The December numbers are in, and things aren’t really looking so hot. But before we dive straight into the numbers, let’s talk about Marvel’s Executive Editor and Senior Vice Editor of Publishing Tom Brevoort for a moment. Bleeding Cool reported a December 10th Twitter conversation involving a fan, Tom Brevoort, and Bleeding Cool founder Rich Johnson. Brevoort tweeted “That information isn’t remotely accurate” in response to a fan posting a screen grab of Comichron’s monthly listing.
Johnson was quick to pile on that Comichron’s figures are “all based on estimates, only North American direct market sales and always wrong.” Of course, by nature of Twitter the two cannot get into a detail why these figures are wrong, just that they are. Johnson links to one of his own articles from 2015 that restates what he said and then offers a “less wrong” chart of his own making, without really going into detail as to why his numbers are better than Comichron’s or ICV2’s (another website that estimates comic sales).
John Jackson Miller (Comicon’s founder) responding to BC’s request for comment and goes on to defend Comichron, saying that he’s never said that his figures were anything more than NA’s direct market estimates. He further explains his method, why he believes it is accurate, and where he gets his information. Back to the Twitter conversation, the fan presses Brevoort on whether or not Marvel artificially inflates their numbers by over shipping orders. Brevoort claims that overshipped issues do not affect the charts, but Johnson interjects that they affect unit share and Diamond has confirmed this.
The BC also published an article the same day in where Johnson details some ways Marvel pumps up their numbers without getting more readers to actually buy the comics. Variants are, of course, the obvious first point, but that’s no secret. I’ve mentioned it in previous $ales Talk articles, but another tactic that Marvel employs is a wholesale discount of sorts. So, if say you order 100 issues of Amazing Spider-Man #3, Marvel will give you 10%. Well, you only wanted to order 95, but you go ahead and order 100 and only have to pay for 90. This is of course, a very simplified explanation, but the spirit of it holds true. Those extra 5 (the 5 that came “free”) still count toward sales and estimations, but there was still only demand for those 95 issues.
So what does that mean about this article series? We’re going to keep going, don’t worry. Brevoort has a vested interest in keeping Marvel’s trade secrets just that, as well as enough skin in the game to discredit anyone who says Marvel is slipping – after all his exact job is to make sure that doesn’t happen. I’m not saying that he’s flat out lying, just that anything he says about the company should be taken with a grain of salt.
On the other hand, I will do, from here forward, my part to perhaps stress that these numbers are not the end-all-be-all, but just estimations going on “the lion’s share” of issues in circulation, as Miller puts it. Are the NA direct market estimates enough? Brevoort and Johnson both mention that the UK estimates are not included. The thing about that is that the UK is much smaller than the US, with a population roughly 80% smaller (taking account for Canada and Mexico, it’s even smaller). There would have to be significantly more comic readers in the UK than the NA to truly affect the charts in any significant way. The direct market is also almost exclusively how comics are delivered to readers in the United States, so I would go so far to say that subscription based sales and non-DM sales are fairly insignificant as well. While there is no real way of knowing (since Marvel keeps that information under lock and key), we have to resort to our common sense here and see that something that gives an accurate estimate of the NA DM sales is going to represent a vast, vast majority of what is in circulation and how something sold.
Enough about that, let’s jump right in to November’s figures.
The biggest shock is that The Clone Conspiracy #2 dropped orders by 34%, despite #1 selling twice and going into a third printing and #2 selling out and going into a second printing (though, these printings did not chart, meaning they were less than 5000 issues or so). What gives? Well, less incentive variants for sure, but there could have been less of a push from Marvel to over order for a discount or maybe there were retailers who still had reprint issues from #1 on the shelves. Looking at our past events Civil War II #2 dropped 61% and looking at our mini series (which Slott said the original orders resembled), ASM #1.2 dropped 14%. Two years ago, the second issue of “Spider-Verse” Amazing Spider-Man vol 3. #10 sold and estimated 100,899 issues totaling bout a 35% loss from #9. Amazing Spider-Man #8 had sold an estimated 99k issues, so by the second issue the sales bump from the first “Spider-Verse” issue had gone down. Here we have Amazing Spider-Man #21 outselling The Clone Conspiracy again and I’ve pretty much thrown my hands up trying to figure out how the charts on this series is going to look. Clone Conspiracy #3 (as well as ASM #22) dropped a pretty big bombshell on readers, so I assume the units shipped will be higher than November, but with as weird as the numbers have been on this already, who knows? Regardless, selling 58k issues for Dan Slott’s Spider-Man event has got to hurt some egos. This has been a series Marvel has been hyping for a year and it isn’t even selling as well as the main title, nor is it giving the leveling effect that “Spider-Verse” had on the title; ASM #21 dropped 13%, putting the title back to its May levels. We also got an annual in November that did not compare favorably to 2014’s annual (no annual for 2015).
