Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Comic Book Sales: June 2014

Welcome to TEN's coverage of comic-book sales. Every month - starting with this one - TEN will post one lengthy editorial on the month's comic sales figures - followed by smaller, more bitesized analysis straight after. This week's editorial is on cracking the reason why All-New Marvel Now! titles aren't selling. Also, just below the editorial you'll find coverage on DC, the independent publishers, and this month's top ten. Thanks for reading.

All-New Marvel Now: Why it isn't Working

The latest comic book sales figures have been released, and it paints a rather dim picture for All-New Marvel Now. Marvel launched the initiative - a follow up to their original Marvel NOW! line - at the beginning of year, and since then they have seen title after title fall straight to the bottom of the sales charts just a few months after debuting. The new titles that fall foul to this unfortunate fate are numerous: New Warriors, All-New Ultimates, Secret Avengers, Elektra, All-New Invaders, All-New X-Factor and Captain Marvel are the titles suffering most, with other titles like X-Force, She-Hulk and Loki: Agent of Asgard on the brink of following the trend as well. The question is: Why is this happening?

Cast you're mind back to May 2012 and we see a similar trend that may help us answer that question. The New 52 had been launched nine months prior and had succeeded in putting DC Comics back on the map in terms of comic-book sales. With the exception of smaller titles like Men of War, Blackhawks, and OMAC - which had been expected to struggle, and definitely were - business was booming. However, when DC tried to replicate that success, eliminating some of the aforementioned slow-starters in favour of some new titles, they found it more difficult than it had been the first time. Of the six new titles that started that May, three failed miserably (G.I Combat anyone?), and the other three were only moderate successes not capturing the kind of sales numbers that DC must have hoped for considering their strong start.

Things got worse, and by the following year almost every new title DC launched was hitting the bottom of the sales chart just a few months into its run: Vibe, Katana, Green Team, The Movement, The Phantom Stranger, and even Pandora - the mysterious figure that was the centre of so much interest at the beginning of the New 52 - failed to carry a series of her own. As DC has now stopped releasing as many new titles, the haemorrhaging of their sales numbers has slowed somewhat (although a look at the sales of Aquaman and the Others suggests they are still struggling to launch new books).

Nonetheless, it seems that it's mainly now Marvel who is suffering from Wave 2-failure syndrome, as a large amount of All-New Marvel Now titles struggle to find even the smallest of audiences. With books like Ultimate FF and Iron Patriot already cancelled after just five and six issues respectively, and the titles listed at the beginning of this article seemingly not far behind, what could possibly be causing this?

1. Marvel's Prices and Shipping

"Things that DC do better than Marvel" hasn't been a hugely popular list in recent years, however one thing that I always like to credit DC on is their continual support of the $2.99 price point. The publisher still places many of its top-selling titles such as Harley Quinn, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Batgirl and The Flash at the competitive price of just $2.99, while Marvel have been aggressively bumping titles up to a price of $3.99 and recently a ludicrous $4.99 in recent months. If you're reading this, you probably like comics, but I think we can all agree that $5 is too much to pay for a comic that has sometimes less than 30 pages of quality content (damn you, adverts!).

And as if this price point wasn't expensive enough already, Marvel have also started the unsavoury habit of double-shipping with many of their titles too. I find double-shipping frustrating personally as while a story may move along faster, the price of this added pacing is a far more expensive monthly pull-list. As a comic reader on a low salary, I have began making an effort to check which Marvel titles are double-shipped so that I may avoid them. If I'm the only one doing this I'd be extremely surprised. These are not good economic times for many people and the rising expense of comic-books is going to be harmful for the medium as a whole if not capped soon.

The immediate effect double-shipping and a higher price point has on new titles, is it makes people more cautious about trying them. Speaking personally, I have wanted to read Avengers World, All-New Ghost Rider, All-New X-Factor and Elektra since they launched but have had to steer clear due to the books either having a high price point, being double-shipped or both. Were just a couple of these titles released at $2.99 and at a manageable rate of one issue per month I would be reading a lot more of them, and this would also free up some cash to perhaps afford one double-shipped title too. Ultimately, that's the strategy I would recommend to Marvel. If they must double ship some titles at a high price point, then it should only be a couple of books. By making their entire line more expensive they're doing damage to themselves, as in these fragile times people simply can't afford an unlimited number of expensive comics.

Looks awesome but I can't afford it!
I think this is a big part of why there are so many struggling Marvel Now! titles at the moment, and a price drop for many of them would do a world of good.

2. Relaunches Produce Too Many Titles!

While DC's New 52 technique of cancelling frequently in "waves" could be seen as aggressive, recently Marvel's technique of fixing low-selling titles - a relaunch - has been seen as just plain annoying, especially when these books come back at a higher price (see All-New X-Factor and Daredevil among others). Recently it has been speculated that comic readers may be becoming apathetic towards relaunches with many of them seeming unnecessary and just a cheap way for Marvel to grab headlines. What the publisher needs to remember is that relaunches are a great opportunity for readers to jump on, but also a great opportunity for readers to jump off (see Secret Avengers). By relaunching so many titles, Marvel may end up reducing their audience - the opposite of what they're aiming for.

