Things got a little crazy here in Texas in July. Between some major events that happened locally early in the month, preparing for Comic-Con, driving to Comic-Con, going to Comic-Con and driving back from Comic-Con, it was one of those months where everything just sort of seemed upside down. So, in that spirit, I figured that I'd flip things around in my analysis this month just for fun. We'll start at the bottom of the lists and working our way back up and ending with the market shares, first with the collected editions and then with the comic books. Before we begin, for those who just want the raw numbers, they've been published here.
At the bottom of the top 100 collected editions released in June 2007, the "Serenity" trade paperback came in at slot 100 with around 1,212 units in June 2007. One of the pieces of data that is sometimes over looked is the point at which the top collected editions list ends. This value can be used to determine the maximum number of units that could go reported for the year. Typically, the lowest value on the list is between 700 to 1,400 units each month. For the majority of the past few years it has been above 1,000 units. This means that a collected edition could sell 12,000 or more units during a year without ever appearing on the monthly lists. There are usually only a handful of these items that pop up on the year end list.
One other thing worth mentioning about that "Serenity" trade paperback is that the estimated total known sales in the direct market is around 17,695. Many of the items that have sold the most units over time often do so in a slow and steady manner and show up here at the bottom of the monthly lists. Other examples of that this month include volumes 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6 of "The Walking Dead" trade paperback series. It wouldn't surprise me at all if volume 5 fell not too far under the cut off point for the list this month. The first volume alone has sold over 56,584 estimated units since it was first released. Volume 6 fell from the second slot last month down to slot 61 this month. Considering that most items never show up again after the initial appearance on the list, this isn't any sort of bad sign. One of the best signs of the continued success of "The Walking Dead" is that the trades continually appear on the list each month. The irony is that while this helps Image in terms of market share and, well, image, it doesn't really help Image financially. Image only gets a flat processing fee regardless of how the item sells. Image operates under very different rules than Marvel, DC and most of the other publishers.
Returning to the list, this time at slot 79 is the first volume of "52" with 1,482 units in June 2007 bringing it to a total so far of an estimated 10,239 units. It will be interesting to see if this volume gets a boost when each of the other two volumes are released. The sales of the weekly issues dropped off during the first quarter but then had a very minor drop off after that until it leveled out and even went up a little at the end. If the trades follow a similar pattern, the sales of the second volume will probably be down noticeably but the third and final volumes should come in around the same level as that second volume. I'm really curious if that will happen or not as a I think that part of what kept the sales up on "52" was the weekly frequency which obviously the trades lack.
Another item to make a return appearance this month is the first trade paperback volume of "The Boys" in slot 82 with 1,412 units. This puts the estimated total known sales for it at about 8,751 units. The other item that Dynamite Entertainment had on the list this month was the first trade paperback for "The Lone Ranger" in slot 35 with an estimated 2,673 units.
Given the number of new collected editions released each month, the people at Diamond should consider expanding the list of the top collected editions beyond just the top 100 items. This would help reflect the longer sales cycle that these items tend to have.
All four entries on the list for IDW this month were Transformers trade paperbacks. On the one hand, this is an example of the strength of a licensed property. On the other hand, it is probably more of a reflection of the Transformers movie hitting theaters at the beginning of July. Once the movie has come and gone, the comic book selling strength of the property will likely weaken.
Marvel had half the items in the top 10 in June. The top Marvel collected edition was the $39.99 "Hulk: Planet Hulk" hardcover in slot two with an estimated 9,117 units. Following closely behind was the "Ultimates 2 v2: Grand Theft America" trade paperback in slot three with around 8,835 units. Slots four and five went to "Civil War: Iron Man" and "Civil War: Marvel Universe" respectively. That should pretty much finish off the trade paperbacks for "Civil War." And, as a result, the overwhelming market share that Marvel has enjoyed over the past few months in the collected editions sector of the direct market is unlikely to continue. However, given how "World War Hulk" seems to be doing, Marvel will probably have another surge in the collected editions market share once all of that gets collected in to trade paperbacks and/or hard covers.
