NUMBERS GAME: DC Comics — September 2013

OK, so let’s get a few things out of the way. September 2013 was insanely successful for DC Comics, taking a unit share of over 45% of the comic market — two points higher than two years ago September with the launch of the New 52. This accomplishment is all the more astonishing considering the allocation DC instituted on the direct market for copies of their 52 main titles in $3.99 3D cover format.

Had the material used for these special covers been more available, could DC have taken even more of the market? Possibly. Or not. Their unique solution to offer $2.99 2D cover alternatives may have offset any potential shortfall and given us a realistic view of units desired (if not what could have been a higher dollar share).

But, at the end of the day, can we extrapolate anything about DC’s performance month-to-month from September’s success? Not really. This was truly a special month, an opportunity for retailers and collectors to be wowed, and for DC to stand out in the marketplace… and maybe test out a few theories in the process.

2013190The Real List

1. Batman #23.1: The Joker (146,984)
2. Forever Evil #1 (139,976)
3. Batman #23.2: The Riddler (136,800)
6. Batman #23.4: Bane (121,474)
7. Batman #23.3: Penguin (117,008)
9. Justice League #23.1: Darkseid (107,848)
12. Batman/Superman #23.1: Doomsday (89,876)
14. Detective Comics #23.2: Harley Quinn (85,550)
19. Detective Comics #23.1: Poison Ivy (75,590)
20. Justice League #23.2: Lobo (74,944)
21. Justice League #23.4: Secret Society (74,613)
23. Batman and Robin #23.1: Two-Face (74,357)
25. Batman and Robin #23.2: Court of Owls (72,912)
26. Justice League of America #7.4: Black Adam (72,350)
27. Batman and Robin #23.3: Ra’s Al Ghul (71,317)
28. Detective Comics #23.3: Scarecrow (70,606)
GreenLantern23_4Sinestro31. Green Lantern #23.4: Sinestro (68,630)
32. Action Comics #23.1: Cyborg Superman (67,831)
33. Action Comics #23.2: Zod (67,376)
34. Batman and Robin #23.4: Killer Croc (67,300)
36. Detective Comics #23.4: Man-Bat (65,958)
38. Action Comics #23.3: Lex Luthor (65,790)
39. Green Lantern #23.1: Relic (63,542)
40. Justice League of America #7.1: Deadshot (63,349)
41. Batman: The Dark Knight #23.4: The Joker’s Daughter (61,450)
42. Green Lantern #23.2: Mongul (60,986)
44. Justice League #23.3: Dial E (60,365)
45. Green Lantern #23.3: Black Hand (60,106)
47. Justice League of America #7.2: Killer Frost (59,611)
48. Superman #23.4: Parasite (58,193)
49. Justice League of America #7.3: Shadow Thief (57,529)
50. Superman #23.1: Bizarro (57,234)
51. Aquaman #23.1: Black Manta (56,042)
52. Superman #23.2: Brainiac (56,025)
54. Batman: The Dark Knight #23.1: Ventriloquist (54,792)
aquaman-23-255. Batman: The Dark Knight #23.2: Mr. Freeze (54,719)
56. Superman #23.3: H’El (53,127)
57. Batman: The Dark Knight #23.3: Clayface (52,655)
58. Aquaman #23.2: Oceanmaster (51,900)
59. The Flash #23.2: Reverse Flash (51,147)
60. The Flash #23.1: Grodd (50,795)
61. Earth 2 #7.2: Solomon Grundy (50,315)
62. Action Comics #23.4: Metallo (50,069)
63. Earth 2 #7.1: DeSaad (49,878)
64. The Flash #23.3: The Rogues (49,109)
65. Teen Titans #23.2: Deathstroke (48,071)
67. Wonder Woman #23.1: The Cheetah (47,504)
68. Teen Titans #23.1: Trigon (47,240)
72. Justice League Dark #23.1: The Creeper (44,372)
74. Justice League Dark #23.2: Eclipso (43,280)
75. Wonder Woman #23.2: First Born (42,383)
77. Green Arrow #23.1: Count Vertigo (41,596)
80. Swamp Thing #23.1: Arcane (38,934)

Every sales list I’ve seen online has treated the 3D and 2D versions of each title as separate entities, a practice normally reserved for comics with actual different interior content, not simply variances in covers. In my opinion, that practice does not give the same weight to DC’s titles as the rest of the market’s offerings (particularly since virtually no consumer would buy both versions, but rather one or the other) — hence the revision in numbering and totaling of both 3D and 2D units above.

