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TBU By the Numbers Returns – September 2015

As was mentioned on an episode of the TBU Comic Cast a month or so ago, I have decided to resurrect Dustin’s old column analyzing the monthly sales numbers as relayed by Diamond Comic Distributors (and for reference sake, the Diamond numbers I get come from Comichron).  I want to do this article monthly to give you kind of a progress report overall of how well The Batman Universe of comics is doing both compared to other DC books and the comics market in general, and more than that, I also want to delve into the numbers for individual comic issues per month to get a sense of which titles are doing well, which titles are doing poorly, and which ones fall in between.  However, before we get to the numbers, since this is the first month of my column, I want to spend a little time telling you what my numbers are showing and (perhaps even more importantly) what they aren’t showing.  If you prefer just looking at the numbers, then you can skip downwards.


In addition to having some raw numbers that I’ll report (sales numbers, position among the top comics, percentage share, etc), I also have developed some different measures of my own that analyze the performance of individual titles.  For each title, I calculate a percent monthly change to give a sense of month-to-month performance of each title I also calculate what I call the TBU Strength Index.  Percent monthly change is simple enough to understand, but I want to explain what my other indexes are and how they are calculated.


The TBU Strength Index evaluates how strongly a book is performing individually and indexing it gives us a sense of how it is doing among other TBU titles.  This measure looks at the distance between an issues sales numbers and a threshold which we have determine puts a book in trouble of cancellation (namely, less than 20,000 issues sold).  This number is indexed from 0-100 just to give a more easily readable metric and one that allows for better comparison.  Titles scoring less than 30 are titles that I would put on notice as getting close to the cancellation threshold and titles scoring less than 17.5 are titles that are prime for cancellation.


However, I do want to point out that this number is not a likelihood of cancellation, it just gives a quick and easy way for us to see which titles are in danger of cancellation according to my model.  Also, even though a title falls into the cancellation range it does not mean there are not other factors that might prevent a title from being nixed.  For instance, because sales numbers are reported at a several month delay from issue solicitations, spending a single month (or even two or three months in a row) is not enough in and of itself to expect cancellation.  We are more interested in long-term trends, and it is only titles that are consistently below that threshold that are truly in danger.  Also, my model only considers raw sales numbers.  Other issues may prevent a title from being cancelled even apart from sales.  For instance, Batman and Detective Comics are both flagship titles for DC and would likely never be cancelled even if their numbers were to plummet.  In that way, you can also think of this TBU Strength Index as a measure of major changes that might include cancellation but not be limited to cancellation like bringing on a new creative team or changing the focus of the book.


Lastly, as has been discussed on the TBU Comic Cast before, the numbers I use are just those as reported by Diamond and do not include any reporting of digital comic sales at all.  So, it is possible that books are doing well in the digital format even if they are not doing well in print form, and DC may consider those factors when evaluating the success of a book as well.


Okay, with all that covered, let’s get to the numbers.

DC and TBU Overall Numbers:

September 2015
Total Comic Sales 6.25 million issues
Percent Annual Change -21% from 9/14
DC Total Sales 1.65 million
DC Market Share 26.32%
TBU Total Sales 0.83 million
TBU Market Share 13.29%

September was a solid month for the comic book industry, despite the fact that sales were down about 250k overall for the Top 300 comics.  Although, September 2015 was down significantly from September 2014 much of which is explained by the lack of a big DC event in September this year.  Also, DC’s market share held steady at just above a quarter of all comics sold keeping it in a solid second place finish behind Marvel’s 38%.  DC had three books in the Top 10 for the month (all of which were TBU titles) in a month where the top comics were again dominated by sales for Marvel’s Star Wars titles.  Also, the TBU family of books did very well accounting for over 13% of all comics sold in September 2015 which is about half of DC’s overall market share and would put the TBU in a number three spot were it an independent publisher.

Books Doing Well:

Title Rank Sales % Change TBU Strength Index
Batman 3 114,409 -8.25% 100
Justice League 8 76.752 -6.75% 67.09
Harley Quinn 15 56,836 -11.05% 49.68
Detective Comics 16 55,871 +4.29% 48.83
DC Comics Bombshells 39 37,136 N/A 32.46

When looking at September’s sales numbers, several books rise to the top of the pack.  The flagships (Batman, Detective Comics, and Justice League) all did very well maintaining not just their individual success and high sales numbers but their positions among the top books for the month.  Batman was DC’s top book for the month at the #3 overall spot and with an annual in the top ten as well (at #7).  Justice Leauge also stayed in the top ten this month of all comics sold (at #8).  In addition, as is usually the case, the book headlined by Harley Quinn also did well with Harley’s special “Road Trip” one-shot also topping 50k in sales.   Additionally, I’m including DC Bombshells in this category this month as it had a good first month in September especially for a digital first book.  Even though it wasn’t rocking it in the top sales numbers, it performed above my expectations when it made it to print.