DC took the top slot with the "Fables v9: Sons of Empire" trade paperback which sold around 12,168 units. The only other item DC had in the top ten slots was the first "Justice League of America" hardback in slot seven with an estimated 5,589 units.
The split of the market shares for the collected editions sector has gone back to the pre-"Civil War" norm with Marvel and DC doing well, but neither completely dominating the market share. Marvel came in first with 29.87% by units and 37.03% by dollars. DC came in a reasonably close second place with 25.28% by units and 26.95% by dollars. Dark Horse came in a solid third with 17.26% by units and 15.77% by dollars. What is interesting about Dark Horse is that the total dollars from the top comics and from the top collected editions are fairly close to each other with the comics being a bit stronger. Most publishers tend to have a much higher dollar total from the top comics than from the top collected editions. Often the top comic books sales are four or five times as much as the top collected editions sales.
Now for the top 300 comics, starting again at the bottom of the list, in slot 300 is "Gold Digger Sourcebook: Official Handbook of the Gold Digger Universe" #6 with an estimated 1,633 units. Just like with the last item on the top collected editions list, the units for this bottom most item give us an idea of what level of sales could have gone unreported. This number has been as low as around 650 in May 2001 and as high as 3,170 units in November 2006. Everything in June 2007 from slot 240 down fell below that all time high for the final slot of 3,170. Unlike the list of collected editions which really needs to be expanded, there isn't a much of a need for the list of the top 300 comic books to be expanded to include more of the lower selling items. Instead, I'd much rather see the reorder items broken out into a different list (with the index value included on that list) and have the list of the top 300 comic book only include new releases for the month. The list of top reorders would probably only need to be 50 or 100 items long and would be much more useful than hiding that reorder activity in the top comics list.
The first issue of "Starship Troopers Ongoing" from Markosia came in at slot 276 with 2,174 units. What is really interesting is that the second issue of the series was also released in June and outsold the first issue with 2,493 units in slot 264. This is an increase of around 14.67% at a point when most titles suffer a significant drop in sales. While not all second issues drop, as evidenced by this jump in sales, those that do drop typically do so by an average of around 22%. Some of that standard drop is because many readers are just sampling the title with no real intention of getting in monthly but perhaps being more interested in the eventual collected edition. Hopefully little of the standard second issue drop is being caused by people speculating on the first issue going up in value. While that may be a factor for some titles I don't think it is as wide spread as it once was. My fear is that the main cause for the second issue drop is that most first issues aren't hooking the readers enough for them to feel they have to get the second issue.
In slot 273 is "PS 238" #23 with about 2,195 units. That is a minor increase of only about 70 units. This title recently switched to monthly frequency and that hopefully will result in an upward sales trend. This is one of the titles that I think has the potential to sell a lot stronger than it does. I read well over 100 comics a month and "PS 238" is one of the best written comics I'm reading these days. The only reason I can think of for the low sales numbers is because the title simply isn't carried by most comic book stores and therefore isn't available to most readers.
The best seller for Boom! Studios in June was "Warhammer: Forge of War" #1 in slot 196 with an estimated 6,716 units. Not far behind it was "Warhammer 40K: Damnation Crusade" #5 in slot 200 with 6,332 units. The Warhammer property seems to be doing well for Boom!. It also seems like a good property for comic books since it has the potential of getting the Warhammer players at comic/gaming stores interested in comic books.
In slot 134 was "Strangers in Paradise" #90 with an estimated 14,983 units. This was the final issue of the series and saw an increase of over 5,900 units from the previous issue. This title had been selling between 8,700 to 9,925 units over the past few years. I find it a little depressing that one of the things that will increase sales is ending a title. That seems like the pinnacle of the short term gain at the long term cost. I don't mean to imply that this was any sort of sales stunt. It wasn't. The story was simply coming to an end. That happens and I'm glad a lot of people were interested in how the story would end. It is unfortunate that only two thirds of those people seemed to be interested in following the story as it was being told in the monthly comics.
