I've changed the title of this thread from "Comic Book Sales Trends in 2016" because I keep coming back to it.

My friendly neighborhood comics shop, Fantom Comics of Washington, DC, breaks down what sold at the store in 2016. This information, of course, applies only to the one store, but it's still interesting reading: "2016 In Review – A Comic Book Shop Talks Comic Book Sales Trends"

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An interesting analysis.

Thank you.

Clearly, the Black Panther series is a huge hit -- eight of the 10 best-selling individual issues sold at the store were from that series, and the ninth was from spinoff title World of Wakanda!

Very cool article, Clark. I love analysis like this.  

Here's a rather long-winded piece from The Beat about Marvel's sales slump, in what I gather is an ongoing series of columns, "Tilting at Windmills" #259: "What the Hell Is Wrong With Marvel Comics Anyway?!?!"

I would have cut this by at least a third, and maybe by half. But the essential premise is that Marvel is still catering to the Marvel Zombies -- the folks who would buy everything Marvel just because they thought it was so so cool -- but the Zombies are extinct.

Worse, any new reader who might be enticed by a title is put off because she or he wants to buy the one title -- not the title and a half-dozen spinoffs and a dozen crossover books at $4 a pop. They might be enticed to buy the other books, but don't want it if it all seems like required reading -- at $4 a pop. 

I completely agree. That's kept me away from the X-Men titles for years.

He also gets into the controversy about "diversity" being blamed for Marvel's sales slump. His take is that the complaints have been misconstrued -- which I also agree with -- but Marvel did make a mistake in replacing too many of its headlining characters at the same time, which is bad scheduling, especially since such changes are never permanent, just part of the ebb and flow of comics publishing. 

What do you think?

I love Hibbs's columns, and this one makes some great points. The sheer number of Marvel comics is daunting to me -- and I'm a guy who's been collecting comics since 1977. I can't imagine how a new reader would take it all in.

I think an underestimated factor in Rebirth's success was that DC limited the number of titles they were publishing to about 20, down from 52. Many of them double-shipped, but buying a new issue of Batman ever two weeks is easier than buying Batman, then Legends of the Dark Knight, then Batman again to get the same story. The line is tight, without a lot of spinoff bloat. (Although Superwoman and New Super-Man still look that way to me.)

If Marvel does that -- one Avengers title every two weeks, one X-Men title every two weeks, one Wolverine title every two weeks, one Iron Man title every two weeks -- I think their Legacy program will have a chance. Yes, they'd be accused of copying DC. But so what? It's a successful release schedule, and it could work for Marvel, too.

I doubt that's the way they'll go, though -- the release of X-Men Blue and X-Men Gold seems like standard-issue Marvel title sprawl to me.

Here's a paragraph from his 1993 column he links to:

Lemme change gears, and use a specific example (from my store) of sell-through. Before they started the second Ghost Rider title, GR sold (actual sales, not orders) about 57 copies a month. Now that there are two titles (and we're past the initial launch-hoopla), GR sells 38 copies a month, while GR: SoV sells a piddling 23. We're up a measly 4 copies (not even 10%!) between 2 titles, and now it takes twice as much rack space.

That's a pretty clear example (perhaps not universal) of the diminishing returns of spin-offs of popular titles. Twice as much work and cost for Marvel, with a 10% greater return. 

From 1962-63 to 1978 I was buying all of the Marvel books except the Millieverse, while also buying all of the Schwartz DC books and a few of the non-Schwartz. I was really enjoying most of them to one degree or another. Back then comics cost so little compared to today that this was doable. I kept this up until I had so little time to read them that I just stopped.

Today, if a new reader already is following the comics industry and knows when a story starts, then they will know when to jump on. They will still have to deal with the written-for-trades style and often the sprawl into other titles. A new reader who decides to walk into a comics shop cold will most likely come into the middle of a story, get frustrated (especially at $3-4 a pop) and never come back.

He makes some good points.

I was enjoying the Black Panther book but I had no idea it was a hot seller. Once they started with the spin-offs, I jumped ship. It's just too overwhelming to take on two more titles and I don't want to just stick with one title and feel like I'm missing out on part of the story so I just gave up.

X-Men is probably the Marvel title I feel most connected to but I haven't followed it in years because of all the spinoffs, crossovers, renumbering, restarting etc... It's just too much to take on so I abstain.  Same with Avengers. I'd like to read a good Avengers book but I would want to feel like I was getting the complete Avengers experience in one book. I don't even know where to start when there are 3 or 4 rotating, rebooting Avengers titles at any time so I just stay away most of the time.



ClarkKent_DC said:

I would have cut this by at least a third, and maybe by half.

Ha! That was my first reaction exactly, CK. We have editing in our blood, it seems.

And, yes, I think he makes some valid points -- from entirely anecdotal evidence. It feels true, it seems true -- but it's truthiness until someone does a series of surveys and/or focus groups. Unless it's provable it's just hearsay.

  Would anyone do surveys and focus groups for comics except marvel or DC?  And how could the results be trusted?



Captain Comics said:



ClarkKent_DC said:

I would have cut this by at least a third, and maybe by half.

Ha! That was my first reaction exactly, CK. We have editing in our blood, it seems.

And, yes, I think he makes some valid points -- from entirely anecdotal evidence. It feels true, it seems true -- but it's truthiness until someone does a series of surveys and/or focus groups. Unless it's provable it's just hearsay.

I could certainly see the comics retailer trade group doing some market research on comics in general, rather than the output of one specific publisher. 

I would think it's in the best interest of publishers, retailers and distributors to do accurate surveys. Why wouldn't they want good accurate results if it helps them make profits?

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