Books Meeting Expectations:

Title Rank Sales % Change TBU Strength Index
Batman/Superman 31 40,132 -9.32% 35.08
Robin: Son of Batman 37 38,162 -0.65% 33.06
Harley Quinn/Power Girl 45 36,061 -7.26% 31.49
New Suicide Squad 47 34,622 -8.69% 30.26
Grayson 52 32,284 -11.64% 28.22*
Batman Beyond 55 31,202 +1.29% 27.27*
Batgirl 57 30,654 -4.44% 26.79*
Earth 2 Society 82 25,443 -10.35% 22.24*
Black Canary 91 23,679 +1.83% 20.70*
We are Robin 94 22,893 -14.67% 20.01*
Red Hood/Arsenal 99 22,113 -7.25% 19.33*
Arkham Knight Genesis 104 21,555 N/A 18.84*
Catwoman  105 21,507 -18.69% 18.80*

*Denotes book on notice

These books were all holding steady in the middle of the pack with respectable but not outstanding numbers.  Among these, only Batman/Superman managed to break 40k in sales, although Robin: Son of Batman was close as well.  Harley Quinn/Power Girl and New Suicide Squad also had decent months with showings in the Top 50 overall.  Another interesting thing among this group is the percent change from August’s numbers.  Batman/Superman, Harley Quinn/Power Girl, Batman Beyond, Earth 2 Society, We are Robin, and Red Hood Arsenal all had sizable percentage drops.  However, since many of these books are still new and have only started since the new DC You initiative, this is probably a sign that these numbers have just not found their equilibrium of people who will be loyal to the book after the over-inflated start that most books receive for their first issue.  Grayson and New Suicide Squad’s decline numbers are helped by the fact that they both had a fairly well-performing annuals as well this month.


In addition to the sales numbers, I’m putting several books on notice this month as books that can’t afford to do much worse than they are now.  All the titles with an asterisk by their TBU Strength Index score fall into this category.  This is not a cancellation warning for these books by any means, just a caution that they are getting a little too close to that threshold for comfort.

Books in Danger:

Title Rank Sales % Change TBU Strength Index
Batman: Arkham Knight 115 19.641 +1.48% 17.17
Gotham Academy 126 17,292 -4.19% 15.11
Justice League 3001 129 16,704 -11.76% 14.60
Midnighter 149 14,431 -12.78% 12.61
Batman ’66 151 14,315 -1.70% 12.51
Gotham by Midnight 154 13,698 -7.11% 11.97
Bat-Mite 159 13,040 -10.59%  11.40


These are the books that I am labeling as being in danger because of their sales numbers.  In our experience watching the relative successes of monthly issues, books that slip below 20k in sales are on DC’s chopping block.  You can see that Batman ’66 and Gotham by Midnight both have already been cancelled as this would predict after both spending six months on my cancellation list.  Bat-Mite is similarly situated since it is a limited series anyways.  The remaining titles on this list may not necessarily be doomed, though, despite their sales numbers.  Several of these are digital first series and DC has a lower threshold for these books given that they (presumably) do most of their sales in other media than print.  Additionally, Gotham Academy and Midnighter both have other things going for them that may save them for a while longer.  Midnighter is the only main DC book headlined an openly gay protagonist and Gotham Academy is pretty singular in its tone and cross-demographic appeal in terms of age.  However, both of these books have spent three of the last six months in my cancellation range (two in a row for Gotham Academy and three in a row for Midnighter) and people enjoying this book should be sure to encourage others to read it along with them to ensure it continues.


So, those are the numbers for September.  I was a little behind in posting this and the numbers for October should be out in about two weeks.  But, be sure to let me know what you think of my coverage of sales numbers and to discuss the success (or lack thereof) of various titles in the comics in the comments below.

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  • Dustin Fritschel

    Catwoman is also one of the books that has continued drops and explains the creator change. I may not agree with the creative team change for the book, but as they say, The Numbers Don’t Lie.

  • Terry Hughston

    Yeah, I almost put Catwoman in the books I’d be worried about column especially with the huge percentage drop in September. However, the 18% drop in September followed up a 20% gain in August. So, it’s not out yet, but it needs something good to happen. I’m just praying it’s not the return of Joker’s Daughter.

  • Thanks very much for presenting these numbers, I appreciate the analysis and hard work. In your opinion, how important are digital sales versus print sales? How would DC consider a book doing very well digitally but not well in print sales? It’s unclear to me if digital sales matter just as much, or if print sales are still the defining statistic. Thanks again.

    • Terry Hughston

      Glad you enjoyed it. This is just a first stab at it and I hope to improve every month with some extra insight.

      And it’s really hard to say about digital sales just because those numbers don’t get released or published. Digital sales definitely matter especially for books that are digital first and are only published in print later on. And I’m sure that DC looks at combined sales when they actually make a decision about whether to continue a series. It’s just hard to know what that number might be when we don’t know what the digital sales are like.

      Thanks for your comment!

  • Mark Lemke

    Hey. I really enjoy the analysis of comic sales. I listened to podcast where they discussed women tend to buy comics digitally and that’s probably why Gotham Academy hasn’t gotten the chop. I’m interested what the difference in market share will be for DC after Marvel’s All New All Different gimmick is over? I’m mostly happy to see Grayson doing well. Hoping the numbers continue to rise. Wonder how the Robin wars will help former and current Robin’s numbers?

    • Terry Hughston

      Glad you enjoyed the article! Digital sales could very well be what makes a difference for Gotham Academy. I’ve seen similar things about sales to women as well, and for children who can buy comics from a device even if they can’t make it to the store. Both of those are big demographics for Gotham Academy and I don’t doubt that they could keep it afloat. We just can’t know for sure without them releasing digital sales numbers.

      And, they’ve already released a few preliminary numbers for October, and DC didn’t fare well versus Marvel at all partially because of the big events going on there and the lack of a similar big event that can draw sales. But, to that point, hopefully the crossover event will generate some new sales for all of the Robin books as you say.

  • Ian Miller

    Looking forward to more of these! I really like your analysis, and really wish there was some way to analyze digital sales. As far as I know, the only digital numbers we have are rankings, which don’t tell us a whole lot.

  • KB

    I just came across this (was looking for DC sales talk). Thank for for taking the time to explain this for us, I appreciate it! Def visiting this site regularly now haha

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