THE MAYO REPORT: Analyzing Gimmicks, Events & "Walking Dead" in 2013

Fri, January 24th, 2014 at 12:58pm PST

Comic Books
John Mayo, Staff Writer

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Both the upper and lower end of the top 300 comics for 2013 had lessons to be learned. High levels of sales can be generated with a clever cover gimmick or a first issue. Outliers like that aside, the top of the list was on a downward trend over 2013 with only three items above 100,000 in December. The unit sales of the 300th item on the list started the year around 4,000 units and had an upward trend over the year with sales around 5,000 in November and December and high water mark approaching around 6,500 units in September and October.

The top selling comic of 2013 was "The Walking Dead" #115 which sold over 326,000 units, split across the numerous different covers. "Justice League of America" #1 sold around 326,000 estimated units thanks to the 52 independently orderable alternate covers in addition to the standard cover. Though the numbers on our sales chart indicate they sold an equal 326,951 copies, I don't think we can say they tied for first place. While we can account for more unit sales for "Justice League of America" #1 from the monthly charts, Diamond reports that "Walking Dead" #115 outsold it, and Diamond is the one with access to the hard numbers.

All of the top ten comics for 2013 aside from "The Walking Dead" #115 were first issues from Marvel or DC. While this isn't surprising, the size of some of the second issue drops is impressive. "Justice League of America" #2 sold around 95,000 estimated units, a drop of around 231,000 units. "Superman Unchained" #1 sold over 251,000 units and the title dropped around 85,750 units down to around 165,750 units on the second issue. "Guardians of the Galaxy" #2 sold around 130,000 units less than the first issue of that title. "Superior Spider-Man" #2 dropped around 90,000 units below the sales of the first issue of that title.

My point here is the strong sales on first issues is followed by major drops on the second issues. Within a few issues, these titles are usually back in the range the previous volume was selling or below it. Each relaunch is both a jumping-on point for potential new readers as well as a convenient jumping-off point for existing readers looking to cut back.

One of the major cover gimmicks of 2013 was the 3D covers for Villains Month. The lead time needed to produce the 3D covers resulted in allocations, and DC did an eleventh hour solicitation of 2D covers which helped fill the demand for the issues. Nearly all of the 3D covers for Villains Month landed on the list. "Justice League" # 23.3 Dial E (2D Cover) was on the list instead of "Justice League" # 23.3 Dial E (3D Cover). Both versions of "Batman" #23.1 Joker, "Batman: The Dark Knight" #23.4 Joker's Daughter, "Detective Comics" #23.2 Harley Quinn, "Justice League" #23.2 Lobo and "Justice League" #23.4 Secret Society where in the top 1,000 for 2013. The only Villains Month issues to not place on the list were "Justice League Dark" #23.1 Creeper, "Swamp Thing" #23.1 Arcane and "Wonder Woman" #23.2 First Born.

Image did well in 2013 with "The Walking Dead," "Saga" and "East of West" to name only a few titles. The top selling comic in 2013 for Image was "Jupiter's Legacy" #1 selling over 110,000 units. The title dropped around 62,000 units to around 48,250 units on the second issue and down to around 43,750 units on the third issue. Obviously the high sales of first issues are going to be more noticeable and memorable than the lower sales on subsequent issues. The reality is the sales on the subsequent issues are what determine if a title continues or not.

The chart of both the units and dollars from month to month show a reasonable consistent level of sales with a dip in August and a peak in September and October:

The peak in September reflects DC placing all of the 3D and 2D covers for the 52 Villains Month issue in the list while the sales in October reflect an increase in sales for Marvel and the other publishers as seen by these charts which split the units and dollars by publisher.

The aggregate of all of the other publishers had continued growth over the course of the year with October being the best month for the other publisher.

While the month to month picture looks fairly good during 2013, the picture of the advances and declines paints a less favorable picture:

The fact titles drop in sales as they age is nothing new. This standard attrition is why publishers, Marvel in particular, is restarting titles so often. Sometimes a relaunch is happening after only a story arc or two and with the same creative team before and after the relaunch. It is difficult to see relaunches like that as anything other than a transparent marketing gimmick to bring in new readers. The practice is short-sighted and may have the long term result of training readers and retailers to only sample titles on the first issue. If that happens and readers essentially write off titles until the next relaunch, gaining sales on a volume will become even more difficult that it already is. Given the huge second issue drops we seen in recent years, particularly over at Marvel, attempting to gain readers by repeatedly relaunching titles over and over seems like a strategy already proven to not work.

Overall, 2013 was a good year according to the top comics lists. While not as good as 2007, 2013 was the second best year in the past decade.

