As has been the case in the past few years, December was not a particularly strong month. Only three comics sold over 100,000 units to retailers. "Origin II" #1 topped the comic book best sellers list with around 131,724 estimated units. "Avengers" #24.NOW sold around 127,466 units. The cover price on both of those comics was $4.99. The only comic from DC to sell over 100,000 in December was "Batman" #26 with approximately 119,443 units. "Forever Evil" #4 sold around 99,351 units dropping the event series below the 100,000 mark.
One of the reasons for December being a bit of a lackluster month in terms of sales was the slightly odd shipping schedule since both Christmas and New Year's Day fell on Wednesday. The week of Christmas became a non-shipping week, with only eight comics and three trades released for sale starting Tuesday, December 24. The following week of items were released on Tuesday, December 31, with only four comics and five collected editions released by Marvel. Most of the other publishers treated the final shipment of the year as a normal week.
As a result of the holiday scheduling issues, Marvel released two issues of "Amazing Spider-Man" on each of the first two weeks of December. All five issues placed in the top 25 comics but "Amazing Spider-Man" #700.2 and #700.4 were never the most recent shipping issue since the following issues were released simultaneously. While that doesn't impact the Diamond sales charts, it could have a noticeable impact on retailers since a casual reader might not be interested in the most recent issue of a title.
Of course, that begs the question of if that sort of casual reader still exists. Marvel in particular has been effectively training readers into thinking most issues are explicitly not good jumping on points unless they were a .1 issue or a .NOW issue. Marvel is also relaunching titles frequently enough for readers to start considering only first issues to be good jumping on points. Ideally, every issue of every title would have a story accessible enough to a new reader they could jump on at any time. That is far from what is actually the case. Most titles are, to varying extents, written for the trade, with a multiple issue story arc that is best understood, and sometimes only fully understood, if you have read all of the parts of the story. Coming into the middle of a story and both understanding what is going on and having the context for those event to matter is challenging these days. Since not every reader is going to like what they read, some readers while drop off a title in the middle of a story arc. This is one of the main reasons most of the items on the top comics list sell few issues than the previous issue of the title.
With second issue drops at Marvel frequently being around 50% of the first issue sales, training readers and retailers to only jump on to titles when they first launch seems like a losing battle. "Amazing X-Men" launched in November with around 112,337 units. The second issue dropped by near 46% putting the second issue sales around 60,869 units. Certainly sales above 60,000 units are enough to land the title in the top 20 but typically sales only drop from there. Often the third issue drop is 10% to 15% off the second issue sales and titles usually lose another 3% to 5% per issue with occasional sales bumps from event tie-ins, cover gimmicks and other marketing efforts.
The sales of the five issues of "Amazing Spider-Man" were between 59,000 and 66,000 units starting at the high end and dropping off with each subsequent issue. Those sales are right around the range the title was selling at from 2009 through 2012 excluding issues #583 (the Obama cover issue) and #700. Both issues sold well above the normal sales level for the title.
Not a single Marvel titles landed between ranks 168 and 252 and the handful which placed lower on the list were "Emerald City of Oz," "Painkiller Jane: Price of Freedom," "Marvels: Captain America: First Avenger Adaptation," "Marvel Universe: Avengers Assemble," "Marvel Universe: Ultimate Spider Man" and "Marvel Universe: Hulk Agents of Smash." None of them are set in the mainstream Marvel Universe (including the confusingly named "Marvel Universe" titles which are aimed at younger readers and take place out of the of mainstream Marvel Universe continuity). The constant rotation of titles has allowed Marvel to doing a very effective job weeding out the lower selling titles.
Inside that Marvel free zone on the list are a few New 52 titles from DC. "Batwing" #26 dropped by slightly over a third going from an estimated 16,207 units of the Zero Year tie in issue to around 10,753 units which is a few hundred units below the sales of "Batwing" #24. "Stormwatch" #26 dropped another 8.39% to approximately 9,052 units. "Justice League of America's Vibe" #10, the final issue of the series, sold about 8,489 units. "Katana" #10, the final issue of that series, sold an estimated 7,856 units. Both of those two titles launched with initial sales around 27,000 units. "The Movement" #7 sold 7,252 units. As of the January solicitations for March shipping issues, "Batwing," "Stormwatch" and "The Movement" were still ongoing titles. Even lower on the list was "Green Team Teen Trillionaires" #7 which sold an estimated 4,753 units dropping the title below top 300 to rank 317 with one issue of the series remaining. Few other titles set in the DC Universe have managed to sell this low.
Other New 52 titles with sales low enough to warrant cancelation include "Trinity of Sin: The Phantom Stranger," "Superboy," "Birds of Prey," "Larfleeze" and "All Star Western." With only 42 ongoing titles going into April and "Forever Evil" and the three related miniseries ending in March, expect DC to launch another full wave or two of New 52 titles in the next few months.
As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to email me at John.Mayo@ComicBookResources.com.