What happens with this revision is the top book of the month becomes NOT Forever Evil #1, but the Joker Villains Month offering, and Marvel’s event comics fall to #4, #5, and #8. It also gives us a better sense of demand for each story/series, somewhat independent of allocation. What we can generally observe from these numbers is that each series (with the exception of Justice League of America) added somewhere between 15,000 and 25,000 copies per book, times four in most cases. It’s no surprise DC blew their usual numbers out of the water.

Flash023.2The never-ending story.

The Flash
#23.2 – September 2013: 51,147 (+32%)
#23 – August 2013: 38,860 (-0.5%)
#22 – July 2013: 38,993

Wonder Woman
#23.2 – September 2013: 42,383 (+22%)
#23 – August 2013: 34,747 (-2%)
#22 – July 2013: 35,539

Green Arrow
#23.1 – September 2013: 41,596 (+63%)
#23 – August 2013: 25,449 (-3%)
#22 – July 2013: 26,172

Very few of the Villains Month books featured stories that continued on from the month before, with more than a third opting for done-in-one villain origins, and the remainder spinning out of Forever Evil #1 and its tie-ins. As a result, we likely won’t see very much, if any, additional momentum created for the monthly books come October. The ones above might be an exception, as their Villains Month stories simply continued the existing storylines with writers and (generally) artists in place.

Batman_and_Robin_Vol_2_23.2_The_Court_of_OwlsA little bait and switch.

Batman and Robin
#23.2 – September 2013: 72,912 (+375%)
Talon
#11 – August 2013: 19,449 (-4%)
#10 – July 2013: 20,296

Action Comics
#23.1 – September 2013: 67,831 (+274%)
Supergirl
#23 – August 2013: 24,747 (-3%)
#22 – July 2013: 25,514

Batman: The Dark Knight
#23.1 – September 2013: 54,792 (+145%)
Batgirl
#23 – August 2013: 37,707 (-4%)
#22 – July 2013: 39,218

And then there was the other tactic DC tried in September that clearly reaped great rewards. Instead of providing a Villains Month title for every one of its (almost) 52 ongoings, they chose their top tier books — those selling the best month in and month out, of course — and multiplied out their shipping, cleverly hiding existing creative teams and characters from lower selling books within. It may have been a confusing scenario for many a shop owner, but it obviously paid off, with tie-ins generating massive increases in sales where there might not have been otherwise.

How did DC know to try this? Well, in all likelihood, it’s from watching the success of Marvel’s double shipping its franchise heavy Marvel NOW line. If one issue of Avengers can sell 80,000 copies, two will sell twice that. And if one Batman can sell 120,000 copies, then four… well, you get my drift.

What September taught DC.

All in all, DC created a huge stir, generated some much needed positive attention, and popped a bit of extra buck in their bank last month. But what did they learn from this endeavor? More than one might think at first glance.

  1. Consumers will pay $3.99 for a normal sized comic on nice stock, and without a digital code. This probably should have been evident from watching their competition across the street, especially since rumor has it that redemption of Marvel’s free digital codes hovers at less than 10% of the total issued. Some lessons you want to learn yourself, I guess. And with this month’s Superman/Wonder Woman #1 weighing in at 24 pages for $3.99, I expect to be seeing most of DC’s books going this way soon enough. The market can bear it.
  2. Speaking of digital, the market can also bear different price points for print and digital. The sky didn’t fall when a book could be purchased in a shop for $3.99, but was also offered online through Comixology for $2.99. Yes, there were $2.99 options in the store too, but if DC wants to keep momentum on their digital marketplace (and wow, do they have the momentum right now), it won’t be by raising prices alongside print.
  3. There is still excitement in the market for weekly comics. DC learned this lesson years ago from 52, and more recently from Trinity War, but Villains Month cemented it. Any quality excuse you can give comic readers to return to their store every Wednesday is going to be amazing for business. Is it coincidence that days after these numbers appeared online, DC announced its Batman: Eternal weekly series for the Spring? I think not. With rumors swirling about TWO more weekly comics in 2014 from DC, this could be one part of two significant ways the company will slowly retake market share on a regular basis.
  4. As for the other way, that will be by concentrating on solidifying and expanding their franchise characters. Sure, the Batman family already dominates, and we’ve been watching the Superman family of books slowly expand, but neither of these have anything on Marvel’s Avengers and X-Men groups — which have exploded with the Marvel NOW initiative to bring that company huge success post DC’s New 52. It’s almost ironic that as Marvel now looks to expand its B and C-list characters in All-New Marvel NOW, DC will likely be doing the reverse. With so many of its B and C-list characters (like the newly cancelled Green Team, Katana and Vibe) abandoned by readers in the market in favor of strengthening sales for Justice League and Batman books, look for more books like Justice League 3000 and Harley Quinn in the near future, spinning out of the end of Forever Evil come Spring.

 

Special thanks to Comichron for having more stats than any comic fan can imagine!

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