The Mayo Report: "Harley Quinn," "Superman" Rise in June, "Original Sin" Dips

Wed, July 16th, 2014 at 8:58am PDT

Comic Books
John Mayo, Staff Writer
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With a total of 6,464,771 estimated units for the top 300 comics, June 2014 was 8,910 units shy of being a perfectly average month for the top comics list. Marvel accounted for 39.62% of the total units sold for the top 300, while DC took 34.76% and Image another 10.1% leaving only 15.52% of the total sales of the top 300 for all of the other publishers on the list. While average in aggregate, June was weak at the top of the list in many respects, with only two titles over 100,000 units, and only six title, sold between 75,000 and 100,000 units. The top of the charts is not as a strong as it once was.

Part of what makes that unusual is Marvel has a major event title going on with "Original Sin," where the embedded miniseries approach doesn't seem to be working. "Original Sin" #3 sold an estimated 93,351 units and "Original Sin" #4 around 88,508 units. "Original Sin" #3.1, on the other hand, only sold 45,338 units. "Original Sins" #1 sold even lower -- around 39,660 units -- with "Original Sins" #2 dropping almost 9% to around 36.099 units. If this were a non-event title, sales would be strong, but they're unimpressive for a Marvel event. The sales of the "Original Sins" miniseries and the embedded "Hulk vs Iron Man" miniseries are half to a third of the sales of the core event miniseries.

"Batman" #32 sold topped the charts with approximately 130,077 units, up over 19% from the previous issue. "Detective Comics" #32 sold around 72,988 units with the new creative team taking over the title. The bumped in sales by over a third effectively puts the title back into a honeymoon period as readers determine if they like the new team on the title or not.

The new "Harley Quinn" title has been doing better than would be expected based on the performance of past titles featuring the character. The original "Harley Quinn" series which launched in April 2000 started just below 30,000 units, drifting down to around 15,000 units before that title ended.

The "Gotham City Sirens" title, featuring Catwoman, Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn, started around 53,000 units, declining to around 21,000 units two years later, when the title ended.

The current series launched strong -- around 125,000 units -- and seemed to be leveling off in the mid-60,000 range before this bump in sales. The sales on this title have been unusually strong, making it one of the more successful launches of the New 52. "Harley Quinn" #7 sold an estimated 93,266 units, up 49.3% over the previous issue, making the issue the second best seller for DC and the fourth best seller of June. Poison Ivy guest staring in the issue, and the Bombshells alternate cover help explain the jump in sales.

Frankly, I'm at a bit of a loss to explain why this title is doing so well. It is a bit disconnected from the rest of the New 52, but is still set clearly in that narrative universe. The art is fantastic and the stories have a done-in-one aspect to them without being standalone stories. They are doing a number of things right on this title and the character is widely recognized, so, I'm not surprised it is successful, but I'm a bit surprised it is doing this well. If you look at a single chart with all three titles on it, you should be able to see what I mean:

The past two titles set certain expectations that the current series is exceeding by a wide margin. Hopefully DC can replicate this success on some of the upcoming new titles.

Ironically, "Harley Quinn" #7 outsold what many might have expected to be the top selling DC issue in June. "Superman" #32 skyrocketed in sales, increasing over #31 by 120%, going from 40,534 units to 89,140 thanks to the new creative team of Geoff Johns and John Romita, Jr. This is another high profile relaunch of a New 52 title, and by far the most successful of the bunch. Part of the difference was the high profile creative team taking over, but the promotional push announcing the new creative team contributed as well. The relaunches of "Batwing" and "Superboy" were stealth relaunches and therefore didn't do much for sales.

The "regional events" over at DC of the "Superman: Doomed" storyline in the Superman titles and the "Uprising" arc in the Green Lantern titles are boosting sales of a number of titles, but the main cause of the bump in sales on a number of DC titles was the Bombshells variant covers. Not only were these some great looking covers, they were independently orderable variants. Anybody that has been following my articles here on Comic Book Resources or listening to my podcast for a while knows I consider incentive covers damaging to the industry. I've been saying for years that though they're profitable, incentive covers are "bad profits" which risk sacrificing the long term health of the industry for short term gain. The bump in sales on these titles would have been a lot smaller if there was an ordering ratio on them, limiting retailers to only ordering one copy per X copies of the regular cover. Instead of a bump that would have been around 5% to 15%, we are seeing bumps of at least 30%. Letting the retailers order what they wanted maximized the sales of the Bombshells covers and clearly worked out well for DC in June.

While I don't think DC should be doing a themed alternate covers every month (like the Batman 75th anniversary Cover in July, the DCU selfie covers in August and the 3D covers for Futures End in September), at least they are allowing retailers to decide how many of each cover to order. DC is also going back to the well with the promotion rings in September, with the nine Power Rings, the Flash ring and, most surprisingly, the Legion of Super-Heroes flight ring being rereleased. Maybe there is a chance a new "Legion of Super-Heroes" title is about to be announced.

"Outcast by Kirkman and Azaceta" #1 launched around 71,788 units, making it the second best seller for Image behind "The Walking Dead" #128 with 74,803 units. The oversized first issue provided plenty of space to set up the series, which should help with sales retention for the second issue. The gap between "Justice League" and "The Walking Dead" shrunk to under 1,500 units.

The two weekly titles -- "Batman: Eternal" and "New 52: Futures End" -- continue to do well for DC. "Batman: Eternal" is the stronger of the two, ranging from 62,086 units down to 59,431 units, losing only about 2,655 units between the first and last issues released in June. "New 52: Futures End" #5 sold 48,768 units, with the series ending the month down 4,097 units. "New 52: Futures End" will most likely drop out of the top 40 in July, while all five issues of "Batman: Eternal" could remain in the top 20, though it is more likely that a few might drop below that line. Both titles are likely to see a bump in sales at the end with readers wanted to see how the titles wrap up their storylines.

The top title outside of DC, Marvel and Image was "Serenity: Leaves on the Wind" #6, which concluded that miniseries with an estimated 42,069 units. The miniseries, which picked up after the movie which was released nearly a decade ago, started around 60,628 units and then hovered between 42,000 and 45,500 for the other issues. There is clearly a market for more "Serenity" comics.

We only have the top 300 comics this time around instead of the top 400, which Diamond has been releasing since December. This seems to be a policy change of some sort, and I hope Diamond will consider going back to the top 400 as it provided better visibility into the non-premiere publishers. I do want to thank Diamond for providing the indexed sales charts so we can see how titles are doing relative to one another. In a preorder-based business like comics, press releases about sell outs and second printings can indicate either a true demand for a title or be engineered by how the print run is set relative to the preorders for the comics. Having the data from Diamond allows for a third party perspective on the sales.

If you'd like to listen to an in-depth discussion of the sales data, check out the Mayo Report episodes of the Comic Book Page podcast at www.ComicBookPage.com. As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to email me at John.Mayo@ComicBookResources.com.

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