Miles Morales’s run in with Venom (that didn’t actually happen) did not help his numbers for November, with Spider-Man #9 selling an estimated 39,701 units losing 11% from last month. Civil War II #7 fared a bit better with estimated sales sticking close to what they were for the previous issue. As we saw with Secret Wars, the event titles are a little tricky to track and the units sold can be a little erratic. With the flux of Marvel NOW! Vol. 2 or whatever they’re calling the initiative coming out, I would imagine that sales would react similarly to how they did with Secret Wars; less excitement for the old status quo’s swan song.
Speaking of new titles, we have three plus a .1 issue this month. Amazing Spider-Man Renew Your Vows, Venom, and Avengers all dropped their first issue in November and all seem to be doing quite well for themselves. Venom has a surprising revival given that Space Knight just ended in the 16ks. My comic shop was giving away free copies with any purchase, so I think that there might be some artificial inflation going on with the numbers here, or at least evidence enough for me that some issues were overshipped.
Renew Your Vows sold an estimated 96,111, beating out The Clone Conspiracy #1 by 6,000 issues. It doesn’t come close to Amazing Spider-Man vol. 4 #1’s 245,873 estimated total, but that was over a year ago. We’re going to need to see how the sales react to the second issue before any predictions are made, but I think that there is a real chance of this title outselling ASM, at least for the first few issues.
Last of the new titles is Avengers #1 and Avengers #1.1. You can certainly see that Marvel pushed Champions over Avengers, with Avengers coming in at 88k estimated units sold as opposed to Champions #1’s 328k. 88k isn’t terrible for a first issue, but what is slightly concerning is the .1 issue’s 41,258 estimated units sold. That number isn’t much higher than ANAD Avenger #15’s 37k. Relaunching has been Marvel’s ace in the hole when figures start to sag. If that trick is starting to show signs of diminishing returns, then expect to see a storm on the horizon.
Speaking of Champions… ouch. #2 plummets like Icarus a staggering 84%. The $ales talk has never seen an issue drop that hard that quickly, but that just goes to show you can’t force a title on readers. I can’t really begin to imagine what happened here, but there is no way that Marvel is happy with this. What’s more baffling is that Champions #1 went to a second printing (which did chart at #244, est. 6,772). How did Champions #2 perform so poorly (comparatively to #1), yet there’s still enough demand for #1 that its reprint charts? Perhaps Marvel’s thumb went a little heavy on the scale here to make a solid reading. I guess this is one we’re going to have to sit on and wait to see how it performs rather than make a prediction.
Spider-Man/Deadpool #11 sunk a little farther down the charts, with a 2.25% drop in estimates sales. Despite the start-stop method of publishing and the constant rotation of creators, this title continues to be one of the most consistent sellers at Marvel and I don’t see that really changing until March’s crossover issue.
Spider-Man 2099 #17 dipped below the 20,000 mark with an estimated sales of 19,271. With sales the way they are and Peter David attached to a new title in April, I would think that 2099 didn’t have much steam left. But looking at the solicits for March, the title seems to still be trucking along.
Speaking of titles moving forward despite low sales and the writer on a new book, Carnage #14 is still hovering above 15,000, but not by much. January sees the final issue hit the stands, so maybe the title can end on a small bump like Web Warriors and stay at this level.
Prowler #2 pretty much dooms this book to mini-status rather than ongoing. It appears on the solicits for March, but I’d be quick to say that I would not expect them in April’s. 17,617 in estimated sales for a second issue is absolutely anemic. Even Amazing Spider-Man & Silk The Spider Fly Effect did better than that, and it was a digital-first mini. So, sorry for those out there championing for a Prowler on-going, looks like he’s probably going to go back into the vault after Slott moves past his need for the character.
Silk #14 and Spider-Woman #12 represent the only gains for November in the Spider-side of Marvel. Both titles grabbed a few extra issues in estimated units sold, squeaking just a little bit closer to the plus side of 20,000, but nowhere close to making a little head room. Neither of the titles have been officially canceled, as Marvel has been pretty tight lipped about when books are canned, but Spider-Woman #17’s cover of Jessica driving off into the horizon seems awfully foreboding. Silk comes out of The Clone Conspiracy in March, so expect at least an issue or two to wrap things up if it is indeed on the chopping block.
Last but not least is Spider-Gwen #14, which lost about as much as Silk and Spider-Woman gained. This is a title that really needs to start slowing down its losses and keep being a success for Marvel lest we see more crossovers like January’s “Sitting in a Tree” in editorial’s attempts to prop up the title.
That’s it for November folks, sorry about the long preamble. December’s numbers will give us hopefully some good news for Amazing Spider-Man, as well as a better picture for Champions and some of the newer titles. I suspect that Venom might have a steeper drop off than what is typically seen in #2 titles, but nothing like what we saw in Champions. As usual, credit for the estimates goes out to Comichron.com, a website I still recommend highly in spite of Tom Brevoort and Rich Johnson.