Also, by relaunching many titles that really don't need it Marvel end up taking coverage away from their brand new books that do need help finding readers. A book such as Mark Waid's Daredevil did not need to be relaunched - it has a strong fanbase and more critical acclaim than you can shake a stick at. But by bringing more attention to already established books such as this one, new series' like All-New Ghost Rider and Elektra lost opportunities for coverage. All-New Marvel NOW!'s release schedule has been chaotic for this reason with an abundance of relaunched titles trampling over a large amount of new titles with the winner being no one. Instead, we're left with all of the books being damaged in the mayhem.

I worry that many of these titles are now beyond hope, however if any of the struggling books mentioned in this editorial interest you, I implore you to pick them up now. Before it's too late.

DC Comics

As I mentioned in the editorial above, there was a time shortly after the launch of the New 52 where DC really struggled with launching new books. However, to some extent it seems that difficult period may be finishing for the publisher. Don't get me wrong - DC still have struggling books, and you can read our article here on the DC books on "cancellation watch." Additionally, some of the books DC has recently debuted such as Justice League 3000 and Aquaman and the Others have not been any definition of a hit, with those books now selling just over 24,000 and 23,000 respectively. But, the disaster period of Summer 2013 where books such as Vibe, Katana, Green Team and more died on impact with store shelves seems to be over, with DC's current new books at least putting up more of a fight with their competition.

DC's biggest success continues to be Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's Batman which takes the number one spot once again this week selling 130,000 copies. If you weren't already convinced that Gotham City is the most profitable area in the DC Universe, the publisher's second best-selling title was (surprisingly) Harley Quinn with 93,000 copies sold! This was a book that I expected to die shortly after release, as Larfleeze did before it, but I admit I was wrong on this one. Harley Quinn seems to be DC's big success story of 2014. It not only helps their line-up of female-led titles, but it also keeps the bat-presence high in the New 52, something DC will want to do in the run-up to Batman vs. Superman in 2016. Speaking of Superman, his ongoing series sits comfortably behind Quinn at number five with 89,000 copies sold, receiving a solid boost with the all-star team of Geoff Johns and John Romita Jr. now attached.

As for DC's recent endeavour into weekly series' with both Batman: Eternal and New 52: Future's End, it has been a moderate success for the publisher, however sales are continuing to drop. Who will be around to witness the end of these very costly titles? Only time will tell, but for the time-being the books look healthy, with Batman: Eternal the best-selling of the two pretty unsurprisingly. The damage for that title was bearable this month - in May, it's best-selling issue peaked at around 67,000 copies, while this month the best-selling issue of Eternal had sold around 62,000 copies. A drop of 5,000 isn't awful for a weekly book, and the drops should stop soon as it establishes a core readership of die-hard Bat-fans.
The less acclaimed Future's End however may struggle more, with last month's peak of 70,000 falling to a peak of just 48,000 this month. A drop of 22,000 copies in one month is going to be a problem for the weekly book if not stopped soon, and with less popular characters and less favourable reviews than Eternal, Future's End may be on low numbers by the end of its run.


June was a great month for Image Comics, with one title in the top ten and one just outside - and both of which written by Robert Kirkman, securing him as the most important writer at the publisher. The Walking Dead #128 was their best-selling book ranking at number nine with around 74,000 copies sold. Meanwhile, Kirkman's other title - his new book Outcast - was just outside the top ten at number eleven with 71,000 copies sold.

The Walking Dead continues to thrive! Will the craze ever end?
However, Image isn't just a publisher reliant on Kirkman. Another Image hit in June was Brian K Vaughan's Saga which continues to make waves in the industry selling a healthy 56,000 copies. Other stand-outs include the return of the Phonogram and Young Avengers partnership Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie. Their Image Comics title, The Wicked and the Divine debuted in June and sold an impressive 41,000 copies. In this writer's opinion, if you haven't yet bought it, you definitely should as it's one of the most promising debuts of the year so far. Matt Fraction's Sex Criminals and Warren Ellis' Trees also perform well managing to stay in the Top 100.

As for the smaller publishers, Boom Studios biggest title was Big Trouble in Little China. The series - a spin-off from the 1986 movie of the same name - sold over 24,000 copies, a fantastic number for Boom who are yet to reach the heights of their fellow independent publisher Image. However, a movie deal over Boom properties with 20th Century Fox may change that one day soon.
Dark Horse's top two books are also licensed properties, suggesting these kinds of books may play an increasingly important role in the survival of smaller publishers. Dark Horse's top two books were their continuation of Joss Whedon's cult-hit TV show Firefly in Serenity: Leaves on the Wind and Brian Wood's Star Wars series, which continues to perform well - even if it's days have been numbered since the Disney buy-out of Lucasfilm.

Thanks for checking out this month's comic book sales! Be sure to let us know what comics you're reading on our Facebook page, on Twitter or in the comments below!


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