Marvel Beats DC In Dollar And Market Share In December 2011 OR I Try To Make Sense Of These Weird Numbers

The sales indexes for December 2011 were released today and after being on top of the charts all fall, DC was bested by Marvel last month.  Wonder Woman did really well, which was nice to see… it was up one spot from November, rising from 17th to 16th.  But DC as a whole was back in second for the first time since the relaunch began. 

My initial thought was “Wow! Already?” and I was pretty surprised that revamping the entire line only got them three months in the top spot and that things had returned to the status quo.  But I’m no expert on these things so I thought I’d take a closer look.  And build charts, because things are always easier to understand with charts.  It was an exciting Friday night.  So here’s what I found:

“Dollar Share” refers to each publisher’s percentage of the overall amount of money spent, while “Unit Share” is each publisher’s percentage of the month’s total issues sold.  The numbers are different for each, but the trends seem pretty much the same.

Again, I’m no expert here, but I noticed a few things.  First is that the first eight months of the year were relatively consistent.  Marvel beat DC soundly in both categories by about the same amount each month.  However, it looks like DC got a pre-DCnU bump in the summer with slight gains in June, July, and August.  Those were Flashpoint months at DC, but they were also Fear Itself months at Marvel, so you’d think that might balance out some.  Whatever the case, DC was on the rise even before the relaunch started.

Second, October was nuts, obviously.  DC edged out Marvel for the top spot in September and November, but October was just crazy.  Strong second issue sales combined with sales from the reprints of all of the first issues resulted in some pretty epic sales. 

Third, while DC whooping Marvel only lasted for one month, DC’s edging out Marvel in September and November was a huge change of pace.  Marvel usually beat DC soundly before the relaunch, so while DC’s wins weren’t huge, they were a dramatic shift from how the numbers used to pan out.

Fourth, DC’s second place finish in December is still WAY better than all the pre-DCnU months.  It’s in no way a return to the status quo.  The positions might look like the same old, but the differences between the two publishers are slight, and way better than the blowouts that characterized January through August. 

So is the DCnU a bust?  The best answer is that time will tell… it’s only been four months.  But so far, it looks like a bit of a bubble.  September and November were good, October was GREAT, and December was pretty decent too.  DC is still better now than it was beforehand.  But they do seem to be in a bit of a decline.  October to November was a precipitous drop, though November to December was much smaller.  Nonetheless, if this slow decline continues then DC might be back to their pre-DCnU levels in a few months. 

What the hell, let’s do a fun experiment.  Nothing is on anyway, though I do sort of want to rewatch last week’s Sherlock.  But I can do that in a few minutes… let’s do some calculating first:

  • DC’s pre-DCnU averages (January through August) were 28.1% for Dollar Share and 31.6% for Unit Share.
  • From November to December, Dollar Share dropped 0.95% while Unit Share dropped 1.94%.
  • Let’s assume the numbers continue to drop by this amount each month.  If we do, in six months the Dollar Share will hit it’s pre-DCnU average.  Unit Share has only four months.

So, Dollar Share would be back to the old status quo by June 2012, and Unit Share would be back by April 2012.  This is pure conjecture, of course, but it’s sort of worrisome.  DC can’t do anything bigger than a relaunch… if revamping EVERYTHING doesn’t even get them a year of above average sales, where do they go next? 

Anyway, I feel like I understand things a little better now, so that’s fun.  Things are still going well for DC, even though they’re back in second place, and they’re well above average.  But this is two straight months of decline… how long until things settle down back to normal?  Maybe they have something else up their sleeve (like a Lois Lane book… seriously, do a Lois Lane book!!  But a good one, because the new Superman books aren’t really doing it for me), and there’s digital sales to factor in, and the collections yet to come.  But it’s looking less and less like DC’s picked up much of a new, stable audience in floppy sales.  It’ll be interesting to see how the next few months turn out.

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10 Responses to “Marvel Beats DC In Dollar And Market Share In December 2011 OR I Try To Make Sense Of These Weird Numbers”

  1. L Says:

    First- that picture is fantastic and made me smile.
    Second- how DO digital sales factor into these things- are those sales included in the unit/market share numbers?
    Third- they SO need to do a Lois Lane book! I’m waiting for a Lois Lane book.

