July 2008 was another strong month for Marvel. It took four of the top five comics and accounted for 48.47% of the total units sold for the top 300 comics. DC accounted for 34.52% of the units and only had two items in the top ten.
"Secret Invasion" remained strong with Marvel with issue #4 dropping by only an estimated 239 units from the previous issue. A number of titles like "Black Panther" got the expected bump in sales with the tie-in issues. This happened with "Civil War," "World War Hulk" and now "Secret Invasion" which pretty much guarantees that we'll be seeing more line wide crossover stories from Marvel in the future. At least for as long as these sales trends hold. Sooner or later event fatigue will set in like it did back in the 1990s. Events will then go away for a few years only to return again for the cycle to repeat. But for now, event fatigue hasn't been a problem for Marvel.
"Uncanny X-Men" #500 served as a strong launch for the new creative team with an 87.14% increase in sales over the previous issue. Much of this bump will be gone by the next issue. The next issue will see the equivalent to a second issue drop. This title will need a few months to settle before we can really judge how well this new creative team and direction for the series is doing.
No issue of "Final Crisis" shipped in July. That put DC at a disadvantage for the month in terms of overall sales. "Final Crisis" #2 shipped the last week on June. "Final Crisis" #3 shipped the first week of August which means that the numbers we'll see for it next month will include three weeks of reorder activity.
DC did have a great deal of success with the "Batman R.I.P." storyline which resulted in "Batman" #678 being the top selling comic for DC. Other Batman family titles which were part of the storyline also saw significant bumps in sales. "Robin" #175 moving over twice as many units into stores as the previous issue did. These smaller storylines limited to a single family of titles generally do well for DC.
"Buffy the Vampire Slayer" #16 made it back into the top ten with an estimated 82,008 units. This title has been hovering right around the bottom of the top ten for a while now and the 2.4% increase over the previous issue was enough to put it back in the top ten in July. The title seems to have settled in with Joss Whedon's return to writing the title only bumping sales by an estimated 1,584 units.
"Ultimate Origins" #2 dropped by over 41% from an estimated 136,351 units down to 80,366 units. This is about twice the average drop for a second issue. The Ultimate line of titles consists of only the three ongoing monthly titles with combined sales of around 138,300 units. Factor in the overlap in readers between titles and the result is a much smaller core audience for an event title for this line. With the average sales for the ongoing Ultimate titles around 46,100 units, it is no surprise Marvel is planning on shaking up these titles in the coming months.
Image is still having problems getting comics out on time. Both "Walking Dead" #50 and "Spawn" #180 shipped 10 weeks later than they were original expected. "Invincible" #50 and "Savage Dragon" #136 both shipped 22 weeks later than expected. "Youngblood" #4 shipped 14 weeks later than expected. But the title that shipped the latest wasn't an Image title but a former Image title. "Powers" #29 from Marvel came out 30 weeks later than expected.
"War Heroes" #1 was the top seller for Image with 30,367 units. "Walking Dead" remained the top selling ongoing title for Image with 27,683 units. Those were the only two Image comics to sell over 20,000 units. The average sales for an Image title in July work out to around 10,704 units. But July was a strong month with the list cutting off at 4,285 units. A number of Image titles usually fall below this mark. Obviously, if more data was available the average sales for an Image title would have been lower.
Only 66 of the top 300 comics were by publishers other than Dark Horse, DC, Image and Marvel. IDW and Dynamite Entertainment combined account for another 34 of those items leaving only a total 32 comics on the list for all of the other publishers.
The cutoff point for the top 300 comics list has been climbing over the past few years resulting in more and more titles falling below it.
In 2004, the average cutoff point was 1,238 units with the lowest point being an estimated 668 units and the high being an estimated 1,821 units. In 2005 the average was 1,427 units. In 2006 the average rose to 1,796 units and to 2,068 units in 2007. So far, the average cutoff point for 2008 is 2,740 units with the low being 1,997 units in February and the high being 4,255 units in July.
While the cutoff point hit a record high in July 2008, the trend is clear. More comics are falling below the radar with higher sales than ever before. In January 2005, 124 items on the top 300 comics list sold less than 4,255 units with 84 items of them under 1,997 units. There were 46 items in June with sales falling below the cutoff point of 4,285 units for the July list.
Given the number of comics being published these days, Diamond needs to expand the list of top selling items beyond just the top 300 thereby increasing the visibility on how the smaller publishers are doing. The premiere publishers already have a number of advantages with Diamond such as getting preferential placement and cover features in Previews. It seems only fair that Diamond expand the monthly list of the top selling items to include everything released. Expanding the list would give the retailers more information for them to base future orders on for item in the "Other Comics" section of Previews. This is a potentially huge area of growth for the direct market.
The breakdown of the top 100 trades list was roughly a three way split between Marvel, DC and everybody else. Marvel accounted for 37.73% of the total units sold for the list. DC accounted for another 32.53% of the units and the other publishers divided up the remaining 29.75% of the units.
"Watchmen" topped the list with an estimated 19,103 units moving into comic book stores in July. This is only a tiny percentage of the total number of units reportedly being printed and put into circulation in preparation for the upcoming movie. The direct market has been selling the "Watchmen" trade paperback for decades yet the total sales over that time may well be dwarfed by the mass market sales within the year. Comic book stores should be the place that people go to find items like this. Yet the overwhelming majority of the copies are going into the mass market outlets. The implication is the mass market is better able to fill the demand for the product than the direct market.
The second best selling item was the "Batman: The Killing Joke Special Edition" hardcover with an estimated 5,817 units of reorder activity. Coming in with the same estimated number of units yet ranking in third place was "Naruto" vol. 30 from Viz.
Nearly a quarter of the items on the list were reorder activity accounting for 26% of the total unit sales of the list. Increasing the visibility into the slower but continually moving items would only serve to increase interest in those items. The trade list was last expanded from 50 items to 100 items in February 2004. Given the number of new trades and hardcovers being released each week, it is time for this list to be expanded again.