Both Marvel and DC had 79 items on the top 300 comics list in July 2013. There of the DC items were reorder activity while all of the items from Marvel were new. There was a difference of less than 300,000 units between Marvel and DC with Marvel in the lead. Marvel had 40.25% of the total units sold and 41.30% of the total dollars for the top 300 comics while DC had 3.16.16% of the total units and 35.76% of the total dollar for the top 300 comics. The bigger difference in the dollars is due to an average cover price of $3.73 for Marvel compared to the $3.59 average for DC.
Topping the comics chart was "Superman Unchained" #2 with 165,754 estimated units, down around 91,076 units with a drop of 35.46%. The drop in prices from the $4.99 cover price on the first issue to the #3.99 cover price of the second issue didn't seem to have any material impact on the drop. For comparison, "Batman/Superman" dropped 38.73% from the 151,075 estimates units on the first issue down by around 58,517 units to the approximately 92,558 units for the second issue. Both are larger than the standard second issue drop of around 22% or so but that is to be expected on high profile titles since more people tend to sample those titles.
With "Age of Ultron" ending last month, Marvel lost a strong selling miniseries. In July, "Guardians of the Galaxy" #5 was the best-selling comic for Marvel with around 110,372 units, up 54.18% from the 71,586 estimated units of the previous issue. The source of this sales bump was the introduction of Angela to the series. Normally the sales of the next few issues would indicate if there is any really carry over from this or not. However, the "Infinity" miniseries and event are starting up and this title will be involved in that event. This creates a smokescreen around the sales of the title. Some of the sales are the core readership will some are temporary sales generated by the event.
Does this sort of event induced sales smokescreen really matter? After all, sales are sales, right?
Yes and no. Sales are sales in so much as in brings dollars into the comic book shops and readers to the title.
But some sales are inherently better than others. Sales based solely on incentive covers, for instance, bring dollars to the retailer but don't bring readers to the title. It takes new readers to increase sales. Or, at the very least, to help offset the loss of departing readers.
Sales based on genuine interest in the content of the title are infinitely better than almost else since those sales reflect loyal readers of the title. Loyal readers are crucial to the long term success of a title since it takes effort to get a loyal reader to drop a title. The days of these sorts of loyal readers being the majority of the comic book readers seem to be gone. Many readers jump from title to title as the follow creators or arcs they are interested in. And, from a reader perspective, that is how things should be. From a creator/publisher perspective, that is potentially situation to be in. It means that changing the creative team on a title could put the sales into a nose dive it might never recover from.
Turning a title around is very difficult to do. DC is currently trying to do just that with "Batwing" although I'm a bit puzzled as to why. Don't get me wrong, I'm enjoying the new character and creative team but the odds of the title actually turning around are slim to none. "Batwing" #22 sold around 12,062 units having dropped another 3% or so from the previous issue. The title usually gets a bump from Batman family events. The stealth retooling of the title during the WTF month in April 2013 generated a little new interest but nowhere near enough to save the title.
Sales based on an actual sustained interest in the stories being told do happen. "The Walking Dead" is a go-to example of how telling a compelling story leads to increasing sales. The next best thing is a title that is reasonably stable in sales. An example of that near the top of the chart is "Superior Spider-Man" which took two of the top ten slots. "Superior Spider-Man" is sustaining sales about 20,000 units higher than "Amazing Spider-Man" has over the past few years. Likewise, the companion title "Superior Spider-Man Team Up" launched as a top ten title in July. This radical approach to Spider-Man is working and there seems to be no sales reason for Marvel to bring back Peter Parker anytime soon. The current direction it working and seems to set up a number of storylines for when Peter Parker does eventually come back.
Another thing spilling out of "Age of Ultron" is the "Hunger" miniseries which launched with around 70,835 units. For a title set in the Ultimate Universe, those are strong sales. A decade ago, the Ultimate Universe was a strong seller with multiple titles selling over 100,000 units. These days, two of the three ongoing titles, "Ultimate Comics: X-Men" and "Ultimate Comics: Ultimates" have just crossed under the 20,000 unit mark. "Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man" #25 sold around 33,271 units and continues to be the flagship ongoing series of the imprint. Based on the solicitations, "Hunger" leads into "Catacylsm" and there is speculation of this being the end of the Ultimate Universe.
Aside from the flurry of interest in the Ultimate Universe when that Peter Parker was killed off and replaced with Miles Morales two years ago, sales have been sliding on the Ultimate Universe titles for years. Ending that universe and focusing on the mainstream Marvel Universe seems very plausible. Given that virtually all of the characters in Ultimate Universe already have counterparts in the Marvel Universe proper, it seems unlikely that many, if any, characters would migrate over. Miles Morales is about the only character worth moving over. Or, maybe they could just reboot that universe and start over again. Either way, if sales slide much more, don't expect "Ultimate Comics: X-Men" and "Ultimate Comics: Ultimates" to stick around much longer.
The "Trinity War" crossover pitting the various Justice Leagues against one another has had the expected bump in sales on those three titles. The other titles involved, "Constantine" and the recently renamed "Trinity of Sin: Phantom Stranger" both increase in sales a little while much of the standard second issue drop for "Trinity of Sin: Pandora" was mitigated by the crossover.
Trinity War is setting up Villains Month in September with Forever Evil right behind it. As a result, sales of the New 52 titles at DC will have the same sort of smokescreen around them as the Infinity event will cause at Marvel. Combine that with the dust storm around the allocation of the Villains Month issues and we'll have at least one month of numbers that might buck the sales trends instead of defining them.
As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to email me at John.Mayo@ComicBookResources.com.