DC SALES: February 2017 — Bat-Books be Bustin’

Hey, DC fans! In addition to regular reviews and news coverage, and my weekly Time Bubbles column, one of the projects I hope to make an ongoing part of my contributions to DC Comics News is a monthly break-down of actual comic book sales.

How exciting, right? I know!

Now, the first thing we have to do, before we start our examination of Bat-book sales from February 2017, is consider a few caveats on where the numbers come from, and what they mean. First off, the numbers are calculated by two sources, comichron.com, and ICv2.com.

Diamond Distribution, the monopoly behemoth which enjoys exclusive contracts with most of the major comic book publishers, does not release actual sales data. It does, however, publish what it calls a Diamond Index which gives us all an idea of how each title is doing relative to others by ranking with a number that is the percentage of sales of that month’s Batman comic. But we fans want more that that. So, Comichron and ICv2, working together from sources within the industry, calculate issues sold by using the Diamond Index to extrapolate from books which they happen to know the actual sales.

Now, here’s the thing — when we say “actual sales,” what we mean is not sales to fans like you and me. We’re talking non-returnable sales by Diamond to North American comic book specialty shops. It does not include sales through Diamond to the U.K. and elsewhere, or sales outside of Diamond, via newsstands and other distribution streams. Nor does it include subsequent re-orders filled by Diamond, unless those secondary sales were high enough for the issue to crack the Top 300 a second time.

Still, the numbers below are thought to represent about 80-90 percent of total sales — but again, sales to shops, not to customers. A lot of these books could be sitting on shelves unsold. So, another way of looking at this list is to see it as retailer expectation on initial customer demand. Or, instead of interpreting it as how many copies an issue sold, I like to think of these numbers as the minimum number we can expect to see floating around the back issue market.

Got it? Good!

So, we’ll start with the Bat Books for February 2017. The listings below include the month of sale, the rank that month among Diamond’s Top 300 comics (in terms of unit sales), the sales number, and the percentage up or down from the previous issue. Sometimes you’ll see a secondary sales number given in brackets. Those are reorders that charted after the first month’s order from retailers.

Oh, and one final caveat. When you see an asterisk (*) next to a sales number, that book was returnable. Thus, Comichron and ICv2 both have subtracted 10 percent from their calculated sales to account for probable returns from retailers to Diamond, because, again, the number we’re trying to get at is how many copies have entered the market.

So, thanks for wading though the explanatory text. Now to the sales data, with selected commentary after each title. On that, your mileage may vary, so feel free to sound off in the comments section below!

 

BATMAN ($2.99)
06/2016: (3) Batman: Rebirth #1* — 199,807 [+9,479]
06/2016: (2) Batman #1* — 280,360
07/2016: (3) Batman #2* — 177,105  (-36.8%)
07/2016: (5) Batman #3* — 168,939  (-4.9%)
08/2016: (6) Batman #4* — 152,985  (-9.2%)
08/2016: (7) Batman #5* — 142,142  (-7.1%)
09/2016: (1) Batman #6 — 138,853  (-2.3%)
09/2016: (3) Batman #7 — 135,585  (-2.4%)
10/2016: (5) Batman #8 — 129,837  (-4.2%)
10/2016: (6) Batman #9 — 126,090  (-2.9%)
11/2016: (1) Batman #10 — 120,901  (-4.1%)
11/2016: (2) Batman #11 — 116,690  (-3.5%)
12/2016: (4) Batman #12 — 111,391  (-4.5%)
12/2016: (5) Batman #13 — 108,407  (-2.7%)
01/2017: (2) Batman #14 — 106,816  (-1.5%)
01/2017: (3) Batman #15 — 102,802  (-3.8%)
02/2017: (2) Batman #16 — 102,096  (-0.7%)
02/2017: (3) Batman #17 —   99,637  (-2.4%)

DC’s premier title drops below 100k in initial orders for the first time in the current run. The bad news is that’s below where the previous series ended at #52 in May 2016. That issue saw 102,197 copies ordered by retailers, and the Vol. 2 series stayed above the 100,000 line its entire run. On the flip side of Two-Face’s scarred coin, current numbers are still ahead of the original legacy series, which ended at #713 in August 2011 with just 51,760 in sales, languishing down at 20th place on the batting order that month.

