January 2016 was a below average month for the top 300 comics, but January is usually a weak month, so the unit total for top 300 comics being a little below the average is not unusual or unexpected. Marvel accounted for 52.68% of this smaller pie, DC accounted for 25.46% and Image another 10.63%.
This is the second time in the last four months the difference in the percentages of the unit sales in the top 300 between Marvel and DC is greater that the percentage DC had in the top 300. In other words, in two of the last four months, Marvel has sold over twice as many units as DC within the top 300 comics. Perhaps this is the wakeup call for DC which is prompting the mysterious "Rebirth" campaign.
January 2016 was the sixth lowest unit total for DC within the top 300 comics. Historically, the lowest point for DC was 1,978,804 units in January 2011 and the second lowest point was 2,557,931 units in May 2011. The New 52 reboot of the DC Universe happened in September 2011 which in not a coincidence. The other low points were in January 2004, February 2009 and March 2009. The unit sales in the top 300 have been below average for DC for the last 18 months. Regardless of the cause, DC needs to do something, and we are seeing some of that already with the Hanna-Barbera properties getting relaunched.
Topping the comics list in January was "The Walking Dead" #150 with 156,166 units. The title will most likely drop back down to around the 65,000 to 67,000 range it has been selling at recently. These anniversary, variant cover-driven spikes generally don't have any lasting impact on the sales of the series. Still, if it gets more people to check out the title, that is a good thing.
"Saga" #33 sold 50,414 units, down around 2.77% from the previous issue. "Paper Girls" #4 continues to be a strong seller for Image with 38,290 units. The drop of 12.45% is higher than normal but given the 75,585 units the title started at, isn't too surprising.
"Symmetry" #2 dropped by over 59%, going from 17,522 units down to 7,174 units. The first issue had free-to-order alternate cover and a 1-in-10 variant cover. This second issue had a free-to-order alternate cover and no variant covers. The first three issues were offered on a fully returnable basis for retailers ordering a threshold number of units with that threshold being based on the discount level based on the overall level of orders for Image items for the retailer.
"Spread" #12 was the only Image title in the top 300 to show an increase in unit sales in January, up 3.22%. The title might be leveling off around 7,000 to 7,100 units. If it does level off around that level, then the creators should be able to keep it going as long as they want, or until sales eventually decline. Image benefits from having longer running titles like "Chew" and "Revival" to provide some stability to its ever-changing line up.
Marvel dominated the top of the list. "Secret Wars" #9 was the best seller for Marvel with 149,027 units, down about 12.16%. That drop is interesting because it could signify a potential loss in sales due to the delays concluding the event miniseries. With a monumental event like this, it is not uncommon for the final issue to see a bump in sales because reader want to see how things end. In this case, most of those answers have already been provided by the post-Secret Wars title (at least in terms of story continuity if not in terms of shipping schedule) which launched or relaunched a month or two ago.
Of the 89 items Marvel had in the top 300, only 19 were first issues, and over half of those first issues were True Believers reprints of various Deadpool stories, all of which were priced at $1. Hopefully this gives retailers plenty of on ramp issues to sell to any new people coming into stores after seeing the Deadpool movie. Of the 10 second issues, the drops range from 32.14% on "Red Wolf" #2 to a staggering 77.67% on "Guardians of the Galaxy" #2. Interestingly, those two issues were within about 450 units of each other. The second issue drops for Marvel averaged 48.78% in January.
"Darth Vader" #15, " Extraordinary X-Men" #6 and "Figment 2" #5 all increased in sales over the previous issue of those titles. Of them, "Darth Vader" seems to be starting to climb in sales, at least during the "Vader Down" crossover storyline.
"Figment 2" exhibited a very different sales trend than the original "Figment" miniseries. The first miniseries was comparatively flat in sales, while the second miniseries dropped off with each issue except the final issue, which had a minor bump in sales. The first series averaged sales of 12,434 units, while the second averaged sales of 11,880 units despite the second miniseries starting at 20,551 units compared to the starting point of 12,734 units for the first.
Based on sales, the following Marvel titles might not continue past their current story arc: "Illuminati," "Angela: Queen of H'El," "Drax," "Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur," " Weirdworld," "Hercules," "Howling Commandos of S.H.I.E.L.D." and "Starbrand and Nightmask." Indeed, "Black Knight," which sells in the range of these, has already been canceled. In most cases, Marvel was able to sell more units of True Believers issues reprinting Deadpool. Even at the $1 price tag of those issues, since the content was already produced and ready for publication, Marvel might have made more money than on the new content of these other titles.
"Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" #0 sold 41,042 units, making it the best-selling title not from Marvel, DC or Image. If BOOM! Studios continues to have success with the Power Rangers franchise beyond this initial issue, they may try to expand the line like Titan Comics has successfully done with the Doctor Who franchise which is currently supporting multiple concurrent titles featuring different versions of the Doctor. Power Rangers started in 1993 and has gone on to encompass 19 different teams over 23 seasons. By the end of "Power Rangers Super Dino Charge," the current Power Rangers season, which just started on January 30, 2016, there will be more episodes of "Power Rangers" than there are episodes "Doctor Who." Clearly, there is plenty of Power Rangers source material to leverage.
Should the Power Rangers franchise prove to be expandable to multiple concurrent titles, BOOM! Studios might also consider getting the license to the Super Sentai franchise. The Super Sentai franchise in Japan is the source material which is converted into the Power Rangers by mixing the existing Japanese battle footage with additional scenes with English speaking actors. Sometimes the Power Rangers season is a rough translation of the Super Sentai storyline, and other times the two are vastly different. "Doubutsu Sentai Zyuohger," the 40th Super Sentai series, is scheduled to begin in Japan on February 14, 2016. Shout! Factory has released the Super Sentai series subtitled in English starting with "Kyouryuu Sentai Zyuranger," which was the basis for the original season of "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers." The following Super Sentai series, Gosei Sentai Dairanger, has also been released and the one after that, "Ninja Sentai Kakuranger" is available for pre-order. There is an audience interested in this material.
It is entirely possible the "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" comic book series might not be as wildly successful as the television series. We only have a single data point to go on so far. The title could drop substantially and still sell as well as or better than "Adventure Time" #48 which sold 7,429 units. The comic book doesn't need to be wildly successful in order to be a big win for everyone. It just needs to be entertaining to the readers and profitable for BOOM! Studios in order to be successful. Finding properties with large and active fan bases and producing quality comics on them is what the industry needs. Not exclusively, of course, new properties original to comics are also needed. Just like "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer" brought a new group of people into comic shops, Power Rangers can do the same thing. As can many other existing franchises. Growing the size of the reader base is the best way to increase sales of comics.
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 covering the past decade of comic book sales. In addition to those episodes, every Monday is a Weekly Comics Spotlight episode featuring a comic by DC, a comic by Marvel and a comic by some other publisher. I read around 200 new comics a month so the podcast covers a wide variety of what is currently being published. If you are looking for more or different comics to read, check out the latest Previews Spotlight episode which features clips from various comic book fans talking about the comics they love. With thousands of comics in Previews every month, Previews Spotlight episodes are a great way to find out about things which may have flown under your comic book radar.
As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to email me at John.Mayo@ComicBookResources.com.