Marvel had the largest share of the total unit sales of the top 300 comics in April 2012 with 41.95% while DC had 36.11%. This big surprise was on the trades list, with Image Comics landing on top with 28.26% of the total unit sales for the top 300 trades. Marvel came in second with 22.37% and DC was third with 21.43%. The really impressive part is, the sales of "The Walking Dead" trades alone would have been enough to put Image Comics ahead of the other publishers.
"Avengers vs X-Men" kicked into high gear in April as #2 took the top slot with an estimated 158,650 units and "AvX: Vs" #1 landed at rank 4 with around 103,436 units. Also cracking the top ten were "Uncanny X-Men" #11 which sold about 69,875 units to retailers and "Avengers" #25 which sold approximately 65,664 units to retailers. While that is an increase of over 25% for each title, it's not exactly impressive given the massive hype behind the "Avengers vs X-Men" series and event. Two issues of "Wolverine and the X-Men" were released in April with a nearly 21% increase from the estimated 53,757 units of "Wolverine and the X-Men" #8 to approximately 64,984 units of "Wolverine and the X-Men" #9. There was also around 26,981 units of reorder activity for "Avengers vs X-Men"#1 which came in at rank 79. The event is doing well and is certainly boosting sales for the related Avengers and X-Men, but those titles are still failing to break 70,000 units.
A number of Marvel titles had 1-in-20 or 1-in-25 Avengers Art variant covers this time around and no such gimmick last month. That would account for the minor increases. Funny thing is, such a gimmick used to boost sales by as much as 5,000 to 7,000 as when it was used with the Marvel Zombies covers a number of years ago. The minor bumps in April on titles like "Incredible Hulk," "FF" and "Scarlet Spider" are almost certainly going to evaporate with the following issues. The larger bumps on "Avenging Spider-Man" #6, "Punisher" #10 and "Daredevil" #11 are a combination of the multiple variant covers and possibly the "Omega Effect" crossover storyline. The sales increase from crossover storylines like "Omega Effect" rarely lasts long, if at all. The 60% jump in sales of "Hulk" #50 is a combination of a 1-in-25 variant cover, a 1-in-50 variant cover, a 1-in-75 variant cover and an incentive cover which retailers could order as much as they wanted provided they orders 125% or more of their orders for "Hulk" #47. In addition, the issue was an "anniversary" issue which also usually results in a minor sales bump.
Over at DC, "Batman" #8 sold an estimated 130,602 units, displacing "Justice League" #8, which sold 128,991 units, as the top selling DC title. The top titles of the New 52 are still selling remarkably well. Both "Batman" #8 and "Nightwing" #8 had minor gains as "The Night of Owls" crossover storyline started up. We should see similar increases on the other Batman family titles as "The Night of Owls" storyline continues in May. Overall, the sales on most of the New 52 titles are starting to level off, with attrition measured in the hundreds and not thousands of units. Looking at just the sales during the first four months of 2012, the trend lines look fairly stable.
April included the final issues of the first six titles in the New 52 to end. "Hawk and Dove" #8 was the strongest selling of the group but ended with only about 12,132 units and "Blackhawks" #8 was the lowest selling of the group selling around 9,149 units. "Men of War" #8 increased by an estimated 39 units.
With the six ending titles selling a combined total of around 62,209 units, the only thing that seems certain is that the first issues of the New 52 Wave 2 titles will outperform the titles they are replacing. The next round of titles to end could include "Captain Atom," "Voodoo," "Blue Beetle," "Grifter," "DC Universe Presents" and "Resurrection Man." "Captain Atom" dodged a bullet in the first round of cancellations. "Hawk and Dove" had been marginally outselling "Captain Atom" since the second issue of those titles, illustrating that factors other than sales of the monthly print comic must have been involved in the decision of which titles to end and which to continue publishing. Along those lines, it is entirely probable "DC Universe Presents" might get some sales leeway since it is a vehicle to getting new properties into the marketplace. Plus, it is selling much better than miniseries like "Night Force" and "T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents."
Dynamite Entertainment had the top comic not published by Marvel or DC with "The Shadow" #1 selling an estimated 45,548 units. "Saga" #2 sold an estimated 36,884 units with around 9,641 units of reorder activity for the first issue. But "The Walking Dead" #96 sold an estimated 36,931 units, making it once again the top selling Image Comics ongoing title. As mentioned above, "The Walking Dead" did extremely well on the top trades list with "The Walking Dead" trade paperbacks taking 15 of the top 20 slots.
The promotionally priced "Fanboys vs Zombies" #1 sold an estimated 25,935 units at the $1.00 cover price. Most likely it will drop significantly with the second issue which is priced at $3.99. Regardless of how much of it drop it might have with the second issue, pricing the first at a $1.00 was a smart move. Typically the first issue sets the sales ceiling for a title. Certainly some titles are able to eventually surpass the sales of the first issue but it generally speaking, the more recently the title launched, the less likely it tends to be for it to ever sell better than the first issue of the title did. By pricing the first issue so low, Boom Studios was able to get more copies of the first issue into the market and potentially into the hands of readers.
Along similar lines, Image Comics' "America's Got Powers" #1 was an extra-long issue priced at $2.99. While the issue could have been easily split into two issues, doing so would have been a huge mistake. The extra pages for what is currently the lowest standard cover price makes the issue a good deal, and sometimes that can be enough to get an undecided reader to try out the series. In addition, breaking the story in half would have resulted in a much less impressive debut, and that almost certainly would have resulted in a major drop in sales with the second issue. The concern I have with this series is no issues have been solicited beyond the third -- which would now be the second, since the first two were combined post-solicitation -- which was listed in the March Previews. The lack of any issues being offered in the April and May Previews implies a delay for the six-issue miniseries. The risk of delays isn't theoretical either since the second issue failed to ship as originally expected on April 25. Hopefully this isn't going to be another case of a great first issue from Image Comics with little, if anything, to follow.
Image Comics has an unfortunate track record of titles starting and then vanishing. Last April, Image Comics released "Nonplayer" #1 which sold around 8,869 units and generated a lot of positive buzz. A year later and we haven't seen even seen any solicitations for subsequent issues much less the issues themselves. A few years back, Mark Millar and Tony Harris got three issues out for "War Heroes," with a year delay between the second and third issues before the series vanished. Marvel's "The Twelve" had a three year delay between issues #8 and #9, proving that this isn't a problem unique to Image, but the very nature of Image as a publication umbrella for creator-owned properties makes it a more likely issue than it is for other publishers which usually have the option of replacing creators on companies owned titles if they are running massively late.
First issue sales are critical. Readers that don't get the first issue are not generally likely to get later ones unless something major sells them on it. Having failed to sell a reader on the series in the first place makes it that much harder to sell that reader on it later. Coming out of the gate with a strong first issue at a reasonable price isn't just a good idea; it is the expectation of current readers. Failing to follow up the first issue with subsequent issues of equal or greater quality in a timely manner weakens the foothold into the market established by the first issue. Readers and retailers lose confidence in publishers that do this repeatedly. That loss of confidence often translates directly into a loss of sales.
As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to email me at John.Mayo@ComicBookResources.com.