  2. Rebecca Says:

    Great analysis. The only thing I’d add is that it might be worth considering the effect the relaunch had on the industry in general. If, in six months, DC is back to the same percentage share of dollar and unit sales as it had pre-DCnU, but the entire comics industry is healthier and their overheads are still the same, then that 30% share in 2012 may still represent more profit than a 30% share in 2011 did. Though again it remains to be seen if the industry being lifted in general sticks or not.

    DC’s execs say that they are more concerned with the profitability of individual lines and line-wide average than market share (recent Newsarama interview), but it’s also worth noting that the general trends seem to be that their mid- and low-level titles are falling fairly rapidly towards pre-relaunch levels, while their top selling books are the ones that have gained and appear to be keeping a lot of new readers. In which case, keeping an eye on DC’s domination of the top 10 or 20 may be a good thing to do, if DC’s focus is on making more money out of fewer titles rather than dominating the market in general.

    • Tim Hanley Says:

      Thanks Rebecca!

      This December was up, moneywise, 2.66% from last December, which isn’t a ton but it’s something at least. But the industry could be healthier now in other ways, again with digital sales and once the collections start to come out. In straight dollars on floppies, though, it’s not a huge change right now.

      Not to be cynical, but I wonder if they would say that if they had a higher market share this month? 🙂 But yeah, if they can dominate the top of the charts, that’d be great for them… they’ve really struggled with getting books in the top of the charts for a couple years now. It’s certainly going well so far.

      • Rebecca Says:

        Ha, yes, absolutely – it’s an easy position to take at this point to make them look good, though in fairness to the guys, there’s a similar interview from November or perhaps October when they did win marketshare but still express that that’s a bonus not the main goal. But again, it was fairly clear even in November that they’d lose marketshare in another month or two.

        Thanks for the info on the overall health of the market. You’re right, that’s better than nothing but not really that much. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see how things pan out. I do think that the one thing this relaunch seems to have done is get them back into the top of the charts in a reliable way, but I’m not sure what it’s doing beyond that.

        The next thing I’ll be watching for is what happens to Wonder Woman’s position after the returnability incentives cease, since Wonder Woman was one of the few non-returnable titles (instead deeply discounted, hence the difference in her unit and dollar rankings), so other titles that sell similarly may leapfrog her as they stop getting the ~10% markdown for potential returns… *strokes imaginary beard*

        Still, seeing her in the top 20 for four months in a row is pretty thrilling, especially the fact she climbed this month.

      • Tim Hanley Says:

        If they said that in the October interview, I will take back my cynicism 🙂 But yeah, I’m sure that for them, how they stack up against Marvel is going to be less important than how they stack up against their pre-DCnU selves.

        Being back on the top of the charts is certainly good, and Marvel’s new books lately don’t seem to be launching with super high numbers, which helps. But there’s an Avengers/X-Men crossover coming, so that might flip things back around.

        Yeah, I’m also really curious to see how Wonder Woman’s numbers change when the returnability incentives are gone. I’m working on a post about #4’s sales figures right now, and ALL of the top books dropped like stones in December… it’s an odd scene. But yeah, Wonder Woman in the top 20 is pretty fantastic… I hope it stays there for a while.

  3. Deep shock Says:

    Serves DC right to see the reboot fail so soon, they disrespected their history and their fans. Many no.4s of DCnU titles(BoP, GREEN ARROW, JLI. GL spin-off books) did less than no.4s of the same characters/concepts published only the previous year. And thingd are gonna get much worse from now, they alienated the older fans for a few new that do not stick around.

    • Tim Hanley Says:

      That’s really interesting… I didn’t know that some of the DCnU’s #4s did worse than the same issues last year. That’s not very good for them at all.

  4. Anonymous Says:

    WW must be doing round 58.5k now based on the index and calculations based on last month’s sales which means the book lost thousands of readers again despite the deep discount at retailers which made it only no.53 on dollare rank. The reboot is flopping and rightfully so!

    • Tim Hanley Says:

      The official number for Wonder Woman #4 was 57,675, so even lower than you thought. And all of the other top books lost thousands of readers too. Things will level out at some point, of course, but it doesn’t look to be doing so anytime soon.

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