Before jumping into the numbers let me announce that going forward this column will move to BUZZSCOPE. By the good graces of Guy LeCharles Gonzales and the folks at BUZZSCOPE I’ll be contributing a monthly sales analysis column that will be very similar to what I’ve been doing here. I’m not sure what the name will be as yet (they’re certainly welcome to this one) but you can be assured I’ll be regularly plugging it once it’s up. And I'm keeping the analysis light this week since most of the conversation I want to have revolves around year-in-review numbers and indie books, both of which I'm saving for next month.
Now, on to business.
Batman vs. Superman: All Star Edition
ALL STAR SUPERMAN’s failure to crack the 200k mark tops the news this month, as the premiere checked in to the number two spot with roughly 170,800 units sold. I predicted last month that AS Superman would be the next book to reach the 250,000 range and while that may have been ambitious, I’m perplexed it didn’t even manage to outsell the second issue of ASB&R (~178K). (It was outsold this month by INFINITE CRISIS #2 at 207K.)
So, what accounts for this difference? My own theory is that Batman enjoys a broader base of general popularity among comic book fans than Superman, however the sales numbers of the Batman and Superman centric books over the last year or so don’t really bare this out (although they might if every Batman mini series or tangentially related title were included in the mix). Certainly the critical reception isn’t the answer as ASB&R #1 was largely panned while AS Superman received mostly positive, if not glowing, reviews. I suppose the higher profile creative team of Frank Miller and Jim Lee -- particularly the interest in Miller’s return to Batman -- has to be the defining variable, but I wouldn’t have guessed Miller and Lee would be worth 80,000 extra units.
Seven Soldiers Fatigue
In September’s column I commented that the sales of the SEVEN SOLDIERS books were starting to trail off as the storyline progresses. That trend continued with the release of BULLETEER and FRANKENSTEIN which checked in with first issue sales of roughly 33,700 and 32,800 – compared to the first issues of ZATANNA (43,600) and SHINING KNIGHT (41,300). These are pretty significant drops from the initial issues of the first four books in the series. Here’s the final numbers for those first four:
It seems likely the final issues of the remaining books will dip into the low 20K range but I’m guessing the finale will check in at around the 50K mark, similar to the debut. I’m also revising my comments about DC possibly being less than thrilled with the overall sales numbers of the crossover. As Guy pointed out to me, as a largely creator-driven set of books the cumulative numbers are pretty good. However, back when this project kicked off Morrison and DC frequently mentioned how each of the series would be self-contained with the various styles appealing to different types of readers. And while the case could be made that Morrison has so far successfully executed on this, there’s little indication that readers have interpreted the project as much more than a Grant Morrison vehicle.
Missing the Mark
There are several high–profile, high-concept books that have slunk in with decidedly desultory sales. The first on my list is LOVELESS, Brian Azzarello’s western entry, whose first two issues limped in at 22,500 and 17,700, respectively. (Compare to JONAH HEX #1 at 33,800.) DC normally puts a bullet through the head of books in this sales range, but this one falls under the Vertigo imprint which tends to get a little more leeway. Still…
NICK FURY’S HOWLING COMMANDOS has similar numbers to LOVELESS (although the first issue did marginally better at around 25K) but given the marketing push Marvel gave this book, the sales have got to be a major disappointment.
Given the high regard in which many comic fans hold the first two volumes of TOP 10, the most recent mini should be considered a significant miss with sales averaging less than 15K over issues 2-4. I would have expected a book like this to hit 25K or more, but clearly the lack of Alan Moore at the helm hurt the response. (Moore and Gene Ha’s $25 hardcover, TOP 10: THE FORTY-NINERS, sold nearly 10,000 units all by itself when it debuted.) This probably doesn’t bode well for anyone who was hoping TOP 10 might live on under a non-Moore/Ha creative team.
Odd and Ends
The various GI Joe and Star Wars titles totaled 50K and 60K in sales this month (roughly and respectively) - not too shabby…November saw the number of mini series in the top thirty drop closer to pre-HOUSE OF M and INFINITE CRISIS levels, with only seven titles finding their way into that strata. A year ago seven would have been a big number…Supergirl #3 logged in at ~100K, almost identical to issue two. This is a mere 18% drop from the debut issue, pretty good by recent standards where 25% or greater drop is more the norm for a book in the 100K+ sales region…one trend I see consistently playing out is the roughly 10% drop from the next-to-last issue of a mini to the last. You can almost make book on it. It seems strange to me that readers would buy right up to the last issue and then quit, maybe there’s another explanation for the drop…One explanation I definitely need is for how JACK CROSS and FELL can post almost identical sales numbers (approx 16K) – FELL is a dollar cheaper and light years better.
See you next month over at Buzzscope!