It seems for the last few months I keep hearing (or rather reading) bits about Marvels sales domination. Especially over closest rival DC Comics. I roll my eyes. Not because I buy more DC Comics than Marvel (I do, but I probably buy more non Big 2 books than both companies combined) but because the Diamond Chart people point to is kind of sad. Its like the Nielsen Ratings-not a good measuring stick. Plus Marvel, despite being the biggest comic book company in the world, is not the best selling comic book company in the world. So let me guide you through the reasons why Marvels so-called domination is stupid and why US comic sales suck anyway.
First off, I’ve mentioned before that Diamond measures pre-orders and not sales. So unless you go through subscription services or have a pull list at your local comic shop-YOUR PURCHASE DOES NOT COUNT TOWARD DIAMONDS CHART. Heard that a comic sold out? At a distributor level-has nothing to do with comic shops. Kind of like how Nielsen ratings only track Nielsen Family members (info here and here). Do you have one? I don’t so I’m not included in the millions who watched some show live. Look, no doubt Marvel (and sometimes DC) get these great debuts but… what about issue 2? Issue 3? Issue 6? I got bad news for you-most don’t sustain those numbers. Thats a bit of an exaggeration, Star Wars books are holding ground as is Batman but… In June Thors debuted with over 100K, issue 2 was down close to half that number, issue 4 is in the high 40k. Groot #1 debuted at the tenth spot with over 80k. Issue #2? Number fifty-two with over 39k. Octobers chart had nine #1 issues in the top 20 and Novembers chart had eleven different debut issues in the top 20, most of these were Marvels. Will those numbers hold? If the last few months have shown anything, Star Wars will. Most everything will drop. Because of Standard Attrition.
Standard Attrition is the expected drop of sales. The companies expect drop off issue from issue with the Diamond chart. That whole criticism that “The company should give the book more time to build an audience” is mostly wrong when it comes to single issues. Unless the drop off is extremely minimal in which case there is a chance of turn around (not common though) or digital is proving to provide a good base of fans. Digital sales are actually measured by individual sales. If a book is dropping hard in its first five issues rebounding is going to be tough. But to be fair, the Diamond numbers just suck. Septembers chart had 5 books 100k and then the tenth book was just under 70k. October was a better month with thirteen books 100k and above but then only five books above 70k. Then November with five books over 100k, one in the mid 90K, one barely above 80k, and one in 70k before back down in the 60s. Think about that? Think about how there are few books selling between 80k and 90k. Sometimes only one book selling in the 70K region. So what if Marvel is beating DC on the charts-the entire Diamond chart is depressing. The Trade/OGN chart Diamond does is only interesting in that as long as a book is in print it can be reordered so many times you will see the same trade collections over and over again.
Outside the top 20, yeah I guess Marvel is killing with with a slew of books that are debuts or in the 4 or 5 or so on area. Marvels constant relaunching has allowed them to take a lot of the chart with LCS ordering blind for a few months (they order months in advance). This means guessing what issue 1 is going to sale, then ordering less of issue #2 just in case, and then ordering #3 based on numbers for #1, and ordering #4 based on numbers for #2. THIS IS NOT IMPRESSIVE! Its not. Its not impressive when you have nice, shiny, newer books taking up a list versus a company who puts up most the comics that are in the double digit issue number wise. Sure DC’s numbers aren’t impressive but at least we know most of those numbers are the steady, hardcore fanbase turning out. Marvels numbers for at least half of these newer books are showing that demand is dropping quick or the demand was not large to begin with. How long until Marvel relaunches again, lots of people try a few issues, and then drop it?
No-Marvels sales figures are BS. The whole Diamond chart is BS. Loot Crate heavily effects the chart sometimes pushing the numbers up even higher. The point is Marvels domination is based on “new, new, new, new.” DC comics may not have too many hits but Batman is in the double digits with top ten (or twenty) and outselling many Marvel books that debuted higher. Because the fanbase there is real and sustained.
You want to talk comic book domination-Look to Shueisha. The manga publisher makes Marvels sales (all of Western comic sales) look insect like. I know-some would say you can’t compare manga to comics but I call BS on that. If you’re actually giddy about Marvels sales according to Diamond than you should be willing to compare manga sales. Sure there are lots of differences in distribution but there is common ground. Trade collections. The best selling ongoing book is One Piece. Over 320 million worldwide. Series has been known to sell a million copies in a week when a new volume drops. Whats the Marvel or DC comparison? Not adding up all the X-Mens and Batmans and focusing specifically on that single run? Nothing comes close. Hell, Weekly Shonen Jump’s circulation is 2.5 million a week. Shuiesha has other manga mags going from 50k a month to half a million. Thats mostly Japan numbers sure, but think about how much they must do in the states. Viz Media is owned in part by Shueisha. Bookscan numbers (also unreliable) track a lot of manga in the top twenty chart. Quick, whats the best ongoing superhero series right now? Its either the current Batman comic or One Punch Man which has pushed over 7 million in Japan alone. Add on the web hits from the webcomic (the original ONE version ranking up a million hits per update at one time) and that’s a tough one to call.
The funny thing is, Manga sales in Japan are actually not what they were in comparison to before the 00s.
So yeah, that story about Marvels domination? Call me when its with issues with numbers like #27 or #46 selling 50k. I’ll be more impress with the chart when books selling 60K books start in the fifty mark rather than around the twenty spot and we’re seeing more books selling between 70 and 90k. The Diamond chart is a terrible measure of comic figures and what they are showing is sad anyway.