So, we can expect a boost with the upcoming crossover with Flash and (maybe) The Watchmen in a few months. But DC must surely want to get those initial orders back up above 100k before then. What would you do to goose sales?

 

SUPER SONS ($2.99)
02/2107 (5) Super Sons #1* — 90,345

That is certainly a respectable number. The question is where it goes from here. Typically, a new series will drop about 30-40 percent with its second issue, and then another 15 percent, or so, with its third. After that, we generally can expect drops of 5-7 percent for the next couple of issues, by which time retailers have hopefully found the base of support for the title. Baring any mass reader defections, a good-selling series will then, if all goes well, fall into what we call “regular attrition” of not more than 2 percent per issue.

So, at those averages, we can expect Super Sons to sell around 52,200 for #2, and 46,100 for #3, which would land it just inside the Top 20. That’s still a pretty successful book these days. So, things look good for a healthy run for the Super Sons.

 

 

ALL-STAR BATMAN ($4.99)
08/2016:  (2) All-Star Batman #1* — 289,348
09/2016:  (2) All-Star Batman #2*— 137,748  (-52.4%)
10/2016:   (9) All-Star Batman #3* — 106,905  (-22.4%)
11/2016:   (4) All-Star Batman #4 — 99,064  (-15.8%)
12/2016: (10) All-Star Batman #5 — 87,422  (-11.8%)
01/2017:   (6) All-Star Batman #6 — 84,296  (-3.6%)
02/2017:   (7) All-Star Batman #7 — 77,096  (-8.5%)

A pretty big drop, and at a point when the book should be finding its level. Although, while its at #7 in unit sales, this latest issue landed at #2 in terms of dollar sales, thanks to its $5 price tag. So, I imagine retailers may be happy still. However, I suspect some price push-back as it appears they’ve anticipated significant defections. Issue #7 is Part 2 of the current storyline, so my interpretation is the drop may be tied to the artist Tula Lotay, who, while good, may not be the known quantity of previous artists on the series.

 

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA: REBIRTH ($2.99)
02/2017: (9) JLA: Rebirth #1* — 73,397

I think we can safely call this a Bat-book, at least for now. Those are decent enough numbers, I’d say, especially given the dice-throw DC did on the roll call, more random, even, then Batman and the Outsiders! FWIW, I’m not counting Justice League Proper as a Bat-book, just because.

 

DETECTIVE COMICS ($2.99)
06/2016: (13) Detective #934* — 96,581  [+15,075]
06/2016: (16) Detective #935* — 94,015  (-2.7%) [+9,548]
07/2016: (16) Detective #936* — 100,626  (+7.0%)
07/2016: (22) Detective #937* — 92,172  (-8.4%)
08/2016: (17) Detective #938* — 88,935  (-3.5%)
08/2016: (26) Detective #939* — 81,465  (-8.4%)
09/2016: (17) Detective #940 — 80,897  (-0.7%)
09/2016: (12) Detective #941 — 82,953  (+2.5%)
10/2016: (14) Detective #942 — 81,432  (-1.8%)
10/2016: (20) Detective #943 — 74,340  (-8.7%)
11/2016: (16) Detective #944 — 71,923  (-3.3%)
11/2016: (19) Detective #945 — 69,942  (-2.8%)
12/2016: (17) Detective #946 — 66,374  (-5.1%)
12/2016: (18) Detective #947 — 65,090  (-1.9%)
01/2017: (16) Detective #948 — 64,090  (-1.5%)
01/2017: (19) Detective #949 — 61,543  (-4.0%)
02/2017: (12) Detective #950 — 62,628  (+1.8)
02/2017: (14) Detective #951 — 59,630  (-4.8%)

Dropping below 60k for the first time. Still, that’s far ahead of the final issue of Vol. 2 (#52 in May 2016), which sold 43,961, placing at #33 on the charts. It’s also well ahead of where Vol. 1 left off at #881, in August 2011, when it was down to #37 on the charts at 39,729 in sales. So, all-in-all, ‘Tec is faring MUCH better post-Rebirth. It’s worth noting that there have even been a few upticks in sales here and there (always indicative of a huge success in the modern comics market) while sales were not hurt at all by the $3.99 price tag on the #950 anniversary issue.