The rolling 12 month average has been picking up steam over the last few years starting around the time of the New 52 from DC. The upward momentum seems to be leveling off and the short lived nature of titles these days could put the success of the past few years at risk. Comics are a hobby and a habit. Publishers need to acknowledge the monthly reading habit and leverage it by building story momentum and keep readers on titles. Obviously, Marvel isn't going in that direction as witnessed by the Marvel Now and All New Marvel Now initiatives.

The average and median sales are both on the rise but both are fairly modest levels of sales with plenty of room to grow. The average is the total unit sales of the top 300 divided by 300 and the median is the sales at the middle of the list which equates to the average sales of the items at ranks 150 and 151. The average being higher than the median indicates outliers at the items topping the list which are biasing the average upwards.

Overall, 2013 was a good year for comics. The aggregate of the top 300 comics was very strong and there were a lot of great comics produced in 2013. Moving forward, we might want to change the definition of what a successful comic book title is. To be successful, a title needs to sell a consistent number of units from issue to issue, hopefully gaining sales but at least not losing much each issue. The longer a title can go without relaunching for a sales spike, the better. Strong sales are good but consistent sales over the long haul are a true sign of success.

As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to email me at John.Mayo@ComicBookResources.com.

TOP COMICS

January, 2013
DC sold a combined total of 2,538,139 units across 84 items for a total of $8,644,446.61
Marvel sold a combined total of 2,946,384 units across 85 items for a total of $10,865,592.16
The top comics list sold a combined total of 6,718,906 units across the 300 items on the list for a total value of $23,944,325.07 at cover price.

February, 2013
DC sold a combined total of 2,446,842 units across 73 items for a total of $8,412,639.58
Marvel sold a combined total of 2,935,418 units across 77 items for a total of $11,096,074.78
The top comics list sold a combined total of 7,007,522 units across the 300 items on the list for a total value of $25,317,713.52 at cover price.

March, 2013
DC sold a combined total of 2,298,280 units across 78 items for a total of $7,737,700.20
Marvel sold a combined total of 3,338,377 units across 83 items for a total of $12,622,733.59
The top comics list sold a combined total of 7,202,125 units across the 300 items on the list for a total value of $25,921,396.41 at cover price.

April, 2013
DC sold a combined total of 2,023,931 units across 74 items for a total of $6,948,961.69
Marvel sold a combined total of 2,998,515 units across 74 items for a total of $11,188,175.85
The top comics list sold a combined total of 6,789,838 units across the 300 items on the list for a total value of $24,282,844.44 at cover price.

May, 2013
DC sold a combined total of 2,311,185 units across 78 items for a total of $8,272,927.15
Marvel sold a combined total of 2,898,625 units across 74 items for a total of $10,956,166.11
The top comics list sold a combined total of 6,973,218 units across the 300 items on the list for a total value of $25,401,924.89 at cover price.

June, 2013
DC sold a combined total of 2,319,822 units across 69 items for a total of $8,350,277.78
Marvel sold a combined total of 2,943,593 units across 76 items for a total of $10,973,610.31
The top comics list sold a combined total of 7,007,299 units across the 300 items on the list for a total value of $25,571,415.57 at cover price.

July, 2013
DC sold a combined total of 2,647,082 units across 79 items for a total of $9,506,041.18
Marvel sold a combined total of 2,946,034 units across 79 items for a total of $10,980,484.34
The top comics list sold a combined total of 7,320,248 units across the 300 items on the list for a total value of $26,585,195.26 at cover price.

August, 2013
DC sold a combined total of 2,232,110 units across 80 items for a total of $7,853,057.90
Marvel sold a combined total of 2,521,054 units across 67 items for a total of $9,583,845.46
The top comics list sold a combined total of 6,364,056 units across the 300 items on the list for a total value of $23,127,175.41 at cover price.

September, 2013
DC sold a combined total of 3,988,489 units across 135 items for a total of $14,667,877.11
Marvel sold a combined total of 2,662,019 units across 70 items for a total of $9,997,413.33
The top comics list sold a combined total of 8,577,889 units across the 400 items on the list for a total value of $31,642,106.54 at cover price.

October, 2013
DC sold a combined total of 2,771,243 units across 97 items for a total of $10,301,118.41
Marvel sold a combined total of 3,008,102 units across 79 items for a total of $11,609,686.98
The top comics list sold a combined total of 8,284,929 units across the 414 items on the list for a total value of $30,947,926.97 at cover price.

