November was a big month for comics, with the second month of Marvel’s All-New All-Different range, the launch of Dark Knight III, and Marvel’s first Star Wars crossover! Now, Diamond have released their sales estimates for US direct market retailers, and today I’m going to pull out some major lessons from this. As always, the caveats are that this doesn’t include digital sales or the international markets, so these stats aren’t the ‘be all and end all’. But they are a tremendous indication – what do the figures tell us?
1. Batman is DC's biggest franchise - and that might not be healthy...
Let’s be honest, Dark Knight III: The Master Race was always going to be a heavy-hitting book. The original Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, published in 1984, was a four-issue miniseries written by Frank Miller and with outstanding art from Klaus Janson; it’s generally viewed as one of the strongest Batman miniseries of all time. The 2001 sequel, The Dark Knight Strikes Again, was tremendously popular; Frank Miller’s third instalment, with Miller this time working with Brian Azzerello, was guaranteed to draw massive attention. DC exerted an enormous amount of effort into making this book sell, and they succeeded – it took the #1 slot in a month when Marvel launched their first Star Wars crossover event!
What makes this all the more remarkable is that the book sold an estimated 440,234 copies, even though it had a cover price of $5.99. Book sales usually drop when the cover price goes up, but Dark Knight III: The Master Race transcends that.
More concerning for #DC, though, is the fact that they only got nine slots in the top fifty comics – and only one of them was a non-#Batman book (I’m counting Harley Quinn as part of the wider Batman universe). What’s more, only one non-Batman book sold over 50,000 copies. It’s true that DC had a tough month – yet again, #Marvel were flooding the market with first issues – but they clearly need to strengthen the rest of their comic franchises.
2. Star Wars: Vader Down looks to be a success!
The one-shot launching Marvel’s first #StarWars crossover performed admirably well, coming in at second with estimated sales of 384,969. In interviews, Jason Aaron described this as “the biggest story we’ve done so far” and “the movie of the Marvel Star Wars comic books” (Star Wars.com), and it’s pleasing to see sales performance that indicates this ‘movie’ is performing well.
The second issue of "Vader Down" – Darth Vader #13 – also performed strongly, coming in eleventh in terms of overall sales (estimates sales at 113,448 copies). The drop is likely because Star Wars: Vader Down #1 had a lot of variants, and is likely to have been viewed as more ‘collectable’. Still, pleasingly, Darth Vader #13 performed better sales-wise than Darth Vader #12 (which had estimated sales of 90,077 copies). The trend with comic book sales is usually for each issue to perform worse than the one preceding it, so it’s a delight to see that trend reversed – it indicates that the crossover is seriously paying off.
3. The All-New All-Different Marvel Triumph Continues!
Some of Marvel’s core All-New All-Different titles hit in November – Deadpool, Extraordinary X-Men, All-New All-Different Avengers and All-New Wolverine all showed up in the top ten, while The Mighty Thor, Ms. Marvel, Carnage, and All-New Hawkeye all launched into the top twenty. It’s worth adding a proviso to sales of Ms. Marvel, as the previous series performed better digitally than in paper format, so the book may have done a lot better than these figures suggest. What’s particularly pleasing is the sheer number of these books that broke the 100,000 sales-barrier – that indicates the strength of some of these relaunches. Carnage‘s performance is particularly surprising, as villain books are a tough pitch.
Several comics showed real strength with sales of second and third issues (Amazing Spider-Man in particular, with #3 selling an estimated 93,848 copies). Deadpool #2 remained in the top twenty sales-wise, which is pretty impressive from the Merc With A Mouth, and shows the increasing strength of his brand due to Fox’s marketing of the movie. The real shocker, though, is Invincible Iron Man‘s performance, with #3 dropping to thirtieth place and estimated sales of 59,069. It’s actually selling strongly, but – given Marvel intended this to be the spearhead of the whole All-New All-Different range, and #1 literally topped the charts for October with estimated sales of 279,514 – it’s hard not to see this as a disappointment. I’m not sure launching a second Iron Man series is a good idea.
In spite of stronger competition from DC this month, the combination of Vader Down and the second month of the All-New All-Different Marvel netted Marvel 47.65% of units sold, with DC coming in second at 26.09%.
4. Mixed news for the X-Men
The #XMen books started strong, with Extraordinary X-Men #1 coming in at fifth place (estimated sales of 133,716). More disturbingly, though, #2 dropped out of the top twenty altogether, with estimated sales of 64,595. It seems there was real interest in learning the new status quo for Marvel’s mutants, but that the new status quo hasn’t hooked as many readers as Marvel may have hoped. It will be interesting to see the sales figures for December, which will allow us to compare the performance of Extraordinary X-Men against All-New X-Men.
All-New Wolverine #2 may have seen a steep sales drop, but it’s still the highest-performing a Wolverine book has been in quite a while. To give you an idea, All-New Wolverine #2 sold an estimated 55,634 copies; in November 2013, the last series of Wolverine saw estimated sales of 35,394, and back in November 2012 the book sold an estimated 32,208 copies. All-New Wolverine is definitely a success.
Uncanny X-Men #600 finally released to eighth place in the comic book sales, with estimated sales of 126,447 copies. At first glance, that sounds impressive; however, frankly, a milestone issue with countless variants shouldn’t be coming in eighth. I recognise that November saw some stiff competition, and that Uncanny X-Men #600 had a high cover price at $5.99, but I think Marvel’s delaying the book was a mistake. Launching the tail-end of one era months after we’d last had an issue of Uncanny X-Men, and concomitant with the launch of the next era, didn’t really pay off.
You can check out the full figures at Comichron!