By the way, I’m going to go out on a limb now and make a prediction that, at some point, Action Comics will go on hiatus and/or drop to monthly status so that it and Detective can hit their 1,000th issues in back-to-back months. You watch and see if I’m right!

 

BATWOMAN ($2.99)
02/2017: (21) Batwoman: Rebirth #1* — 52,650

I sort of have to expect DC was hoping for higher sales on this. By comparison, Batwoman’s first book, a #0 issue published in Nov. 2010, moved 43,891 copies to retailers, placing it at #27 for that month. Meanwhile her first regular series, issue from Nov. 2011 to #40 in March 2015, started at 72,228 in sales, placing it at #17 that month, and closed out at a mere 13,827, by which time it had plummeted all the way to #155 on the monthly sales ranking.

Where will sales go from here? My guess is that it should stabilize around 30-35k in sales, which should keep it in the Top 75. This title is scheduled to jump to $3.99 though, so we’ll have to wait and see what affect, if any, that has.

 

 

 

HARLEY QUINN ($2.99)
08/2016: (1) Harley #1* — 359,957  [+6,153]
08/2016: (9) Harley #2* — 116,651  (-67.6%)
09/2016: (16) Harley #3* — 81,635  (-30.0%)
09/2016: (22) Harley #4* — 73,678  (- 9.7%)
10/2016: (37) Harley #5* — 62,943  (-14.6%)
10/2016: (41) Harley #6* — 58,827  (-6.5%)
11/2016: (34) Harley #7 — 56,878  (-3.3%)
11/2016: (37) Harley #8 — 54,111  (- 4.9%)
12/2016: (38) Harley #9 — 49,871  (-7.8%)
12/2016: (41) Harley #10 — 48,380  (-3.0%)
01/2017: (34) Harley #11 —47,308  (-2.2%)
01/2017: (41) Harley #12 — 45,599  (-3.6%)
02/2017: (29) Harley #13 — 45,400  (-0.4%)
02/2017: (32) Harley #14 — 43,978  (-3.1%)

Pity poor Harley. Not so long ago she was house-a-fire, headlining a major motion picture and supporting three regular titles. Now, the ol’ girl can’t seem to buy a break, as she flirts with falling outside the Top 40 in sales.

For comparison, Harley’s very first #1 moved 62,682 copies in Oct. 2000, landing at #10 on the sales charts that month. Her first series closed out at #38, in Nov. 2003 with 14,280 in sales, having dropped to #136 in the monthly rankings. Her Vol. 2 try launched with a #0 issue a decade later, in Nov. 2013, scoring 114,212 in sales and a #2 ranking. That series ended its run in July 2016 at #30, with 45,443 in sales at #59 on the charts.

So, the upshot, Harley is not selling below were her last series left off. So, I’ll ask you once again, what would you do to get the numbers back above the water line?

 

NIGHTWING ($2.99)
07/2016:   (6) Nightwing: Rebirth #1* — 127,848
07/2016:   (9) Nightwing #1* — 114,787
08/2016: (14) Nightwing #2* — 93,131  (-18.9%)
08/2016: (25) Nightwing #3* — 81,555  (-12.4%)
09/2016: (30) Nightwing #4* — 64,229  (-21.2%)
09/2016: (26) Nightwing #5 — 69,938  (+8.9%)
10/2016: (28) Nightwing #6 — 69,246  (-1.0%)
10/2016: (42) Nightwing #7 — 58,402  (-15.7%)
11/2016: (35) Nightwing #8 — 56,091  (-4.0%)
11/2016: (39) Nightwing #9 — 52,984  (-5.5%)
12/2016: (39) Nightwing #10 — 49,436  (-6.7%)
12/2016: (42) Nightwing #11 — 47,781  (-3.3%)
01/2017: (39) Nightwing #12 — 46,057  (-3.6%)
01/2017: (44) Nightwing #13 — 44,462  (-3.5%)
02/2017: (36) Nightwing #14 — 44,656  (+0.4%)
02/2017: (39) Nightwing #15 — 41,423  (-7.2%)

Frankly, apart from the slight uptick for #14, these are larger monthly drops than I’d like to see at this point in a series. Still, conventional wisdom has it that a title is relatively safe from cancellation, all things being equal, so long as it stays above 15k in sales. So, fret not you fans of Dick!

