the Industry, will aim a shining light on these numbers monthly, with notes attached.
October of 2015 hit a high note, with an unprecedented fourteen titles with sales numbers above 100 thousand. Ten of the top ten were Marvel titles, with DC only listing one book, Batman, among these 14. The top ten:
- Invincible Iron Man #1 (Marvel) – 279K
- Amazing Spider-Man #1 (Marvel) – 246K
- Spider-Gwen #1 (Marvel) – 197K
- Secret Wars #6 (Marvel) – 192K
- Doctor Strange #1 (Marvel) – 145K
- Star Wars #10 (Marvel) – 135K
- Chewbacca #1 (Marvel) – 123K
- Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens Shattered Empire (Marvel) – 120K
- Guardians of the Galaxy #1 (Marvel) – 118K
- Amazing Spider-Man #2 (Marvel) – 111K
As stated above, every single one of these titles has multiple, alternate covers, pushing sales figures further than they might actually be. Five of the titles are first issues following the as-yet-unfinished, universe-spanning Secret Wars mini-series, with Spider-Man getting two issues listed this month due to a delay in the release (which is due to the delay in Secret Wars being finished). As movies continue to inflate sales figures, from Marvel in particular, the popularity of the Star Wars books, Iron Man and Doctor Strange might be explained in this way. To put in in perspective: DC’s lone title over 100K, Batman, was #11 on the list.
It should be noted that every single title in the top ten has a cover price of $3.99 or more. Amazing Spider-Man #1, the third ASM title to bear a first issue number, had a cover price of $5.99. The power of the Mouse says, “Hey parents! You don’t want your kids reading this unless you buy more than one!”
The highest selling title for less than $3.99 was at #23, Image Comics’ Paper Girls #1, a $2.99 book with numbers around 76K. At #100 was another Marvel book, The Secret Wars Official Guide of the Marvel Multiverse #1, pushing about 23K. At #200 was a DC reprint, DC Comics Essentials: Supergirl #1, a $1.00 book to coincide with the new CBS television series. It had sales figures of 8,703. And on the other end of the spectrum:
- Masks 2 #7 (Dynamite) – 4,453
- Grimm Fairy Tales #115 (Zenescope) – 4,420
- Usagi Yojimbo #149 (Dark Horse) – 4,401
- (tie) Drive #2 (IDW) – 4,368
- (tie) Zombies vs Cheerleaders Halloween Special 2015 #1 (Zenescope) – 4,368
- Humans #8 (Image) – 4,365
- Escape from New York #11 (Boom!) – 4,358
- Dark Corridor #3 (Image) – 4,343
- Captain Canuck 2015 #4 (Chapter House) – 4,328
- Van Helsing vs Dracula #3 (Zenescope) – 4,281
- Shutter #16 (Image) – 4,248
It’s fairly obvious that regardless of how many titles are published, the dearth of everything being ordered comes from the Mighty Marvel, then DC, regardless of quality or price. The highest selling Dark Horse book was Fight Club 2 #6, selling 37K and listed at #60. A few other indie titles were scattershot through the top 100, from IDW, Archie, Oni and the aforementioned Image Comics. The bottom ten of the top 300 are from all over the publishing spectrum, with venerable titles such as Usagi Yojimbo and the T&A book Grimm Fairy Tales. Zenescope has found a niche and is sticking with it, no matter the trends. I give them credit for that.
Next month I’ll compare October’s figures with the November releases, seeing the trends, the drops, or the occasional rise. One title I watch extremely closely is Constantine, the Hellblazer, the current version of the great DC/Vertigo character that’s no longer part of that publishing arm. It currently sits at #112 with sales of 20,431 for issue #5. It’s about 10K more than the last issue of the Vertigo series from a few years ago, so he’s finding a market that I just can’t quite fathom. It’ll be a drop watch from here on in.
The legal proprieties must be followed! All sales number are extrapolated from the ICv2 website, which can be found at www.icv2.com. They themselves get the list from Diamond Comics Distributors, Inc., which must have credit for the information, understandably. It should be made clear that these figures are only for Diamond sales for North America and does not include sales through Diamond UK or copies purchased by Diamond for their own inventory. Some companies also self-distribute as well as through Diamond. Self-distributed copies are not unaccounted for on this list. Diamond has its own website which you can find here.