November, 2013
DC sold a combined total of 2,336,058 units across 77 items for a total of $8,447,321.34
Marvel sold a combined total of 2,430,389 units across 72 items for a total of $9,672,436.39
The top comics list sold a combined total of 6,690,324 units across the 332 items on the list for a total value of $24,972,905.16 at cover price.

December, 2013
DC sold a combined total of 2,373,428 units across 84 items for a total of $8,200,548.11
Marvel sold a combined total of 2,547,919 units across 72 items for a total of $10,135,015.81
The top comics list sold a combined total of 7,014,961 units across the 420 items on the list for a total value of $26,148,017.41 at cover price.

TOP TRADES

January, 2013
DC sold a combined total of 112,426 units across 87 items for a total value of $2,311,847.74 at cover price.
Marvel sold a combined total of 77,018 units across 80 items for a total of $2,057,596.56 at cover price.
The top trades list sold a combined total of 336,898 units across the 300 items on the list for a total value of $7,309,231.74 at cover price.

February, 2013
DC sold a combined total of 78,338 units across 64 items for a total value of $1,663,195.57 at cover price.
Marvel sold a combined total of 74,384 units across 88 items for a total of $2,064,569.93 at cover price.
The top trades list sold a combined total of 306,121 units across the 300 items on the list for a total value of $6,504,043.08 at cover price.

March, 2013
DC sold a combined total of 73,228 units across 49 items for a total value of $1,618,751.58 at cover price.
Marvel sold a combined total of 144,099 units across 125 items for a total of $4,829,643.85 at cover price.
The top trades list sold a combined total of 356,320 units across the 300 items on the list for a total value of $8,966,406.71 at cover price.

April, 2013
DC sold a combined total of 101,336 units across 74 items for a total value of $2,125,577.86 at cover price.
Marvel sold a combined total of 138,471 units across 129 items for a total of $4,253,851.79 at cover price.
The top trades list sold a combined total of 370,582 units across the 300 items on the list for a total value of $8,770,151.68 at cover price.

May, 2013
DC sold a combined total of 111,298 units across 84 items for a total value of $2,365,673.64 at cover price.
Marvel sold a combined total of 85,519 units across 62 items for a total of $2,124,946.37 at cover price.
The top trades list sold a combined total of 387,679 units across the 300 items on the list for a total value of $7,834,144.56 at cover price.

June, 2013
DC sold a combined total of 90,597 units across 80 items for a total value of $2,012,663.95 at cover price.
Marvel sold a combined total of 56,284 units across 46 items for a total of $1,313,569.75 at cover price.
The top trades list sold a combined total of 339,537 units across the 300 items on the list for a total value of $6,802,821.09 at cover price.

July, 2013
DC sold a combined total of 113,951 units across 94 items for a total value of $2,773,538.27 at cover price.
Marvel sold a combined total of 104,250 units across 76 items for a total of $2,342,856.22 at cover price.
The top trades list sold a combined total of 377,012 units across the 300 items on the list for a total value of $7,930,492.30 at cover price.

August, 2013
DC sold a combined total of 75,970 units across 83 items for a total value of $1,647,194.85 at cover price.
Marvel sold a combined total of 84,793 units across 64 items for a total of $1,924,338.07 at cover price.
The top trades list sold a combined total of 296,632 units across the 300 items on the list for a total value of $6,020,720.22 at cover price.

September, 2013
DC sold a combined total of 108,623 units across 91 items for a total value of $2,220,751.01 at cover price.
Marvel sold a combined total of 74,679 units across 72 items for a total of $2,509,290.40 at cover price.
The top trades list sold a combined total of 334,578 units across the 300 items on the list for a total value of $7,563,906.32 at cover price.

October, 2013
DC sold a combined total of 120,690 units across 70 items for a total value of $2,654,618.10 at cover price.
Marvel sold a combined total of 83,943 units across 68 items for a total of $2,354,755.62 at cover price.
The top trades list sold a combined total of 400,109 units across the 300 items on the list for a total value of $8,337,806.73 at cover price.

November, 2013
DC sold a combined total of 105,665 units across 65 items for a total value of $2,348,676.01 at cover price.
Marvel sold a combined total of 61,453 units across 54 items for a total of $1,640,874.64 at cover price.
The top trades list sold a combined total of 362,717 units across the 300 items on the list for a total value of $7,370,106.14 at cover price.

December, 2013
DC sold a combined total of 81,131 units across 63 items for a total value of $1,717,290.58 at cover price.
Marvel sold a combined total of 130,280 units across 100 items for a total of $6,177,830.92 at cover price.
The top trades list sold a combined total of 362,678 units across the 313 items on the list for a total value of $10,590,923.53 at cover price.

TAGS:  mayo report, sales report

 
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