If we look back at all the Dick you’ve had in the past, the first Nightwing series, a four-issue mini, ran from July 1995 to #4, out in Oct. 1995. All we have for sales data that far back is the Diamond Index, which shows #1 sold 90.96 percent of that month’s Batman issue, while #4 sold 68.11 percent. There’s no point in giving the chart ranking as Marvel Comics were not distributed by Diamond that month.

Your second taste of Dick (yes, I do intend to pound this joke into the ground, thank you) started in August 1996 and sold 97.95 percent of that month’s Batman. The series closed out with #153, in Feb. 2009, by which time we have estimated actual sales, by which we see it moved 37,644 copies to retailers, ranking at #36 for the month.

The third time you got Dick (see, toldya), was on Sept. 2011. That third #1 ranked #21 for the month, with retailers stocking up with 62,717 copies. That series closed out t #30, with 43,932 in sales, ranking at #38 for the month. So, you can see, Nightwing is now below that level.

The next time out, DC chose not to give us any Dick, preferring Grayson, instead. That series started in July 2014, at #8 with 81,433 in sales. However, by the time that series ended at #20 in May 2016, it was down to 23,762 in sales and 75th place on the charts. So, clearly, fans like their Dick, as the current series still has a way to fall before reaching those comparatively paltry levels.

 

BATMAN BEYOND ($2.99)
09/2016: (27) Batman Beyond: Rebirth #1* — 67,929
10/2016: (39) Batman Beyond #1* — 60,537
11/2016: (62) Batman Beyond #2 — 41,313  (-31.8%)
12/2016: (84) Batman Beyond #3 — 32,916  (-20.3%)
01/2017: (92) Batman Beyond #4 — 29,767  (-9.6%)
02/2017: (84) Batman Beyond #5 — 27,495  (-7.6%)

Still trying to find its level, it looks like. This may drop below 20k before it reaches #10. The cartoon series has had five prior comic book incarnations. Vol. 1 lasted from Jan. 1999 (at #85 with 27,920 in sales) to #6 in June 1999 (at #110 with 23,029 copies moved). Vol. 2 ran from Sept. 1999 (at #107 and 27,984 copies) to #24, out in August 2001 (#146 and 12,732 copies). Vol. 3 was six issues from June 2010 (selling 35,113 and ranking #51) to Nov. 2010 (by which time it had fallen to 28,485 in sales at 62nd place). Vol. 4 had eight issues, from Jan. 2011 (#28 with 35,880) to Aug. 2011 (#108 and 21,838 copies). Finally, Vol 5 started in June 2015 (landing at #31 with its best launch yet at 53,774 copies sold to retailers) and ended at #16 in Sept. 2016 (having fallen to #123 and 17,799, it’s second lowest end point).

So, what do we learn from all of this? Well, by and large, the fan base for this version of Batman seems remarkably stable. Still, I don’t like this large per issue drops, and wonder if we might not see a 7th #1 before long.

 

BATMAN/TMNT ADVENTURES ($3.99) [IDW]
11/2016: (14) Batman/TMNT Adv #1* — 75,974  [+6,135]
12/2016: (65) Batman/TMNT Adv #2* — 38,524  (-49.2%)
01/2017: (99) Batman/TMNT Adv #3* — 27,921  (-27.5%)
02/2017: (94) Batman/TMNT Adv #4* — 24,927 (-10.7%)

I’ll just say that, as will all things Turtles, I’m not sure how many buyers actually read the damn things. Which is not to say this series is of low quality. I haven’t read it either. It’s just that I interpret a sales trend like this as a lot of people buying the first issue as a collectible, not as a reading experience, and they don’t really care about subsequent issues, because I just can’t believe retailers missed the mark by that much on their initial orders.