There are a couple of DC titles that are probably in the "danger zone" due to low sales. In slot 141 was "Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis" #53 with 13,442 units, down nearly 20% from the previous issue. In slot 130 was "Hawkgirl" #65 with 15,470, down only about 342 units from the previous issue. In slot 118 was "All New Atom" #12 with 16,838 units which was up 650 units from the previous issue. Also showing a modest gain of 105 units was "Blue Beetle" #16 in slot 114 with 17,006 units. When I go through Previews each month, these are the titles I keep expecting to have that "Final Issue" tag.
In the "safer but still not really all that safe from being cancelled" range for DC are "Shadowpact" #14 with 19,888 units in slot 102, "Catwoman" #68 with 20,120 units in slot 101, "JSA Classified" #27 in slot 98 with 21,283 units, "JLA Classified" #39 in slot 96 with 21,715 units and "Checkmate" #15 in slot 95 with 22,002 units. I'm thinking that "Catwoman" might end soon and the main thing keeping "JSA Classified and "JLA Classified" around is that DC either has some inventory stories they can publish in those titles or they want to keep them around as a place to try out some new talent.
Over at Image, "The Walking Dead" #38 was in slot 93 with 22,180 units. This is up a few hundred from the previous issue of the title. This is yet another all time high for the title with the issue selling over three times what the first issue did. There are a few other titles from Image outselling "The Walking Dead" such as "Frank Frazetta's Death Dealer" and "Spawn," But when "The Walking Dead" takes the top slot for Image (and I think it is a matter of when, not if), I think it has a very good chance of regularly outselling the other ongoing titles but occasionally coming in behind the first few issues of new titles.
In slot 85 was "Spawn" #168 with 24,138 units beating out "Frank Frazetta's Death Dealers" by only a few hundred units. Over the past two months the top selling Image title has been "Frank Frazetta's Death Dealer." But, having lost about 25% of the first issue sales the title has now fallen to the second highest selling Image title. There is a chance that "Frank Frazetta's Death Dealer" could level off and do fairly well too, but it is a bit early to know for sure yet. It will be interesting to see if it continues to decline as most titles do or if it turns around and starts climbing in sales.
Dynamite Entertainment did well again in June with "The Boys" #8 in slot 69 with 30,691 units. There was also some reorder activity for "The Boys" #7 down in slot 261. The only title to increase in sales over the previous issue in June for Dynamite Entertainment was "The Lone Ranger" #6 in slot 100 with an increase of 516 for an estimated total of 20,412 units.
An item that will likely do exceptionally well in reorders in July is "The Sinestro Corps Special" which was in slot 38 in June with 56,786 units. I can't help but feel that the Marvel marketing department could have taken this sort of "event" one-shot and gotten twice the sales that DC got in June. DC seemed to underplay the importance of the issue and these estimated sales reflect that. While I certainly don't think that DC should overhype things as Marvel sometimes does, I don't think that they are promoting things as effectively as they could be.
The sales of "Countdown" continued to countdown with the estimated sales dropping from 77,458 for issue #47 down to 73,927 for issue #44. This puts the sales well below how "52" did. Some of the drop is most likely due to the higher price and some it is the crossover nature of the series. While "52" was self contained, "Countdown" has already crossed over into a number of other titles. As I mentioned above while discussing the first "52" trade, it is worth remembering that the sales for "52" fell considerably during the first quarter of the series. While the sales for "Countdown" are lower than for "52," the rate of decline is significantly less. This series could level off much faster than "52" and at a higher percentage of the first issue sales. In terms of percentage of the first issue, "Countdown" is only down to 81.19% with the 8 th issue while "52" was down to 75.77% by that point. The core problem is that "Countdown" started at a much lower level than "52" did. The average total estimated sales for a single issue of "52" was about 105,382 units and the initial estimated sales for any single "52" never dropped below 92,650 units. The first issue of "Countdown" started below that low point for "52" with 91,057 units and has been dropping ever since. Given that I think I'm the exact kind of reader that DC seems to be targeting right now and I'm underwhelmed by "Countdown," I expect the numbers to keep dropping on this title. But, issues #50, #49 and #48 of "Countdown" appeared at the bottom of the list with some reorder activity which implies that reorders are exceeding returns at least for those issues.
