Monday, July 11, 2016

Did Poe Dameron Fly Right Through a Star in May?

The Comics Chronicles released the May 2016 estimated sales.  The Star Wars and Darth Vader titles prove resilient, but the Poe Dameron title took a tumble.

TitleIssueMonthly RankEstimated SalesLast Estimated SalesPercent Change
Star Wars19695,15698,880-3.77%
Darth Vader20886,64176,965+12.57%
Poe Dameron21268,962175,322-60.67
Obi-Wan and Anakin53048,43050,486-4.07%

May's numbers are indicative of a reality with today's comic book market; variant covers sell more comics.  The main Star Wars title saw a negligible drop but Darth Vader #20 saw an increase of almost 10,000 copies.  It is no accident Darth Vader sold more units in May; it had three covers where the previous three months only had one cover.  It is doubtful suddenly 10,000 more readers jumped on board this title which is set to end with issue #25; it is more likely those extra 10,000 copies were absorbed by the existing collectors of the title.

For many years, comic titles use to have mostly steady sales with slight drops in units from issue to issue and the occasional bump when a fan favorite took over or character changing story line took place.  With the introduction of crossover events, that all changed.  The first big event was Secret Wars in 1984 from Marvel and Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1985 from DC.  Those events took place in a limited series and crossed over to many of the ongoing titles from the publisher.  These big events proved to be successful at increasing sales numbers for the ongoing titles.  Fast forward to today, and it is common for publishers to have a big yearly event and several smaller events throughout the year.  In the 1990s, publishers learned that gimmick covers sold comic books in large numbers as well.  Much of the successes and failures of the 1990s are applied by publishers today which explains the huge number of variant covers but a lack of many other gimmicks like holo foil, die cut, embossed, etc. covers.  Publishers know retailers will order more comics to get these variants because their patrons want them.  The publishers tier these variant covers such that retailers need to buy a certain numbers of copies to qualify for them.  A new phenomena that the main two publishers have been employing in the past few years is to replace titles that have stagnated in sales quickly with new titles so they can publish more #1s.  It is not uncommon to see titles end after twelve issues or slightly more.  The first issue of a title is almost always the best selling issue, so more #1s means more sales.  And it also means the publisher can sell more variant covers of that issue too.

I bring this up to help explain not only why Poe Dameron replaced Kanan as the new ongoing Star Wars title, but to also explain the 60% drop in sales from the first issue to the second issue.  Poe Dameron #2 only had one variant cover in May.  Poe Dameron #1 had at least nineteen different covers, including store and convention exclusives.  If there were not as many variants for Poe Dameron #1, it would not have sold as well as it did.  Kanan sold 108,167 units with its first issue and had far fewer variant covers than Poe Dameron and the second issue sold 64,960 units with two variant covers.  Poe Dameron #1 sold over 67,000 more units than Kanan #1, but #2 fell to 68,962 which is only 4,000 units more than Kanan #1.  Poe Dameron's drop is not unusual for a new comic either, there are usually massive drops for second issues, especially those which have a huge number of cover variants.  Unfortunately, if Poe Dameron's number follow the usual pattern, this title will be replaced in a year or a little more.  It is unfortunate that the first ongoing comic featuring a main character from the new Star Wars trilogy of movies is not selling better.

The Obi-Wan and Anakin mini-series completed in May and saw a standard drop in units sold.  Next month we will see the numbers for both the Han Solo mini-series and The Force Awakens adaptation.

The following table shows the total number of Star Wars units sold per month since January 2015 along with the average number of sales per issue.  Note this chart does not include reprints.

Month/YearTotal Estimated Sales# IssuesAverage Sale per Issue
January 2015985,9761985,976
February 2015526,4513175,484
March 2015596,2994149,075
April 2015537,8124134,453
May 2015324,8353108,278
June 2015396,931499,232
July 2015597,0235119,404
August 2015430,241586,048
September 2015551,8805110,376
October 2015953,2891095,329
November 20151,003,9548125,494
December 2015507,545684,591
January 2016465,698593,139
February 2016288,355472,088
March 2016355,554571,110
April 2016533,9765106,795
May 2016299,189474,797

The average sale per issue would rank 11th on the top 300 chart for the month of May.  Star Wars trade paperbacks are selling well and reorders remain strong but are not accounted for with these numbers.

Take a look at the Star Wars Sales Estimate Chart and please read the blog posting May 2016 comic sales estimates online; DC Rebirth tops 235k in orders.

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