 

BATGIRL ($2.99)
07/2016: (20) Batgirl #1* — 96,177
08/2016: (46) Batgirl #2* — 62,374  (-35.1%)
09/2016: (59) Batgirl #3* — 46,891  (-24.8%)
10/2016: (69) Batgirl #4 — 40,778  (-13.0%)
11/2016: (83) Batgirl #5 — 35,210  (-13.7%)
12/2016: (91) Batgirl #6 — 31,294  (-11.1%)
01/2017: (97) Batgirl #7 — 28,712  (-8.3%)
02/2017: (88) Batgirl #8 — 26,539  (-7.6%)

So, being a DC-centric website, you’d think it would be in our best interests to stay as sycophantic as possible. Still, being a newspaper reporter by day, I’m stuck on this whole truth thing, and, truth to tell, those are some ugly numbers, in my humble estimation. DC needs to think of something to arrest that sales slide, and stat. But what? Do you have any ideas? What would you do to right the ship?

This is the fifth ongoing Batgirl series, but let’s discount the first three, since they didn’t star Barbara Gordon (that’s Babs to her pals, like you and me, by the way). Vol. 4 launched with the New 52 in Sept. 2012 with the #0 issue landing at #29 on the sales charts, with 50,441 copies ordered by retailers. By #34 it had fallen to #60 on the sales charts, moving 34,590 copies that month. The next issue, out in Oct. 2014, was the first appearance of Babs’ “new look.” Consequently, it jumped to 62,644 copies sold, which was good for 19th spot on that month’s chart. However, by the time the series closed out at #52 n May 2016, it had dropped to 70th spot, with sales off 57.7% from the high, to 26,492.

That’s just a giggle and a pinch below where Babs is at now. So, DC must be thinking about some kind of retooling effort.

 

BATGIRL AND THE BIRDS OF PREY ($2.99)
07/2016: (17) Batgirl & TBOP: Rebirth #1* — 99,151
08/2016: (30) Batgirl & TBOP #1* — 75,892  (-23.5%)
09/2016: (53) Batgirl & TBOP #2* — 49,166  (-35.2%)
10/2016: (72) Batgirl & TBOP #3 — 40,041  (-18.6%)
11/2016: (90) Batgirl & TBOP #4 — 33,138  (-17.2%)
12/2016: (99) Batgirl & TBOP #5 — 28,846  (-13.0%)
01/2017: (103) Batgirl & TBOP #6 — 26,618  (-7.7%)
02/2017: (95) Batgirl & TBOP #7 — 24,466  (-8.1%)

This title started out selling better than the main Batgirl title, with some longtime fans, I think, excited to see the Birds back in action. But it quickly fell below Babs and continues to fall at scary levels, even picking up the pace a bit.

The Birds started out in a series of one-shots and limited series specials. Their first ongoing series launched in Nov. 1998 (#70 with 33,934 copies), and lasted 127 issues, to Feb. 2009 (#90 and 21,420 copies). Vol. 2 lasted 15 issues, from May 2010 (#30 and 50,428 copies) to Aug. 2011 (#80 and 26,043 copies). Retooled for the New 52, the Birds lasted most recently from Sept. 2011 (#40 and 50,466 copies) to #34, out in Aug. 2014 (down to #145 and a mere 15,397 copies sold to retailers).

So, it looks like the Birds will be alighting on their low point before too much longer. Same question here, what (if anything) is wrong with the current series, and what (if anything) can be done to arrest the sales slide?

At any rate, now’s the time to start buying if you want to save either Batgirl series, I think. If you’re not currently reading either title, you can get an idea if they’re for you be reading our most recent reviews, of Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #8 (which Matthew Lloyd gave 5 out of 5 DC Bullets, by the way!), and Batgirl #8 (given 4.5 out of 5 bullets by Sean Blumenshine).

Finally, one last Bat-book to look at:

 

BATMAN ’66 MEETS WONDER WOMAN ’77 ($3.99) [Dynamite]
01/2017:  (112) Batman 66/WW 77 #1 — 23,687
02/2017: (156) Batman 66/WW 77 #2 — 14,484  (-38.9%)

Kind of too bad as, if I’m being honest, this was been my favorite Bat-book of the lot. But what do I know?!

Anyway, that’s all for this sales chart, fanboys! Stay tuned for the next outing, when we’ll sift through the numbers on February’s Superman-related titles!

 

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Duke Harrington

A newspaper reporter since 2004, Duke Harrington currently writes for the Kennebunk Post and the South Portland Sentry. He lives in Western Maine with one wife, one dog, two cats, and 19,051 comic books.