The final issue of "Flash the Fastest Man Alive" was in slot 18 with 76,815 units. This was up an impressive 60.72%. This is another example of questionable marketing by DC. The initial solicitation was vague. It was followed by in house ads which pretty much implied how the story would end. Then, a week before the issue was released, Dan Didio spoiled the story online. That may have helped the series sell, but to fans like myself who like to find out what happens in the story by reading the story, it's not how I'd like to see a series promoted.
The top Dark Horse comic in June was "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" #4 in slot 10 with 102,369 units. This series is continuing to do very well. Between that issue and the previous three, all of which appeared on the list with reorder activity (in slots 216, 218 and 259), this title accounted for about 40.78% of the top 300 comic book sales for Dark Horse. That would rank the title as the seventh biggest market share for the top 300 for the month above publishers like Devil's Due, Avatar, Aspen, Bongo, Boom, Virgin and Viz to name a few. The real question is if it will continue to be this strong if/when Joss Whedon stops writing it. Personally, I'm hoping that Joss Whedon is following the sales of the series and keeps writing if for the foreseeable future.
Only two DC titles made it into the top ten in June. The final issue of "Justice" filled slot seven with 112,405 units, up about 19.69% from the previous issue. In slot six was "Justice League of America v2" #10 with 129,189 units. This was almost identical to the sales for issue #9 of that title, down only about 59 units which is only a 0.05% drop.
Many of the top selling Marvel titles were also related to the death of Captain America event and the World War Hulk event. The "X-Men: Endangered Species One Shot" came in at slot 13 with 87,921 units. "Incredible Hulk" #107 was at slot 9 with 106,868 units. That is far below the sales of the first issue of "World War Hulk" which spun out of the storyline from the last year or so of "Incredible Hulk" title.
Marvel took the top five slots in June, and depending how you define "events" they did it with five different events. Slot five was "Dark Tower: Gunslinger Born" #5 which is the Stephen King comic book event. Slot four was "Fallen Son: Death of Captain America – Spider-Man" #4 which continued the death of Captain America event. Slot three was "X-Men" #200 which helped kick off the "Endangered Species" X-Men event. Slot two was New Avengers which continued the "Civil War: The Initiative" event and potentially started a future Marvel event. And, finally, the top slot went to "World War Hulk" #1 which is most certainly an event comic book and it sold an estimated 178,302 units. This falls far short of "Civil War," but still represents excellent sales numbers.
Marvel completely dominated the comic book market shares in June with a strong 52.19% by units and 52.48% by dollars. This is the third time that Marvel has had over half the market share for the top 300 comic books by both units and dollars since Diamond started releasing information based on the actual sales to retailers in early February 2003. The first time was January 2005 in which Marvel had a complete lock on the top ten slots. The highest market share that Marvel has ever had for the final sales of the top 300 comic books was in March 2005 with a little under 55.22% by units and 56.23% by dollars. More recently, Marvel had roughly 51.5% of the market share by both units and dollars in February 2007. The best market share for the top 300 comic books that DC had was back in May 2006 with 45.33% by units and 43.96% by dollars.
One thing to keep in mind with the market shares is that it only denotes how much of the pie each publisher got, not how big the pie was. What may appear to be a big gain or loss in market share may not reflect a significant change in how things are selling for a publisher. For example, even though the dollar market share for Marvel went up this month, the actual dollar total dropped for Marvel by the better part of $700,000 which is more than the June 2007 dollar total for either Dynamite Entertainment or IDW Publishing. Comparing a publisher's market share for two different months is useful in determining how the publisher is competing with the other publishers but not for determining if a specific publisher is doing better or worse in terms of units or dollars over time.
As always, if you have any questions or comments on these numbers and what they do and don't mean, please feel free to email me at John.Mayo@ComicBookResources.com.